The band stopped by Emo’s on Tuesday to play a set of songs from their self-titled debut, recently released on Sargent House. The album has gotten equal praise from both sides of the indie/metal divide and has earned the band a spot opening for The Flaming Lips at the end of the summer.
Singer/guitarist Jason Bartell said the Islanders are hoping to catch some tips from the freak-rock legends by studying their set each night. That is, if they’re even allowed to watch.
So how long has the tour been going on?
Bartell: It’s been about five weeks. We had about two weeks off after SXSW at home and then headed out for California.
How was your SXSW experience?
Bartell: It was great. It was our first time in Austin and we got to play some cool, weird shows. We played in a kitchen, we played in a saloon, we played in a shitty club and we played in a restaurant.
What was your favorite show?
Bartell: I think the shitty club was our favorite show, actually. Personally, it wasn’t my favorite, but I think that was our best show. It was Primo’s. We had to play inside because it was really crappy out. It ended up being alright. The guy was like “I have very low expectations for this,” but a good crowd came and it was good energy.
So what’s it like being the most buzzed-about band from SXSW?
Bartell: I heard that. I don’t really know if I know what that means. I’ll question that forever. By what standard is that true, and says who, and I feel like I’ve heard more buzz about that than I’ve heard actual buzz. I’m like who? Who has been buzzing?
So after this tour wraps up, it’s Flaming Lips time right?
Bartell: Well, we have a little bit going on in between now and then. I’d hate to go from this to The Flaming Lips. That would just be a total mind-fuck. We have a lot of work to do to get ready for that. We want to step up and get some of the songs ready to play live. Songs from the album that we haven’t played yet. Our live show is what it is right now, but I feel like it works better in smaller venues so we have to think of it in a bigger venue. Just practice and get ready for it.
What was you reaction when you found out you’d be playing with Flaming Lips?
Bartell: Uh, well pretty much… shock. A few months ago, we made lists of who we would want to play with. We broke it into what we feel like were contemporaries, and then who we would open for and who would open for us and then just for the fuck of it we made a list of the impossibles. And they were on the impossible list. Our manager knew before we did, but it wasn’t totally solidified so she didn’t tell us who it was. She just said, “It’s a really big deal and I’m not going to tell you right now.” So for like two days we were talking about it nonstop and thinking about it. We hypothesized that it was The Flaming Lips based on some clues we had, but we were all like, “No that’s impossible.” So it was just totally crazy. I probably won’t be able to process it until months after it’s already happened. It’s going to be a real change for us.
If you get the opportunity, will you go out into the crowd in Wayne Coyne’s hamster ball?
Bartell: If I get the opportunity, yeah. If we befriend him. If he’s down with it, I’d be into it. I’d like to see one show where I’m just in the crowd. I’ve never seen them live, so I’m excited at the very least just to see them live from an audience perspective. We’ll probably be off to the side most of the time, but I’d like to see one where I’m in the “pit.” I think kids call it the “pit” still. Chris (St. George) was saying that his friends come out on stage in animal costumes. Like furries or something. And that’s a whole genre of porn, not that I’m into that. But yeah, his friends come out in costumes, but I don’t know what we’ll be able to do. For all I know, we won’t even be allowed to watch them. No, that’s not true. I’m just excited to be there.
So Wayne Coyne has the hamster ball and you’ve got the patriotic star hoodie shirt thing.
Bartell: Again, I think that works in a small room and we were talking about what we could do live for the shows. We always want to make it a visual experience, but we don’t have all the funds because The Flaming Lips’ show must cost a million dollars. We can’t possibly compete with that. Even the craziest thing that we could come up with. I’m almost thinking we should go in the opposite route and tone it all the way down. I want to have a single balloon and we all just stand around a single helium normal-sized balloon.
I would love to see that.
Bartell: Yeah, I wonder if it would come across.
So the original members of the band started out at Rhode Island School of Art and Design. Is that where the visual element of the band comes from?
Bartell: I guess, in the sense that you could say we attended that school, because we’re all cut from a specific cloth of person. The drive to do music and the drive to do art, I see them as one entity. We have limitations visually and I don’t want to be a band that relies to heavily on visuals because the foundation needs to be a strong musical foundation. But yeah in terms of being an art-rock band, I like to incorporate all sorts of things.
So it’s not just the music, but it’s the experience of the music paired with the visuals.
Bartell: Yeah, and it influences our writing, which influences how our songs come out. It’s impossible to do it any differently for us. It’s not a conscious thing; it’s not an unconscious thing. That’s just the way it comes out.
Okay. You’re in charge of casting a movie. The Fang Island motion picture. Who would you cast to play each band member and why?
Bartell: I don’t think any of us look like celebrities. I would cast Nicholas Cage as myself.
Have you seen Kick Ass?
Bartell: I have seen that. He’s good in it because he’s Nicholas Cage. I think he’s getting to the point that Christopher Walken got to where he’s probably a little aware of how funny he is in certain situations. He’s like a living cult actor, but he’s also very serious but also very jokey. He’s the only person I’ve been told that I look like. You can look for it all you want and that’s not going to make it true. A drunk woman once told me that and it’s the one celebrity comparison I’ve gotten. I would just cast us all as Nicholas Cage. Like a multiplicity thing. He could wear various wigs and play different characters and affect his voice.