The Chain Letter Interviews: Pitchfork Fest Part II

Dayna Evans

woods

Photos by Catherine Park/Allison Taich

On day two of our jaunt through the unstoppable Pitchfork Fest, things were starting to really kick off—the beer was colder, the lineups were longer, and the recreational drug use still hadn’t begun, so we had lucidity on lock. In the followup to Friday’s successful Chain Letter interviews, we took the time to add on to the belligerent, battered daisy chain we’ve been building in the dirt and swirl of every music festival since Tower of Babelfest, B.C. This time around, we got to be on the wrong end of punking Canada’s METZ, followed by a short post-Chain Letter interview with Andrew from Parquet Courts, that led into the conclusion of our chain with Jarvis of Woods. The big secret here? The closing link on our chain wasn’t even at Pitchfork Fest—it was in Philadelphia at a free show on Morgan’s Pier. But as you must learn from the Philadelphia Phillies’ abysmal 2013 season, when you expect too much, you will only be disappointed.

METZ

METZ are a raucous post-punk band from Canada who couldn’t have been sweeter to talk to after their crushing set on Saturday afternoon. No strangers to the playful razzing of Philly’s Pissed Jeans, the band who had come before them, they were set up to understand that the nature of their assignment was sure to make them groan. They obliged, humbly, and provided us with further learning material as they took a stand against shorts (for the second time in our interview series!)

Chris: Are you going to tell us which band gave us the questions?

Here’s the deal: the last band that we interviewed doesn’t want you to know who they were. The first question they asked was—ugh, I don’t want to ask this—how do you feel about playing second fiddle to Pissed Jeans?

Chris: [Laughs] It’s a big shoe to fill. It’s a broken fiddle so it’s not all that bad. [Pauses] I’m just kidding.

Let’s address something so we don’t upset anyone—are you guys and Pissed Jeans bros and this is all just a joke?

Chris: Oh, yeah, fuck yeah. No hurt feelings.

Hayden: We have no problem with them, a great band to watch, a great band to hang out with.

Chris: We’re not going to be funny about this. We love The Pissed Jeans, so we’re gonna keep it straight.

That’s okay. Second question was, do any of your band members wear a blue baseball cap?

Chris: No.

Hayden: Yes, Alex does.

On stage?

Chris: Never on stage.

Why doesn’t he go for the stage look?

Hayden: It’d probably fly off.

Chris: We’re a hats off on stage kind of band. No hats, no shorts.

No shorts either? That’s a question that came up yesterday with Majical Cloudz. They said they don’t approve of shorts.

Chris: We don’t approve of shorts, either. Alex did it one time because he decided he didn’t give a shit. He was like, “Whatever, we’re in Charlottesville and there’s nobody here and I’m wearing shorts!”

But why no shorts? Doesn’t it get super hot? I don’t understand this!

Hayden: It does, but I dunno.

Chris: We’re like a bunch of Canadian dudes with super pasty white legs and it’s incredibly embarrassing to wear shorts.

You don’t want to expose yourselves too much?

Chris: Hayden’s got tattoos all over his legs that say incredibly horrible things.

Hayden: It’s a chapter in my life that I’d rather just keep covered up.

Keep them hidden. The third question is—well, this is a three-part question.

Chris: Oh okay, good.

How do you gauge your disappointment that there’s a lack of money in being in a guitar rock band?

Chris: [Laughs] It’s just knowing when you’re in certain cities, which dumpsters to eat out of. It’s easy to save money when you’re not paying for anything.

That’s true. [Laughs]

Chris: We siphon gas out of Pissed Jeans van whenever we play with them.

See, now you’re getting back at them. The second part of the question is, do you wish you could get into the Canadian whiskey business?

Chris: We’ve been in the Canadian whiskey business for a bit, actually.

Hayden: We’ve been involved on the consumer side of things quite substantially.

So you think you’ll transition someday to the production side?

Hayden: I think they owe us shares by now.

Chris: I can almost pee straight Canadian whiskey.

Well, sadly, the third part of the question is: that was a trick question—there is no good Canadian whiskey.

[Laughs]

It’s not so much a question as it is Pissed Jeans making a statement.

Hayden: Well, Canadian Club is probably made in Philadelphia, so.

Oh, and the last part of that question was, have you heard of the band METZ?

Hayden: Once, I have.

Chris: The funny thing about that question is that there is another band name METZ. We found this out after we had already started the band.

With a “z”?

Chris: Yeah, they started in the 70s.

Hayden: They’re a prog, sort of psych rock band.

Chris: I bought the record, actually, right here in Chicago. Or Alex did, at Permanent Records, a couple times ago when we played there. And we were all like, “Holy shit, there’s another band called Metz.” So yeah, Sean, we have heard of Metz.

So you guys don’t know Parquet Courts at all? That’s where these next questions will go.

Chris: No, we do not. If there was one band at this festival that you could poison, who would it be? And how would you do it?

Hayden: The second question is “why?”

Related to the first question?

Hayden: No, only “why?”

Easy enough.

Hayden: The third one is, “Voulez vous coucher avec moi?”

In French, no less.

Chris: Wait. No no no, I have a good one. It’s going to make us sound super smart.

Oh, this is good.

Hayden: Oh yeah, check it.

Chris: Have you heard of Andrew Wiles and Fermat’s Last Theorem? And how do you feel it affects your day to day life?

I don’t even know what that is! [Editor’s note: Now I do. Thanks, METZ!]

Chris: Me either! Well, it’s this documentary that I need to see on BBC. It’s about a mathematical equation that nullifies Pythagorean’s Theorem. It nullifies it entirely.

It’s impossible to do that, though.

Chris: That’s what this documentary is about—it’s this guy who has been driven crazy by it since he’s been studying it for ten years or more. He realizes at one point that anything higher than two doesn’t make sense with the Pythagorean Theorem, so he creates this new thing and when he talks about it, he hits this point, and after ten years of studying only this, he just starts crying.

Oh my god, that sounds amazing.

Chris: I was having drinks with an old friend in Toronto. He’s like this old mathematical genius guy who dropped out of university to play rock and roll and he said he got obsessed with this whole thing, about how 1 = 1 is like ten pages of calculations, and all this weird shit. This dude who was studying infinity blew is head off because he realized that there’s more than one version of infinity. It was a really interesting conversation that went completely over my head, but it’s awesome, all of it.

Wow, that sounds so great. Well, we’ll see what Parquet Courts have to say about all this.

PARQUET COURTS


Parquet Courts played two excellent sets during Pitchfork Fest—one official and one after-party—and in both cases, new material was brought to the table, where fans met the band with more pleasure than pain. Some of the newer tracks feel very Television-heavy and with a smaller emphasis on verbose lyrics, a new band appears to be birthing from the old Parquet Courts. A short EP is coming up from the New York foursome and when I talked with Andrew, the most important part of the Chain Letters interview was forgotten—I neglected to ask for more questions. Aghast and still running around like a maniac, I received a forgiving voicemail from Andrew saying he was writing them and I could come pick them up. What we got was beyond our expectations—a lovely sketch and five multileveled questions to everyone else’s three.

METZ asked, if you could poison one band at this festival, who would it be and how would you do it?

If I could poison one band at this festival? Oh, I absolutely wouldn’t do that!

How come? No band strikes you as poisonable?

There are some that I definitely like more than others, but no one deserves poisoning. That’s just malicious and cold-blooded. That’s some Rasputin shit, I can’t do that.

The second question is—and this is kind of an existential one—but the only part of the question is, “Why?” No attachment, no context.

Yeah, yeah, why? Why. Why? [Pauses] I don’t know, because you just do. Because you love it.

I like that answer. Simple. This is a little more in-depth. Have you ever seen the documentary Andrew Wiles and Fermat’s Last Theorem?

I’ve not. Sorry, guys!

Well METZ is curious about this because its apparently about how the Pythagorean Theorem doesn’t actually mean anything.

That it doesn’t mean shit?

Yeah. How would that make you feel?

Well, really the person the talk to about that if you can hunt him down is Max from Parquet Courts, our drummer. Because he is a math guy. He studies math at NYU and he’s a private math tutor in the city and he’s all into theorems and shit like that.

So he would know about that?

Yeah.

But you have no personal feeling on the Pythagorean Theorem? It means nothing to you?

Really, no. I failed math two times in a row and passed it with a B on the third attempt. Me and my brother couldn’t be more opposite.

He doesn’t tutor you in math?

Hell no! I’m not about to get tutored by my brother who is six years younger than me. I tutor him.

If you were tutoring him in something, what would you be teaching him?

I’d say the game of life. Someone’s gotta look out for the kid.

Do you look out for him on tour?

Oh yeah.

I mean, how old is now? He’s in his twenties!

He’s 21, he doesn’t need a whole lotta looking out for. He’s way better at life than I am. I feel that it’s a brotherly instinct.

What if he gets in a sticky situation on tour? Are you coming out there to protect him from the evils?

Yeah, I mean, I come out there and I say, “You know, maybe next time don’t take so many hits.”

[Chris from METZ pokes in at this point of the interview to say he’s sorry if their questions suck. Canadians just being Canadian.]

While I have you, I wanted to ask a question about something I read in an interview you did with SF Weekly, how you’d taken issue with journalists describing your music as “slacker rock” or “lazy.” How would you counter that? How would you want people to address your band?

Well, that doesn’t describe the music. At least my songs are pretty fast and upbeat. I don’t see the music as doing that—we have some more ballady songs—but that doesn’t make up the bulk of our material, so I feel like that what might be what people are basing it of off. I don’t think you can really describe a sound anyway as that. I feel like that’s something you’d more describe people as, and I think it’s just them needing to attach a narrative to something that really doesn’t need a narrative. We’re just a band and I guess if people want to project stuff, I wish it would be more accurate.

It’s tricky, though, as a journalist when there isn’t a lot of time and there are so many bands to cover. If you had to pick one word to describe Parquet Courts, what would you choose?

It’s not my job to assign any sort of lexicon to our band. That’s the difference between a lazy writer and a great one. There are some great people out there. I feel like when I say stuff like that, some people take it personally, and I’ve had people come up to me and say that they do, and I don’t mean it personally. It’s really more that it helps me appreciate someone who thinks about what they’re doing instead of just copying off someone else in the class.

Where are you headed after this? Are you in Chicago for the rest of the Fest?

Yeah, we’re here for the rest of the Fest and then we head back on tour with the band Woods, another band from New York who are friends of ours. We start back up with them in Kentucky.

WOODS

Woods are currently on tour with Parquet Courts (how convenient!) so when I got an email from their publicist saying they were sorry the band was so busy during Pitchfork, would I want to talk to Jarvis at a later date? I, of course, obliged. Knowing that I’d be catching the show in Philadelphia only a few days later (literally a day after returning home from our epic adventure in a car with leather seats not made for 5 people), I arranged to talk with Jarvis, who is a former member of my all-time favorite band, Meneguar. Andrew of PC and Jarvis are tight friends now, so he was overjoyed to have the questions from Andrew—so much so, in fact, that when I offered to give him the questions, he kept them as a souvenir. I don’t blame him, the drawing on the paper was exceptional.

Here’s what Andrew has asked you. The first question is, “What’s happening? What’s the best part about being in your band?”

The best part about being in my band is, I’ll say the first thing that came into my mind, even though it was the corniest thing, because I was trying to think of something cooler to say. But we have a lot of fun on tour. We’ve somehow remained to be really close friends.

How long have you guys been on tour for?

This one has been two weeks, but most of this past year has been on tour. The most was with a month and a half break. We really just make each other laugh and have a good time. With some bad days too, but I’ve been in other situations where the whole goal is to just to get on stage and other than that, it’s kind of uncomfortable. You realize you’re playing music with people that you wouldn’t otherwise be close with.

How do you get into situations like that, though?

Sometimes things just snowball. Or it started out where you thought those were the people that would be in your life forever and then you’re in the van somewhere and you’re looking at each other like, “This is not going to work. If we didn’t go this deep into a relationship of a band then maybe we’d be those people who got together for coffee every couple of months.” Now I’m probably never going to want to get coffee with you in the future.

But this band is not like that?

No. I wouldn’t do it otherwise. Unless you were making a lot of money and that was enough?

It seems like, as well, when you’re in a van, there’s not that much room to be next to someone and dislike them.

Yeah, those things just don’t last that long. What I’m saying is not that unique—it’s not like I could rattle off a huge list of bands that hate each other, but because I like my band, it’s a strong reason that I keep doing it.

That makes sense. Andrew’s second question is, do crowds make you feel a) lonely b) empowered c) excited d) vulnerable or e) other? There’s a list here if you need to reference it.

All of the above! It depends on the crowd. I’ve felt all those things. The person who asked the question, were they talking about being in a band and being on stage? Or do they just mean in crowds in general?

I think that’s open to interpretation.

‘Cause I was definitely at a festival over the weekend and the day we didn’t play, I was hanging out and there was a crowd and I definitely felt a bit lonely.

Was this at Pitchfork Festival?

A festival, maybe.

I won’t specify.

Nah, you’ve already said it. [Laughs] Yeah, it was at Pitchfork Festival.

What about that made you lonely?

There was just a part where I was looking around for someone to hang out with and I was just like, “Meh.” there were people that I knew, but it was just one of those in your head funks, you know? a few hours later, I was having a blast. As far as being on stage, it really depends. There are some nights with a crowd where I’m talking to the crowd comfortably, and there are plenty of nights where I can’t even look up.

Do you think that has to do with the audience and how they interact with you? Or is it you being in your own headspace that makes it feel that way?

I think it’s a mixture. I think it’s definitely being in your own headspace and not having an audience that brings it out in you. It’s like “I messed up that part” or “I can’t really hear much” or “Is Jeremy having fun over there? He’s gesturing something to me, so maybe it’s me that’s fucking up?” And I’m getting nothing from the crowd to say whether or not it’s going well or poorly. It can have an effect.

Yeah, definitely. Okay, third question: Do you believe in aliens? a) If not, why the hell not? b) If so, right on.

I feel like that’s also a question of “Do you not have any imagination?” I don’t believe in aliens. I want to because they’re not as threatening as some aspects of religion. I have a really clear memory of being a child, maybe 8 or 9, and I was really into wiring all my stereos and TVs and I would make my TV come out of my boombox and have wires coming out across the whole place and I dialed into some weird station and I heard a voice and I believed in aliens for like a week. I feel like it just elevated my life—while I believed, everything was just wide open. I still think of that. Of the week that I believed in aliens. I think of that so vividly.

So what changed then? How did you come back down to reality?

You know, the more that I think about it, it’s not that I don’t necessarily believe in aliens. It’s just like, UFO sightings?

A little shady or circumspect. What if we changed the question to “Do you believe in life on other planets?”

Yeah, I guess I should have thought of that before I rambled on forever. Yes, of course!

Do you think that we’ll ever find that life or interact with that life?

I don’t think so! I mean, I don’t know! For how long we’ve been on the earth, for how long earth has been here, I mean it seems more likely that they’ll develop and they’ll come and they’ll find our ruins.

That’s a sad thought.

It is but you know, it’ll be okay. Yeah, we won’t be here, so you know. They’ll find all the good art that we thought would die with our civilization. They’ll find it and they’ll carry the torch.

They’ll carry our history on. Okay, Andrew’s fourth question is: toothache or heartache?

Hm, I’d go with heartache.

Why heartache?

Well, I had a root canal last year and I was in excruciating pain that I never want to experience ever again. But heartache, I remember every time that I’ve had a broken heart or I’ve broken my own heart by being a fool kind of fondly.

Really? Not while you’re in it though.

Oh, no, not while you’re in it at all. Just how sensitive you are to everything during those really intense heartache moments. That’s kind of a cool, special time. Looking back on it, though. even if you’re in a good situation, sometimes there is heartache within it. That’s okay too, because then it reminds you of the good things you have.

That’s true, I like that attitude. The fifth one that leads right into that—are you in love with anybody? What do you love the most about them? Give them a shoutout! Put them on blast! Let them know you’re thinking about them.

Put them on blast? What does that mean?

I’m assuming that means give them a shoutout, let them know what’s up.

Hm. I love my girlfriend. She is the funniest person I know. And she’s one of the smartest people I know, but because she’s funny, it just makes it work in this amazing way. I’ve always tried to date people who are smarter than me.

You don’t feel intimidated by that?

I do but I think that’s healthy. Especially when you’re sitting in the van all day, it’s easy to feel like a dumbass. I like being around people who are smart. Otherwise, I could slip too deep.

It’s nice to be inspired by someone.

Or be reminded that there’s a world outside of your soundcheck or some stupid thing that you’re worried about. But to shout her out, her name is Katie McDonough. She writes for a political website called Salon.com. She’s an amazing person.

What three questions would you like to ask the next band in the chain, wherever and whenever they may come up?

Why don’t you play the old stuff anymore?
Describe a perfect night with someone you love.
Are you afraid of heights? If yes, how do you know?
Describe the most psychedelic experience you’ve had that doesn’t involve cartoon people and talking to walls. We’re talking some real mind-opening shit here. Nothing goofy.

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