March 8, 2012
The rustic sound you guys have been known for is still present on this album, but it’s a lot bigger. You wrote a lot of it in the same place you wrote most of your other material, the woods of North Carolina, so why is this record different?
I would say that living out in the country gives me, and has given me for a long time, the space to concentrate. It's hard for me to concentrate and get down to actually doing something creative unless I personally have a lot of space. City noises kind of bum me out. That’s one thing why I'm not in the city anymore. I didn't create anything. Maybe it's like attention deficit disorder, I just can't stay on the same track.
"River of Smoke's" themes ring true to many readers today: the virtues of the free market versus the greater social good, China's trade relationships, and cultural exchange between its Asian neighbors and the West. Was the book conceived with contemporary world affairs in mind?
I can see perfectly well why you would think that. But in fact, these same discussions and arguments were going on right then and there in the Canton of the period. A lot of the words that are spoken in the book come directly from the sources. They're in the letters and written about in the newspapers of the time. You have to remember that a lot of the people who were in Canton in the 1820s and 1830s were Scotsmen and were Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus’s first students. Malthus himself worked in the East India office. So they were very much exposed to these ideas and they were the first generation of people to discuss them.
EMA may have found wider renown in the wake of her critically acclaimed lo-fi indie rock album Past Life Martyred Saints, released by German indie label Souterrain Transmissions last May, but she didn't emerge from nowhere. She earned a cult following fronting the noise/folk band Gowns from 2005 until 2010, when she split with her boyfriend/bandmate Ezra Buchla.
Do you read Amazon reviews of your books?
Well, if I sense they're going to be bad, I stay away. But I like reading the good ones! What's gratifying is when you're reading a review on Amazon, and you realize a third of the way through that the person who wrote it is really dense. That's almost as good as a good review. "Oh wow, stupid people really hate my book." That's great.
On sale for $3.99 today at Amazon MP3: Sharon Van Etten's latest album, Tramp.
History Today lists 10 essential history books written by women.
Actor John Leguizamo shares a music playlist at Alt. Latino.
GeekDad lists 67 books every geek should read to their kids before age 10.
AVC: In a 2009 interview while you were promoting Noble Beast, you described how you had previously found indie rock boring and repetitive, but that your view had changed and that you’d grown more patient. Though your music doesn’t fit neatly into the indie-rock category, you’ve still been embraced by that scene. What changed introspectively for you?
AB: It depends on the artist. What’s cool about indie rock is that one band can do effectively the same thing as another band, and one band nails it, and the other one doesn’t. I like that elusiveness. A band like Yo La Tengo nails it with this sort of minimalist approach, but another band could try to piece their songs together, or do exactly what they did, and it doesn’t work. I’ve always found that whatever you say about indie rock, it is the most inclusive genre or title for anything. It doesn’t pin you down too much, like other labels would. It’s just newer, it has less baggage. I’m happy to be in that category. When I was younger, I liked music that was more exotic and far-flung, more dense and complicated. Pop music, indie rock, Britpop, and what my friends were listening to did sound kind of boring. But I’m picking up on some stuff I missed because I’m not prejudiced. There is a lot of bad music, and there’s some really amazing pieces of music.
PopMatters also interviews the singer-songwriter.
At Morning Edition, Tina Brown recommends three books about political change-makers.
Laughing Squid points out Motorhead's new line of wine and vodka.
In Steal, you recommend reaching out to creative heroes who inspire you by writing blog posts, dedicating your work to them, and writing fan letters. What was the last fan letter you wrote?
The last fan letter I wrote was Steal! It’s a public fan letter to all the artists who’ve taught me so much.
So let's start with the obvious: does every Jewish family have an Anne Frank in the attic?
I think every family has an Anne Frank in the attic. Not necessarily Anne Frank, it may be anybody from their particular history that could be a martyr. I always felt that this could be a book about the Holocaust as much as it was about history, and the weight of history. For me personally that smiling little face was always the thing that hung over me, because it suggested both history and the future. Things went badly, and they're going to go badly again: very, very badly. And I do think that living with that you do have to make that decision, do you live with her in the attic or do you not? How do you approach it? For me that's the big question.
The shortlist for the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction has been announced.
Time Out New York lists the 100 best songs about NYC.
Amazon MP3 has 100 digital albums on sale for $5.
also at Largehearted Boy:
previous Shorties posts (daily news and links from the worlds of music, books, and pop culture)
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics & graphic novels)
daily mp3 downloads
Largehearted Word (the week's best new books)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from this week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists