Andrew Bird's-eye View
Support for this podcast and the following message. Come from American pest as the leading provider of safe sustainable pest control solutions across the DMV. Let American past help you take back your home or business. From menacing pests. Visit them today at American pest dot net. Hey, you're listening to world cafe I'm totally Schlesinger. Through that. It's injured bird enders new album is called my finest work yet. Why be? This may very well. Be my finest recant he's being a little cheeky as you can tell at least one song showcases Andrews talent for whistling people. Think of whistling is disorder wins. The goal casual thing I wanted to do a melody that was like barely bad outs. Like wind in your hair out on the open plains. Andrew also shows his love of history and Greek mythologies. From. Pissed Paul on this album. Andrew zooms out on history and humanity, and he addresses, really big ideas, like futility, fate responsibility. The idea that our enemies are what make us whole and somehow in this, very birdie and way, he turns these high concepts into amazingly fun appealing pop songs we have so much to talk about here, we go may Andrew bird. Welcome back to world. Cafe thanks for having me back. Yeah. So I the album is called my finest work yet. And I'm sure every single person is asking you some sort of cheeky question about that title. And I'm going to do the same because I think it's a wonderful album. And maybe it is your finest work yet. Why did you call it that I made? I've made fourteen records and after while naming that body of work starts to feel like a silly exercise. So I thought I'd just have fun with it this time and just say, you know, why? Because like this may very well be my finest were kid who. No. I mean, it's also, you know, we're not exactly living in an age of discretion. So. Thought. I'd just try try it out this time. It's so it's funny as you're saying that now there's so much humility and gentle wisdom on the album. And it's so it's such an offering rather than a demand like it's not a heavy-handed album, and that like that almost makes the title extra funny in the context of what you've just said, I think it works with the the image on the of the cover. You know, the painting the death of Murat, it's a famous painting, you might recognize it. But if you don't know the his is from the French revolution. But if you don't know the history is just it appears like a man on his deathbed or in this case of a bathtub the poet, pending. His final words with his final breath. So it's super romantic super dramatic actually happens to be me in the bathtub. Pending these final thoughts. What what are your final thoughts? Did you have to think through like if you're going to recreate the death of Murat? Did you have to think through what your final thoughts would be that? You would offend tickly right on this piece of paper that you're holding on the cover. Yeah. I thought it through and I you know, I had a. Calligraphy specialist to the the letter. But I can't remember something like. Treachery. Trish, I wrote. Something that seemed like. Dramatic. But there's a lot of musically. Fascinating choices that you've made on this album that I want to talk about. But I I have a question about the historical and the logical references that you have on here. I know that sort of a tent pole of your song writing in general. But I'm wondering when an interest in history and mythology goes back to for you like were you a history junkie when you were a kid, or is it a grownup thing? No, I was always really into history and. Like when now in eighth grade. I we were all had to come up with a subject to do a report on and I I chose the most obscure corner of history. I could find everyone else is doing Julius Caesar and I chose the citizens of the Russian steps. And just because they're the underdog, you know, and and and it seemed like I guess, that's my tendency is to try to find things we're not talking about and. And discuss them. Well, let's talk about one of the historic moments that you that you dig up on the album nineteen thirty six Catalonia the Spanish civil war on the song. Bloodless? What made you want to dig up that moment in history for this song? I kept thinking about it as an analog to what what's happening now in our country. Are what really Moore's a cautionary thing of what could happen. And I kept thinking of the Spanish civil war. Not in the sense that like. Trump is Franko or anything like that. But it could be that. But more in the sense of like how the the left and writer behaving and the concern that the left is too fractured and this too much infighting for to be able to resist the. Ideology of the right? You know, which is what happened in Spain in the thirties to just kind of steam rolled over the communists and anarchists. And they were all. Concerned with very more micro details of their ideology and just couldn't get it together to to put up solid United front and. Yeah, that's that's something. I wondered some I take it that far, you know, to drop in a a specific date and place in history as a reference and on this record. I just kind of pushed I moved the line. A little farther is. As far as how far I want to go with being explicit about what's going on. You know what I mean? Because that can be a pitfall if you are too explicit in some ways. And that it places it in time. But I I've read a lot about that period of time. And I think it's kind of fascinating period of history. And and it seems very it's contagious a lot about what's happening. Now. Let's have a listen to the song is blood lesson. Will the best. Aw. You just him in. We've. Less Andrew bird from my finest work yet you sing on the song while things are relatively bloodless. Are they relatively bloodless right now? As compared to how they could get suppose. Yeah. But I mean, I wrote that song between the two thousand sixteen election, and and Charlottesville. So it's not that I set out to write a a political song per se. It's just I'm just alive in this time, and I'm an artist and absorbing what's around me. And and that's what comes out. In reference to what you said earlier, I guess about deciding how to how to approach bringing in political or historic references into these songs musically. This is this is not the most relevant example. But the way that you've treated politics reminds me a little bit of what Marvin Gaye did on what's going on where the music is is so appealing so inviting an interesting in fund that any of the messaging sort of yours to to discover the deeper that you listen does that something that you are consciously going for. That just happens because I have to. I pursue things. Just for the love of a good melody sometimes and the lyric stream is is is a different thing. But when they come together, I think it makes sense because. Yeah. I don't think much about like underscoring leering idea with you. You know, said music with sat lyrics, or, you know, angry lyrics with angry music. You know, it helps you get beyond preaching to the choir. Really? It's it's you make the music. So like, you said fun and appealing and that when you set it for while you can then absorb the lyrics. If you're in it for the for the pursuit of a good melody, could you pick out a melody that feels like one of your your favorites from the new that we could listen to and then talk a little bit about. I think just the whistle. Melody from Syphis is good example. People think of whistling is. Win cicle casual thing. I wanted to do a melody that was like. Really bad ass like wind in your hair out in the open plains. Like, I kept picturing that scene from easy rider when they're in like, the west, you know, just glorious sounding than actually it's interesting the melody that melody. Was originally the melody for bloodless, but then the the piano part and everything kind of pushed that melody out. And I was like, oh, I got to put the somewhere fit into cicis. And is way. So it's funny. When you're when you first start working on a record that ideas, are are not very loyal to particular songs, they they split off and say, hey, I'm gonna hang out with this for a while. I kind of enjoy that that period of of writing where things are still fluid like that. That's funny. I'm just I'm not getting tired of whistling on records. I just I I don't think I ever will. It's just such a to me. It's just a powerful way to present a melody and very honest to the way, I make music whistle all day long. So you do does your family ever say like Andrew you're whistling again. And you don't even realize that you're doing it. Yeah. On my my seven year old is whistles all day long as well. So drives me crazy. Yeah. What does he whistle? He's actually whistles this yesterday morning woke up whistling of his lost a tooth and yet lost one of his front teeth opened up a different range. So yeah, it's bizarre. Having your own melodies. Get filtered through. Whistled back to your through a toothless toothless child. Okay. Well, let's listen to to the song. Miss stone stole from the precipice, Paul. Did he? Crass? Visit house down. That is this that opens my finest work yet apple by Andrew bird. So we we think we sorted out. Who says efficient, can you tell us a little bit about about who who he is? And why you were interested in telling his story on this album. Yeah. Well, I I stumbled into it. I because I was thinking about precipice like coming to the edge of precipice. That's how the song became began. Because I. I I've just this is something I was thinking about a lot. So I decided to write a song about like thresholds like crossing over this line like. And. Then I just thought cicis Ryan's with precipice, but that got the ball rolling. So he's agreed king that there was punished by Zeus for trying to cheat death and outsmart the gods. And so he gets sentenced to lifetime of pushing a rock up hill, and it's nearly gets to the top rolled back down. And he just has to keep doing it for a turn ity. I don't know that. That's I I have a tendency to. Seek out struggle. Sometimes you know, it in my own life. I have a I'm drawn to it. I I like to do things the hard way and. And so I was kind of drawn to that story. It seems like it's just a task that's solitary with involving just this man who's has this task. But I thought like what about does it involve anyone else? Can when the rock rules is going to damage is going to roll it into the town to set it extends beyond that an individual to like a community, and and not that cicis had much choice in the matter. But. I took it from there. It's funny. How can start? Somewhat arbitrarily than they worked their way towards meaning. Is it a moment ago that you've at tendency for doing things the hard way? And I'm wondering if there's a musical application for that on this on this album is there's something that you did the hard way here that that in retrospect, you're like man that that could have been easier. Definitely make the hard way. And I think it's worth it. But we this whole record was done. Live streaming live in a room with the band to tape sixteen tracks, you know, limit limitations. There's not much you can do in post when you record that way. But the rewards if you get it right are great. It doesn't sound like records being made today. Some of my favorite records are early sixties jazz records that were produced by Rudy van Gilder and those records are all about learning the instruments bleed into the other instruments microphones and using few microphones as possible, and it's just a natural sound of people playing in a room together. But it can to make that sound extrordinary is a trick. But everyone's I like it because everyone's connected. You know, if you want to change the vocal sound you have to change. Trump sound and a lot of people see that as a problem. But I see that is a beautiful thing. Using the room like playing with the sound of a room that you're in. I think so much about your musical mind. And I know that that you've done that before on albums like on echo locations river, like you've you've interacted with the space that you're in in terms of the music that you're making and I'm wondering if that has anything to do with how you learned to play music in the first place that you are a student of this is Yuki method on violent as little kid. Could you tell me a little bit of a about that for for people who don't know what that is just a little bit about that? And how it shapes your musical mind. Yeah. This is a message was kind of. You could call like a prefab oral tradition sort of swept suburbs in the seventies. And eighties and it's bit of a one room schoolhouse approach to teaching with group, there's private lessons group lessons, and then everyone comes together and they're all playing the same repertoire. But once you you're at the limit of your what song you're on? Then you hear that next the kids that are above you in skill. You know, keep playing see we're always hearing and digesting the same songs over and over again, it's a mix of Bach and Mozart and folksongs, and but it's all by year, which is key. I think a lot of people have a problem with that. And they don't like it for that reason. But I think I wouldn't be talking to you today. If I didn't learn your, and I was told. I was told that I had I had had a good tone. When I was little, and I've always been very sensitive to tones in other music to like certain instruments. Make me feel queasy you know, or like what what what what does this sound of an instrument that would make you feel like the like the pedal steel guitar. Really kid my dad like country music and going on vacations and to the smoky mountains and listening to that pedal steel sound I mean, I love it today. But it's still makes me little carsick. And yeah, just just different textures. I have pretty visceral reaction to and. When I was a teenager. I would go into different spaces. If I was playing in a. Auditorium, or or church or something? I I would like to go in there alone. And just play one note that that space wanted to hear and see if I could get. Find the resonant frequency of that space and just play a note for for an hour every show at play. I changed set list if the room doesn't want to hear the song if it's just giving me weird feedback. I just don't do that song play. What when I'm feeling that day. It's all about playing the notes that tell you the most about where you are in that space. This. This is fascinat- like it's fascinating to think about a space in terms of what what notes it wants to hear what music it wants to hear can you pick. Maybe a song from echo locations river that we could talk a little bit about in terms of the space that you what that space wanted to hear from you. Yeah. Actually. There's a tune that. Conceived of the melody for some that's on Montana store, which is on cappella go. So listen to a piece from echo located river. It's came out in two thousand seventeen. I'm just telling what what species are interacting with on this album. The Ellie river is. Hundred scribes river. It's more like a canal that they're trying to return to wetlands, but it's still pretty industrial and under Hyperion bridge, and which is an old bridge from nineteen fifteen the crosses the river. And. Actually, two bridges that are at slightly different angles arches create different ellipse, 'this. And and. It was just a really interesting acoustical space and kind of interesting mix of manmade and natural surroundings and then plane is kind of. Swooping notes. Also, kind of tell you give you interesting feedback. So I came up with this Melis. And that's where the melody for the song archipelago. Came from from that. Improvisation? Oh, she's the song archipelago on on your on your new album. My finest one it was instrumental on this to us, and that's pretty strong melody. And. That came. Well, I wanna play the song archipelago, and it contains one of the themes that I have noticed on this album that wanna talk to you about in just a moment looks on. I. Loudon. Taking too when. This. No excuses. No more. The same though all. Archipelago Andrew bird from my finest work yet. I like how you stretch out the pronunciation of archipelago on on the song to make it musically. I mean in a perfect rule this way, we'd all say it archipelago feels not really Rickel, and it wouldn't work in the song. So I took more gonna talion below exactly. And the the the the poetry of that sound feels fitting to to describe what what we're describing. It's a it's a chain of islands, I guess or seek containing chain violence, like Bahamas or Japan. So tell me about using that idea on this song talk to me about the that metaphor. Well, this is really about again about this the atmosphere of our world right now of that. I see as being kind of this intimacy. This aggressive intimacy between two polar sides, and how much they seem to need each other and feed off each other. And it's it's talking about that that interdependence between enemies like what if you were just to walk away. You has probably the worst thing you can do do your opponent. Was reluctant to death group and his taking its toll. And your enemies would make you whole and the archipelago things more about like, well, we're not we don't all live on a chain of islands. Isolated. The rest of the world. We've got to figure this out. Wait. That that concept of enemies being what make you whole or comes up. Also on on the last song. I think in a different way on on Bellevue bridge club. The VERA you'll be witnessed carnage. You know, there's no you without me. And I think it says a lot about your take on the current moment that we're in and the idea of of this album that is based in the now ticks to explore this really, I guess poetic notion that that there's a symbiotic relationship between enemies, and that they are dependent on each other. Like, why did you want to explore that idea at this moment? Why is that important for us to understand? We have to understand it to be able to fix it. Because it's getting there's always gonna be that. I mean relationships are always going to be get ugly at times and and conflict is is part of being in civilization being human. But the way things are going is is is not healthy. So I you got to recognize what's happening. And that's that was the trick. With this record is how to talk about it that it stays above the news feed. Knows. Because we're all. Increasingly in our own feedback. Loops and and it's just it's not going. It's not going into good direction. So. I think that's my job is to try to show that not to tell people what to think, but to just. Reframe the whole question. I think we're gonna leave it there. And if it's okay with you. I wanna go out on the song Bellevue bridge club, which closes the album in the spirit. I guess of you doing your job as you've put it and asking the questions is that. Okay with you. Yeah. Okay. Andrew bird. It's been such a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you. Thank you. Stint? Make you. Conspiracy. You know? Amazingly spell view bridge clubs the song that closes Andrew bird's album. My finest work yet hope you get the chance hills into the whole record start to finish his so with your ears. Thanks to Andrew for being such a wonderful guest. And thanks to our senior producer Kimberly do nod for editing this session until you're Slinger. And this is the world cafe. See? Support for this podcast and the following message. 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