Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An Interview with Sidewalk Dave: Bee Mating, Abandoning Folk for Rock & Roll & Miya's Sushi

I've been a Sidewalk Dave fan for a while now, and have already written about him in posts here and here. Today, I interviewed Dave on the phone. We talked about a wide range of topics from the inspiration of bee mating for his new record, to his recent shift in musical approach from folk to rock, to the importance of the great Miya's Sushi in his life, and his new experimental side project, Sasquatch Fucker.

Click through to read the interview

JB: Let me start out with the "Honey Bee" video, which I just watched and thought was a cool concept. I was wondering actually, have you seen something called Green Porno?
SD: Green what?
JB: Green porno.
SD: You mean like pornography?
JB: Yeah.
SD: No.
JB: OK. Well I recommend you check it out because I think it’s sort of similar to the concept you had for that video. Do you know who Isabella Rossellini is?
SD: No.
JB: She’s an actress and she’s a pretty bizarre person. And she makes these videos where she dresses up as different animals—a lot of them are insects. And shows how they mate. (laughs) And she has one for bees which is really fantastic.
SD: Ah I wish I knew that.
JB: Yeah yeah so what happens in the video. The man bee mates with the woman bee and he loses his penis. The penis gets stuck in the woman bee. So she becomes the new queen. And then he bleeds to death. So would you say that that idea had anything to do with that song?
SD: Yeah that had everything to do with it. I was reading the Biology of the Honey Bee, a book, while I was traveling. I was reading through it and I was in the middle when I was about to start recording Hard On Romance. So I went to the section about mating and I read all that. And it’s the most fucked up mating process I’ve ever heard. (laughs). These bees, their only purpose is to mate with the queen and when they do they get killed and all their friends do the same thing and actually it’s like a big orgy.
JB: Yeah. And they also fight with each other and some of them die.
SD: Yeah totally. I was just thinking about Romeo and Juliette being one of the most tragic love stories and then I was like, that’s not fucking tragic (laughs). I like to go with extremes and that seems pretty extreme for me. That helped form the whole album. You’re totally right. "When I cum I bleed" [lyric from his song "Honey Bee"]. All that stuff.
JB: So I’ve been looking at your website and I saw you put in a couple articles about Ty Segall and Tame Impala, who I think both released fantastic albums this year—in Ty Segall’s case three really good albums. And both of them I think are on the forefront of this movement of going back to the basics, making old school garage psych albums that sort of sound like they were released 40 years ago. So would you consider yourself to be a part of that movement at all?
SD: I had the idea for the sound of the record last year. I was already demo-ing stuff that way. I’ve always been trying to keep lo fi and get hi fi as well. High fidelity lo fi recordings…There’s a difference between that and the other way around, you know? I didn’t think about any scene but when those albums came out I was really pumped because they’re in the vein of types of sounds I look for in the music that I make. It was just cool to feel not alone. Not that it’s that far out there. I knew that I was trying to get away from folk, which is something that Ty Segall has also seemed to do. Goodbye Bread had more acoustic guitar. It was rockin’ too, but it was lo-fi folky.
JB: Do you think that you’ve abandoned folk music for good, or do you think you might eventually go back to that?
SD: I haven’t burned my acoustic guitar or anything. I’m definitely not interested in it really right now. I think it’s more likely I’ll get further away from it than go back to it. But I think those songs are good. Those songs are always in me. I just don’t know of a new way to do it right now. Until I find a new and exciting way to make folk songs again I don’t really want to go back to my roots just for the sake of nostalgia.
JB: It seems like there have been a lot of changes in your life recently. Not only did you switch styles pretty drastically but you moved from New Haven to Brooklyn. I was just wondering what that’s been like? Do you foresee staying in Brooklyn for a while or ever coming back to New Haven?
SD: I’m in New Haven still a lot. I still work at Miya’s and my record label is in New London. So I still feel very connected to New Haven and Connecticut. But it’s a big scene in New York and there’s a lot of exciting stuff going on. I don’t think you can check that out quickly, you know? I’ve been coming to New York and falling in love with New York for years and I kind of always knew I’d end up here. But in New Haven, the scene is so promising and so potent for how small the population is. So I’m lucky in that way. I feel like society breeds you to go through phases. Ever since you’re a kid, you’re 4 years old and then you go to preschool and then four years later you’re in another school and four years later you’re in another school, and you do your undergrad and that takes four years. And then, since I graduated in 2008 or 9, it’s been at least four years with this band, and it was just time for a change.
JB: From your website’s bio, you say that you traveled around a lot when you were a teenager. So what were some of the better and worse experiences you had when you were doing that?
SD: I lived in Iowa when I was four to eight years old. All the memories from that time in my life are really beautiful. I lived in a trailer park. And then we made money and we built this big house and it was really contrast-y. I moved to Switzerland. All of a sudden my world changed. My memories are really vivid. It was a lot of adventures and staying out until sunset and then riding bikes down long roads with fields. That was one of my better memories. And then living in North Carolina was pretty awful. In contrast, it’s a really beautiful place. We lived in the mountains. But we were poor and I was picked on and the people were not that nice where we were.
JB: And what brought you to New Haven originally?
SD: I got a swimming scholarship to Southern Connecticut State University. It was the only school I got into and it was only because of swimming. My grades were really bad for the first two years. At that point I was already living on my own. My mom moved to Kansas when I was 16. I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I just figured I may as well live on some school loans and live in a dormitory for free basically. Well, not free. I had to pay it back. I knew about The Space. I knew the owner of The Space somehow through my mother.
JB: And then how did you start working at Miya’s?
SD: Our guitar player, who you saw play with us in New York, he worked there, and our drummer got in a motorcycle accident. So I couldn’t work for like a month and then I didn’t have money and I was living at the rehearsal space. And then our guitar player, who was already playing with us a little bit, said that he could get me a job there because he worked there. They saved my life. They really treat you like family.
JB: That’s my favorite restaurant in the world. I love that place. Do you think you’ll try to keep working there for a while, or do you eventually want to make your whole living off music? Do you think that’s feasible?
SD: I want to spend as much time playing and working on that stuff as I can. So I want to work as little as possible or not at all. It used to be a goal of mine to live off music, but I don’t know if I’m interested in spending my time trying to make that happen. I’d rather just spend my time trying to have the time. So right now Miya’s takes good care of me and I don’t have anything in New York that’s coming up right now that will allow me to be as flexible with my schedule as I am with them and make as much money quickly. I’m not actively trying to stop working at Miya’s. But, I don’t know if in a year I might want to stop commuting.
JB: So I saw on Facebook, you recently debuted a side project called Sasquatch Fucker. (laughs)
SD: Yeah, Sasquatch Fucker is kind of this art installment…a very crass art installment band. It’s just me and this guy I work with at Miya’s.
JB: Dave Corsack.
SD: Yep. So every once in a while, usually when he’s fighting with his girlfriend or breaking up with her, he all of a sudden has time, and then we go to his storage space rehearsal cube and we play blistering, loud music about really, really crass and tasteless things. And we speak in Southern accents and we have stage personas. But that was the first time we did it live and it was really spur of the moment and half the people really, really hated it. And half the people really, really loved it. So, I think that was a success.
JB: Yeah, you always want to have strong feelings as opposed to indifference.
SD: Right right. Because even the people who hate it are talking about it. They’re like, Sidewalk Dave is totally making a fool of himself or a fool of us or not taking it seriously anymore. At least they’re talking about it.
JB: You recently donated a song to a benefit compilation for Hurricane Sandy. I just wanted to know what your experience with the storm was, and how it affected people you knew in New York or elsewhere.
SD: A lot of the people I know personally weren’t in any sort of emergency state, and for me it was like a windy night. I didn’t know how bad it was until the next day when it was on the news. And then to better understand the effect it had, I went and volunteered in Rockaway in Queens that was hit really, really bad, and those people are still homeless and still screwed up, and I’m trying to go once a week if I can, even though I haven’t been in the city, to go and volunteer. It’s worse than people think in a lot of ways. So I was really excited and jumped at the chance to be on the compilation, and I hope it does well. I don’t know about the Red Cross, though. I don’t know how much help they were at the beginning. They might be doing better stuff now. But that’s where the money’s going. I don’t know if I agree with that completely, but it’s better than nothing I suppose.

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