9:30 INTERVIEW: Anges Obel
Danish singer-songwriter Agnes Obel crafts dreamy, classical compositions with contemporary flair. We chatted with Obel ahead of her upcoming 9:30 Club show about performing live, her album-making process, and the value of social media in marketing musicians’ careers. 
Madelyn [9:30]: For your upcoming U.S. tour, will you be solo or with your supporting band of cellist and violinist?
Agnes Obel: Yeah, I’m going to come with a cello player and a violin player. Mika Posen from Canada is going to play violin and Anne Müller from Berlin is going to play cello. And I’m going to play piano [laughs].
What attracts you to the musicians with whom you perform live?
I’ve been working with musicians who play classical instruments, so they have a classical training, and it’s quite different from what I used to play with, which was only rock background, which is very different from a classical background. What I’ve been trying to find is musicians who are classically trained, so they can play these instruments, but on the other side, they can also be free and sort of have a more rock and roll approach to playing concerts and working with effects, and loop stations, and improvising. Also, thinking of the whole thing as more like band - I’m not interested in hiring classical musicians, then they get some sheets, and that’s it. I want it to be something we do together because that’s how I always played in bands. Mika and Anne - they’re both very much like this; they have the classical background, but they are very capable of playing with effects and both have solo projects on their own. They’re really wonderful to play with. 
I had the pleasure of seeing you at SXSW when you played in a church. That performance was very sublime; the church setting was perfect. Are your “normal” shows that stripped down, or when we see you at the Club, will there be lights and projections?
I think we’ll be able to do more than we could at the SXSW show because there are a lot of limitations to these kinds of shows, you know? You have like a fifteen-minute change over, so you can’t really do what you normally do. But it’s going to be stripped down in the set up. We’re still just going to be a trio, and we’re going to build everything up from these three instruments. So what we’re aiming at is trying to build it up to sound more orchestral with loop stations and effects and stuff, and again, having it really sparse. And I think it’s more interesting when you are fewer on stage because it gets very clear what’s happening. I really like the simplicity, and the simplicity getting more complicated. So it’s going to be something like that, but of course, not the same because SXSW was really something special [laughs].
What’s your favorite type of show to play? Do you like festivals? Or do you prefer big concert halls, or smaller, more intimate rooms?
I think I like all the three things you mentioned. But, of course, with classical instruments that you amplify and play loudly like it’s a rock instrument - that is very highly complicated to set up to play at a festival like SXSW. It’s not easy to do it. It’s a little like climbing a mountain, and if you do it, you’re very happy. But it’s really hit or miss with the set up. I’m on festival tour at the moment, and we’re playing a lot of shows like this where you have to get up on stage and everything is made for a rock band, or for an electronic band, or for somebody who has everything on a computer. [Laughs.] It’s sometimes really terrifying, actually, because you don’t know if you can do it. So when you’re in a club - a normal club - or in a venue or concert hall and you have a proper soundcheck and you have all those things and a good acoustic - of course that’s way easier. And you have time to find out the room. I really like to do that - to get to know the room before you play the concert, and find out what kind of room, what kind of acoustic, and what kind of atmosphere you can work with. In a festival, you can’t do that; I’ve never tried that, because we never have any time. But that’s also the exciting thing. So, I like it all, I guess.
As a Danish singer-songwriter living in Berlin, does writing and singing in English come pretty naturally to you? Or is it a translation process where you write in your native tongue, then do it in English?
No, no, I write in English. That’s how I learned English - from singing in English. Actually, for me, it’s very much my music language, so it’s actually more weird for me to sing in Danish. I guess that must be weird for people who speak English as their first language to hear that from somebody who comes from another language. I went to this school - it was a music school, but also an international school, so the main language was Danish, but also English, and they taught us English through music. Before we understood it, we would sing it. That means I have a very natural relationship to the language - in terms of music, at least. It seems very sort of connected for me. But also, I work with it in a very sort of sound way. Of course I think about the lyrics - use a lot of time on the lyrics - but I feel like the sound, and the sound in a room, and the words, they color each other - the sound and the semantics. And that’s even more obvious to me when it’s English than when it’s Danish. So, yeah, I like to sing in English.

Have you gravitated towards any instruments besides piano? Could you see yourself playing anything else on a record in the future?
Well, I played bass on the previous album, and guitar, and all the beats - rhythms and stuff. Because I do it myself, I end up having to do some of the instrumentation, even though I’m not very good at these instruments. So, yeah, definitely. And the next album, I’m planning to work less with piano, and more with other kinds of old keyboards, so yeah, I could definitely imagine that [laughs].
Speaking of your third record, how much have you been able to focus on that? Or are you just focusing on touring?
I’m focusing on it because I’m planning it. I’m trying to find new instruments to work with, so it’s sort of on the research phase and starting to write things. It’s still sort of just in the incubation phase - [laughs] it’s a very early phase. But most of my time is with the touring and getting that album working. I’m touring with different musicians at the moment -  I’m not touring with Anne and Mika right now - I’m touring with two Belgian musicians, so every time you start playing with a new band, you have to rehearse and get to know each other. It takes a lot of time, I think. And just traveling - I haven’t been home for four weeks right now.
Do you think that, ideally, the new album would come out early next year? What’s your timeline for it?
Oh, no, no, no. I need a long time. [Laughs.] I’m just starting to think about it and to write a few things. I’m the type who needs a year or two years or something. I’m not one of these fast ones. I need a long time.
Nothing wrong with that! So, you produce your own records, and I’m wondering how having complete creative control in the recording studio impacts other aspects of your life as a musician? Does it help at all as a touring musician to know your records in and out and to say, “I did everything of this”? 
That’s a good question. I never got that question before. I’m very focused on sound. Live sound -  I want it to sound a certain way, so I’m very involved in the sound aspect, and of course the arrangements and everything. But it also means when we start playing it live, and we change the arrangements and we develop the songs, I keep on thinking, “Oh, I want to go back and rerecord it!” You can get sort of obsessed with certain aspects of the sound. I ended up also mixing the two last albums, so when you produce it, and record it, and mix it, and write it, and play it, you can tend to become a little obsessed with it. And when you start playing it with other people and changing it, then it’s like you’re opening the whole thing up again. I think it becomes very personal and also takes a lot of time of your life, basically. I’m still not a point where I can write the songs and leave the production and everything to somebody else. Could be fun to try it at some point and say, “Okay, you do it, and I’ll just see what’s going to come out at the end.” So far, I’ve had this need to have the songs and the universe in the whole of my hands so I can make sure I get my ideas and visions out the way I want it.
I know that Myspace was instrumental in your discovery as a musician. Do you still use social media as a main marketing tool for your career? 
First of all, it’s true that I had one song in a German commercial that was discovered on Myspace in 2008, but it didn’t help me so much. It was just in Germany and it took me two years to get a record deal, and it ended up not being in Germany. I couldn’t get any contract in Germany, so it didn’t help me so much. I think sometimes it’s just something it says on Wikipedia, but the reality is it wasn’t that easy [laughs]. I learned that you have to be very careful with these kinds of things. I think, obviously, it has changed everything that music is available everywhere. Social media is part of it. I think the most important platform right now is YouTube, for discovering music and for also letting you know bands that are not on labels [and don’t] have promotion and stuff. They have an output of form; that’s extremely important. And that was also important for me - that’s how I started doing music on my own. And I remember before, I was playing in a band, and in this band project, everything was about getting a record deal, but when I started working alone, that was a time where Myspace was really big. In that period, everybody was like, “Oh, let’s just get it up on Myspace and show it to our friends.” So, the whole spirit has changed and it’s already some time ago now, you know? But it’s not about labels anymore. It’s about getting it out there and finding - because everything has become way more niche - you can always find an audience now, it doesn’t matter if they are far away. So, yeah, I think it’s super important, and it’s really great for everybody who doesn’t fit into the classical category that the record labels use when they sign us. Obiviously, it’s really good. But I don’t use a lot of time with Twitter and Facebook, I have to admit. I’m not that connected myself.
You work with your boyfriend, Alex, on music videos for your songs. What’s the collaborative process between you two like?  
I’m working a lot in our home, and he has a studio in our home, too, so he ends up hearing a lot of stuff before it’s done. He will make something without me even knowing it, and then just showing it to me, and then if I like it, he will make a video for it. I dunno, I guess I’m really lucky with that because it doesn’t have to be conceptualized and planned. It just sort of happens in the process.
-Madelyn Dutt
Agnes Obel will perform at 9:30 Club on Wednesday, August 13.

9:30 INTERVIEW: Anges Obel

Danish singer-songwriter Agnes Obel crafts dreamy, classical compositions with contemporary flair. We chatted with Obel ahead of her upcoming 9:30 Club show about performing live, her album-making process, and the value of social media in marketing musicians’ careers. 

Madelyn [9:30]: For your upcoming U.S. tour, will you be solo or with your supporting band of cellist and violinist?

Agnes Obel: Yeah, I’m going to come with a cello player and a violin player. Mika Posen from Canada is going to play violin and Anne Müller from Berlin is going to play cello. And I’m going to play piano [laughs].

What attracts you to the musicians with whom you perform live?

I’ve been working with musicians who play classical instruments, so they have a classical training, and it’s quite different from what I used to play with, which was only rock background, which is very different from a classical background. What I’ve been trying to find is musicians who are classically trained, so they can play these instruments, but on the other side, they can also be free and sort of have a more rock and roll approach to playing concerts and working with effects, and loop stations, and improvising. Also, thinking of the whole thing as more like band - I’m not interested in hiring classical musicians, then they get some sheets, and that’s it. I want it to be something we do together because that’s how I always played in bands. Mika and Anne - they’re both very much like this; they have the classical background, but they are very capable of playing with effects and both have solo projects on their own. They’re really wonderful to play with. 

I had the pleasure of seeing you at SXSW when you played in a church. That performance was very sublime; the church setting was perfect. Are your “normal” shows that stripped down, or when we see you at the Club, will there be lights and projections?

I think we’ll be able to do more than we could at the SXSW show because there are a lot of limitations to these kinds of shows, you know? You have like a fifteen-minute change over, so you can’t really do what you normally do. But it’s going to be stripped down in the set up. We’re still just going to be a trio, and we’re going to build everything up from these three instruments. So what we’re aiming at is trying to build it up to sound more orchestral with loop stations and effects and stuff, and again, having it really sparse. And I think it’s more interesting when you are fewer on stage because it gets very clear what’s happening. I really like the simplicity, and the simplicity getting more complicated. So it’s going to be something like that, but of course, not the same because SXSW was really something special [laughs].

What’s your favorite type of show to play? Do you like festivals? Or do you prefer big concert halls, or smaller, more intimate rooms?

I think I like all the three things you mentioned. But, of course, with classical instruments that you amplify and play loudly like it’s a rock instrument - that is very highly complicated to set up to play at a festival like SXSW. It’s not easy to do it. It’s a little like climbing a mountain, and if you do it, you’re very happy. But it’s really hit or miss with the set up. I’m on festival tour at the moment, and we’re playing a lot of shows like this where you have to get up on stage and everything is made for a rock band, or for an electronic band, or for somebody who has everything on a computer. [Laughs.] It’s sometimes really terrifying, actually, because you don’t know if you can do it. So when you’re in a club - a normal club - or in a venue or concert hall and you have a proper soundcheck and you have all those things and a good acoustic - of course that’s way easier. And you have time to find out the room. I really like to do that - to get to know the room before you play the concert, and find out what kind of room, what kind of acoustic, and what kind of atmosphere you can work with. In a festival, you can’t do that; I’ve never tried that, because we never have any time. But that’s also the exciting thing. So, I like it all, I guess.

As a Danish singer-songwriter living in Berlin, does writing and singing in English come pretty naturally to you? Or is it a translation process where you write in your native tongue, then do it in English?

No, no, I write in English. That’s how I learned English - from singing in English. Actually, for me, it’s very much my music language, so it’s actually more weird for me to sing in Danish. I guess that must be weird for people who speak English as their first language to hear that from somebody who comes from another language. I went to this school - it was a music school, but also an international school, so the main language was Danish, but also English, and they taught us English through music. Before we understood it, we would sing it. That means I have a very natural relationship to the language - in terms of music, at least. It seems very sort of connected for me. But also, I work with it in a very sort of sound way. Of course I think about the lyrics - use a lot of time on the lyrics - but I feel like the sound, and the sound in a room, and the words, they color each other - the sound and the semantics. And that’s even more obvious to me when it’s English than when it’s Danish. So, yeah, I like to sing in English.

Have you gravitated towards any instruments besides piano? Could you see yourself playing anything else on a record in the future?

Well, I played bass on the previous album, and guitar, and all the beats - rhythms and stuff. Because I do it myself, I end up having to do some of the instrumentation, even though I’m not very good at these instruments. So, yeah, definitely. And the next album, I’m planning to work less with piano, and more with other kinds of old keyboards, so yeah, I could definitely imagine that [laughs].

Speaking of your third record, how much have you been able to focus on that? Or are you just focusing on touring?

I’m focusing on it because I’m planning it. I’m trying to find new instruments to work with, so it’s sort of on the research phase and starting to write things. It’s still sort of just in the incubation phase - [laughs] it’s a very early phase. But most of my time is with the touring and getting that album working. I’m touring with different musicians at the moment -  I’m not touring with Anne and Mika right now - I’m touring with two Belgian musicians, so every time you start playing with a new band, you have to rehearse and get to know each other. It takes a lot of time, I think. And just traveling - I haven’t been home for four weeks right now.

Do you think that, ideally, the new album would come out early next year? What’s your timeline for it?

Oh, no, no, no. I need a long time. [Laughs.] I’m just starting to think about it and to write a few things. I’m the type who needs a year or two years or something. I’m not one of these fast ones. I need a long time.

Nothing wrong with that! So, you produce your own records, and I’m wondering how having complete creative control in the recording studio impacts other aspects of your life as a musician? Does it help at all as a touring musician to know your records in and out and to say, “I did everything of this”? 

That’s a good question. I never got that question before. I’m very focused on sound. Live sound -  I want it to sound a certain way, so I’m very involved in the sound aspect, and of course the arrangements and everything. But it also means when we start playing it live, and we change the arrangements and we develop the songs, I keep on thinking, “Oh, I want to go back and rerecord it!” You can get sort of obsessed with certain aspects of the sound. I ended up also mixing the two last albums, so when you produce it, and record it, and mix it, and write it, and play it, you can tend to become a little obsessed with it. And when you start playing it with other people and changing it, then it’s like you’re opening the whole thing up again. I think it becomes very personal and also takes a lot of time of your life, basically. I’m still not a point where I can write the songs and leave the production and everything to somebody else. Could be fun to try it at some point and say, “Okay, you do it, and I’ll just see what’s going to come out at the end.” So far, I’ve had this need to have the songs and the universe in the whole of my hands so I can make sure I get my ideas and visions out the way I want it.

I know that Myspace was instrumental in your discovery as a musician. Do you still use social media as a main marketing tool for your career? 

First of all, it’s true that I had one song in a German commercial that was discovered on Myspace in 2008, but it didn’t help me so much. It was just in Germany and it took me two years to get a record deal, and it ended up not being in Germany. I couldn’t get any contract in Germany, so it didn’t help me so much. I think sometimes it’s just something it says on Wikipedia, but the reality is it wasn’t that easy [laughs]. I learned that you have to be very careful with these kinds of things. I think, obviously, it has changed everything that music is available everywhere. Social media is part of it. I think the most important platform right now is YouTube, for discovering music and for also letting you know bands that are not on labels [and don’t] have promotion and stuff. They have an output of form; that’s extremely important. And that was also important for me - that’s how I started doing music on my own. And I remember before, I was playing in a band, and in this band project, everything was about getting a record deal, but when I started working alone, that was a time where Myspace was really big. In that period, everybody was like, “Oh, let’s just get it up on Myspace and show it to our friends.” So, the whole spirit has changed and it’s already some time ago now, you know? But it’s not about labels anymore. It’s about getting it out there and finding - because everything has become way more niche - you can always find an audience now, it doesn’t matter if they are far away. So, yeah, I think it’s super important, and it’s really great for everybody who doesn’t fit into the classical category that the record labels use when they sign us. Obiviously, it’s really good. But I don’t use a lot of time with Twitter and Facebook, I have to admit. I’m not that connected myself.

You work with your boyfriend, Alex, on music videos for your songs. What’s the collaborative process between you two like?  

I’m working a lot in our home, and he has a studio in our home, too, so he ends up hearing a lot of stuff before it’s done. He will make something without me even knowing it, and then just showing it to me, and then if I like it, he will make a video for it. I dunno, I guess I’m really lucky with that because it doesn’t have to be conceptualized and planned. It just sort of happens in the process.

-Madelyn Dutt

Agnes Obel will perform at 9:30 Club on Wednesday, August 13.

9:30 INTERVIEW: Benjamin John Power, Fuck Buttons
Madelyn [9:30]: Are you getting excited for the upcoming U.S. tour?
Benjamin John Power [Fuck Buttons]: Yeah, we are, actually. These things creep up on you a little bit, don’t they? It’s only a week until we leave for it now. We love playing out there, so yeah, we can’t wait. 
Awesome! Are you guys approaching this tour at all differently than previous ones?
This will be the first time that we have our full visual show - the visual aspects - along with us in the States. We’ve been doing it in Europe and the rest of the world and festivals now, but it’ll be the first time we’ve brought it to America, so we’re looking forward to that.
Are you guys very involved with creating the visual component of your show? And what inspires it?
It’s an idea that we came up with. Obviously, we had to get somebody else to facilitate it, but it was our idea and we were very conscious of the fact we didn’t want it to just be some irrelevant kind of visuals we put in place as a separate focus from what’s going on onstage. We wanted to make sure that it was a little more interactive between Andy and my setup and what you’re actually seeing on the screen. So I think opposed to a separate focus, it’s way more involved in what’s already happening on stage and what’s been happening on stage since we started out, essentially.
Musically, do you guys improvise at all during shows? Or do you mostly stick to what’s on the album?
I mean, you ask any electronic artist and they’ll say the same to you. They’ll say they improvise within a certain framework. We do have set parts, but because the tracks are written in such a live way anyway, there is room for error. We do improvise to a certain degree, as well. We do have parts that we stick to, and it’s not completely free for all, but it is possible to mess up, and possible add and subtract as you wish to a certain degree, but not one-hundred percent.
What, for you, makes a show memorable?
As long as something hasn’t gone drastically wrong, then it’s all memorable. I know I can speak for my bandmate when I say that one thing that really makes him feel like a show is memorable is to see a crowd surfer [laughs]. And I would say the same, obviously. You know, electronic music - it’s very unusual for that to happen. Some of the shows we play, some of the festivals we play - it quite often gets treated more like a rock thing, which is quite nice because there’s definitely a live aspect to it. Seeing a crowd surfer always does stand out for us, but other than that, you can tell if people are having a good time, and if you’ve had a good time - it always sticks in your memory. 
Yeah! So, I know that you’re a vegan, and I’m wondering whether that makes touring hard? Or how difficult it is to be vegan and a touring musician?
Depends what country you’re in. Now, I absolutely love France - we were just in France, we played in Paris and Lyon this weekend just gone - and the shows were fantastic, and the people were absolutely fantastic, but from a solely selfish dietary standpoint, I was fucked. But America, it’s always really good. UK is always really good. And a lot of Europe is great. It just means you have to actually plan things a little bit better before you go out or before you arrive somewhere. Before I was a vegan, I would just settle for anything. I would eat anything on tour. But now I have to actually put a little bit more thought into what I’m going to eat and where I’m going to eat, or otherwise I’ll get ill. So it actually adds to the touring experience. It means I get to see the cities a little bit more, if I have time, because I have to travel a little bit to get somewhere where I can eat. It’s added a whole new dimension.
Well, D.C. is a pretty vegan-friendly city, so hopefully you’ll have time to go check out some cool restaurants. So, what are some tour essentials? For example, are your Garfield hat and slippers something you take with you? Or what are some other memorabilia you take with you on tour? 
We stripped down touring essentials, even for what we’re using on stage, because otherwise it just becomes very confusing. We don’t really have, like you say, anything that we necessarily bring, like anything totemistic. I know I don’t. A hard drive with some good films on, for sure. I know Andy brings his iPad, and I’ll bring a small hard drive with plenty of films on to watch - especially in the States, the drives are quite long. But other than that, we don’t have anything strange, like you said, Garfield slippers. That hasn’t really happened so much [laughs]. 
Do you know what movies you plan to put to your hard drive this tour?
I’ve not seen Beyond the Black Rainbow yet. I’m gonna watch that; I hear that’s pretty good. I’ve actually been watching Battlestar Galactica. My wife joins me halfway through on this tour, and I’ll get shot if I watch any of it without her, so I have to wait. So that for sure. We’re coming close to the end of the second season.
Does having your wife on tour make a big difference in terms of homesickness and your morale? 
She’s only coming out because we actually have a week when Andy has to come back [to the UK] for a wedding halfway through, and I’m going to stay out there, and my wife is going to join me in L.A. for a week. So, she’s not really going to be on tour with us. But I mean, she’s joined on a couple dates before on tour. It’s fine, yeah. She’s good to have around; she keeps me in check.
Do you think attending art school influenced your music?
We’re both very visually minded when it comes to the aesthetic, and I guess that probably is a product of being at art school. Art’s what we both studied, and we like to keep the whole visual aesthetic side of Fuck Buttons - we like to do that all in-house. Andy makes the videos and I do all the artwork, and merchandise, and stuff, so I guess it has probably made a very big impact on our operation and such. We’ve managed to keep it quite tight, to a certain degree, as opposed to adding somebody else into the mix when it comes to the visual side of things or moving image side of things. So yeah, I mean, I’m sure it has. It’s cut out another head, essentially. It would be very hard for us to hand something like that over because we both know that we’re capable of doing so, you know?
Right. Did you guys celebrate your ten-year anniversary of making music together?
We haven’t sat down and celebrated it properly yet, but I think that’s a very nice idea. I think we will at some point, for sure. Maybe wait ‘til we’re on tour [laughs]. 
It’s a big milestone - ten years.
It is, it’s crazy. Yeah, it’s very crazy. It is a long time.
What can we expect from Fuck Buttons after this upcoming tour? Is there a new album in the wings? Or taking a break?
Andy and I are very, very good friends - we’re best friends - and we still really enjoy making music together. So yeah, of course there’s going to be a new album. We’ve been pretty busy playing shows and stuff since Slow Focus came out, so nothing has been written as of yet, but it’s something that we will do. There’s no date set for it, but yeah, you can definitely expect more from us. For sure.
Okay! So, last question. You’ve said that Mr. Ed the Talking Horse would play you in your biopic. If you were an actor in an alternate universe, in whose biopic would you like to star?
You know, as soon as I answered that question, I realized it was a fucking ridiculous contradiction.
You can amend your answer, if you’d rather.
No, it’s fine. I think it was just more me being a bit silly, but I clearly don’t agree with animals in entertainment. I guess that’s why I mentioned he would be calling the shots and have complete creative control. But still, yeah, animals in entertainment is something that I don’t necessarily agree with. Whose biopic would I like to star in? [Pauses.] Maybe Andy’s. 
That’d make for an interesting movie!
[Laughs.] Maybe I could have Andy play me, and I could play Andy. I think it’d probably be quite convincing as well, as we know each other very well. Yeah, that could work. How ‘bout that? That’s my answer.
That’s a great answer, and I think that film should be made. [Ben laughs.] Well, thank you so much - we’ll see you at U Street Music Hall! Thanks again! 
Thank you, Madelyn!  
-Madelyn Dutt
Fuck Buttons will perform at U Street Music Hall this Friday, June 13.

9:30 INTERVIEW: Benjamin John Power, Fuck Buttons

Madelyn [9:30]: Are you getting excited for the upcoming U.S. tour?

Benjamin John Power [Fuck Buttons]: Yeah, we are, actually. These things creep up on you a little bit, don’t they? It’s only a week until we leave for it now. We love playing out there, so yeah, we can’t wait.

Awesome! Are you guys approaching this tour at all differently than previous ones?

This will be the first time that we have our full visual show - the visual aspects - along with us in the States. We’ve been doing it in Europe and the rest of the world and festivals now, but it’ll be the first time we’ve brought it to America, so we’re looking forward to that.

Are you guys very involved with creating the visual component of your show? And what inspires it?

It’s an idea that we came up with. Obviously, we had to get somebody else to facilitate it, but it was our idea and we were very conscious of the fact we didn’t want it to just be some irrelevant kind of visuals we put in place as a separate focus from what’s going on onstage. We wanted to make sure that it was a little more interactive between Andy and my setup and what you’re actually seeing on the screen. So I think opposed to a separate focus, it’s way more involved in what’s already happening on stage and what’s been happening on stage since we started out, essentially.

Musically, do you guys improvise at all during shows? Or do you mostly stick to what’s on the album?

I mean, you ask any electronic artist and they’ll say the same to you. They’ll say they improvise within a certain framework. We do have set parts, but because the tracks are written in such a live way anyway, there is room for error. We do improvise to a certain degree, as well. We do have parts that we stick to, and it’s not completely free for all, but it is possible to mess up, and possible add and subtract as you wish to a certain degree, but not one-hundred percent.

What, for you, makes a show memorable?

As long as something hasn’t gone drastically wrong, then it’s all memorable. I know I can speak for my bandmate when I say that one thing that really makes him feel like a show is memorable is to see a crowd surfer [laughs]. And I would say the same, obviously. You know, electronic music - it’s very unusual for that to happen. Some of the shows we play, some of the festivals we play - it quite often gets treated more like a rock thing, which is quite nice because there’s definitely a live aspect to it. Seeing a crowd surfer always does stand out for us, but other than that, you can tell if people are having a good time, and if you’ve had a good time - it always sticks in your memory.

Yeah! So, I know that you’re a vegan, and I’m wondering whether that makes touring hard? Or how difficult it is to be vegan and a touring musician?

Depends what country you’re in. Now, I absolutely love France - we were just in France, we played in Paris and Lyon this weekend just gone - and the shows were fantastic, and the people were absolutely fantastic, but from a solely selfish dietary standpoint, I was fucked. But America, it’s always really good. UK is always really good. And a lot of Europe is great. It just means you have to actually plan things a little bit better before you go out or before you arrive somewhere. Before I was a vegan, I would just settle for anything. I would eat anything on tour. But now I have to actually put a little bit more thought into what I’m going to eat and where I’m going to eat, or otherwise I’ll get ill. So it actually adds to the touring experience. It means I get to see the cities a little bit more, if I have time, because I have to travel a little bit to get somewhere where I can eat. It’s added a whole new dimension.

Well, D.C. is a pretty vegan-friendly city, so hopefully you’ll have time to go check out some cool restaurants. So, what are some tour essentials? For example, are your Garfield hat and slippers something you take with you? Or what are some other memorabilia you take with you on tour?

We stripped down touring essentials, even for what we’re using on stage, because otherwise it just becomes very confusing. We don’t really have, like you say, anything that we necessarily bring, like anything totemistic. I know I don’t. A hard drive with some good films on, for sure. I know Andy brings his iPad, and I’ll bring a small hard drive with plenty of films on to watch - especially in the States, the drives are quite long. But other than that, we don’t have anything strange, like you said, Garfield slippers. That hasn’t really happened so much [laughs].

Do you know what movies you plan to put to your hard drive this tour?

I’ve not seen Beyond the Black Rainbow yet. I’m gonna watch that; I hear that’s pretty good. I’ve actually been watching Battlestar Galactica. My wife joins me halfway through on this tour, and I’ll get shot if I watch any of it without her, so I have to wait. So that for sure. We’re coming close to the end of the second season.

Does having your wife on tour make a big difference in terms of homesickness and your morale?

She’s only coming out because we actually have a week when Andy has to come back [to the UK] for a wedding halfway through, and I’m going to stay out there, and my wife is going to join me in L.A. for a week. So, she’s not really going to be on tour with us. But I mean, she’s joined on a couple dates before on tour. It’s fine, yeah. She’s good to have around; she keeps me in check.

Do you think attending art school influenced your music?

We’re both very visually minded when it comes to the aesthetic, and I guess that probably is a product of being at art school. Art’s what we both studied, and we like to keep the whole visual aesthetic side of Fuck Buttons - we like to do that all in-house. Andy makes the videos and I do all the artwork, and merchandise, and stuff, so I guess it has probably made a very big impact on our operation and such. We’ve managed to keep it quite tight, to a certain degree, as opposed to adding somebody else into the mix when it comes to the visual side of things or moving image side of things. So yeah, I mean, I’m sure it has. It’s cut out another head, essentially. It would be very hard for us to hand something like that over because we both know that we’re capable of doing so, you know?

Right. Did you guys celebrate your ten-year anniversary of making music together?

We haven’t sat down and celebrated it properly yet, but I think that’s a very nice idea. I think we will at some point, for sure. Maybe wait ‘til we’re on tour [laughs].

It’s a big milestone - ten years.

It is, it’s crazy. Yeah, it’s very crazy. It is a long time.

What can we expect from Fuck Buttons after this upcoming tour? Is there a new album in the wings? Or taking a break?

Andy and I are very, very good friends - we’re best friends - and we still really enjoy making music together. So yeah, of course there’s going to be a new album. We’ve been pretty busy playing shows and stuff since Slow Focus came out, so nothing has been written as of yet, but it’s something that we will do. There’s no date set for it, but yeah, you can definitely expect more from us. For sure.

Okay! So, last question. You’ve said that Mr. Ed the Talking Horse would play you in your biopic. If you were an actor in an alternate universe, in whose biopic would you like to star?

You know, as soon as I answered that question, I realized it was a fucking ridiculous contradiction.

You can amend your answer, if you’d rather.

No, it’s fine. I think it was just more me being a bit silly, but I clearly don’t agree with animals in entertainment. I guess that’s why I mentioned he would be calling the shots and have complete creative control. But still, yeah, animals in entertainment is something that I don’t necessarily agree with. Whose biopic would I like to star in? [Pauses.] Maybe Andy’s.

That’d make for an interesting movie!

[Laughs.] Maybe I could have Andy play me, and I could play Andy. I think it’d probably be quite convincing as well, as we know each other very well. Yeah, that could work. How ‘bout that? That’s my answer.

That’s a great answer, and I think that film should be made. [Ben laughs.] Well, thank you so much - we’ll see you at U Street Music Hall! Thanks again!

Thank you, Madelyn!  

-Madelyn Dutt

Fuck Buttons will perform at U Street Music Hall this Friday, June 13.

SHOW PREVIEW: Conor Oberst
Conor Oberst is coming to town. Love him or hate him, he’ll be playing two nights – May 23rd and May 24th, just a few days after the release of his newest solo work Upside Down Mountain. Produced in Nashville, the record itself features the backing vocals of First Aid Kit’s charming Söderberg sisters. Special guests Dawes are set to open.
As a shrill 12 year old, Conor Oberst played his first show in the musically bountiful Omaha, Nebraska, strumming that guitar hard. His work, now spanning over two decades, is vast: Commander Venus, Desaparecidos, The Faint, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Monsters of Folk, a slew of solo records, and the most beloved - Bright Eyes. There’s always Bright Eyes, isn’t there?
In addition to Upside Down Mountain, Oberst is deftly making use of Record Store Day this April, with two 7 inches up for grabs. The first features “Hundreds of Ways,” off his upcoming release and “Friends,” which didn’t quite make the cut.  If you’ve got tickets to this show, you will need to pick up the Dawes/Oberst split. The record includes a Dawes recording of “Easy/Lucky/Free” (from Oberst’s 2005 Digital Ash in a Digital Urn), and Oberst covering “Million Dollar Bill” (from Dawes’ 2011 Nothing is Wrong). The Laurel Canyon band, coming off their 2013 Stories Don’t End, has long since played alongside Oberst. Following their set, they will return to the stage as his backing band.
Did the music of Conor Oberst and his buddy, Mike Mogis, get you through high school, as folks often claim? Or maybe Fevers and Mirrors; Lifted…; I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning got you through college. Or this winter. Or yesterday. If you’ve never seen him live, you really should. His performances tend to pack a lot of energy, shifting lights, heat –disproving that sad-bastard repute. There’s almost always a nice cover, too (“The Biggest Lie” -Elliott Smith; “Devil Town” -Robert Johnson; “Walls” -Tom Petty; “Mushaboom” -Feist). Still bummed I missed the 2003 night, in my own home town, when a severely-annoyed Conor climbed atop his band’s van with an acoustic guitar. The power inside had been cut in accordance with some bogus curfew and so he stormed outside to play in the parking lot of the now-disbanded Newport Music Hall. He got through one song before the fuzz shut him down.  
Say what you will about the man. I keep coming back.
-Ren Cooper
Performing live at the 9:30 Club on May 23rd and May 24th.

SHOW PREVIEW: Conor Oberst

Conor Oberst is coming to town. Love him or hate him, he’ll be playing two nights – May 23rd and May 24th, just a few days after the release of his newest solo work Upside Down Mountain. Produced in Nashville, the record itself features the backing vocals of First Aid Kit’s charming Söderberg sisters. Special guests Dawes are set to open.

As a shrill 12 year old, Conor Oberst played his first show in the musically bountiful Omaha, Nebraska, strumming that guitar hard. His work, now spanning over two decades, is vast: Commander Venus, Desaparecidos, The Faint, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Monsters of Folk, a slew of solo records, and the most beloved - Bright Eyes. There’s always Bright Eyes, isn’t there?

In addition to Upside Down Mountain, Oberst is deftly making use of Record Store Day this April, with two 7 inches up for grabs. The first features “Hundreds of Ways,” off his upcoming release and “Friends,” which didn’t quite make the cut.  If you’ve got tickets to this show, you will need to pick up the Dawes/Oberst split. The record includes a Dawes recording of “Easy/Lucky/Free” (from Oberst’s 2005 Digital Ash in a Digital Urn), and Oberst covering “Million Dollar Bill” (from Dawes’ 2011 Nothing is Wrong). The Laurel Canyon band, coming off their 2013 Stories Don’t End, has long since played alongside Oberst. Following their set, they will return to the stage as his backing band.

Did the music of Conor Oberst and his buddy, Mike Mogis, get you through high school, as folks often claim? Or maybe Fevers and Mirrors; Lifted…; I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning got you through college. Or this winter. Or yesterday. If you’ve never seen him live, you really should. His performances tend to pack a lot of energy, shifting lights, heat –disproving that sad-bastard repute. There’s almost always a nice cover, too (“The Biggest Lie” -Elliott Smith; “Devil Town” -Robert Johnson; “Walls” -Tom Petty; “Mushaboom” -Feist). Still bummed I missed the 2003 night, in my own home town, when a severely-annoyed Conor climbed atop his band’s van with an acoustic guitar. The power inside had been cut in accordance with some bogus curfew and so he stormed outside to play in the parking lot of the now-disbanded Newport Music Hall. He got through one song before the fuzz shut him down.  

Say what you will about the man. I keep coming back.

-Ren Cooper

Performing live at the 9:30 Club on May 23rd and May 24th.

SHOW PREVIEW: Andrew Bird and Hands Of Glory
As someone who spent most of her life playing violin, I can really get down with Andrew Bird.  The first time I heard of him was when I was 14 and my orchestra teacher posted a video of him playing at Bonnaroo.  He was effortlessly cool, and so, so talented.  Three years ago, he secured his place in my heart when he did a Ted Talk.  That made him perfect.  His music is inventive and catchy.  His most recent release, I Want to See Pulaski at Night, met all of my high expectations.  It was sophisticated and well structured, peppered with the usual loops and whistling that so distinguishes Bird’s work.  Andrew Bird live is a sight to see.  Don’t miss him when he comes to Lincoln Theatre in June!
-Nora Keller

SHOW PREVIEW: Andrew Bird and Hands Of Glory

As someone who spent most of her life playing violin, I can really get down with Andrew Bird.  The first time I heard of him was when I was 14 and my orchestra teacher posted a video of him playing at Bonnaroo.  He was effortlessly cool, and so, so talented.  Three years ago, he secured his place in my heart when he did a Ted Talk.  That made him perfect.  His music is inventive and catchy.  His most recent release, I Want to See Pulaski at Night, met all of my high expectations.  It was sophisticated and well structured, peppered with the usual loops and whistling that so distinguishes Bird’s work.  Andrew Bird live is a sight to see.  Don’t miss him when he comes to Lincoln Theatre in June!

-Nora Keller

HOW DID I MISS THIS?: Eels

My Eels fandom story is sort of weird.  I liked them for a while, just liked.  I was at most a casual listener.  It wasn’t until August 14, 2013 that I really connected with this band.  Why so exact?  Well, dear reader, that is the day that the Futurama episode, “Game of Tones” first aired on television.  Honestly, I can hardly remember the episode itself.  What really struck me was the ending scene.  Without giving away too much, the ending was supposed to be sad.  What made it really poignant was the song, “Manchild,” by Eels playing softly in the background and slowly rising as the scene faded and the credits came up.  After that I became obsessed.  Eels is one of those bands that can really make you feel something.  They know how to set the tone of a song, and that’s what makes a band a great band.

-Nora Keller

Performing Live at Lincoln Theatre on May 31st

SHOW PREVIEW: Dr. Dog

Certified-organic freak folkers Dr. Dog hail from Pennsylvania – probably from a big pink house if you catch our drift. The seasoned road dogs have been making bar rock awash in Americana for over a decade, and their continuing excitement for and innovation in music is refreshing. Their latest album, 2013’s B-Room, features almost 20 distinct instruments and yet their sound is tight and consistent. They have Band-meets-Big Star pop vibes and the warmest bass tone you will ever, ever experience. And yet they can be hard to pin down because they play their influences so well. Their quick wit and instrumental virtuosity can be equal parts Father John Misty and Beatles-esque, anchored by the raspy, tough, loveable vocals of Scott McMicken and Toby Leaman. Bottom line, this is a group of extremely talented, hard-working musical journeymen who are never boring and always worth a ticket.
-Kelsey Butterworth

SHOW PREVIEW: Dr. Dog

Certified-organic freak folkers Dr. Dog hail from Pennsylvania – probably from a big pink house if you catch our drift. The seasoned road dogs have been making bar rock awash in Americana for over a decade, and their continuing excitement for and innovation in music is refreshing. Their latest album, 2013’s B-Room, features almost 20 distinct instruments and yet their sound is tight and consistent. They have Band-meets-Big Star pop vibes and the warmest bass tone you will ever, ever experience. And yet they can be hard to pin down because they play their influences so well. Their quick wit and instrumental virtuosity can be equal parts Father John Misty and Beatles-esque, anchored by the raspy, tough, loveable vocals of Scott McMicken and Toby Leaman. Bottom line, this is a group of extremely talented, hard-working musical journeymen who are never boring and always worth a ticket.

-Kelsey Butterworth

SHOW PREVIEW: Future Islands
There’s this moment when you first listen to Future Island’s “Long Flight” that makes you fall in love. You’re taken in by blinking synth chords, a driving bass, and a strange, gravelly vocal delivered by Sam Herring, and that’s all well and good. Really, it’s just what you expected after hearing your friends describe Future Islands to you last night at the bar. 

Then comes the yell. A glorious, primal, almost inhuman roar denouncing love’s destroyer. Remember Wesley’s scream in the pit of despair during the water torture scene in Princess Bride? Welcome to the real life version. 
If hearing that sound doesn’t make you snap up a ticket for Future Islands’ show at the Club on May 1st, I don’t know what will. 
-Spencer Swan 

SHOW PREVIEW: Future Islands

There’s this moment when you first listen to Future Island’s “Long Flight” that makes you fall in love. You’re taken in by blinking synth chords, a driving bass, and a strange, gravelly vocal delivered by Sam Herring, and that’s all well and good. Really, it’s just what you expected after hearing your friends describe Future Islands to you last night at the bar. 

Then comes the yell. A glorious, primal, almost inhuman roar denouncing love’s destroyer. Remember Wesley’s scream in the pit of despair during the water torture scene in Princess Bride? Welcome to the real life version. 

If hearing that sound doesn’t make you snap up a ticket for Future Islands’ show at the Club on May 1st, I don’t know what will. 

-Spencer Swan 

9:30 INTERVIEW: Devin Gallagher, Typhoon
Sydney [9:30]: I know that the big think about Typhoon that you’re probably sick of hearing about is that you guys are so big.  Are there any weird problems that you run into when touring that smaller bands wouldn’t?
Devin [Typhoon]: I don’t really notice the downsides anymore.  It’s really more of an advantage.  Anything that needs doing, there’s twelve people who can do it.   
Do you guys have any rituals that you perform before you get one stage? How do you get everyone all in the same mindset to perform so cohesively as such a big group?
Before we play, we gather in a big huddle and do a group cheer. Sometimes we’ll talk a bit in the huddle before cheering.  We’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember.  We might all be in different places psychically before hand, but when we cheer we’re all there together.     
Typhoon seems like a big family, and that certainly comes across in your music. Do certain members in the groups play different family-like roles in your group? Who would you title with band mom or band dad?
We joke about that, but it’s probably more like twelve kids who’s parents left them the house while they’re traveling in Europe- brothers and sisters.   
When the lineup of the band is constantly changing, what kind of challenges does that present to the songwriting and touring process?
Since we released “Hunger and Thirst” in 2010, the lineup has been the same, except for the departure of two members (our cellist and a backing vocalist).  The twelve of us have been writing, playing, touring, and living together for over three years, and continue to grow stronger as a band.  
You all are a pleasant departure from the recent trend toward minimalism in indie music.  Where do you draw your influences? What other bands do you identify most with in terms of style and band structure?
Most of us were classically trained in addition to playing in garage bands, and seeing how orchestras and large jazz ensembles function probably gave us a good background for what we do now.  When we were in high school and college, people like Sufjan Stevens, Arcade Fire,  Broken Social Scene, The Polyphonic Spree, and Sigur Ros were experimenting with larger ensembles as well as utilizing strings and horns and more varied percussion- I think that influenced us quite a bit.   
Plane malfunction takes you down and leaves you all stranded on a desert island together. You can only rescue one of your tour items before you make it to dry land…what would it be?
Probably the whiskey.  
If you could sit down and have a drink and a chat with any musician, living or dead, who would it be? You don’t have to be a fan of their work—maybe you just want to pick their brain.
John Cage.     
We’re super excited to have you guys on our stage in DC.  Being from the west coast, is there anything you’re anxious to see or do when you’re back in the nation’s capital?

DC is just fun to be in.  I have been meaning to check out the James Adkins University campus.    
Typhoon performs LIVE at 9:30 Cub on March 19th!
-Sydney Sanial

9:30 INTERVIEW: Devin Gallagher, Typhoon

Sydney [9:30]: I know that the big think about Typhoon that you’re probably sick of hearing about is that you guys are so big.  Are there any weird problems that you run into when touring that smaller bands wouldn’t?

Devin [Typhoon]: I don’t really notice the downsides anymore.  It’s really more of an advantage.  Anything that needs doing, there’s twelve people who can do it.   

Do you guys have any rituals that you perform before you get one stage? How do you get everyone all in the same mindset to perform so cohesively as such a big group?

Before we play, we gather in a big huddle and do a group cheer. Sometimes we’ll talk a bit in the huddle before cheering.  We’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember.  We might all be in different places psychically before hand, but when we cheer we’re all there together.     

Typhoon seems like a big family, and that certainly comes across in your music. Do certain members in the groups play different family-like roles in your group? Who would you title with band mom or band dad?

We joke about that, but it’s probably more like twelve kids who’s parents left them the house while they’re traveling in Europe- brothers and sisters.   

When the lineup of the band is constantly changing, what kind of challenges does that present to the songwriting and touring process?

Since we released “Hunger and Thirst” in 2010, the lineup has been the same, except for the departure of two members (our cellist and a backing vocalist).  The twelve of us have been writing, playing, touring, and living together for over three years, and continue to grow stronger as a band.  

You all are a pleasant departure from the recent trend toward minimalism in indie music.  Where do you draw your influences? What other bands do you identify most with in terms of style and band structure?

Most of us were classically trained in addition to playing in garage bands, and seeing how orchestras and large jazz ensembles function probably gave us a good background for what we do now.  When we were in high school and college, people like Sufjan Stevens, Arcade Fire,  Broken Social Scene, The Polyphonic Spree, and Sigur Ros were experimenting with larger ensembles as well as utilizing strings and horns and more varied percussion- I think that influenced us quite a bit.   

Plane malfunction takes you down and leaves you all stranded on a desert island together. You can only rescue one of your tour items before you make it to dry land…what would it be?

Probably the whiskey.  

If you could sit down and have a drink and a chat with any musician, living or dead, who would it be? You don’t have to be a fan of their work—maybe you just want to pick their brain.

John Cage.     

We’re super excited to have you guys on our stage in DC.  Being from the west coast, is there anything you’re anxious to see or do when you’re back in the nation’s capital?

DC is just fun to be in.  I have been meaning to check out the James Adkins University campus.    

Typhoon performs LIVE at 9:30 Cub on March 19th!

-Sydney Sanial

NEW TRACKS: Conor Oberst, “Hundred of Ways”

Conor Oberst is important.  A lot of people grew up with his music.  He served as the spirit guide through adolescence for teenagers in the 2000s. He understood angst; he understood depression; he understood heartbreak.  He got it.  Well, those teens have for the most part grown up now, and so has he. The last new material Oberst released was Bright Eyes’ 2011 release, The People’s Key. With this single, “Hundreds of Ways,” he announced his new solo album, Upsidedown the Mountain. As soon as the song begins, it becomes very evident that this album is an act of genre-jumping.  It’s easy to pick out that Nashville sound – steel guitars and jaunty slap-back rhythm guitars. The album sounds more country than emo. Sure, Oberst could probably just make albums re-hashing the same concepts in Fevers and Mirrors over and over, and people would probably buy them.  But he’s not doing that.  He’s chosen do something else, explore something new, and that’s pretty cool.

-Nora Keller

Performing LIVE with Dawes at 9:30 Club on May 23rd and 24th!