MOKB in Iceland : 5 Questions with Dr. Robert : Baldvin Einarsson (head of RMM, Kimi Records)

After traversing the wonderful countryside near the capitol city we took it upon ourselves to find the best of Reykjavik itself on day two. We started out with a visit to the hip new hostel Kex. This is a hostel in name only, as it is lodging, restaurant and tour guide all in one. While many have visions of European hostels as places you would rather forget the Kex Hostel was everything a hipster traveler requires. Lunch at Kex was amazing, it allowed us the ability to sample various Icelandic fares at reasonable prices (while we loved the Nordic cuisine, we are still working on enjoying the dried fish!). We would return to Kex throughout our stay for food or drinks (you gotta try Reyka vodka). The food throughout our trip was amazing we ate mostly Icelandic cuisine (Snaps and Vox were two highlights but also dabbled in Indian food during our stay). The rest of the day was spent wandering the main street of Laugavegur. With an abundance of boutiques, art shops and the Phallic museum (seriously a museum devoted entirely to the shape of male genitalia) Reykjavik, while small, has plenty to keep you busy. With sunlight nearly 24 hours a day the night time is when Reykjavik really comes alive. The weekly Runtur (Icelandic pub crawl) goes on until all hours of the night with bars staying open until 4 and sometimes 5 am. The venues for the RMM were stellar with both Club Nasa, Kex Hostel and the Faktory providing a great atmosphere to find new artists. We were lucky enough to catch up with Baldvin Einarsson, the mastermind behind the Reykjavik Music Mess and Kimi records.

Dr. Robert: How did you come up with the concept of the Music Mess? How has it changed from year 1 to year 2 and where do you envision it in the future?

Baldvin Einarsson: We were just trying to book Deerhunter to Iceland, and it did, at the time, make a lot more sense to make a festival around that show. And we came up with the concept of Reykjavik Music Mess, a strange line-up of all kinds of music, that we thought was good. The first year edition was though a bit to big in retrospect so we decided for this year to tone it down a bit and keep building it up from there. This years edition was smaller, with fewer bands and on smaller venues. Next year we are aiming at going somewhere in between those two editions. To have fewer bands, but bigger venues (but not more venues, two are enough). We are also thinking about getting an artistic director from outside Iceland, in order to enhance the international feel of the festival.


MOKB in Iceland : Five Questions with Dr. Robert : Snorri Helgason

The Reykjavik Music Mess is a new indie music fest in the clubs of Iceland’s capitol featuring some of Iceland’s best acts as well as attracting some other European acts to the tiny island. When we first arrived in Iceland we weren’t sure what to expect. We knew that the sun stays out for 20-24 hours a day and that this time of year is treated as a party in and of itself as the doldrums of winter (4 hours of sunlight a day) were officially over. The people were all in great moods and the clubs/bars obliged by staying open until 4 am on the weekends.

When we first arrived, after an overnight flight, the excitement of being in a foreign land helped us overcome our lack of sleep. Our first impression of Reykjavik was how small it was. Not in a bad way, more that we were impressed that so much creative output comes from a country of only 320,000 people and only 180,000 in Reykjavik. We spent the day touring the natural wonders of Iceland’s geology, hot springs, boiling mud pits, geysers and tectonic plates. The natural beauty and the unusual sun patterns seem like the perfect palate to create whimsical, otherworldly music and the Reykjavik Music Mess (RMM) did not disappoint. Before we arrived I did some research checking out the bands that would play in the fest as most were unfamiliar to me. After a week of listening to Finnish noise rock, Icelandic punk and the rest I came across the artist that would prove to be the highlight of the festival and our trip in general, Snorri Helgason.

Snorri’s latest album Winter Sun took me totally by surprise and instantly became one of my top 5 records I’ve listened to all year. I was also pleasantly surprised at the level of hometown support Iceland gives its artists. On the IcelandAir flight from Denver, the in-flight entertainment included an all Icelandic music station which had Snorri’s first record I’m Gonna Put My Name on Your Door (which I had been frantically searching for prior to our departure). It turns out Snorri is two for two in making great albums. His English lyrics and bedroom, singer-songwriter style perfectly reflect the wonder that is Iceland. After seeing Snorri live I know that he won’t be foreign to American listeners for long and I’m honored to provide his North American debut here on MOKB.

MP3 : Snorri Helgason – Mockingbird

Dr. Robert: How/when did you decide music was what you were going to do with your life?

Snorri Helgason: I was 19 years old when I made the decision that I didn’t want to do anything else with my life than to become a musician. I’d always been very interested in music but I never studied anything or even learned how to play an instrument until I was about 17 years old. Then I snuck into my brother’s room and got his guitar out and found out with the help of the internet how to play the Come As You Are riff. Then I found an old Beatles chord book at home as well and studied that intensely. From then on it was just a matter of finding out what songs I liked and exactly which parts in the songs I liked the most and figure out the chord changes and melody movements in those songs. That’s how I taught myself how to write music.

Interview : Five Questions with Dr. Robert : Ben Kweller

It’s been a while since we chatted with Ben Kweller, but luckily the good doctor found time during BK’s recent Colorado visit to grill him on all things music and life.

Dr. Robert: Changing Horses seemed to be a bit of a departure into a more alt-country vibe. Where did you wanna go with Go Fly A Kite? Did you have a particular sound in mind before recording it? was there any music you were listening to prior to recording it that influenced the album?

Ben Kweller: Oh Doc, you know I don’t listen to music, I just make music! For Kite, I knew it would be a “rock” record so-to-speak… As always, the songs dictate what kind of record I’m going to make. sometimes I feel powerless a little – as if I have no say in the matter. For Horses, I just kept writing these damn country songs. I wasn’t mad at them, I loved them! But, the point is, I just go with whatever gets pulled out of the air. My goal was the same as always – to make a compelling album that’s fun to listen to, that’s different from anything I’ve done before. Seriously though, I don’t get inspired by what other musicians are doing. I just want to do my own thing. So the music I listen to is really for pleasure (even the guilty kind) or to turn my kids on to stuff they’ve never heard before. Lately, we’ve been listening to: Megadeth – Symphony of Destruction, GnR – Welcome To The Jungle, Rick James – Super Freak, Chubby Checker – Limbo Rock, LMFAO – Sexy And I Know It, Pitbull feat. Ne-Yo, Afrojack & Nayer, T-Rex – Children Of The Revolution, Conor Oberst And The Mystic Valley Band – Cape Canaveral.

Dr. Robert: Having started out as a prodigy in Radish to now being an established solo artist, what has changed about the way you make albums and write music? Do you look at the process differently now then as a teenager?

BK: It’s funny… I don’t do anything differently – I write songs the same way I did when I was 10 years old. I guess I just got better at it over time? you certainly have more to write about as you get older and experience life.

Dr. Robert: Your website seems to have taken on a life of its own, how involved have you been in that process? What was your vision for your site?

BK: I wanted to have an official resource for my fans and fellow music nerds. I wanted it to be robust and more in depth then any other music site when it comes to my music. I want it to be a place for my fans to interact and create content of their own. We still have a long way to go, but I’m happy with the way the site is developing.

Dr. Robert: Your first Radish cassette came out in 1994. What goals do you have for your career as you approach your twentieth year in the music biz?

BK: Well, I guess my goals haven’t changed much either… I just enjoy writing songs. Seriously Doc, I reeeeally fucking love writing songs. Like, a lot. Writing makes me happy and I like to be happy. If today sucks, I want to believe that tomorrow will be better. Music helps me believe that. It does for me what religion must do for millions of people. I know my music makes other people happy too. That’s a great feeling. I’ve met people with my lyrics tattooed to their skin. I met a woman in Australia who named her son Kweller. The fact that my music has affected other lives is really a special thing to me. It’s not why I make music, but it is sacred and something I’m aware of. In the end, the goal is to be happy. If you’re not happy, do something else.

Dr. Robert: What new music should we be listening to?

BK: Beyond the weird list of stuff from question #1, there are a lot of great bands out there. Here are a few of my faves: The Murdocks, The Happen-Ins, Taurus, The Dig, Sleeper Agent, The Soft Pack, Smith Westerns, Japandroids, Yuck, The Candles, John David Kent, Mason Jennings, The Sword.

Interview : 4 Questions with Dr. Robert : The Head and The Heart

Dr. Robert is back on call and holding court with The Head And The Heart’s Tyler Williams. Maybe if you see the good doctor, you can ask him where the 5th question went.

MOKB: Having first self-released your debut in 2009 to having it re-released by Sub Pop to now, how have the songs changed in the live format? Are you itching for new material to play on the road? Any plans for a new record?

Tyler Williams: The songs have changed just by playing them every day for the last 2 years. I find myself adding in the tiniest detailed changes that may mean something only to me at that moment, but when all 6 members are doing the same thing, it adds up after awhile. I think the songs are much bigger and more impactful now than when we recorded them. We are definitely excited to try new songs out on the road this year. We’ve been playing a couple already and the feedback you get just from seeing what works and why is important. In the next few months, the core of the writing should be finishing up and we’ll take to the studio, hopefully around the new year.

MOKB: Using Denver as an example your rise has been astounding. Not too long ago you were playing the hipster bowling alley Moe’s (known more for its bowling and BBQ than its live music) to this summer sharing the stage at red rocks, how has this ascent felt from the inside?

TW: It’s been a weird thing to view from the inside. It just feels like I’m in this bubble with 5 other people and the view is hazy and perpetually changing. We managed to stay busy enough to where we didn’t even care to know how things were going, but now playing such large venues, it’s a bit more in your face. It’s definitely nice to be able to play music on whatever level this is on, but I think we tend to keep our heads down and focus on the whats important.

MOKB: You have shared the stage with several amazing acts both big and small. Please share a good story from an act you have shared the stage with. You still have a mix of shows where you are opening for large acts (Dave Matthews, the Shins) and are now starting to get stellar opening acts (The Moondoggies), how has that transition been for the band?

TW: One of my favorite memories is being in the studio with My Morning Jacket, to help with their Christmas iTunes EP. I wasn’t even doing anything besides hanging around and trying not to get in anyone’s way. It was just amazing to watch Charity and Josiah, who have now become like family to me, sing with a band who define what it means to be gentlemen while still being ridiculously talented musicians.

MOKB: How do you prepare for your second album? There will obviously be some expectations, hype, excitement for its release and how do you temper that with the musical goals of the band?

TW: I think just recently, I came more to terms with the idea of a second record. Yea, I think we’ve grown enough to where no matter what we do, it’s inherently going to be different but it’s also still us. It’s the same people who made the last record. I think the only expectations we feel are from ourselves, right now. We had the fortune of making, releasing and supporting our first record on our own terms and I think we learned a lot in the process. We really aren’t beholden to anyone but ourselves and the people who enjoy what we make. We’ve been criticized before for being what we are, but we’ll never stop doing what we want to do as a group.

Interview : Warren Zanes of The Del Fuegos

You are to be forgiven if you’re not familiar with Boston’s The Del Fuegos. Labelmates of X and Los Lobos, chums of The Replacements, the original band splintered after two stellar releases (1984’s The Longest Day and 1985’s Boston, Mass.) and called it a day after two more uneven outings. The members kept plenty busy after packing it in, but now, after nearly a quarter of a century on hiatus, the boys are back for a quick victory lap around their favorite stomping grounds in the Northeast and Midwest, not to mention some new music.

MP3 : The DelFuegos – Friday Night

Guitarist Warren Zanes (who spent his vacation earning a Ph.D from the University of Rochester in Visual and Cultural Studies, teaching college, working for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, writing several books and releasing three solo records) was gracious enough to sit down with MOKB on the eve of the tour to discuss the band, beer commercials and close encounters with Bob Stinson.

MOKB: For me, the Del Fuegos are one of the great forgotten bands of the 80s. Do you think it was just your relatively brief run that prevents the band from being mentioned in the same breath with bands like X and the Replacements?

Warren Zanes: History doesn’t have room for all of the players. As an academic, and one who deals with historiagraphy, I recognize that any history involves pruning and ordering and giving shape to something that, without it, is often without any obvious shape. There’s nothing wrong in this, of course. Wild histories would be interesting–but domesticated histories allow everyone to consider the same information and discuss it. History and fiction only appear to be different species. But the question might be this: should my old band be remembered in the same way that those great bands you mention are remembered? I’m not convinced that this is the case. And I’m not convinced that the Replacements and X feel like they ARE remembered! I think everyone feels a little like they missed the boat, like the party passed them by. And here’s my last thought: isn’t there something cool to being forgotten? Only then can you be dug up by the hooligans of the future. I mean, think of Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets compilation–the beauty there is that these great recordings got lost and years later got dug up. Why not be forgotten? There’s always going to be another party later on, and you might just be invited.


MOKB Interview : Matt Halverson of Lefse Records

Lefse Records — home to artists like Dominant Legs, Cuckoo Chaos, How To Dress Well, and Youth Lagoon — is an independent label that’s flourished at the hands of its open-minded and creative founders, whose foremost focus has been on quality, and quality alone. Like a rich, textured piece of tapestry, Lefse Records is an ever-growing collective of diverse acts from all genres, hailing from countries near and far.

But like all labels do (and despite the big names they now house under their wings) Lefse started out as a small, fledgling operation with nothing but ambitious dreams. We spoke to co-founder Matt Halverson for an in-depth look at Lefse Records…

I understand that Lefse Records works alongside Banter Media. How are the two related?
We started Banter Media as a local record label six years ago. With Banter we were putting out local stuff when we were based in San Diego. Then, we switched gears a little bit and turned it into Banter Media Management; rather than being a label, we were managing bands and doing PR. Lots of bands and labels ended up coming to us asking us to do PR work for them. Later on down the road we discovered Neon Indian and decided to start a label again. But instead of re-starting Banter, we created Lefse and that Psychic Chasms album by Neon Indian was our first release. So, long story short…Banter is more media-oriented with PR and all, and Lefse is for label stuff.

What kind of changes did the business undergo as it transitioned between PR, management and label entities? I mean I can see how their functions could overlap with one another, but they are inherently different.
We are doing a lot of the same things across the board. The way to categorize it really is by the way the money is handled. If you’re a label, you’re paying for the product and promotion – the main goal is getting the album in the stores, getting the proper promotion and distribution to sell the products. When you’re managing, you’re the liaison between the bands and the labels – you’re not really in charge at all of the product or anything like that, you’re making sure that the label is doing the right job with your artists. That’s what we do for the bands we manage since they are all on different labels.

Lefse is housed within Banter Media’s offices. How are you able to run both at the same time?
There’s two of us that own it and we meet a few times a day to plan things out. Our days are actually pretty strictly mapped out. [Laughs]. The majority of the Lefse responsibilities fall on me. Although we bounce ideas back and forth, I’m basically running the label. Tyler handles all the PR stuff. We both kind of tag team the management side. I’m more of the “hands on guy,” the one that talks to all the bands talks to the press. Tyler does a lot of the band end stuff as far as making sure all the website is updated, following up on distribution and licensing stuff, handling the album artwork and any legal issues – he’s definitely the smart guy [laughs]. I’m the guy that finds all the music that we are working with… [laughs] it’s a different kind of smarts.

Why did you decide to start a record label? Why “indie-rock”?

The reason we wanted to start Lefse was that in the past a lot of the bands we were managing and releasing records for weren’t necessarily the kind of music that we were excited about everyday. We worked with folk/alt country bands, and bands that were always within our circle of friends, despite the fact that they weren’t really “up our alley,” so to speak. So we decided to take that leap to try and work with music that we could listen to and would buy on a daily basis. If you listen to anything on our roster, that’s the kind of stuff we listen to all day long in our office.

You have a wide range of artists from all over the world. How do you go about finding these bands? What is it you’re looking for in these artists?

It’s true that Lefse has bands from all over. I’d like to think that our label provides music geared towards one type of music fan. Usually when someone likes something on Lefse, they like the majority of Lefse. But our artists do range in styles, range in origins, from San Francisco to Italy and everything in between. Basically the way we judge if we are going to sign a band to the label – it’s a bigger commitment than anything that we do – first, we have to be super pumped on the music. It’s got to be something we would want to listen to while we are working, or listen to all the time. We also try to work with bands that are kind of trying new things. Like Neon Indian – it was lo-fi, but super poppy. Or Dominant Legs – it was super poppy, but ‘80s sounding (the serious ‘80s, not the silly ‘80s that everyone was imitating). There’s got to be some level of, for lack of a better term, “groundbreakingness” to it. If it’s just an artist that’s imitating something, a lot of the time we shy away from it even if we do like how it sounds. There’s something about every band on Lefse that we just thought, “Wow,” because although they are drawing from their influences, they are adding something new to it also.

Do you meet with these artists before you sign them?
[Laughs] That would be awesome if we could. They’re scattered all over the globe, Iceland, Ireland… [laughs]. We just don’t have the budget or the brainpower to travel that much. We talk to them on the phone a lot, and exchange tons of emails. There are even some bands that we have not even seen live, until months after releasing their record. In a perfect world, we would love to meet with everyone in person, but it doesn’t always work that way.

Since the first signing of Neon Indian, how do you think the label as evolved up this point? You guys have a much larger roster, and in 2010 months you guys rolled out releases like crazy.

In 2010 we were definitely trying to ride the hype that Lefse had, the kind of hype that meant that anything that we did would be pretty easily discoverable in the media, on the blogs. That’s why you saw us release a lot of EPs. We tried to get stuff out there while we had those open channels. But this year, we’ve slowed down and plan to release more full-lengths. But since the very first release until now, the main thing that’s changed with the label is that it went from a brand new label with our email inbox at 0, to now constantly sifting through band demos, opportunities from booking agents and show invites. Even though Lefse is owned by Banter Media, it’s almost becoming its own company to the point that it’s so busy it could be separate.

In a previous article I read that you guys browse through Myspace/Bandcamp links all night. Is that sort of the common way that artists grab your attention? Any really interesting stories that drew you toward a band and/or led to the signing of a band?

I think How To Dress Well with his whole back story definitely made me want to check out the music. You know, he’s an American based in Berlin studying some kind of 15th century German Philosophy, getting his PhD and creating this super indie music infused with lo-fi r&b… just that description right there from his manager made me want to listen to it. It’s along the lines of what we were talking about earlier, that IT factor that makes an artist stand out. A story like his is really captivating. He was definitely the first of his kind, I think. We really do try to listen to everything: every package we get, every link we receive, in order to find that IT factor.

Is there another label that you emulated as you begun Lefse? Or one that you might compare Lefse to?

Before, Ace Fu Records was the reason I wanted to get into music at all. Saddle Creek Records influenced me to start one on my own. I’m not particularly a huge fan of their music now, but I really liked how it was run by friends, and all the bands on the label earlier on were from Omaha and were buddies. Before that, all I associated record labels with were big companies, wearing suits, and bands getting screwed over. When I read something about Saddle Creek and heard about how they are all friends and intertwined brothers and sisters, I knew that that’s what I wanted to do. And that’s how we started Banter! With all of our friends, all San Diego bands we dug. People were dating each other [laughs]. Family members scattered throughout. It was started by three of us and we all went to high school together.

Are there any labels today that you would say works similarly to Lefse?

A lot of the “independent” labels now are just not truly independent. I think Underwater Peoples are a friend-oriented label. They are putting out stuff from their friends’ bands. They are putting out some amazing things.

These kinds of truly independent labels thrive on the whole idea of sharing and being friend/family-oriented, and overall just having a very positive environment. What are your thoughts on record labels in general today in this seemingly unstable music industry? Since the digital world/internet has exploded, people have dubbed the record label ‘irrelevant’ – what’s your take?
I may be biased because I’m a label guy [laughs], but I think that is untrue. Labels are still very relevant. If you just look at our roster for example, a lot of the bands on it now have widespread attention and have booking agents and tours lined up. They didn’t have any of this stuff before the label, they just had their music on MySpace. If a band has enough money, connections and luck they can do it on their own. There have been plenty of bands that have been able to make it. But there’s an insane amount of work that needs to be done. We work 50-60 hours a week on label stuff, all day long and still there isn’t enough time. How can labels be irrelevant if they are the ones weeding out all the bad music? Labels can put out good music because they really take the time to listen to all the demos and find the best bands out there and show them to the world. Labels have relationships and channels that enable bands to have things like download cards at Starbucks or something. Even smaller independent labels are getting their music into big channels like commercials and TV shows. Labels love a band and work hard for them; they allow the band to focus on the touring and the making of music, so that they aren’t worrying about all the business elements. But like I said, there are some bands that can do it, like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – but that’s one out of thousands that become popular.

– Post by Michelle Geslani

5 Questions with Dr. Robert : Deer Tick

MOKB’s Dr. Robert is back at it, making his rounds with the who’s who of the indie scene. Next up: John McCauley of Deer Tick.

Dr. Robert: How did the Middle Brother concept come about? Does this supergroup have a future or was that record (one of my faves of the year) a one-off?

John McCauley: Me and Taylor were on tour in 2009 and thought it would be fun to write and record together. When we were finally able to get together it just so happened that Matt was free. I had never met Matt, except once when I was blackout drunk, but I had a good feeling about it. I’m not sure we’ll continue with Middle Brother. I’d like to do another record someday though.

Dr. Robert: How did recording in your home state of RI affect the new record?

JC: Well, we got to sleep in our own beds and haunt our favorite bars every night. That was fun. I don’t know, it was just comfortable. We probably could have recorded it anywhere though.

Dr. Robert: I was pumped to learn that the inspiration for the band name was a tick incident in the woods near Bloomington, IN a place near and dear to my heart. What’s the story of that fateful day?

JC: I was hiking with some friends in Monroe National Forest, or Park, or whatever it is. I had somehow managed to never get bitten by a tick before, even though there’s a shitload of them in Rhode Island. I kind of freaked out when I found a deer tick on my scalp. I thought it sounded gross, and pretty cool, so that was that.

Dr. Robert: Any Deervana shows in the near future?

JC: No, Deervana broke up. We still cover Nirvana songs once in awhile though.

Dr. Robert: Any new music/bands we should be listening to?

JC: Virgin Forest, Dead People, Cerebral Ballzy, Strange Boys, Shannon and the Clams, Knife Party, Guards. This one’s not new but we just got a copy of Kid Rock’s 1990 debut Grit Sandwiches For Breakfast – it’s really something else…

See the entire Deer Tick session at!

Film + Interview : Xan Aranda Debuts with Andrew Bird Doc, Fever Year

If you went to an Andrew Bird show in 2009, you may or may not have been aware that he was plagued by a fever for much of his tour. You also might not have known that a documentary was in the works, following Andrew on his fever frenzy.

Making her full-length film directorial debut with “Fever Year,” Xan Aranda filmed what was Andrew Bird’s most rigorous touring schedule. “Fever Year” premiered at the prestigious New York Film Festival Lincoln Center on October 1, and has since screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Chicago International Film Festival.

Featuring live performances at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater with collaborators Martin Dosh, Jeremy Ylvisaker, Michael Lewis and Annie Clark of St. Vincent, the film follows the tour to its final show – a Chicago homecoming with Bird on crutches from a previous onstage injury.

[image title=”Andrew-Bird_Fever-Year-2_Credit-Aaron-Wickenden” size=”full” id=”24303″ align=”left” linkto=”full” ]
As is the case with any concert or music documentary, you have to wonder, is this film just for the rabid Andrew Bird fan? Would a casual fan, or even someone who’s never heard his music find a story here to sink their teeth into? I got a chance to ask Xan this and other questions.

[image title=”Xan-Aranda-by-Cameron-Wittig-Walker-Art-Museum” size=”full” id=”24287″ align=”left” linkto=”full” ]
MOKB : I actually had the chance to see his Indianapolis show at the Murat.

Xan Aranda : I love that you were there. I was there too, checking out lighting, etc.

There’s a scene in Fever Year shot backstage at the Murat – the band is goofing around, warming up before going on stage. It’s hard to describe, but something very Muppet-y happens. I shot that on my Blackberry. Doesn’t look great, but content trumps production quality, in this case.

MOKB : Is this film for super Andrew Bird fans only?

Aranda : Longtime fans will enjoy many little tasty treats in the film, including a very powerful live performance of “Headsoak” from The Swimming Hour. The casual viewer may enjoy learning more about where that crazy spinning horn comes from. Some folks might just hang in there to see Andrew end up on crutches for his final show of the year.

Just as the fever year snuck up on Andrew – he was a frog in hot water, adapting to his surroundings – I think the film sneaks up on the viewer. At first you think you’re settling in for a comfortable music film, by the time “Headsoak” rolls around you realize you’ve absorbed a lot of circumstance, cumulative feelings, subtle impressions.

MOKB : Are there any aspects of the film or scenes that really appeal to the casual or non-fan?

Aranda : To the casual fan, I would say it’s a chance to spend time with Andrew, learn more about his process than who he is. This film is for everyone. I believe that a well-made documentary should be able to hold the attention of any viewer, regardless of content. I tried to do that with Fever Year. People who’d been previously ambivalent about Andrew came to love his music after seeing Fever Year.

People also tend to enjoy what I call the “Indie-Rock Hotel Porn Scene” with Annie Clark. It’s just a rehearsal, very benign and straightforward, but watching those two sit on a hotel bed and practice a brand new song he’d written that week is pretty beautiful.

MOKB : You’re friends and long-time collaborators with Andrew Bird – how did that affect your filmmaking process?

Aranda : Yep, this is our fourth project together. I previously produced the Imitosis music video (stop-motion animation with little insects, in the style of a 1960s science film) and Lull video (adapted from Chicagoan Lisa Barcy’s beautifully vicious 17-minute film “Mermaid.”) I also paired several other short films with his music for live show projections for the Armchair Apocrypha tours.

I believe the proximity of our friendship, which began in 2002, brought a huge level of trust to the process. Andrew is an incredibly private person, which I respect deeply, so it was a challenge for him to be comfortable with cameras being around for anything off-stage. I kept a very low-key crew presence whenever possible and worked hard to keep him simultaneously comfortable AND open.

MOKB : What was Andrew’s response to the film?

Aranda : He wanted the concert captured so that it could stand in for him while he’s taking a much-needed break and working on a new record. Fever Year is like a time-capsule of the past ten years of his work – he’s evolving, so I think it’s hard to see a snapshot of that former incarnation committed to film. Beyond that, I don’t make a practice of communicating on his behalf.

MOKB : After getting your full length directorial debut under your belt with a subject so near and dear to you, what do you work on next?

Aranda : I’m actively shooting my next film, which I actually put on hold to make Fever Year. It’s another deeply personal project, called Mormons Make Movies. It’s inspired by two films my mother starred in while a student at Brigham Young University in the 1960s, as part of the Mormon church’s Motion Pictures Studio. MMM is about creativity, nature, ancestry, and religion. I left the faith fifteen years ago, so there’s a personal aspect to the film as well. The project is ripping my guts out a little, in a way that I like. Thrilling, challenging, humbling.

View the trailer:

Official Trailer (2:45) from Andrew Bird: Fever Year on Vimeo.

About the Filmmaker:
Xan Aranda, aside from having previously directed music videos for Andrew Bird, writes narrative films and serves as a consulting producer for the US Department of Education for their documentary projects.

Upcoming Screenings:
COLORADO PREMIERE – Denver Film Festival
November 5-6, 2011, Denver Film Center/Colfax

EUROPEAN PREMIERE – Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival
November 10, 2011
Xan Aranda, Angelo Valencia to attend

MISSOURI PREMIERE – St. Louis International Film Festival
November 19, 2011 at 8:30 PM, Webster University
Xan Aranda to attend

February 17, 2012
Xan Aranda to attend

Details can be found at

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