Sunday, February 21, 2010

art damage/free avant jazz/indie rock duo People

Interview by Bill Adams
View Magazine (Hamilton, Ontario)
Greater Hamilton's Weekly Alternative Online Edition
Vol. 12 No. 29. July 20th-26th, 2006

Below is my horribly mismanaged email interview with Brooklyn
based art damage/free avant jazz/indie rock duo People. Formed
by Mary Halvorson and Kevin Shea four years ago, People has
given the collective heads of listeners a quarterturn, standing
highconcept on its ear and challenging the preconceived notions
of what music is expected to be. As it turns out, that spirit comes
naturally to the band, they simply cannot help themselves as they
recast what could be the painfully ordinary into something
extraordinary, even if its the most pedestrian of interview

View: How long has the band been together?
Mary Halvorson: I think about four years...
Kevin Shea: And yet, in sooth we arent a band in the common
undertaking, we dont go around raping and pillaging in order to espouse new doctrines. Rather, we are an experiment in the
laboratory gone wrong; we dont know where we came from, why
we are together, or how we met, only that we are the product of
chance relations canceling out all human feelings we may have
once had. We dont play because we want to, because we have to,
because we want money or fame, in order to trace our evolution
youll need to go back millions of years to the time before the
dinosaurs. Were functioning single celled amoebas without
reason. This is what we do, I dont know why. I dont have the
answers, if I had all the answers there wouldnt be corporate co
opting and diversion of rivers away from landlocked regions in
the Middle East, now would there?
View: How did you meet?
People: This is a mystery that must never, ever be revealed.
View: Are you on tour right now? If so, how long is the tour and
hows it going so far?
MH: Depends on how you define tour.
KS: Tour used to indicate that a band was out for 300 days of
the year, nowadays all you have to do is play one show in the
outer regions of Long Island and youll find yourself on tour.
View: How have the crowds been?
MH: People either hate us with a passion, love us, or stare at us
with blank expressions.
View: I just finished listening to the copy of the new album that
you sent over. How does People write songs?
KS: To me, these songs arent fully written. What makes the song
a song is the interpretation of the song. So many bands today get
together and play just like the record. Thats not what
songwriting is to me. Mature songwriting depends on the players
to interpret the song. If all you do is write songs, you are merely
an architect of your own demise, i.e. songs are sturdy hunks of
metal and wood, sewn together on top of the impervious surfaces
so that chemical/biological runoff destroys the natural filtering ecology of rivers, lakes and oceans. Unless you want to be
responsible for contributing to the destruction of our water
supply, I wouldnt advise writing unyielding songs.
View: How does the writing process break down? Music or words
MH: Kevin gives me lyrics. I take the lyrics and write music to fit.
Then I write it all down, memorize it, and give Kevin the charts to
View: What are your influences?
MH: Tasty meals...
KS: ...We of People are influenced by tasty meals more so than by
bands or musicians. When we play music we are much more
interested in its tangible feeling than we are by how it effects
something effervescent like ones spirit or soul. When you eat a
clove of raw garlic, kerpow! Your body has been transgressed, the
sulfur content marks its antibiotic properties. Playing music is
about human feeling, motion and sexuality.
View: The songs tend to take strange turns within the structures
that you lay down or theyll occasionally follow a straight
progression without adhering to a typical structure (like verse/
chorus/verse or something). Is that a conscious move away from
convention? What were you reaching for when you were making
this album?
People: We arent reaching toward something, certainly a troop
like The Strokes reaches toward a cutesy bubble gum pop sound
that is as forgettable as most pizza restaurants; they are reaching
toward your foot, tying marionette strings on your toes and
making it go tap tap tap. But a band like the Stones is
completely rooted in what they do, its clear what they will be
doing until they die. They arent manufactured or hip. People is
just like the Rolling Stones in this way, we are playing the music
we both love to play, and though we wear deodorant, we dont
wear colognes and perfumes. We dont need to impress you, its
obvious. You are aware of what fresh air is, and how vital it is, you value fresh air, dont you?
View: I thought it was really cool that you simulated the sound of
a CD skipping on For Michael, but where did the idea come
from? How do you describe the sound of the music that you make
and the method in which you make it?
MH: This idea came directly from the lyrics, which at that point in
the song are And it skips, as it should. I always try to have the
music fit the lyrics, so that the lyrics are an integral part of the
song and are actually meaningful; not some afterthought to fill
KS: Exactly, we arent flag waving bigots, nor are we traipsing
about panhandling/pandering party lines. This is the stuff we
grew up playing, our sound has a history, cultural diversity is
important. You may go to Lebanon and be surprised when you
hear the music, you may wish you could go home to your old
Rush recordings or phat Snoop beats. Thats not what we are
about. We are all equals. Our music should be on pop radio. I
think its safe to say that until it is, civilization will remain
doomed by impetuousness and greed.
View: Whats on tap for the rest of this year?
KS: Kenneth L. Lays funeral, more missile tests in North Korea,
perhaps another shuttle disaster.
MH: In addition we are recording our second record for I & Ear in
View: What else shall we talk about? What else do you feel should
be present in the article or would you like to see in the piece?
People: We are very excited to play in Canada!! V


What can people expect to see when you take the stage?

PEOPLE: we follow in the footsteps of our rock band ancestors in that we have drums/guitar/singing...

but we dont feel the need to pay homage to the dying breed.
In other words, there is no dialectic between the
expectations of events and the actual events themselves.
To see and the will to see are matters of ones capacity
to interpret pragmatics and to control/understand
physiological/cultural operations i.e. if you are
expecting to see anything at all then probability has
you by the balls (and dont forget probability is
only another word for nationalism).