Monsters Of Folk Q&A: Part Two

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Videos by American Songwriter

MonstersOfFolk

Read part one of our interview  here.

AS = American Songwriter
JJ = Jim James
CO = Conor Oberst
MM = Mike Mogis
MW = M. Ward

So you guys are going to tour?

CO: In October and November.

Will you do cover songs as well as stuff from the record?

JJ: We’ll do a lot of material from the record, and some of our tunes.

CO: And it’ll be one kind of continuous show, like a three hour sort of show. Sometimes we’re all on stage, sometimes it’s solo. Sometimes a duet. Basically like the original tour we did, in 2004, plus the new album.

MM: The idea is to keep it changing too, so that every night is different. There’ll probably be covers, eventually, just to keep it interesting.

CO: Any one that you want to hear?

That I want to hear? Um…

CO: “The Gambler?”

Sure.

MW: Just log on to Monstersoffolk.com and cast your vote.

JJ: You can also apply to be a Monster of Folk.

Did any of you catch the Monsters of Rock tour when you were younger?

CO: No.

MW: Next question.

Besides music, do you share any other common interests that bond you all together?

JJ: BMX.

MW: We all have an appreciation for the bikes. And we all have an appreciation for good food.

CO: We had a couple of good family dinner bonding experiences, putting on the aprons and all that stuff.

MW: We had some nights where we ate in, and some nights were…

JJ: We’d eat out. (Laughter)

MW: Conor and Mike showed us some of their favorite restaurants in Omaha.

Did anything surprise you about yourselves or each other while making the record?

MW: We learned a lot about each other when we first toured, in 2004.

CO: Matt’s a morning person.

MW: I’m a morning person.

CO: I’m a night owl.

MW: Mike never sleeps.

MM: I just go all out. I’m there in the morning, and the night time.

MW: I was surprised at these three gentlemen’s ability to play certain instruments
that I had never seen them play. Such as Conor Oberst on the steel drum. Jim James on the synthesizer. Mike Mogis on the triangle.

MM: I’m glad I laid that triangle in there. It was tasteful.

You said each song had a story behind it?

MM: Well, no song was recorded the same way. They were all tackled in different ways, which was fun. Sometimes we’d set up the band and hammer through all the basic tracks. Sometimes that’s good, but if your focus of the session is to capture that “live performance” of a band, like a tight band that plays together on tour all the time….sometimes that’s a good thing, because you just want to get too technical with it, you just want it sounding good, so you can get that tight performance.

But then there’s the more psychedelic approach to recording, where you’re stacking and building and moving shit around. That’s the approach I’ve always been more of a fan of. This record was kind of like that. “Dear God,” for example, started with a drum loop, and everything was based around that. “Map Of The World,” we all sat around in a tiny little pile and played around. It’s like every song was a different approach. Who’s going to play drums on this one? I don’t know, who wants to? Every song was a question mark, which was fun.

CO: Not knowing your role.

Finally, what are some songs that you heard growing up that really inspired you to become a songwriter?

JJ: I’m kind of amazed by stuff I didn’t know I was amazed at first. For example, the song “Cupid” by Sam Cooke.

CO: That’s a great song.

JJ: And you hear it as a kid and you picture Cupid flying around, shooting people with his arrow or whatever. But when you listen to it now, the simplicity, and the beauty of the lyric, and the production, it’s truly remarkable. I feel like I’ve really been drawn in by a lot of Motown, and older R &B and Soul stuff. You hear it growing up a thousand times on the radio, like the Supremes and stuff like that. But when you’re older, and you know your way around a recording studio, you listen to those songs and you listen to the performances and the recording, and you realize it’s been blowing you away your whole life, but you never knew why until now.

Once you listen to enough music, or know your way around the recording studio, it’s like getting to peak behind the magician’s curtain.

MW: Books are like that too sometimes. You read something and it goes in one ear and out the other, and then you read it again, and you realize that it had a bigger impact than you could understand the first time. That happens to me when I read great books.

For me, I started learning how to play guitar by going through Beatles books. Listening to their music made me want to learn how to play the guitar. And that gave me the kind of chord arsenal to start experimenting with those progressions and melodies just started popping out, and then words just started popping out, and then…… ….
(Laughter)

CO: For me, it’d be like, the early stuff that was on the radio, like I can remember hearing “Brown-Eyed Girl,” or “Bye Bye Miss American Pie.” Where you’re just like, wow, there’s this hook, where you start to…to me, melody can go into some part of your mind that nothing else can get to.

JJ: Mm hmm.

CO: And then, the music my parents listened to a lot, like Simon and Garfunkel, stuff like that. Just music that was around a lot in my house. I also saw a lot of local bands in Omaha, that was when I started realizing that, “alright, you can get a guitar, you can do this.” And my Dad played guitar too.

JJ: Really? Electric guitar?

CO: Hmm?

JJ: Acoustic guitar?

CO: He can…he can play both. He’s that good. (Laughter)

JJ: We should have him sit in with the Monsters of Folk.

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