Tim Robins caught up with London (via Paris) psych-rock starlings, Rodeo Massace. He spoke to founding members Izzy and Zorba about their move to London, D.I.Y band mentality, and language barriers:
Planet Notion:Your new album is released on January 31st. How do you think your somewhat retro psych-rock stylings (a ‘contemporary take on a vintage genre’ are the words from the press release) will be received in a music culture (in London especially) that is so obsessed with innovation and difference from previous musical forms?
Izzy Linqwister, Rodeo Massacre singer: Well, I guess I personally kind of expect the worse, then I hope for a little bit of mercy and I secretly whisper a little prayer to whatever higher forces there might be out there asking for some good reviews. We are not as retro fanatical as many of the bands on the whole 60′s garage rock scene, we just happen to like what we call the organic kind of rock sound and then we just do and write what comes out in the rehearsal room and what we feel like playing live is, most of the time, what truly guides us. We don’t really think that much about how people perceive our music in that perspective, at least not while we are writing the songs but we are very much aware that it’s something people like to debate about and that there will definitely be some very different opinions about the album.
PN: Do you see your music as a reaction to the common tendency of emerging bands today to make music that aims to be completely idiosyncratic and divorced from all past musical forms, though often at the expense of authenticity and genuineness? In some way, do you see your pschedelic stylings as harking back to an era of more genuine musical creation, one that you’re trying to reconnect with?
Izzy: Idiosyncratic? hm.. I have to look up that word. You see I am not English so it’s always good for me to learn some new words and expressions…Ok, I found the explanation and the answer is yes. Like I explain in the previous answer, I do believe we have a rather unconscious but yet very strong guidance of what feels to us like genuine musical creation, a piece of music or art has to have soul and feel like a living thing. There is so much you can do with computers now and I too like to fiddle around and do some funny songs in garage band but for me the best live shows will always be the ones that are raw, with real sounds from real instruments and not to forget a good live show needs great human contact and excitement. Yes indeed, we do reconnect with the way music was made and performed in another era and yes we do feel there is a lack of exciting gigs nowadays so we though we would get out there and try to keep it alive.
PN: It’s not uncommon for bands/artists to move between the cultural epicentres of Paris and London (along with NYC), but initially hailing from Sweden is something a little more unusual. Do you feel that your (Izzy) affiliation with the Swedish blues, as well as that culture at large, filters its way into your songs to give you something a little different, culturally?
Izzy – Probably, it must have, I was lucky to grow up in a country with a culture that embraces all artistic afternoon activities for children and I could very early on start expressing myself through singing. There are some great American blues musicians that got married to Swedish women in the 70′s that are still living in Stockholm and playing small underground clubs there and I was lucky to hang out with a few in my early teens. My very dear friend Stevie Klasson ex guitarist of Johnny Thunders was a bit like a mentor for me during those years.
PN: Fast forward then: do you feel that moving to London as a band has altered your views on music or considerably influenced the kind of music you want to create?
Izzy – Well, London has been a pretty tough challenge for us and I think that it has made us become more DIY than ever but I can’t really say that it has influenced us that much in what music we wanted to create, I believe we had pretty clear visions of that already before we moved.
PN: It’s well known that the band- Izzy in particular- are very conscious of the overall aesthetic, remaining in control of everything from the clothes you wear to your album promo posters. Do you think that this kind of involvement from band members i.e. not leaving that work to label designers or merch companies, is important in the music industry today? With the massive democratisation of the music business, with bands able to gain considerable exposure with D.I.Y methods and attitude, do you think it’s necessary that band bands take more of an interest in these areas, rather than just being the “musical artistes”?
Izzy – I think it’s a must in order to exist as a band or artist today. That doesn’t mean I always find it a good thing, it’s easy to become a slave to it. You have to be able to do almost everything yourself and all the rest you have to ask your friends to help you out for free. With the music industry going through all these changes, there is not much money around for artists and for many the whole D.I.Y thing in not even chosen it’s just the only way to get going with things when nobody wants to invest in you. We are going through very hard but interesting times and I guess you could point out a few positive aspects of this era. If money is not the reason, bands and artists might develop and create in true artistic freedom and maybe we will get some really interesting movements from all this… I don’t know, we will see.
PN: Do you aim to continue this D.I.Y element to Rodeo Massacre even when (we hope, in the not too distant future) you’re touring extensively and being fully immersed in having to play live everyday?
Izzy – Slave to D.I.Y forever! We will definitely keep doing most of it ourselves but I would love to get a bit of help here and there. One thing I know for sure is that I will never do 13 collages for a futures album like I did for this one. It was hell but well worth it since I will have something one day to show to my kids. Who knows, maybe the physical distribution of music will completely disappear. At least I have this album of Rodeo Massacre to hold on to for the rest of my life.
PN: You had a lot of friends and other players enter the studio to play extra parts on your debut. Why is it that you decide to keep the 3 piece line-up when paying live? Do you feel that the recorded sound and the live performance, should be completely separate entities?
Izzy – We do like to surprise people a bit live and not sound like on the album, we very often re-write parts and we also believe that in order to genuinely keep enjoying playing the same songs over and over again, you got to leave some space for improvisations live. It’s important to adapt and feel where you are taking the crowd. Each gig is a moment of new creation and that’s what makes me love performing live.
PN: Was this the reason for Zorba’s pedal operated drum kit invention, so he could play 2 instruments without having to add another member to the band? What made you (Zorba) decide to have this hybrid instrument, rather than putting drums/guitar on backing tracks or something similar?
Zorba – The idea of playing drums and guitar at the same time came directly from the fact that our drummer was not available enough, and at one point we had to continue without him, and didn’t really want to look for someone else… I trust Izzy and she trusts me, it has always been like that and will always be, we know that we can be 100% into what we are doing, which may not be the case for someone who joins the band. I came up with that crazy idea of putting a double pedal on a snare, and started to practice a little, I was sure that would work, and it did! What was supposed to be for few gigs became kind of a characteristic of the band: being 3 on stage, back to basics, raw music and energy.
At the same time it helped us a lot to improve our musical skills, and all became better musicians by putting away the limits, breaking the normal way of playing a gig. But it doesn’t mean that we will not work with a drummer some days, actually I would love to play like a big gig with trumpets, bass, congas, flute… 10 or 15 on stage, that would be amazing. When you know how to rock a place with just 3 musicians you know it will be easier with more, it can sounds amazing. The backing track thingy is not raw enough, and has been done by a lot of bands already, it is time for real live shows, so each gig can be different, we can improvise a 10 minutes guitar or organ solo, and have more fun: each gig becomes an unique performance.
PN: Does the fact that the band are multi-instrumentalists alter the way you write songs? Does Izzy conform to the archetype of an iconic, strong female lead vocalist, calling the songwriting shots, os is it more of a collective process…how does the process usually pan out?
Izzy – Zorba composes the music and I write the lyrics. Sometimes we do what I call the instant writing process where Zorba will start playing on a guitar riff he has been working on and I will improvise and sing whatever runs through my mind there and then or we write idea’s separately and then show them to each other.
PN: Finally, does your band name have anything to do with the album by French experimental post-rock band Ulan Bator?