Thursday, May 04, 2006

Interview: Castanets

Calum Marsh

The best song I heard last year was the sadly underappreciated 'Dancing With Someone', a delightful little track by the similarly underappreciated Castanets. As the song nears its end, listen closely: an airplane can faintly be heard passing overhead. It's a small detail, one I didn't notice at first, but it turns an already excellent track into one of the best I've ever heard. I told Raymond Raposa, frontman of Castanets, about my love for this song and that one detail in particular. He informed me that he and his girlfriend were living under a popular flight route near the JFK Airport while the album was being recorded, and that it was a rush to tape in between flights as to not catch any excess noise. That plane found its way on 'Dancing With Someone' by complete chance, but he's "glad it did".

Raymond speaks to me here about Pitchfork, label mate Sufjan Stevens, and Vin Diesel. Enjoy.

Mocking Music: Your most recent album, 'First Light's Freeze', seems suited to score late winter nights. Was this wintry mood intentional?

Raymond Raposa: Contrarian that I am, much of it was recorded in a sweltering Brooklyn summer. Certainly mixed in one. Maybe a longing for the colder climes was at work there.

MM: Pitchfork has a bit of a reputation for making superstars out of artists they like. Being that they loved your two most recent albums (8.5 for the first, 7.7 for the latest), what effect, if any, do you think their good words have had on your career?

R: Certainly a world of good. Before the Cathedral review, maybe ten people would come see us in SD. Afterwards it was up to at least twenty. I get kinda spooked by the word career. Considering I'm waiting for the free bread to show up on the Food Not Bombs porch across the street later, it may be a little misleading.

MM: Your label, Asthmatic Kitty, is also home to Sufjan Stevens, a man who has earned all kinds of attention in the past year. In what way does sharing a label with Sufjan affect your career?

R: I can't be certain. I know it's a pleasure to be there though. The folks at AK keep my spirits high. They're like a bunch of real good books.

MM: I know it's a generic and generally boring question, but did any particular artists or albums influence or inspire you to make music?

R: Lungfish. Viking Moses.

MM: I understand you're something of a writer. There was a rumor a little while ago that you were working on a novel. Has anything or will anything come of that?

R: Can't say. I meant for that to be more of a private matter at the outset, but one-sheets'll be one sheets. The record Cathedral and all attendant themes and characters were drawn from the book. It would make a nice companion piece. The pages have all been in a storage space in SD for the past couple of years waiting to get tied together but I haven't paid last months rent on that room let alone this one's so we'll see if there's anything to come back to there.

MM: Another generic question: favourite books and favourite movies?

R: Saw a few really good films at the PDX film fest last week. Martha Colburn's were a treat. Kinda itching to catch up on the Herzog stuff. We used to practice in a basement with Aguirre playing on mute. Finally getting around to the books I'd picked up on the last tour. Franzen's "The Corrections" I've got kind of a bad feeling about. Pessoa's "Book of Disquiet" seems to be kind of stalling out at about a third of the way through. "The Way of the Ascetics" was a total (but quick) bust but Levon Helm's autobiography is making for a great re-read. I'm also really into Vin Diesel right now (no joke).

MM: Asthmatic Kitty just released another sampler and has been touting those cutesy cartoons of you and your label mates. Do you work closely with your label and label mates, as its label-as-family image suggests?

R: I do.

MM: Can we expect an album in 2006?

R: Something like it. A few split singles (Wooden Wand, Jana Hunter, Dirty Projectors) and maybe a quick improv series for AK. Was considering writing all the new songs about one friend of mine, but those are going through some revisions. I've also been threatening to turn in my "Laughing Stock" or "Tilt", but mostly emptily.

Castanets - Dancing With Someone
Castanets - All That I Know

Castanets - First Light's Freeze
Castanets - Cathedral

Castanets - Official Site
Castanets - Myspace

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