ABE VIGODA: WOULD TIMBALAND WANT TO WORK WITH US?
Abe Vigoda have recently released their excellent Reviver EP and will be headlining Spaceland for the first time tomorrow. In honor of this momentous development, we present this interview and this contest to win the EP on vinyl! Photo by Juan’s MacBook and interview by fellow I.E.-er Steven Martinez.
From experience, I know that growing up in the Inland Empire comes with a stigma for being out-of-touch and meathead-ish. Did you have to deal with that when you first entered L.A. music or was it immediately welcoming?
Michael Vidal (guitar/vocals): There are definitely a lot of people out there who don’t have a clue. You know, dudes with big trucks and the women who love them. But growing up there, I think we really did our best to distance ourselves from all that. It really didn’t matter. We definitely aren’t like that and I think people feel that right away. We have always been kindly received, despite our hometown. I have really been missing it lately.
You guys played at SXSW just a few weeks ago—did you see any new bands that you particularly liked or old bands you’ve always wanted to see?
MV: SXSW is crazed. The city is crawling. We played eight shows—some of the weirdest shows we have ever played. The vibe is fucked. There is so much music, but everyone is tired and wasted, so no one really devotes any energy to any one band or show. It’s like everyone is distracted. We had a totally great time, though! The corporate gifting was out of control, but I turned that shit around at Wasteland for some extra cash. We got to see a lot of friends we don’t see too often, like Ponytail, Vivian Girls, and Titus Adronicus. The touring we did around SXSW was actually the best part. We did some shows with Wavves, which was awesome, and we played a lot with Women from Calgary, Canada. They sound like Sonic Youth’s Evol and the Shins simultaneously.
You guys are such an active band—you have a release each year for the past three years and a new EP this year. Do you find the audience has changed along with your albums?
MV: I think there are a few people out there who really want us to make really scratchy, dissonant music, like our first record. They probably think we are going totally soft, or selling out. But I think most people get what we are trying to do. Our sound is always moving around. I am way more satisfied playing this crazy melodic music. It’s more about what gets us excited rather than what any audience might think. There is no way you are going to make everyone happy—not in life, and especially not in music.
You were included in Paper’s list of Beautiful People 2009 along with SNL cast member Kristen Wiig, The Hills/The City star Whitney Port and several other seemingly unconnected celebrities. How did you react when you found out you were going to be on that list? Should we expect an unscripted appearance of Abe Vigoda on an MTV reality show some time soon?
MV: That shit is funny! It’s cool. The people who run that magazine are pretty nice. We played a party they had for the issue last night, and it was pretty out of control. A lot of improvised noise and slam poetry. It was strange because it was this glitzy event at a fancy bar, but they had Jennifer and Michelle from Mika Miko playing records and Abe Vigoda perform. We were in charge of all the entertainment. We ended our set with like eight minutes of noise, and Jennifer started spinning ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ over it. I thought the Paper people would be bummed, but I think they are down for some art. Lindsay Lohan was there.
We recently set up an interview of Husker Du’s Bob Mould by No Age. If given the opportunity, what band would you interview and what would be the first thing you asked them?
Juan Velazquez (guitar/vocals): I think I can be honest and say the Smashing Pumpkins. They are a band that we all loved since elementary school. It’s actually how we all became friends because we dorked out over them in high school. Not so into them post-Machina but with that said… still love their stuff even after Mellon Collie. They are a band that changed their sound a lot and I think that’s really awesome, even if the end result is that they suck now. I think I would ask Billy Corgan, ‘What was it like touring with James Iha? He seems like a really funny guy!’ To which he would probably go on some tirade about angels or like absinthe or something. Oh! And I want to know how to write a song as good as ANY track on Siamese Dream.
With the critical success of bands you’ve played with like Vampire Weekend and No Age, has the thought of Abe Vigoda reaching those heights entered your mind?
JV: I’m not really sure if that’s possible for our band! It would be cool, but it’s not really what’s most important. It would be nice to not have to worry about money and be able to play in the band because that’s all we all want to do, but ‘real life’ often gets in the way. I guess anyone that plays in a band would wanna live off of it. It’s strange thinking about your band as a job—it’s cool and awesome and also scary in some ways. To say the least—it is a nebulous and confusing subject, but something that would be awesome to reach!
How would you feel if your next full length went gold?
JV: That’s definitely not a goal mainly because it seems super unlikely—how many copies do you have to sell to be GOLD!? It would be so rad to have a plaque—I would probably give it to my mom and dad and they would FREAK OUT! What happens when you have a gold record? Would Timbaland want to work with us or something?
Would you feel more empowered artistically by fame or relative obscurity? Which one breeds better music?
JV: That is a really good question. I think that some music that is really popular is actually totally awesome right now. There is a lot of major label shit… but not all of it. I think that lately people are interested in new sounds—it’s an exciting time for music. I mean being obscure is cool in some ways—there is mystery and all of that, and also you can do whatever you want. But fame doesn’t necessarily mean that your music is not valid or new or experimental. I guess if you are famous, you can reach more people and in a way that is really powerful, it seems. You could incorporate experimentation and innovation and noise to music that the mainstream would accept and react well to.
You guys are about to embark on a tour of Europe next month—what are you looking forward to the most?
JV: It will be the second time we go out there and if it’s anything like our winter E.U. tour, we should have a blast! Kids out there are soooo stoked on music, it seems—we had some really amazing shows. Some of the best in our life! The food is rad and the people are fucking awesome and it’s so great to just be out there. Being able to travel to other countries and play music is amazing—it’s a dream come true. WE LOVE EUROPE.
If you had to compare Abe Vigoda to a novel, which would you choose and why?
JV: Pretty hard question! I would like to say we are like a Douglas Coupland novel—like Life After God or Shampoo Planet because its existential, painfully contemporary, funny, sad and absurd. Also the structure of his novels is super cool and unconventional—sometimes gimmicky but not in a painful way. And! He is not scared to wear his influences and inspiration on his sleeve—Girlfriend in a Coma is filled with Smiths references. Not sure if all of this relates to our sound, but I just really like his books.
ABE VIGODA WITH THE DRONES AND THE INTELLIGENCE ON SAT., APR. 18, AT SPACELAND, 1717 SILVERLAKE BLVD., SILVERLAKE. 8:30 PM / $10 / 21+. CLUBSPACELAND.COM. ABE VIGODA’S REVIVER IS OUT NOW ON PPM. VISIT ABE VIGODA AT ABEVIGODA07.BLOGSPOT.COM OR MYSPACE.COM/ABEVIGODA.