March 31st, 2008 | Interviews

Kelly Floyd

Jay Reatard “Always Wanting More”


Jay has been playing music since he was 15: he started his first band the Reatards back in 1995, then dropped out of high school and has been playing music, releasing records, and touring the globe ever since. His last band the Lost Sounds were a bit of a deal in the Midwest and South and he released his first solo record about this time last year on In The Red and was snagged up by Matador by the end of ‘07. His band consists of a chubby bass player (looks a little like the singer dude from MC5) and an Andy Scott look-a-like on drums. They were driving to Tucson to begin the first night of a spring tour with the Black Keys, about which he tells Luis Farfan, “The last time I played with those guys was a few years ago—they were opening up for my last band at a show in Memphis. Now I’m opening up for them. Funny how that happens…”

You’re better known now than you were a year ago—why? You got a good publicist? Is it the touring? Or is it about time?
Persistence, definitely. Being at the right place at the right time. If you do something long enough, people are going to come around. Also I’ve been writing easier songs to listen to. My past stuff has been a bit harder for the casual indie fan to get into. That and touring and constantly putting out records.
How are you liking the attention?
It’s fine—part of the job. You do what you want to do. You want to be in a rock ‘n’ roll band or do you want to paint houses?
You’re probably going to get some dough for the next record—what producer would you want to work with?
Myself. I don’t have any desire to work with anyone else, really. I might go down to Dallas and find an engineer but that’s about it. I definitely don’t want to make my next record in a studio. That’s like trying to make art in a hospital. There is no room for creativity in a studio. Rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be spontaneous—how can it be if you are busy booking a studio three months into the future and then going into it and trying to record something in a couple weeks? It hinders the creative process. I have a recording studio at home and I use that all the time and that’s fine. It helps my creative process. If I want to record something, I do. If I want to eat pizza and watch Flavor of Love, I do.
I remember a gig in Chicago where you were chewing out the other members in the Lost Sounds, and I’ve seen you yell at the people in your current band—you’re pretty angry and a little bitter from my point of view.
That sounds pretty accurate. Being in a rock ‘n’ roll band, you gotta have some emotion. Anger is the easiest emotion for me to feel, so I guess I’m angry on stage.
Why do you suppose that labels like Matador, Vice and Sub Pop are riding the balls of Larry Hardy’s In the Red Records?
I guess it’s because there is good music there—there has always been good music there. Also, I think they have to pay attention to those bands now. Another reason is that maybe Larry has better bands nowadays than he used to a few years ago.
What happened to your other guitarist? He became a sandwich maker?
Yes, I don’t know if that’s what he wanted to do, but that’s what he did.
How long before you get a real job and quit this music business?
Ten years. I plan to retire on it. I mean, I don’t pay any taxes right now so I got a piggy bank saved up. My goal is to retire from rock ‘n’ roll by the age of 40.
How many Social Security points do you think you’ll accrue by then?
Probably none, but fuck it.
I read about you licensing a song to a video game—how you feel about that?
I feel good. I don’t play any video games but I don’t care about it.
So it’s just the money then?
Not really. I mean, I don’t care if my music gets used for a video game or a commercial—it’s not like I wrote the song for a commercial. Unless you’re a pretty PC band, it’s OK to sell your music. But even then—you can get a bunch of money from a commercial then just donate it to a cause. What’s point of turning down money? A lot of people got mad at the Dirtbombs for selling a song to Wal-Mart—who cares? If a cigarette company wants to use a song of mine, fine—I’ll let ‘em. I don’t even smoke but my parents are probably going to smoke themselves to death. I’d rather give them some of their money back.
Any changes you’ve made to get ready for the big shows on this tour?
Not at all. Well, I just have to watch it and not beat anyone up with my Flying V.