TALBOT TAGORA: I SAW THE BLOOD AND THE PARROT
(from Lessons In The Woods Or A City out now on Hardly Art)
Talbot Tagora have roots in the Smell but survive and thrive now in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, where they make space rock from planet jazz on their fascinating new record Lessons In The Woods Or A City. They speak now before van trouble in unforgiving Utah. This interview by Vanessa Gonzalez.
There is a Stranger piece that says, ‘Talbot Tagora likes to talk about religions people think are cults.’ What does that mean?
Chris Ando (guitar/vocals): I think that was worded wrongly, if wrongly’s a word. When Eric interviewed us I had this idea, and I don’t even really remember what it was, but I think I may have actually been writing ‘Mixed Signals Through Miles of Pilgrimage’ at the time. But I worded it in a wrong way and I don’t remember what I was thinking about.
Do you have an interest in cults?
Cults? Yeah. To me, I wonder what a cult is because—it’s a hard thing to say. It’s funny that I don’t want to say that—talk about religions this way.
I think Seattle has a unique and interesting religious feeling—there’s definitely a strong Catholic-Christian presence there but then there’s also so much Native American spirituality still that resonates. And also kind of a pagan nature awareness that maybe comes from the Scandanavian influence.
I think that can totally have had an effect on the way that Ani, Mark and I were brought up. One thing that I really like about the Northwest is all the Native American stuff—the culture is still alive, and it’s hard to say that about other places, unfortunately. But it’s really inspiring to know that those people that were native to this land still have access to their beliefs and their ancestors. I could go on and be a bummer about it but I’m glad that the culture is still alive. But it is a bummer—I grew up in a town called Polk City, and whenever I go back things are being knocked down. Like totem poles.
In ‘Ichthus Hop’ you say, ‘the 21st century picses, where every single good fish/bad fish led through immunity and experience puts the past where it goes in a dumpster, in a calendar in the back of my head.’
I’m trying to explain how money works in our society. Money being the idea and it’s someone else’s idea. We are born into it and someone made it because that’s the way they thought things would work. Before money existed there was this hunter-gatherer thing where there were all sorts of different ways to go about living. In a way things are different and the same because when you go fishing, you’re getting food—physically going fishing and catching fish and bringing it home so that people could eat it. And when you’re going to work you’re getting money and using that money to feed your family. So in a way things are the same but different. People have their roles and I think right now… what I’m commenting on in that song is that a lot of people don’t know their roles. They’re being told what their roles are.
Seems like life—if you go back far enough—was so much more about survival,and as we have developed all these ways to satisfy survival needs in a really instantaneous way, that idea of ‘what is my purpose?’ comes to the forefront.
Yeah, like survival isn’t even a question—I mean it always is and everyone always thinks about death, people aren’t that scared in America of how they’re going to make it because they’re not the ones going out to hunt. A lot of people can just live off of their parents. I can admit that a lot of the times when I’m shopping I don’t really think about where that food is coming from—or what the situation or environment was in the places where the people are making that food.
Is the song ‘Hunger Strike’ about our food supply?
That song’s kind of personal—it’s not as politically charged as a lot of other songs on the record. That song is—in a weird way—a love song. It’s more of a sex love song. A song about not knowing my balance and using my eyes to find my conscience. It’s like putting all of your trust about someone on your visual sight and not really thinking about everything. And that’s really it. That sounds really corny, but I guess that’s the way it is.
What exactly did you learn about judging or not judging someone on their physical appearance?
That it can make you really sick. It can lead you in the wrong direction—it can lead you into just making really bad decisions. For me it was kind of a self-destructive way. I wrote the lyrics to that song kind as a proof that that happened and I didn’t want it to happen again.
In ‘Mouth Rainboy’ you say, ‘He ain’t no rock god, just a man with an addiction.’
That song is about an artist who I’ll call ‘Artist A’ and his collaboration with another artist who we’ll call ‘Artist B.’ One’s a filmmaker and ones a musician. I made up that quote that Artist A said about artist B and it gave me a different perspective about artist B because artist B was kind of a legendary rock god. That’s what that song’s about. It shows how situations like that can change you perspective on someone.
What about ‘dictionarphilosophy’? What does that mean?
In a way this is dictionarphilosophy because I’m trying to explain to you what I mean about things. That song ‘Hairspray’ is kind of about patriarchy—the idea of it. That term I use as an idea of how you can miscommunicate words. In other languages, you can find other words for actions or ideas you may not have even thought about before. The only language I know is English. Most of the people I know, their only language is English, too. I try to think if we think very similar because of the way we obtain language and how we communicate actions and ideas through English. Mark and I kind of both had the idea for this song and I ended up writing the lyrics. and we both kind of had this idea about the patriarchy. The song’s called ‘Hairspray’ because both of our moms used to put hairspray in our hair. Before kindergarten. Both of our moms wanted us to be handsome boys and so they put hairspray in our hair. We thought that was kind of funny—that moms that came from different backgrounds would do something like that, or why they would do something like that, or why we even had hairspray in our hair in the first place.
Our part in keeping up appearances.
Part of being an American, I guess.
What are you referring to in that song when you say, ‘My teacher’s husband tells me more than he should’?
That’s kind of a weird personal thing.
What about ‘Johnny Lazor’? What is that about?
That’s actually a baseball field on a road I used to live on—that whole song’s about the road I used to live on. I would always ride along that road and a lot of weird stuff would happen. My mom saw an accident and there’s a body hanging out of the car—really violent. A few days later I was driving around the same area and there was blood all over the road. There was a couple churches next to it and a giant Christmas tree and fire stations and all this regular stuff—kind of a weird clash. A month ago I was driving on it at like two or three in the morning and an old guy had a parrot on his shoulder. Just walking on the right side of the road. It’s on the way to a town called Black Diamond.
What about the reference to the swastikas in the glass all over you?
When we first moved there I was kind of scared of it. I learned that it was fine—that I’d be safe. Kind of near the place I saw the blood and the parrot, there was a swastika on the road. I’m trying to explain this to my boss at this screen printing place I worked and he says, ‘Oh yeah, I parked near there one day and someone broke into my car and stole my stereo.’ It left this weird impression on me. It goes along with the clashing of all the other stuff near it.
Do you think there’s a unique strangeness to the northwest?
It’s funny—we just got our van broken into a few days ago and our stereo got stolen. But that can happen anywhere. It’s also funny thinking about the differences. I guess I don’t really know how to explain it but there are these bugs that make these sounds throughout the South. They’re like cicadas. But each city we got to, the bugs would make a different pattern and that was really interesting to me. In Black Diamond I would always hear frogs, and there may be frogs in the South but I only heard cicadas.
Is there a particular purpose to the grapefruit on the inside of your CD?
For this record we kind of got attached to the number twelve. There’s twelve letters in our name, there’s twelve numbers on a clock, there’s twelve colors in a color wheel—one day we needed to find an image for the inside cover of the CD and I had a grapefruit and I cut it open and I noticed that the grapefruit had twelve sections in it.
What about the moth? What’s the significance behind that?
There’s mythology to the moth, but I don’t really want to go into that. I thought the moth was kind of a cool thing to put in there because of the patterns on it. It doesn’t fit in with the significance of the twelve but in a way it’s like a natural pattern that I thought was really interesting and symmetrical. A moth signifies change. Good or bad—just change. There are all kinds of animals that signify this, but I chose moth mostly because my dad actually collected moths. And I really like that moth, mostly because of the colors. There’s not many moths that have black and red.
Why didn’t you want that in there? Change is cool. People need to be more accepting of change.
It’s one of those things where you put your beliefs into something and put it in the public, but the public may not agree with it. And when they don’t agree with it they’ll tell you and you just feel kind of shitty for believing something. That’s kind of what religion’s like too. Things clash and people get upset. That’s why it’s hard to answer these questions and that’s why I’m answering them the way I am.
TALBOT TAGORA WITH BIPOLAR BEAR, HERR JAZZ, PROTECT ME, MASTERS AND JOHNSON AND DUNCAN WILDER JOHNSON ON TUE., AUG. 4, AT L’KEG GALLERY, 311 GLENDALE BLVD., ECHO PARK. 9 PM / $5 / ALL AGES. LKEGGALLERY.COM. TALBOT TAGORA’S LESSONS IN THE WOODS OR A CITY IS OUT NOW ON HARDLY ART. VISIT TALBOT TAGORA AT HARDLYART.COM.