FARMER DAVE SCHER: REVIVE THE NUTS
Farmer Dave Scher is almost the Chris Darrow of his day—he’s got the cosmic aplomb and the cheerful versatility to put him in collaborations with Elvis Costello, Jenny Lewis, Nobody and the Mystic Chords of Memory, dios, Miranda Lee Richards and more. He now lives in Venice, where he listens to KXLU—where he famously used to DJ—and where he is basking in the happy after-effects of his new solo album Flash Forward To The Good Times. This interview by Thomas McMahon.
Did you consider having the album be just ‘Farmer Dave,’ or did you need to have your last name on there to distinguish from other Farmer Daves?
Farmer Dave Scher: It just landed. It’s weird if you have a nickname—like the ‘Farmer’ nickname has been around since I was up at KXLU. I think that the last name sort of landed in the present a little more. Sort of like tethered the balloon somewhat.
Do you still listen to KXLU?
Farmer Dave Scher: Yeah—now that I’m living in Venice, I hear it much better and I’m excited. I couldn’t hear it when I was in Highland Park, and I was also on the road a lot the last few years. It kind of was like coming full circle to be able to hear it because that time at the station was pretty much what blew my mind—got everything going the way it is.
You give Long Beach a couple of shout-outs on the album.
Farmer Dave Scher: Yeah, I’m from there. I went to the high school downtown—Long Beach Polytechnic. Snoop Dogg was there, just a few years ahead. Sublime were playing in backyards at keg parties. And so it’s definitely always been on my mind, the LBC and all that. This particular record, I wanted to have a little fun like that—shout things out. The last record I made was a little more under the microscope, so this one I wanted to have a little fun with it like that. But, yeah, I’m stoked on Long Beach. I think I’m going to go play down there a bit. My friends have asked me to do something at the end of September. And then I used to work at Fingerprints down there when I was a young guy, so I might go play there, too. Either way, I like that city. When I would come home from tours the last few years, I would go there to chill out. It’s closer to beaches with good waves, and my family is there, and it’s relaxing. And it has good clubs and bands, and it’s happening a little bit.
Another place you mention is San Miguel de Allende.
Farmer Dave Scher: That’s in Guanajuato, Mexico, and my dad lives there. But if you ever look into it, it’s a beautiful town, and old colonial town that’s still pretty intact. Especially at the center of the town—it’s got the plaza and the church and the cobblestone. There’s also a lot of American expatriates there. A lot of GIs after World War II went down there and studied art or just chilled out. My grandfather went to Instituto Allende and studied fine arts for a bit in the ’60s. And then my dad moved to Cabo San Lucas and ran a boat, kind of like a catamaran that gave people margaritas or something. And then he moved down to San Miguel, and he met a lady and got married, so I have a rad family there. I put in as much time there as I can. When I was playing with Interpol, we played in Mexico City, and my family all rolled down to that. So that was exciting. I know there’s a lot of cool stuff going on in Mexico City, so I’m hoping to get into that. I’d also like to make some of these songs into Spanish language. But I kind of want to do it the right way. I think I’m going to go down over Thanksgiving and work with a couple of my cousins. My cousin and my aunt are actually these hip young ladies, so I think they can help me.
Are you talking about doing the whole album in Spanish?
Farmer Dave Scher: At least a few of the songs. I don’t think all of them are built for it, but I know a couple of them would be really fun. And here we get some records once in a while where people are using English as a second language, you know? Even ABBA or Shakira or Nico. I think it could be a little bit charming if my Spanish isn’t perfect. But yo puedo hablar Español un poquito—you know, I can do it.
Would you say that ‘We Have a Way’ has a sort of Motown vibe?
Farmer Dave Scher: It does. I had some friends over to visit. One of them was ‘Z’ [Elizabeth Berg], who has that band the Like. She sang a little bit on a song, and then when I played her that, she pointed out that I absorbed a lot of vibes from my neighbors. This part of Venice I’m in, the family next door is African-American. They’ve lived there for fifty years. I wasn’t surfing as much when I made the record in the winter, but I’d ride my bike every day. And I think that they were always playing really good soul music, and I think it gave that song a little extra of that mood than I had thought at the beginning. I didn’t want to copy anything specific. 92.3 has that guy Art Laboe, who plays really good soul music at night, and then he does the dedications. I think that might have spun it a little bit. Aside from loving Motown a lot, the musicians on that song are also really proficient. If I had played the instruments myself, it probably wouldn’t have made it to that destination.
Was ‘Our Love Is a Wave’ inspired by a wedding?
Farmer Dave Scher: Yeah! I guess it’s like a composite of two different weddings, but it’s actually made for a third. I first started to think about that for my friend’s wedding a long time ago, but I never finished the words, so it sat there. Then other friends got married on a cliff by the ocean in Malibu, and me and the two violinists who played on my record, Paz and Ana Lenchantin—Paz is on the cover of L.A. RECORD right now; she’s in Entrance. So Paz, Ana and I were playing in a little trio at this wedding, so when they walked off, we played this really sad music. That was the second wedding. And then a third wedding up in Big Sur, also on a cliff. They got lucky—there was no fog, a full view north to south, like, panorama. So I started thinking about that and also the fairy tale aspect. I’m single as hell right now, but someday I feel like I’ll be ready to do that. That song is my kind of hopes for that mood, you know?
In one song on this album and a few of your earlier songs, you’ve mentioned ‘ghost dance.’ Are you referring to the Native American ritual?
Farmer Dave Scher: Yeah. From what I’ve learned about those ghost dances and what I imagined was just a lot of motion, transcendence—it seemed to be their last hope to make it to a new plane. But I get motion and color when I think about it. When I just think about it, I can hear sounds. Kind of like a little maelstrom. If you’ve ever really stirred up your chi or just tried to get something really cooked up, you get in this kind of frenzied spot. The Whirling Dervishes did it; the Sufi mystics would get into that. A lot of cultures—even Americans, even a rave. If you dance enough, you get to another spot. To me, the idea of a ghost dance is just even a little more fantastic. I feel like there’s something that’s hard for me to describe to you that’s just pushing on the edges of everything that you consider a daily reality. Even that scene in that Doors movie when he’s got the kid in the car and he looks out the window, and they put the Indian music in there, and they drive past an accident or something. I’m just trying to figure out a way to explain that mood I get. I start to hear these kind of sounds. And I just like the idea of it, of this particular kind of a dance. And I’m actually making another song about it with the Beachwood Sparks guys. We got together, and we’re writing.
What do you guys have in the works?
Farmer Dave Scher: Well, I think that we’ve got a good shot to make a record. It took a while, but I think that everybody’s in good form. I went up to Santa Cruz and wrote with Chris [Gunst] and Brent [Rademaker], and we hope to take the ideas and get them ready. I’d like to record at the end of the year if possible, but we’re taking it comfortably.
How has the music scene in L.A. changed over the years that you’ve playing?
Farmer Dave Scher: When I got out of college and moved to Echo Park for the first time, it was 1998, so I’d say that I’m not really a fit candidate to say how it’s changed. Because I think a lot of people at my age probably don’t go to shows the same. I used to be out at Spaceland every night, and when I was in my 20s, I was completely steeped in it. And then Beachwood Sparks—the version that we formed eventually that went off and started touring, and then you start to notice when you come home maybe you don’t want to get as involved, you know? It’s like different levels of activity. So I don’t think I really know a lot of what’s going on. But I will say that I’ve been on the road for about five years playing the hired-gun kind of a thing, and I would like to plug in more again and see for myself. I’d like to get more involved in a lot of the projects that are going on. I would say that dublab for me is really rad. I like to see the events that they’re teamed up in. This Silent Movie Theatre that I’m going to play at is very exciting. It seems like a chance to gather a lot of really interesting visual media and just have another approach to what a concert should be.
Are you still selling the Hot Nuts?
Farmer Dave Scher: I hung up that business when I started playing. But I had it based on an aunt’s recipe. And Danny Preston from Rainbow Arabia used to run a supermarket up in Malibu at Point Dume. So I’d go up there and use an FDA-approved oven, and I sold them at the Echo, Little Joy, Sea Level Records and a few other spots. And I sold them to the catering for that show The O.C. [Laughs.] That was a good one. So, yeah, now that I’m home and have a little more free time, I think I definitely have to revive the nuts.
‘AN EVENING IN THE FARMER DAVE ZONE’ WITH FARMER DAVE SCHER ON TUE., SEPT. 15, AT CINEFAMILY AT THE SILENT MOVIE THEATRE, 611 N. FAIRFAX AVE., LOS ANGELES. 8 PM / $13 / ALL AGES. CINEFAMILY.ORG. FARMER DAVE SCHER’S FLASH FORWARD TO THE GOOD TIMES IS OUT NOW ON KEMADO. VISIT FARMER DAVE SCHER AT MYSPACE.COM/FARMERDAVESCHER.