July 12, 2006

Interview: The Long Winters

How quickly a love affair can happen! My introduction to The Long Winters did not come until earlier this year, but when I received their latest album, Putting the Days to Bed, I fell in love, and I fell hard. It's a record that's described as "rock" by their label, but is anything but a traditional "rock" record; front-man John Roderick...let's just say you can't spell Roderick without "rock!" We recently had the chance to get him to sit down and answer a few questions. Considering the excellence of his latest record, and the assured whirlwind that's bound to accompany the album's release, I feel lucky to have had the opportunity.

(If you can't wait until Barsuk's release date of July 25th, you can click here to listen to the album in its entirety.)

Having control of the production chair and rumored to be something of a perfectionist, what would say was the most difficult track on Putting the Days to Bed? Were there any moments that led to flagellation, either of yourself, or your band?

Where is this reputation for being a perfectionist coming from? I think we should nip that in the bud right now. The fact is that I'm way too cheap to be an actual perfectionist.

It's a good question, though. A couple of tracks were more challenging than others for different reasons. I worked on the lyrics to "Hindsight" right up until the very end, which involved some considerable hair-pulling. And we did four or five versions each of both "Sky is Open" and "Seven" before we settled down. But I could easily describe a way in which every song was a struggle, because making records is hard, but overall it was pretty painless and fun.

The Long Winters' lineup on the new record is a completely different one from the previous record. Do you recall if there was a moment during the sessions for the new record that you felt, "Yeah, these guys are IT!" What was that moment?
Well, Eric Corson has been with me on every record except the first one, and he just keeps getting better, so it wasn't a completely different line-up. The thing is, most of the guests on our records just came in for a couple of hours to play a thing or two and then left, so the majority of time in the studio it's always been just me, and maybe Eric, with the engineer. The addition of Nabil to our band has been the major change recently, and there definitely was a lightbulb moment with him where I said, "Whoa, how did we luck out and get this guy? He's a total scientist of good times."

When you contemplate Putting the Days to Bed in regards to your previous work, what do you think sets it apart from those earlier records, and do you think that this maturation has generally been in the direction that you had intended when you first started the band?

I'm hoping music journalists will do the heavy lifting in answering that question. I mean, I'm incredibly excited about the music on this album, I think it's the best we've made, and the live shows this year are going to be a holy terror. Otherwise I'm not really able to put any of our records in historical perspective. I know that many people consider our last full-length a hard act to follow, which is flattering, but I think I have a half dozen better ones in me, starting with this new one. It would be giving me far too much credit to imagine that I had ANY plan whatsoever when I started this band, let alone that I had a maturation direction in mind.

If you were to take a time machine back to the early 1990s, and you were to meet the John Roderick from 15 years ago, who do you think would be the more surprised, the younger John or the older?

You are coming from inspired-question-ville! I'll tell you first that the younger John has no secrets from the older John. Fifteen years ago I had never really tried to make anything real. I spent a ton of energy imagining all the things I would make one day and sneering at all the things other people were making, and in that way it was possible to imagine that the first thing I made would be instantly embraced by the whole world. So the John of fifteen years ago wouldn't really have the capacity to understand the life I'm leading now, making my own records, touring in a van, earning a little money here and there. He wouldn't have any comprehension of it other than that his future self was a failure. Thank god I don't have to talk to him.

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