November 15, 2006
Boduf Songs' debut album, Lion Devours the Sun, is a record that really startled me. It's one of the most haunting and most hauntingly beautiful records I've heard in a long, long time. Plain and simple, this music will make you feel just a little bit ill at ease, and you won't really understand why. This is powerful stuff, my friends. As you'll read below, mastermind Mat Sweet's music is inundated by his love and fascination with nature and insects. Just keep that in mind. One night, out of boredom, I placed his album alongside the Gus van Sant film, Last Days, a la Pink Floyd and The Wizard of Oz. Much to my surprise, the film matched up. (I shall write about this experiment at some future date, mind you.) I implore you, if you like to be disturbed, if you like to be haunted, then Boduf Songs will not disappoint. Music didn't really get any better than this in 2006.
It's hard to ignore the influence of nature in your music: from the cover art to the references to insects in the lyrics to instrumental passages that recall the sound of insects swarming and buzzing. What is it about nature that you find so enthralling? From listening to the descriptive way you discuss insects, I'm led to ask, do you work in the biology/entomology field?
Nope, I work in a library. A lot of the pictures and things that I use come from various ancient tomes hidden deep therein. As for the influence of nature, I think it comes from an urge to create a certain type of atmosphere. The way that I look at song writing, it’s a lot like painting a picture, trying to express a feeling or atmosphere that can’t so easily be rendered in narrative prose, like trying to explain a dream to someone in a way that engages them rather than bores them to tears. Hopefully.
The sorts of dreams and environments that inspire me do often seem to share this particular theme, I think it has to do with a desire for escapism of some kind combined with a wariness of the perils of an overly rose-tinted view. Or something.
I grew up in a remote, rural environment. One thing that strikes me about your album is that you've excellently captured the dread of the woods and the isolation that comes from a solitary, remote lifestyle. Did you grow up in a rural environment?
I grew up in a suburban, middle class environment, but it was none the less remote and solitary for that. The ‘dread of the woods’ has long enthralled me though, there’s a certain sense of foreboding and longing and dread and a whole lot of other stuff there that I find very compelling. There’s a conflict between the idea of nature as a benevolent, fragile entity that needs to be protected or returned to or what have you, and the harsher perspective of a chaotic, brutal place filled with much horror and ugliness. This struck me with particular resonance when out strolling one beautiful summer afternoon in a forest in southern France, when I came upon a splendid dragonfly on the ground having the back of its head gnawed off by a hornet. Actually it was more like the hornet had eaten through most of the dragonfly’s head and was determined to exit through its face.
Do you find a correlation between the isolation one finds in the middle of nature and the desolation one finds in a troubled mind?
Different for different people I think. Speaking personally, without boring you with the details of my own private demons, there’s a vast difference between being overwhelmed with the pointlessness of existence and the vanity of the world, and being lost in the countryside when it’s starting to get dark. Certainly there can be a hugely overpowering sense of alienation and loneliness in both, but you know, anything to do with those kinds of states of mind seems really subjective to me, it’s hard to talk about. Comparisons can be made though for sure, and there’s a wealth of metaphor in there.
I have no way of knowing this, but have you seen the film Last Days, by Gus Van Sant? It's a somewhat fictionalized account of the last day(s) of Kurt Cobain's life. The mixture of despair, hopelessness and the overwhelming presence of nature throughout the film remind me a bit of Lion Devours the Sun. The other night, while suffering a fit of insomnia and boredom, I decided to watch the film on mute, with LDTS as its soundtrack. Surprisingly, the two matched up somewhat closely, and it made both the film and the record much more interesting.
I did see that movie, I found it veeeeeeerrry sllllllowwww and pretty much unrewarding. I like plenty of films that people might accuse of being too slow, but there was nothing about Last Days that made it a worthwhile experience to me. The Boyz II Men video was especially excruciating... I wonder what part of the record that coincided with? Anyway, I’m glad that you found the experience enhanced.
What other things are you working on?
Just starting to put together some ideas for another film for a song from the record, and we have a handful of live shows coming up. Also working on something metal. We’ll see what happens with that.
Boduf Songs' Lion Devours the Sun is available now on Kranky