ONE OF ENGLAND'S FINEST VISITS THE STATES WITH HIS VENUS 3 PROS
The sublime bard of jangled, semi-surreal goodness, Robyn Hitchcock, began a new U.S. tour this week behind his fab new album Goodnight Oslo (released February 17 on Yep Roc), starting last night in Austin and traveling from Texas to Nashville, Burlington, NYC, Philly and elsewhere in April. He is joined by his band of the past few years, The Venus 3 - comprised of three-fifths of R.E.M.- namely guitarist Peter Buck (who's worked sporadically with Hitchcock for more than 20 years), bassist Scott McCaughey (also of Minus 5/Young Fresh Fellows) and drum vet Bill Rieflin (who Ministry fans may recognize).
| Robyn and Venus 3|
Hitchcock took a few moments to answer some questions JamBase threw his way as the tour gets rolling.
JamBase: Goodnight Oslo kinda captures a lot of aspects of your music under one umbrella. There's a bit of a Soft Boys vibe in spots, but also experimental drift, some quality '60s style jangle, etc. It's one of your best and maybe one of the best single introductions to your music thus far. Did it feel like a significant one when you wrapped this album?
Thank you! It felt like we had taken more trouble than usual to finish it, to develop the arrangements and colour the songs as they glide from verse to verse. There was almost a year between the last band recording session in Seattle and the final overdub and mixing session in Cardiff. The further away you get from the initial taping of a song, the easier it is to transform that song into a record.
So some of the songs developed in the jangle & harmonies mode that has been one of one of my default positions since the Soft Boys days. Other songs sprouted horns or a cello. Colin [Meloy of The Decemberists] and Sean [Nelson of The Long Winters] mailed their harmonies in, and Morris Windsor (Soft Boys) clambered up into the crow's nest to add his. Howard Thompson, the phantom A&R man who discovered Motorhead and The Psychedelic Furs, phoned in some arrangement ideas too.
JamBase: What's it like touring with the Venus 3?
Sublime. I cannot think of a more balanced group of individuals. They complement each other like three - musicians! Years of traveling to play shows has enabled them all to unpack and play wherever we go with a positive attitude. It's even better when my wife Michele comes along, as she gets on so well with them all. It's a party with a mission.
JamBase: The new album has some fun stuff like "Saturday Groovers," but there's also the heaviness of "Sixteen Years," easily one of your darkest ever. How do you balance that stuff, how much light to let in and how much dark to allow?
Those two songs are looking at the same thing from slightly different angles. A lot of this album is about getting zonked, really, and pondering whether that's necessary. I wouldn't know. The "Saturday Groovers" are imbeciles - unrepentant middle-aged teens, grooving into the a twilight that they cannot face sober. The character in "Sixteen Years" has sobered up, and seen how he has allowed himself to be fucked over by being too passive. Again, I wouldn't know...
So, what looks like fun is masking something decadent, and what might seem somber is in reality bottoming out. Dylan's Time Out Of Mind is a great example of this: bleak but fun. You can tell when you have enough of both ingredients, can't you?
For more with Robyn check out our 2007 feature.
Robyn Hitchcock & The Venus 3 April Tour Dates
SA 04.04.09 - The Grenada Theatre – Dallas, TX
MO 04.06.09 - Exit/In – Nashville, TN
TU 04.07.09 - Variety Playhouse – Atlanta, GA
WE 04.08.09 - Cat's Cradle – Carrboro, NC
TH 04.09.09 - The Black Cat – Washington, DC
FR 04.10.09 - Johnny Brenda's – Philadelphia, PA
SA 04.11.09 - Irving Plaza - New York, NY
MO 04.13.09 - Paradise Rock Club – Boston, MA
TU 04.14.09 - Higher Ground Showcase Lounge – Burlington, VT
TH 04.16.09 - The Mod Club – Toronto, ON
FR 04.17.09 - The Magic Bag – Ferndale, MI
SA 04.18.09 – Epiphany – Chicago, IL
SU 04.19.09 - The Varsity Theatre – Minneapolis, MN
The group will also perform at this year's Bonnaroo Music Festival on Saturday, June 13, 2009.