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Bishop Allen

Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Christian Rudder, am: 09.05.2009 ]

Wie stellt man sich die Musik zweier Harvard Sprösslinge vor? Abstrakt, verkopft, vielschichtig und schwer zugänglich. Christian Rudder und Justin Rice machen diesem Vorurteil zumindest musikalisch jedoch einen gehörigen Strich durch die Rechnung, denn ihre geradlinig simplen aber keinesfalls einfältigen Popsongs wollen alles andere als wichtigtuerisch daherkommen. Irgendwo zwischen frühen Beach Boys und The Shins hat sich das Duo ein gemütliches Plätzchen eingerichtet, wobei man besagte Bands textlich schon lange hinter sich gelassen hat. Wir sprachen mit Christian Rudder über Deutschland, Harvard und die Zukunft des Popsongs.


Musicscan: How do you experience the reception of "Grrr...." in Germany? Having toured internationally quite a bit, do you perceive there to be a difference in how pop music is received and dealt with in Germany vs. the States?

Bishop Allen: We have been very, very happy with the German reception to the album and to our shows; it seems like we're doing a double encore every night, which is a great feeling. When we were planning out the tours for "Grrr", we specifically requested more shows here, because we knew we'd like it. I'm not sure there's that big of a difference between our audience here and in the U.S. Our fans in Germany are very enthusiastic and friendly, but that's the case in America, too. The biggest surprise has been that Germany is so beautiful and green. In the U.S. there's this idea that it's this gray industrialized place, and that hasn't been true at all.

Musicscan: Do people sometimes ask you why you would play in a band when you have a degree from Harvard? What was your college experience like? What did you major in and how would you describe the whole Ivy League atmosphere?

Bishop Allen: We do get this question fairly often, and there's no doubt that for the Harvard graduate there are many easier ways to money and status than playing in a rock band. But the best thing about the education is that it allows you to do whatever you want with your life: politics, banking, medicine, whatever. For us, right now, what we want to do is be in Bishop Allen. And so, though it seems counterintuitive, that's how Harvard works for us, even though we're not the usual Harvard graduates. I majored in Math, Justin in Literature. I can't speak for him, and he was more of a star student than I was, but I found the Math program intense and difficult.

Musicscan: What are some of the most valuable things that you took away from college and does it also inform your songwriting in a way?

Bishop Allen: Justin and I were both DJs at WHRB, the Harvard radio station, and the station had an immense collection of 70s and 80s punk and hardcore. They also had a rigorous listening program that you had to complete to join, so we listened to it all, with notes, in some kind of prescribed order. For both of us, that was our first favorite music and while Bishop Allen doesn't sound much like those bands, a lot of how we do things behind the scenes is influenced by the DIY idea.

Musicscan: How do you currently make ends meet when you are not on the road? What kind of jobs did you do before you were involved in music pretty much full-time?

Bishop Allen: We do Bishop Allen full time. We've been lucky enough to have our music in some movies and a few commercials, and that's made that possible. Before we started Bishop Allen, Justin worked as an assistant to the director Errol Morris, and I worked at a website.

Musicscan: What makes Bishop Allen special to you? How would you describe the essence of the band?

Bishop Allen: Bishop Allen is really the only band I can imagine being in, because it's basically an extension of my friendship with Justin. In that the friendship is unique and special to me, so is Bishop Allen.

Musicscan: Do you think modern information technology will inevitably change not only the way music is listened to but also how it is written? Do you think it is reasonable to assume that the concept of an album will soon be a thing of the past and people will solely listen to certain songs? Will songwriting and the music change as well because of that?

Bishop Allen: There's no question that recent technology has already changed music, both for the listener and musician. But it's always been that way: you can literally hear the world change between 'Love Me Do', recorded in mono live to just two tracks, and 'Let It Be', with its 8 stereo tracks and dozens of overdubs. As for where we're going now, more and more people will record at home or in their practice space, and there'll be much more music in the world, because recording and distribution are now available to nearly everyone. We're already seeing the effects of this--Bishop Allen, for instance. We record almost all our music at home, and the Internet has been instrumental in getting our music to people who might like it. I'm not sure the concept of the album will go away, because that's just how people record music, and it has been for decades, even through all the technological changes. I think it's a cultural unit rather than a technological one.

Musicscan: What are your three current favourite books, records and movies respectively?

Bishop Allen: What Is The What, by Dave Eggers; All The Kings Men, by Robert Penn Warren; A People's History Of The United States, by Howard Zinn; Among the recent movies I've seen, I liked Let The Right One In and Pineapple Express. We listen to a lot of Sparks in the van, also Harry Nilsson and Leonard Cohen. I like Vampire Weekend a lot and am excited to here their next record.

Musicscan: What are some of the favorite aspects of living in NYC for you personally? What are some of your favorite spots in terms of food and shopping?

Bishop Allen: The best thing about living in New York, besides the fact that it's home, is that there's always something interesting to do: shows, exhibitions, weird games or nerd gatherings, whatever. I don't do much shopping, but foodwise I like Kenny's Trattoria in Williamsburg, Max's on Avenue B, and the nachos at Piano's on Ludlow. They are great nachos and I often plan trips there just to eat them up. There's also a German beer hall that opened near my house and we as a band go there all the time. The Dunkelweisse is truly delicious.

Musicscan: What can we expect from Bishop Allen in the near future?

Bishop Allen: Well, we're very excited to get back to work on writing and recording new music. We would like to put out an EP later this year, and a new album next year. So we'll be in the studio all summer. We'd like to do a better job of capturing the energy of our live show in our recordings, so that's our starting point. We should be back in Germany and Europe for a little while this summer, and we'll go on another more extensive tour either in the fall or next spring.

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