In this week's music section, Roy Kasten profiles hometown hero Jay Farrar and his band, Son Volt. The quintet released The Search earlier this year, and plays a show at the Pageant on Saturday, April 21, at 8 p.m. (Be sure to go early, as Magnolia Electric Co. is opening.) After the jump, enjoy some outtakes from Roy's interview with Jay and his bandmates, where they discuss everything from politics to Madonna.
Jay Farrar on moving beyond politics: "I'm still ready. If you counted the topical or political references, you'd probably find more on Okemah. I tried to write about other things, but these are troubled times. The current situation found its way into the writing. I'm hoping to get away, still hoping. I'm no political activist as far as going door to door and asking for donations. If it feels important I'll write about it. I hope political reality in this country will change so we can write about other subjects that are more important. Love, cars, whatever."
Farrar, on his worldview: "Definitely an idealist--in a material world. Didn't Madonna say that?"
Farrar on Michael Joo's mixed media arta Buddha encircled by video cameraswhich is featured in the artwork to The Search: "In some ways perhaps it's analogous to being surrounded by video cameras, tape recorders and podcasts, somewhat similar to what a band or a musician finds. Maybe trying to find some kind of spiritual path, and maybe somewhat, that's where we all find ourselves."
Derry deBorja, on the Search process: "We got acoustic guitars and piano demos, a week or so before recording (The Search). We just hammered the songs out, one after another. We didn't dwell on them. We had months and months of touring together as a band, so we know what to expect from each other and where everyone was coming from. (The songs on The Search) were all brand new to everyone when we went into record. None of the songs had been worked out on the road yet."
deBorja, on his contributions: "I drew on a lot of influences. Benmont Tench. I called on his playing. There are a few songs that are very guitar-driven, so it's harder for me to find a place with them. Any time you add new elements you have to bend around that and achieve some equilibrium."
Dave Bryson, on Son Volt's ever-revolving supporting cast: "For me, I just love playing. I think the changes keep things interesting. The songs change, the different guitar players push things in different directions. I'd never met Andrew [Duplantis] or Brad [Rice] until the day we started recording Okemah. It's not like starting over with a new guitar player. The songs are open to interpretation."
Andrew Duplantis, on harmonizing with Farrar: "No challenge really. I do my best to listen really closely. But I've also sung with Alejandro [Escovedo]--he might even go sharp to a degree. Scott Norton, our old tour manager and engineer, would say that when they'd solo my background vocal, it would sound completely off and wrong, but when they put it with Jay's vocal, it sounded perfect."
Duplantis, on splitting time between Jon Dee Graham's band and a Son Volt tour: "I just leave. I have to go. There are two other bass players in Austin who can fill in. [Jon Dee] has told me that I'm his bass player as long as I want to be. He's one of my best friends; I love that guy."
Farrar on the new song "Methamphetamine": It's something I've consciously avoided over the years, writing from the perspective of a character or narrative style of writing. I guess I was just trying it out. Having done it once, maybe I'll try it again. The catalyst was probably from reading articles in magazines or papers. There are always stories, even in St. Louis, where a room will blow up because the ingredients are being cooked incorrectly. It seems like it's omnipresent. It's also a composite of people I've known, who've been involved in meth, or played in Branson or couldn't get into the Army due to a prior condition. It all just found it's way into that song."
Farrar, on the changing Son Volt line-up: "We still have the core group, and I've known all those guys for many years now. You could look at it as: Were the Rolling Stones better in the Brian Jones or Mick Taylor period? I would say Mick Taylor. Or were the Beatles better with Ringo or Pete Best? I would say Ringo. I would never compare Son Volt to those bands. Not in content, only in situation."