If you've read our feature on the Long Winters in this week's RFT, you no doubt noticed that singer John Roderick is endowed with the gift of gab. Over the course of our half-hour conversation, Roderick spouted some great nuggets that, unfortunately, didn't find their way into the story. So, in the spirit of Mike Seely's 2005 interview with Roderick, here are the man's thoughts on such topics as European audiences, dance music and piano ballads. Also be sure to check out John Roderick's in-store at Vintage Vinyl on Saturday at 4 p.m., before the Long Winters' show with fantastic power-poppers the Broken West at Blueberry Hill's Duck Room that night at 9 p.m.
On touring in Europe... "In Spain we're as well-received, if not even a bigger band, than we are in the United States. Our Spanish shows can get a little crazy. There are a lot of American indie bands, that if they don't get their start in Spain, they certainly are embraced by Spain really early on — the Shins and Death Cab [for Cutie], bands that now are really seeing a huge uptick on their success in America, they were already big bands in Spain. In contrast, of course, we can't get arrested in France. The markets country to country are very different."
On techno... "The confusing thing about Europe, of course, is that the majority of music that people listen to there is dance-techno-crapola. I played a festival in Barcelona, and there were a lot of great indie bands that played the festival. People came out and were very supportive, but the DJs went on at three o'clock in the morning and there were 6,000 people there dancing to DJ Assholio or whatever. It's amazing as an American to see that kind of scene, like 'What are you people on about?'"
On "The Commander Thinks Aloud," a song inspired by the 2003 Columbia Space Shuttle Disaster (watch a live performance of the song on YouTube)... "As a band, we're pulled in a lot of different directions, and one of those directions is that we like to play zippy guitar pop — rock & roll, you know? One of the other directions, obviously, is that we're enamored with the epic, slow, piano-and-keyboard monstrosities, and we could easily make a whole record of those. I think I have to restrain that impulse a little bit because I do like to have songs on our records that are fun to play live and fun for people to get out of their chairs and dance to.
But 'The Commander Thinks Aloud' is a song that I just couldn't get away from. I was really affected by the space shuttle disaster and it came at a time when it seemed like airplanes were falling out of the sky right and left. A lot of those air crashes in the late '90s and early 2000s , it seemed like the people on board had a little bit of time to think about what was going on. The planes just didn't blow up in mid-air; there was some reflection going on, I had to guess.
On 9/11, like, the people on the planes had to be aware that something was not right for the last minute. That experience of being trapped on a spacecraft or trapped on an airplane and confronting the inevitability of your doom, I couldn't get that feeling out of my mind. I wrote that song really fast — I sat down at the piano and within about an hour in was mostly fully formed. That's a song that I really am proud of.
The songs I always loved as a listener are the ones that on first listen, they appear to be about something, and on 2nd and 3rd listen you realize that the song is about something entirely else, or that there is an element of it that is so much more affecting than you thought at first, and then the light in the sky changes and you go, 'Holy shit, where did this song comes from?'"
On the difference between the Long Winters and the Dave Matthews Band... "The studio is a very different art form than playing live, and early on we just elected to take advantage of what you can do in the studio. I just sort of regard it as a separate art form. The line-up of the band has changed a lot over the years, and it's not necessarily dependable that the people that play on the record are gonna be able to go on the road with us.
For instance, the Dave Matthews Band has a violin player, and so you have to assume that when they go into the studio to make a record, they feel some obligation to have some freaking violin on every track that they do, because otherwise the guy is just gonna be sitting backstage eating all the hospitality for half the set. We don't have that problem — we don't have a violin player so we don't have to use a violin. By the same token, just because we don't have a violin player doesn't mean we won't put a violin on something that feels like it needs."