Remy Zero – Interview

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Remy Zero

How is everyone responding to the album? Did you give it to friends and family?

We didn’t give it to them until we gave it to everybody else. We didn’t want to start getting comfortable in having people tell us we were great, which is what family members do because they love you. I try to avoid that. It’s like before a prize fight, Muhammad Ali’s trainers always told him that he was going to be great, but really it’s up to you to know if you are going to do great. That is the way we were on this album. We made that mistake with Villa Elaine where everyone had so many opinions about it that it influenced us, and I didn’t want to be influenced.

Was it important to have a producer so that you don’t believe your own hype and have an outside opinion?

Yeah. We’ve done things ourselves all along and always had our own studio, so there will always be us doing things on our own, but we know it’s there and available. We feel that we know whatever is best for a particular song or feeling, but sometimes we’ll pull back and give it to him after we’ve taken flight with it. It is sometimes nice to have someone there who can say, ‘You are in Remy Zero world right now, but let’s take two steps back,’ so we can see that things might not be cohesive anymore.

It’s like a parent who thinks their child is the greatest looking kid in the world whether it’s true or not.

Definitely. We’re the same way. We’ll be like, ‘You can’t take that out,’ but you have to choose your battles, especially if it’s something you aren’t a hundred percent behind. It’s a pretty democratic process. There are a lot of Ralph Naders in the band who do fight for their individual beliefs.

Do you look out at music today and wonder if maybe Remy Zero can or should try to save music?

There was no calculated attempt on our part for something like that. I don’t think music has ever been destroyed, I think the media has convinced certain individuals to buy certain records. We do that all the time, like ‘Man, did you see Planet Of The Apes? Man, that rocked,’ or if they thought it sucked, it influences people. Because of that, the same happens with records. I don’t think anything has been taken away and can find music. It’s really the listener’s responsibility of the listener to save music. By that I mean going out and finding new music. The belief that there is a top ten and nothing else isn’t true. It’s never been true. I don’t think a band like us can save music, or anyone else.

I wondered about this because the album seems like you stayed true to Remy Zero. You didn’t go out and try to be on the top ten by copying some fad.

Like jumping trains?

Just latching on to a hot style.

Let me ask you, what style do you think is hot that we would latch onto?

Anything, maybe mixing in a lot more pop sensibility.

Or rapping and rocking?

Yeah, but thankfully that seems to have been dying a slow death. And then you see bands doing it now and they look like dinosaurs.

I think you said what my answer is. You have to realize that you are in the middle of nothing but consumerism. You just do something so you can be in on it too, but you sacrifice a lot. I think we are too egotistical, we aren’t willing to sacrifice ourselves for something that will sell because that is going to change. I don’t think there are any trends. I mean, rock ‘n’ roll was considered a trend and Elvis was considered a fad. I don’t think you can jump ships like that and last very long.

Do you think most bands today are more than happy to mix art and commercialism, or give up on art altogether?

I don’t think it’s the listeners’ faults. They think that you get signed and you are a millionaire. Fans and listeners have drawn the line for us. They think we sell out because we sign a contract and make money, but if the tables were turned and they were doing things for money, they wouldn’t call it selling out. You don’t draw a line in the sand and say I’m not going to give in to commercialism, because it’s nice when people get to hear your album.

It’s almost like, ‘Hey, I own a restaurant and I’m going to feed people for free.’ That’s just stupid. There are costs, not only at the restaurant, but you need a place to sleep, feed your family, and stuff like that.

Yeah. At some point people have to realize we’ve been doing this for years and we have to make a living or we can’t keep on doing it. We couldn’t make these records without making a living. Somehow Remy Zero has to make money, but also retain the magic that made us want to do it in the first place. You do have to find a balance.

Did the whole Universal Records shakeup have anything to do with your last album, which was amazing, getting lost in the shuffle?

Yes and no. It could have been any situation. Our label loved the album but everyone was getting fired, the label lost their money and there was nothing they could do. It wasn’t on purpose. It just went the way of the Dodo. It happened to a lot of bands. It wasn’t just us and it’s not a sob story, we all got collectively swept under the rug.

There was another band I remember that got the same treatment, Blinker The Star.

Yeah. That was a great album.

I remember hearing it was like getting swallowed alive.

It’s true. It was like a huge whale. You’d go to the company and all of the sudden everyone was packing their desks up. Everyone at the label was actually really excited about our album, but it was a forced spring cleaning.

Were you guys in limbo?

What we did was what we always do. Freaked out. (laughs) I think I got high for a couple of days and listened to David Bowie and realized I still wanted to make music. We had to reassess what we wanted to do. We wanted to keep making albums, but we had to figure out how we wanted to make them.

It seems impossible to think, but did you fear that a label wouldn’t pick you up?

I don’t think we feared it, but the possibility was certainly there. We weren’t really a proven commodity. We told the labels that they needed to know what kind of band we are without them asking, ‘Are you making the kind of album we need?’ We just had to be really honest with them. We never had that opportunity with any other label. Elektra was the first label that wanted to sign Remy Zero because we are Remy Zero, not because we are some fad. That is what Geffen did in the early ’90’s, they did hype signing and followed a trend. Luckily for us, there was no trend we were linked to.

Do you find a lot of people want to know more about you guys?

I like that, because when people finally find out stuff, it’s because they genuinely want to know, not because it was forced on them. We don’t want someone to have to like us. We want people to choose to like us. We don’t want to be seen as a constant advertisement. Mark my words, tomorrow you’ll go out and see a big Remy Zero billboard and you’ll be like, ‘That bastard!’ (laughs)

Not to change the subject, but I’ve been thinking about this all day. If I’m in a band and Travis invites me on tour, I’d be like, ‘Oh, shit.’ Are you guys …

Are you in a band?

No, but I can play the guitar. How well, I don’t know.

That’s what we always say, even to this day. (we both laugh)

Are you blown away as fans of Travis?

Luckily, throughout our lives we’ve always played music and met people we’ve mutually admired. And this time we meet Travis, as cool as they are, and while we’re saying, ‘Wow these guys are great,’ they were saying the same thing about us. So we weren’t shell-shocked by it. When you meet bands that are real music fans, as Travis are and we are, then all of that becomes some people wandering around playing music together. We forget they are Travis and they forget we are Remy Zero. We just like to listen to AC/DC at night on the bus really loud like everyone else.

Do you have to check out a band first before you get out on the road to make sure they’re not a bunch of pricks?

Yes. To be in an awful touring situation is like being in an awful office situation. Like if there was a little sexual harassment (laughs), that’s not what I really mean, but you know. Obstacles. If you aren’t enjoying the relationship, it’s not going to be fun and you have to soldier through it because you want to play your music.

When you started playing, what was it that kept you going even when you weren’t making money?

I don’t know if it’s anything you can put into words other than it’s just a feeling. Somehow you are drawn to doing that thing. You go through struggles no matter what you try to do. If you say to yourself, ‘Man, if I don’t have any money by the time I’m this age then I’m going to quit,’ there is no final plan you can make. You can say things out loud, but when you get to the places you go you have to understand what got you there. It’s like playing in Idaho and making a dollar and not knowing anyone there, your family is far away and it just seems life sucks. It’s not always gratification that gets you through. It’s knowing that the next day you get to play music and that you still love doing that.

Do you think that perhaps some people are just wired differently? I know that I write because I know it’ll work, I don’t know why, how, or when, but I keep pursuing movie writing even though it’s making me no money.

Cinjun and I had just talked about this. We wondered if it was the way you are wired, whether it’s the way you are brought up. I think everyone is available to do anything they want to do. You can read tons of stories about people who have triumphed over craziness. It’s really about taking the risk.

I think risk is the key word.

And as you get older, to choose to ride the rollercoaster isn’t what most want to choose. Because life is a rollercoaster. I think people tend to do something like, ‘I want to be an accountant.’ But in the midst of something like that, which might be really stable, someone may die in their life or a tornado may blow their house down, and the same sort of stuff can happen to them, but they’ll still have that constant. Whereas with us music is our constant and we can weather the storm. I think whatever you think your pillar is should be your constant, but personally I don’t think there is anything that is completely stable. No one is guaranteed what you want.

I wonder if you feel the same way as I do. That I couldn’t work for someone. That I don’t want the thing I do all day to be called work.

Right, I don’t want it to be a chore. I’ve never been content in my personal life, so why should I be with anything else? You know? I never got a feeling of gratification of doing something because it was on a list.

+ charlie craine

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