Michael and I were in a band throughout the 90s called Townies; when that collapsed, we hooked up with Tony Dennison of Smart Went Crazy. It evolved from there — other members, a rotation through various tour iterations — and now it’s mostly Michael Kentoff, me, and Dave Jones, with recorded contributions from Mr. Dennison and also Donald Campbell.
Your last release Populations came out in 2007 and received stellar reviews across the board; can we expect a new release any time soon?
Why thank you, and yes, tentatively scheduled for a mid-June release is Discontinued Perfume, also on the fabulous Hometapes label. It’s currently being mixed by Chad Clark. We’re sure it’s our best work to date. Very sure.
What was it like working with Chad Clark on both the William of Orange EP and Plastic Explosives?
We’ve known Chad for a long time. Townies toured with Smart Went Crazy in the mid 90s, and we’ve been friends since then. Over time, he’s started to play a role similar to the one he played with the Dismemberment Plan, which is to be a pretty active collaborative voice, not just the guy who makes everything louder. He’s as close to a band member as you can be without being onstage with us, as well as one of the most interesting people I know.
Can you briefly describe your writing process and how it has evolved over the years?
It’s almost always been that Michael writes something, records it, and then the rest of us come in and make our contributions, or make suggestions for overhaul. I’ve also frequently played the role of Michael’s initial sounding board, vetting the songs first before we pursue them full-on.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Eno, architecture, half-broken electronics, weird noises that weren’t supposed to happen, Mike Leigh, the Buddha Machine, Wales, discontinued perfume, and any number of cumbersome and impractical things.
How would you describe your position in the Washington, DC music scene?
Starting to feel like elder statesmen. Yet there are many who don’t know who we are. So it’s hard to say. I’d love to hear someone else’s view of it.
In what direction do you see the DC music scene heading in the next 5 years?
Like everywhere else, I suppose: fragmented, busy, eclectic, and prolific. This is a much more interesting time than when we initially started and everyone just wanted to sound like Jawbox. (Please note that I love Jawbox, just not all of its thousands of imitators from the 90s).
To what extent do you believe social media outlets define a bands image?
Good question. Seeing as those outlets have become pretty much everyone’s window on the world, I would say they play a huge role in a band’s image. I think we’re all pretty used to making a decision on a band based on 15 seconds of looking at a MySpace page, for better or worse.
Top 5 eats DC?
Two Amy’s, Chadwick’s (based on proximity to Michael’s house solely), the Italia Deli in Silver Spring, Rajaji, and that old Carolina Kitchen on Colesville Rd. that burned down like eight years ago.
Favorite venue in DC?
The Black Cat has always been great to us, and they have a fantastic staff that’s super band-friendly. I really think they created a culture in DC in which clubs needed to treat bands with respect rather than as an inconvenience, or with outright disdain. Velvet Lounge is up and coming, getting more and more interesting national acts, and I dig its intimacy. Galaxy Hut is an old standby, too, and it’s pretty much impossible to have a bad show there. Just nice that there are so many options now, as at a point about five or six years ago, the city had dwindled down to about one or two.
Favorite albums of 2009?
I usually amend this type of question to “Favorite Albums That I Listened to in 2009 Even Though They Might Have Come Out Two, Ten, or Thirty Years Ago.” So here goes:
Kings of Convenience, Declaration of Dependence (Astralwerks)
Burial, Untrue (Hyperdub)
Four Tet, Rounds (Domino)
Sparklehorse & Fennesz, In the Fishtank 15 (In the Fishtank)
Chris Bell, I Am the Cosmos (Rykodisc)
Roofwalkers, self-titled (self-released)
Sankt Otten,Morgen wieder lustig (Hidden Shoal)
Jawbox, For Your Own Special Sweetheart reissue (Dischord/Desoto)
All Tiny Creatures, Segni (Hometapes)
Thanks, guys! Look for The Caribbean’s Discontinued Perfume out this coming June