Musicscan: When I first listened to “La Foret” I was surprised of how subdued and mellow it was in many respects compared to your previous efforts. Are you bored with being over the top all the time?
Xiu Xiu: It was not conscious. This year was more a year of reflection and a quieter realization of things that had been unfolding before. It is more about coming to slowly understand things or admit to them than feel crushed and overwhelmed by uncertainty.
Musicscan: I also feel that it is by far your darkest and most brooding and at the same time also most angry record to date. What has triggered this artistic development?
Xiu Xiu: Said realizations were by and large incredibly difficult and depressing and the anger comes from the politics of my stupid fucking government.
Musicscan: Do you remember when you first realized that you wanted to do music full-time? How has your relationship to music changed over the years?
Xiu Xiu: Clearly. I was really conflicted by it actually. I had been playing in bands since I was 14 years old but mostly just for fun and when I graduated from college at 25 and began working as a social worker I was distracted all the time by music and was not being as devoted to that job as it required. I talked to my therapist about feeling guilty about it and we discussed that one should do what one can fully commit oneself to and that maintaining a job as a social worker out of feelings of guilt were not going to do anyone any good. It did take me until I was 31 to be able to do it for a living - I am now 33 - and since then I have only had more time to work on playing. So when not on tour, which is most of the time, I am at home writing. Only in the last 2 years have I been able to spend so much time at it.
Musicscan: Is there a thematic “red thread” which connects the different songs on the album?
Xiu Xiu: Only in that they describe the events and feelings of the year and a half or so in which they were written, but that is the case with all of our records.
Musicscan: Congratulations also on the artwork. It seems to reflect the album perfectly and is well executed. Where did you get the idea and who was in charge of the artwork conception?
Xiu Xiu: It was total serendipity. Angelo emailed me out of nowhere with some designs he had done and they were amazing. I asked him if he wanted to do the European art work and he agreed and did a superb job. I love what he did.
Musicscan: Do you believe that there are new sounds to be created or that contemporary music has boiled down to a postmodern pastiche and mix of different influences?
Xiu Xiu: Oh fuck no! I think that it is an unfortunate trend among lazy fashion oriented bands right now but music is impossible to complete.
Musicscan: Is provocation useful in terms of musical innovation or basically just a clever marketing tool in order to get attention?
Xiu Xiu: It depends upon if your motivation for it is innovation or attention. It is always easy to tell.
Musicscan: Do you sometimes read reviews or features about yourself? Do you think that witnessing how you are perceived reflects back upon how you perceive yourself and your music?
Xiu Xiu: Rarely and for the reason you stated. I think it is poison to art for anyone involved in it to be hyper-conscious of how they are perceived and applying that to oneself. It infects any possibility of doing something pure and from a place of giving rather than fear of acceptance. On the other hand, it is almost impossible not to be effected or curious by such things so avoiding them, for me anyway, is the plan. I hate when my ego gets in the way and I crack and read something. I always feel gross and stupid about it.
Musicscan: Do you feel like live performances have become less important compared to a medialized representation, e.g. records, radio airplay, videos, the Internet?
Xiu Xiu: No not at all, but this is coming from a person who pays his bills by touring.
Musicscan: How do you currently experience the political climate in the US and what effect does it possibly have on music and the arts in general?
Xiu Xiu: It is horrifying. Everyday the administration makes moves to destroy life on this earth for short term monetary gains. It feels like being stamped in the gut every time the president pukes out another rollback of environmental protections, or social protections, or is opportunistic about tragedy. I hate him so much. He is so fucking vile and sickening and evil. There is no one I know who is not terrified about the world that they are making. I think the effect it has on art is that everyone who can think wants to kill themselves.
Musicscan: Does Xiu Xiu pay the bills or do you have to take on other jobs in order to make ends meet?
Xiu Xiu: Luckily right now it is just music.
Musicscan: What inspires you apart from music or art on a daily basis? Could you imagine doing something else besides music right now?
Xiu Xiu: On a daily basis - current events, my family, investigative reporting, sex, sexual politics, history of war and genocide, bird watching, environmental disruption, what is left of the great outdoors, and religion. I freak about the 2nd half of this question as really I cannot think of doing anything other than music so when it stops I have no idea what will happen. It is a good motivator for keeping hard at work.
Musicscan: Three current favorite records books and movies?
Xiu Xiu: Records: From The Lions Mouth by Nedelle; Marble Mouth by This Song Is A Mess, and a record of accordion and cello pieces by Gubaidalina.
Books: Enemy Aliens (about Guantanamo Bay); A collection of modern Korean fiction, and The Artist In Time Of War by Howard Zinn.
Movies: Grizzly Man by Werner Herzog; Nobody Knows; Me You And Everyone We Know.
I always feel funny doing lists like this I am sure I forgot something good and I always sound like such a pretentious dick. Oh well.