Drapeaux Rouges Des Enfants Perdus

A Gallery Of Language, Both Heard And Writ.
To Be Shared.
Long Live Plywood Violins
The Red Flags Of Lost Children

An Exchange Of Words With Josh Arnoudse of You Won’t

Josh Arnoudse and Raky Sastri have quickly established themselves, in my eyes, as important figures in this next wave of artists currently emerging. They are (obviously) overwhelmingly talented, and, fortunately, seem to possess an awareness of sound and meaning that is completely unique to them.

I employ a vague criteria when curating this gallery; the only prerequisite of consideration is, quite simply, that at least one member of every organization possesses the ability to write. I have always leaned towards such figures, taken comfort in their speech. It is (unfortunately) rare these days for me to find young poets in print, yet I’m lucky enough to find new writers everyday within music. Josh Arnoudse is yet another of this breed.

Thank you, Josh, for answering a few questions, and for answering them with the same fiercely playful wit that I enjoyed so entirely on Skeptic Goodbye. Next time, perhaps, we can speak face to face, as opposed to the clumsy call and response format of e-mail interviews.

[Editor’s Note: This opening seems to imply that Josh is, somehow, more important to this project than Raky. I do not, in any way, believe this to be the case. Raky Sastri is, in one writer’s humble, crude, and poorly phrased opinion, absolutely fucking incredible (and I could still confidently say so if he was only ever the drummer (see video below)). This gallery was formed to showcase notable literary figures within music, and this intro reflects that. But don’t be fooled: You Won’t is very much the project of two men.]

How long have you and Raky been collaborating artistically?
13 years.

What is your song writing process like? What element comes first? Last?
Typically the chord progression comes first, then the melody, then the words.  But once I get going it all gets mixed up and tumbled around like a little kid in a tire rolling down the side of a mountain, ricocheting off the occasional tree or boulder or moose.

Who was involved in the recording process (of Skeptic Goodbye)? How long did the recording process take? 
It was just the two of us.  There was no one else around to so much as fiddle with a volume knob. Raky engineered everything, I did all the vocal parts, and we both played a wide variety of instruments.

Was the album recorded using digital or analog equipment (or both)? Why?  
Both, but primarily digital.  The magic glowing fodder box as my friend Billy used to call it.  We tracked some songs on quarter-inch tape before mixing them in the fodder box, but we maintained no illusion that we were using anything less than utterly contemporary techniques.  I’ve always recorded digitally from my very first demos so I’m accustomed to the cold unforgiving sound of the magic fodder box anyways.

As for the release, do you have any interest in releasing the album on analog forms, such as vinyl or cassette? Why or why not?
We’re looking into vinyl.  It’s pricey but we’ve gotten a lot of requests so we’d like to make it happen.  I don’t think we’re hip enough for cassettes.

What’s next? Any new material forming? Can we look forward to another album?  
Yes you can, but please don’t spend too much time on it.  

Will you continue to tour this album, or do you think you’d like to get back to writing/recording sooner than later?
Both?  We want to stay on the road fairly consistently since we’re a new band and still in the “Hello, what do you do? You’re a plumber?  What on earth is that?” phase of our existence and it’s important to get out there and kiss the indie rock babies and show people what you’re all about.  On the other hand, it would be nice to have some time to devote entirely to the new stuff.  I don’t know, haven’t figured that one out yet. 

Will you continue to write all of the poems?
The poems will only grow more and more devastatingly poetic.

Are you satisfied with the instrumentation or are you two already imagining something else for the next record?
We’re ever-evolving in that respect…we recently added wind chimes- and it’s hard to strike a good rock pose playing wind chimes.

I think that all writers will inevitably inject their prose or poem with bits of their own life, but to varying degrees. Some writers do so consciously, choosing to tell “true” stories; others simply imagine situations and, in retrospect, might see familiar faces. Where do you think you stand as a writer within this spectrum?

I try to write what I know without writing what ONLY I know.  You know?

As the traditional major-label structure that dominated music for the past hundred years continues to crumble, and a truly independent approach is being seen as the better approach by some artists, I have to ask: How you you feel about the increasingly-widespread DIY movement, and where do you think You Won’t should stand? Why?

I suppose we are DIY in most respects.  We recorded our album completely independently and now we’re cramming our gear into a Subaru and sleeping on floors and couches.  We are also fortunate at this point to have some great people helping us get our stuff out there.  I think our music is fundamentally too pop-oriented to thrive in the DIY venue culture.  Those places can be really welcoming and fun to play.  They can also be maddeningly disorganized. Ultimately I think we are better suited to work within the system to subvert it rather than secede and establish our own set of rules.

Despite poetry (sadly) becoming less and less popular with every passing generation, this sentiment (fortunately) has never really made it’s way into music. Do you think that poetry is aided by melody and musical backing? Do you think that songwriters deserve to be praised as poets and, eventually, approached academically in the same way? (In other words, is there any difference between Dylan Thomas and Bob Dylan, between Charles Bukowski and Tom Waits?)

I think music often suffers when put into an academic context because so much of its power exists on a very visceral, purely emotional level.  However, it can be really interesting to delve into the history and political context surrounding a given work.  I don’t know what the best approach is here.

As a continuation of the last question, do you see yourself more prominently as a writer, or as a musician?  
I see myself primarily as a performer.

Do you think that art is more powerful to the creator as its being inspired, constructed, and presented, or rather is it more powerful to the audience as its being received, interpreted and, possibly, stirring inspiration within them?
Totally depends on the context.

Bonus Round:

Any artists to recommend?

Bombadil, Lucius, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, Pearl & The Beard, Dolfish, The Suitcase Junket, Julia Read

Being that things can exist permanently on the internet, is their any sentiment about art/music that you’d like to notify your future-self of, so that someday you can look back on this and be reminded of what it was like earlier in your career?  

Actually, I would like to ask my future self a question- Hey Future Self, how’s that whole artist thing workin’ out for ya?  Does it just feel like any old job now?  I’m worried about you - I hear that’s what happened to the Ramones.  Do me a favor and stop using pictures of me to attract attention on your holographic life-size online dating profile.

Checking up on The Dodo’s Meric Long (sort of)

The Dodos

I last talked to Meric Long (of the Dodos) as they were preparing to return to the studio, eventually to release No Color. So, it was cool to see Meric conducting an “IAmA” open interview on Reddit the other day. I asked a bunch of questions, only some got answered. Here they are, as is, [sic].

Also, the above photo was shot with a Superheadz Black Slim Devil and no flash. It was the only shot on a full roll of interview portraits and live shots to come out.

ZSJ: Have you guys been working on new material? Any chance of another LP (or even just an EP) this year?

ML: Were always working.

ZSJ: What was the last truly great album you bought?

ML: Mylo Xyloto by Coldplay, to be honest.

ZSJ: Why did you pick the name Dodo Bird in the first place?

ML: Because were awesome!

ZSJ: I interviewed you several months after Time To Die came out and asked what you wanted to do with the next record. Your response was that “the goal is the same, we just want to make the heaviest acoustic record possible.” Do you think you accomplished that on No Color? Why?

ML: I think we did accomplish that, companions was the most acoustic, but every song had it’s large acoustic in it.

Now, go read the original (legitamte) interview.

Seven (7) Questions With Little Kid

I’m really excited to welcome London, Ontario’s Little Kid to the Red Flags Family. This is a great interview with a seriously talented up-and-comer. I’m also pretty honored to admit that this is his very first interview. That’s all going to change pretty quickly though, so enjoy his music peacefully before the rest of the world finds out.

1.What inspired you to start this project? What inspired the name?

I played in a lot of bands in high school, but they were mostly just stupid bands with goofy concepts that my friends and I thought were funny. It was a lot of fun, but people would always make comments along the lines of “You guys have a lot of talent - why not make music you actually like?” They were obviously right, but it was pretty difficult for me to actually start releasing songs like these - really personal ones - because I was so used to just making music my friends and I could laugh at. “Train” was the first song I recorded as Little Kid, in the summer of 2009. I showed a couple people more-or-less right away, but it took a few months until I was confident enough to show everyone else. The reception was very positive, though, so I think I felt encouraged to try to write a few more songs in the same vein.

I often use this project as something of an outlet for my thoughts on God, faith, religion, spirituality - things that have always been quite important to me but aren’t always all that easy to discuss. I was wrestling with some pretty serious doubts during the year or so that I spent recording the bulk of this album, and writing these songs was actually quite important for me, in terms of both assessing what I do and don’t believe, and trying to forge some sort of coherent identity / belief system out of that. I’m far from arriving at any definite conclusions, but I think this project has helped me find some peace in the process.

As for the name, I’m not sure exactly how I came up with it. I just said it one day, and liked the sound of it. I wish there was a better story behind it…

2.Walk me through your songwriting process. Which element comes first? Last?

Most of the songs on Logic Songs started out as an idea or concept that I wanted to address in a song. Usually it would be a mindset I’ve noticed in myself or others that I would try to take on and then write a song from that perspective. So most of my songs can’t really be taken literally - sometimes I’m saying the opposite of what I actually believe. I would kinda sit on these ideas for a few months, every once in a while coming with a bit of the lyrics in my head, maybe writing some words down, thinking about the songs every once in a while. All the while, I’d be playing guitar or piano pretty much every day, and holding onto melodies or progressions that I liked. Then one day, I’d find something that seemed to work, I’d match it with one of the lyrical concepts, and I’d just sit down and write the whole song in a couple minutes. It had been baking in my head for so long, I guess, that it was just ready to come out.

As for the arrangements, they would more-or-less be made up as I recorded. I usually had a main guitar part, which I would record, usually while singing, on one track, and then use the other three tracks to fill in the sound a bit - sometimes some piano, maybe some organ - whatever was available and seemed to suit the song. The field recordings were something I used to do once in a while, as a hobby, even before I started recording these songs… If the song seemed like it needed something more, I’d try to find a recording that fit it. As much as I like the sound of them, I don’t think I’ll be including so many field recordings in my albums from now on - in hindsight, they seem to make Logic Songs drag on a little bit.

3.Did you imagine Logic Songs as a whole, or are they more often a collection of songs written separately?

Somewhere in between. The songs came somewhat sporadically at first, but by the time I had a few written, I guess I started figuring out what I wanted to say with this album, and it got easier and easier to write new songs. So they all work together pretty well, I think, both lyrically and musically, but it’s sometimes pretty evident that they were recorded in separate bursts - the recording quality is all over the place. I’m a huge “album person” - I pretty much only listen to full albums, very rarely individual songs, and almost never on shuffle - so I put a lot of thought into what songs I chose to include and the order I placed them in. And, when I listen back to the album, I think its flow and pace are two of its greatest strengths.

4. Do you record/produce the album alone, or do you have some support? If so, who, and in what capacity?

This was very much a solo effort… Everything you hear on the album was played, sung, recorded by me. I had some help, though, in that I borrowed a lot of equipment and instruments from my friends and roommates. To this day, I still don’t own my own a microphone, and I only recently bought a classical guitar for myself - the classical you hear on almost every song on the album belongs to my friend Jessiah, who I lived with last year. So, although I made this album independently, it really could not have happened without the generosity of my friends.

5.Looking forward, what do you see for this project? Touring? Recording? 

I’ve been slowly writing new songs for my next record. I did a short EP a couple months ago to maintain momentum, but it’s been a slow process. I had a lot to say on the last album, and having said it all, I’m having a hard time finding new things to write about. I think I’ll always write about God/religion in some capacity, but I’m slowly forming a new perspective to write from, I guess. Just trying to be careful not to be stuck in a lyrical rut.

Otherwise, I’m planning on moving to Toronto in May, so that should mean more shows and hopefully more people to play for that haven’t heard my music yet. I’ve been playing shows with my friends and their various bands/projects every couple months here in London but it’s mostly just the same friends who come out to see us (which I really do appreciate, obviously, but it’s always good to have some new ears to listen).

Also, I’ve been playing in a band with two of my friends who also make music on their own - we kinda swap instruments every song and play a few songs by all three of us. We’re hoping to get some recording time in with a friend in a music recording program at college this month… If they turn out well, we’re gonna try to get some money together and put out a 3-song 7-inch later this year (which will fulfill something of a lifelong dream for all of us). 

6. Please tell me a little about the cassette version. Self-released? Original cover art?

I put a lot of work into making these cassettes and their packaging look as bad-ass as possible. The covers are cut from a couple of books I bought second hand at The Salvation Army in Sarnia, Ontario. They have a sort of “silent auction” type thing where you can write down how much you would pay for the items they have on display, so I bid $12 for these two books along with a couple of others, and won. They have really sweet, grainy old photos of trains, mountains, lakes… Very lovely stuff. Wasn’t sure what I’d do with them at the time, but they ended up being pretty useful. I cut all the covers myself, using an exacto-knife and a ruler, and then used a typewriter to type the artist and album name on some white stickers that I placed on each one.

To make the cassettes themselves look pretty, I got a custom stamp made at Staples and bought some crazy super-permanent ink to stamp each cassette. I’ve bought tapes from little labels and bands over the years, and I’ve found that the labels on the cassettes are always a little cheesy looking, and take away from the whole package - I did my best to avoid that, and I think they turned out looking pretty excellent. The inserts were printed at Kinko’s on some really nice looking, recycled chipboard-type paper - I stole the red trim from an old book of John Donne poetry, and just put my own text inside. Altogether, I’m really happy how the cassettes turned out. Hoping to have a new batch ready by the end of this month, or early the next.

7. Do you think that music (or art in general) is more powerful to the artist as its being created and performed, or to the audience as its being received and interpreted?

A tricky question, for sure. I think a lot of music’s power lies in the communication that takes place between the musician and the listener. Listening to music can seem like a very solitary experience, but when you think about it, you’re basically involved in a sort of (one-way) communication every time you listen to a song - someone recorded this music, maybe years ago, and now you’re listening back to what they had to say. It’s crazy. But it is still an individual experience, in that the song might mean something different to every person who hears it. Sometimes, I even find that my interpretation of the meanings of my own songs can seem to change from day to day.

That being said, I think any music you put out there should be something you would have made even if no one else would ever hear it - it should be able to exist independently of that interaction. But, I don’t view the act of making music a particularly powerful experience - it just isn’t a word I would use to describe it - therapeutic, perhaps, and definitely something very meaningful and heartfelt, but not necessarily powerful, at least from my perspective. I find listening to music by bands and artists that I love to be a much more powerful experience than writing or playing my own songs, and I’m always thrilled to hear from people who are connecting with my music on that level. I don’t know if I’ve even answered the question at this point - sorry if I’ve strayed too far - but there are some of my thoughts on music.

Bonus Request: any new bands/artists to recommend?

I’ve been pretty bad at keeping up with new music this year, unfortunately, but there are a few 2011 albums that I’ve really come to love. David Bazan’s Strange Negotiations and TW Walsh’s Songs of Pain and Leisure come most readily to mind, and Bon Iver’s new album is pretty beautiful, too. Lately, I’ve just been revisiting some of my old favourites - been really loving Radiohead, Deerhunter, and Headphones, especially. I’d also like to recommend checking out Wooly Mammoth and Soft Water on Bandcamp - those are the two guys I’ve been playing in a band with, and they are seriously great songwriters.

Please go support this kid by checking out his music on Bandcamp.

Deer Tick: Tornado of Hate (& Interview)

In anticipation of their new album, Divine Providence, John McCauley and the guys created a full-length hip-hop album and leaked it as the real thing. Seriously. It’s pretty fucking crazy. Here, listen for yourself:


PLUS: John McCauley did an hour-long live “chat” (message board style) on reddit.com today. I asked as many questions as I could, some general journalistic-type, some personal or curious…Not everything was answered, and when it was, not always answered seriously or fully. Regardless, here’s what I got back:

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