2014 Artist Survey: Ought

Matt May on Mark Kozelek, "Weird Al," 2014's Best Albums, and the Piano Teacher Who Most Impacted Him

Feb 05, 2015 Issue #52 - January/February 2015 - St. Vincent
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For Under the Radar's 12th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2014. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2014 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

Check out our Best of 2014 print and digital issues for answers from alt-J, Camera Obscura, Chromeo, The Dears, Death From Above 1979, Deerhoof, The Drums, The Flaming Lips, Glass Animals, Hookworms, Sondre Lerche, of Montreal, Owen Pallett, The Rosebuds, Still Corners, Strand of Oaks, Teleman, Sharon Van Etten, The War on Drugs, Warpaint, Woman's Hour, Wye Oak, Zola Jesus, and others.

Here are some answers from Matt May of Ought.

[A shorter version of this interview ran in Issue 52, the Best of 2014 and January/February 2015 Issue, which is still on newsstands. This is the full version of the interview.] 

Top 10 Albums of 2014


Year-end list: a collection of our 10 favorites of the year, individually and collectively.

1. Angel Olsen: Burn Your Fire For No Witness
2. Dean Blunt: Black Metal
3. FKA twigs: LP1
4. Grouper: Ruins
5. Le fruit vert: Passiflore
6. Lungbutter: Extractor
7. Myriam Gendron: Not So Deep as a Well
8. Nine of Swords: I can't stand my own face
9. Objekt: Flatland
10. The Past: Airless

What was the highlight of 2014 for either you personally or for the band?

My personal highlight was getting to play at, and attend, this year's SappyFest, which goes down in Sackville, New Brunswick every summer. Everyone who goes talks abo what a great time it is and how you get to see all your friends in Canada who don't live in the same city as you anymore, and that's exactly what it is. The highlight of the highlight was having Josée of The Mouthbreathers, Yellowteeth, etc. play guitar with us during our set. Oh, and also getting to see The Mouthbreathers play in "the shed"!

What was the low point of 2014 for you?

Having several friends move away from Montréal-though I'm so f'n proud of them!

What are your hopes and plans for 2015?

To basically continue doing what we're doing and getting to play with rad bands and meet rad people. Also hoping to see every show my friends play.

The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri opened up a new national dialogue on police shootings and racism in America. Do you think anything will actually change because of it?

I hope so. If it does, change will come from the communities that are directly affected by the structural racist violence perpetrated against communities of color by the police, with allies taking a supportive, not leading, role.

Mark Kozelek was criticized in 2014 for insulting his audience (calling them "hillbillies" for talking during his set) and for making fun of The War on Drugs when their sound bled over to the stage he was playing. What responsibility do performers have to be respectful of their audiences and fellow bands?

Meredith Graves [of Perfect Pussy] said it best in her piece about it on Pitchfork. The responsibility to be considerate and aware of how my actions affect others is part of just being a person, it is by no means exclusive to being a performer.

"Weird Al" Yankovic was back in a big way this year. If he were to lampoon any one of your songs, which one would you want it to be? What would the "Weird Al" version's lyrics be about? 

We kind of do this already for fun in the van or during sound check. "Today" is an easy one because of how quotidian it is. 

Which common criticism of your music do you most agree with?

Glenys from Montréal is one of our toughest-yet most insightful-critics and she always says: "Where are the songs about dogs? Show me them!"

What's the most uplifting or heartwarming fan interaction you've ever had?

Getting to talk and hang out with people at shows is always really nice. I think one thing that always gets me is when people tell me how far they've driven, and sometimes it's several hours-which is so wild and heartwarming! Also, according to friends, apparently people sometimes make out during our set, which is wonderful.

Who from your youth (such as a former bully, an unrequited love) do you most hope pays attention to the fact that you're now a successful musician?

I hope my piano teacher Kris hears the music-or at least knows it exists-because she was a huge motivating force in my developing confidence in my musicianship and voice as a musician, and in ending up in Montréal. I hope she's proud-even if I use the sustain pedal in a way she might scorn!

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