2014 Artist Survey: Syd Arthur

Raven Bush on 2014's Best Albums, U2's Free Album, and the Question He's Tired of Answering

Jan 27, 2015 Web Exclusive
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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, Ought, Owen Pallett, The Rosebuds, 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 Raven Bush of Syd Arthur.

Top 10 Albums of 2014

1. Aphex Twin: Syro-Richard D. James is such a special artist, a law unto himself. There is no one quite like him. A lot of my mates don't really feel the new album, and I can understand that it's not groundbreaking in the same way his other releases have been. Nonetheless, it has got some bangers and some ridiculously good mixes on there. It's also probably his most accessible record as a whole. Check out the recent interview for a serious gear trip, some nice anecdotes too. Great for when you are driving too.

2. Goat: Commune-We watched these guys with our publicist at the Bonnaroo festival. It was early afternoon, which I feel can sometimes make it harder to create a vibe when performing/watching music. When it's dark, people can zone into a performance-especially if there is production, it sucks you in with more force. However, these guys killed it! It was a shamanic experience. You should see them live.

3. Foxygen: ...And Star Power-This record is great. I love the variety of the sounds throughout, some great tunes on there. It makes me think of Todd Rundgren and The Velvet Underground, which is never a bad thing.

4. Led Zeppelin: Remasters-Well, what is there left to say? These new mixes sound mega.

5. Beck: Morning Phase-This is such a beautiful album. It's got a slow and dreamy pace throughout. It's very acoustic and one I can listen to over and over. Beautiful string arrangements as well, courtesy of David Campbell, who happens to be his dad.

6. Damon Albarn: Everyday Robots-I can't believe this is his first solo record.

7. Little Dragon: Nabuma Rubberband-Bombastic dance music with interesting production. We've really enjoyed seeing these guys at festivals throughout the year.

8. Caribou: Our Love-This is like a feel good Ibiza record, but without all the extra cheese. Very easy to listen to whilst pottering around.

9. Flying Lotus: You're Dead!-Steven Ellison is one of the most interesting artists out there. The fact he is heading such a cool label like Brainfeeder whilst making the music that he does. He's an all-encompassing being. His new record is basically a jazz fusion album, but it's also a trip about death, which is something we should all think about a load more.

10. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger: Midnight Sun-We toured with these lot for a month across America this year, had such a blast. This record is really great, really psych. Anyone who can get an augmented topline to the verse of their tune has my ears (see "Xanadu").

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

Playing a couple of shows with Pixies on the west coast, Big Sur in particular. A sublime part of the world. They were both small, intimate shows, so the atmosphere was immense.

What was the low point of 2014 for you? 

Our drummer hurting his ears.

What are your hopes and plans for 2015?

Make a new record. We're really excited about this one. You know, we feel like we have learned a lot over this past year. We are going to make the shows more of an immersive experience too. Try and get everything as visceral as we can.

U2's new album was downloaded for free into millions of users' iTunes accounts without their permission. Was it a wonderful gift to music fans or an invasive action that devalues music? Also, which artist, other than you, deserves to have their album automatically downloaded to half a billion people more than U2?

I think invasion of privacy is never a good thing. This is just an example of how everyone being connected to the same big network can be used to force products onto people. It happens all the time with advertising campaigns, both in the real world and online. When there is a band doing it, people are more aware that something's not right, but ultimately it's the same. I don't know if it devalues music? I guess maybe you are equating it to music being digital, and therefore loses value that way because it can be just some information you are selling, rather than a physical thing containing the music. We are in a transitional phase in terms of the medium music is given out on. I buy my music on vinyl, but also listen to Spotify lots. But then the flip side is the way you can access any type of music you want. It's at your fingertips, its totally incredible to have that freedom. With power comes responsibility. Unfortunately it gets abused from time to time. Hermeto Pascoal [deserves to have his album downloaded].

Did you take part in the ice bucket challenge? If not, why not? Grimes declined due to animal testing issues, was the grief she got for that deserved?

I think charity is very important. We played a Mencap gig at the Union Chapel recently and it always feels different doing those kinds of shows. A reason outside of music for playing is always powerful. As with Grimes, I think you shouldn't get so hung up about when people go against the grain. Sounds like she was just sticking to her beliefs. Good on her, I'd say. She was still donating to a good cause.

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

Anything that helps stop racism or raise awareness is extremely important. Let's hope there is a positive outcome.

What's your craziest theory for what happened to the missing Malaysian Air flight?

They flew through the portal between life and death. First time physical matter actually managed to cross over as well. The reason their phones were still ringing for a few days after the flight went missing was because there was a window where the afterlife and the present life could have communicated. Unfortunately, the reception was shit.

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?

I think the same amount of respect that any human should have for one another. Every time I have seen an artist get pissed off on stage and throw their toys out of the pram, it's a joke. I feel embarrassed for them. But then bad programming and festival layout can also be to blame. No excuses, though. Gotta make the best from what you have.

"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? 

"What's Your Secret" turns into "Don't Give Me That Leaflet (No Spam Rework)."

"Don't give me that leaflet/or I'll poke you in the eye/I don't want a subscription/Just close the door or die." Something not quite funny enough, like that.

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

People are always quite nice about it. Well, to my face, at least! Music should be personal, so I don't really pay much attention to what people think.

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

Whenever someone says our music has helped them though a tough emotional time. That means so much to me.

What's the topic no one asks you about in interviews that you wish they would? Conversely, if you could get journalists to stop asking you one question, which would it be?

Which one is Syd? Always get asked that, where is the name from, etc. To be honest, any questions that are not only superficial and repetitive are good. A bit like this interview.

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 really don't know how to answer that question, I don't have anyone in my life like that-am I supposed to?

www.sydarthur.co.uk

 



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