2014 Artist Survey: Wye Oak

Jenn Wasner on Why She Won't Rank Music, Her Teenaged Celebrity Crush, Her Worst Haircut, and the Questions She's Tired of Answering

Feb 13, 2015 Issue #52 - January/February 2015 - St. Vincent Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Bookmark and Share


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, Zola Jesus, and others.

Here are some answers from Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak.

[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

I hate to be a drag right out of the gate, but gosh, do I take issue with trying to rank music in this way. It's just not the way that my brain works in regards to absorbing and relating to the world around me. Typically I try to discover things more organically by paying attention when I go to shows and listening to the records my friends make-so for this exercise you'd end up with what is basically a list of my friends that make music, which feels sort of icky. Actually, you know what? I'm not even sure that I've listened to 10 records that were released this year, total. Not that I'm bragging-sometimes I wish I was better at "keeping up" with things-but I find that my sanity depends on focusing my efforts and being more connected with the community in my immediate vicinity.

While we're at it, here's a fun essay by my friend Drew about this very topic:

http://thequietus.com/articles/16052-drew-daniel-matmos-soft-pink-truth-anti-favourite-albums-essay?page=1

He's smarter than me and explains this much better than I could.

And although I won't bother to "rank" them (gross), here are some artists who have released music (in any format) this year that Andy [Stack] or I have listened to and enjoyed:

tUnE-yArDs, Caribou, Future Islands, Sylvan Esso, Ed Schrader's Music Beat, Robyn/Royksopp, Dustin Wong and Takako Minekawa, Battle Trance, Horse Lords, WUME, The Soft Pink Truth, The Mole Suit Choir, Dawn of Midi, Deerhoof, Beyoncé...

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?

Honestly, I couldn't be less interested in what U2 decided to do with their new record. I'm sure a lot of U2 fans were glad to have the record and those who felt violated by the act did their part as well by stoking the flames of Internet outrage. Either way, it was an obvious publicity scheme-and clearly a very successful one, seeing as here we are, still talking about it.

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?

Speaking for myself, I try to go through life treating everyone I meet with kindness and respect. But hey, sometimes people are dicks. And sometimes those people also happen to make good art. This is nothing new. What's different now, it seems to me, is the urgency with which what was once considered the "underground" now operates as a mirror image of the mainstream media circus. Honestly, I find the whole process exhausting and tedious. If public figures' absurd, inflammatory statements are rewarded with massive amounts of attention and discourse, who are we to blame them (or even act surprised) when they continue to make them?

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

I have moments when I'm down on myself, just like anyone does. But I try not to place too much stock in the opinions of those who don't like our music. It's not for everyone; nothing is. I spent many years wishing I could please everyone and feeling deeply dissatisfied. Making music that I love and accepting the fact that some people will inevitably dislike it-that's the closest thing to peace I've found with the process. With that said, our vocals probably were too quiet on those first couple records.

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?

Believe it or not, I didn't start making music out of spite! That's not really my style. I try to approach the act of creation with love and humility. It feels best when I make something I'm proud of, and it's a nice bonus if my family and friends enjoy it, too. The rest is just useless, ego-driven clutter.

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?

It would be great to answer more insightful questions about my songs/our arrangements/studio techniques, rather than tedious biographical minutiae. If I ever have an interview that doesn't start with "how did you guys meet/start playing music together" and "where did you get your band name," I'm super grateful.

Which musician or celebrity did you most have a crush on as a child or teenager?

David Duchovny.

What was your first concert experience like (who did you see and who did you go with).

I saw *NSYNC. It was my friend's 12th birthday party.

What has most surprised you about getting to know your parents as an adult?

I would like to answer this, but I'm afraid that I would embarrass my parents.

Which subject do you wish you paid more attention to in school?

I was a nerd. I paid attention to everything. But I only really worked hard at things that came easily to me. That's a piece of my character that I'm less than proud of.

What was your most disastrous haircut experience?

When I was a kid, I had a straight-up mullet. My mom let my cousin cut my hair and somehow it ended up full-on business in the front, party in the back-style. No idea how a haircut managed to go so disastrously, but the pictures are hilarious.

www.wyeoakmusic.com

 

 



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