2015 Artist Survey: Shearwater | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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2015 Artist Survey: Shearwater

Jonathan Meiburg on 2015's Best Animals, Streaming Music, Being Fired, and Star Wars

Jan 15, 2016 Artist Surveys 2015 Photography by Sarah Cass Bookmark and Share

For Under the Radar’s 13th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2015. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2015 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

Check out our upcoming Best of 2015 print and digital issues for answers from Arcade Fire’s Will Butler, Julien Baker, Blanck Mass, CHVRCHES, Dan Deacon, The Dears, Dutch Uncles, EL VY, Everything Everything, Father John Misty, Field Music, The Flaming Lips, How to Dress Well, Sondre Lerche, Low, Luna, Mew, NZCA Lines, Cullen Omori, Natalie Prass, Small Black, Surfer Blood, Tamaryn, Telekinesis, Vampire Weekend’s Chris Baio, The Walkmen, Youth Lagoon, and others.

Here are some answers from Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater. Shearwater’s latest album, Jet Plane and Oxbow, is due out next Friday (January 22) via Sub Pop.

Top 10 Animals of 2015

After we finished our new record, I spent most of 2015 doing book research in places where indie-rock isn’t a thingso I felt really disconnected from it this year. But I did meet a bunch of animals that I’d never seen before. Here are a few:

1. World’s largest spider, the Goliath Bird-EaterTruly an impressive, humbling presence.
2. Giant OtterEating the head of a peacock bass like it was a burrito. Squealing with delight.
3. PumaSecure in the knowledge that it could fuck me up.
4. TapirStrangely beautiful and odd, a sort of donkey-elephant-pig. Like a real-life Eeyore.
5. Harpy EagleThose deep, dark eyes don’t miss anything.
6. Brahminy KiteTheir graceful, loping, effortless flight implies endless patience.
7. Bactrian CamelIn a traffic jam, next to trucks and minibikes.
8. Electric EelAs my companion said: “When he release the power, you see the little fish jump!”
9. Vampire Fish (Paiara)A very beautiful animal, except for its head, which haunts my dreams.
10. ArapaimaLargest scalefish on the planet. Keeping it real since the cretaceous period.

What was the highlight of 2015, for either you personally or for the band?

Meeting a jaguar in the forest.

What was the low point?

Circling the Persian Gulf for an hour in a giant plane while it dumped its fuel for an emergency landing.

What are your hopes and plans for 2016?

Making it out alive.

With the launch of TIDAL and Apple Music in 2015, there are more streaming music options, but the same issues of adequate artist compensation persist. What are your current thoughts on streaming and which service would you most like to have your music on?

I think the economic model of sucking all the money in the world into stagnant, festering pools at the top is a really bad idea.

What are your thoughts on Friday being the new global release day for albums? Is it helping or hurting album sales?

Sorry, what?

Mainstream pop music is increasingly embraced by indie rock musicians and listeners, as well as serious music critics. At this point, do you draw any distinctions between Top 40 pop and indie rock/pop? Are you comfortable with this shift?

What I see and hear in that shift is fear. “Indie” musicians are mostly trying to figure out how to cling to the underbelly of the overclass as it lifts off from the rest of the planet.

What are your thoughts on how the 2016 U.S. Presidential election is shaping up?

It’s good to force the American id out of the attic and into the open now and again. It lets us see who we really are.

Ryan Adams covered Taylor Swift’s 1989 (and then Father John Misty covered Adams covering Swift). If you were to cover another artist’s album in its entirety, which would you pick and why?

I think we’re actually going to do this on our upcoming tour, though maybe not all at once. Keeping it a surprise for now. It’s an album from about 40 years ago.

Have you ever been fired from a job (be it a day job or musical one)? Why were you fired?

Yeah. I was fired from a temp agency for quitting a call center job. The job was taking forced-call orders from Walmarts around the country for ugly little custom necklaces. I didn’t leave because I didn’t like the job, though; I left because a friend found me a way better job doing fuck-all for a dot-com bubble companyif I could start that day. The dot-com job was hilarious. The company had four or five vice presidents, no employees, and no ideas. It folded in about four months, and the VPs all left with golden parachutes and went back to Apple, or wherever it was they came from. I made the first Shearwater record with money from that job.

What’s your earliest music-related childhood memory?

A record of E. Powers Biggs playing Bach on the organ, while I played along on wooden spoons, pots, and pans.

What outrageous request would you most like to put in your tour rider as a joke?

“Please treat the band like guests in your home.”

What’s the most disastrous date you’ve ever been on?

Voting Nader in the 2000 election.

Which Star Wars character are you most like?

Mon Mothma.

Where do you see yourself in five beers?

A coma. Antidepressants make me a really cheap drunk.

FFS (Franz Ferdinand + Sparks) proved that collaborations can work. What other two bands would you like to see unite as one new entity?

BEAK> and DakhaBrakha.

Which moment from your past most haunts you?


Taylor Swift has been celebrated by indie rock fans and mainstream pop fans alike. Is she truly this generation’s pop genius or is she a talented, if overrated, songwriter?


If your house were on fire, what would you grab as you were running out?

Probably the little potted aloe next to the record player.

Which actor or actress would you most love to have in one of your music videos?

Mark Rylance.

What’s been your best ever Halloween costume? What were you for Halloween this year?

Zorak! But this year I went as a recluse.

What song will most unite or amp up the tour bus or van (à la “Tiny Dancer” in Almost Famous)? Which song do you love that the rest of the band or crew refuse to let you put on?

“Newly-Weds Song” by Jim Pepper; it’s one of the greatest rock songs. As for divisive stuffThor introduced me to Jon Wayne’s second album, which I love without reservation, but it drives everyone else bananas.

With Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Gilmore Girls, Full House, and other classic shows returning, what other TV show would you like to see come back with its original cast?


What’s the biggest goal for your life that you have yet to achieve?

Realizing the folly of achievement.



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THHM Michael Jackson
January 15th 2016

Shearwater - Quiet Americans has a 70s sound to it. I like it. It reminds me of when I was a kid cruising down the highway relaxed waiting to get to the lake. I miss those days. The times when things were much easier. That was the times when I didn’t have to worry about bills and where my life was headed. It was the days when life meant so much more than responsibility only.

January 19th 2016

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