2015 Artist Survey: Small Black | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, May 17th, 2024  

2015 Artist Survey: Small Black

Josh Kolenik on Justin Bieber, Indie vs. Mainstream Pop, Bernie Sanders, and Childhood Memories

Feb 09, 2016 Issue # 56 - Best of 2015 - Father John Misty and Wolf Alice Photography by Alexandra Gavillet 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 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, Surfer Blood, Tamaryn, Telekinesis, Vampire Weekend’s Chris Baio, The Walkmen, Youth Lagoon, and others.

Here are some answers from Josh Kolenik of Small Black. Small Black’s latest album, Best Blues, was released last fall by Jagjaguwar. A shorter version of this interview ran in the Best of 2015 print issue, which is still on newsstands now. This is the full unedited version of the interview.

Top 10 Albums of 2015

I’m not going to put them in order, but here are a few albums I really liked this year.

Mount Eerie: Sauna

Deerhunter: Fading Frontier

Konig: Puberty

Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly

HEALTH: Death Magic

PC Worship: Basement Hysteria

Jessica Pratt: On Your Own Love Again

Seoul: I Become a Shade

David Crosby: CROZ

Neon Indian: VEGA INTL. Night School

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

High point was mixing and finishing this record, Best Blues, our best. Low point was the Internet taking a Justin Bieber record release seriously.

What are your hopes and plans for 2016?

The same as they are every year: to make another song, play it for our friends, stay alive, have one more latte, etc.

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?

At least the sound quality is pretty good. I wish labels could work out better deals for artists, but these are decisions that seem to be made from on high. But there is no turning back. This is how people want to listen to and consume music.

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

I have no idea. Seems like it gives review sites a couple extra days to slam your album before it comes out.

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

It’s so, so boring. As someone who loved/loves radio rap, there was a point in the 2008-2010 area where the production ideas were so crazy that it was much more interesting than budget-less indie recordings. So I get the instinct. But this music is generally soulless, vapid clickbait that sites are just promoting so they get more hits/ad money. I’m just over the tone of radio pop and the indie artists who pull from them. It’s not cute anymore. It is Walmart-Toyota Camry-Carl’s Jr.-core.

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

Bern, baby, Bern! Screw the skeptics. I don’t see why he can’t win. We have come a long way socially from my childhood and I think we can keep the USA moving toward general human decency.

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?

Van Morrison, Astral Weeksjust to see how brutally I would fail at trying to hit those notes and riffs. You know they did that album in three days?

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

I used to be an archivist for Major League Baseball’s video department. One day they brought me in and told me I was doing a mediocre job logging home runs, so I quit, took my tax return and moved to Portland for a few months, and Small Black happened.

What’s your earliest music-related childhood memory?

My first favorite song was “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson. I had a 45 with it on there and I’d dance around to it with my sister. Pretty much set up a blueprint for my life.

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

A Dashboard Confessional autographed bag of pita chips (full band) with a bowl of hummus shaped liked the guitar player from Mars Volta’s hair.

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

I took a really conservative girl to go see the Billy Bob [Thornton]-Halle Barry flick Monsters Ball in Boston, not knowing it’s got some of the rawest sex scenes I can remember in a movie. Needless to say, it was the first and only date.

Which Star Wars character are you most like?

I want to say Boba Fett and that all I want to do is look cool, not say shit to anybody, and play by my own rules, but that is the ideal and not the actual. So maybe R2-D2, he’s quite a wiseass and he’s generally reliable.

Where do you see yourself in five beers?

Watching Gene Clark videos on YouTube ‘till I cry.



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