interview :: the lonelyhearts


Originally from San Francisco, CA, The Lonelyhearts are Andre Perry and John Lindenbaum. Together they create soft acoustic rock that gently brings to mind the tranquil sensations of how a Sunday morning should feel and sound. Although Andre now lives in Iowa City, IA and John remains in the Bay area, throughout the distance of making music from far away, they are still as close and complete in creating as ever. Recently, The Lonelyhearts were kind enough to contribute to MIA‘s 2008 interview and questionnaire series project. Please enjoy their music and answers below!

New Virginia
[Disaster Footage at Night, 2008]

MIA: Musically, how did the band form, what past experiences do you carry with you?

ANDRE: We formed as a side project when we were playing in other San Francisco bands. The band name (from a Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts) and the original sound were inspired by our years as part of the urban landscape. We also listened to a lot of Grandaddy and older classic rock stuff like Neil Young. Eventually, we both moved away from San Francisco to more provincial towns (John went to El Cerrito, east of SF / I moved to Iowa City). We still carry our time in San Francisco with us, though – It certainly shaped our musical aesthetic. In those years, SF featured elements of darkwave synth-rock and alt-country anachronism that we probably internalized. Also, the joy//despair of being young and free making music in the city never really leaves you.

MIA: Describe the feeling of living and making music in your city, feel free to share a memory or a certain place that makes you feel like home.

JOHN: There are several cities that could be considered “our city” at this point. I will always think of the practice space building in Balboa Park where he had band practice for years. It was on the edge of San Francisco — there wasn’t anything hip out there. Just real families living in real houses. It was almost desolate. But nowadays, when I see people getting off the Balboa BART stop with guitars, I get nostalgic for 2am load-ins on work nights.

ANDRE: Making music in San Francisco was always cool, especially when I was really young. It was always inspiring, walking around that city — and yeah, it’s a real walking city — with hoodie up around my ears, dodging the wind and fog, listening to rough tracks of songs on my mp3 player, moving from one neighborhood to the next, drinking beer, soaking it all in. I really felt — and yeah, I know it’s cliched — that anything could happen. It was life in the city and it all crept into the music. Plus there was a big scene. Everyone’s in a band in San Francisco whether they’re a lawyer or a bartender by trade. Iowa City’s a bit different. Iowa City is the writers’ city. People read books here and talk about art. Music is big too but the scene is much more art-rock, noise, experimental pop, or deep alt. country. These are all things that I like but things are just more conceptual out here. So much more internal. You see someone at the coffee shop and they’re all pent up, all tightened up, because they’re working on their “big novel” or trying to figure out how they can redefine the avant garde by playing a show with a collection of field recordings they did. All of this is fine and good and cool, but just different from San Francisco. Even the art kids, the noise kids seemed a bit different in San Francisco. Geography changes things.

MIA: Do you enjoy to perform live? How does the band like to get ready and is there a favorite song that you like to play for your audience?

JOHN: Our 2008 tour season already happened, but yes, we enjoy performing live quite a bit. Our live show is just the two of us (vocals, guitar, keyboard, the occasional tambourine) so it gives the songs a chance to be more intimate and the lyrics a chance to be heard. We can also put more energy into a live performance than a multi-tracked bedroom studio creation. To get ready for a live show, I generally tune my 12-string guitar several times and Andre disappears to get a beer or glass of water.

ANDRE: Since we live so far away from each other we usually don’t practice much until it’s time to tour. I’ll fly to California or John will come to the Midwest. We’ll practice for a day or two and then hit the road. Our favorite song to perform live could be “Ntozake Nelson” off of our first full-length album. It has a lot of words and energy and a fairly convoluted narrative arc, and at this point we’ve played it enough that people will sing along. We also dig writing new stuff on tour and playing it at shows.

MIA: What has been the most impacting compliment, or criticism, your band has ever received?

JOHN: Lots of people ask us to try out a live drummer. So far we haven’t because that’s just one more person to deal with and the two of us might just be enough. Perhaps the most impacting compliment has been “you don’t sound like you live in different places,” which feels nice because sometimes we won’t play together for like six months.

MIA: Within your songwriting, is there some type of element that has brought about a certain mood in yr writing, making you feel more/less different than when you started? How long has the recording process taken to complete your album and to finally believe that it’s ready?

JOHN: Our lyrics were once inspired by events in our lives, and now are almost entirely fictional. As far as the sonic textures on this record, it’s bigger than the previous album. For better or worse, there are crescendos and breakdowns and much more of a sense of dynamics than our first effort. The recording process took about as long as Chinese Democracy. We wrote some of the songs for Disaster Footage At Night in 2005, but the tracking, mixing, mastering etc. took a while. This is what happens when you live so far apart! We’re looking for new ways to make the process faster on our next album.

ANDRE: The lyrics and ideas were really fictional for awhile, especially the first album but I think they’re becoming more nonfiction as we go. I guess I should disclose that I am a writer and my particular focus is the literary essay. Jeez, that sounds pretentious. Anyway… in our lyrics, I don’t mean nonfiction as in memoir but probably more as in looking at things that happen in our friends’ lives or in the world around us and then fudging and adapting those stories into songs. There’s some truth, I think, in the stuff we’re writing these days. That said, we still craft some purely fictional song ideas as far as lyrics are concerned.

MIA: What qualities do you hope listeners may take from listening to your music?

JOHN: Hopefully the stories we tell will resonate with people who hear our music. We hope the songs create a certain sense of introspection, and maybe even some optimism. And the desire to bring about the downfall of capitalism, of course.

ANDRE: What he said. Also, we listen to a lot of bands, both new and old stuff and we are very interested in creating cool sounds when we record. We love working on textures and arrangements, sometimes to a fault.

MIA: Any recommended records so far of ‘08?

JOHN: Fuck Buttons album is a favorite for our night drives on tour. It reminds us of old Pink Floyd sonic textures in a refreshing new way. Plus it’s just two people, like us. We like Wye Oak quite a bit. We toured with them. TI’s Paper Trail is cool and I also like Blitzen Trapper’s Furr, though I generally eschews 70s nostalgia.

ANDRE: My top five records of the year… 1. Deerhunter / 2. Fuck Buttons / 3. The Walkmen / 4. Yellow Swans / 5. Portishead… in order to be a top 5 record, it needs to sound effortless and timeless.

MIA: Name a visual artist or piece of work that inspires you.

JOHN: Katherine Newbegin’s photograph for our first album will someday be worth a lot of money, but also really sums up the mood we were going for on that record. I like Hans Holbein the Younger’s The Ambassadors – if you see the actual painting from the side, the skull has normal proportions. Symbols signifying the dark underbelly of human existence always play well with him. While nowadays his works might just inspire one to remember dorm rooms in the 90s, Dali is a favorite. A great aspect of surrealistic imagery is the use of entirely realistic objects or themes (clocks, eggs, horses, dudes sitting in a lake for no reason) but in a context that reflects how our minds put concepts together, rather than how they appear in the social construction we call “the real world.” I really know nothing about visual art and should not be quoted on such topics.

ANDRE: Not sure if I know a lot about visual art. Basquiat has kind of always been my favorite painter, at least since high school. Eva Hesse was a great artist. Jacob Lawrence too. I dunno, I just tend to go to the museums when I’m in the big cities. I’ve always been into film though. I love Tarkovsky, Bergman, and all of the great American stuff from the ’70s. I just love picking it apart analyzing how those films captured such dense emotions with pictures and sounds. Arrangement / Editing is key. I guess I’ve learned that from film.

MIA: Please share a mixtape with a theme of your choice.

JOHN: Since narcissism is the new humility, a mixtape about us: Lonelyheart by the Harbours, Owner of a Lonely Heart by Yes, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles, Just the Two of Us by Will Smith (its two of us), It Takes Two by Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock, Harlequin Bands by the Lonelyhearts (Thanks to Audio Out Send’s improvement on our song.) For a triumphant finale, throw on: The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton by the Mountain Goats (even though we are not from Denton and neither of us is named Cyrus.)