Devendra’s set was recorded in between the release of Black Babies and Rejoicing in the Hands. The tracks hearken back to the era of Golden Apples of the Sun, and include two well placed covers along with some entertaining banter.
Q: Do you feel a connection to new folk artists like Devendra Banhart?
Donovan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I went to see him when he came to Ireland. And it was very cool. There’s very much a lot of gypsy stuff in Devendra, just like me. I walk out there, the light comes up, and then I play guitar (makes guitar noise), and then when I sing, I’m actually looking at the audience going, “I’m in town. I’ve just arrived.” Devendra does it, too.
The most powerful moment in music is when one voice walks to the microphone and picks up one instrument and the whole audience centers in. It’s in our blood, to want to listen to this one voice and one instrument because we know it’s going to be personal.
If you’ve been reading Naturalismo for awhile you most likely will have noticed two things; the first being my unrelenting pursuit to convince and convert as many people as possible to turn on to what I think is the most important and interesting music movement in decades, the second being my large affinity for the man who personally restored my faith in contemporary music. Forgive me if I sound personal in this review but in actuality the experience of seeing Devendra Banhart live at the MoMA in San Francisco last night was largely so. Like a Velvet to the image of what New York City was in the 60’s, the mythos of the recent folk artists from San Francisco had a similar appeal to me for years. It took me a few years before I realistically could move up to San Francisco. A triumphant homecoming for Devendra and a new beginning for me. Sold out in what couldn’t have been more than a day, Devendra Live at MoMA quickly turned into Devendra SOLD OUT – no chance of getting in. Press passes all passed out and fleeting notions of standing in the cold outside with a sign for a ticket all fell by the wayside with a chance encounter of meeting the man himself a few nights before the concert. We’d met briefly before, but I’ve sometimes found myself more tied into the idea of the mystery than to the unpredictable reality of meeting someone whose creative output you admire. In person the same as his song. A feeling of familiarity and comfort, a great conversation had about his music and others-a pair of passes given to the sold out show. As much as it was a personal experience for me-it couldn’t have been more so for Devendra. It wasn’t long ago that Devendra resided in San Francisco, a student at the SF Art Institute only to leave in the wandering pursuit of what would eventually become his thriving musical career. All of these thoughts were surely cycling through his mind as he took the stage last night at the MoMA.
One floor above the stage, Devendra’s art on display alongside Paul Klee’s in an exhibition titled Abstract Rhythms– served also as the perfect description for the first Brazilian influenced lead-in song of the night. Most noticeable was the new sound direction ventured into on his most recent album Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon. While Devendra’s carved from wood vocal chords rattled and punctuated the songs-it was the increased harmonization with the rest of the band that was most noticeably different from any previous concert I have seen of his. With the soaring and tidal choruses of songs such as Seaside, alternating ooh’s washing over the audience, I remembered reading that several of the songs were recorded while out at sea and remarked at just how well they were able to recreate that feeling through song. From the creaky bellows of Noah Georgeson’s cavernous voice, to Luckey Remington’s swaying bass lines, all set in motion through the tide of Andy Cabic’s breathy vocals- their combined sound swelling into a much larger wave of sound than capable of one alone. Samba Vexillographica got the audience moving with its moments of “equatorial pop”- the title of which translates to the study of flags – Devendra assuring the audience that the song was meant to evoke much more than that. What really made the night a unique experience was hearing Devendra and the rest of his band reminiscing about their earlier life and friendship in San Francisco. Devendra, proudly describing his position as head of the popcorn department at the Castro theater, meeting up with Andy at his job at Aardvarks. Later on it was Noah begrudgingly mentioning that Devendra never gave him popcorn-despite being head of the popcorn department. Andy then recalling the time after the earthquake visiting Devendra at the theater, taking a seat directly below the imposing downward facing ornate and imposing spire, immediately feeling that it was the worst place and feeling to be sitting below it, “Aftershocks, man.” Of course Devendra drew reference to Paul Klee during the night, reading his epitaph that went as follows:
I cannot be grasped in the here and now. For I reside just as much with the dead as with the unborn. Somewhat closer to the heart of creation than usual. But not nearly close enough.
The infamous Castro theatre spire
I got the impression that Devendra was extremely humbled by the experience, his stories and banter often serving to lighten the mood for what had been billed as a very special night. “Oh no, that wasn’t artsy enough of a story,” Devendra quipped at one point-humorously drawing attention to the idea that he had to somehow steer the nights stories towards the art realm while at the MoMA. All in all, the concert was quite a special experience. I feel fortunate enough to have been able to attend it and truly believe that the show will be remembered for much longer from now. For those who have not had the chance to see Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon material performed live yet, I cannot recommend going out to see it enough. The songs simply became alive last night.
Andy Cabic is finishing up a new album of covers that includes guests by Vashti Bunyan, Michael Hurley and the Chapin Sisters. The as-yet-untitled new album will be released Spring ’08. Details are still slowly coming in but expect to hear The Chapin Sisters singing back up vocals on a Townes Van Zandt song and on Elyse Weinberg’s “Houses.” Jonathan also makes an appearance on it. The album will be Vetivers first full-release on the co-run with Devendra Banhart Gnomonsong label .
Head over to DevendraBanhart.com right now to hear two new streaming songs, “Bad Girl” and “Carmensita.” “Bad Girl” features some of the most passionate singing I think I’ve ever heard from him. “Carmensita” has a great end of summer bossa nova/tropicalia groove feeling to it. Also added to the website today are 2 new videos. The first video shows Devendra practicing a duet he sings with Gael Garcia on the new album. The second video shows him rehearsing a new song with a very attentive Noah Georgeson at the controls.
Devendra Banhart has launched his personal website (DevendraBanhart.com) today and with it comes a plethora of new material from him. Two new songs “Seahorse” and “So long old bean” are streaming over there now; both of which have their lyrics handwritten on a separate page. Seahorse seems to bounce around in the beginning between both the Van and Jim Morrison realm before breaking out in the end to a full blown Devendra jam. Me gusta mucho. I can only assume that this is one of the songs Devendra penned while he was out on a boat traveling to Catalina. The songs maritime chorus, “I want to be a little seahorse,” evokes the feeling of a contemplative and lost fisherman out at sea, with the vocals welling up in all directions before eventually crashing inwards towards his boat in a sea of electric waves. The second song, “So long old bean” sees Devendra tapping into Roy Orbisons alien vocal stylings and the Who’s “We’ll soon be home” bridge of A Quick One/While he’s away where the percussion is turned into the clip-clop of a horse against the backdrop of the desert. While Devendra can sometimes wear his influences on his sleeve, he always makes the songs his own. Never merely drawing from a single era for inspiration and always adding his own unique flourishes, his final compositions never sound pastiche or god forbid retro. I think this comes out of his being influenced by the artists that influenced the artists of the 60’s, rather than just the first step so many artists fall into. When Devendra said he never listened to early Marc Bolan before he started playing, he very well may have been speaking the truth… there’s plenty of vibrato heavy blues singers who predate and (gasp) influenced Bolan himself. Know your history and it will show, Devendra certainly exemplifies this and I think it’s what gives his music that original and timeless sound. All I know is that there’s very few if any other artists out there right now who could sing “I want to be a little seahorse” and so thoroughly convince me that I would like to be one as well. The entire website features new artwork by Devendra Banhart throughout and also now includes an unofficial video for the new song “Seahorse,” which is more of a “behind-the-scenes peek into the recording of “Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon,” Devendra, his band, and Topanga where the album was made” than a final video. Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon September 25th on XL.
Seahorse video on youtube(Keep an eye out for an appearance by a one Gael García, whom Devendra sings a duet with on the album):
Full line up of the Family appearing on Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon:
Devendra Banhart has announced that the title for his upcoming fifth studio album will be Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon. Produced by Devendra Banhart and Noah Georgeson, Smokey features a rotating assembly of Devendra’s friends and neighbors including:
Andy Cabic on vocals and guitar.
Pete Newsom (Yes, that’s Joanna Newsom’s brother) onpiano , Keyboard and singing.
Luckey Remmington on Bass, guitar, singing, water drum, and freedom chime.
Greg Rogove on drums, Tablas, singing, geese and duck calls, pots and Pans, mop stomp.
Noah Georgeson on Zither, Guitar, singing, Organ, bass, and some other thangs.
Rodrigo Amarante “from the amazing Brasilian band Los Hermanos on guitar, singing, and the best vibes this side of the Orinoco!”
Even Devendra Banhart makes an appearance on it; where you’ll find him singing, playing guitar, piano, Cuatro and psaltery.
and many more!
Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon on September 25th and put out by XL records. The album will feature 16 songs in all. Some of the track names include: “Cristobal, “So Long Old Bean”, “Samba Vexillographica” and “Seahorse.” As for what to expect on the album, Devendra had the following to say in a correspondence I had with him last month:
“As for the new songs, he said to expect lots of surprises and that being where they are recording has allowed for some interesting friends to come in and add to it all. While saying that many of the songs are very direct lyrically, he also mentioned that his Spanish songs in particular were, from what I gathered, increasingly expanding the ideas of a universal spirituality beyond what he ever had written before in the language. I think what he was getting at was the interconnectedness of man, animal and his surroundings. There’s also a song that is sung in Portuguese. Keeping true to his mentioning last year of recording parts of the album on a boat, several of the songs were recorded on a sailboat on the way to Catalina. Finally, he told me one thing he’s certain of, “i will say , its more……. musical!””
Well there you go! Not sure sure what the first single will be yet, but in the meantime you can buy tickets for what is likely to be a sellout tour here.
*Sorry for any confusion, I sent Laura what happened. I got sent some photos on myspace, didn’t know I couldn’t use them.
Haha, sorry for the inundation of Devendra posts around here on Naturalismo lately. If you weren’t aware of it, I’m a fairly large fan and with a new album in the midst it is a bit inevitable updates will be coming in droves. Anywho, todays smokeyvasu deva kutumbam[as yet untitled album] update comes from his myspace page and I think is a bit tongue in cheek. In case you missed the other update where I got a response and update from Devendra concerning his new albumyou can read it here; I got the feeling that he wanted to keep some of the details under wraps for a bit until he has them all completely worked out. Makes sense to me, anyways here’s the new scoop:
Dear Freinds! its a beautiful day in California , we began Mixing the record today, lets see……. its about 16 songs, some very unexpected guests , the main band is Me, Noah, Luckey, Pete, Greg, and Andy, Rodrigo will be playin some shows here and there with us until duty with Los Hermanos beckons and/or the Saudade kicks in.
no titles yet , but tentative who knows Maybes are:
Milk the wind
Shes a hot dog
Hubba Hubba Planet
Electric Pizza Cops
Foreskin Sword (what it is & how to use it)
Mama, mujhe mall se jeans lenee hai
Porkin’ the broken Knee (Electroxtensial chop!)
Who is Kadamon?
The Burnt Frizbee
Abhor the coagulator (1964 version)
Koala Mans Return to Pineapple temple
Bacchanalian Beat Box
Thrice the phat Magus
Gaga blood & the balls of …….
Rich Gals Shampoo n’ Conditioner Blues
Talkin Weleda Haushka Bronners Blues
Cyber Christ and the Gnostic Titi-Slap part deux
you who are familiar with grandmas Hyacinth
……… ……………. …………. ……… ………… …….. ……….
thats about it right now ! we are just starting to mix today , we will keep ya posted as new ones arise!
on and Onward and Love Above All!
oh , i almost forgot, we still dont have a band name, at least not one thats made it past a couple shows, if anyone has a suggestion , we would LOVE to try it out!
From the sounds of that tracklist, I assume half of it will see Devendra revisiting his early funk roots.
Since there’s no new songs to preview off the upcoming album yet, take a look at this lesser seen cover of Devendra playing “Colarado Girl” by Townes Van Zandt.
Yesterday we reported that Devendra Banhart’s new album was titled Vasu deva kutumbam (after reading it here, here and here) and thinking that a management run myspace page was credible enough. It now looks like those sources read too much into the original, somewhat vague myspace page, as I have the word straight from Devendra about the title of the new album and how the recording process is finishing up. In a brief correspondence with Devendra, who I believe was writing from within the studio, he mentioned that he was tracking the record and that it was difficult for him to outwardly comment on it all since he was still so in the album. In regards to the albums title, Devendra says that at the moment there’s no official name for the album yet. As for the new songs, he said to expect lots of surprises and that being where they are recording has allowed for some interesting friends to come in and add to it all. While saying that many of the songs are very direct lyrically, he also mentioned that his Spanish songs in particular were, from what I gathered, increasingly expanding the ideas of a universal spirituality beyond what he ever had written before in the language. I think what he was getting at was the interconnectedness of man, animal and his surroundings. There’s also a song that is sung in Portuguese. Keeping true to his mentioning last year of recording parts of the album on a boat, several of the songs were recorded on a sailboat on the way to Catalina. Finally, he told me one thing he’s certain of, “i will say , its more……. musical!”
Devendra Banhart’s upcoming album, tentatively titled ‘Smokey’ last spring, now has an official release title (label management run myspace alluded to this being the title of the album and I read it here (who would have ever thought wikipedia could be wrong??) of Vasu deva kutumbam. I’ll let you wordsmiths figure out what that translates to. The album will be finished in a week and has no set release date. It’s slated for release in ‘Mid 2007,’ so hopefully it’s the earlier part of the mid. The last I heard was the end of August, but these things tend to change. Expect a full supporting tour of the album to start shortly after.
Update:Vasu deva kutumbam translates to ‘universal brotherhood’ or ‘international community’. (Thanks S!)
This weeks feature is an interview with Naturalismo music photographer Lauren Dukoff. I first discovered her photography when it was featured in an interview with Noah Georgeson, ever since then I have been following her work and immensely enjoying it. Lauren Dukoff’s close relationship with the Naturalismo artists enable her to provide a glimpse into their private lives. The visual counterpart to the artists she photographs, Lauren Dukoff manages to capture the true essence of artists. Through her photography one is given the rare opportunity to visually see the artists in their natural environment. Lauren Dukoff is a breath of fresh air in this flat post-modern cellphone and digital SLR – era of visually capturing music. I was terrified that the best music movement in years was going to go by documented by a set of grainy sub par digital photographs. All that one needs to be convinced of the importance of the gasping breaths of life from film is to see a single photo from Dukoff. I’m fortunate to bring to you today an interview with Lauren Dukoff.
Could you please tell us about yourself? Your background and how you came into shooting music photography.
I grew up in California in a creative household. My father, a director and photographer always encouraged me to be involved in the arts. There was always a camera available to me. Taking pictures was just something that I did as a kid. I began constantly photographing my friends and some of those friends grew up to be professional musicians. I have portraits of Devendra that I took when I was 14 practicing guitar and piano in our high schools music room. As Devendra’s musical career grew I just kept on taking photos the way I always had been. Not much had changed except that suddenly other people were interested in seeing the photos other than myself. Once I saw that there was a value to these photos, and I don’t mean monetarily, just that they were appealing to his fans I really pursued truly documenting him. Whether I was joining him on tour or catching a moment in his living room of him writing a new song, I was there with my camera. I soon became friends with the family of musicians around him and began taking their photographs too. It was a great feeling to have Devendra share my photos with such great musicians as Noah Georgeson and Matteah Baim and then have them approach me to also take there photos. It’s a wonderful environment of friendship, art and music. I feel honored to be a part of it even if in a small way.
One thing I especially enjoy about your photography is your ability to capture the essence of the musician in a more natural setting that fans normally wouldn’t get to see. Do you think that photographing artists in their natural environment is as or possibly more important than in a live setting?
I just think documentary photography in general is appealing in a way to everyone. I think it is just human nature to be curious what happens behind closed doors. As an artist’s popularity grows so does the feeling that they are untouchable. I think in a way some of the photos I’ve taken just give the fans a little respectful peak into their private lives.
I only ask because I often feel that we only have an artists songs to hear and are left wondering where their sources of inspiration come from. Do you feel that being able to visually see these photographs of the musicians lives add another element to their music?
I think it would be way to bold to say that in any way I add another element to their music.
When a shoot is arranged do you first discuss with the artist what type of setting and mood they are interested in for it or is it more you having an idea and approaching them with it?
I wish I had all the great ideas! No, really so far everything I have done is a true collaborative effort. I definitely come to the shoot with a vision in mind but always run things past the artists I am shooting. From there the concepts always seems to grow and evolve into something even better then what I imagined.
Your black and white live music photos first struck me as being something to the effect of Mick Rock coaching David Bailey on how to shoot live. Who would you consider are your influences and do you shoot primarily with film, digital or both?
I have been really inspired and influenced by my mentor Autumn de Wilde. She is an amazing photographer. Sometimes I look at her work and say to myself why do I bother. Everything about her is admirable. I only shoot with film. There is something about film that digital could just never capture. Shooting film is a blessing and a curse. When I was photographing Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit all the other digital photographers were practically laughing at me in the photo pit because I had to reload my camera with film and would then miss shots. But in the end I feel I have one great shot of Neil during the finale that just wouldn’t have been the same if it were digital. There is such character and depth to film its hard for me to see myself converting to digital photography.
Much of your photography has gravitated towards new-folk artists such as Devendra Banhart, Noah Georgeson, Matteah Baim, Hecuba, etc. What has the experience been like working with them?
Simply amazing. They are all wonderful and beautiful people. We are all friends and I feel honored to be included in this family of musicians in such an intimate way.
What are you currently working on?
I am continually building my body of work, just shooting as much as I can. I enjoy photographing musicans of all genres its such a treat to be invited into a musician’s world even if just for a moment. Devendra is working on his new record right now and if he chooses to use a photograph for the cover we are going to have to come up with a great concept. Really looking forward to that.
Lastly, are there any exhibition plans for your photography at the moment? Where can we see more of your photography and what can we expect in the future?
I do not have any exhibitions planned at the moment, but it something I have always wanted to do. You can see more of my work at www.laurendukoff.com. I wish I knew what to expect for myself in the future.