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devendra banhart

Devendra Banhart's eerily spiritual voice first floated out of my computer stereo late last year, during a radio appearance that covered many of the highlights of his 2002 album Oh Me Oh My... It was one of most original, viscerally affecting voices I'd heard in a long time and it seemed to me, completely different from anything else. (Other people have compared him to Syd Barrett and Tyrannosaurus Rex-era Marc Bolan, but the similarities are superficial, I think.) The songs, too, had an unusual purity and emotional impact, as if they bypassed the normal translation process from the singer's head to record to yours and somehow traveled directly, person to person.

I promptly acquired a copy of Oh Me Oh My.... It confirmed that Banhart's work has the kind of impact that's hard to fit into normal words and phrases; that may be why he doesn't seem completely comfortable talking about it. Or it may just be that he's so excited about the singers and artists he's discovered, and so bent on introducing them to the world, that he simply doesn't have time to expound on himself. In any case, it was after a series of missed connections, my fault as much as his, that I bought a record by one of his favorite singers, Karen Dalton, and emailed him to say how much I enjoyed it and how much light it shed on him. Her voice had the same androgynous quality, for one thing, and like him, she resided in the shadowy crease where folk met blues. We had this conversation just a day or two later, and talked mostly about the music that Devendra Banhart loves.

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Splendid: I can't believe I'm finally talking to you.

Devendra Banhart: I know. I'm sorry. It's not on purpose.

Splendid: It's okay. I know you're busy, and it's good that you're busy making music instead of talking to journalists.

So I got this Karen Dalton record (she's a '60s folk singer whom Banhart cites as an inspiration) the day before I was supposed to talk to you, and I really got into it, and I'm hearing all these similarities. Her music is making yours kind of click for me. I was wondering if you could talk about her and how you got onto her music and what you like about her.

Devendra Banhart: What I like about her? This is the thing. The opportunity of talking to somebody -- I mean, you are interviewing me, right? -- the opportunity about this kind of thing... Who really gives a fuck about where I was born or anything? What good is that, anyway? I don't think my songs come from there. The real opportunity is to talk about music that most people don't have access to, and if they did they would freak out. The reason you don't know about it is not because it's not good -- it's just because there's not a lot of money or people that are pushing it. Think about all the crappy music that you know, and all the actresses and all the musicians whose faces you know whose music is crap. You know what I mean? And there are people like Vashti Bunyan, like Karen Dalton, like Linda Perhacs, like Ella Jenkins, all these people that are incredibly amazing and really obscure for very bizarre reasons.

I've really got no idea why Karen Dalton is unknown. She is one of the most amazing musicians in the universe. Forget about the amount of soul she's got -- she's got the most far-out, fucked up, amazing soul. She's the most soulful singer in the universe. But the technicalities...her timing and her phrasing is perfect. It's beyond perfect. You can't even try to imitate it because it's like beyond, it's brilliant. She's also an incredible song interpreter in a way that maybe... You know how Bob Dylan wrote "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" but Van Morrison made it his own song? And the way that Jimi Hendrix made "All Along the Watchtower" his song? She makes every one of the songs that she covers her songs. She didn't write any songs.

I was talking to my friend who knows a guy who knew Karen Dalton, and he was saying that she was very sad and unsure of herself, and apparently she must have died of AIDS. I just found this out a few days ago. She was discovered by Fred Neil, who is one of my biggest influences, one of the greatest songwriters of all time. He wrote that song (he sings a line) "Everybody's talking at me..." That Harry Nilsson ended up covering on the soundtrack to Midnight Cowboy. But Karen does a lot of Fred Neil covers. The record It's So Hard to Tell Who's Going to Love You the Best was almost done without even knowing -- they were just like, let's jam.

Splendid: That's the one that I bought.

Devendra Banhart: It's strange, because that one's only on CD, and then her other record, called In My Own Time, which is also covers, is only on vinyl. She's just amazing. She does some things that are strange. She does "When a Man Loves a Woman" and "How Sweet It Is to be Loved By You". She also does "Katie Cruel", which Nick Cave covered, and he was inspired by her adaptation of it. But that record is so amazing. It's hard to call it the record, but if there's anyone that I'm inspired by and have modeled my way of singing, it's her. Way more than -- I didn't even know about Tyrannosaurus Rex (Devendra's work is often compared to this '60s psychedelic band, an early version of Mark Bolan's T. Rex) when I started singing. But if there's someone that I'm in awe of and influenced by, it's Karen.

Splendid: How did you find her?

Devendra Banhart: I found her because there is a psychedelic band in San Francisco called Troll. They're friends of mine and they made me a tape which had amazing music like Comus, Mothra and Judy Henske, who's amazing and underrated, almost unknown, and it had Karen on it, and it had "Ribbon Bow", which I totally owe "City Girls" to. It's a traditional song. It's not really credited to anyone.

Splendid: One of the similarities I noticed between her and you is that you have these very interesting, individual voices. Her voice is so deep that she sounds like she could be a man or a woman, and you almost have that quality, too.

Devendra Banhart: That's funny you say that. That her voice is deep enough that she could almost be a man, and my voice, too, it could almost be a man. Ha, ha.

AUDIO: The Charles C. Leary

Splendid: I don't mean to be offensive, but it sort of transcends the male/female dichotomy and goes straight into your head and stays there.

Devendra Banhart: I played a show in Akron, Ohio -- this was the most extreme example, but it happened maybe eight times on the tour. This was the extreme version, but it did happen many times. A woman would come up to me and say, "Where's Devendra?" And someone would be like, "He's over there." I'd be waiting somewhere to play. And she'd be like, "No, no, no, where's Devendra?" And he'd say, "He's right there." And she'd say again, "Where's Devendra?" And I'd jump up and say "Hi, I'm Devendra." And she'd say, "No, no, where's Devendra? Where is she?"

Splendid: Isn't that partly because of your name?

Devendra Banhart: It is definitely because of my name. I remember the first day of school when I moved to America, there would be roll call and they'd say "Devendra" and I'd be about to say hello and introduce myself and then somebody would say, "Yeah, me and her go way back." And then everything would get quiet and I would have to explain that it was actually me. Anyway.

Splendid: So that was your name growing up? I was wondering if you had changed it?

Devendra Banhart: That's my real name. My parents actually didn't name me that. They had an Indian man name me that, a friend of theirs. They gave him my photograph; he was a spiritual teacher, nothing religious or cultish, very simple. Think along the lines of, not someone like, but maybe a similar context as Rumi or Kabir or that kind of thing. They gave him my photograph and he named me. My middle name is my mom's name.

Splendid: I see. Because it's an interesting Hindu myth that goes along with that name. as I understand it, Devendra was the king of the gods and actually got kicked out of heaven and had to win his way back.

Devendra Banhart: It is. The thing is that, my name, I've always had a weird sense of guilt over having a name that has that weight to it, you know what I mean? And so, the best thing for me, one time I asked someone, do you know what Devendra means? And he said, "Oh, it's like Tom in India."

Splendid: Oh, so it's a really common name there?

Devendra Banhart: Yeah, and that made it much easier to have that name. But I haven't actually gotten that into the lore and the history. I don't know why. I should start wondering, "Hey, what's the story with 'Devendra'?"

Splendid: What about Vashti Bunyan, how did you discover her?

Devendra Banhart: Vashti... I know this is weird. It sounds retarded. But I knew that I liked Vashti Bunyan's music before I knew her name or knew her music. I mean, I knew that there was someone like Vashti. One day I was in Paris. I was with a girl I had known for a long time, and I moved out, and I had been working at a museum and selling artwork. It was the only job that I ever had that made any money. So I bought a ticket to Paris. It was very arbitrary. I just wanted to get out of where I was and have my guitar. So I'm at a music store and I saw Vashti's CD and I really knew it. I really knew it. I bought it and I listened to it. I was freaking out and crying. I think it's the most beautiful music in the world. The way that people have rediscovered Nick Drake, and he's huge, Volkswagen and all that stuff. The way that he is revered and worshipped -- Vashti is a alive and she is like the living Nick Drake to me. In many ways, they're very similar. They have the same publishing company, Warlock Music, and Robert Kirby, who played on Nick Drake's records and did the arrangements for "River Man" and all that, plays on her records. They have very similar ties.

I e-mailed her. I said, "Vashti, I'm playing music, but I don't really know what kind of music it is and I don't know if it's any good. I'm going to send you my music, and I wrote a book called The Thumbs Touch Too Much." I sent her that. I said, "Listen, should I stop or not?" And she said, "No, don't stop." That made it easier to play a bunch of horrible shows, knowing that Vashti liked the music. Now we're friends.

Splendid: That's neat. Is she still working?

Devendra Banhart: She just started again. She's recorded three songs with that guy from the Cocteau Twins. She's shopping around something. Stephen Malkmus has just asked her to play a show, a festival, April 17th in London. So things are starting to happen again.

Splendid: Great. It's interesting how that happens. Now, I know you did some of the art on the album?

Devendra Banhart: I did it all.

Splendid: I really like the illustrations that you did, and I also noticed that your lyrics are full of very visual images, and I was wondering if you could talk about how the visual art that you do and the musical art are connected?

Devendra Banhart: Well, if I'm not playing music, I'm drawing. Really. I don't really want to start in the morning with music. I'm like "aaah" and my throat has got cobwebs. So I just draw. I draw all day long. So they blend into each other. When I can't play music, I take a break by drawing. Right now, I have this book that might get published by a French surreal publishing company. And if there is a place that I could drop it off or send it to or a place where you could pick it up, I would love to give you a copy. It's a book of drawings and it's also got a narrative to it.

Splendid: Oh, yeah, I would love that. Is the narrative related to your songs?

Devendra Banhart: In a way. It's something that I don't think I could sing. It's a long story. It could turn into a song, but it would be way too long. It's actually a story. It's called Rejoicing in the Hands of the Golden Negress and Being Washed by Her Floating Beard. It's about a town, and the town is made up of American Indians, and the main character's name is Onward. The god of the town is a woman, who is the Golden Negress, and she looks like maybe Bessie Smith. I'm pretty excited about this book.

Splendid: It sounds cool. How long have you been working on it?

Devendra Banhart: I started working on it during the last tour and I just finished. I just finished a tour, three days in Europe. But the last big tour I did, I worked on it throughout that tour.

Splendid: But that was not that long ago -- maybe February?

Devendra Banhart: No, it wasn't that long ago at all. And this tour, before it gets published, I just have Kinkos and Staples copies of it. Because it's not close to being done.

Splendid: I think it's really interesting how people who are talented in one art often have other ways that they express themselves. I always wonder if it comes from the same place or not.

Devendra Banhart: It's interesting when it happens. For me, I went to college, San Francisco Art Institute, for interdisciplinary art, which is every discipline. Except for music, ironically. Then I dropped out, because music was what I wanted to do, instead of all the crap I was doing there. I've been drawing for so long and writing for so long. These are the things that I know. It's interesting when you get people who are successful painters and then they start making sculptures or taking photos or making records and they're terrible.

Here's a huge, obviously weird example. Eddie Murphy. Hilarious man, right? What has he done recently that's any good? Nothing. Because he thinks he's a leading man. But he's a comedian. And here's something that I admire about Elton John -- even though his albums should be called Elton and Bernie -- he doesn't write his lyrics. He knows his limits.

Splendid: Yeah, but on the other hand you have people like William Blake, who was a brilliant poet and artist.

Devendra Banhart: He's amazing. He blows my mind. One of his paintings, I got really physically affected by it, this apocalyptic...

Splendid: They're very freaky.

Devendra Banhart: Yeah. Really.

Splendid: He's channeled into something subconscious.

Devendra Banhart: Yeah. Michael Gira, one of my friends whom I stay with and a lot of my belongings are in his basement, he has such good art, but he has this one William Blake piece.

AUDIO: Cosmos and Demos

Splendid: This is Michael Gira from the Swans?

Devendra Banhart: Yeah.

Splendid: He's pretty amazing, too.

Devendra Banhart: Yeah, no joke. Have you heard his new Angels of Light?

Splendid: I have not. You know, when you sent me that email that you were practicing with the Angels of Light, it wasn't capitalized, and I was like, well, that's an interesting way to talk about communing with your creative side, and then I figured out that you were talking about this band.

Devendra Banhart: (laughs)

Splendid: It's a cool name. How is that going? You're actually playing with them?

Devendra Banhart: Yeah, tomorrow is the last day of practice. I'm freaking out. I've got like 18,000 apples of nervousness in my throat. I've never played with a band like this before, on electric guitar.

Splendid: You're playing electric?

Devendra Banhart: Yes, which I've never done.

Splendid: Do you like that?

Devendra Banhart: I do like it. I do. I'm not used to it at all. But it's exciting. I've never performed playing electric. The reason I said yes -- because it's an exhausting thing, I'm going to open and then play with the band -- but the reason I said yes was because I admired the Angels of Light so much. I see Michael's music as some of the most amazing music ever. New Mother and How I Love You are two of the greatest records I've ever heard.

You know where he got that title, was from Genesis P. Orridge (formerly of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV). Genesis had something called Genesis P. Orridge and the Angels of the Light.

Splendid: It sounded neat, that little bit that I heard when I called you.

Devendra Banhart: It's so funny. It used to be that when you typed in "Angels of Light", the first thing that you would get is Michael Jackson's web site. It's a picture of Michael Jackson being hugged by many children.

Splendid: That's kind of scary, isn't it?

Devendra Banhart: Yeah, and it's ironic because Michael actually has written a song that we're going to play in the set that's about Michael Jackson. It's an incredible song.

Splendid: Tell me about it. Is it more of a rocking thing?

Devendra Banhart: It is more of a rocking song. It's a really clever song, and it was inspired, I think, by -- we were watching that fucked-up interview with Michael Jackson.

Splendid: I didn't watch that, but it sounded really creepy.

Devendra Banhart: It was so creepy. It was crazy. He would stare into the camera and say "I never want to die." You know how scary it is to hear someone say that? It was really amazing. So Michael wrote this song from this perspective -- I don't know. I guess you should hear it. I don't want to start getting into what I think the song is about.

Splendid: I do want to talk about a few of the songs on your current album, the one that I have. Oh Me Oh My...The Way the Day Goes By and I can't remember the rest of the title.

Devendra Banhart: (laughs) The new title for my next record, the working title, everyone thinks it sucks, everyone makes fun of me for it.

Splendid: I think long titles are good, because when you're writing a review, you only have to put the title in a couple of times and you've gotten up to your word count and you don't have to say very much. (Oh, you're going to pay for that. -- Ed.)

Devendra Banhart: The thing is, the abbreviation for the title of the album I'm working on now is Oh Me Oh My. The new working title is Rejoicing in the Hands of the Low-Ring Empress I Am the Date of Birth of Internal Corn. It's going to have a nice abbreviation, which is just Rejoicing in the Hands.

Splendid: But it's like a poem in itself.

Devendra Banhart: I guess so, yeah. The first title, the record is very much for my mom and dad. Or maybe not, but they are the basis for a lot of the meaning. Not just because I grew up with them and they raised me, but because they're the people I look up to the most. I really do. I have an incredible relationship with them. And the title, actually, Oh Me Oh My -- if you take the first letter of each word, it spells out "Mom and Dad."

Splendid: Oh, that's sweet. Tell me about your mom and dad. Are they involved in music at all?

Devendra Banhart: Not at all. But I wrote a song with my mom, and we might put it on the next record.

Splendid: They must have encouraged you.

Devendra Banhart: Not at all.

Splendid: No?

Devendra Banhart: My dad found my guitar, though, the one that I'm taking on tour with me, a nylon string, many years ago. He knew that I was really into music. I wanted to play guitar.

Splendid: Are you an only child?

Devendra Banhart: I have a brother, but I didn't grow up with him. We have different fathers. We're every type of opposite. We're oil and water.

Splendid: Tell me about "Charles C. Leary", which is one of my favorite songs on Oh Me Oh My. One of the things I like about it is that it seems like it's all about love and loss, but it ends with love. Can you talk about what you were thinking -- or should we just listen to the song?

Devendra Banhart: Well, we can talk about it, but I would suggest that people just listen to the song. It's really, really personal. But it's also open enough that you can get something out of it. It's not like some universal Paul McCartney shit, but it's not just specific to my experience. My experience in that song is all around my experience with my father, who is the man who "took care of me". And the Charles C. Leary is the ship that my great, great-grandfather had, and I grew up in a house with a painting of that Charles C. Leary. The most I can say about it is that it is an ode to my father.

Splendid: That helps, because it has that feeling that life is hard and you're always losing things and people, but there's some sort of connectivity that makes it all worthwhile. It's not explicit in that way. I guess it would be horrible if you came out and said something like that, but it alludes to that. I also like "Michigan State" a lot. One of the things I like is the way you use the language. Words that are usually adjectives become nouns, and it's very interesting the way the language falls together. Do you focus on lyrics first?

Devendra Banhart: Well, sometimes I'm sitting with the guitar and thinking about the music, how it sounds nice and how it makes me feel. So you want to put words that complement that. That makes a lot of sense. Sometimes you've got words, and you're having so much fun with the words that you just write the songs. The music is just the platform for the words. It always depends. The words, obviously, I'm super anal about them, and I go through books and books just to get a few lines. "Michigan State" was really fun to write. It's not that fun to play anymore, because I play it at every show.

Splendid: You're getting tired of those songs?

Devendra Banhart: A little bit. I'm excited to go to Michigan, though.

Splendid: Oh, yeah, you've really never been there, I guess.

Devendra Banhart: I've never been there.

Splendid: It's a great song. It seems like it's simple but it's really not. The other one I wanted to talk about -- you mentioned somewhere that the first line in "The Thumbs Touch Too Much" was inspired by a Karen Dalton song.

Devendra Banhart: No. Well, actually, yes. I forgot about that. I actually haven't heard my record from start to finish because I can't really stand myself for that long. The line "If I was like city girls" is inspired by her. But the song isn't about her. It's not an ode to her, no. I did take that line from her, but I knew it would be okay because it's a traditional song, you know? So it was okay to do that.

That song "The Thumbs Touch Too Much" is kind of about -- I have this tic where I touch my thumbs before I do certain things. I don't really want to live with this. I'm trying to get rid of it. It's like this kind of tic, so that's what that song is about.

Splendid: Interesting. What are some of your favorite songs on that album?

Devendra Banhart: You know what? I really like that song "One", because it's about these two people Donald and Coulter -- they were lovers and then they broke up. I think it's sweet. I like it because it's a gentle song. I like the gentler songs on it, because they're not so emotionally involving. They're just kind of, they lilt me. Is that a word, lilt?

Splendid: It is a word.

Devendra Banhart: I like that feeling, because the other ones are too involving. That one is not really about me.

Some of my songs I can't separate from myself. I get nostalgic, and the songs get draining. That song isn't draining. That song is a pleasure to play. So, I think I like that song a lot on the record. But really, I kind of like a lot of them. I can't really listen to them. I like the new songs a lot more.

Splendid: So, tell me about that. What's different about the new songs? Are you consciously changing what you're doing?

Devendra Banhart: No. But the exciting thing is that on the last record there was no option of "Okay, now the piano comes in." There was no xylophone. That was not even a question. But now I've written them the same way I've always written them, but I can indulge -- I can make it reality. When the piano trickled in before, it was like, oh, yeah, keep dreaming, and now I can actually get a piano.

Splendid: So it's going to have more instruments on it?

Devendra Banhart: Yeah, possibly. But I want to make songs that make people dance. I want to rip off Bo Diddley.

Splendid: Cool.

AUDIO: Michigan State

Devendra Banhart: I just want to have these songs that will make people be like, "All right, let's dance here in the kitchen, baby."

Splendid: Yeah, well, you've got some country blues in your work. You just have to plug in.

Devendra Banhart: Maybe slide guitar, stuff like that. That's what's exciting. The idea that there's going to be a variety. The songs might be a little longer.

Splendid: How would you see success? What do you think, as a musician, life would be like if you got to where you wanted to go?

Devendra Banhart: Uh, well, okay, right now I don't really have a place to live. It would just be, first of all, having a place to live. That was like my place. And, I guess being able to...You know, I really don't know. I don't think about it. It's a big question, so I don't think I can just answer right now, because I haven't really thought about it. I don't have an answer for myself. I don't know if I'm really striving for something with music. I feel kind of naive about all this. All the press stuff, and all this, I don't feel like it changes anything, and it doesn't change me.

Splendid: You know, your work just seems so natural and unfiltered and direct and really touching. I almost worry about your getting into more complicated ways of producing, and I wonder if it would lose some of that.

Devendra Banhart: It's true, and I wonder about that. One thing is that I'm on a label that's really artist-friendly. Michael only puts out stuff that he cares about, and he doesn't give a shit if it sells at all. But he puts out these really incredible things. The last thing that he released was Charlemagne Palestine, who was a student of Pran Nath, an Indian singer who was a huge influence on John Cage and a whole bunch of other people. This is something that is not selling at all, but it is interesting. You know? And he puts out David Coulter, who was in the Pogues and worked with Yoko Ono, and he's really interesting. And Ulan Bator has collaborated with Faust and his band. So he puts out music he really loves. So it's really a grass roots environment, where the label is really me and Kerstin and Michael and the Angels of Light. It's very small, and like a family. So I'm in an environment where I'm just kind of doing my thing. But I think that if I was on a major label, it probably would be different.

Splendid: Are they starting to sniff around, those major label types?

Devendra Banhart: Yeah, but I just pass it on to Michael and he's dealt with those people in his past and he totally tells them to fuck off.

Splendid: I know you just recently got back from Europe, and I was wondering how that went for you?

Devendra Banhart: It was really amazing. I went to Brussels, where I guess the funniest thing that happened there was that we walked up to the venue and there was a sea of 15-year-old girls, and I was like, "Wow, fantastic," but it turns out Avril Lavigne was playing the same venue, just a bigger room. That's the only good story we have from Brussels.

Then we went to this bar where Billie Holiday's pianist used to play. That was very exciting. I love her. She's unreal.

Splendid: She's amazing.

Devendra Banhart: She totally blows me away. Anyway, that was Brussels and then we went to Amsterdam, where I didn't really get a chance to see anything, because when you're on tour all you see is the venue. Then London was really fun. I did an interview at the BBC. I'm walking up there, and I say, "So who's this with?" And they were like "Ha, Ha, very funny." But I didn't know. So halfway into the interview, I was like, "Are you in some band or something, man?" And someone's like (whispering) "It's the singer from Iron Maiden."

Splendid: Oh my god.

Devendra Banhart: Yeah, and who cares anyway? I don't even know an Iron Maiden song.

Splendid: Did he ask good questions?

Devendra Banhart: No. He was totally retar -- He wasn't retarded. But, you know, he was in that kind of Iron Maiden world.

Splendid: It doesn't seem like a good fit.

Devendra Banhart: And he was like "Oh, I was in Tahiti a day ago with Mick Jagger." That kind of dude, you know. His show on the BBC was called Freaks. "Here we are on Freaks with Devendra Banhart. And Devendra has some songs to play for us." The cool thing about it was that we had a conversation, we got to shoot the shit, and then I got to play music. I got to play Judy Henske, I got to play Linda Perhacs, I played the Vetivers, a band from San Francisco. I got to play these things that people don't know or don't have access to.

Splendid: So did you get any feedback or emails or anything from people saying "Wow, we can't believe this stuff that you played, and it was really great and we're going to go out and buy it"?

Devendra Banhart: Actually, that's happened with Karen several times and it's really cool. And Vashti. Who else has it happened with? Maybe with Ella Jenkins, too. Are you familiar with Ella Jenkins?

Splendid: I'm not. Tell me about her.

Devendra Banhart: She's amazing. She had a huge amount of records on the Folkways Label that were mainly songs for children, children singing, but they're not really for children. Her idea was that she would say, "This is for kids, but it's also for the kid in the adult." Her music is incredible. I'm doing such a poor, poor job of explaining the music. If you see the record, mainly You Sing a Song and I'll Sing a Song, it's amazing. But she mainly works with children.

Splendid: I've got a lot of stuff to buy now.

Devendra Banhart: Yeah. And Linda Perhacs's Parallograms. She was a dental assistant, and she was doing someone's teeth and singing, and they said, you're amazing, let's record this. I think she never even heard her record. But I think that recently, WFMU plays it once in a while and she calls them and thanks them for playing the record. She's that unknown, but it's really, I think, one of the most amazing records anywhere. If you like Joni Mitchell, I think she's a million times better.

Splendid: Interesting. Yeah, the only other thing I wanted to ask you about was this whole issue of recording some of your songs on other people's answering machines. Did you really do that?

Devendra Banhart: Yeah. I've never owned a four-track, so I didn't have anything, and I had a song and my guitar. When I was in London or I was walking around or I was on the road, I called up a friend and was like, "Okay, I'm going to sing a song and don't erase it." So I would sing the song, and then they wouldn't erase it and then I'd go to their house with a four-track that I borrowed, and then I would record it from their cell phone or their answering machine.

Splendid: So it was just a convenience.

Devendra Banhart: Yeah, it wasn't like, "Oh, this sound is awesome." Or this is weird. I was just kind of desperate, because I didn't have anything to record on.

Splendid: Yeah, because you hear a lot of things on the record that were maybe not intended to be there.

Devendra Banhart: But they worked. Like at the end of "Charles C. Leary", a car beeps its horn and it's in tune.

Splendid: That's funny, I was just talking to another guy who had a cell phone go off in the middle of recording and left it in because it was in key.

Devendra Banhart: Wow, awesome. That's pretty cool. There are some kind of weird cool things that are on that record. I think I might have mentioned in "Cosmos and Demos"; I recorded that on Bastille Day in Paris. You can hear the fireworks.

Splendid: That's the one with the music box?

Devendra Banhart: Yeah, the music box, and then it's goes on "I want to tell the story..." You can hear the fireworks and you can hear another blast that is distinctly different from the other fireworks and that's a gun shot. While I was recording the song, I was looking out the window at a view of Paris, and it was really beautiful. We were in front of an alley. And while I was recording this song, I saw a man walk up to a door and pull out a gun and cock it and ring the bell and get let in and then five minutes later, I hear the gun shot. That's on that song.

Splendid: Did you ever find out what happened?

Devendra Banhart: No, not at all. I don't speak French. I didn't have the first clue of how to figure out what the hell had happened.

Splendid: How odd. So, I guess I'm out of questions. Is there anything else you want to say?

Devendra Banhart: You should never ask me that. Let's see. Vetiver is the best band in the universe. Everyone should listen to Vashti Bunyan and Karen Dalton and Nico and Billie Holiday and Linda Perhacs and The Sun Also Rises and even Donovan.

That's it. That's all I have to say.

· · · · · · ·


Read Splendid's review of Oh Me Oh My...

Visit Banhart's record label, Young God Records.

More on Karen Dalton, Vashti Bunyan and Ella Jenkins.

Buy Devendra Banhart's music at Insound.

· · · · · · ·

Jennifer Kelly uses her powers for good, not evil.

[ graphics credits :: header/pulls - george zahora | photos - tobias everke (main page photo), devendra banhart :: credits graphics ]



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