Owls are different here

You may remember I wrote about a band called The Double U from Portland, about a month ago… Still listening to that record and still finding it intriguing and moreish. Well, they were good enough to answer a few questions for me and allow me to post a new track up from their album. Here we go…

The Double U Interview

I gather there is at least one other artist known as “Double U” – I came across some sort of rapper on Emusic. Have your attorneys been informed? Can we look forward to a long and tortuous Jarndyce Vs Jarndyce sort of legal case?

Matt: Yes, we have our extensive, worldwide legal team working on it. They have been preparing our case for six years now and assure me they are getting close to making a complaint. It’s getting a little expensive I must say, but if Metallica can shell out $40,000 a month for a psychologist, surely we can afford the same for a world-class team of international lawyers protecting our good name. I did ask about Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce; our lead attorney, Hugo Armbuckle, just sort of grinned.

So what’s the name actually about?

Matt: unusual unicorns, ugly uniks, uvular urges, that sort of thing. It’s sort of a bland, lousy name. We’re surprised other bands have used it, too. Then again, there are probably 114 bands named “The Shoes.”

And while I’m at it, Hibou? Unless, Google translator is letting me down, that doesn’t look like an owl on the cover of the record…

Matt: Owls are different here.

I’ve just created a Wikipedia account for myself and desperate to use it. What should your entry say?

Matt: Yes, you can write it. Here’s some background info–I think some of these bands are well known and you can find out about them online

Alex: I’m not sure what you want to say, but our website http://www.thedoubleu.com and http://cdbaby.com/cd/doubleu and have information about us. Matt, Geoff, and I have been in a lot of bands. Geoff’s currently in at least three. Matt and Geoff also have a side project (very loose) called Freedom Eagle (improv guitar/drums). There’s one MP3 recording from a radio show.Matt’s been in Stiff Legged Sheep (Iowa City) & Glorious Din (San Francisco) — both had releases. Alex has been in Heavenly Ten Stems (a couple of singles) and Job’s Daughters (a couple of singles) — both of those cover bands had members in bigger San Francisco bands — esp. Mark Davies of Thinking Fellers Union Local 282. Alex played bass on some tracks on Caroliner Rainbow’s LP “Rise of the Common Wood-pile.”Matt and I were the “backing band” of John Davis (Folk Implosion) and Cynthia Dall. We toured w/ both of them for very brief tours.Matt’s currently playing w/ Elizabeth Venable’s band. He toured and recorded w/ his cousin Virgil Shaw. (They both have websites.)Geoff is in Fuck, Sad Horse, and Staff, and he recently toured w/ Tara Jane O’Neill in Japan.

I’m a bit confused about your lyrics – they are in French aren’t they? I can’t really pick anything out with my schoolboy French – in fact I’m pretty sure I’ve made a dreadful hash of the lyrics for “Great Deceiver” in my post about the band…

Matt: Well, the lyrics are French-like.

Why is that? I’ve looked up Portland on the maps, and you’re not too far from the Canadian border, is that it? Why “fourteen songs about the French and their fucking Frenchy ways”?

Matt: OK, it’s not actually in French or any particular language that I know of. A fellow at one of our shows kept saying, “I like those French songs,” even after I assured him it was gibberish. I used to write lyrics, but the more I wrote, the farther I got from what I was trying to say.

What’s Portland like? What’s the weather like? Tell us what you’ve been up to today?

Matt: eating as many Little Debbie snack treats as fast as I can, while dipping my feet in some cold water. The weather for May is windy and gray (say 3X fast).

Matt has a pretty distinctive vocal delivery, you could say! It sounds a bit Tom Waits-y, a bit Beefheart-y, who are your favourite singers?

Matt: These are not influences, per se, but these are some of my favorite singers: Jessie Mae Hemphill, Huun Huur Tu musicians, Desmond Dekker. Also, my tonsils are messed up. That probably has as much to do with my vocals as anything.

And I promise not to mention the vocals again, but you sing in French, the songs are delivered in this gruff, way-down-in-the-mix way, and many of your songs are instrumentals. Do you have a bit of an, … um…, “issue” with lyrics? I’d love to see a lyric sheet…

Matt: see above. (Yes, I guess I have an issue.)

Who plays what in the band? I got the basic, keyboards, drums, bass, guitars line-up, but there’s all sorts of other sounds I can hear too – do you have a resident Brian Jones, who can pick up anything and get a tune from it?

Currently this is what’s going on –Matt: vocals, guitar, standup bass; Alex: electric bass, organ, keyboards, piano; Geoff: drums, percussion, bird sounds

I really like the title track of your record – there’s something rather chilling and gothic about it. What is a mechanical owl?

Alex: Our son was obsessed with owls at the time, and we like robotic toys, so that’s probably how it came about. I’m sure it was something spontaneous that occurred in practice. We liked the sound of the words. We also liked this place in San Francisco that had turn-of-the-century (1900s) penny-arcade games and novelties. It was called Musee Mecanique — we probably were influenced by that, too. (see http://www.museemechanique.org/)

I reckon I can hear what sounds to me like a bit of nightclub cabaret, some UK post punk and a pinch of European Klezmer in your music. What did you grow up listening to? What are you listening to now? Is there anyone I should be listening to?

Matt: you’re right that all those influences can be found in our music. I started with punk rock, but I was into the weirder edges of it, like Pere Ubu and the Birthday Party. I also liked the first Latin Playboys CD. Alex and I have some classical background too, oddly enough. Alex plays classical piano currently and I studied classical bass in high school and college. We also like blues, jazz, Indian classical music, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ethiopiques series, metal, etc.

Alex: The most recent stuff I’ve bought is Eat Skull (friends), Jessie Mae Hemphill, Cat Power. I’m Sad Horse’s number two fan. Hmmm… I like Deerhoof, Omar Souleyman (!!!), tons of stuff.

I’m guessing the chances of me seeing you in the UK are a little slim. If I was ever to come over the pond, what would your gigs be like? I’m imagining a fairly eclectic affair…

Alex: Gigs: people standing far back and drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon. A couple of very happy people up front, laughing at my dumb jokes. We play all our songs, no matter how peaceful or confusing. If the sound guy likes us, we’re happy; if he doesn’t, we’re sad. If you see us play, we’ll buy you a shot of whiskey. We’d like to play in the UK. Can you get us a gig?

Believe me, I’d love to… Here’s the new track I’m posting, the title track from Hibou Mechanique, my favourite song on the record…

Hibou Mechanique

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