INTERVIEWED BY SEAN TYSON
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JUCO
SEAN TYSON—You’ve mentioned that you don’t like some of your own music videos?
DEVENDRA BANHART—Almost all of them have been complete, utter failures; really embarrassing.
ST—Wow, that’s a pretty bold statement. However, I read you were somewhat happy with the video for “Carmensita”, and that was obviously very successful. What was it like working with the guys at SKINNY?
DB—I don’t know if I would say I’m happy with “Carmensita”. I’m somewhat ambivalent about it because it was done on the fly, it came out a year after the record was out, and I did it just to be able to work with some friends. Marc-Edouard Leon is an old friend of mine and he agreed to do the video for basically no money. It was their concept, the whole video. The only thing I contributed was the subtitles, but I will say that about 50 percent of the subtitles that I wrote were considered too obscure. And that’s a shame, because I thought that they were the best and funniest thing I contributed to it. Still, when I say that all my videos are complete, utter pieces of shit, I’m not thinking of the “Carmensita” video. But I am really ashamed and disappointed with almost every video I’ve made.
ST—“Foolin’” is more explicit and overt than your other stuff. Can you talk about working with director Isaiah Seret, and how that video came to be?
DB—Yeah, I wrote that with the help of Isaiah, but it was my idea. I’ve known him for years. He wanted to do a video, so we ended up making, in one afternoon, “At the Hop”. But we were really just messing around. And at that time, all the hippydom stuff for me was a joke, and it still is. Even though I love hippies, I’ve never been one. I felt it was all tongue-in-cheek to me, it was very funny. Then that ended up becoming associated with me and I don’t think people saw that I was completely kidding. At the time every band was doing this kind of post-punk, New York, black leather jacket kind of vibe, and for me the antithesis of that was funny fucking hippies with guitars and ponchos. I never meant that to be some sort of alphabet of my own that I was trying to present to the world.
ST—How often do you speak with your parents?
DB—I speak with my dad almost every day, and he comes on tour at least half of the time. I’m very, very close with him. My mother I speak to less because she’s in Caracas. I have a much stronger relationship with my father but they were both really influential in shaping my music. I’m lucky in the sense that I grew up in Caracas surrounded by indigenous music. Salsa, merengue, and samba is ubiquitous there. You’re going to hear it everywhere you go, blasting from the streets, in the store… but my parents are new-agers, and they’re into world music. They would buy albums that really affected me. It was profoundly different to what I was hearing on the street, and it became obvious to me that music can have a kaleidoscopic emotional effect.
(Excerpt from Issue 03)
Enjoy more this on thelabmagazine.com, coming summer 2012!
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