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Friday, Aug. 6, 2010

Thoughts on Fuji — Dirty Projectors, Ozomatli, !!! and Yeasayer


Dave Longstreth, Dirty Projectors

You mentioned during your show that it felt pretty early to be rocking out . . .

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Today it might have just been as simple as that we're really jet-lagged, so it felt crazy to be doing that. To us it felt very early, but it was still a great show. Sometimes those shows that feel like you're battling against something are the best ones.

How did it go yesterday [at the Orange Court]?

It was awesome. I really liked last night's set. It was really triumphant, because right as we started playing the rain stopped, it got nice for a little while. It was just a really nice feeling out there, in the dark, with everybody.

Most of the people here were seeing you for the first time. Do you take that into account when you're drawing up a setlist?

Yeah, there are lots of things that come into consideration. The biggest thing is that it's a festival, so it's really important that it has a certain arc. In a club show, it can be a little bit weirder, it can be a little bit more up and down, and you can get really, really quiet. Which is what I like about club shows. But at festivals, the energy level that you can get going between the band and the audience is so cool.

You must have played in about 10 different countries over the last month, doing the European festival circuit. Do you detect any difference in the dynamic between the festivals you play at?

Oh, certainly. They're always imbued, more or less, with a sense of the national character. Not as much as being in a club, but maybe in a different way-you see the way the different societies organize huge events.

Are there any that particularly stand out?

Yeah, there were several. I really, really . . . [Sees a member of Mallacan walk past in nothing but crotch-length shorts and a long T-shirt] That guy looks ridiculous. [Laughs] I really enjoyed this one. Fuji is amazing. We've only seen Tokyo, and to be out here in the mountains and the mist and the trees feels something like the antithesis of Tokyo.

Did you see [1970s prog rock band] Magma last night?

Oh, yeah. It was amazing . . . It totally had that thing you would want from Magma, which was this intense focus, this spiritual unanimity between everyone on the stage. It was powerful, beautiful and strange . . . Christian [Vander] looked great: he was wearing this incredibly low-cut v-neck shirt, with this forest of silvery chest hair exploding out of it, and just one simple piece of bling: the Magma logo, in gold. And he was making the most incredible faces. Drummer faces, but beyond "drummer face."

Raul Pacheco, Jiro Yamaguchi & Ulises Bella, Ozomatli

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This is your third or fourth time here, right?

Jiro: Fuji Rock? Fourth time. We've done the White Stage, we've done the . . .

Raul: . . . the main stage, we've done the Red Marquee, we've played way at the end [at the Orange Court] once.

I'm looking forward to tonight in the Crystal Palace. They had Gogol Bordello there a few years ago, and it's gone down in festival lore . . . Ulises: Oh, we're about to blow that out. Watch. Now we know we've got to step it up.

When you've played a festival this many times, does that enter you mind when you're thinking of what you're going to do up on stage?

Raul: I think we play our set. The thing about a place like this is, there are so many good bands, everyone's so nice, everyone's so cool. For us, it's one of the premier festivals in the world, just because of the experience. It's just an enjoyable place to be.

How does it feel to have been chosen as U.S. cultural ambassadors?

Raul: I think it's strange for us, because when we first got chosen for this work, we were in the middle of the Bush administration, and we were a band that's always been very critical of the foreign policies, and what was going on at the time. We were kind of like, you're picking us? Ulises: We just played in Mongolia, in the square in Ulan Bator, and it was estimated that there were 20,000 people at the show. Supposedly, one percent of the population was at our show in Mongolia. To be able to play that type of crowd, and have people react to the music in a really positive way and dance, it really gives some sort of value and validity to our sound, and us as a band. We can play anywhere and we're going to make people's asses move.

Jiro: I was [watching the TV monitors for the Green Stage], and I was like, "Man, if we were up there, that crowd would be like . . . Argh, that was our chance."

Nic Offer, !!!

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You were at the Capitol Hill Block Party last weekend. How does this compare?

(Laughs) It's different in a hundred ways, really. That was urban, street, asphalt. Here we're in lovely, beautiful nature, we've got probably seven times as many people, it's probably a better lineup.

Does the setting have an effect on how you play?

I think a good setting can really set the tone differently for the night. Sometimes it makes it more fun, sure.

I saw you at the Warp 20 bash at Makuhari Messe last autumn. Was that the first chance you'd had to air a lot of songs off the new album ["Strange Weather, Isn't It?"]?

We really test the songs out on the road, so those were all pretty established at that point. They weren't so shaky. Tonight we're actually doing a few from the new record that we haven't played before, so tonight's a little shaky.

It's good to do that-it keeps you on edge.

It is, for sure. That's how the songs . . . that's the only way to do it, they just get better. Sometimes for the songs, the most exciting time is the first time you play them, because they're a little shakier, it's a little more dangerous.

So at what point in the process do you start recording? Are you still working the songs out when you get in the studio?

We're always working them out because they change so much the whole time. I kind of say we write them four or five times. You jam, then you form it into a song, then you take that song out on the road and it becomes something else, then you put it in the studio and it becomes something else, then you have to learn it after the studio it becomes something else. And then after you've toured it for months on end, it's turned into a totally different thing.

How do you find audiences in Japan compare to some of the other countries you've been to?

They really pay attention. The very first time that I walked out on stage, I went like that [points his arms in one direction], and they all went like that [looks the same way]. They're good-I like playing to them. You give more to a responsive audience.

Which !!! song do you think would work best at karaoke?

I think "Must Be the Moon" is really fun to sing along to. That's where I notice a lot of people really singing along in the audience. I guess "Guiliani" has been our biggest hit, but you can't do a nine-minute karaoke song.

Chris Keating, Anand Wilder & Ira Wolf Tuton, Yeasayer

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This is your first time playing in Japan. What took you so long to make it over here?

Arnand: It was one of those places that I assumed we would be going, like, right away.

Ira: You see so many of your peers go, too . . . We were talking to the Foals, they've been here five times. It's unbelievable.

Arnand [singing along to Vampire Weekend on the Green Stage]: Me and my cousins, and you and your cousins . . .

Chris [looking at the backstage TV monitors]: Is this their shot?

Yeah. It's quite nice when you can just watch it like this . . .

Ira: It's really pleasant. This is a pleasant way to experience a festival.

Chris: That's what people always ask: what's your best festival experience? If I could be, like, 10 feet up and floating. Just floating, so I wouldn't have to touch people or bump into them. I could just go, "Oh, that's a cool band, all right. Let's float over here . . . "

You mentioned on stage that you'd been staying in Japan for another week.

Arnand: We are. We're taking vacations with our significant others.

Have you got any plans?

Ira: We're just going to walk that way, see what happens.

Chris: I hear people are friendly out there. No cannibals, right? I'm going to be mostly in Tokyo, pretty much the whole time. Tokyo and Kyoto, but I have a feeling that Tokyo will be enough.


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