NewVillager have not only managed to put out one of the more thrilling and melody-loving new releases this fall, they also put on one hell of a show. The Brooklyn-based troupe typically plays as a trio, with a “human sculpture” bursting from Ben Bromley and Ross Simonini’s performance. There’s costumes and fort-building, visual art being constantly made in the middle of their audio art. They’ve held down gallery appearances as much as basement shows, their own “mythology” changing with each gig and conceptually at the center of their setlist.
That doesn’t mean their 2011 self-titled album is all artwork and no play. From its opening, “NewVillager” is a head-nodding dance party: textural, playful, dancey, self-assured. Look for the same at their performances, as the band has just kicked off the autumn leg of their tour, with U.K.’s Metronomy.
Below, we debut NewVillager’s remix of their Mercury Prize-nominated tourmates’ breezy song “Some Written” and hold down an email chat with Simonini.
How did this particular remix come about? What did you like most about the original?
It was pretty simple. Metronomy just asked us what song we’d want to remix. We liked the ’70s smoothness of the original “Some Written”, the hints of jazz-fusion, how simple and stark the arrangement was, and the basic vocal melodies. The track seemed like it contained some other variations inside itself, and it had room for other ideas, so we went with that one.
Your performances are like roving installations. Is it important to your art and music for there to ever have any permanent home?
At this point in life, permanent is a funny word for us. We haven’t really had any space that we occupied for very long. The longest, so far, was the RedHouse in San Francisco and we had a whole set up for recording and art in that basement, which was fantastic. We have had some installations for weeks at a time, in LA and San Francisco. That was nice. We’d perform several times in those installations, sleep in them. But we also like the traveling circus aspect of what we’re doing. We design a lot of elements to be road-ready and malleable, so we can walk into any situation, any venue, and transform it in a customized way. It makes every show unique, like the way some bands, like Pearl Jam or the Grateful Dead are known for switching up their setlist every night. We would like to do some longer gallery or museum installations (6 weeks or so) where we treat it like a more traditional art installation. We’re also interested in a theatrical situation where we think about the installations as semi-long-term sets.
You guys have said before that you’d like to have more people join you in your stage show if you had a bigger budget. What else would you like to do on tour if you had more cash to play with?
We’d love to have the whole room engaged. The audience would be filled with performances. Right now, we have elements of that – we move through the crowd, we bring people on stage, we have a human sculpture in the center of the audience. But it would be great if everyone had sort of a role. It would create that village environment, where the feeling of a show is less like a performance and more like stepping into a small functioning society for an evening. I loved that feeling of concerts when I was young, and it’d be exciting to make that festival feeling happen every night. For this, we would need people to help organize the events, and we’d like to bring more musicians to play throughout the room, dancers, artists, cobblers, video artists,whoever.
I imagine your tour van to be filled with magnificent objects. Do you have a favorite object?
No favorites. But we’re always working on the stuff we bring. Everything’s always changing. Usually we spend our 12,638 hour drives between cities by making some form of art in the car. Recently, we’ve been designing these posters that we sell at shows, just as documents of the tour and as hand-made commodities. That’s been fun.
Here are NewVillagers’ tour dates:
10/11/11 – Seattle, WA @ Neumos #
10/12/11 – Vancouver, BC @ Electric Owl #
10/13/11 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios #
10/14/11 – San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop #
10/15/11 – Los Angeles, CA @ Troubadour #
10/16/11 – Costa Mesa, CA @ Detroit Bar #
10/18/11 – San DIego, CA @ Voyeur #
10/20/11 – Los Angeles, CA @ Skybar
10/21/11 – San Francisco, CA @ Velvet Room – Clift Hotel
# – with Metronomy
08-Nov UK, Glasgow, School of ArtWed
09-Nov UK, Sheffield, The BoweryThu
10-Nov UK, Leeds, Brudenell Social Club
11-Nov UK, Liverpool, Contemporary Urban CentreSun
13-Nov UK, Manchester, Ruby LoungeTue
15-Nov UK, London, Madame JoJo”s ‘White Heat”Wed
16-Nov UK, Birmingham, HMV InsituteThu
17-Nov UK, Bristol, Start the Bus
18-Nov France, Paris, Fleche D”Or ‘Les Inrocks”
19-Nov Holland, The Hague – Crossing Border
20-Nov Belgium, Leuven, Het Depot ‘Nachtkracht”
21-Nov Germany, Berlin, CrystalTue
22-Nov Germany, Cologne, Studio 672