In 2001 Phil Elverum released The Glow Pt. 2 under his Microphones moniker and the indie music community was floored by seamless shifts from acoustic soft strums to loud percussion like they hadn’t heard before. The Glow Pt. 2 was a fresh take on so many different ideas spanning generations of music and became the foundation Phil’s prolific song writing. A name change to Mount Eerie and several releases later, we find Phil releasing some of his best music and it is a pleasure to interview him in this edition of 5 Questions.
Cal – We have had a chance to hear the great new tunes “Lone Bell” and “House Shape” from Clear Moon which both lack the traditional “Phil Elverum” acoustic strums. Is this indicative of the rest of the album? Can you talk a little about both albums and what we can expect? Did you have any additional collaborators that shaped some of the music (like on To The Ground)?
P.E. – Yes, Lone Bell and House Shape are fairly indicative of the sound of Clear Moon. It’s mostly just me alone in the studio for long winter months with only one light turned on being cold and forgetting to eat, noodling around on organs and seeing if I could get a gong to feedback forever. The experiments gradually got whipped into songs and then sweetened and clarified, and then split into 2 groups: Clear Moon and Ocean Roar, depending on whether they evoked sharp clarity or pressing fog brain. There were a couple collaborators that ended up on the album, particularly Allyson Foster (of Hungry Cloud Darkening) who sings all these windy ethereal parts on the Place I Live and others. “To The Ground” is totally unrelated to these 2 new songs. It’s kind of a misleading single to come out right now as it sounds pretty unlike these new things.
Cal – You have had such a vast musical arc including an album of harder black metal inspired tunes but even with the variety of soundscapes there seems to be one continual feel and story being told. Do you view your work as a natural progression that listeners can pick up on common threads or do you view each release as an isolated experience?
P.E. – I definitely see it as all one progression, even including the older songs under the Microphones name. It’s my goal to make a varying body of work with a cohesive theme running through it. I’m not sure how exactly to articulate that theme but it’s there. I guess that’s why I keep making things, to keep trying to articulate it.
Cal – You seem to have an idea of keeping the visual aspects of music closely tied to music itself. Releasing your own cds (as well as other artists) with books etc. as well as offering photo’s and other medium on your site. Can you explain your relationship to the two mediums and why the both are important to you?
P.E. – As a teenager my plan was to become a filmmaker. I made movies with my friends and held screenings at the coffee shop, just like playing shows. Then I started playing music and that took over and now I’m still distracted by it. I would still like to eventually make movies, which to me seem like the ultimate art form, sound and image and movement and story and everything else. At the moment I’m just doing sound and image. Maybe if albums were never packaged with a cover it wouldn’t have occurred to me to care about the artwork, but since that’s a standard aspect of presenting music I am happy to be able to use that square of space to be able to further evoke whatever feeling I’m trying to create with the music.
Cal – When The Glow Pt. 2 was released, it created a title wave of buzz in the indie community even with the limited amount of resources dedicated to the style of music. Since then we have had an explosion of websites (bandcamp, facebook, blogs) all dedicated to “creating buzz” or creating/supporting a hip new genre of music. Do you feel that the change in the music climate has affected the reception of your music? Positively or negatively? In addition, do you feel there is more of a want/need now for the visually enhanced packages that you are offering on your site?
P.E. – It is certainly a changed world since 2001 when that album came out. I don’t know if it’s positive or negative. It’s easy to long for a simpler pre-internet time but it’s impossible to really know what it would be like. I think I got enough notoriety just before the internet was such a major aspect of so many peoples’ lives and I’m fortunate to have been able to keep riding that wave for so long. I don’t mean I think I’m still coasting off a 11 year old success, but just that it sounds horrible to START making music and getting attention for it in the current climate. There’s just too much to pay attention to. It’s like a tropical climate where too much thrives. Yuck. The fancy packaging is one technique to encourage people paying money for something, yes, but they still have to like the music, which is no science.
Cal – On your site it says that there are plans to repackage the Microphones cds. Will they be just the cd with new art/pkg or will they include additional tracks and outtakes (minus the Glow Pt. 2 which all of the material was released for the reissue)?
P.E. – No CDs. I am officially declaring CDs dead. At least for me, I’m not making more CDs. They will be vinyl with the same music, probably remastered, and then nicer packaging. Maybe not even new art, but just better printing, sturdier jackets, etc. And they’ll come with a download
Cal – You have mentioned in the past that during The Glow Pt. 2 days, it was about obsessively recording and producing music with Dub Narcotic only a block away. Has your creative process changed since those early Microphones albums?
P.E. – Yes. I didn’t have a record label component in my life back then. Now so much of my life is taken up with the other parts of releasing music. It’s pretty crazy actually how much of the process is dealing with details on the computer. Also booking tours, figuring out manufacturing, assembling things, curating a website, arranging a festival, etc…. Actually making music is not the biggest part of my life these days.
*Anacortes Unknown Music Series – Link
Cal – Are there any plans to follow up Lost Wisdom? Any other collaborative cds on the horizon?
P.E. – No specific plans, but I would love to.
Cal – 2012 looks to be a very prolific year for you with another 7″ and two full length albums on the way. What else can we expect in the form of touring or music on the horizon?
P.E. – I’m planning to play a lot of shows this year, everywhere. I just put a new band together and we learned most of the new songs and it sounds really good! I’m super excited to tour. Specific plans will be on my website before too long.
*Phil Elverum website – Link