Check out Josh Darr’s series of artists interviews and portraits taken at Outside Lands.
The Outside Lands artists pictured below were asked to answer these two questions:
1. If you had to choose one album to soundtrack your life thus far, what would it be? Why?
2. When you think of San Francisco, what is the first thing (book, film, song, memory, etc.) that comes to mind?
Release the Sunbird
1. Caleb Nichols: Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit because it is true and so good—like my life.
Zach Rogue: Wow…heavy. I don’t know if I can top that. I would say the Marie Antoinette Soundtrack because every song is fucking awesome and there are so many highs and lows and it’s really melodramatic and I’m really melodramatic because I was raised by women and it’s like the peak of ‘80s. I mean it has other bands like The Strokes and Radio Dept. and all that, but it has a decidedly ‘80s vibe and it’s for a film that’s totally not exactly in the context of the ‘80s and I feel I don’t really fit in either and I don’t think our record really fits in with normal music right now because it’s so quiet and simple and so I think it’s totally appropriate to what we’re doing and it’s just an awesome soundtrack. Every song is awesome. I listen to it all the time…Do you wanna say something? Can you talk? [looking over to Kate Long].
Kate Long: See, I can only go off things I’ve been listening obsessively to lately… I would say I love The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society because it’s sarcastic and true and awesome all at the same time or I like Alien Lanes a lot because it makes me happy and sad all at the same time… [pointing to the other two guys].
Rogue: Are you guys gonna chime?
Josh Barnhart: I might say The Beatles – White Album
Rogue: Because you don’t like colors that are not dark?
Barnhart: Exactly, No because I feel like that album is such a journey and it has so many different feelings within it… like…
Rogue: It has four people who hate each other..
Nichols: But we’re five people so we’re not going to succumb to the..
Rogue: We’re all Billy Preston [apologies for cutting him off]…
Long: Zach’s just busy judging everyone right now.
Rogue: No!!! I’m not sorry go back.
Nichols: Cause it encompasses every emotional state?.
Barnhart: It kind of does… it has moments of being in love and happy things. There’s moments of joyful spirits and moments of complete disillusion, negative pessimistic feelings. I feel like it’s the whole life’s experience rolled into one. Kinda like a life burrito, and it’s not all good either..
Jameson Swanagon: I’m gonna say John Fahey’s The Yellow Princess.
Rogue: That is your life..that is your life..
Swanagon: Cause it’s quiet but subversively aggressive [everyone is in agreement of how descriptive and similar it is to Swanagon].
2. Long: The movie Bullitt, cause I love Steve McQueen.
Rogue: Alright, I’ll tell you a movie, The Big Lebowski, cause I saw it in the city and I remember I saw it with my friend Ben and we went and saw Big Lebowski when it came out we walk out and are on the street and we’re just kind of… we didn’t say anything for a good five minutes and as we’re standing on the street and after a very long period of time, we’re just like, “did that just happen?” [laughs] Did we just experience that—what was that?? What, what was just made that we just witnessed? So that was a very special San Francisco moment for me… and Bullitt.
Nichols: It’s kinda like when you’re at a restaurant and they’re like, “are you ready to fucking order?”
Swanagon: When I usually think of San Francisco most of the time that I’ve been in this area has been surrounded by playing music—either recording albums or playing shows. So it’s sort of a collected memory of…when I think of San Francisco I just think of music—being in the city listening to music.
Rogue: I think about how the A’s are better than the Giants. That’s what I think about [groans of disagreement from all around].
Rogue: Oh okay..I used to watch… when I was a kid for some weird reason we had TBS so I was a huge Dale Murphy fan and I was like this is so cool. I was an American Leaguer—but I was a total Braves fan as a kid—for a weird reason…
Long: Jameson…what you got?
Swanagon: Well, I’m just gonna say living in the Twin Peaks area of San Francisco and getting blown over by the wind everyday…but nostalgically. The tone of that last statement was a positive blown.
Nichols: I think of positive blow… I think about the world’s best tacos…no question asked about that. People might say differently but there are no better tacos—Taqueria San Francisco on 24th/York is the best taco for me. I also think about…there’s a song that hasn’t been released yet by this band Waters that I’ve been touring with and it’s called “San Francisco” and I just finished a few show with them. So when you were like what do you think of with San Francisco. I was like “San Francisco”—this song that I’ve been freaking playing for freaking three days for fifty times. So…
Rogue: Can you say Papalote?
Nichols: And I also think when you say San Francisco. The first thing that really comes to my head is just like [exhale Papalote…[cheers].
Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah
1. Alec Ounsworth: Good question…hmmm. Very good question. I think on my mind is maybe, maybe Randy Newman’s Sail Away record… could be. It’s a strange one. But I think it could be by the virtue of the fact…that at the same time it’s playful and suggests a certain darkness—which kinda suits me.
2. Ounsworth: Strangely…maybe it’s cause I was hanging out with him last night…working on some strange song in a Dan Nakamura’s (Dan the Automator) basement and I don’t know. It’s like one of my fond memories cause I really like Dan and one of these peculiar experiments that we tried. You know that might be what comes to mind. It’s usually something a little more personal then some sort of landmark for me…you know what I mean?
1. Sarah Barthel: I’m gonna be cliché and probably say…David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust or Hunky Dory. It’s simple… I guess his music has always been inspiring and I’ve always admired David Bowie since I was very young and I guess picking one album is tough but I think picking David Bowie in general would be more…yeah.
Josh Carter: I’d go with Kid A...I guess, because I often feel like I’m not here and this isn’t happening.
2. Carter: The first thing I think of is some line about flowers in your hair in San Francisco…that’s the first thing. [laughs]
Barthel: Um…first memory, I guess would be our first show in San Francisco.
Carter: Where were we?
Barthel: We were…we played the Rickshaw Stop.
Carter: Wow, that was fun.
Barthel: It was we… our flight got delayed and we showed up to the venue at like 10 p.m. and we had to play at like 11 p.m. and it was our first like…one of our first go-fly-across-the-country and play a show kind of things so it was very…it was just a one off… and it ended up being so much fun.
Carter: Yeah, it was awesome.
Barthel: And the power went out, all the power went out on one of the songs and everyone thought it was suppose to happen… like we planned it, but it wasn’t [laughs].
Carter: My mom keeps telling me to have chopino while I’m in San Francisco…it’s like some kind of thing you get at the wharf—it’s like a seafood dish. I never do it… we never have time when we’re here, so…
1. Rhydiam Dafydd: Thus far, it’d have to be a rollercoaster. I don’t know, but a lot of the great albums are… I’ll say Chas & Dave.
Matt Thomas: Which album, mate?
Dafydd: I don’t know…
Thomas: [laughs that’s a great album!
Ritzy Bryan: That’s their best work so far..I don’t know…yeah.
Dafydd: That’s mine…
Bryan: I don’t know…can any one album encapture this shit? I think Armed Forces by Elvis Costello was pretty special.
Thomas: I’m just gonna say Legend by Bob Marley because that’s a best of… because it’s the first thing that came to my mind. [laughs].
2. Dafydd: Oh God, you know we still have to experience a lot more of San Francisco. We’ve played here a couple times but that’s a tricky one…I’d say it has to be it’s liberal attitude and real good just general vibes. I don’t know, it’d have to be something positive which really resonates with this band. I don’t know..it would have to be Chas & Dave – The Early Years [Thomas laughs].
Bryan: I don’t know, I think I could imagine like sitting in San Francisco watching Spirited Away. Yeah, I mean like you know… obviously that’s like a Japanese animation, but you know at the same time it has a lot of the magic that San Francisco breathes. You know it’s not that far away…as in a feeling and a vibe. So I could watch Spirited Away here in San Francisco. [looks at Thomas] You gonna say something like Bullitt now?
Thomas: No, I was going to say… everytime I think of San Francisco I think of the Golden Gate Bridge and crossing it and then also at the same time, Alcatraz which is quite a bizarre thing because one place you can’t go anywhere and the bridge actually helps you get somewhere deep.
Dafydd: You know, there is something that always pops into my mind when we cross the bridge and drive in to do gigs is Escape From Alcatraz, just because it’s there it’s like a huge kind of monument in a way this untouchable thing and you know, growing up in Britain and having seen the films associated with that place it’s a quite an eerie thing, you know, and that’s always how it stands out.
Bryan: It looked very eerie last night as we were crossing the bridge last night—it had all this mist engulfed in the lighthouse with the light going around…very, very special.
1. Andy Cabic: I don’t know, I think soundtrack my life so far… I mean the record I’ve probably spent most time with is VU by Velvet Underground. It’s my favorite, it’s not a proper Velvet Underground record but it’s my favorite. I don’t know it’s… I have very vivid memories of checking it out from the library when I was a kid and there’s songs on it that seem to change with phases of my life, I guess…in terms of resonating more you know as times goes on. It has all the size of a band that’s one of my all time favorites on that record.
2. Cabic: Well… I just think of my neighborhood when I’m away. You know..I live in the Richmond District off of Clemente Street and so I think of like quiet mornings with people you know… Asian grandmothers out like shopping for groceries at the market…Green Apple Books just starting to open up, the smell of like Dim Sum on my street…you know the fog lingering in the air. That’s the kind of what I think of when I’m away.
1. Pete Robertson: Pet Sounds by Beach Boys because well it’s obvious really, isn’t it? It’s just like it’s a coming of age album and it sort of covers everything—love and growing up and it’s different phases, you know. It starts off joyous with pain and heartbreak along the way and often, you know some of the songs like cover it all in two and a half minutes or something like that…it’s a masterpiece.
Justin Young: Yeah, I’m not gonna shock or surprise you either. I think it was necessary with who it was and by all mean was not my favorite album of all time, but the most important and the one to kind of soundtrack—my entry into music was Nevermind really. I mean who doesn’t… I’m sure you’ve had a million people saying that. You know I think it just said everything I wanted it to say in a way I wanted it say it at that point of my life and it completely changed my life. My English teacher gave me a copy of it when I was 11 and it completely changed my life really. It’s why I’m talking to you now. It’s not very original answer but it’s a very meaningful record and the start of an obsession with American alternative culture and that kind of thing.
2. Robertson: I guess the car chase in Bullitt. That’s a very unoriginal answer… um but yeah the scene—it is what it is. You asked for the first thing and that was literally the first thing…it’s just so cool. Just the scenery and like you know just passing from district to district—yeah it’s amazing. Steve McQueen…
Young: It’s like before I came here I sort of had a bit of a fascination of there’s obviously like the Grateful Dead and also for like 12 years I skateboarded and I just wanted to come here and skate the hills and stuff like that. You think of a car going down these hills…I think of skateboards.
Sonny & the Sunsets
1. Sonny Smith: I don’t know if there is a one album like that…I don’t have one album, man…I can’t answer that [asks wife what he listens to the most]…The Violent Femmes first record has. I haven’t listened it in a while, but as far as like most time listening to of all time since I was like 15 probably. It’s gotta be the soundtrack of my life… that whole record, every song on it… “Good Feeling” and all that, “Add It Up” and all that. I’ve probably tracked most time with that record more than any other record.
2. Smith: [Laughs] These things are always hard… Well I think of Sasha and my kid, Oliver the most .They’re the biggest part of my experience in San Francisco.
1. Keil Corcoran: I would say The Stooges’ Fun House album ‘cause it’s just awesome. It’s so good, it’s so depraved and amazing. That’s it.
Josh Hodges: I really don’t know. That’s a really big question to be throwing out all of sudden like right away. I guess I just say, I’m not sure if this is even true but I’ll just say, Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush because I listened to it a lot growing up and it’s kind of sad but also like pretty… it’s one of my favorite favorites but I don’t know it’s just what I thought of right in the moment.
Shawn Glassford: That’s a really tough question…I don’t know…I guess maybe, Built to Spill’s Perfect From Now On would be one of the most solid albums for me, just because it’s so good all the way through and I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences with that album…like with being on drugs or whatever. So I’ve gone pretty deep with that one a couple of times so I don’t know I guess, on the spot, I’ll say that one…Perfect From Now On.
2. Corcoran: I don’t know. Just probably sexual liberation—yeah acceptance of homosexuality is pretty amazing to me as far as on a mainstream scale here…that’s amazing [laughs].
Hodges: It’s changed over the years. I think before we started touring it was kind of like what Keil was just saying actually it was this really amazing capitol of liberal values, but now it’s become something different for me. It’s probably one of my favorite cities to play. I think we do better here than anywhere else and so for me. We started out playing The Eagle which is now getting shut down. So I just have a lot of sentiment with San Francisco—for me I now associate it with touring and really good shows and we really slowly built up and up and up and now we’re playing here. It’s just really crazy so for me it has to do with playing music.
Glassford: I’m the same way…I think about playing The Eagle as our first show here ever and then now playing to like I don’t know over 10,000 people at Outside Lands is like… that’s a fucking crazy, crazy transition. It was so awesome…so awesome. My brother lives here and so the first time I ever came to San Francisco was by myself and I was trying to get a hold of my brother and I couldn’t so I slept in my car parked on the beach and I was the only one in the parking lot and this cop came up in the middle of the night and like totally harassed me and I had a bunch of weed on me and a bunch of paraphernalia and…[laughs]. I totally got busted for having all this weed. He didn’t arrest me but they just took it all from me… which kind of blew my mind. It was like… I’m from the Midwest so like having a bunch of weed is like a crazy deal. So he just took it all and I was just freaked the fuck out and they took it and I just got a ticket that I never paid actually [laughs]. So that’s my oldest memory of San Francisco.
1. Nic Offer: I guess you know the next record I’m making you know…You make each record from where you are and like I could tell you my favorite albums and stuff but no record says me more than those records. We put everything in them so, I don’t know what the next one’s called, but whatever that next one is.
2. Offer: I guess I just think of San Francisco-ness. You know because I think of a…just growing up next to it in Sacramento like San Francisco was “The City” like you go to “the city” and go for the weather and they had better radio stations. So I always think of being out on a grey day and driving around San Francisco with the radio on because anytime I would come up here that was… when I was a new waver it was Live 105. You know in my 20’s like they had a hip-hop station before Sacremento did and so it’d be like that was tuned in. I guess I just think of the weather and the radio…that’s what I think of.
Deadmau5 (with Sofi)
1. Joel Zimmerman: Ah….blar blar… Geogaddi – Boards of Canada…cause it SUCKS!! No, it’s awesome. I don’t know. I like it. It’s really cool—it’s actually just my go to album actually.
Sofi: I don’t have one that would describe my soundtrack to my life really. I change my mind so quickly…
Zimmerman: Raffi – Bananaphone.
Sofi: I’ll take it..
2. Zimmerman: Hippies!!
Zimmerman: No, I dont know… San Francisco. That and Uncle Ben’s.
Zimmerman: The San Francisco treat…dumbass!
Sofi: I’m from Germany, take it easy.