Pavement: Return of the Heavily-Favored Underdogs
People have always asked a lot of Pavement’s music, making great claims for its strange powers. “The songs aren’t that hard to play,” says Nastanovich, coming to the rescue. “They’re not easy, but the songs—I think part of Pavement’s appeal is that songs aren’t really that complicated.” Referring to a difficult new golf course that he and his father recently played, Kannberg, who is a good golfer, says, “Like, it was two-hundred yard carries. Unless you’re an expert golfer, what’s the fun in that?”
On the rise of Pavement Malkmus says, “It all kind of happened in such a seemingly haphazard way. As we got a little more confidence and attention it became a little more ambitious thing.”
There seems to be an understanding, band-wide, that simplicity and a low-key way can still allow for mystery and deep complexity. This has caused some confusion in the critical response. Long and positive articles were written about the “half-hearted try,” and how the band’s most expressive gesture was “the shrug.” But, in speaking with these guys, one gets the sense, right away, that they mean what they say, that they aren’t going to get too worked up about it and that any so-called “pose” is really much closer to a “stance.” Or, even, very plainly, just a way of being.
There was a British comic who once said, “They all laughed when I said I wanted to be a comedian—well, they’re not laughing now.” The statement, in the way that it seems to be a proof of its own theorem and the way it kind of eats itself before our eyes, does fairly well in describing the career of Pavement. “A lot of accidents went in our favor,” says Nastanovich, who is as reliably modest as he is talkative, which is a rare combination. I tell Malkmus that it all seems fairly straightforward, the low-key-ness included. “Yeah, we were earnest,” he says. “We didn’t really expect people to like us and think that we were good and special. The defense mechanism is occasionally to say, um, ‘Well, it’s not that important to us,’ or, ‘Those are those the breaks, we tried our best.’ Which was just kind of reasonable. It was all kind of bewildering and that was just a way to kind of keep our cool.”
I ask Bob, Scott and Stephen if there is a sports team that they feel is expressive of the spirit of the band. I suggest the 2007 Boise State Football team, which, in an upset, won the Fiesta Bowl with a combination of trick plays, sideburns, anti-anxiety medicines and just general northwestern joi de vivre. Bob reels off stats and philosophies, and reiterates President Obama’s call for a playoff system. He sees some similarities between the band and the team, but adds, “I don’t know if Pavement is really the powerhouse that Boise State has become.” Kannberg says, “We were always pretty cocky, yet at the same time we were surrounded by people at our label who were very grounded and grounded us.” Malkmus, a fan of Oregon State football and their “jailbird outlaw status,” and due to the fact that his grandpa went to school there, is also very sporting with the Pavement/Boise State comparison: “We have our share of gadget plays. And we were undersized. And we have our loyal fans from our little neck of the woods.”
A word on Nastanovich. On the phone, he is an energetic conversationalist and will engage in whatever subject you might want to raise. He’ll have something honest and apropos to say about it. On stage, he takes on the appealing character of a guy who snuck up there and, thanks to his great smile and tambourine work, has somehow made himself indispensable. Truly. He handled much of the band’s “How ya doing, Cincinnati!?” kind of work, and feels that it is his duty to try to make a show great, to pay back for all the great shows he’s seen as a fan. It seems his sunny disposition and love of horse racing, cooking and sports both amateur and professional, was a crucial element within the mix of Pavement. Malkmus agrees: “Bob is a great friend and is a spirited guy who always gave a thousand percent onstage, no matter what. A really unique and special person. He’s a little more interesting than the rest of us. Bob was always just working on becoming Weird Bob, in a good way.”
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
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Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
Ron Sexsmith visits the Relix office to perform a tune from his latest record Forever Endeavor.
Crystal Bowersox stops by Relix to perform a song from her new album, All That For This.
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