Photo by Erica Anderson, Wexner Center. Adam’s on the right.
MP3: Lion and Oil, the band’s first song ever released on Columbus Alive’s No Token compilation compiled by Steve Slaybaugh
MP3: DROP – OUT from Rip it Off
MP3: (My Head)/R.I.P. Allegory from Rip it Off
Get the Word out!!
Times New Viking just dropped Rip It Off on Matador Records and they have a release party at the Wexner Center tonight. The show will be opened by The Feelers (Hi Gay Aleks) and The Ponys. Playing at the Wexner is an almost impossible feat for a Columbus band. But they aren’t just any Columbus band. They made a disobediently loud, fuzzy, lo-fi pop album that in many ways captures the spirit of the times. The band’s drummer and sometimey vox, Adam Elliott bartends at Bourbon Street here in Columbus where I get drunk during the bar’s weekly Hip Hop Night, So What Wednesdays, and discuss the things that are pertinent to the leaders of the Vanguard.
In this interview, Adam and I talk about his philosophy of Romantic Nihilism, Art, Matador, Columbus, politics, and a song about a not so romantic nihilist.
Wes Flexner: So lets get it poppin. What is Romantic Nihilism?
Adam Elliott:It’s a philosophy pretty much that has been developing. It’s a stupid coined term. But I think it does exist amongst 20 somethings or whatever. The concept of nihilism has existed in popular culture. The concept of free will. Where people don’t really have choice in their lives. They just accept it. Why? It’s just the way it is. Romantic Nihilism is me finding a way to connect to the world around me. If I see shootings in Sudan. An earthquake in the Philippines. Someone gets shot at Weber Market. I am equally connected to all those things. I am equally disconnected from all three of those things at the same time.
It’s kinda like I am in love with the new Britney Spears song for all the same things that play into as I am in love with the Velvet Underground. It’s accepting everything in world for what it is. And looking into it a little more for what is.
WF: How is this nihilist?
AE: Nihilism is the belief that I don’t really believe in anything. It’s based on the philosophy that there is no meaning in anything. The Nietzsche-postmodern concept of everything has been done before. Nihilism lets me lump it in and say I don’t believe in anything.
WF: Then you add Romance to this?
AE: It doesn’t work.
WF: So it’s not a technical philosophy. It’s more of a device for comprehension of the state of things.
AE: It’s not a technical philosophy. It’s an idea that does exist in the post-modern landscape. The idea of nothing being romantic doesn’t exist physically but it can exist in philosophy. But philosophy never exists in reality. There is no way of really fundamentally saying this philosophy does exist. Other than when people talk about it.
WF: How do you apply this to making music?
AE: Lyrically it’s the easiest way. It’s like Crass. To me they were first Romantic Nihilists. The idea that we really have no hope. People are seeing that there shouldn’t be hope. But we still have hope. The songs are kind of anthems. We kind of see songs as anthems, I think. We still fit a lot of words in. Most of the times we are just using words we use all the time, anyway. We have a lot of repeat words or whatever.
I think the romance kinda comes in, just in how everything falls into place. The words. The titles. The subtleties. The way music sounds. The way we produce product. There are millions of bands turning out product. We actually produce product.
WF: By product do you mean concept?
AE: We are a product. When you add up all the interviews. All the language that we use. The way every little subtlety exists. It does become product.
WF: Are you comfortable with referring to your art as product?
AE: In the end it is product. If it’s commercial then it is product. Some people are tentative to say it’s product. Not us. The number one thing about this band being collaborative is that it is a product.
WF: You’re for that?
AE: All for it.
WF: Ok. But one of the great appeals of you band is that in a time when indie rock is on a publicist/booking agent/distributor driven machine, Times New Viking took a more DIY approach. From booking your own shows, to the lo-fi sound to hand making your own art. Obviously you are in this machine now with Matador.
AE: It’s a crazy machine. It’s still product. I am proud it’s product. We are tapping into the field of product. But we still have control over it. It’s an idea. When you choose between two records at the store you are choosing a product. When you see us live, it’s not a product. If you come to my house to see a fine-art collage I made then it’s not product. But when I put it in a gallery and hang up flyers then it’s product.
We are selling ideas.
WF: You were telling me about a ideas you had post-music? How you would like to have the ability to start a non-profit to nurture art education?
AE: At a young age you could nurture kids creative ideas. Show them some form of learning outside books and taking tests. They would be excited about learning. It teaches them how to be free thinkers. It would be good for our society to have generations of people that can think for themselves. If you deny that of a kid then his first take on art is gonna put him off. Then art is going to remain in some gallery in some fucking neighborhood that no one ever goes to. I hate the art world.
WF: Why do you hate the art world?
AE: It’s so bourgeois. I love the Dadaist. They try to be anti-gallery. The Fine art world is the same thing as kids born with money, getting Ivy League educations and getting jobs. It’s the same bullshit concept. It’s already a place that’s considered being elite. What 150 people come to see your art in a month? Rock N Roll you can get 300 people every night. Different people.
WF: Same thing about galleries could be said for some DIY music venues, though.
AE: There are spaces that are all right. I am not saying fuck all artspaces. Those are centers for creativity. It’s not about profit. Most art galleries are about profit. I have ideas that were presented to galleries and I have been told they are good ideas. But said gallery couldn’t do it because it wouldn’t make money. Nothing worse than a gallery saying they like your work but can’t put it up because they can’t make money.
WF: That’s funny in Columbus, Ohio cause Rebecca Ibel is the only gallery that makes money. The rest of them don’t. Why would they even purp. Sounds like some of these galleries are just out of touch.
AE: We go to CCAD right. We would have to be Sixty years old until one of my prints shows up in the Wexner Center. But we’re playing a concert there. We’re in the Wexner Center. It’s crazy how much easier it to get music to the world. The attitude towards music is more approachable. But even in college I decided I didn’t want to do fine arts. I would rather have a print in a Magazine. I would rather my art be on someone’s coffee table than some gallery.
WF: How does this effect the idea of product for your band?
AE: I like the product of our band that its not limited. As much backing or whatever. It’s available to anyone. There is no way we are trying to be exclusive. The Matador thing. You might go to Best Buy. I want kids who the only place they can shop is Best Buy to be able to buy good music.
WF: You were telling me last night that the kinda kids you want to reach are the ones just trying to figure things out.
AE: If a 14 year-old equated Times New Viking and the Velvet Underground. That would be amazing. Time doesn’t exist.
WF: When you were 14, what were bands like that for you?
AE: At 14? Guided By Voices. The band that was really amazing for me was Faust . Faust tapes (German Krautrock band). I got the Velvet Underground box set when I was 13. It blew my mind. My dad had BMG. I was like I want that. I like art. I knew about Andy Warhol. Andy Warhol did the cover. I didn’t automatically get it. But I wanted to. I was smart enough to realize I was gonna get it later. My Bloody Valentine I tried to get into when I was 14. I did not get into Loveless until last year.
WF: So 14 Years olds are the ideal market for this record?
AE: Ideally that would be awesome. But really the market I want to like it are kids my age. I think we have something that I hope they recognize. You make this art. You think you are molding it out of the world around you. You are putting out a product. No one gets it. That would totally alienate myself. That would make me stop doing it. I like the idea of doing something because I think people are gonna understand. We are not trying to make art so weird that no one gets it.
WF: So with the idea of accessible pop. I have to ask you the low-fi question.
AE: We just record it and that’s how it comes out. And that’s how it sounds. In a way the process is anti-. But we don’t have computers. We are not the computer type band. I went to school to learn how to make Intaglio-prints. Fucking old, archaic, dead product. No one makes Itaglio-prints for their original purpose. We never recorded our songs to hear a professional band. We record our songs to document the afternoon we were there. To document the song. The lo-fi works because we have shitty-ass equipment. We have shitty mics. We don’t go out an buy better mics. Cause we have mics. Why would we buy more mics?
WF: So you go on tour for year. And you make as much money as a schoolteacher from touring. Would you buy some new mics?
AE: I would buy some new mics. First off, when we are recording, we are trying to please ourselves. We are trying to have fun. I like how it sounds. It’s anti-pro tools. You listen to 1000 songs, even though they are different types of music. They are produced the same way. Our song out of nowhere sounds two-times louder. There are different ways to record. I don’t understand why it’s a bigger statement than that. The only reason people question it is because we are getting press. But there is more lo-fi music out there. There is an entire scene of people that record worse than us. We are one out of a million that is being talked about. Especially in Columbus it doesn’t make sense. People on message board say, ‘oh this sucks’. Like I was telling you the other day, No Age sounds like that. No one is talking about No Age on the local Columbus boards. Those guys that hate us, they aren’t commenting on No Age. We aren’t forcing ourselves in those guys’ lives. Basically its because we are from the same town.
Some guy asked us today, ‘how do you handle the buzz you are getting?’ We were like A) We don’t believe the buzz exists. B) Don’t worry about it too much because we have enough local drama that we don’t worry about it nationally.
WF: Is Columbus a pretty humbling place to be?
AE: It’s normal. That’s what I like about it. I think life is humbling. When I go to New York, and see people doing music, I understand why people live there. I know I don’t want to live there. It’s not bad.
I will tell you. Humbling is driving across the country in a 94 Astro-Van to playing for 40 kids in Missoula, Montana. That’s awesome. Driving that far is a struggle. But I get to see America. I feel like I am in Easy Rider. Even though there is only 40 kids. Those 40 kids are awesome. The fact they came to see us play, and have fun with us, is amazing.
After that, the level of surprise isn’t gonna change. We could play Bonnorro, and that would be cool but we wouldn’t be blown away. The first time we drove across the country and people knew who we were. That blew us away.
WF: Earlier before the interview, we were talking about complacency. Do you think this country needs a great depression or a draft to wake people up?
AE: President Bush has done enough as a warmonger. I don’t understand why 50 year old’s aren’t protesting. How did that guy get to two terms? The fact you can’t answer that is the reason we don’t have protests.
Political though. Protests. It would not change George Bush if hundreds of million of people protested against the war. Right? He knows he has a 32 percent approval rate. He knows. America should’ve maybe protested him being elected. It’s a little late.
WF: John Kerry.
AE: Why didn’t John Kerry say he was against the war the whole time? Because even Republicans who have kids in the Military are for no war. Their kids are in the military to protect America. Not on some, whatever war you want to throw me out on. Lot of recruits. They have no other options. They are definitely not joining it to just fight any war.
I am a pacifist. I am against war and all that. But I understand people wanting to have a standing military. I understand people wanting to fight for this country. But you don’t need to vote for the evil dude whose family made money off the Nazi Party. It’s not gonna work out.
WF: It goes back to the lack of options. There is this book that rappers love called The 48 Laws of Power. Law 31 is control the options. They control the choice. So there is no choice. No choice breeds nihilism. So I am gonna loop on back to Romantic Nihilism here. You have a song on the album called “DROP OUT“?
AE: That’s the most Romantic Nihilist song. The title. It’s not so much about needing to drop out. It is that we have dropped out. It’s written in a way about two people that have dropped out. Those words. The way we wrote that song. That’s my favorite song.
WF: You know with “Let Your Hair Grow Long” on the other jawn, and the peace signs. You guys got me thinking about Timothy Leary, dropping out.
AE: By dropping out now, you are actually getting in there. I am talking about dropping out of the subculture that exists now. Drop of your normalcy. Stop driving your car all the fucking time. Stop paying your credit card debt.
America is so numb. And people have dropped out. You choose to dropout in a certain way, its gonna make me pay more attention to the politicians. I want to fight for someone that’s gonna give me free health care so I won’t have to pay 100 bucks a month in case I get sick.
WF: Here is my curiosity about Romantic Nihilism. And I think you answered it for me. When people are dropping out, they need to be more strategic with the dropout or Nihilism. Not be dropouts. Everyone has dropped out already.
AE: Yeah, by dropping out, I don’t mean smoke weed and play Wii all the time. And don’t pay attention to anything else. It’s more like wake-up. The concept of saying dropout is a coined pop culture phrase. That’s why it’s all in capitals
That song is about, ‘I woke up. I have a lot stuff to do but I slept in.’ The chorus is “(S)he Got up. (S)he Got on. (S)he got off.” She (Beth Murphy) says he.
WF: When a girl’s saying that it’s like that. Its like a dude comes and fucks somebody.
AE: And he takes off and doesn’t care. That’s what it is. ‘Wake up. I got what I wanted and now I am leaving’.