One of the best live acts on the planet return with their "straight up rippin' rock'n'roll record"
Les Savy Fav's guitarist Seth Jabour talks about getting back into the swing of things.
Last year's album Root for Ruin sounds more like a Les Savy Fav record than [2007's] Let's Stay Friends, which had so many guests and sort of seemed to be going out in a lot of different directions...
Yeah, it definitely was a very conscious decision on our part. I think it's a little bit of a follow up to [1999's] The Cat & The Cobra. The thought behind this record was kind of like "let's make a real straight up rock'n'roll record, Les Savy Fav style," and also sort of pay homage to a lot of the old bands we were into when we were coming up as a band, earlier on in our career.
So it was a reaction against the last record in some ways?
[pause] I think Let's Stay Friends is a really great record and everything, but there was a lot of people involved in getting that record made. This time around we kind of really wanted to kind of keep it in the family and just have it be the five of us doing everything that we could possibly do to make this record without having to bring in any outside help.
Let's Stay Friends seemed like you guys were sort of feeling your way forward again - you'd pretty much split up at that point, hadn't you?
Yeah, it had been a long time since we'd made a record by the time we got to Let's Stay Friends. You know, we finished up our seven inch [singles] collection, Inches, in 2004, and then we did those two Popfrenzy seven inches for Australia, which sort of thinking outside the box a little bit in terms of what Les Sav normally does, but with Let's Stay Friends it was almost... I would say that record was very circumstantial, you know? Like, we didn't have our drummer Harrison [Haynes] with us for a majority of the mixing and polishing process post-recording. We didn't have a lot of people around even for most of the songwriting, so it kind of felt like we were sort of stitching things together a little bit as we went along inside the studio.
So what was the difference with Root for Ruin? Harrison's still living in a different city, isn't he?
Yeah, but we would still have like rehearsals pretty regularly and we would record all of our rehearsals and then we would make MP3s and email them to everybody involved. When we finally got into the studio I think we were a lot more focused and a lot more prepared than we were with Let's Stay Friends.
Going back to what you were saying about paying homage to other bands, to whom are you referring? I admit that when I first heard those big chords on ‘Let's Get Out Of Here' I thought "they've written their own [Pixies single] ‘Velouria'!"
[laughs] Well, ‘Let's Get Out Of Here' is funny because the genesis of that song was a lot different than what it wound up being on the record. It started out with this one little riff, then Tim had this idea of singing on top of it, but then as we started sort of building it we wanted it to go big - you know, now that we're a two-guitar band again.
So that's the influence of Andrew [Reuland, second guitarist]?
Well, when we stripped down to a four-piece [circa 2001 album Go Forth] I didn't do a whole lot of big guitar chords on most of our records. It's not really my approach to songwriting – or even to playing the guitar in general – but I think with this album in particular we were thinking ‘we have two guitar players, let's really use it to a greater effect.' And I think also another part of the thinking for Root for Ruin is that we wanted to be able to play these songs live whereas there are songs on Let's Stay Friends that we have no idea about.
And the homages?
Mostly I think they're vocal references. You know, Tim's chanting, "I never felt so cheap in my whole life" [on ‘Excess Energies'] which is off the first track on Solid Brass by Circus Lupus. ‘Excess Energies' reminds me of Jay Who or Rocket for the Crypt, with those big fucking driving guitar parts that are just building and building and building and building.
So you're all about the rock again?
You know, it seemed like by the time we got to Root for Ruin the musical landscape had just changed so much: there was a lot of like freak folk and country music popping up all around us that we thought that we would make it our duty to put out a good straight up rippin' rock'n'roll record. We thought it was something that a lot of people weren't doing anymore.