Castanets

Artist Info
Brooklyn's Ray Raposa has released several albums on the Asthmatic Kitty label. His twisted take on folk, country, and strange blues music has made him fans worldwide. Here we have a stripped down, yet electric full-band set, with a Waylon Jennings cover thrown in for good measure.

INTERVIEW

November 2007
(tss) What's been most interesting to you this autumn so far?
(Ray Raposa) It finally got cold again. That's a good feeling. I've been interested in a lot of women. They're captivating. I haven't seen enough movies. That's sad. I did some shows with Michael Gira- that was maybe the best week of my year, or one of them. I just learned how to string a guitar...
Tell me about touring with Michael Gira.
He is a gentlemen. I don't think he could have been any more decent. This was our chance to play to aging Goths. I mean, I don't think either of us are real happy about that, but...
Did you find that the audience was digging both bands?
Yeah. I think it went great. We were both playing solo, so format-wise, it was a consistent vibe.
Do you find that your European shows differ from those in the States?
They're unanimously better. Without fail.
Attendance-wise, or vibe-wise?
Pretty much all around. I mean, you've played a lot of shows in the StatesÉ
With you.
Yeah! [laughter]
That's cool. So, In the Vines. What's the deal with that?
[Laughter]
Why should people be interested in (the new record)?
RR: Because people like pedal steel, mostly. With my friend Rafter Roberts out there. Then we came back to Brooklyn to do Jesse's parts, and Sufjan's parts, and Jana's parts, and Matthew's parts. A lot of vocals in Brooklyn and stuff. Then we went back to San Diego to mix. So it's very labored over, and I think is sort of the culmination of things that I've been working on for a couple years, and there's certain ways of working that I don't intend to go back to after this one, and a certain freedom to the new ways that I'm already engaging with the recordings after.
What was your intention with this record? Was there any specific approach to songwriting or recording with this record? I kind of remember talking to you while you were recording this record, and you were really into contemporary R+B music. Do you want to talk about that at all?
RR: Yeah. Aside from the mock 808 on the last jam, there really isn't too much soul, too much R+B on the record. It's filtered through everything else. It's certainly not at the forefront. It's gotta get through the major keys first, it's gotta get through the improv first.
You keep mentioning that Jesse's been a bigger part of this record or this tour. Do you consider Castanets to be more of a band now?
RR: Jesse? [laughter] Are you in this band, Jesse?
Jessie Ainslie: Yeah! I'm in this band. I see my guitar playing come through in Ray's guitar playing after this long playing together. I see Ray do things on stage on his guitar, and I'm like, "I totally do that". I had another bandmate in another band who did the same thing to me. I started playing with him then I started seeing his playing in my playing. That happens, and it's a push in a direction. You can go that way if you want, depending on who the player is, and how you feel about him. I feel like I serve the purpose of communicating to those who maybe aren't familiar with the Castanets mode of communication...
RR: Which is very subtle... [laughter]
JA: Yeah, there are very few who can, and not through any fault of their own, in certain totally incomprehensible ways...
RR: I'm gonna wink at the crowd for the change... [laughter]
JA: I also think that I picked that up on the first tour, it was like a body language communication, and a sonic communication that took place that did not require words or gestures, or "we're going to the bridge!". It was a visceral communication that took place through all the things that are happening at that moment. It has always been something that I've been in tune with in my life. And I feel like we both knew that before meeting each other, and we never really discussed it or anything. It just is. See, I'm in this band. And no, there is no band. What band? Who are we talking about? [laughter]
So Ray, do you feel that now, at the end if 2007, and you've been doing this for quite a few years now, do you feel that there's been a shift… You and your peers like Jana (Hunter), Matthew (Houck, Phosphorescent) are being more recognized, are written about more about in the papers? Has it changed anything personally for you?
RR: I would hope not, and if it did, I don't think I would allow myself to believe it. But I don't see how it would. Those people have jobs to do, people who right about things that we are doing, things that friends of ours are doing. As a field, it's not something I give too much sway over the way I'm trying to live my life. It's nice to go into town and read about your friends, but beyond it just being nice, it shouldn't affect things, and I don't really think it does. But it's great, maybe more people come to shows or whatever. Also we're in the post-post-freak folk landscape right now?
But all those people have been doing it since before anyone was paying attention..
RR: Yeah. It's the vibe.
What out there is exciting to you now? Music, anything?
RR:Movies. Cold weather. I see more movies that I buy records. They're great.
Would you ever be interested in getting involved with film?
RR: It's tough. I think what's attractive about it is it's sort of outside of my… the level that it operates on, the dialogue between you and whoever, which is expansive as hell. But no, it's otherness is part of the appeal. It's always sort of a marvel. Magic. Whereas I'm sure it's gotta be the most dreadful environment. Two years of a process...
Tell me about the DVD you have coming out.
RR: There's a DVD coming out for In the Vines with friends of mine doing covers of the songs, and friends of mine talking about things that sort of inform the songs, or peripherally inform the songs...
It's video of them playing the songs?
RR: Yeah, Dirty Projectors, Jesse, Sufjan, Phosphorescent, Marlo Hansen. Couple other folks. So all the songs are on there, but by my friends.
Jesse, how did you get involved with Castanets?
JA: Initially, Ray and I were both working at Fix and Sound Fix, respectively.
That's a record store?
JA: Now it doesn't exist anymore, but at the time it was a record store and a café that were attached, but I guess the café has been shut down, and now they're doing venue stuff where the café used to be, I think. I had been in this band, Friends Band, old-time bluegrass covers, singin' harmonies and shit, and I walked into Sound Fix and Ray asked if I wanted to play with him some shows at the Bowery Ballroom. I was like "Yes, I want to play the Bowery Ballroom, that sounds great". And then from there, other things happened...
What has it been like?
A: It's been a process of refining method. A process of re-understanding the same pieces of lyric as applied to totally new musical environments. Maybe the same time signature as the last time, maybe without a time signature. Maybe in a totally different key. But a perpetually new experience, one would hope. And that as an experiential goal to musicians that may or may not have either a: have dealt with that before, or b: known that that's what we're doing now. So it has been an experiential experience to put it concisely.
[laughter]
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