Sam Buck Rosen

Artist Info
The young Romeo talks with his surrogate older sister about drifters, dreams and life as a literary musician, over Google Chat.

Re-gifting with Sam Buck Rosen

January 2011 (11:02 AM)
Nikole: Hey there Rosen.
Sam: Hey! My "high priority" alarm setting pays off!
Nikole: Are you typing from bed? Please say yes either way.
Sam: Well I don't even have to lie. The answer is a resounding yes.
Nikole: Great. Now, do you have your steaming hand-pottered mug of Yerba Mate ready?
Sam: Oh my god too much caffeine in Mate. I'm having an anxiety attack just thinking about it. Which is totally waking me up.
Nikole: So you're just chewing on a raw birch stick while draped in your handmade quilt, ready to go deep with one of your oldest friends about your newest songs?
Sam: This birch stick is so strong! I asked them to put a ton of cream and sugar and they gave it to me black. Oh well. I'm ready!
Nikole: Well, why don't you just kick it off by talking about these new songs (which I am currently listening to)?
Sam: As an aside, I had a guilt inspired dream about sleep blowing you off last night!
Nikole: hahahahah (note: Sam slept through our original g-chat date)
Sam: You were calling to tell me you'd be picking me up in your "white station wagon Volvo".
Nikole: Not the blue one. I wanted you to know.
Sam: Anyways, those songs are actually quite old!
Nikole: Wow.
Sam: I think the newest of them is from 2008.
Nikole: So you dipped into your archives for all of us over here at Secret Stereo?
Sam: Yep, I have kind of an issue with finishing recordings so my computer is kind of an elephants graveyard of these b sides. Ha ha, elephants' graveyard...
Nikole: Well, I feel as though I just discovered that my Christmas present isn't new after all, but instead a treasure from my family's hope chest. I am moved.
Sam: Ooooo! That's special. But a tiny part of you is disappointed that you're being re-gifted... heirloom or not!
Nikole: So are these songs all from the same session? I assume not, since you said the latest is from 2008. Are there a bouquet of years here?
Sam: Those were all recorded around the same time in late 2007 / early 2008. I recorded an EP called "Hold Me" at my old roommates house in Vermont. I was completely alone in one of the scariest houses in America and this is what I came up with. 'Purple Mountain' was made by my friend Rostam [Batmanglij, of Vampire Weekend] and he asked me to do vocals for it. I tried to come up with the best "Gay Anthem" lyrics possible. I'm not saying it predated the "It Gets Better" project... but it might be where that idea came from. You're welcome, Dan Savage.
Nikole: Mission accomplished. I hope this interview comes up on the Google Alert he inevitably has on his own name. I know it will come up on the one I have for mine. So… you recorded these songs while in the woods of Vermont, alone in a haunted house.
Sam: It sounds crazy, but that's actually what I WANTED to do at the time. I don't think I could again.
Nikole: How do you think that influenced the sound or intent behind these songs, if at all? Or rather do you think that the location choice was influenced by your state of mind at that point, and therefore the songs inadvertently influenced the finding / choosing of the space?
Sam: Well, the house was amazing for recording. I had a really out-of-tune grand piano and my full drum set in the living room. I look back on it now and I think "Wow that was really the most terrifying thing ever." Like, I would cry when the sun went down! Every day! I think I was in need of an emotional detox. I don't feel like the songs reflect that so much, they definitely "chose" the space. Even though I had no new songs when I got there, I was starting from scratch. I was just having a restless time in NYC and thought "Oh man, I REALLY just have to live in this house for a couple months alone" even though I'm TERRIFIED of serial killers in the woods.
Nikole: I can really feel that in these songs.
Sam: And one time an ACTUAL drifter came to the door in fatigues.
Nikole: What?
Sam: With an open beer at like 11 AM. In Vermont.
Nikole: Well, phew. It was 11 am.
Sam: And was like "Do you know which way to the mountains?", and I was like "You've made it, buddy". While inside I was screaming "Please don't kill me!!!".
Nikole: Drifters can't kill 'til after midnight. It's like a movie.
Sam: And lucky for me, by that point, he thought he met me in Delaware.
Nikole: Sounds like a nice guy. Doesn't he guest on drums on 'Grapevine'?
Sam: Congas
Nikole: Right.
Sam: Congas and steel drum.
Nikole: So, I feel like you have always had very specific living situations throughout various chapters of your music making. For instance, when you first moved to NYC, you lived in the famed Halsey street house which was crammed with the creme de la creme of prolific and innovative music makers of Brooklyn...
Sam: This is true. I lived with a "WHO'S WHO" of today's rock star elite. At the time I thought it was a burden. But I'm really happy with the recordings I made there. Even though I was constantly bombarded with Dave [Longstreth of Dirty Projectors] et al. from downstairs, hearing them get an ABSOLUTELY. COMPLETELY. PERFECT drum sound or anything sound while I was alone in the basement, or my closet-sized room fighting for some air time.
Nikole: How do you think being saturated on all sides (socially, musically, osmosis-ly) by such intense music makers effected your sound / work ethic / moral at that time?
Sam: Well, there's that great Joni Mitchell line "Don't it always seem to go, that you think something is super annoying, but it's not?". At the time I felt like "AH, I'm never alone. I have eight roommates constantly making noise around me. I'll never get anything done." I was definitely really sensitive and insecure at that time in my life. Any time someone gave me a suggestion, I would immediately take it. Like, Dave told me to get a band. So I did! In the end it was great though. I really like the album I made while living there, "Get the Motion" (which is free at www.sambuckrosen.com). But yeah, the experience taught me that I work best away from other people, and that feedback isn't really useful to me until I'm done. I'm too sensitive!
Nikole: Which I am sure was instrumental in cultivating the environment you live in now; way upstate, away from the city, and with just one other person.
Sam: Exactly. I thrive here! I live in a completely organic igloo.
Nikole: Someday you'll be in fatigues, knocking on a young man's door asking if you've reached the mountains.
Sam: Looking crazy, but I'm really just drinking water. Because I'm allergic to beer.
Nikole: Are you?
Sam: That's what I've gathered. Beer is over for me. We broke up.
Nikole: So, when you listen to these songs, that you made living in a haunted cabin in Ghost Valley, VT, as you sit in your organic upstate igloo, do you feel them as a precursor to the type of thing you are making now?
Sam: Definitely. I just needed to find the happy medium of upstate seclusion. Hudson (where I live now) is a magical place that attracts celebs and former celebs alike. Just ask Hugh Dancy.
Nikole: (Google alert.)
Sam: But yeah, I'm still working alone. I've always related to writers in that way- privacy is key. I'm too embarrassed singing something out of nothing within earshot of anyone else. So this situation is ideal. And the music itself is definitely just progressing from that same sound. Programmed drums, keyboards, lots of voices always. My next project will be a Greatest Hits, compiling a few new songs with all my old ones. I feel like a lot of people never heard those tracks. Including your starring role on our classic duet.
Nikole: I made the Greatest Hits? This is great news for my Google Alert and Wikipedia page.
Sam: Yeah. As your Wikieditor, I thought it would be headline news.
Nikole: Well, I'm thrilled that you took these songs out of your hope chest for Secret Stereo, and that they will lead us over to your forthcoming Greatest Hits. When can we look forward to your Hudson songs and / or some shows?
Sam: 2011 baby! I'm so excited, what are you doing for new years?? Oh wait...
Nikole: Sam, I know you don't get the news or "time" up there in Hudson, but 2011 happened.
Sam: Yeah, I'm just regrouping with my band now! I play primarily keys now. We'll be playing shows again probably starting in March!
Nikole: That's soon. That's exciting. Who is in your band now?
Sam: Same two dudes. Zeke Virant and Aaron Wistar. It'll be our 3 year poly-anniversary in the summer! love those guys.
Nikole: Ok- final question.
Sam: Ooooooh.
Nikole: If your music was literature... what authors would be next to it on the shelf?
Sam: CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. ANNA KARINANA. WAR AND PEACE.
Nikole: Those are books, not authors.
Sam: FRANKENSTEIN!!
Nikole: (I would like the transcript to reflect the massive pause before "Frankenstein")
Sam: No, no. I think it would probably be book-ended by Harry Potters, if I'm being honest
Nikole: Harry Potter is a wizard, not a writer.
Sam: J.K. has consumed me for the past year. I read the entire series.
Nikole: Ok, there we go.
Sam: You're tough!
Nikole: What do you expect? But it was great to chat with you. I have known you since you were nine, but you never cease to entertain and enlighten, Sam Buck Rosen. Bye. Go back to sleep.
Sam: Bye.
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