>KLPT Radio Interview
NewVillager interview transcript
KLPT Radio, Big Mountain, Arizona
Aired: May 6th, 2009
Good evening, NewVillager.
Can you hear me?
Hello. Thanks for having us on the show.
You guys talking from California?
San Francisco, yeah.
Okay if I get right down to the heavy-hitter questions?
Okay, good. Then my first question has to be: What is a BLACK CROW BOY?
Well, now this is the kind of question we can’t possibly answer without creating a little black hole in the interview.
What do you mean?
Well, a black crow boy doesn’t have a voice. He’s silent, for one, and also, he’s not a person. He’s more like, say, a personality. But that’s not really accurate either. Regardless, he can’t talk about himself, not in words, which means neither can we.
Could I ask if the BLACK CROW BOY is a good or bad thing?
Again, good and bad don’t really have a lot to do with what BLACK CROW BOY is all about. It happens, that’s all. Most people experience the BLACK CROW BOY phenomenon at one point or another. From our askings around, we’ve gathered that some people like it, others not so much. Both of us have had these experiences and we’ve talked about them with eachother but I’m not so sure that either of our personal wheelings and dealings have a whole lot to do with this, even if they seem like they might. Plus, we’ve always felt that interviews are meant to be a form of connecting with people, right? And I don’t think that delving into some insular descriptions of insular events is really all that worthwhile to anyone.
Isn’t that what you are doing in the music?
No, we’re trying to create a helpful vocabulary, something that can be modular and can be applied to a set of phenomenon for people who are looking for…commiseration.
So if you can’t really talk about BLACK CROW BOY does that mean he’s mostly a musical entity?
Right, yeah. We explain the BLACK CROW BOY idea best with rhythms and notes and structural devices, but it’s very hard to sit down and describe with words what happens. Or maybe I should be asking you if you thinking you’ve dealt with the BLACK CROW BOY, personally?
Maybe. I think so.
Right, you’re not sure. It’s different for everyone and there’s no shared vocabulary for it yet. We’re trying to get toward that, but it’s hard, and we’re new at it.
I’ll admit that part of my reason for doing this interview was to get a better grasp on these ideas, and, for personal reasons, to understand if maybe I’ve had the BLACK CROW BOY experience. I think maybe I did in high school.
That sounds about right. It tends to happen around that time. We’ve talked to a lot of people, who come up to us after shows and describe their experiences and they almost always talk about high school. Also, we should mention that the term BLACK CROW BOY is not watertight. It’s not really appropriate in the sense that “boy” suggests the phenomenon is male thing. It’s not. It can happen to anyone.
So why call it that?
It’s part of a mythology that fits the experiences we’re trying to illustrate in the music. I’m not entirely sure which culture the term comes from since we heard the BLACK CROW BOY stories from our mutual friend’s father, who recently passed on, but we think that the term, for us, is the best representation of that idea. But what’s really interesting about this name thing is that we’ve read a bunch of academic papers where anthropologists describe these same experiences that very closely resemble BLACK CROW BOY and everyone has a different name for the same thing. One place thought about it like being possessed by a spirit or something and there were all these superstitions that go along with the names, like one, which might have been from Northern Canada – though I might be remembering that wrong – where you’re supposed to draw blood from a new teenager.
A new teenager? Is that the same as a young teenager?
No, it’s just a term we’ve been using for a teenager who breaks from COCOON HOUSE and goes into BLACK CROW BOY. I don’t think the anthropologist, whoever he was, referred to it in that way.
Okay, right, yeah. I read somewhere where you were talking about the COCOON HOUSE problem?
Yeah, sometimes we describe it like a math problem that you have to work out. You are presented with the problem at a pretty young age, I’d say, and you work it out until you reach BLACK CROW BOY. It’s kind of reductive to think about it this way, because it’s not really like a math problem at all. There are a bunch of different solutions, one of which is BLACK CROW BOY, It’s not the solution for everyone but it’s definitely a solution and, we think, a beneficial one for people to consider, even if they ultimately reject it.
Can you be more specific?
Not really, but I can say that we are constructing a physical model of COCOON HOUSE in our own house to try and recreate the problem in a material way. It’s like when you are to trying to teach a child to add to three and you bring out three apples. Same thing. We’ve got this space that will be a problem we can actually explore and consider for periods of time in a physical way, a sculptural way. We’ll do this on stage, too. Of course, it’s not a real COCOON HOUSE but this is a model that will help us and other people get a sense of how to solve the cocoon problem in their own creative way, without having to harm anything in the process. Also, there’s a clear entrance/exit in our cocoon and that’s obviously not the case with COCOON HOUSES that require solutions.
To what extent do you think people should follow all this advice and go –
Does this sound like advice? It’s not meant to sound that way at all. We don’t have a whole lot of experience giving advice and I don’t think that we pretend to know any right answers about this stuff but we do feel like we’ve started constructing a private language and a musical explanation for these ideas that might be helpful to certain people.
You mean teenagers?
Yeah, teenagers definitely have the most direct connection with this phenomenon. And they might understand what we’re getting at. But then again, a lot of experiences don’t really truly make sense until years later. So even though teenagers would be the most obvious candidates for this sort of thinking, they might not connect with it until much later. They just might be too mired in the experience to look at it objectively. It might take ten years before a teenager could see a connection between our attempts and their personal attempts. Maybe they never will. And maybe that’s even the better scenario. Maybe our ideas would be an interference that would be ultimately, detrimental. Probably the people who will understand us will be ones who have shed their teenagehood and the exchange will be more about reflection and retroactive understanding of their past.
Would you say that there’s any precedent for this type of problem solving? Or maybe what I’m really asking is: What people helped you out with your COCOON HOUSE problem when you were teenagers?
We’d both really prefer it if we didn’t get too much into our own particular cocoon problems. Like we were saying earlier, there isn’t a big benefit to hashing out autobiographical specifics. We really think the vocabulary and music and art are the best attempt at describing this. In terms of influences and helpers, there were a handful of thinkers and friends who talked about these ideas in one way or another, but we haven’t seen too many people who explore these ideas all in one place, as a single unified concept. We’re trying to bring these ideas together and make sense of them, to act as musical aggregates.
Can I at least ask you where your BLACK CROW BOY experiences happened?
Sure, we can say a little about that. For both of us, the experience happened at a place where the urban and the rural divided. Certain parks do this. Certain patches of land. Sometimes you really just reach the boundary between a city and a rural environment and those are the places we’re talking about. Both of our SHOT BIG HORIZON moments, happened at spots like these, where you could see the divide, and so you could kind of break out of your environment as a fixed thing and see where it’s porous.
That doesn’t sound too far off from my experience, actually.
Yeah, we’re not bullshitting you.
I take it that this isn’t something the school system talks much about?
Not really, no.
But it’s a part of reality, especially for teenagers, so…
Schooling is about certain experiences but that style of learning isn’t really equipped with a proper vocabulary to understand these ideas. Plus, mixing these ideas with the institution probably wouldn’t help anyway. Mythology seems like the best way to understand it, to get inside this phenomenon and see its flaws, so we are trying that method first. After this is done, after it has failed in the best sense, maybe we’ll try another method.