Image from installation on 3/9/11
Q: What is the NewVillager mythology?
A: It’s a vocabulary of ideas, which, for us, is a lens for looking at the world and art. It’s like the scientific method. You can apply it to a jellybean or the way a dog scratches itself. It’s a process that can help you look at anything. It’s not dogmatic, it’s just a way to look at the world in a cohesive, consistent way. To represent this mythos, we have a series of symbols and elements and roles that we made/found as a way of understanding the process of change. How does something change from one state to another state? It’s a very basic premise. These are things people already know in a sort of universal way but we’re just running the ideas through pop music and a few other mediums. The mythology is a way of uniting those mediums. As we’ve been finding out, the process of change is pretty close to the process of creation. It’s abstract stuff, to talk about it this way, but it’s really just a way of making sense of the creative process, which can be very hard to navigate.
Q: So why make a mythology?
A: We started off with Michael Jackson and The Beatles – I mean, we literally started of as kids listening to them – but also, as NewVillager, we started off this two artists as a sort of baseline. They seemed like the Adam and Eve of pop music for our lifetime and we wanted to make pop music. And so, because some of this myth stuff seems a little dry in abstract form, we thought we should describe it in a juicy, pop music package and not, say, in a free improvisation package.
So, where are the two greatest intersections of mythology and pop music? Jackson and the Beatles. Led Zeppelin is another good example. So is Bob Dylan. All these artists created their mythologies and people know about as much or more about their mythologies than they do their music. MJ turned himself into living art – the way he moved and looked. He was his own mythological creation. It seemed to us that, in looking at the past, the way to make pop music is to also make a mythology.
Plus, when we consider what we really liked about these artists, it wasn’t just the music, it was that mythic space they occupied in our heads. Paul is Dead, etc. That’s what stages and recordings do – they create a relationship between art and the viewers – and whether an artist is aware of it are not, they are creating a mythology just by being an artist.
Q: How is the NewVillager mythology like, say, Greek or Roman or Islamic mythology? Or is it not?
A: We’re not looking to create a new full-blown mythology (like Greek mythology) so much as to chronicle mythic thinking. What I mean to say by that is: we’re not trying to introduce another new ideology into the world. We’re chronicling the ideas of myth that we’ve seen before. For instance, if you look at someone like James Joyce or Eliot or Homer or Goethe or Ovid – any of those writers. They weren’t creating mythologies. They were piecing together what they had learned about the world through already-known mythologies. They were documenting and collaging. Right? And then, inherently, something was created out of that documentation. This piece of art happened when they put all these ideas together. I mean, that’s what happens, by default. We are just putting some ideas next to each other. It’s kind of like curating or making a big mix tape of ideas. That seems, after all, to be the age we are living in – a time of mashing up.
Also, it’s also important to say that the NewVillager mythos isn’t complete. It hasn’t been constructed. No mythology is really like that. It accretes information and revisions and new ideas. It loses some ideas too. The mythologies that tend to work are the ones that continue to evolve, not the one’s that hold fiercely to a single vision. I guess that’s what you’d call orthodox. We are not orthodox. Plus, it would seem pretty stupid to create a mythos about transformation and not allow it to be transformed.
Q: So it’s not a set of pre-written stories?
A: It’s more like a set of relationships. Stories come out the mythology, for sure, but it started as a way of depicting that more abstract idea of change or transformation. The stories that do come out are in the service of that depiction. Say you looked at the way water freezes into ice, or the way a painter goes from having a blank canvas to having a finished painting. We try to see all of those transformations through this NewVillager lens. It’s what our project is all about. This way, we can have a language to describe that process on an abstract level. Because normally, when you’re making art with someone, the communication breaks down. This is good, but also frustrating. You start saying things like, “Put that thing next to that thing.” So we just created a language for ourselves using the mythology.
Q: It’s an instrument.
A: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Like, most musicians use the system of harmony or a consistent rhythmic pulse as a tool. We also use the mythology as a tool. It makes everything cohesive. It’s deeply helpful for us. To collaborate with each other and with others, it’s been essential. By having this template, we can quickly bring other people into the idea, so they can shape it from the inside out. All of the stuff that goes on in art is kind of ineffable. I mean, the whole creation process is pretty nebulous. So, by creating the language, we find that there are suddenly certain signposts and landmarks to be used for navigation, which is especially helpful when you’re working with others.
Q: Would you say you are teaching this mythology through your music?
A: Teaching is a heavy word. The music just a representation of the mythos. But mythology has been taught for a long time in the education system. So that’s something worth mentioning. We were taught mythology beside history and English. Meaning, it was looked at as an arm of literature and learning, which it is, in some ways – but for the societies with mythology woven into them, it’s something else, it’s a philosophy, a network of ideas for navigating the world. That’s the way we’re thinking about the mythology, more in that cultural sort of way. Because we are interacting with culture. We’re in culture and we know it, so we’d rather involve ourselves on this level of mythology than just on the level of pop culture.
Q: So it’s in no way a religion? Or a cult?
A: Ha! No no. It’s a just a collection of ideas. Really, we just want to make art and to us, the ideas surrounding the art can be just as exciting as the art itself. So we want to weave the ideas and the art into one fabric. This is how we’ve figured out how to do that.