In a world where many producers have come to an unspoken agreement that you need to make really dark music in order to be taken seriously as “an artist,” it’s refreshing to come across a duo making music with the admirable goal of improving the mood of its listeners. Comprised of cousins Tom van Buskirk and George Langford, Javelin first started receiving attention back in 2009 for their self-released, dance-inducing LP Jamz n Jemz. So what on earth has taken these guys so long to give us another album? It turns out it’s a steadfast commitment to quality control (and George’s desire to procreate). Out March 5th, Hi Beams is Javelin’s wildly addictive new album we dare you not to dance to. We caught up with Tom and George to talk about their “weird music,” life on the road, and where to find good jeans.
You guys are cousins. Have you always gotten along famously?
TOM VAN BUSKIRK: Pretty much. I only remember one day where we didn’t.
What happened that day?
TOM: Bicycle riding in silence, probably.
GEORGE LANGFORD: The sound of gears.
At what point did you decide to start a band together?
GEORGE: When we were both in college we realized we were on the same page with what we were making by ourselves, especially technologically. When I graduated I came down to Providence and started collaborating with Tom more and more and more and then I eventually moved there.
TOM: I was graduating school and sort of not knowing what I wanted to do… that sort of, “I’m an English major, what am I going to do with that?” At the same time I was getting sick of using a computer George had been working on these hardware devices… So then we quit the computer and were like, “Let’s use these things that are about to be really antiquated to make our weird music.”
So how might you classify your music other than weird?
TOM: I’d say we generally try to keep things light.
GEORGE: Yeah, we veer away from dark. I like to make it so whenever you put it on, you feel better and if you already feel good, you just continue to feel good.
You took some time between albums, what was the reasoning behind that?
GEORGE: We’re pretty careful with our output. When we first came out we had a backlog of years of material so we were able to put it all out there and be like, “Wow! We make so much music!” Then when we came around to making our second record we realized we work really, really slow. We have a high quality control.
TOM: I moved upstate and George had a baby, so we started collaborating by sending tracks back and forth and emailing each other. Then when we had enough to go on that we know was good, we got in the same room and sort of put it all together.
So do you both take equal part in the production process?
GEORGE: Historically we work parallel and when something is ready to share we share it and the other person expands on it.
Was it a challenge translating your production into a live show?
GEORGE: That’s been our life’s challenge.
TOM: We used to just show up and DJ songs we had made and then we decided that was inadequate and we needed to do more.
Let’s talk names. Where does the name Javelin come from?
TOM: George’s sister.
GEORGE: Arbitrary. We had our first show, we were opening for Ratatat, and we had no name.
TOM: The second choice was Murray.
GEORGE: Which could have taken things in a horrible direction.
And the name of the record, Hi Beams?
GEORGE: There was a track that was going to be on the album called “Hi Beams” and we Frankensteined it. We took it apart and it ended up in parts of the other songs.
TOM: There’s a lot of talk on the album about stars and celestial bodies, things that are beaming at you whether you know it or not. Sort of the way a Van Gogh painting has energy coming off of it… Plus we looked it up on urban dictionary and it’s when someone has hard nipples.
I saw you guys play at Shea Stadium and the other night you played at The Museum of Natural History. What sort of venue is your favorite?
TOM: We tend to like smaller, energized spaces over larger, spread out spaces. It’s easier to feel an audience when they’re closer and they can affect one another more easily.
GEORGE: There’s a slight element of danger. Something bad might happen.
What might happen?
GEORGE: Just like, these three people are really drunk and they’re about to spill beers on my shit.
TOM: People knocking over George’s stuff is definitely a theme.
What are your favorite and least favorite things about touring?
GEORGE: I like the drive, I actually don’t ever let Tom drive.
TOM: Which means I get tons of time to stare out the window and choose the music.
GEORGE: I love performing but there has been more than one occasion where we pull into the city and I’m like, “I guess we have to get out of the car now.” You really listen to music in a way that you don’t get to otherwise.
So what do you listen to in the car?
GEORGE: Radio mostly. We listen to pop radio from wherever we’re going.
TOM: The worst part is food. You end up eating at Cracker Barrel because that’s sometimes the best you can do and if you’re in certain parts of the country it’s the best you can do for four days in a row. But I love going to the thrift shops in various parts of the country. The jeans rack in the Midwest for men is a different story. You’ve got old Levi’s size 28 waist, it’s like farmhand clothes for slim people. It’s not hipster jeans… It’s hard to find good jeans.
Have your parents seen you perform?
TOM: My mom comes to plenty of shows. People started coming up to her at shows and saying, “aren’t you Tom’s mom?”
What do you do when you aren’t making music?
TOM: I do love racquet sports. I’m not ashamed. I love ping-pong and tennis.
GEORGE: I have a 2-year-old who takes up all of my time. That’s what I do and it’s the most fun thing ever.
If you were not making music professionally, what would you be doing?
GEORGE: There’s this zodiac book, it’s the birthday book. It’s all the birthdays in all the years and you look up your specific birthday and it gives you this whole list of what you should be doing, what you’re probably like and who you should be hanging out with. For my occupation, musician was on there… and beachcomber.
Lots of money in beachcombing.
TOM: In the Myers Briggs Psyche Test that you take in high school my personality type is field marshal.
GEORGE: So you’re a field marshal and I’m a beachcomber… but always with good pants.