NewVillager Makes Mythic Tribal Pop Music, and It’s Quite Good.


NewVillager Makes Mythic Tribal Pop Music, and It’s Quite Good.


Going to see Brooklyn-based, San Francisco-originated, artist-collective-but-not-in-the-way-you-think group NewVillager  is a trip. The accompanying visuals — from the performers in handmade marks, totems and Nick Cave-esque suits slightly clashing with the handsome art-school vibes of NewVillager’s Ross Simonini and Ben Bromley —  almost doesn’t correspond with the group’s airy cheerfulness and sun-soaked pop-music. Almost.

But somehow a sort of 2011 version of a Jodorowsky psychedelic dreamworld has emerged, which, despite its chimerical symbology and mythological underpinnings, offers incredibly listenable music. The duo reportedly record their songs numerous times, creating a sort of sonic palimpsest that sounds, forgive the oversimplification, quite fun. Certainly, watching their democratic performance — which uses a 360-degree approach instead of focusing just on the stage — with the references to Joseph Campbell and loads of Murakami-like colors, could be heady. But instead, the self-identified NewVillagerMythology sounds, well, like singalong party songs made by the coolest new tribe this side of the 1960s.

BULLETT: What does it mean to be an artist collective that also makes music? How does this differ from a band that embraces a more performative element?

NewVillager: I don’t remember how the term “artist collective” came about, but it wasn’t internally. We use the term “art project” more often, so it’s not so open-ended as “collective.” The project is meant to capture a certain idea and not so much a continuous stream of self-expression. There are many people involved with all the NewVillager events, installations, and videos, but everyone is there to work toward the project — and more specifically —toward the mythology. It’s not too dissimilar from other bands who use visuals, but the difference is in the way our project is framed. Take a band who projects a video to a show: the video will be viewed as supporting the music. I think we just want to frame everything at once. We don’t want some materials to be looked at as supportive or auxiliary. Everything we make points to the same idea, so just calling ourselves a band — which we are — would maybe give the wrong impression.

Are the dancers in the collective? Do they participate in the musical process or is it more of a holistic collaboration?

The dancers are in the collective. The show at Jack Hanley was the first time they’ve appeared live with us.

Can you walk me through your songwriting process? How do you think it might differ from other performers?

Every time I’ve collaborated with someone, it’s been a different sort of process. In our case, we tried to make a truly collaborative album. The intention was for every note and lyric to be as collaborative as possible, which meant the process took a long time. We were also trying to write each song to reflect a different stage in the NewVillager mythology — reflected in the editing, recording, voices, instruments, words, production. It was all just a way to get away from self-expression, which can be problematic in collaboration, and to navigate through each choice with a common language.

What is each of your personal, un-fuckwithable “Get Hype” jams? Your own “Eye Of The Tiger”, if you will?

“As I Lay Me Down” by Sophie B. Hawkins.

The venue/space/country I would most like to play is…

The Globe Theater in London


To play a performance in the round.

Would you ever perform without a visual aspect? Could you ever imagine yourself as a pure “band” on a lineup at a festival?

Oh, sure. There’s a full spectrum to the show. We’ve played many times without visuals. Usually we try to do something visual — a temporary installation for instance — but we’ve played plenty of festivals where there’s no extra-musical performance. Sometimes it’s nice to be just a band. We’ve also had performances where we play no music at all. We don’t want the art to ever get in the way of the music. The music can be played, on its own, without any knowledge of the visuals, and I think it should still hold up. You can enjoy a Hindu painting without having to know the full story behind it.

How would you describe NewVillager to a tourist who is interested in going to the show?

It’s a mythology and like most mythologies, a whole culture surrounds it: music, art, video, language, performance, symbology, and an internal logic. We’re trying to build that little culture.

What do you think is going to happen in 2012?

[Simonini is] planning on getting a haircut. Haven’t had one in 3 years.