Former Providence electro pop duo Javelin are bookending the first leg of their tour with Boston shows – last month’s show at Great Scott and tonight’s show – promoting their new release “Hi Beams.” Catch them headlining WZBC’s 40th anniversary show tonight. One half of the band, Tom Van Buskirk, chatted with us about their motivations, pop music, and the album.
Hang on hang on hang on – so you guys didn’t go to Austin for SXSW? QUELLE SURPRISE. Why not?
For us it was a question of priorities– we had our album release show 3/8 which prevented us from playing the Denton, TX festival, which would have paid for our trip. Without a show that pays for SXSW bands end up getting the short end of the stick in terms of $. The festival is insane and performances are often lackluster or really stressful to pull off due to slipshod logistics. Often the best part is just seeing friends and other bands– the whole thing is a trade show, and should be structured as such. I’d prefer if bands just had panel discussions to talk about the state of the “industry.”
When you met each other in Providence, and started making music, what was your motivation? Is it different, compared to now?
Well being cousins we’ve known each other our whole lives. Our motivation back then was to make our friends dance and have a good time. Also to make our tracks really compact and watertight, and our live show able to stuff down into a suitcase to be set up in 10 minutes.
When you’re writing a full-length album, what’s the process you go through and how do you decide when it’s done?
We are still learning about this. I feel I could come up with a more studied answer after the next one. I would like to say, like a hallowed abstract painter, you just know your last brush stroke and back away… We’re both perfectionists so finishing something requires a lot of listening. At some point though you do have to back away. Going to a studio to record helped with this because there were time constraints and other ears and hands involved to keep us from nitpicking to kingdom come.
Hi Beams is the jam. What music did you guys listen to while you created it?
That’s the funny thing, we didn’t really listen to much or try to derive from specific places– I did listen to Allen Ginsberg lectures online from the Naropa Institute, and listened to Talking Heads’ “Fear of Music” while reading the Jonathan Franzen 33 1/3 book on the subject. For this one, we tried to expand the emotional and verbal content of our songs a bit. And embrace melody as much as rhythm. The Beatles’ chord structures are always in my brain, and Brian Wilson melodies seem to be in there too.
You guys seem to play alternative venues like museums more often than other bands. How did that start?
Just happened that way. Maybe because of the boomboxes we carried with us (which are now a sculptural backdrop) and the misinformation that we went to RISD (I went to Brown and George attended Skidmore) led people to believe we were “arty.” We’ll definitely take it.
So I heard you guys did some covers of pop songs on the road and then I read in an interview that you listen to a lot of pop radio when you’re driving on tour. Is that what inspired the covers, or…?
The covers came from the sampling aesthetic applied to performance. We do very few nowadays because we’re writing our own words and melodies now– but back when we had none I would appropriate really recognizable pop music that’s ingrained in all of us (we are all Pavlov’s dog) because there was nothing else to sing. I would also improvise lyrics on the spot or improvise appropriations on the spot, and that became our performance. We are trying to get more into planning as a strategy in art… While at the same time embracing our own ridiculousness and tendency toward random madness.