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  • 2:46:45 am
  • Saturday
  • 20 July 2024

The Return of Rainer Maria

Shortly before their performance at the Northsix, Caithlin, William and Kyle of Rainer Maria sat down with Tweed to discuss their new album.

TWEED: Basically, before we start discussing new material and the new album, I want to bring up the Plea For Peace Tour—you did that one show with Cursive at the Bowery. In my opinion, that was a really important thing. Now, here we are in 2005. Bush is back in office. It’s an interesting climate. Maybe you guys could just talk a little bit about the current state of our nation.

CAITHLIN: We were all joking about moving away but I think it affects us all personally—on a really small scale. My sister is a lesbian with a baby and, you know, they are trying to fight against same-sex marriage for instance. It’s hard for me to think on the big scale because it seems so out of control.

TWEED: That’s interesting because, have you heard about Gerald Allan in Alabama? He is pushing this bill that is going to end state funding for any kind of books that portray homosexual behavior in a positive or respectful light.

CAITHLIN: Yea, I did hear about that. I mean, should we just split up?—like the Red and the Blue states?


KYLE: For me, it sorta feels like I’m living in Germany in the 1930's. How long do I sit when I disagree, you know? It’s like, just sitting here is complicit in some way...

WILLIAM: Right, yea.

KYLE: And it’s staggering. I mean, it’s hard to say. What little steps could I take today. I don’t know where the breaking point is for me. When do I run?

TWEED: Now, you say just being here somehow makes you complicit but here, with the Plea for Peace show you played, you clearly did something to show how you felt. Do you see that as something you guys are really interested in to voice your opinion?

WILLIAM: It’s funny because we recorded this new record up in Kingston in New York and we took the day off on Election Day to go and call people in Ohio and Florida to get them to go out and vote and, if they didn’t have a ride—to help them get a ride to the polls. And we were in the middle of trying to get this album recorded and putting everything into it. But still, we took the day off because we knew this was so important—even more important than even our art, which is, of course, the most important thing to us personally. But we took a day off to try and make a difference.

TWEED: Now, that’s really awesome. Do you feel like that atmosphere, being smack-dab in the middle of recording—do you feel it affected how you were playing? How you guys wrote and put together your songs?

KYLE: I think it affected the mood of the entire recording session. Malcolm—he’s very political—Canadian. I think the whole situation in the United States was even more foreign and more strange to him. He was always talking about it and there was always discussion. But whether it made me strum my guitar up rather than down-strung, it’d be hard to say.

WILLIAM: Right, I don’t think that it is something that is tangible but might come out in ways that we just wouldn’t even know.

CAITHLIN: If anything, the recording was a way to escape all that, a way to do something and feel positive.

TWEED: Overall, lyrically, you focus a lot on the personal. Do you ever think of incorporating political ideas?—Maybe not overtly but maybe the personal as political?

CAITHLIN: Oh yea, definitely. There is a new song we have called “We Are Architects” and it came out as this string of nightmares I was having this past year before the elections that the world was coming to an end. My only motive was to find the people that I loved and tell them that I loved them. It may sound sappy but I wanted to see my mom, I wanted to see my boyfriend... I think the song came out of like “what is the most important thing if the world is going to come to an end.” And that song mentions the war and stuff like that. But it is very personal as well. Its about fear and reaching for what is worthwhile in life.

TWEED: Do you see that as an isolated thing or do you see yourselves as moving in that direction?

KYLE: I mean, there are plenty of new good protest songs to be written, I mean, that new Bright Eyes song, “When the President talks to God” thing, that’s super cool. And it’d be cool if Rainer Maria were to write songs like that but traditionally, the territory of our work hasn’t been overtly political but hopefully our work has a chance to be an example to people on the way that they live. I just have trouble when I sit down to write trying to address that stuff in three minutes when half the song is gonna repeat itself without sounding idiotic. Some people are really great at that but I’m not sure that that’s is our particular gift. And I think that’s fine. I hope then that we can use what position we have for the greater good.

WILLIAM: I think, growing up, in my experience anyway, a lot of it was always very direct and like “smash the state” and stuff like that—but it was always mediated. And I think that it’s easier for people to relate to people talking about their fears and their concerns. They can relate to that a lot easier than someone screaming at them what to do and what not to do. I think it hits closer to home when someone can relate to what someone is going through in regards to political stuff that’s happening.

TWEED: Well, its seems to me, regardless of your affiliation or how overt you might be, that just being a part of Indie culture in general, no one is going to confuse you as being conservative...

WILLIAM: Right. Right. You’re preaching to the choir a little bit.


WILLIAM: But, even so, its good to keep it fresh in people’s minds and make sure people are thinking about it.

TWEED: That’s how all good political and social movements seem to begin.

WILLIAM: Right. Exactly.

TWEED: So, since we are on the topic of the lyrics—I read that the lyrics originally came out of late-night poetry workshops. Right?

KYLE: Not exactly.


KYLE: Caithlin and I met in poetry class—boring, who cares. But I was like, “we don’t have enough time. I have to meet with Caithlin more so we are gonna have extra classes after class.” So I organized this whole charade where I was like, “we’re gonna have extra classes so everyone should come” and by week two or three, it was just me and Caithlin hangin’ out. So that worked great and then we started a band and we needed lyrics so we looked at what we had...

TWEED: The lyrics—is it separate from the actual writing of the music? Do you write the lyrics first?

CAITHLIN: It’s definitely changed over the years and now, I have ideas in the back of my head that I wanna write about but I am just waiting for the right music to come along so I can address these things.

TWEED: Is it collaborative? Do you work together?

KYLE: Its seems to get less and less collaborative. Like, on the new record, Caithlin seemed to have written all the lyrics. Sometimes, we’ll talk about it, like “look at this” or something.

TWEED: So what is the genesis of a song? Is it collaborative?

KYLE: We take ‘em any way we can get ‘em.

CAITHLIN: Whatever is inspiring really.

KYLE: The last record, there was a lot of guitar and drums and Caithlin would come in with a bass line and change the whole song whereas this record, everybody put their time in as a collaborative.

WILLIAM: It’s a little more painful that way but I think the results—for this last record anyway—really show for all the work.

TWEED: Now, the new album is coming out in the spring. You’ve finished recording but is there a title yet?

KYLE: It’s usually a process to get a title. I think it’ll come when we are under the gun. There was nothing that really popped out at us from the lyrics in terms of a record title. There was a lot of good stuff but there wasn’t that obvious thing. We haven’t even tried to name it at all.

TWEED: How does that work usually?

CAITHLIN: Once it was a lyric. Once it was something a friend came up with.

KYLE: All the rest, I came up with.

CAITHLIN: You did?


KYLE: Ok, so I named one fucking record. Well, I kinda named Long Knives... because I wrote that line—the only fuckin’ line I wrote on the whole record. But if anyone asked, that’s the one I named. Ok, so I named one record—leave me alone.


TWEED: Tell us about the recording sessions. What was that like?

WILLIAM: It was intense. It was intense. We recorded with Malcolm Burn. Malcolm is Canadian. We recorded in his big blue mansion in Kingston, New York. He got a copy of our last album and really liked it so he invited us up over the summer to record a few songs to show us what he thought he could do to the songs and show us what he could do to help us. And we went up there and recorded two songs in a day and decided he was wonderful. So we went up in October. For me—personally—he really pushed me a lot as a musician. He brought a lot out of me as far as arranging a song, stylistically, my playing style—he really brought great stuff out that I am sure I am going to use in the future.

CAITHLIN: He was sorta like your Zen Master teacher who, if you were approaching it sorta half-assed, he’d swipe you down. Like in Kill Bill—he’d take your eye out.


KYLE: Just the whole mood was different. We had just about the same amount of time as we had with Long Knives but it feels like we got more done. It was more about setting up situations where spontaneous musicality could occur and it would happen and you’d have it on tape and be like, “yes!”

WILLIAM: Yea, like rather than playing a song over and over again, he would just set up mics and it’s like, “Okay. Play it like this.”

TWEED: Well, what does this say about your sound? Is it a lot different?

KYLE: Some of it is more stretchy but, you know, if you’re a band—a band for a long time—there is really something immutable about what you do. Like, it’s still the three of us playing music so it doesn’t matter if my guitar is acoustic or electric or if Caithlin is on bass or piano.

TWEED: So is this one going to be on Polyvinyl?

KYLE: We don’t know.

CAITHLIN: We’re not sure yet.

TWEED: I mean, from Look Now, Look Again until Long Knives Drawn, you guys had a lot of critical acclaim—whether you want to admit it or not.


TWEED: A lot of accolades from Spin, New York Times. I expect it will happen again. I’m not gonna jinx it or anything.


TWEED: Now you talk about maybe not being on Polyvinyl. Where do you see yourselves going right now? What is your goal? What are you looking to do?

CAITHLIN: I think we really just want the opportunity to take risks and keep doing this but you know—we want to work with people who have creative ideas and are into growing. I don’t mean bigger necessarily but just in different directions like, we went to Japan for the first time last year. We haven’t even been to Europe yet. For us, to keep it really great is to try new things. So that’s what we tried to do with this album.

Stewart Smith contributed to this interview.

William Wallace
Wednesday, 16 February 2005

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2024-07-20 02:46:45
America, congress, Everloving Records, Washington, Conor Oberst, music, Conor Oberst, Saturday Looks Good to Me, Saddle Creek Records, Baghdad, End report.