Sure, we're always curious to know about an artist's upcoming release, most recent tour, or arsenal of analog gear, but XLR8R's also got a curiosity for quirk. Thus, each week, we email a different artist and find out what makes them tick, in the studio and in life. Next, we hear from Aaron Buckley, Bret Berg, and Molly Williams, who collectively make up synth-punk outfit ANAVAN. Here, they talk about L.A.’s infamous Smell scene, sewing, and what happens when you chug boxed wine too quickly.
What are you listening to right now?
Aaron Buckley: Crookers, The Bloody Beatroots, lots of crunky remixes. Foot Village, Japan (only the late-’70s material–Adolescent Sex and Obscure Alternatives are by far my favorites from this band), also loving the new Designer Drugs track “ZOMBIES!” And of course, always turning up the volume for Prince. I cannot get enough Prince, old and new. He has that shit down. Oh, and I recently discovered this chick from Atlanta, Georgia called Sophe Nix. She has a song called “Get It Get It,” which I did a remix for, because the song struck me as so awesome [and] I wanted to rework it and make it awesome to the max. You can hear it at myspace.com/anavanrmx.
Bret Berg: MP3 rips of DVD commentary tracks and podcasts of public- radio food shows.
Molly Williams: My dying clothes dryer, Lady Scrapleton’s old, blown-out vocal meow, a helicopter flying by, me typing, the roof dripping...
What's the weirdest story you ever heard about yourself?
AB: I don’t hear stories about myself, even though I tend to get into crazy shit all the time. You know, dancing in underwear and humping people at shows. I never hear any weird stories… tell me one.
BB: Earlier in the year, we played an in-store at a L.A. art bookshop. I made the horrid mistake of pouring the sizeable remnants of a box of white wine into a leftover movie-theater soda cup, sticking a straw in it, and sucking down the whole thing waaaaaay too quickly. The act, the “headliner” who was supposed to play the show with us, ended up not playing, and in my blotto state, as the shop manager was genuinely apologizing for the other act not playing, I shrieked at him “Ssssokay, ’cause he’s a fraud! Roll the dice. It’s crap!!!!” I have no memory of this entire conversation; I was told the next day that that’s what I yelled at him.
MW: Way too many that I prefer not to remember.
What band did you want to be in when you were 15?
AB: Metallica–but the Metallica from the ’80s. Not the reformed, sober Metallica. The Metallica that drank lots of booze, did mountains of coke, and slept with whores… wait, maybe I wanted to be in Megadeth?
BB: Ramones. I grew up idolizing Dee Dee Ramone, and when he left the band, and was replaced by C.J. Ramone, I felt a little empty inside. Actually, I had fantasies of tracking down C.J., so I could quietly dispose of him and I could take his place. Then I found out he was an ex-Marine, which quickly dissipated any notion of “taking him out.”
MW: Hmmm… A background singer for the Purple King… Prince.
Worst live show experience?
AB: The first time we started using Ableton Live in our band. I usually get really sweaty and mouse pads don’t work well with sweaty fingertips. I didn’t know that. Now I try to wipe my fingers dry when we have to switch up settings.
BB: At a show of ours in San Francisco, I had to badly go poo-poo a few minutes before we went on. I patiently waited in the excruciatingly long line for the toilet, and once I got in and sat down, no toilet paper. I had to dig out used toilet paper from the trashcan to use, and once I did, no soap either. Had to play the show with shit fingers.
MW: Being really sick and not being able to stop coughing the whole show.
Favorite city to play in?
AB: Oddly enough, Iowa City rules balls. Yeah, no shit. But I really love playing in L.A. I’m a huge fan of the kids that come to our shows, they all rule balls. Enormous balls.
BB: Santa Fe. There used to be a venue there called High Mayhem, where the volunteer staff was the friendliest you could possibly imagine and the audience was with you the whole show, 100%, every time, without fail. It all made up for the altitude sickness.
MW: Santa Fe, NM… little towns seem to know how to throw down properly.
What’s one of your most memorable moments from [L.A. all-ages club ] The Smell?
AB: The Smell has a huge ceiling, and one time I climbed this pipe that is sort of clamped to the wall next to the stage. I got all the way to the top. It was really hot up there, and my helmet mic was feeding back terribly. It was cool. Also, I cannot forget a GSL showcase thing, jam packed with legends. Go Go Go Airheart, The Locust, Chromatics, so many insanely good bands. That shit changed me.
BB: Seeing Lightning Bolt open for The Locust and Arab On Radar. It was 2002 and it might’ve been one of the first times they played L.A. Everyone was so shell-shocked by their playing, no one in the crowd thought to even get near them while their set was going on, the opposite of which is the case nowadays.
MW: Extreme Elvis.
What is your favorite thing you own?
AB: My gold chain.
BB: My Rickenbacker bass. Best investment I’ve ever made. Lots of bass players use piles of pedals to hit the certain sound they want to achieve. I use the Rick because it natively sounds like no other. No pedals needed.
MW: My diamond-encrusted, 24K gold tiara?.
Name one item of clothing you can't live without.
AB: My sox. I have 20 pairs of crazy sox. I love crazy sox.
BB: My Converse sneakers.
MW: A lid.
What’s more annoying: copyright laws, gas prices, or airport security?
AB: Airport security.
BB: Gas prices. Airport security is a momentary distraction and copyright laws are so 20th century. Gas prices are here to stay, whether we like it or not.
MW: This question.
What did you always get in trouble for when you were little?
AB: In school, it was drumming with my pencils on the desk while the teacher was half trying to conduct class. I never got in trouble at home. My mom and dad were cool.
BB: Ignoring the teacher in English class while reading books at my desk.
MW: Having a tantrum when I was forced to put on a dress and go to church. Praise the Lord!
What other artist would you most like to work with?
AB: I’ve always wanted to work with Michael Jackson, but I know it won’t happen, so I’d have to say Giorgio Moroder, but that won’t happen either, so Soulwax… which very well could happen. Ha ha.
BB: Roy Thomas Baker. His work behind the console on The Cars’ first album is like the Citizen Kane of record production, and his mixing of Mötley Crüe’s Too Fast For Love is genius.
MW: I would like to sing a duet with Neil Schuh (formerly Totally Radd!!) from the hottest new super-group… Dazzler!
What's the last thing you read?
AB: Gary Numan, Praying to the Aliens.
BB: Steve Martin, Born Standing Up.
MW: David Lee Roth, Crazy From the Heat. Spandex, chicks, high kicks, and big hair... whaawow!
Complete this sentence: In the future...
AB: …we’re all doomed.
BB: …porn will be holographic, and that will be the true collapse of the economy, because no one will leave their house ever again.
MW …no one will know how to write capital cursive letters.
Stupidest thing you've done in the last 12 months?
AB: Thinking that ANAVAN might work well as a four-piece. I thought it would be a good idea to get a drummer for the band, and although it was fun for a few weeks, [it was a] dumb idea. I had major anxiety trying to reverse this decision, as the fella that jumped on board is a great guy and a good friend. Tough times.
BB: Listen to the secret track on the Cover Story CD, about 15 seconds after “Off to a Fighting Start.” The recorded repercussions of my white wine story above.
MW: “What haven’t I done” would be an easier question to answer.
AB: We’re touring Europe and the U.K. for, like, five weeks. We might even be over there right now, depending on when this comes out. After that, extensive U.S. tours, SXSW, and then we’re gonna start writing the third album.
BB: I will learn how to sew.
MW: Going to tour Europe for five weeks, leaving tomorrow… we’re trying to "hide" our merch, so we don’t get busted by customs… ha… we’ll see what happens. Gotta go pack my lederhosen.