Interview: Kurt Wagner of Lambchop

Kurt Wagner plays Joe's Pub tomorrow, Wednesday, October 8. Tickets are $20 and still available here.

Lambchop, "Slipped Dissolved and Loosed" (MP3)
from OH (ohio)

To count the apparent and potentially problematic contradictions within Lambchop's 20-year career would require something akin to a higher math. The group's long-standing tag as "Nashville's most fucked-up country band" hasn't rung true in, maybe, ever. (Fucked-up? Maybe. Country? Not hardly). The band is nearly as anonymous stateside as they are acclaimed overseas. And at least through Christmas, Lambchop, whose membership once swelled past 20, will be represented by Kurt Wagner, a singular frontman in his signature feed-store cap with an honest and hearty laugh, alone.

The morning after a more or less impromptu Living Room show which presented a live preview of Lambchop's today-released OH (ohio), Wagner--above the din of both jackhammers and the children's playground just east of Washington Square's now chain-linked-enclosed arch--provided insight into the relationship between art and songwriting, along with a figurative shrug of the shoulders regarding the comprehensive conundrum of one of the South's most idiosyncratic bands. -- Rob Trucks

The one-sheet that Merge sent out with the review copies of the new album contained a quote from you that basically said, 'Yeah, I'm finally willing to admit that I'm Lambchop.'

[laughs] Well, I mean, I really kind of, you know, basically said that. I spent so many years trying to preserve the idea [that Lambchop was a real band and not just a vehicle for my songs] because it's so quickly assumed that, you know, you do the interviews and whatever that's all there is to the band, and I tried to rail against that for a long time, and this time I'm just tired of it. It's like, 'Whatever.' I just want to do whatever's necessary for people to find out about us, you know, and if that means accepting that, then fine. People can make their own decisions. I'm not going to try to guide the perception of what we are.

I'm not sure that it sounded as if you had accepted that last night. It was, 'I'm Kurt. I play in a band called Lambchop. I am not starting a solo career.' Have you decided yet?

[laughs] Well, God no. I mean, the reason I started doing solo stuff to begin with, prior to all of this, was I was trying to find another way to write songs. And the idea of going out, writing some songs, and playing them in front of people and watching them develop and then bringing them to the band and then working on them is something I'd never tried before, because I tried to shy away from being a solo performer. So my concept for this new record was really to do that, was to go out.

So I played like 30, 40 shows in Europe on a tour and I started writing these songs and worked on them and watched them develop and then when I came back we started working on the record. And then the band changed them and it became what the record sounds like, and the producers changed them and I stayed out of that mess too, in order to balance it out. I didn't really get involved with the mixing and, you know, the production of the record. Whatever these producers wanted to do was fine with me. I picked them, I trusted them, I love their work. So I respected that. I tried to balance it out.

It sounds like you may still have one leg on either side of the fence, which is liable to leave your balls on some barbed wire.

[laughs] Well, I don't know.

It's not quite that uncomfortable yet?

I don't know. I mean, I'm a little tired [laughs]. But other than that . . . You know, I don't have a master plan other than trying to come up with another record. And that's all we've really ever focused on is trying to think about the next record. What happens with all the business crap . . . Man, I'm pretty bad at it [laughs].

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