Posted by Tobias Carroll
Fergus & Geronimo make pop songs that unfold in unexpected ways. Live, they add charged piano melodies to bristling, uptempo numbers; their recordings, including seven inches on the likes of Woodist and Tic Tac Totally and the album Unlearn on Hardly Art, occupy a more stylistically varied place. (My fellow Vol.1er Jason Diamond, on his Twitter feed, commented that they “are either the new Fugs or an updated version of National Lampoon’s Lemmings. Either way I like it.”)
Much like the liner notes for Unlearn, this is a group that enjoys leaving words scrawled in the margins, both literally and with respect to the sonic history with which they’re working. And a band that’s fond of manipulating text is, I daresay, most likely one that would have something to say on the subject of books. This conversation was conducted via email with Andrew Savage (aka Fergus) in early January 2011.
Have any recently-released books struck your fancy?
I recently picked up Teal Driggs’ Fanzines: The DIY Revolution, which is more of a coffee table piece that chronicles the history of the format and culture surrounding it. An interesting visual history no doubt. As someone whose foray into the counterculture was through the words printed in zines, I found it to be a walk down memory lane. Driggs digs up a ton of rags that I thought were lost to obscurity. Kind of in the same category is an interesting book called Radio Silence: A Selected Visual History of American Hardcore Music by Nathan Nedorostek and Anthony Pappalardo. This book does a great job of documenting hardcore and visual art, using graphics, print mechanicals, zines and flyers to communicate the important role of hardcore as a “legitimate art movement”. It has an amazing and extensive t-shirt glossary. Totally gives me a new appreciation for how homoerotic youth crew was. And I just opened up the copyright page and saw it was published by MTV/Viacom so I guess I’m gonna burn this shit now or sell it for weed. Lastly, I was really into the 33 1/3 of Pavement’s Wowee Zowee that came out this year.
The artwork for your album Unlearn features more than a little textual manipulation. Is that a quality that you look for in your reading material as well?
I don’t know if anything I read has a lot of textual manipulation… at least not the way I do it. I’m trying to think. I don’t know where I got the idea for that. I think I just wanted to explain some things further. Basically I just like good writing when it comes to literature. Most of my favorite bands are lyric based. The only thing I can think of that is really similar is in the late 90’s/early 00’s when every hardcore band had an explanation to every song that was often times longer than the songs themselves. That was funny. Not what I was going for on Unlearn though.
What have you been reading lately?
Lately lots of Bukowski poetry, which is great stuff to read when you hate your job. And when you work retail during the holiday season it is hard not to hate your job. Somebody hire me to do something cool! So I’ve been flipping around pages in War All the Time and What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire. Also, my friend Payton Green (Wax Museums, Wiccans) sent me Stephen Pinker’s The Language Instinct as a Christmas present. Only he didn’t tell me he was sending it so I just got this plain envelope with a Michigan return address and no invoice. I thought I was living in some sort of Dan Brown novel and somebody was trying to tell me something through my own interest in linguistics. Anyway, so Stephen Pinker is a Harvard professor by way of MIT. His basic assertion is that language is a human instinct that is based on years of evolution, rather than a learned behavior. Pretty compelling. He even theorizes further that vernaculars that most “educated people” regard as unsophisticated (creoles, ebonics, pidgins) actually have their own complex grammatical rules. It’s a great read and not too academic and erudite. Thanks Payton!
What are your all-time favorite books? What about them has held your interest over the years?
A short list of the heavy hitters for me would probably be the “usual suspects”. Fiction would go like A Confederacy of Dunces, The Trial, Catch-22. Bukowski again with Post Office, Ham on Rye, Factotum. Non-Fiction would be Riding Toward Everywhere by WIlliam Vollmann, The Bronx is Burning by Jonathan Mahler, The Way We Eat and Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer and Sonic Youth: Confusion is Next by Alec Foege. Art/Photography would be Sonic Youth’s “Sensational Fix” catalogue, “Inuit” by Markus Bühler Rasom, “Sheet Series” by Landon Odle, “Powr Mastrs” V.1-3. There are few books that I reread. I’m usually pressed on time as it is so it makes more sense to read something new than to reread something.