Thank you Kelly and Ivan for taking the time to do this and for being some of the nicest and most incredible musicians around right now. And thank you Caroline for setting this up.
Loud Planes Fly Low, The Rosebuds’ fifth and most inventive album to date, is a sad-eyed and bright new start for Kelly and Ivan, beautifully born of the struggle to define their relationship as bandmates—and more importantly, friends—outside of the context of marriage. It wasn’t easy. Written and rewritten, recorded and re- recorded in fits and starts, Loud Planes Fly Low allowed Kelly and Ivan to have the very conversations about their relationship that they’d long avoided. They finally started to understand what had gone wrong.
First of all, I’d like to say that I’m in awe of your commitment to your music and I find it extremely inspiring that you guys are still doing this despite the relationship being very different right now. So the obvious question is, how has the current state of the relationship affected you on a professional level?
Ivan: Actually not much has changed within the band on a professional level, we still make the decisions the same way and work on songs together the same way we always have.
Was it difficult going into the studio with songs that you had written specifically about each other and your relationship? What was it like hearing these songs for the first time? Was there ever any moment where you considered just scrapping everything/writing about something different?
Ivan: At first it seemed insurmountable because we didn't want to do anything too personal and it was a sensitive time. It was scary because things didn't happen in the writing phase at a pace that was as fast as they happened for our last records. It was just hard to start the conversation we needed to have. But the melodies were wholesome feeling and it made us feel safe to be honest in our lyrics, you know, with each other.
Kelly: The songs started behaving like a poetic conversation. Because we were working with elevated language or we knew the songs had to follow the theme laid out by the feeling in the melody, we were able to say things we needed to say and things we needed to hear the other person say. In beautiful ways that acknowledged loss and what we no longer have, but mostly, getting it done meant we were honoring what we still do have. Our creative connection is something I'm proud of us for protecting.
Did you ever find it challenging to perform these very intimate songs (from Loud Planes Fly Low) in front of hundreds (thousands?) of people night after night? Has it become easier as time has passed?
Ivan: It is overwhelming sometimes, the way the minor chords and melodies sound together really loud on stage and, you know, the lyrics… But that is the whole reason we got into music anyway, to reach that point in our songs. I've been in the audience a few times and been moved by live music that way and I always feel lucky for experiencing it.
Kelly, you told me that Justin Vernon helped write Night of the Furies, so I was just wondering how your relationship with him began? What did he bring to the table? And do you expect to work with him again in the future?
Kelly: We knew Justin through music, just being in bands, and he and Ivan played basketball together. Justin helped us record Night of the Furies. He came in when we thought we were near the end of tracking and we got deeper into that record and, since he was getting ready to move back to Eau Claire, he didn't really have a place to live and he moved in with us. We made that record together and became really close friends and he went back to Wisconsin and lived in the cabin and recorded For Emma Forever Ago. Then he toured with us and played lead guitar when Night of the Furies came out. He's a good person and so easy to communicate with musically. And every way, really. Recording with him was great for me especially because I was so super shy and intimidated about singing and just being in the studio environment, and he made me feel very comfortable. There's so much machismo in music. Justin was the first person, aside from Ivan, to openly accept me and even encourage me in that environment.
Speaking of, you also told me that Night of the Furies was you favourite record (as it was mine, before Loud Planes Fly Low came out that is!) – what makes it your favourite?
Kelly: A lot of people say that's our "weird" or "dark" record. But we were writing a record after President Bush was elected again, the war had begun, Hurricane Katrina had just happened, and we just felt like there was no way to control our own happiness or fate in a wildly unjust world. And, specifically, in our own country. People said it was a weird record then because it was very electronic. But that was an intensional expression--all our frustration manifested itself into that automated or electronic vibe and it felt like a relief, and even exciting, to be so outside of our own skin. It felt like we were making the only music we wanted to make right then.
You have been involved in quite a few other projects, Ivan – are you still working with other bands or are you just focusing on The Rosebuds right now? Also, what did you think of that track with Astronautalis (who is a darling on our website as well!) that the Hood Internet set up?
Ivan: The Rosebuds have always been my main focus and I'm back on that tract now. It's where I can be the most creative and free with my musical ideas. Gayngs, which was a blast and amazing to be a part of, touring cycle is over now and that initial incarnation of the band will probably evolve into other people. Everyone pretty much has their own bands' records to make and tours they are on now. I'm always trying to write songs, and I don't really think about which project they will fit into till after the songs are written, but I have a few other records in the works for the coming year, and one of those is a band called The Flute Flies that should see the light of day pretty soon. The record is done and now we just need to decide to let people hear it. We formed the band in honor of our friend Cy Rawls, who lived with Kelly and me at one time, who died of brain cancer a few years ago. Some other folks set up a website called www.cytunes.org where you can buy exclusive music and all the proceeds benefit the The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at the Duke University Medical Center. So all the sales of the Flute Flies record will go to that charity.
And I just recently heard a rough mix of the song we did with Astronautalis for the Hood Internet's upcoming record and it is going to be insane. It had been a while since we turned in our tracks and I heard it and got really excited again.
What was it like touring with Bon Iver, who are arguably one of the biggest indie bands out there right now?
Ivan: It was great and we felt really fortunate to play those historic venues and to his crowd. As far as the tour itself goes, it was a real family vibe because we've known Justin for a long time now. He was our touring guitarist for all of the Night of Furies touring, Mike Noyce and Mike Lewis were in Gayngs with me and Justin, and Matt McCaughan, Bon Iver's touring drummer, who is a wonderful friend and the funniest, warmest guy I've ever met, recorded the drums for all of our records since Night of the Furies and has been our touring drummer forever. So it felt really natural to be there.
Many of our readers fell in love with your music at these shows, despite having gone there for Bon Iver, which prompted them to pick up your album and give it a listen right away. How did you decide which songs to perform for these crowds that might have not been familiar with your work before the shows? Do you approach them differently than headlining shows?
Ivan: We played around with the set list the first two nights of the Bon Iver tour to see what people would like. Yeah, it's different headlining since we try to build an arch for the whole evening and have more time to develop that.
You also toured with Other Lives this year, which I thought were a perfect fit for you, and judging by your tweets, you seemed to really enjoy their company too.
Kelly: They're incredible. Just incredible. Loved seeing them every single night. We're hoping to play more shows with them soon.
You have come a long way since your debut and it seems as though you continuously keep getting better and better. To be honest, I am personally a little nervous to listen to a new record in the future because of how incredible Loud Planes Fly Low is; at the same time, I’m incredibly excited to see how much further the two of you can grow as musicians. The biggest question on my mind right now, as well as many others’, is: where do you go from here? Can we expect The Rosebuds to stick around and keep making these amazing indie-rock records?
Kelly: Yes! I can't wait to write a new record with Ivan. We've got to stay serious about this upcoming tour, but when we get back, we'll start some new stuff.
Edit: Aaaand I really wouldn't mind seeing an Other Lives + The Rosebuds collab. Last time I caught Other Lives, the opening band joined them as the horn section for two numbers. Only 50 people in the room. Fantastic.
It must have been hard for them to stick around after the divorce. They made a great record out of it, and hoped they worked things out as friends. Great read, and learned new things from it (Ivan being a part of Gayngs).