Sunday, December 10, 2006

Brightblack Morning Light Is Gonna Let It Shine

In early September, I interviewed Rachael and Nathan from Brightblack Morning Light by email for a profile that ran in the Seattle Weekly later that month. (They prefer to be addressed as Rabob and Nabob, so I went with the flow.) As with most such pieces, I was only able to use a few quotes--the word count was 750--so for those who'd like to learn more about the duo, here's the complete transcript. I would also recommend Daniel Chamberlin's interview in the July issue of Arthur. Expect to see Brightblack Morning Light's Matador debut making a lot of top 10 lists for 2006. 

Hi Nabob. Thanks so much for answering these questions. So, how did you meet Rabob? 

Nabob: We met as she was playing music in a band in Alabama. I had moved back there from Humboldt County in Northern California. She came over to my house and began playing in Rainywood, which was forming around then. 

Did you have music lessons or are you self-taught-- or some combination of the two? How about Rabob? 

Nabob: Self-taught. 

Rabob: I learned from my grandmother, mostly old time gospel songs. 

Nabob: I love Aretha Franklin's gospel record from the '60s. I'm a fan of folks gathering to enhance themselves, usually they use songs to help gain enhancements. 

You were Rainywood, now Brightblack Morning Light. Do you see your band name as a living entity or is the current one meant to be permanent? 

Nabob: The out of press Ala.Cali.Tucky record is not a Brightblack record, it's a Rainywood record, although it says "Brightblack" on it, because Rainywood wasn't going anymore, yet we had made a record with Paul Oldham and then my friend printed "Ala.Cali.Tucky" onto vinyl, and at the time we were meant to tour, we had moved into not playing anymore Rainywood songs...umm, we had moved into some different songs, but saw the blessing of a friend publishing our songs, so we told him we were calling the current project Brightblack. Brightblack is meant to be a project and Morning Light is the very first Brightblack long-play recording endeavor. So Brightblack is a collective for continuance and it is meant to describe a tonal color of something. Umm. It's a way to participate, it hasn't been a forced endeavor, and Will Oldham [Bonnie Prince Billy] encouraged our participation, and now Matador encourages it. We never sent Matador a demo or anything; instead, a favorite band, Slint, reformed in England and asked us to come play the celebration of their reformation! We did that, my first time out of the USA! 

Rabob: Yes it was inspiring to [see] Slint back together and they curated the All Tomorrow's Parties we played.... Melvins played, too!

Is Brightblack Morning Light primarily a band or do you see it as part of a larger whole?

Nabob: I'm not interested in bands generally. Brightblack is a tonal and song endeavor. As life goes on, I hope to embrace the potential of other endeavors; human potential is as vast as we allow it to be. I wouldn't want to embrace a living pattern that I find terrible or non-holistic, yet "civilization" is such a maze of reactions and conclusions.... Brightblack Morning Light serves as a pattern of participation with both human and non-human input. It's a reminder and a recurring question, "How was the morning spent?" It could be a testimony to the possibilities of each day, at least for me, to help keep alignment with the Now.

Have you met Julia Butterfly Hill? (I noticed the link to her site.) 

Nabob: I attended both of the supportive rallies that celebrated each year she lived in the ancient redwood tree named Luna, where local folks came out in support of Julia's vigil in the ancient redwood tree. We would rally below the mountain and then hike the four-hour uphill walk to Luna. There she was, barefoot on the tree! She lived up there and didn't come down for two years! She was protesting clear-cutting trees, and also the use of pesticides in the wild. She gave voice to these issues in a resonant and inspiring way. Yes, we eventually met and played Frisbee together. 

Do you ever miss the South? 

Nabob: We were just on a musical tour all over the Southeast USA and enjoyed it. I haven't had my own room in four years. I've been essentially living out of a tent; that is a result of many decisions and circumstances, but is also a good way to keep the Be Here Now vibe going! The South I knew is rapidly changing. Television and actors with LA accents are changing the nuances of the Southern Accent. The woods are being developed into malls and shit at alarming rates, with little consideration for the environment. This is due to a strong disconnect between the people and the Earth. I wouldn't call the politics in the South progressive, historically, and we all know how it effected civil rights, and it also effects the environment in a negative way. My attraction to the West is the positive and growing Movement around organic farming and restoration of native plants. 

In interviews, you've mentioned My Bloody Valentine. Did you ever get into the Spacemen 3 or Mazzy Star? 

Nabob: Hey, I really wouldn't want to elaborate on this style of question.... Below I elaborate on the Quiet Quiet festivals I curate and organize, which focus on the here and now. Are you interested in that? I hope so. QUIET QUIET FOREST SPECTRUM was the most recent little festival I curated; it was held at the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur. The QUIET QUIET's have been going on rurally for three years. The first included Joanna Newsom and the most recent had a surprise performance from Ramblin' Jack Elliott, who used to sing with Woody Guthrie. The intention is to gather away from the city nearby national or state parks for interesting music. It is a very low-fi endeavor. It's unique in the idea that there is no headliner, which in itself is anti-Industry. I'd like to bring QUIET QUIET gatherings all over the West. 

How did Rabob meet Philip K. Dick's widow? Were either of you familiar with her husband's work beforehand? 

Nabob: I actually worked for Mrs. Dick making her jewelry designs. She was a well known artist before she met Philip K. Dick. She works in copper a lot. I think her designs are wonderful, blending silver and copper! I was living on the beach and working in her studio. Her name is Annie Dick, she is an intellectual rural person. No, I hadn't read any of the Philip K. Dick collections. I did later see the films: Blade Runner and Minority Report

I recently read that Dick produced a single for Japanese vocalist Sachiko Kanenobu, so he must have been a music fan. Has his widow ever said anything about his interest in music?

Nabob: Wow, I never knew that.

Is there one book or album that has had more of an influence on you than any other (musically or otherwise)? 

Nabob: This current Brightblack Morning Light LP.

Have you seen the movie Old Joy with Will Oldham? Do you keep in touch with him? [It's one of my favorite films of the year.] 

Nabob: No I haven't seen any of Will's films. We don't meet up for music much anymore, but do write letters occasionally. For awhile we met up every spring for three years, playing shows. He's not always on the radar and he shouldn't be, it makes for meaningful exchanges. 

Does it bother you when people describe you as a hippie? Is the term outdated? 

Nabob: I don't remember being called a hippie. I am a protester. I am a discontent witness. Umm, I think generalization is outdated. At this moment we all either hate the US government or love it. If you are neither, then you are just being lazy.

If you could choose one word to describe yourself, what would it be? 

Nabob: Homeless. 

Thanks again, Nabob! I look forward to seeing you in Seattle this September. 

Nabob: Some Brightblack Morning Light LP journalist's facts: 
* There are no "bongos" on our LP. 
* The congas were played by myself and Elias Reitz. 
* Magic Andy (Ex-White Magic) mostly played the drum kit. 
* We've been playing live with Meara from the Vermont band Feathers.   


Note: Images from Matador (Alissa Anderson and Magic Andy McLeod credited). I didn't change any of Nabob's words, but did make a few punctuation/acronym substitutions (like LP for Lp). Old Joy opens at the Northwest Film Forum on January 5th.

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