The Broken West

Interviewed by Meghan Logue, Noise Pop 2009

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Here Here at Noise Pop 2009 on SomaFM

Ross: I'm Ross Flournoy and I sing and play guitar.

Brian: I'm Brian Whelan and I play bass and sing.

Meghan: Thank you. To start off, I really like your guys' cover of Tegan & Sara. How did that come about? Who's idea was that to cover?

Brian: It was Ross' idea, probably just listening to it and liking it. They're really good and we have both the records and liked them a lot.

Ross: The last two records.

Brian: Yeah, they have a bunch of records before that. We're so jealous.

Meghan: Can't disagree with the Tegan & Sara aficionado, seems like he knows his stuff.

Ross: Yeah, I just really, really love that song a lot and I thought it was something we could do well.

Meghan: While we're on that topic, what are other favorites in the tour bus that you guys like to listen to? Any other albums that get a lot heavy rotation?

Brian: We listened to a lot of Grateful Dead today.

Meghan: Is that just because you were coming to the Bay Area?

Ross: Well...

Brian: There's a station on XM.

Ross: Yeah, we have satellite radio and there's a Grateful Dead station. I think pretty much everyone in the band except, and I mean I like the Grateful Dead, but everyone in the band except for me is really, really, really into the Grateful Dead.

Brian: The three East coasters, did I mention there are three East coasters? They're the guys that are really, like...because they grew up with it, you know?

Ross: The Grateful Dead station is live shows from the seventies and there's a show from New Year's Eve '78 that like, Danny was really getting into.

Brian: They were exploring a lot.

Ross: It was like fusion jazz.

Brian: Our interests are a little more ironic, I think.

Meghan: Do they know that?

Brian: I like it, but they grew up with it. It's a rite of passage for them. There's no irony whatsoever.

Ross: They're really into the Dead.

Meghan: Everybody has their interests. Does that have any affect on your sound as a band? I didn't notice one.

Ross: I don't think so. I think Danny, his lead playing, he's got a little bit of Jerry in him.

Brian: More now, you know. He went home for Christmas break and I think he got in touch with his roots a little bit.

Ross: He got in touch with his inner Jerry!

Here Here at Noise Pop 2009 on SomaFM

Meghan: How has the music scene changed since you guys were young 'uns?

Ross: I don't know, I don't feel like it's changed too much for us since we started. Since we were young 'uns, it's definitely gotten more and more post modern.

Meghan: Ironic?

Ross: You know, like we were talking about irony before. There used to be bands that just played a genre and now there are bands that play in a genre that mocks that genre. There's more of that, that detatchment. My folks asked me if the recession was affecting our work, and it's like, "No, not really." Not us, we've been in a recession since we started.

[laughter]

Meghan: If anything, everything's cheaper now, right?

Brian: Yeah, touring's cheaper, gas is cheaper. It's great.

Meghan: So you were originally the Broke Down and you changed your name. Can you tell me a little bit about why?

Ross: You tell that story.

Brian: Yeah, we were called the Broke Down and we got a cease and desist letter from a band called the Broke Downs. I think they're from Chicago. They sent us this letter on Myspace. Cease and desist via Myspace! That's the best part of the story.

Meghan: That's an effective way to do that.

Brian: Well, we were scared.

Ross: Scared the shit out of us.

Brian: And the timing was bad because it was about 72 hours or 48 hours before our record went to the presses. So it was done and mastered and the art was done and it was ready to go, and they were going to go print up five hundred copies and we had a couple of days to think up a new name. I think it was Mack who came up with the name.

Ross: Mac, who's one of the owners of our label came up with that name.

Brian: And it just sounds kind of like the Broke Down so it wasn't a total change.

Ross: We didn't want to shock our fans. Our 25, 26 fans.

Meghan: Oh, come one, you have more fans than that.

Ross: Maybe now, but when we were the Broke Down I think 25 is very generous.

Meghan: That's a 300% increase. That's not bad.

Ross: Luckily Mac was one of them.

Meghan: Can you guys tell me a little bit about your track "Down In The Valley?"

Ross: Yes, that's a song that my friend Scott, who I went to high school with and he was in the band really, really early on, and he and I wrote that about six years ago. We recorded it with some really primitive digital recording equipment and we self released an E.P. before we signed to Merge and it was on that and we were making out first record and Mack from Merge really loved that song. I kind of thought that if we got signed I would like to have that song on the first record and Mack kind of wanted it on there, too, so it was on the E.P. but then it was also on the first record.

Brian: You like that song?

Meghan: I do like that song. I'm very fond of it.

Brian: That song has a rich history. It's been covered.

Ross: Yes, it was covered by a major label country band. They're called the Lost Trailers.

Meghan: I've never heard of them.

Brian: Yeah, but if you lived in Texas you'd have heard of them.

Ross: They did have a big hit this year with the song "Holler Back." But they did not have a hit with my song.

Meghan: That's probably for the best.

Ross: Yeah, because I got to take it back and have a very small hit with it. A super modest hit.

Meghan: So you guys work directly with Mac from Superchunk?

Ross: Yeah.

Meghan: How is that? It seems like it would be really cool.

Ross: It is cool. We don't really talk to him that much. Of the Superchunk members, I talk more to Laura. Laura's great. Mack is great, too.

Brian: Actually, it's more, "Speak softly and carry large stick." He doesn't say a lot but his presence carries a lot of weight.

Ross: Exactly. And Laura is behind the scenes. She runs all the business stuff for the label, but she keeps a very low profile.

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