Outtakes from our December issue interview between music mavericks Ed Droste and Owen Pallett, including penetrating insights on French dicks, Dante, and poop.
Owen: Hey, Ed.
Ed: Hey, Owen. Isn’t my bed comfortable?
Owen: It’s lovely. I love the chipped paint look.
Ed: I know, it reminds me of beds in summer houses on Cape Cod with their weird, insane asylum look. Pre-WWI beds or something.
Owen: Reminds me of my Dad’s farm in Northern Ontario.
Ed: I had to find it on eBay. Well, my boyfriend found it.
Owen: Really? That’s a pity. That doesn’t sound so... real. A bed like this should be an heirloom, you know?
Ed: Whatever. It’s cheaper than going to an expensive antique store.
Ed: So that’s pretty real, man, my dollar is real.
Owen: Yeah. I guess so. I went to Jamie Stewart’s house in San Francisco. He’s the guy from Xiu Xiu. And his house is filled with all these old Chinese antiques. And it looked crazy, like he had this “collecting Asia” thing going on. But it was all inherited from his Dad.
Ed: I wish I could get into collecting and decorating and fagging out. But it’s my boyfriend—Chad—who’s in interior design. So, basically, he spearheaded this whole process. And I told him I wanted one of these crazy insane asylum beds and he found it for me.
Owen: That’s cool. You have a nice house.
Ed: You mean apartment. Can you imagine having a house in New York?
Owen: You’d have to be pretty loaded. So... your new album [Yellow House] is out and it’s been getting amazing reviews everywhere. How does that make you feel?
Ed: Pretty sassy... [Laughs] No, just kidding. No, it makes me happy that people are taking the time to listen to it. It’s not something that comes quickly. It’s not an immediate album. It’s nice that people aren’t just listening to the MP3s on the blogs.
Owen: Yeah, well, you’re not like a “singles” band or anything. You’re not Daft Punk.
Ed: Even though that is my deepest, darkest desire.
Owen: Well, I had a conversation last week with a Grizzly Bear fan who was a little weirded out by the fact that your personal musical taste veers towards the new soft-rock revival. You like Junior Boys, and Hot Chip.
Ed: You’d call that soft rock?
Owen: Totally. It sounds like Hall & Oates.
Ed: I just like that shit. I like it smooth!
Owen: I’m not dissing it. It’s just totally different from Grizzly Bear.
Ed: I guess I just like easy listening. Sometimes crazy vocals just really freak me out.
Owen: I know. We’ve had that discussion. You don’t like it when I scream.
Ed: Yeah, Owen, you always scream into your violin and I don’t want you to. But I have a tendency to mumble and ooh and ahh all the time.
Owen: Different strokes. You’re shy and I’m bipolar. But you’re right, though, I got a letter that said, “Dude you’ve got to stop being so totally emo and screaming into your violin.”
Ed: Is screaming emo?
Owen: Nobody uses the word emo correctly anymore. I don’t know what people mean when they say it. It’s like pretentious, which has the connotation of just being a negative word, but it’s just a state of assuming that the audience knows as much as you do.
[Ed’s phone rings. He has a syncopated easy-rock ringtone.]
Ed: Sorry, sorry. What were you saying?
Owen: Nothing. I was just saying that journalists often say pretentious when they actually mean trite or perhaps opaque. Anyway, I feel like calling someone emo has nothing to do with actual emo, it’s just people’s way of saying “I don’t like it.”
Ed: You’re not emo. You get accolades. Hello, you just won, like, the biggest award in Canada. The Polaris Music Prize.
Owen: Doesn’t make the screaming any better.
Ed: Please. You’re on the cover of every Canadian music magazine.
Owen: It doesn’t make the screaming any better! It’s flattering but it doesn’t make the album Canada’s Blood On the Tracks or anything. [Laughing] It’s a stupid album about some stupid shit!
Ed: It’s not stupid, you’re just being self-deprecating because you’re gay.
Owen: [Laughing] Oh, that’s the reason? I hate myself because I’m a gay?
Ed: Gays are always shooting themselves down, being like, “I suck.”
Ed: Just kidding, I rule!
Owen: [Laughing] Well, I do think that self-deprecation and self-doubt are tied into narcissism.
Ed: Yeah. It’s called “fishing for compliments.”
Owen: No, it’s more than that. When somebody says “Oh, my album is shitty,” it’s because they believe that they as an artist are capable of far more than the actual results would have the world believe.
Ed: So you’re saying you’re a narcissist?
Owen: Maybe. Gays and narcissists have a long list of common traits. But I’m actually totally pleased with my shitty album.
Ed: You don’t think it’s a piece of shit. You’ve vehemently defended it to many people.
Owen: Uh, not, not really. I’ve defended some of the choices I’ve made but
I still think the album is a stupid piece of shit.
Ed: Wow. Well, you heard it here.
Owen: But that’s not self-deprecating, I’m just deprecating the shit I make. As for my self, I think I’m pretty cool.
Owen: So. Let’s talk about the future.
Ed: The future... well, we’re both in relationships so we can’t slut around the world the way we secretly want to.
Ed: We can only talk about it in interviews all the time.
Owen: What country do you feel like you’d most want to slut around in?
Ed: I think, recently, France.
Owen: A friend of mine who was slutting around Europe a few years ago told me that the French boys all had the biggest dicks.
Owen: Yeah. He said, without question. He said that in France he saw two of the biggest dicks he’s ever seen in his life.
Ed: That’s really wild. I would never have guessed.
Owen: I like the fact that French boys smoke all the time. It makes them look sexy and naive at the same time.
Ed: Hmm. What’s your least favorite country to slut around in?
Ed: Really? Me too!
Owen: The guys there are kind of cheesy and glassy-eyed. The girls too.
Ed: The girls all remind me of Posh Spice.
Owen: Yeah! I think all English girls are, maybe, kind of down-trodden. England seems really misogynist to me—the music scene and the art scene. Girls aren’t allowed to do anything without a man holding her hand. When’s the last time you saw an English band with a really conspicuous female frontwoman?
Ed: The Pipettes!
Owen: They’re new, aren’t they? I haven’t heard them but I like their style.
Ed: They’re totally popular. But I don’t know if they actually write their own songs.
Owen: The Long Blondes are the only band from England I know who are popular and have girls writing their songs. And Lily Allen, I guess, too, but I haven’t listened to her. Other than that, it’s all like, Pussycat Dolls. And I think one of the dudes from OMD writes all their songs. Anyway, they don’t seem to get behind the girls in England in their music or art scenes and I think it fucks the whole English female population up. It makes them non-intellectual or something.
Ed: Yeah, everyone just seems kind of drunk and aggressive to me there.
Owen: It’s a real soccer culture there.
Ed: I feel more threatened by drunk English hooligans than I do in, like, rural Appalachia here! [Laughs] That says a lot! That’s what their festivals are like, too. It’s all about getting wasted and barely checking the music out. And it’s competitive, too, they’re blaring crazy bass while you’re trying to listen to a singer-songwriter. It’s so random to me!
Owen: I know, it’s crazy.
Ed: And everybody’s just like, [Ed makes puking sounds] “Whoa, this is
awesome.” [More puking] OK. We should stop trashing England now.
Owen: OK. We’ll scale it down in the editing, right?
Ed: We’ll just allude to it, I think.
Owen: Well, we’re both English. Aren’t you English?
Ed: Scottish. And I love Scotland.
Owen: I love Scotland too. And Ireland.
Ed: I haven’t been to Ireland.
Owen: You’re going to have so much fun in Ireland. There are really hot boys there.
Ed: Really? Redheads?
Owen: Yes. And better than the redheads are boys with dark hair, pale skin, and really blue eyes. And freckles. Not hairy. Your tour manager is going to freak out.
Ed: Yeah, Simon’s gonna go crazy. And there are a lot of them?
Owen: Yup. Everywhere.
Ed: Wow. Can’t wait.
Owen: So, in your music, you’re always talking about penetration. You have a lot of references to objects of insertion and being debased.
Ed: [Laughs] Like what?
Owen: You always are making yourself the object, not the subject. And sometimes explicitly.
Ed: Maybe more on the first album.
Owen: No, Yellow House too. Like “Knife”?
Ed: Oh. [Dubiously] Like the knife is a dick?
Ed: No, “Knife” is about backstabbing. Cheating. I don’t promote cheating.
Owen: So, you cheating on Chad or Chad cheating on you?
Ed: Well, it hasn’t happened. But that song is about stringing someone along and cheating on them. Maybe I’m just singing about someone who’s done that to me. I don’t even know.
Owen: I actually have sympathy for backstabbers. I think it’s like M. Night Shyamalan.... ghosts don’t realize they’re dead. Cheaters and shitheads, too, don’t even realize what they do.
Ed: Am I a backstabber? Is that what you’re getting at?
Owen: Umm… no. I don’t think you’re a backstabbing asshole.
Ed: Oh, thanks! Thanks, Owen. That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me. I love how it took you a couple of seconds to think about it, too.
Owen: I just wanted to give you an honest answer.
Ed: Well, where else am I the object of penetration? You’re just saying that because you know I’m a bottom.
Owen: Maybe! But it was also in “Fix It” where you sing, “Come again all over me, I swear I’ll change just wait and see...”
Ed: That’s true.
Owen: Do you think that having somebody come on you is telling of your sexual preference? Like, whether you’re a top or a bottom?
Ed: I don’t know. Maybe, but I’m sure there are tops out there who like getting come on. But we’re getting into graphic stuff and I don’t know if this magazine is into that.
Owen: Well, this might just be the most popular interview they ever print.
Ed: You might not portray yourself as the object of penetration, but you kill yourself at the end of every album. Discuss.
Owen: I’m trying to make light of the suicidal artist. I think that so many people take their rock bands so seriously, and we need more humorous musicians who are willing to dick around. I like it when artists don’t try and make “the classic album that saved rock and roll” and instead are like, “Dude, this album is about Oregon.” Instead of trying to make dollar bills, they’re making little pieces of shit.
Ed: But how can you work so hard on something, pour your life into it, and then call it shit? Aren’t you being self-deprecating again?
Owen: No. I separate the art from the artist. My shitty music doesn’t make me a shitty musician.
Ed: So when people pan your album you totally agree with them?
Owen: Yes! And when people love my music I think there’s something wrong with them. I don’t like it when artist and art become intertwined. It feels forced to me. I get sickened when people fall in love with the idea of the musician but the music is bullshit.
Ed: Like the image of the artist? The whole persona?
Owen: Yes. The age thing, too, when people get excited about teenagers in bands. I was unbelievably happy to hear the Arctic Monkeys and then to really enjoy them. I would’ve been pretty annoyed if they were crap.
Ed: I’m not with you on that one.
Owen: Whatever. Anyway, do we have a message we want to give to all the mainstream homos who read the most popular homo magazine in the U.S.?
Ed: We can tell them that they missed out on the best tour ever when you and I were playing with Wyrd Visions. Maybe we’ll do a reunion show some day. It was a sweet tour and I’m so jealous that you get to travel with your boyfriend. I don’t have that luxury and it makes me mad.
Owen: OK. I’m sorry. Well, there are definite pros and cons to that arrangement.
Ed: It’s true, traveling can be stressful and you probably fight all the time.
Owen: At first it was kind of weird but we eventually locked into it. We definitely don’t have as much sex when we’re on tour. We’re usually sleeping on people’s couches.
Ed: Case in point, right here in New York.
Owen: For sure. And we are definitely not having sex on your couch, nope. On top of that, it took some time to get used to being coworkers. But it’s good. When I was on tour without him there were a lot of tearful and expensive phone calls—and so much jealousy. When I’d return, it would take three days of arguing before we could convince each other that we hadn’t cheated. What’s it like when you get off tour with Chad?
Ed: It always takes us a little time to get used to being back together. We get into these modes where we’re independent. Then it’s like, “Hey, I’m moving back in.” It’s exciting. He’s coming to visit us in Italy for five days this fall. It would be great if he could come on tour but it’s so exhausting. He’d probably quit and say, “Fuck this shit, I’m going to watch NetFlix at home.” Plus, our poor dog would die.
Owen: So, getting back on track... do you watch pornos?
Ed: [Laughs.] I watch some. Usually online, I don’t feel the need to own them, usually. I always like to see something new and different.
Owen: There are two types of people who watch pornos, you know: the voyeurs and the collectors. Voyeurs are just looking to get off, they’re the kind who just type “cock” into their Google. The collectors are the ones who are interested in porno as an art form. They’re always snapping up the William Higgins reels off eBay.
Ed: Well, my friend works on an online porn site that has shitloads of videos and he just gave me a free membership. I just go to that one site when I feel like it, which isn’t even that often. There was one time that I chanced upon a video there I loved so much that I had to own it, so I bought it. That’s it. I have one porn. It’s in there if you want to watch it.
Owen: No, it’s OK. But what are your tastes?
Ed: It was an early ’80s, scruffy hair sort of thing. Preppy boys. It was hot. It’s got the most attractive actors I’ve seen in a porn. Nary a leather face in sight.
Owen: I don’t have the patience to track that kind of stuff down. I usually just get off on free video previews and erotic stories.
Ed: I always do live streaming but then skip to minute 10. Then I’m like, done.
Owen: OK, last question. What would provide you with the most satisfaction in the next few years, both on a professional level and a personal level?
Ed: It’s kind of the same answer for both. I hope people don’t get sick of the music I make and I hope my boyfriend doesn’t get sick of me.
Owen: So you’re looking for longevity.
Owen: So your goal with Grizzly Bear is to have 20 albums out and people are still listening to you?
Ed: No, maybe four. Four that people will come back to. What about you?
Owen: I hope to have a 30-CD box set by the time I’m 50. Just a lot of records.
Ed: Some are poop, some are not, right?
Ed: You want all poop?
Owen: Yes. All poop.
Ed: One giant 30-disc poop set.
Owen: Yes. And I want it to be layered, like a lasagna.
Ed: Like a poopy Dante’s Inferno.
Owen: Exactly. I wish you could designate the relative importance of each album with the size of the font on the cover art. So there’s a listening order. You have an 84-point classic album that everybody should listen to, and then you move down into these specialized extrapolations that are more obscure and difficult. With titles in a 4-point font. Tori Amos could do something like that.
Ed: Huh. You should talk about it with her. You should collaborate with her!
Owen: Tori Amos? I would collaborate with her in her 1996 self, for sure. A friend of mine had a... nasty theory that Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, and Björk all got brainwashed in 1996, and became inferior, robotic versions of their former selves. I pointed out that in 1996, all three singers appeared on the cover of Q magazine for the “Women of Rock” issue. He theorized that maybe the Q magazine photographer was a catalyst in a massive misogynist plot.
Ed: That’s not funny, that’s mean. And I still love Björk.
Owen: And I still love PJ Harvey and Tori Amos. I said it was a nasty theory.
Ed: Björk, call me! PJ, you can call me too, if you want.
Owen: Yeah? What about Tori?
Ed: Tori... we can instant message.