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  • Math and Physics Club
    Friday, January 19, 2007

    A bit of an explanation. At one point, before we changed our name, I had toyed with a literary blog. It never took off, but this interview with Math and Physics Club's leader Charles Bert seemed to be the perfect opportunity to blend literature and music together. I think the interview turned out quite well, don't you? His band is poppy and literate and fun to listen to for those moments when you're curled up with a good book on a cold day, so why not talk about books? This interview's a bit more interesting than you might thing. You might just learn a thing or two. And why haven't you read a good book lately?

    What's the last book you read?

    (Slightly embarrassed) I wouldn't necessarily call it high literature, but lately I've been reading the Harry Potter books.

    Hey, that's cool! I'm of the opinion that reading is reading--it doesn't have to always be some sort of high-art literature.

    This is going to sound very twee, but the books are really fun and there's a lot of imagination to them, and I like that. They're an escape to read.

    What prompted you to decide to read them?

    It was really just curiosity, mainly. It's been such a big thing for a long time now, and I have a lot of friends who have read the series, and I guess I finally just caved in. We were taking a plane trip, and I thought, "Okay, I'll read it on the plane," and I got sucked into that world, and I started reading one right after the other. I think that's how it happened for a lot of people, though. It's an escape, but it's a fun thing to do, you know?

    Had you been avoiding them because they have been so popular?


    I don't really do that, but I just figured that they were kids' books. I kind of read whatever I feel like at the moment. I wasn't sure I'd be that interested in them, but I found them to be really creative, and it got my imagination going, and I like that!

    Growing up, were you much of a fantasy reader?

    I wasn't. In fact, I wasn't much of a reader growing up. I didn't really start reading until I turned about 30. All of a sudden, I felt like something turned on inside me, and that I should start reading more. The weird thing is, I've always loved books. That's the strange thing. I've always loved going into book stores, buying old books and classics, and I'd think to myself, "Someday, I'm going to read all of these!" (Laughs) But then something turned on inside me, and I started reading them.

    Who are some of your favorite authors?

    Honestly, I don't usually stick to one author. I do a lot of nonfiction reading, too. I'm a really big baseball fan, and I've read a couple of books by Robert Whiting, who writes about Japanese baseball, and I've recently read Money Ball, which is about the business side of baseball, in particular the General Manager of the Oakland A's. I'll kind of mix that sort of thing in with books like the Harry Potter series. Oh, I read Our Band Could Be Your Life before the Potter series. It's really cool.

    I've read sections of it, and it is indeed an excellent book.

    I read it to cover to cover, and even the bands I didn't particularly like, like Black Flag and Minor Threat--it was interesting to go back and read about them from that perspective. It was really interesting to me.

    Looking at your songwriting, it's very poetic. Would you say you were a poet before you were a musician?

    Songwriting and lyrics all come together. I didn't really write poetry before the band, and I didn't really pick up a guitar until I was in college. Really, melody has always been important to me. I just learned enough chords so I could get these melodies down that were in my head. Lyrics come later, and I always try to do justice to the melody. Lyrics are almost always the last thing I write, and almost at the last minute. I just try to make 'em work.

    I've always found it fascinating how excellent lyricists have often said, "Lyrics, they don't matter, they're secondary to what I'm trying to do."

    I know there are lots of different songwriting camps, and some people really focus on lyrics. Some write their lyrics first, and some really focus on the meaning of their lyrics. I'm definitely in the camp of where I come up with a few lines, and I try to come up with a melody, because I'm coming up with a stream of thought, and ideas will come into my head. The rest of the process for me is trying to serve the melody and not to detract from it in any way. I'm happy if I can come away from it and haven't done a disservice to the melody.

    Your lyrics are very narrative.

    I tend to just write things. They can come from emotion, but I tend to like lyrics that paint a picture. It's not so much telling a story as it is expressing images and emotions. I hope to try and pull those things out. Hopefully, by the end of it all, it feels like something rather cohesive. It's important to me to have something that other people can relate to. I'm drawing from my own personal experiences and other stuff that's born out of my emotions, and I hope it's something that's universal. I try to keep them fairly non gender-specific. They're not terribly deep' I think they're things people can relate to simply because they are about things they've gone through at one point or another. I've always sort of liked that, especially in my favorite bands.

    Like the Smiths?

    Yeah. The Smiths are definitely one of my favorite bands. We also get a lot of comparisons to The Lucksmiths. To be honest, though, I actually started listening to them pretty late, so I don't know if we draw inspiration from similar things, but they are one of my favorite bands, too. We share a label with them, and we wanted to be on Matinee. But when I started playing, I was listening to a lot of bands like The Housemartins, Beautiful South, Teenage Fanclub--a lot of pop bands like that. I always go back to that when I'm working on material in my head. Those are where my chord progressions are.

    What are your plans for the future?

    We just made a quick swing over to the East coast for the first time. We played a few shows in New York and an appearance at Popfest, and that was fun. We don't get to get out much, because we're all working and we have families. Our guitar player has a new baby girl, our drummer has a year-old kid, and my wife and I are expecting twins. It's really great, but it does hamper our ability to get out and tour and play shows a lot. Before the twins arrive, this spring we're hopefully going to get an EP out, to buy a little time and hopefully during my downtime, I'll be working on new material. I've got a handful of songs in the works right now, and I've got a few more ideas, and maybe we'll try to get an album out in the fall. Hopefully, we'll be able to play out a little, too, maybe hit select cities on the west coast or maybe make a four or five day trip here and there. A big tour of two weeks or more, it's probably not in the works for us.

    Now that you're having kids, are there any books you can't wait to share with them?

    Yeah! We've already started gathering children's books for a few years now. We've known that one day we would have a family. I love the creative side of children's books. We have a bunch of Dr. Seuss books and Where The Wild Things Are, too. For me, growing up, that was the book. Maurice Sendak, the author/illustrator, lives up here. I'm looking forward to the experience of sharing that book with my kids!

    Math and Physics Club's self-titled debut album is out now on Matinee Recordings

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 11:44 AM  
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