Soundtrack of Our Lives: New Bums’ Ben Chasny takes us for a musical trip

New Bums: Ben Chasny, left, and Donovan Quinn, photographed by Apollo

NEW BUMS is the collaborative shore of of Six Organs of Admittance’s prolific psych voyager Ben Chasny and Donovan Quinn, of erstwhile Jagjaguwar psych-folk mainstays Skygreen Leopards.

The duo first ventured into the world of recorded sound for Drag City six? Nope, seven years ago now, their debut album Voices In A Rented Room containing such raggedy lovelies as “Black Bough” and “Your Girlfriend Might Be A Cop”. That august journal of record The New York Times described that record as “feeling like it’s falling apart,” which Ben and Donovan took entirely as a compliment.

Last Friday they released their second album, Last Time I Saw Grace, and a quiet cracker it is too; we were moved to say of it, that while “it probably isn’t the kind of album that throws you back against the wall at some party downtown for a ruby-red lipped snog … it very much is the kind of album you end up on a spontaneous road trip with, or hanging with on a rainy Sunday, and realised you had deep feelings for all along.

“Get it now, before that mate of yours in the irritatingly cool shirt rocks up on your doorstep with it under their arm, expecting you to be not clued up enough.” Hey, you can read our full review here.

We caught up Ben to ask him all about the soundtrack of his life; a Saturday morning record, the best cover version ever, that sorta thang …. and it comes with a handy Spotify playlist to cut out and keep.

New Bums: Ben Chasny (left) and Donovan Quinn get to grips with the classics

BACKSEAT MAFIA: Hi Ben and thank you for taking us for a tour through the soundtrack of your life. To begin: what would be a tour bus favourite?

Ben: Obviously we’ll have to change this question to ‘Rental Car Favorite’ since we aren’t a tour bus kind of band. When New Bums went on tour across the US last time for about six weeks I think our most-played thing was this one country music radio station that played older country, not the new pop stuff. Lots of songs about driving and trucks and billboards. That always makes good driving music.

What’s a good Saturday night tune?

Autechre’s NTS Sessions.

And how about a Sunday morning record?

Oh, there’s a few. It depends if someone is with me. If I’m alone and feel like thinking but not necessarily doing, I’ll throw on some Morton Feldman, nowadays probably For Philip Guston. If I have friends coming over or I am hanging out with anyone I like to put on some of Sun Ra’s more piano-oriented jams. Sunday is also usually a day for listening to new music so that would be whatever I have lined up that may have come in the mail. I suppose at the time of this writing that would mean the latest record on the Freedom To Spend label, Taziano Popoli’s Burn The Night.

What, in your opinion, is the best cover version of all time?

Toots and the Maytals’ take on “Country Road”.

What’s the best cover version of your music?

At the moment no one has covered any New Bums, to my knowledge. If they have, we’d love to hear it.

What’s the best song you’ve written?

Ah, you know that sort of thing changes all the time as far as how I might feel. One day I might like a song we/I’ve done and the next I might think it’s not so great. I think it’s that dynamic response to one’s own work that keeps one going. If there was ever a static, “there! That’s the best thing,” than I don’t know if I would continue to make stuff. On any given day I might think any given song I’ve done is totally great or complete shite.

What’s the song that reminds you most of childhood?

The theme song to Thundercats. I used to come home from elementary school and I would be alone for hours and Thundercats was always one. Hard to hear it without thinking of those times.

What’s a favourite track made by friends?

I’m going to have to cop out a bit and say that my partner, Elisa, answered these questions earlier (and boy, what a playlist that is – Ed) and as we have the same friends, I will refer the reader to her list, as it is a much more comprehensive than what my feeble brain could cobble together from memory. I would no doubt forget people, etc. That said, I’d like to say that the record by Chris Corsano and Mick Flower, The Four Aims, is one of my favorite records of all time.

Can you name a band That should be bigger?

Black Vial.

How about a guilty pleasure?

Dried strawberries.

What was the record in your parents’ record collection that attracted attention?

When I was a little kid and growing up I would always hear this song about a “Rocky Raccoon” that my dad would love to play. I’d also flip through his records and look at the art on the covers. There was this one record that had a painting of a really cool raccoon on it and for years, as I was growing up, I just figured that that was the Rocky Raccoon from the song. This record cover was in fact J.J. Cale’s Naturally. I mean, the raccoon even had a damn top hat! How could that not be Rocky Raccoon? Imagine my disappointment when I realized the song came from a record that had a totally blank, white record cover. BORING!

In my mind, to this day, that raccoon on the cover of J.J. Cale’s Naturally is Rocky Raccoon, even if in the song it’s actually about a human, which I didn’t realize when I was younger.

The words of this song inspire me:

Blind Willie Johnson – “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”

The record that makes me sad:

I can’t really think of a record that makes me sad, as in, if I wasn’t sad already I get sad when I listen to it. There might be some records that might amplify sadness. I suppose I could say any record by Jack Rose, to be honest. I don’t listen to them because they make me too sad.

What’s the record that gets you on the dancefloor?

Earth – Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull. I’m a slow dancer. Really slow.

Ben; thank you.

New Bums’ Last Time I Saw Grace is out now from Drag City digitally and on vinyl right now; you can order yours direct from the band over at Bandcampfrom Drag CityRough Tradeor your trusted local record emporium.

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