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Six Organs of Admittance
One man's quest for mystery
By Simon McCormack
In some ways, Ben Chasny's feelings about MySpace match his take on creating music in general. "My problem with MySpace is it's such a template," the Six Organs of Admittance founder and only permanent member explains. "It all looks so cookie-cutter, and I wish there was a way to have some sort of individuality with it."
Chasny needs a broad expanse of inspirational fodder to create songs that are deeply personal and always evolving. He has been shaping, deconstructing and reshaping his neo-folk psychedelia for a decade, releasing about an album a year. When his material needs new life, Chasny grabs whoever is available and hits the road, opting for a light practicing schedule that keeps things unpredictable on stage.
I see Six Organs of Admittance grouped in the "Weird New America" genre, which includes a lot of indie royalty. What are your thoughts on that characterization?
"Weird New America" is just the new term for indie because now “indie” means “popular” music. For example, people say the Arcade Fire is indie, but it's not—that's popular music. At first, that term was used by David Keenan in a 2003 issue of The Wire magazine. Six Organs of Admittance was mentioned in that story because I was hanging out and playing shows with the people the article was following in Massachusetts and Vermont that were touring together. The term didn't really mean anything then, except to categorize that small group of bands. Now other media sources have used that term to cover a huge spectrum of music, and the term no longer means anything at all. It has as much relevance to say a band is part of the "Weird New America" scene as it does to say they're "one of those guitar bands."
"Weird New America" is just the new term for indie because now “indie” means “popular” music.
What do you wish people knew about this project?
I wish people knew less about it. There was a while when no one knew what I looked like or whether there were other people in the band. I wish I could get that back. It's better to have a little mystery. But I do wish people wouldn't have this conception of me as this cantankerous old fart. I'm actually young and very polite.
You've made a lot of records over a short amount of time.
I don't think a record a year is all that much. I mean, it really doesn't take that long to come up with 40 minutes of music. People are used to how major labels release records—where you release an album, then tour for a year and a half. Since I'm not on a major label and I don't tour as much, I don't think I've been that prolific.
Your albums have layers and layers of sound. How do you create that in a live setting?
The albums and the live show are completely different for me. I love layering on records, but live, I appreciate stripped-down things. So I do both, but at different times.
Can you talk about your latest release, Shelter from the Ash?
I usually let the songs stretch out and breath for a while. For Shelter from the Ash, I choked them off and made them more concise. I usually have just one chord and then I drone, and everything else is just melodies that interact with that drone. This time, I wanted to switch it up a little bit and add some bridges and other song-writing things. It just seemed like it was time to do that because I haven't done it in a while.
Is there anything you'd change about it?
It wasn't quite as adventurous as I would have liked. Every time I'm recording, I'm like, This is crazy, but then after it's recorded I think, Maybe I should stretch it out a little more. I'll probably do that next time.
Six Organs of Admittance goes through a lot of live lineup changes. Has that caused any problems?
Those changes are good. It keeps everybody on their toes. If I had one band pretty consistently, it would get stale. I hate practicing and I'm not a perfectionist, so it keeps it tense and very exciting.
On Sunday, Jan. 13, Chasny will be joined by friend and fellow guitarist Elisa Ambrogio from the Hartford, Conn., noise-rock band Magik Markers. The duo forms the latest incarnation of Six Organs of Admittance. "It'll be more stripped-down than what's on the record," Chasny says. "But it'll still probably be louder because we're both noisy guitarists." The 21-plus Launchpad show will be opened by local act Mei Long.
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