MC Lars

By paul

Paul: This is about the 8th or 10th time you’ve been in the UK. You tour the UK more than any other American act. What is it about the UK?

Lars: Yeah, we’re pretty inseparable. For some reason British people pick up on the quirkiness and the fun and the fact that it’s 1/6th the size of the U.S. Word spreads faster if you’re independent.

Paul: You’ve got the English sense of humour. And I think you’re able to cross over much better because of it.

Lars: When we tour here we can draw more people. In America we can draw 30 people in the middle of Ohio. Here it can be a few hundred people. From a business sense it makes more sense. We’ve toured here more and we’ve got a stronger public image here, and we just like coming here.

Paul: You just did Australia as well. I heard that JJJ, the big radio station out there, playlisted you in the top 10. And ‘Download this song’ hit the top 20 in the pop charts.

Lars: Yeah, we never expected that. It did well in the pop charts for some weird reason, which is cool. In Australia they’re really cantankerous and rebellious. I think they might encourage downloading a bit more.

Paul: You mention the downloading there. As an artist you’re very pro-using the internet and getting your music out there, not necessarily in an illegal sense, which a lot of labels and artists don’t do. Why do you think you are using it more than anyone else and releasing the singles every month?

Lars: When you’re doing music like what we’re doing which is kind of in between genres, it takes a special kind of person to appreciate it. You have to be really nimble, and the thing with majors (and sometimes even indie labels) is that they catch onto trends after they’ve really reached their coolness peak. It allows you to be topical – we can record a song and release it on the same day if something happens. On a label it takes ages.

Paul: So what format will the single releases take?

Lars: The first one comes out November and we’re doing a podcast for it. We used to do it on Sirius on satellite radio and now we’re switching it so it’s free, and we’re doing a video podcast. It’ll be on iTunes every month and if it catches on we’ll put it in stores as a physical single. And not being signed allows us to do it – if we were on Victory they’d be like “No way!”

Paul: I know you’re fiercely independent and a lot of the songs touch on that. Why is that so important to you?

Lars: Nowadays everyone wants to compromise what you’re saying. It’s so easy to be dumb and successful and to be middle-of-the-road. If you really want to do something different, you can’t really fit the current mould, aesthetically or business-wise. There are bands that are very artistic and cool, and it works for them, but for us it’s so quirky it just doesn’t “fit”.

Paul: You played at least one new song tonight, the New Orleans one. Are you going to be doing something topical like that every month?

Lars: That was just something we were doing in rehearsal and we just thought it’d be funny. But yeah, it’ll take the topical thing. I feel like I’ve written enough darned songs about the internet and major labels. There’s so many other topics. People see MC Lars as a comedy rap thing, but that’s not where it’s going to end up.

Paul: So that was never the starting point? It was always a serious project with a tongue-in-cheek look at everything..

Lars: Yeah, the closest similarity being Atom & His Package. He’s funny, but he hits serious issues and he’s really smart.

Paul: You touch on issues like global warming on the album too. You touch on it in the album, looking to go towards more message-based stuff?

Lars: Yeah, I mean I’d hate to release 7 different ‘Signing Emos’ on every different genre that came out, that would suck. You have to keep yourself entertained and if people follow you that’s cool.

Paul: Is that a song that you just don’t want to play anymore, or are you just happy to play it because people like it?

Lars: It’s one of those songs that people know us for, especially here. You have to embrace the fact that we struck that nerve. But when we get to it in the set it feels like I’m punching a clock (?). It’s a cool song, and I like it, but there’s more to us than just “Hey, mainstream emo’s not interesting!”. What do you think?

Paul: It’s one of those songs that’s captured a moment. For me, it’s telling a story that’s true. The comedy moment is that people thought Hearts That Hate were a real band! That just goes to prove the point of the song.

Spud: It’s like when you say “Do a backflip, look how different we are” – everyone knows you mean Story of the Year, but you don’t have to say it.

Lars: Right. It’s true. But I think any good art hits what’s true. Even if it’s in a silly way.

Paul: When I first heard it I thought that song would make you huge in America. But I think British people saw what was actually there – the humour – more than the Americans did. Did that surprise you?

Lars: What’s weird with America is that they know what they like, and they know what they don’t like. They love their Jay-Z hiphop, which is awesome, and they love their Panic! At The Disco, which has its merits. But they don’t like when you’re undermining what they think. They don’t like to be shown that they’re stupid. It’s frustrating in a way, but if what you’re doing is not catching on with mainstream America then you’re probably doing something right. There are only a few examples of things that have really caught on, like The Simpsons, that are really subversive and smart. And eventually once they become really popular they lose their edge. It is frustrating to have whatever our level is here, and then go to America and have no-one care. It’s weird, it’s a weird dichotomy. But I’m so much happier now than I was a year ago.

Paul: What’s happening for the rest of this year?

Lars: We’re doing all the recording for the rest of the year. We’re doing a huge production show in Manhattan on December 18th. We’re showing that the MC Lars thing can be a big, funny production. That’s where all the energy is going.

Paul: Are you writing songs in terms of an album, or are you trying to completely change the concept of releasing albums? Because you can do anything now.

Lars: I’m definitely not excited about putting CDs out anymore. But if we put enough singles out that might make a good album, just to have it for art and archival purposes. When was the last time you bought a CD?

Paul: Today, actually!

Spud: A physical CD would be a while ago. Probably a month.

Paul: 5 years ago, I would buy a CD a day. And now I hold my hands up, I download music. Everyone does. There’s a big argument that not having that product in front of you and encouraging people is a bad thing for music.

Spud: Do you think that the product has now become the identity, in the way that people are aligning themselves with different subcultures, subgenres. The identity is the the look, the t-shirts, the seen to be scene sort of thing. Do you think the music is just becoming a guiding force to it all?

Lars: There’s this book called ‘The Long Tail’ by Chris Anderson, he’s the editor of Wired magazine. It’s what you’re saying, you have a curve, and in the olden days there’d be a parabola and you’d cut off a certain point because you had a certain amount of distribution. Now the tail is a lot longer and technology allows for better distribution. You have thousands and thousands of niche cultures that are propagated because of this technological shift. And music is that identity, it’s a soundtrack to it. You have to realise if you do something quirky, that’s where the future’s headed and you can find your niche in that world.

Paul: We both noticed tonight that there’s a vast range of people who come to your shows. You’ve got the punks with mohawks, you’ve got guys in ‘normal club’ shirts, the emo kids, there’s a really wide range. You go to a lot of shows and they all have the same people in the crowd. Is that something you’re seeing at all of shows?

Lars: What you’re hitting on is that the music appeals to a lot of people; a smaller number but they’re a diverse audience. In America the kids who come are the kids who go to AbsolutePunk every day and the college kids who have a lot of time on their hands. You don’t get it because word doesn’t travel as fast in America. And goes back to not being understand irony. But now you mention it, yeah it seems it.

Spud: Maybe there’s some lyrical content for you there.

Lars: I should write a song called ‘Homogenised demographics’!

Paul: Do you regret sampling Piebald and Brand New?

Lars: I feel like it’s pigeon-holed us. It’s just the music I listen to.

Paul: The reaction to them was massive. I know they’re older songs so that you expect people to know them, and yet in my eyes I think you have better songs, not saying that their bad. Do you ever think “Shit, I wish I’d not bothered”?

Lars: That was the closest scene that made sense to me. Radio Pet Fancing is a weird indie rap record. And so it just fit that period of my life. I would not do it again but I don’t regret it.

Paul: I interviewed you over a year ago and you mentioned you wanted to sample Coheed and Cambria. I can’t imagine anyone sampling cool track

Lars: The cool track I was trying to use was a violin intro, my producer did a cool hiphop thing with that, and it was a really fat hiphop version of that. But that would cost a butt-load. Warner is not going to give that away. I feel like if I did that again I’d get criticised for doing the emo rap thing again.

Paul: You’ve sampled Iggy Pop, Supergrass, etc. What inspired you to go back in time?

Lars: Those songs are so great. Great, great songs. I just want to show there’s other stuff to sample.

Spud: You’d think that ‘Moving’ would be a bit too old for a lot of the people here. It’s only just in my memory and I’m 20.

Paul: Yeah, it was very popular at the time, and I don’t think the people coming to see you would necessarily know who Supergrass were.

Lars: I agree. We had kids who didn’t know who Beck was in Cambridge!

Paul: That’s bizarre. But why cover ‘Loser’?

Lars: I think ‘Loser’ is a cool anthem because it’s a Generation-X hangover song. It kinda fits because our generation is the slackers taht are on the internet all the time. It fits, and it’s just a cool flow. We fucked it up tonight really badly, but it’s so nice when people sing along. What did you think to the cover?

Paul: It surprised me. I thought you’d play it as an intro, and then go on.

Spud: I thought you’d do it as a chorus, and change up the verse. Keep the whole ‘I’m a loser’ thing going through and then switch up the style.

Lars: That’d be cool, actually. A cool song to update.

Paul: That’s two ideas you’ve given him tonight. Is sampling something you’re still looking to do, but widen the horizons a bit?

Lars: Yeah, I definitely won’t stop sampling. We have a new song where we sample Dana Johnston and it’s cool, but I’m realising now that I’m becoming more business savvy that it’s so expensive. We are broke because we’ve paid so many thousands of dollars in sample royalties. It’s cool, but I’d do it if we were in an age with better intellectual property laws. On a business sense to bring your own stuff, and it’s more fun to pay the rent.

Paul: If you could sample anything, what and why? Money no object..

Spud: Weird Al…

Lars: He sent me a real nice email the other day. He said he voted for me in the Best New Artist for the Grammys. I’ve never met him, but he’s been in touch.

Spud: You said it was a career goal to get him on an album last time I interviewed you. You said him & KRS-One.

Lars: Yeah, I feel like he might be down. That’d be a great three-way collab! Having him direct a video would be amazing, because he’s so freaking funny. He’s never got as big here as he did in Japan and Australia because he’s never toured here.

Paul: If you go to the kids tonight, I don’t think they’ll know who he is. He’s one of those cool people.

Lars: The internet has allowed these new generations of kids to find out who he is. And that’s cool. Every time he puts out a record kids buy or download his whole back catalogue. He’s a genius.

Paul: If you could tour with anybody, realistically and not realistically, who would it be?

Lars: I think it would be a disaster, but I’d love to open for Public Enemy. A few people would get that there’s something in there and some similarity, but 90% of the audience would hate us. That’s OK. I’d love to tour with a big band like Green Day, despite the sell-out claims, I think they still have punk ethics & they’re smart dudes.

Paul: People say that 60,000 arena gigs mean they’ve sold out, but they sold out with Dookie.

Lars: Yep, they gotta make that argument 10 years ago. Bloodhound Gang would be a good one.

Paul: Yeah, we were saying that this afternoon. They’re huge over here. Also, you’ve been quite pro-active in making sure that UK acts support you, and certainly had a say in who supports you.

Lars: English bands are cool…

at this point we got thrown out of the venue by the asshole security at the Cockpit and while we tried to resurrect the interview in the men’s toilets (seriously…) it came out as inaudible.

Nevertheless, is all you need…

Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]