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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dark, lush folk: Phosphorescent at Vogue tonight

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 1:28 PM

click to enlarge Matthew Houck - SUBMITTED PHOTO
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  • Matthew Houck
It hasn't even been a year since the last time we spoke with Matthew Houck, the man behind Phosphorescent. His 2013 album Muchacho was one of my absolute favorites of last year, with standout tracks "Song for Zula" and "Muchacho's Tune" gracing top track lists all over the place last year. For my part, they're both in the top five of my "most played tracks" section on iTunes. (Quick note: the rest of the top five are a bit embarrassing, really.)

But I digress. Houck, whose last few releases have been through Bloomington's Dead Oceans, will perform at the Vogue tonight. I encourage you to attend if you can. Muchacho transforms from a beautifully layered, quiet album to an all-consuming, depressing-in-a-good-way live experience. 

NUVO: Excited to see you again in Indiana tonight! I just listened to your Bob Dylan cover for the Starbucks' Valentine's Day compilation album. Why pick "Tomorrow is a Long Time"?

Matthew Houck: The word came out that they were wanting to include Phosphorescent so I picked it. It's a song I covered in concert off and on for a few years. It was a perfect chance to have a reason to record it.



NUVO: What says Valentine's Day about that track?

Houck: I kind of thought it was a little too sad for a Valentine's day album.

NUVO: Kind of right in your wheelhouse, man.

Houck: Yeah, yeah! I think it's a beautiful song. I don't know if it says Valentine's Day, really. It's a really straightforward love song, the most beautiful thing.

NUVO: I think I've fully switched from "Muchacho's Tune" being my favorite on Muchacho to "Song for Zula" being my favorite.

Houck: Okay! Cool.



NUVO: So that's different from the last time that we talked. I wanted to know how these songs have evolved live for you as you've toured the last year or so.

Houck: You know, they're proving to be pretty sturdy little guys. They've withheld under a lot of different scenarios, very different performances. It's weird to see a song like "Song for Zula" sort of stand up in front of 2,000 people and really be able to still hold it's own. It's been super rewarding to watch that happen.

NUVO: I was surprised when I saw you - and I'm thinking particularly of a SXSW showcase (with Surfer Blood, Metz, Youth Lagoon) at this packed little club - I had experienced this album mostly through headphones and mostly by myself, and had thought of it as a quieter, more solitary album than I experienced live. When I saw everyone get on stage, I thought, "This is a solidly large group of people!"

Houck: That's what I'm talking about, yes. All of those songs were definitely conceived and made in a very solitary, inward-looking mood. So that's what I mean about the ... I wouldn't say surprise is the word, because songs always do this, but sort of the ... . I'm proud of the way they've been able to become these really big things that connect people and make a big racket. They bring people together, but they really were isolated and maybe ever alienating things when I wrote them. There's some kind of magic trick there that's still super fascinating to me, to hear people singing along to a song like "Song for Zula," or "Muchacho's Tune." Those are pretty lonely songs, but it's really cool that they've become something so different.

... These tours have really stepped up. The venues have all been really, really cool. It's nice, that the shows are sold out in advance these years. It's been a good year.

NUVO: It's been a good year, and yet down a very sad quote from you describing touring as a "damaging and destructive way of life." This is from last year, right around the same time we talked. Has it been a better set of tours since? Or are you discussing the damage of touring in the conceptual sense. As in, human beings should not being doing this to their bodies.

Houck: No, it was definitely real. I do think that I'm learning to be a little bit less destructive. But it's weird: when you say those things in interviews, they come out a little bit garbled. It's certainly not complaining, but there's no denying that it takes its toll, being on the road all the time.

You find certain ways to be healthy and mentally and physically sound. You try focus on being a little smarter.

NUVO: Plans for a next album?

Houck: We're going to get off this tour, and I'm going to take some time off, and then hopefully start digging into a new album. I never get a chance to write anything on the road. I don't really have any songs written right now. But little bits and pieces of things are bouncing around. I'm looking forward to getting off the road and seeing what those are.

NUVO: And a question from a reader and fan: what's your favorite Fleetwood Mac song?

Houck: Well, it would definitely be off Rumors. One time years ago, I put together a version of Phosphorescent and we covered Rumors from top to bottom at a show - I think we did it twice actually - so I'm very, very familiar with that record. I would probably say [insert long thinking pause] "Go Your Own Way."

NUVO: It's so good.

Houck: It's great. It's a great record.

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