Moldies but goodies

The Moldy Peaches make it easy for a quickly critical ear to vehemently hate them.

A telephone rings in the middle of one song. Voices crack and laugh over juvenile call-and-response couplets such as “Who mistook the steak for chicken/Who’m I gonna stick my dick in?” and “There’s no such thing as Panama Jack/Who’s got the crack?”

But there is no such thing as Panama Jack. And while many of the lyrics have a playground “do it” humor to them, the Peaches, in all their goofy glory, still make you squirm at your own superficialities and boarded-up memories. And whether you love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t stop listening. Especially when the self-defeated, melting voice of Kimya Dawson whimpers a muffled truth such as, “And besides you’re probably holding hands/With some skinny pretty girl that likes to talk about bands.”

Dawson and Adam Green, the Moldy Peaches’ founding members, met in Bedford Hills, N.Y., a small town an hour outside of New York City, in 1994. He, a 13-year-old wipe-down-table boy at Pizza Pizzazz, wrote songs inspired by Nirvana and MC Hammer. She, 21, worked at a record store and wrote bad poetry.

Eventually, they started writing songs together and playing open-mic shows with other “anti-folkies” at the Sidewalk Café. Then Rough Trade in England put out their record and the duo landed an opening slot on the super-hyped Strokes tour last year. A living-breathing Revenge of the Nerds fantasy, Green and Dawson put a band together, dressed up like Peter Pan and a Thundercat superhero with floppy bunny ears and brought to life their spastic, hard-to-pin-down sound to a country full of hipster rock kids. And now, they’re heading out on their own headlining tour, with a copy of Milla Jovovich’s The Divine Comedy in the tour van. “The second song (“Gentlemen Who Fell”) is really cool,” Green admits sheepishly. Dawson reassures him, “You can say that again!”

Metro Times: I saw you play in Chicago, opening for the Strokes. I was standing behind a group of guys who were trying to boo you off the stage, but here and there, a few people were dancing and singing along. Would you say your music has a love-hate vibe to it?

Kimya Dawson: At that show, we got a really weird response. There are two online reviews that are absolutely ridiculously horrible. The people who wrote them obviously thought they were going to the cool rock concert of the year. They said things like, “The only mistake the Strokes made that night was sitting through the Moldy Peaches’ whole set.” And “Why would a band as totally cool and hip as the Strokes bring along a band that is made up of the people who try to sit at your lunch table, the dorks in the back of your science class with food stuck in their teeth? Why would these cool guys hang out with these nerds?”

Adam Green: They don’t know the Strokes at all.

Dawson: And they don’t know us either. It’s just them deciding what the scene was going to be for that night and we didn’t fit into what they wanted. Bullies is what they were. I would rather have love-hate than have people think we’re mediocre. We at least make people mad, make them feel extreme emotions.

Metro Times: A lot of people say humor doesn’t belong in music.

Green: We have humor in our music, but it’s not all humorous. I think it has a place in it as much as anything has a place in song. Our songs just have a piece of all aspects of our personalities.

Metro Times: Is it a reaction to overseriousness?

Dawson: I don’t think it’s a reaction. We’re not thinking that people or music are too serious. We really are just saying what we’re thinking or feeling. And sometimes when you’re dealing with seriousness, there’s still some element of humor to that. Sometimes when you’re dealing with serious stuff, it’s uncomfortable to talk about it. So you kind of joke about it to make it easier.

Metro Times: You spend your time split between Bedford Hills, New York City and the road. It seems as though your songs are inspired both by boredom and sensory overload.

Dawson: We both grew up outside of the city. But we’ve both also spent lots of time in the city and we’ve both lived in Washington state. Regardless, even if I was in the city, sometimes you’re bored in the city. I feel like that happens no matter where you are.

Metro Times: Not to say Bedford Hills is boring. I’m sure it’s totally great.

Dawson: No, it’s boring as hell. But I’m to a point in my life where I don’t really need it to not be boring. I love that I can come into the city and go to open mics and go to shows and have a great time. And after two days, when I’m completely exhausted and tired of people, I go home and I can spend four days looking out of my window at the squirrels, leaping over the town. All over the town, without touching the ground, on trees and wires. That mesmerizes me for days on end.

Metro Times: How do you write your songs?

Green: We write them together. One way we wrote them was we took a pad and we passed it back and forth. Then sometimes we sit there and write all of the lyrics together. All the words that each of us sing separately, we wrote, and all the words we sing together, we wrote together. And it’s even like, well, we’ll finish each other’s sentences. All the songs are always written in their entirety before we record. We never improvise into the four-track.

Metro Times: It kind of sounds like it sometimes.

Dawson: Part of that is because we don’t always correct little details.

Metro Times: Like the phone ringing in the middle.

Green: When we actually do a vocal take, it’s usually the first take.

Dawson: So it doesn’t sound like you’re tired of it yet. If you sing the same thing five times in a row, by the fifth time, you might not crack a note and the phone might not ring, but it doesn’t sound as fresh. Or as good, I think.

Green: It’s all first take. I was living in an apartment with a lot of noise restrictions. Well, not restrictions, but I couldn’t really play drums in it even though I had drums set up. We multitracked a lot of the drums. In “NYC’s Like a Graveyard,” I played the drums for that song, the first time ever into the microphone. I had to think of how it was going to go in my head because I knew if I played it a bunch of times, I was going to get a noise complaint. So I had to figure it out in my head and on my knee.

Metro Times: Someone told me the other day that he thought “lo-fi” was played out.

Green: That’s like saying pencils are played out. But our songs aren’t lo-fi songs. That’s why they’re good. They’re hi-fi songs. We just recorded them at home. We’re home-fi. We try to mix it so you can hear all the words and everything. It’s not lo-fi so much that you can’t enjoy it. We’re not into recording our final album on a tape recorder. We really produced that. We recorded each track separately and mixed it. We tried our best. What kind of stuff is your friend into?

Metro Times: Um, I’d rather not say.

Dawson: He’s like, “They should fucking take some advice from Milla Jovovich and her album.”

Melissa Giannini is Metro Times’ music writer. E-mail her at [email protected]
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