After writing a piece on Landlady, a complex and passionate indie pop band, I was thrilled to hear Adam Schatz was available for an interview. Adam is a very special musician. Not just known for his band Landlady, he also plays in Man Man and Father Figures.
However Schatz’s talents do not solely lay in performing. He also co-produces NYC Winter Jazzfest and he founded Search and Restore, a website designed to introduce users to new music. The busy vocalist spoke to me about Landlady’s upcoming tours and album, how the band formed, and punching apples. Of course.
What are your fondest musical memories?
When I was a kid my parents had a VHS copy of Paul Simon & Ladysmith Black Mambazo performing Graceland. The drummer had a million drums that in my memory wrapped behind him. I would setup a drum set made out of pots and pans in front of the TV and play along with it. It’s one of those stories that gets told a lot but I’m also pretty sure it’s a real memory. It is now, anyway.
I’m trying to think of another one. In 8th grade, I waited in line a Strawberries record store in Cambridge, MA for 3 hours to get Outkast’s autograph. Stankonia had just come out and I had it on vinyl, two transparent orange records that sounded awesome even through my crappy Numark DJ turntables I had bought at Guitar Center. I brought my minidisc player with a minidisc mix I had made by taping the radio, mostly the afternoon old school hip hop show on JAMN 94.5 and stood in waiting with the cool sounds of Slick Rick in my head. After three hours we were informed that Outkast weren’t coming, their plane landed late and they had to rush over to Boston College for their show that night. But the first 50 people in line would get a wristband that would get them into the show.
I freaked out. I called my mom. I was very close to the front of the line. I asked nicely and she said I could go but I had to be home by 11 since it was a school night. She dropped me off and I tried to find the concert. I asked a tall college girl if she was going to the Outkast show and she said yes so I followed her in and watched Xzibit open the show. He was great. Outkast came on. I remember not being totally floored by the live show, but I was excited as hell and I heard enough of the hits I wanted to hear before my mom came to pick me up.
It makes sense that this was my first concert, since I’ve gone to plenty of shows alone since then.
Did you enjoy your previous performances at SXSW?
Last year I played SXSW with Man Man and that was really fun, during the interactive portion of the festival. In 2008 I played with a New York band called the Teenage Prayers and I had a blast, I was 19 and ran around and saw the Mae Shi and they melted my face off.
Are you looking forward to performing again at SXSW/touring?
Yes yes yes yes yes. This is a band of my best friends and there is nothing better than being on the road with your best friends. And that energy transfers onto the stage which is a nice thing to take around the world with you.
Tell me about writing the new album.
A few of these songs are from the first batch of Landlady songs I ever wrote, in early 2010, but they didn’t make it onto our first self-produced record. The rest i’ve written throughout the life of the band, being inspired by the folks I play with. I come up with ideas usually at a piano, or I have a vocal idea while I’m walking or in the car and will record it into my phone and then build it out either 2 days or 2 years later. But the songs really do span 4 years. A few of them only came together weeks before entering the studio. I try to leave pieces unfinished when I bring them to the band so that everyone’s influence and smarts can have their way with the music, and by the end I’m always so happy with the result. It sounds contrived to be this psyched on it but it’s true.
Which is your personal favourite song from the album?
There’s a few. The Globe is one I wrote a long while ago and it still resonates with me. It’s about an alien cutting up planet Earth with a big pair of scissors. But it’s also about home. And being alive. (I think most of my songs are about those things, minus the alien). Another is called Dying Day, which originated as a piano improvisation I recorded, that then took hours for me to relearn from the demo.
It was a really weird angular piano piece, never repeating itself, and then we divided the parts up among the other instruments in the band and it just sounds so awesome. The chorus is straight up soul.
We really do our best to connect with our inner weirdness and at the same time create songs that anyone could connect with and enjoy. It wasn’t ever on purpose, but I like how we can be honestly broad. In a positive way. If that makes sense.
How did you all meet?
I met a few of the guys in college, I went to NYU to study the saxophone. Some of the others I just met in New York. We’re all super active, playing in a bunch of bands and always going to see music and through all that a really great community has grown of folks all constantly creating and performing in the city.
What was it like the first time you all played together?
It felt like no corners were cut. Like every person in the band was equally strong and unique. There’s personality across the board and it becomes a living organism, and I think that was present even at the first shows. We’ve had some band members come and go throughout the past few years but that energy has always remained at the core.
Weirdest thing to ever happen to the band?
Since we haven’t toured the adventure and mishap quota is still pretty low. Apologies in advance for this not being that weird. But I like it. We played a show a while back in upstate New York, and stopped at an apple orchard along the way. When I was a younger I would go apple picking in Maine and a few of the guys had never been before. So we went and it was great, I climbed the trees and Jeremy our tall drummer shook the trees until all the apples fell. He also performed his signature move, the “apple smash” where he winds up and smashes an apple into his mouth and eats it like an animal.
The show was in a basement of some student center. Between songs, our guitar player Mikey tossed an apple up in the air and punched it, sending the fruit off the stage and into the chest of a guy in the front row.
If that’s not weird then I don’t know what is.