The band is now a trio after the departure of John, how has this been?
We're…uh…letting it sway. My sister and our old bass player joined the touring band, so we're a 5 man/woman team now. We beat the Washington Generals last night.
The new record, Fly By Wire, still has the same flavor you have given us in the past but a different spin. Fans know it is you, but you are maturing with your sound and changing things around. What was it like recording the album? What did you do differently?
It was like a slumber party. We camped up in Will's attic and probably drove his neighbors crazy. It's where we practiced when we were teenagers, so it didn't really occur to us that we were making a mature album. Here's a list of things we did differently:
-Used a lot of half-broken keyboard and old synthesizers
- My sister recorded a clarinet part at my mom's house.
-My wife recorded some harmonies on a couple songs. We recorded some of them in our front porch at night to get the crickets.
-Will's neighbor (Jon Wilkinson) used to play guitar for Elvis. He passed away right before we started recording and his wife gave us some of his recording equipment to use for the album.
Was it strange recording this album as a trio?
It was different---not necessarily in a good or bad way. It's like we're a bowling team and we had to figure out how to get those strikes and spares. We knew we had a winner. I have no idea what I'm talking about.
What does the title, “Fly by Wire” signify?
I asked our friend Brook, who directs all our music videos, what we should name our album. He said Fly By Wire or Trevor. We almost called it Trevor. But then Fly By Wire seemed more like a Tom Cruise movie, so we thought that was a good idea. The other reason involves poems, collages, and art stuff.
You ended up producing this album on your own, did you feel you did not need an outside force to tell you how the songs should sound?
You know when you see a picture of something on Apartment Therapy and you think you can make it without spending a huge amount of money? I think that's why we thought we could self-produce. We could hear the songs in our heads before we recorded them, so we just gave it a shot. Hang on, the cops are pulling us over (we're in the middle of Pennsylvania right now).
Hailing from Missouri, did you find that where you grew up influenced your sound?
Yes and no. Most of the bands we try to sound like are from Liverpool and Aberdeen, Washington. And Tokyo. But there are also a ton of great bands from our hometown (Springfield, Missouri). Jonathan Richman, Wilco, and Ozark Mountain Daredevils recorded there. Also,I think being from a small place makes you work a little harder. Plus, half of our songs are about our friends from Missouri. I don't know where we would be without them.
You were named cultural ambassadors to Russia, when you got the news how did you react?
I thought my friend was playing a joke on me. So I was cautiously optimistic and wondering when Ashton Kutcher was gonna jump out of my kitchen and tell me I got Punk'd.
You were then invited to play in Russia and perform at a school, what was that experience like?
Weirdest day of my life. We sang our songs for the school. Then they serenaded us with Beatles and Mariah Carey songs sung in thick Russian accents. It was like a confusing dream. After the show we played Boris Yeltsin favorite song for a news station in an elementary classroom. Then we went downstairs and ate borsht and weird chicken with Boris Yeltsin's former colleagues. They gave us 7 bottles of vodka and told us to keep them in a box so the students wouldn't see all the booze. Also, some little kids were cross-country skiing outside the school. It was recess.
Given that you are cultural ambassadors to Russia now, what are your thoughts on what has happened with Pussy Riot? Has there been any push to aid these women on your end?
It's really terrible---Putin's politics of cynicism and censorship par excellence. I'm just glad the world took notice. The US Consulate asked us not to comment about anything controversial, so we (and I think most people who are on their side) felt a little limited on what we can say or do. But if the world knows and keeps paying attention, I think there's a chance the bad guys will fall victim to their own provincialism.
You spend so much of the year on the road, what is the one thing you cannot travel without?
Throat coat tea. I lost my voice in St. Louis. One of our fans/friends had to come on stage and sing all the songs for me. He has a better voice than me, so it worked out fine.
So, we have asked in the past, but now years later, asking again – does someone still love Boris Yeltsin?
The jury is still out. We can neither confirm nor deny. Most confirm.