Ryan Schreiber reports:
Fresh off a grueling tour that sent them through the 'roo-torn outback of Australia, notorious spaz-rock art-punks Les Savy Fav have returned to their respective home bases, and are now preparing to begin work on a follow-up to 2004's glorious Inches compilation. Now, hold up. Note that we didn't say "official follow-up to 2001's glorious Go Forth." Also note that there's a reason for that: Inches was Les Savy Fav's first archival release, doing fans the great service of collecting each of the band's nine previous seven-inches on one convenient disc, and while the upcoming release's sequencing will require a bit more creative input from the band members, it will be another strictly "from the vaults" affair.
Provisionally titled Rabbit Trancing and tentatively slated for release in summer or fall of next year, the disc will feature previously unreleased material that bassist Syd Butler describes as "slow" and "pretty"-- which ought to make for an interesting change of pace from the chaotic thrust of their other records. "It's kind of a long instrumental thing," said Butler, speaking to Pitchfork yesterday by telephone from the headquarters of his Frenchkiss label in Brooklyn. And then he sprung the surprise: "It's 50 songs and noises and things that you would maybe go to sleep [to]." ...50?
According to Butler, the record will include several full-length pieces and a number of shorter ones, all pulled from what the band calls The Progress Tapes, an extensive recorded archive of their album and practice sessions that spans the past six years. "Our writing process in the past was usually done on minidisc and we just record every practice, so it's just sort of us screwing around making pretty songs before we'd decide to play loud rock songs."
Butler says that at least one of the tracks vying for inclusion on the set is an early version of a song that later grew up to be a full-fledged LSF rocker: "Reprobate's Resume" is performed solo by frontman Tim Harrington on a keyboard, in a rendition Butler calls "very humbled and earnest." However, much of the material stems from general practice-space jams: "We go to the practice space and we'll be there for six hours and play one or two riffs and it might be really pretty. But it's mostly stuff that we did before Tim wrote lyrics to it."
So what about another conventional album, then? Has the band begun work on anything new in the wake of Inches? Unfortunately not. In fact, anyone waiting for another album of that nature could be waiting a very long time, as sources close to the group say the band may be nearing the end of its lifespan. Butler dismissed these claims, if somewhat half-heartedly, in a conversation with Pitchfork earlier this fall: "People were asking when we were going to put our next record out, and we were like, 'Actually, we're going to take some time off. And then Tim asked his girlfriend to marry him, and that postponed the record and heavy touring. And then [drummer] Harrison [Haynes] proposed to his girlfriend, whom he married in October.
But Haynes and Harrington are both showing signs of settling down and possibly spending less time focused on Les Savy Fav. With his wife Anna, Harrington has launched a self-described "home and apparel crossover line" called Deadly Squire that designs such grown-up items as ties, throw pillows and pot-holders. Haynes, meanwhile, has even moved away from the band's New York home to open an art gallery with his wife in Carrboro, N.C. Receiving glowing press at Miami Beach's recent NADA Art Fair, their Branch Gallery "is committed to promoting the work of local and national emerging artists." Its most recent exhibition, White Diamonds, showcased the work of Amanda Barr, who uses fabric and thread to create original designs she has called "felt paintings."
Butler is now owning up to the band being, if nothing else, on hiatus. As it stands, Les Savy Fav has no immediate plans to record, write new music, or even to tour. Still, he remains optimistic: "I think that we've always been this really weird band, since we still get along and like to play music. I'm sure that eventually we'll just be one of those bands that keeps playing, or does break up. I can't predict the future. But I think the amount of touring we did for so long, it's really hard to spend time with your significant others and run a label. We just have to catch up when we can without a breaking up type of speech."
For now, Les Savy Fav are offering one more piece of music, recorded in November just before the launch of their Australian tour. Issued by the Pop Frenzy label as the first in a series of tour-only releases, the two-song seven-inch was originally intended as a split release showcasing two songs a piece from Les Savy Fav and Pretty Girls Make Graves. Unfortunately, PGMG were unable to submit music for the project, so the label did with what they had-- which, it turns out, is some very nice stuff. Recorded with producer Chris Zane at Gigantic, the record is available via Pop Frenzy's official website, and features two very slow and very pretty songs. Coincidence?