Brian Hill and The Noh Starrs
Can you elaborate on the Noh Starrs part of the band name?
Certainly, Noh, is a form of Japanese theater, I find it very beautiful. The band came together in a really sporadic kind of way. It was based around a collection of solo songs I had been working on, my friend JooJoo (of LA gaze-psych band Froth) suggested that we record them, and when we came together as a group I jokingly suggested it as a name, kind of thinking of it as a play on words. I just hope people will find out about Noh theater because its super beautiful.
Did you play in many bands previously? I read somewhere that you consider your previous bands as a prologue.
I’ve played with a bunch of bands over the last few years, but nothing I ever felt really creatively attached to. I was more of a side person.
I’ve listened to several of your songs and the thing that struck me was the way that you present them in different arrangements. It feels like the songs have their foundation in their lyrics. Is this true?
That’s kind of how it all started. I just really like to write. There is one song on the end of the record that is seventeen minutes long. It is a short story that I wrote about a rather unpleasant experience, and the song is based on the recitation of it over a jam.
I understand you are writing a book?
Yeah, that is a long-term project. I want to write a book from the perspective of a pixel.
Can you elaborate? I noticed you have brought this up in the past.
I have this long-term view of the world. Today most seem obsessed with the instantaneous and the short-term. I’m quite a nostalgic person and I want to be able to take part in both, because I think it’s incredibly important to be aware of the past. Though, I don’t really believe in time.. A lot of the things I love are tied to the past. It’s a difficult one to explain..
How does this affect the choices you make when you present your music, for instance the tools you use?
I try to implement these things as production choices, so many of the types of music that inspire me are from all eras. I love music.
Which eras in particular?
I grew up on doo-wop. My grandmother was really into it. There was always doo-wop records’ playing. She was also really into Johnny Cash as well. Although you wouldn’t really hear either outright in my music, some of my earliest memories are stomping around while she played those tunes. Crimson and Clover. When I create I want to bring in all these eras, and rather than emulate the sounds digitally, have the experience of actually making them. If you feel a digital sound, use a digital sound. If you want an entire orchestra, use an orchestra (we did)!
I saw the video you have just released. I was wondering what you think is more important in this day and age: touring or making videos?
For me touring is the most important. I want to be out in the world, fans excite me. We’re planning on being on the road for the next three to four years.
Can you tell me about your current relationship to New York? I read that you came here in your teens? Are there any venues or other bands you feel a strong kinship with?
Yes, I was kind of a runaway, I moved here when I was 15. I loved playing at Shea Stadium in Brooklyn. I really like the sound at Bowery Ballroom. I think the vibe at Alphaville is amazing. As far as bands go, TV Baby is amazing. Seriously, the only other band in New York, they are such a good live show.
Was there anyone in particular in New York culture of the past that inspired you to become a musician?
I was really into the No-Wave scene that happened in the eighties, not only the music, but the cinema and artists that were happening in that era. The film Downtown ‘81 literally made me want to move to New York City. The way it depicts the kind of free walk you can have in the city, where you run into friends and see things that you never noticed before even though you have walked by them countless times. Basquiat does that throughout the film. I thought to myself, I could have that dérive. I could just walk around the city, set some arbitrary rule for myself, and find out where I land. That was very exciting to my teenage mind because I would run into all these incredible things and culture was lacking where I was coming from.
When did you learn about the Situationist concept of dérive?
It was probably around that same moment, early teens.
What are you reading now?
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. Also, slowly wandering my way through The Arcades Project, again.
What can you tell me about the new video?
Well, the entire record is a note to New York from myself. The New Yorker video is a cartoon that like the song has a bit of a frantic feel to it, ups and downs that the city gives you, unlike anywhere else in the world. I wanted to express that a little bit, the pollution and claustrophobia but also the joy. It just felt right to make the video as a cartoon. I wrote the treatment, and my friend Milos Lukacek, an amazing animator who lives in Japan made the animation. It was the first music video he ever made. It started out from an illustration that he made of me. It just took off from there. It’s the same concept of the dérive. I’m just walking around the city and running into all of the people that played on the record as our cartoon selves.
The debut album Brian Hill and the Noh Starrs will be out August 18th on Modern Sky. You can catch them on tour in the UK through July or at their month long residency in NYC at Berlin Fridays in July.