Andrew Bird puts an odd twist on virtuoso violin at 2OO6’s Folks Fest

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:: Andrew Bird :: Folks Festival :: Sunday, August 20 :: 

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By Molly Chappell

If you wanted a perfect soundtrack to accompany the book Where the Wild Things Are it would be Andrew Bird’s The Mysterious Production of Eggs. The album, released early last year on Righteous Babe Records is intended to mirror the voyage of a child protagonist on a strange and frightening journey. Andrew Bird, who has been playing the violin since age four and has been deemed a professional whistler, does this through his odd lyrics and instrumentation.

He pours it on thick by looping layers of violin, a German percussion instrument known as the glockenspiel, and guitar, all the while showing that there is definitely an art to whistling. He has allowed room for the violin to rock, the same way that Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull painted the flute in a new light. Bird’s style is best likened to gypsy music, pulling from Middle Eastern, classical, hard rock, folk, and every other type of music in-between.   

“It is hard for me to admit that technology would be integral to my music, but I have come to appreciate what looping allows me to do,” Bird said in a recent interview with The Marquee.  “When I play live, I don’t use any presets or canned stuff. It’s all live and dangerous. You almost factor failure into the show. It’s precarious; it shouldn’t always work, but if it comes crashing down that’s not necessarily a bad thing. That’s why I rebelled against the classical style of violin — you’re never really perfect or good enough, but it is humbling to accept that sometimes things don’t pan out how you want them to.” 

That refreshing view, in the face of over-produced, sanitized pop music, allows Bird to break the mold instrumentally, and coupled with his song’s subject matters Bird has an infinite canvas to paint his broad strokes.

“A lot of my lyrics are based on unanswered questions and limitless possibility. Smells are vivid and the best ideas come when you lose sense of where you are and matter-of-fact things. I always prefer to misunderstand songs. I think a lot of great things come out of misunderstandings.”

Bird’s 2003 release, Weather System, signaled a change for the artist. Bird had been in the process of building a barn in northern Illinois while putting together his 2001 album Swimming Hour with his full band, Bowl of Fire. “But while I was building the barn and getting used to this lifestyle change, I was writing new material, which was really naturally coming out of that change, which I [felt I]had to suppress in order to make the next Swimming Hour — you know, the next ‘band’ record. So I tried to make a record that I wasn’t really feeling. I wasn’t happy with it, so I scrapped it (temporarily); I went and made Weather Systems, which was the natural accompaniment to this rural, pastoral setting,” said Bird. 

The freedom that came with being a solo artist is something the Bird has flourished in. “In the last 3 or 4 years I have benefitted from not playing with others. Once we disbanded I indulged and went into a vacuum. It is hard to constantly compromise and negotiate your interests with other musicians. Now there is a much more direct line between my head and my performance.”

Bird has already put together his newest album, although it still needs to be mixed and mastered and will not be out until early next year. “The album is not as labored or polished, it is much more wild,” he said.

 

:: Andrew Bird ::

:: Folks Festival::

:: Sunday, August 20 ::

 

Spectate if you Gravitate:

• Arcade Fire

• Belle and Sebastian

• Beck

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