Andrew Bird's music is like no one else's
By Dave Dondoneau
Andrew Bird is that rare kind of musician who has the ability to move all kinds of crowds. See him once, and you may believe he's an indie rocker. See him again, and maybe it's folk.
Whatever you call his genre, when he mixes in his guitars, a violin and even glockenspiel — yes, glock rock — there's no debate he's a unique talent, and he'll put it all on display Saturday at Pipeline Café.
The 36-year-old Chicago-based singer/multi-instrumentalist/whistler recently answered a few questions via e-mail, while overseas for his hugely popular first Asian tour:
Q. Exactly how many instruments do you play, and how many have you played at once — or in one song?
A. Well violin, guitar, glockenspiel or glockenwhistle (whistling the note you play on the glock). That's mainly it on stage. Sometimes, I'll strike the glock while I pluck the violin while I cue up a string loop all at the same time, creating a bursting beam of sound.
Q. Give me your best touring story.
A. At a post-show party I had a whistle-off with Mariah Carey. I told her I whistled, and she said, "I whistle with my throat." Which is true.
Q. "Music of Hair,""Weather Systems,""Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs,""Armchair Apocrypha,""Noble Beast" — how do you come up with the names for your albums?
A. Whatever catches my fascination during the writing and recording of the record. Have you ever found yourself in a bookstore and you hear the words before they jump off the spines of the books? It's like these words are premonitory. Why do they stick in your head? It can't just be random.
Q. You're at the end of your first Asian tour. How has your music style been received?Has it sparked the creative juices for some new songs?
A. It's been good. China is kind of like the old days or the new days, wild west. The audiences are rowdy and somewhat ADD, and the challenge is to make them slow down and listen, or try and be a one-man rock 'n' roll dance party, which I'm not averse to, but is it a real representation of what I do?
Q. How do you follow up the critically acclaimed "Noble Beast"? Any new albums on the horizon?
A. I want to do something different. Work on a new language. A bit more shut up and play.
Q. You play so many instruments and seem pretty self-contained, so on an overseas tour, what's the travel situation like? Any problems? How big is the entourage?
A. Right now, it's just me and Tom, who is sound guy/tour manager/diplomat. Like I said, it's like the old days, guerrilla-style. Full band would be up to 10 people.
Q. Musicians always have different ways to prepare for shows. Is there anything special you need to do, or have to make you feel like it's a go? Any kind of like a good luck charms or rituals to set the tone?
A. Ideally, I take a nap and a bath, write the set list, choose my socks. I have a sock monkey that has to be on stage with me.
Q. Ever surf? Will you be trying it here?
A. I'd like to try, but I'm a bit wary of getting dumped or run over. That's what happened to me in Byron Bay (Australia).
Q. What would you tell somebody to expect who's never been to one of your shows or is new to your music?
A. There's nothing typical about the show, and it's never the same show twice. I think it's suspenseful and intense and maybe humorous.