The Daily Athenaeum, the student newspaper of West Virginia University, asked me a few questions in relation to Monday’s show with Bonnie “Prince” Billy. I was happy to answer the questions and submitted answers via email. Among the many problems with the resulting article, the author took one of my responses, cut off half of it, and combined it with a phrase she found in my bio on this website, essentially fabricating my response. Here are the questions I was asked, along with my actual, unedited responses, if you are interested.
How did you get into music? And in your words what kind of music would you say you play?
I got into music in the usual ways people get into music. My dad is a musician and played guitar and other instruments and our house was filled with all kinds of music. In junior high school I became more conscious of the freedom I really had to explore new things, especially music outside of what is fed to us through the corporate music industry. In addition to getting into the “alternative” music that was becoming more well known at the time, a good friend of mine introduced me to D.I.Y. (do-it-yourself) punk and hardcore which opened up a whole new world of underground culture for me.
I’ve played a lot of different styles, from folk to hardcore, and from “screamo” to metal. I have sometimes described M Iafrate & The Priesthood as “theo-folk” or just dark, folky rock with a bit of influence from “alt-country.” “Theo-folk” just kind of points to the fact that religion makes its way into my songs quite a bit, usually from the perspective of someone who is a very critical participant in some specific religious cultures that are at once a source of hope and a source of almost pathological injustice.
What do you think is good about being a part of genuine music and venues rather than mainstream music, which can all sound the same or not focus on the quality, etc.?
Although I don’t think there is always a clear dividing line between “genuine” music and “mainstream” music, I definitely don’t have much interest in the corporate music industry which generally treats music like a mere product to be bought and sold. Music that comes from real people and real communities and that is more locally based tends to be better, more human, and more humanizing in my opinion. The same is true, I think, more broadly in terms of politics and economics: to the extent that things can be smaller, more local, and rooted in real relationships, the better.
How do you feel opening up for this particular band?
I have been a fan of Bonnie “Prince” Billy for years, so I am excited to be playing with him.
What do you think venues like 123 Pleasant Street do for local music?
Unlike venues connected to the major label touring networks, clubs that care primarily about selling beer, and major university “arts and entertainment” committees, small independent venues tend to be more interested in creating spaces where different kinds of cultures can have their say. Not every show at 123 Pleasant Street does this sort of thing, of course, but generally the venue books things that are unique and more independent from corporate culture, and they are not afraid to take chances on providing space for some pretty experimental acts.