I caught up with Andrew Rieger, frontman for the Athens, Georgia based art-pop quartet Elf Power after their afternoon set Saturday at Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, Illinois.
Rieger discussed everything from working with the Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann to Georgia's indie rock scene (they were an original part of the Elephant Six arts collective, which also included Of Montreal and Neutral Milk Hotel).
Keegan Hamilton: First things first, why the twelve-string guitar? Andrew Rieger: I think I started playing the twelve-string in 2005. It's just anytime you pick up a new instrument, there's something slightly different that inspires you to write differently. I'd been playing the same acoustic guitar for so many years, then I bought a twelve-string acoustic and it inspired me to write differently. That's where it all started, that was about three years ago and I've been with it ever since.
KH: You've worked with Dave Fridmann, who produced the Flaming Lips, what was that like? AR: We only did one record with him, back in 1998, A Dreamin' Sound. We went up to his studio in upstate New York in the middle of nowhere. It was a great experience it was really awesome. Most of the records we did in Athens, and we did the recording by ourselves. That was one time we didn't and it was great experience.
KH: He teach you any tricks of the trade? AR: We definitely picked up some pointers, but he was really hands-off. He's more of an engineer. But if we asked for his opinion, we'd do it. It was great to work with him.
KH: "Spiral Stairs" is one of my favorite songs on the new album; what's the story or inspiration behind that? AR:That's just one of those songs that came to me. Around the time I wrote it while I was listening to a lot Sweet and Slade and cheesy glam rock. Everybody talks about Bowie and all that, and everybody talks about [Sweet and Slade] as second-tier to that, kind of dumbed down. But they have a good chugging motion that we were imitating. In a way it's a tribute to them.
KH: I know there's the Elephant Six collective down there, but Athens just seems like such a strange place for a music hotbed. Talk about what it's like down there and that kind of evolved. AR: it's like an oasis in the middle of an otherwise barren state. Atlanta's okay, but it's kind of the gross big city. Athens is a great college town. The cost of living is cheap so musicians can go there and do their thing whereas up in New York it's hard to do, so practically it's nice. It's a beautiful college town and there are lots of great bands.
KH: What's the best band from Athens that no one's ever heard of? AR: Ginger Envelope. They're kind of a mellow, quirky folk rock band that I like a lot. Nana Grizol is a good, sleazy, garage punk band.