There are just too many word that begin with “in-” to describe NewVillager: inspirational, introspective, instructional, and insightful, are just a few. The NY Magazine described them as “brilliant” and “highbrow.” Already some of you might assume that the art collective created by Ross Simonini and Ben Bromley is “too heady.” Even describing their characteristic style seems like a mouthful: a bi-coastal performance art collective whose music is highlighted by visual and performance art.
Throw away your judgement, ignore your concerns, for in all my years of interviewing musicians I have never met a pair of artists more excited to explain their work. Since some of us are visual learners, while others are auditory, NewVillager decided to aid both. Using the mono-myth of Joseph Campbell and the writings of Mircea Eliade, they created a visual concept to explain their album. It’s a glance at the cycles of an individual’s life through trials, obstacles, encounters, discoveries and reflections. Before their performance at The Rickshaw stop this Friday ( it’s sold-out, but you can catch them 10/21 at the Clift Hotel for free!), SF Critic spoke to the duo about their mythos.
SF Critic (SFC): Can you explain NewVillager’s mythos?
NewVillager (NV): The mythos is all about the process of change – the fundamental stuff. The general cycle describes the life of an idea: the first stage (“Cocoon House”) is about ignorance. You have an idea. It’s the only idea, the only way to see the world (“Black Rain”). Then you start questioning it. You see that it’s not such an impenetrable perspective (“Rich Doors”). You get confused (“Forest”). And in a moment you see the opposite idea, the opposite way of looking at the situation (“Shot Big Horixon”) . You are different now. You remember your old silly, single-minded idea (“Upholder”). You miss it a little (“(How To) Get Back”). You make piece with this contradiction (“Light House”). You shed your shame (“Bad Past Gone Away”). You look back and see the whole cycle (“Over Pass”).
SFC: On your site you’ve shared a visual representation of this cycle (pictured above). As you continue to perform the album and embark on your journey as artists, does this same cycle repeat itself, are you still traversing, or have you begun a different cycle entirely?
NV: We interpret our lives and our art through it all the time – the album, rehearsals, videos, drawings, songs, installations, touring, etc. Right now, we often use the cycle to talk about the live show, since that’s our focus these days. We organize the show and the songs and the stage environment through it. We’ll always use the mythology to create any art or look at any situation that is related to NewVillager.
SFC: As both sonic and visual artists, can you explain how you try and bridge these two forms?
NV: The mythology is how we try to bridge all the art and music. It’s really why it came about: as a way of unifying different mediums. We wanted to work with visuals and music and text and have it all be expressing the same core ideas. The mythology is meant to be broad enough to encompass all of this. It’s meant to be accessible to people without necessarily being understandable in a reductive sort of way. Everything is connected, definitively, not by intuition (because is intuition really possible in collaboration?) but through a series of decisions based on this mythos. It allows us to get on the same page, and to understand whatever we’re making in the context of everything else NewVillager has done.
SFC: What is the most common misconception you’ve faced whether for your music, visual art, performance, or collective identity?
NV: People seem to think the mythology is a story, like the myth of Sisyphus, but it’s more like a broad cultural mythology. It’s a network of ideas. It’s a looser system of looking at all kinds of actions. It’s always changing. It’s like most mythologies. They are developed slowly, over time, out of the ideas of a community of people. I think we’re looking to get at something like that. Not a strict story and rules that collaborators have to adhere to.
SFC: What can fans expect from your live performance at a music venue? Does your performance change for an art gallery?
NV: The show changes nightly. Sometimes we dress the stage in an installation of colors. Sometimes we wear masks or go through rituals on stage or bring people onto stage. Sometimes we just play as a musical trio, when we’re in a situation that doesn’t allow for more expansive performances. Sometimes we spend weeks building a room to perform in. Recently, we’ve had a human sculpture on stage, who goes through the transformations of the songs and then moves throughout the audience. We’ll be doing that at the Clift Hotel show.
Download Mp3 – NewVillager: “Light House”
Download Mp3 – NewVillager: “Rich Doors”
Images taken from NewVillager’s blog. Featuring screen shots from their music video for “Light House.”