Interview: John Fernandes of The Olivia Tremor Control

I do my best to try to maintain some journalistic composure when interviewing bands. I like to pretend that I’m cool and don’t care when I get to talk to a band that I really, really like. Unfortunately sometimes I just can’t keep it in. That little part of me that just wants to be a fanboy has to have his day once in a while. Thankfully I managed to keep him on a leash long enough to get a couple good answers out of John Fernandes of The Olivia Tremor Control and Circulatory System.

John is a multi-instrumentalist (specializing in bass) for both bands, and has helped create such fabulous albums as Black Foliage. He currently works at a record store in Athens, GA as well as running Cloud Recordings, which is home to both his bands as well as the Tall Dwarfs. Sounds like a pretty busy life huh? Well, we haven’t even begun to get started.

YANP: So there have been a lot of rumors about the release of a DVD of Olivia Tremor Control’s reunion show. Any word on that?

John: Yeah. We have bad quality video tapes and I’m trying to track down the originals. A lot of people who have the originals are like ‘yeah, we’ll dig that up’ and we have to keep bugging them. But hopefully it’ll all be finished pretty soon.

YANP: What about a new Olivia Tremor Control album? Circulatory System?

John: [Regarding OTC’s] There’s nothing really planned, but we’ve been fooling around recording together. Like when I was gone on the Elf Power tour, Will and Bill got togther and recorded some and then had Pete lay some stuff on it. I guess we’re trying to figure out something to do.

[Reguarding Circulatory System’s new album] There’s just always more and more music piling up and I’m always sculpting at it…one of these days it’ll come together.

YANP: What about any new tour dates for either band?

John: Not that I know of. There’s nothing really planned. We planned to do something maybe on New Years, and then it’d always be fun to play the next Terrastock [as OTC], but we don’t really have anything booked yet.

YANP: Now, what exactly is Terrastock?

John: We played their first one in Rhode Island and we eneded up playing another one in San Francisco for them, and another in maybe London. He’s doing another this year … not sure where it will be…but Bill really wanted to play it, so yeah.

YANP: What exactly caused the ‘reunion’ tour? Were there any specific events that spurred your descision to play more shows besides being invited to play at All Tomorrow’s Parties?

John: We’d been fooling around and they just asked us. So it just seemed like a good time to do it.

YANP: So he just caught you at just the right time?

John: Yeah, exactly. *laughs*

YANP: As the co-opperator of an independant record label, do you have any comments on the state of modern indie music?

John: I’ve been trying to keep up with stuff, but even for working at a record store, I don’t know. Because there’s so much vinyl and stuff to dig through; so much stuff that’s coming from even before I was born. I was trying to keep up with some things, but I’m not totally the best person to make a good comment on it.

YANP: Would you say there are any bands today that are carrying on in the Eleaphnt 6 spirit?

John: Going out on the road I see bands that are pretty good, but i can’t tell if there are that many people who are coming at it from the same angle that we were.

YANP: In what ways are being in a band today different from when you joined OTC?

John: I guess it was really hard the first couple years because we did a lot of opening slots and then kept touring on our own. Then it started getting really good toward the end and then we split up and started all over again with the Circulatory System and whatnot.

YANP: I know that a lot of fans came from great distances to see your reunion shows. Were you all surprised by such a devoted fan response?

John: That was mindblowing. There were people who had really dissected the records from different countries that would sit there and ask you abut something they heard in headphones on one of the tracks. It was kinda mindblowing that it had spread so far.

YANP: Speaking of headphones, a lot of fans are of the idea that Black Foliage is best experienced through them rather than stereo stystems. Have you all heard this frequently?

John: I think it’s probably good because a lot of the the stuff that Will layered on it was done in his bedroom with headphones late at night. We’d mix the songs on the speakers in the room, but when Will laid the stuff on there, he would do his mixes in headphones. So you could listen to it in the room and it sounds really awesome, but you put on the headphones and you notice all sorts of minute things.

YANP: You, Robert Schneider and many other Elephant 6-ers are notoriously good to both fans and the online community. How do you feel that the internet has impacted your musical career?

John: I like having a label with a website. Anyone, anywhere who’s heard your name can look it up and find your address and find cds to order. It’s pretty cool that we can put sounds and art and all sorts of things on there. It’s fun being able to have a website. And email is a lot easier than writing letters. On the road you’ll always say ‘yeah, i’m going to write you guys’ but then actually getting it together was a hassle. But with email you can send it to them like that.

YANP:Before I let you go, I’ve just got to ask: what does a man who helped make Black Foliage listen to when he’s high?

John: *long pause* So many different things for different moods. Just all over the map. On the road a lot of great driving music like great songwriting with good changes and rippin’ guitar and horns and things. A lot of jazz stuff. All over the place. Dub and old folk music. A lot of experimental music. Stuff from around the world. I listen to a lot of Indian and Japanese music.

Continue reading this interview

MP3: The Olivia Tremor Control – A Peculiar Noise Called ‘Train Director’
MP3: The Olivia Tremor Control – Grass Canons
MP3: The Olivia Tremor Control – The Opera House

Order any OTC, CS or other Cloud Recordings album

Also, I really want to buy one of these shirts. Any opinions on which color? I’m thinking any one but the black one. Also, I can’t pick between these E6 shirts.

10 thoughts on “Interview: John Fernandes of The Olivia Tremor Control”

  1. I just got the green one in the mail, they ran out of the blue one (or at least the small size…which is pretty big). I had actually ordered the blue but then it got lost on its way, cause t-shirts don’t have eyes. They also have red, which is kinda snazzy looking.

    great interview! It’s nice to hear OTC have been recording. Do you read the 33 1/3 books? I just got that new one on NMH…hope it’s good.

  2. I have the black and maroon OTC shirts. I have to say, I prefer the black one. And I’m a friend of your interview.

  3. i’ve got the shirt in red.

    John’s such a great guy. I met him at Arthurfest and had a really nice conversation – he seems really awestruck by how much people love OTC.

    Good stuff all around.

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