It isn’t often that a musician stays so grounded to his own ambitions that he never compromises in the face of the ruthless music industry. From his slightly sloppy psychedelic solo albums to his original indie-innovating work with Pavement, Stephen Malkmus is a man who has never stopped building his eccentric body of music on his own terms.
After the split of one of rock’s most influential bands in the last 25 years, the singer/guitarist of Pavement was left without a band but not without opportunities. With little actual downtime, he organized his second group in 2000, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, which has now been together longer than his original group.
Since then, Malkmus, and his bandmates — Mike Clark, Joanna Bolme and Jake Morris — have toured the world, released six albums and kept Pavement’s fire alive, which scorches its message into listeners who see the most important element in music is creative freedom.
In anticipation of the show on Friday at Mojo’s, MOVE spoke with bassist Joanna Bolme on her band’s progress through the years, the intimacy of tiny venues and learning to love the Grateful Dead.
[MOVE]: What bands do you guys look to for inspiration?
[Joanna Bolme]: It varies a lot. We just got back from Europe, and we bonded over Rainbow (known for starting the genre neoclassical metal) after hearing them on the radio. Jefferson Airplane, some Grateful Dead. If we’re talking about our latest record, there were some heavy Dead vibes.
[M]: Does the band have a favorite Dead album?
[JB]: I grew up in Oregon, so “Dead heads” surrounded me, so I sort of stayed away and went the punk route. Now I can appreciate them. Our drummer, Jake, is a huge Dead fanatic, so I guess it’s different for each of us.
[M]: What’s the band’s progression been like since its formation?
[JB]: In the beginning, we didn’t even know if we’d be a real band. After all these years, we just play together with great chemistry and can really anticipate what we’re all doing while jamming.
[M]: Were you a big Pavement fan before they broke up?
[JB]: I wasn’t obsessive, but I was a fan. I had seen (the band) seven times through the course of the years, and I saw some of the bad Pavement shows. Stephen and I became friends around the time of their last record, and I helped with some of their demos.
[M]: How would you say the sound of Wig Out At Jagbags compares to your previous records?
[JB]: I think it sounds more like how we try to play live. Not like a live record, but the producer of Jagbags has been our live sound engineer for years. He knows how we want our instruments to sound, so there’s no struggle trying to communicate with him about the sound we strived for.
[M]: How do you feel about playing at smaller venues like Mojo’s?
[JB]: Personally, I don’t really enjoy playing huge seated theaters or venues like that. You end up playing far away from each other the sound might be weird. With small venues, there’s a certain feeling with the crowd that’s so great. I love when it feels like we’re just jamming in the basement.