Interview: We Can’t Enjoy Ourselves
Published on November 8th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
If you hadn’t already been told that We Can’t Enjoy Ourselves hail from present day Brooklyn – and you have now – then you’d swear blind that their time and place were, respectively, the 1980s and Britain.
One of those intelligent and romantically spirited bands whose grey, drizzly environment fused with their predilection for sunny pop songs to create something suitably bittersweet.
Heck, they’ve even got a song called “Charming Man”.
And…erm…one of them is called Christ Van Voors Van Beast.
Rocksucker fired over some pertinent questions to front man Giovanni upon the release of their new single “Your Darkest Thoughts Will Shine” – taken from their forthcoming debut album Never Listen To The Ones You Love – and received back a late contender for Most Entertaining Set of Answers We’ve Received This Year*…
Congratulations on the forthcoming release of your debut long-player! What can we expect from it? Feel free to be as abstract as you like…
You can expect a collection of musical postcards cheerleading what we call the lost decade in pop music; a decade that championed swooping vox jaguar organ sounds, sadomasochistically amphetamined guitars, bouncy Motown basslines, the neo-Victorian poetry of the pince-nez, the barbarity of the Foxtrot, the rise and fall of Malkmus X, the secret Hasidicism of day-glo clothing, the gruesome museums of Genet and Bresson.
If you want proof of that decade’s existence, c.f. 1948, 1959, 1966, 1972, 1977, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1994, 1995.
The songs are all high-hearted and point unpoetically, if rather overexplicitly to our past and current fascinations.
I’m afraid not. But you’re warm.
It’s a reference to this book by Miranda July called No One Belongs Here More than You.
As you can probably tell from the title, it’s full of Heinz-like variety of mushy sentiments so it’s kind of the literary equivalent of Sesame Street for twenty-somethings.
At any rate, we were all amused by the destablizing, alienating nature of contradicting that title.What was the inspiration for your band name? It always makes me think of “We Dance” by Pavement…
At one point Stephen Malkmus sings this round robin refrain, “I can’t enjoy myself, you can’t enjoy yourself,” very similar to Berlitz language exercise books from around the world.
He does it in “Shady Lane” as well but about God.
Also, the positively anti-hedonistic vibrations it gives off seem about right to us.
Do you not think that calling one of your songs “Charming Man” was sailing a bit close to the wind? The Smiths would appear to be an influence of yours, after all! (That’s just going by listening to your music, so I could be wrong about that.) Furthermore, which bands do you count amongst your primary influences?
The original title was “A High Hand is Hard to Hold”.
That’s all, just wanted to work in the Fats Waller reference.
As far as influences are concerned, here are a few: Tom Verlaine, The Four Tops, Godard, Jonathan Richmond, Felt, Orange Juice.
By the way, with these references to lamprey and sailing, you don’t happen to come from a family of fishermen do you?
Ah, you took the bait! Fell for it hook, line and sinker. Uh…I take it that Christ Van Voors Van Beast isn’t a real name. Or is it?
Well, we toyed around idea with having fake names when we decided to have this band.
That’s the most outlandish of them.
The others are decidedly more homely, if less obviously constructed – for example, Richie Watts, Geddy Holland, Saul Blinderman.
Do you feel there was an element of destiny involved in how you guys came together, or was it just some cosmic accident?
We all met over the past three years while living together in a collective house in Brooklyn.
There we used to play music together in order to distract ourselves from how dirty and degenerate the house was.
The people there were pretty miserable and predictably maoist.
It was called the Lazy Hearts House and it was cheap.
The only thing we all agreed on was our hot-red hatred for work.
God, nothing feels more like a slaughterhouse than the subway at rush hour.
Any plans to come to the UK at any point?
Yes, actually that’s in the works right now.
Our bassist just inherited a bunch of money so he wants to use it to fund a tour.
So presently we’re trying to get in contact with booking agents in the UK.
But if that doesn’t work out we’ll probably put all the money in the gas tank and drive to Miami Beach for Christmas.
Are there any journalistic clichés that you’re sick of hearing/reading as a description of your music?
I tend to avoid reading anything written about our music.
I guess I’m a little too sensitive but reading reviews feels like staring into a whirlpool vision of shame.
At any rate, it would hardly be polite and we’re not really in a position to start complaining about the press.
Are there any other up-and-coming and/or obscure bands that you’d like to recommend or give a shout out to?
My friend Joel has a band called Hausmann and they play an instrumental Duanne Eddie style of pop music.
It’s simultaneously introverted and extroverted.
I love it.
They haven’t released anything though so I always go out to see them play.
Finally, could you name – as of this very moment, just off the top of your head – your top three albums of all time?
Holland, Dozier, Holland – Motown Collection Vol 1-5.
Felt – The Splendour of Fear.
Television – Marquee Moon.
We Can’t Enjoy Ourselves, thank you.
* Title Case deployed in anticipation of Most Entertaining Set of Answers We’ve Received This Year being an actual category at the end-of-year Rockies.