[Beirut] Worldly Influences On a Young Artist – By The New York Times

Picture: Zach Condon of Beirut. Roger Kisby/Getty Images

Playlist | Beirut
Worldly Influences On a Young Artist
Published: July 22, 2011

Zach Condon is growing up. Or trying to, anyway. At 25, Mr. Condon, better known as the songwriter behind the indie folk band Beirut, is already a music veteran, having arrived as a multi-instrumentalist teenager versed in global sounds: Balkan beats, French chanson, Mexican funeral. For Beirut’s third full-length album, “The Rip Tide,” out Aug. 30 from Pompeii Records/Revolver, he wanted to hone his influences.

“I’m trying to be less of a dilettante with instruments,” he said. “For years I was picking up new instruments once a month, and for this I was trying to focus a little more, stick with piano, ukulele and trumpet.” But with clarity comes pressure. Playing a Roman amphitheater this month in France, “I was shaking for the first couple songs,” he said. “That seems to be happening on this tour for some reason. I guess I’m getting older and I’m getting a little more self-conscious. Or maybe it’s because I’m less drunk. As a 19-year-old you just want to swig whiskey and drink beer and go onstage and have a ball. And I started to realize that I sounded like an idiot between songs.”

Via e-mail and telephone from Madrid, between stops on a European tour, Mr. Condon drank a single beer and talked about what inspires him now, from the Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño to an Xbox skateboarding game. “It’s hypnotizing,” he said. “There’s actually some kind of rhythm to it.” These are excerpts from his conversation with Melena Ryzik.

Q. Your new single is called “East Harlem,” and in your e-mail you said you like Bolaño because he has “the same idle and poetic amusement with city and street names” as you do. Are you reading him now?

A. I’m reading “2666,” which is a monster of a book, that’ll last me all this tour. “The Savage Detectives” really got to me, these children acting as bohemians and this ennui. I read a review of Bolaño, and they were asking him: Why do you have these long passages of street names and city names and he said they were poetry. I wish I’d thought of that. It’s not like I’m trying to be exotic or always evoke a strong reaction with the names. As a kid I used to paint city names on my wall, just from a map. I thought that was brilliant. The funny thing about the way I write songs is, I’m very much a child of the modern era. I write songs on Pro Tools. I write songs by multitracking. And when you open Pro Tools, they ask you to name the file, and the easiest way for me to remember it is to name it after a city.

Q. Do you steal — or, let’s say, get inspired — by any writers for lyrics or music?

A. I remember I was struggling a lot to write lyrics, and my older brother, who I trust in anything about literature, was egging me on to read E. E. Cummings. There’s something about his rhythm that’s very singable.

Q. Did your older brother, Ryan, influence your musical taste growing up? You said you recently picked up the Magnetic Fields’s “Desert Island,” which you first listened to at 15. Was that his idea?

A. Me and my brother were very close growing up. It was the kind of situation where if I brought home a Green Day CD, he would throw it out and put a Boards of Canada CD in and say, ‘This is your homework for the night.’ That one [Magnetic Fields] was a discovery of my own, which I was pretty proud of.

Q. What made you return to it?

A. I’ve been revisiting a lot of my old stuff. There’s a song on the new album [“East Harlem”] that I wrote the melody for when I was 17. I had a bit of an identity crisis after our last year of touring. I recorded so many songs as a kid, and I used to lose them and forget about them, toss them everywhere, and my younger brother, Ross, was really into archiving them. When I was back home, there was a stack in his room, and I was just poring through it, and of course when you get in that state of mind you go through what you were listening to. I guess I was looking for a time when music was a little more innocent, and the pressure wasn’t there.

Q. What was the emotion you wanted to telegraph then?

A. I’ve always been searching for some sort of epic melancholy, I guess. It sounds silly saying it out loud, but it’s the truth. I can remember the first melody that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. It was this haunting Italian aria. My mom put it on. It had a haunting melodic twist at the top of the singer’s range, and I remember thinking, I wish this just repeated and didn’t go anywhere else.

Q. You’re a fan of Lykke Li, the Swedish singer, especially her song and video for “Sadness is a Blessing.” You called her a renaissance woman. Why?

A. I’m jealous of her clarity of vision. I’ve just been scratching about in the dark for some sort of image to project, and she’s nailed hers. But also she’s just not shy of performing and being swept up in it all.

Q. Is that why you like Chico Buarque, the dapper Brazilian artist? You said his song “Roda Viva” is one of your all-time favorites, and compared him to Sinatra.

A. Back in the day the press was basically trying to pit him against Caetano Veloso. They were pals, they had nothing to do with it. But what they came to represent was something different: Caetano looking outward for influences, to rock ’n’ roll and America, hippy stuff, and Chico, at the same time, digging deeper and deeper into his classic samba roots, dressing up every night, old school. I can appreciate that. I’ve been a total slob, but I’m trying to adapt some of that attitude myself.

Q. Is your band dressing better?

A. I’m trying to force them all to wear suit jackets. I’m sick of seeing 30-year-old men in New York look like toddlers, wearing sweatpants and flip-flops.

A version of this article appeared in print on July 24, 2011, on page AR15 of the New York edition with the headline: Worldly Influences On a Young Artist.

Breaking Artist: Beirut – By Rolling Stone

By Rolling Stone
October 10th, 2007

Who: Multi-instrumentalist Zach Condon, a twenty-one-year-old musical prodigy from New Mexico who dropped out of high school and headed to Europe, where a nutty neighbor exposed him to the old-fashioned Balkan sounds that would influence Gulag Orkestrar, his 2006 album that blew bloggers’ minds.

Sounds Like: Beirut’s folk-rock evokes lazy strolls down European back alleys via a delightfully unpolished blend of Condon’s supple tenor voice, accordion, brass and strings. It’s not hard to detect the influences of Gypsy rock and the orchestral rackets of Elephant 6 bands like Neutral Milk Hotel, either.

Three Things You Should Know:
1. Condon’s big break came when he was working as an ice-cream scooper. “I dropped out of school at sixteen,” he says. “I went back four times, though some of them were as long as one day. I went to the University of New Mexico for about a month when I got a very strange phone call from Ben Goldberg who owns Ba Da Bing! Records, and he said he wanted to release my album. I was going to class that day and I turned around and went home and got the next flight to New York.”
2. Beirut’s second full-length album The Flying Club Cup was recorded in Condon’s home state and Quebec, where Arcade Fire violinist Owen Pallett (a.k.a. Final Fantasy) traded string arrangements for Neon Bible for two free weeks in the band’s church studio. “We lost our minds for a couple of weeks, shut off from the world in this little church up till four, five in the morning,” Condon recalls. “I’d sleep for a couple of hours and wake up to the sound of violins and drums.” The Arcade Fire folks, as well as onetime Neutral Milk Hotel drummer Jeremy Barnes, are Condon pals now.
3. Condon’s first instrument was the trumpet (he has horns tattooed on both wrists), and he was so “absolutely obsessed” with doo-wop and Motown as a kid that he even made a doo-wop album. “One of my earliest memories I have of music is my dad and his two brothers would sing old doo-wop songs together. He gave me his old Frankie and the Teenagers album and I fell in love with it and thought this is it, this is the music I want to do. [My doo-wop album] has never been released, but there are some really hilarious great tracks from it that I still listen to myself, in secret.”

Get It: The Flying Club Cup came out October 9th, 2007 and samples are of course available on the band’s MySpace page (which deliberately misspells the band name in the url).

Beirut Set Sail in ‘The Rip Tide’ – By Rolling Stone

Gorgeous clouds of color in new clip

By Rolling Stone
June 22, 2012 1:10 PM

In the new video for “The Rip Tide,” indie folk group Beirut present serene, mesmerizing scenery with a boat sailing on the sea. As singer-songwriter Zach Condon sings over beautifully layered orchestral arrangements, the little boat continues on its way, drifting along the wind and the currents. As the video approaches the end, gorgeous, ethereal clouds of crimson and blue envelop the sailboat, draping the ship in constantly changing colors. The clip soothes until the climax, taking the video’s visual reality to magical heights.

“The Rip Tide” is on Beirut’s most recent album, The Rip Tide.

Published on Jun 22, 2012 by Beirut MusicVideos

Official video for the song “The Rip Tide” from the album The Rip Tide.
Directed by Houmam Abdallah