Netherfriends rediscover America with 50 Songs/50 States.
By John Vettese
[ rock/pop/concept ]
Just over a year ago, Shawn Rosenblatt stood in front of a crowd in the basement of Pi Lam in West Philly, and announced his plans for a great nomadic adventure. The Chicago-bred psych-pop futurist wanted to tour the country with his band Netherfriends, writing and recording a song for every state. There was the inevitable heckler shouting something about Sufjan, but Rosenblatt’s response was snappy: “Yeah, except that was a gimmick, and this is real life.” The first 50 Songs/50 States release, the lush and vibey Angry East Coast 7-inch, is out this week, and Netherfriends are, once again, heading out across the U.S., kicking off with a show this Saturday at PhilaMOCA.
City Paper: What inspired 50 Songs/50 States?
Shawn Rosenblatt: I realized I wanted to do more when I was on tour than just tour. Right now it seems like that’s the only thing that’s going to keep me going — having these creative projects.
CP: What were the ground rules?
SR: The songs had to be more than two minutes long. And they had to be recorded in the same state I wrote them. This wasn’t always easy. My first time through Alabama, we played, but didn’t write or record. … We were leaving Mississippi, and had to drive back across the Alabama border to record the song in a gas station parking lot. My band was bummed, because we had to drive out of the way. But I listened back recently, and I’m pretty proud of the song.
CP: Which states proved the most and least fertile?
SR: I didn’t really struggle in any states. It’ll be interesting to see how people respond, since some of the subject matter is kind of silly. Hopefully it will be endearing when people realize I wrote the songs so quickly. That’s how my last album, Barry and Sherry, was; I wrote those songs in seven days.
CP: This first EP is called Angry East Coast. What was so infuriating about your East Coast trek?
SR: People were angry. Especially in New England — people we booked with and stayed with were so passive-aggressive. It was really weird.
CP: What’s on the horizon?
SR: I’m doing a bike tour and releasing the first full-length of songs from the project this summer. I’m also working on other releases — an album based on Harry Nilsson samples called Netherfriends Does Nilsson. Also an album with all girl vocals. I think I’m going to call it Women: Can’t Live Without ‘Em, Can’t Live Without ‘Em. I always wanted to be like Phil Spector, but in a not-so-crazy way.
Netherfriends play Sat., May 21, 8 p.m., $5-$7 (sliding scale donation), with Golden Ages and Hop Along, Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art, 531 N. 12th St., 267-519-9651, philamoca.org.