The most focused protest towards a government that you don't completely stand behind is to just make your own things," says Devendra Banhart.
Banhart not only makes his own things, he makes them prolifically.
Since 2002, the art school dropout has released four albums, illustrated their covers and appeared on collaborations with a diverse array of bold indie contemporaries, including Antony and the Johnsons, CocoRosie and Xiu Xiu.
Like his engaging voice -- a semi-androgynous warble that recalls Billie Holiday and Tiny Tim -- his unconventional approach to recording has been a breath of fresh air in the Pro Tools smog. He taped on hand-held recorders and friends' answering machines on his debut, Oh Me Oh My... and cut tracks with "wolves" and "wild turkeys" on his latest, Cripple Crow.
"It's such a sad, failed opportunity to not collaborate with the moment," says Banhart. "Because everything that happens while you are recording is on that recording, and it is a guest on your piece, you know? And so I strive to not isolate myself while I'm recording, although I do ... let's say, I don't want the buzz of the fridge going, but I don't want to miss the bird chirping by; I don't want to miss the moo of the cow."
Where past albums were primarily Banhart and a guitar, many of Cripple Crow's 22 tracks boast a full band. The result is a wild brew of infectious blues, hazy '60s-tinged psych pop, the raw folk of his earlier work, and Latin sounds. (Banhart spent part of his childhood in Venezuela and sings five Cripple Crow songs in Spanish.)
It took writing an entire album after Cripple Crow and losing it -- notes, chords and all -- for Banhart to consider curbing his massive output.
"I'm actually taking [losing the album] as a sign to slow down with the amount of songs and work on making a record with, like, 14 songs and actually just work on those and let them grow a little bit."
Though Banhart talks shop agreeably, he'd rather talk up his record collection. Indeed, in his short career, he has done a lot of taste-making, promoting cutting-edge peers and resurrecting dusty, lost gems.
"I don't see any worth in doing interviews," says Banhart. "And I don't like talking about myself. I really don't. I only see it as a platform for possibly turning people on to some music that they may have not heard."
So, what is he into?
"OK, well, let me see," he says. "Simon Diaz. We covered one of his songs on the record: 'Luna de Margarita.' He is my favorite right now. S-i-m-o-n D-i-a-z. Also he is from Venezuela. Now, from Argentina, Atahualpa Yupanqui. From Brazil, Caetano Veloso."
As for his own music, this tour he's bringing Hairy Fairy along, a newly assembled backing band including Vetiver sidekick Andy Cabic and Joanna Newsom producer Noah Georgeson.
"For me the greatest pleasure is seeing even just one person chicken-dancing," says Banhart. "If I can get one person chicken-dancing, our goal has been accomplished."
-- Elliott Johnston
Devendra Banhart and Hairy Fairy with Bunny Brains
Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder
Friday, Oct. 28, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $16 in advance, $18 day of show; visit foxtheatre.com.
This show at Stargazers with the Charlie Milo Trio will be broadcast live on local…
This is awesome! Excited about the new music and adventures for his year!
Thanks so much!!!