Paste Magazine recently interviewed Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson, and the conversation eventually turned to the media reaction to Foxygen’s SXSW stint:
Paste: Your tour mates Foxygen kind of had a rough go of it at SXSW. They had a breakdown on stage, ended up canceling several of their scheduled performances and have since canceled some upcoming dates in Europe. What do you make of that whole situation and how they’ve been getting a lot of flak in the media?
Nielson: I really sympathize with them because they were just two kids making records at their parents’ houses in high school, and they were messing around and thinking about going to college and then all of a sudden Pitchfork gives them Best New Music and they get to work with Richard Swift and make this really good record, and now everyone expects them to be the best new music there is at the moment. They just haven’t played enough shows and really haven’t found their footing live, so it’s just another symptom of the modern music world. When I was first playing music with my first band, we were playing house parties and doing stuff like that, playing punk shows and playing basements and stuff like that. We did all of our experimenting and all of our stuff in a kind of environment that’s conducive to that. Foxygen were thrown out on the road with a band like us and we’re selling out shows and there’s a lot of hype around them, too—they’re contributing to the selling out of the shows as well. People just expect it to be this really reliable, really complete thing, but they’re still young and they’re still experimenting and trying to figure who they are and stuff like that.
I don’t think it’s fair. I think that people need to understand that. On the one hand, people don’t really want too many new musicians to be older. They want these kids. But they want the kids to be born fully formed. They want them to emerge from the egg completely formed already. They’re not going to get that because the environment just sucks, so it’s just kind of a bullshit thing really, to expect a kid to have everything figured out. No one expects anyone else in the music industry to have anything else figured out when they’re 21. If they want more maturity then they should look to musicians that are older and who have done more and who have more figured out.
Paste: Yeah, I was lucky enough to see their first performance right after they arrived in town and they were incredible. I saw them after the show though and not only are they young, but they just seemed really young. I can’t imagine going through all you have to go through on the road and at SXSW when I was 19 or 20.
Nielson: Yeah, and [the media] should be talking about all the things they are doing that aren’t breakdowns. The breakdown part is really not that surprising. It’s all the things they have achieved that isn’t flying off the rails that people should be focusing on. I don’t know why that is. I think people just want musicians to suffer [laughs]. People want rock and roll bands but they don’t want anything to go wrong. They want this rock and roll thing, and then when it happens they get scared of it.