Kitty Magic | by Kristina Francisco


Last year, Devendra Banhart toured with Xiu Xiu mastermind Jaime Stewart, bringing his kinda weird/kinda cool folk music to indie rock masses everywhere. The two drove cross-country, took turns at the wheel, and made an unlikely but somehow understandable duo. Both make emotive music but in decidedly different ways. Stewart’s work is often a controlled chaos of instrumentation and personal, tormented, and sometimes violent words. Contrastingly, Banhart uses acoustic guitar, quivering, Nick Drake-like voice and intimate, gentle lyrics.

This time around, Banhart took off on his own, touring in support of his sophomore effort, Rejoicing in the Hands, off Michael Gira’s (ex-Swans, now Angels of Light) Young God label. With the hype and fanbase growing, Banhart took a little bit of time to answer a couple of questions while in Portland on the second day of his tour.

I’ve read you spent time as a drifter before settling down in New York. Did you find what you were looking for during that time? Were you looking for anything at all?

I am still drifting! But not looking, simply drifting, getting used to nothing belonging to me, come with nothing, leave with something.....

How did you meet Michael Gira?

Through his wonderful Magikal Fiancee Siobhan N. Duffy. She used to be in God is My Co Pilot and the Gunga Din and was playing drums in Flux Information Sciences who I opened for (strangely) and I had my records for sale for a buck and she gave me two! Heard it with Michael Gira and he sent me a ten page letter and a copy of How I Loved You and I did what I could to get to NYC.

Do you think of yourself as a hippie? What do you think that term means?

Do I have blonde dreads and throw hacky sacks at Tony Bennett???? I AM NEW AGE!!!!!!!!!!!!

People have considered your music too eccentric for the mainstream.

What? Have you heard "Band on the Run" by Wings?

Where were you the first time you heard one of your songs on the radio – probably college radio? Does getting airplay even matter?

Oh it was a while back, in LA, I was in a car and heard an old, old song of mine and looked in the tape player and saw no tape, but still wasn’t sure what was happening.

The first and last time I saw you in Chicago, the show seemed like it was more appropriate for a coffee house or another intimate setting. [Banhart sat on a pillow which on a table on the stage.] As more people get to know your music, how difficult is it to keep shows personal?

I keep my eyes closed.

Your songs are pretty intimate – do you have to be alone to write a song?
What is your songwriting process like?

Alone and then I wait for the worst moment possible, when I don’t have a pen, paper, guitar, piano, tape recorded etc. That’s when the goddamn thing comes!

What was this recording process like for you – did you record in a studio this time around? How many takes did the songs take?

We recorded in a house/taxidermy warehouse on the Alabama/Georgia state line using studio equipment. Each song took one to three takes (only because of time constraints, we had two weeks for 34 songs).

Does Rejoicing in the Hands have a religious connotation to it? What’s the significance of the album’s title?

REJOICING IN THE HANDS OF THE GOLDEN EMPRESS, The Golden Empress is the Sun, hands are life, the mantra of this record is "While the Hands are Open, Rejoice in them."