INTERVIEW: Andrew Sellers talks about what’s happenin’ with Rinehart

Photo By Jeremy Winkie

Near the end of 2013, I reviewed the debut seven-inch from Andrew Sellers’ indie-folk project he calls Rinehart.  The three-song record in question is called The Funeral Home Sessions, where-in Sellers carefully chose three very different songs to reanimate and make his own.  He delicately covers tunes from Fugazi, Neil Young, and Elizabeth Cotten, which is certainly no easy task.  To little surprise, all three renditions hold up very well, as this short offering from Rinehart was one of my favorites of the latter part of last year.

Besides playing in bands like Flight Nineteen Christiansen and Saredren Wells, I didn’t know much about Sellers or what his plan is going forward.  But with this small three-song sample, I’m ready for more.  But when will “more” happen?  Fortunately Andrew was kind enough to answer a few questions via email a few days ago..

Never Nervous: Out of the three covers on your Funeral Home Sessions seven-inch, I especially liked your rendition of “Freight Train”. How did you personally connect to each of the three remakes? How did you choose them individually?

Andrew Sellers: Basically I did a handful of covers and those were the three that stood out to me the most. And they were the songs that reflected the three genres I was most into at the time.

Freight Train is an old folk standard and a song that to me kind of sums up the awesomeness of the sort of dark-ass sounding folk songs that you find on collections like the Harry Smith Anthology of Folk Music. Plus I happen to really like the story of how Elizabeth Cotten was discovered. I’m no historian so this may not be 1000% accurate but from what I understand Elizabeth Cotton played the hell out of her guitar when she was young and in the process basically invented one of the most badass styles of finger-picking ever and then in true cool fashion she stopped playing and basically just moved on to doing other things and then years later somehow she miraculously got hired as a maid or something for the Seeger family (Pete Seeger, etc.) and one day she saw one of their guitars lying around and got the itch to play again and grabbed it and sort of snuck off and was playing it incognito when one of the Seeger’s heard her and more or less “caught” her so Elizabeth was like “uh I’m sorry are you gonna fire me now?” and they were like “not exactly more like we LOVE you and we’re gonna give you a music career by telling everyone in our silly folk revival scene that you’re AMAZING” and so Elizabeth said “uh okay” and went with it and made a couple records that are totally amazing, played some shows, was generally the toast of the town etc.. Anyway, I always really liked that story, and obviously I love the song, so I just learned it and played it a million times and sort of messed with the tuning and came up with this weird, Arnold Schoenberg-sounding atonal angle that shows off how incredibly dark the lyrics are.
*Note: Props to Jake Reber for laying down the upright bass part, and for adding phenomenally creepy whistling.

The Fugazi song came about because I’ve always loved that song and I take it that it sort of obliquely addresses depression/anxiety/existential dread and unfortunately those are two topics I’m pretty familiar with so I suppose I saw something in it I felt I could authentically relay. Plus as a youngster Fugazi was very, very important to me. They were probably the band I most identified with and looked up to from age 12 or so til I was about 21. I felt they had it all figured out—musically, philosophically, politically, the whole shebang. And they get bonus points because they have some connections to Louisville. Example: A couple of years ago I went to a Jason Noble benefit and somehow I ended up lucking out and sitting next to Brendan Canty (Fugazi’s drummer) and obviously I had to talk to him so eventually I was gushing at him and mentioned “oh hey I covered one of your guys’ songs” (“Im So Tired”) and he was like “wow cool I’ll put you in touch with Ian” and he did and I sent the song to Ian and Ian actually wrote back and he was super generous and humble and cool and told me he dug my version and I was so amazed and psyched and just kept thinking to myself “uh okay I think I’m gonna go die now because this is the coolest thing ever”.

“Cortez The Killer” also has a Louisville tie-in. The first time I heard the song it was the recording of Slint covering it. At the time I didn’t even know it was a Neil Young song. I just assumed it was one of Slint’s songs. (It seemed weird and moody enough.) I listened to that recording A LOT. It’s magical. I love their goofy intro: “Um, we’re from Louisville, okay, alright, this is our last song—we’re from Louisville, and… we thought you need to hear this”. It’s impossibly cool. So I really did that song (“Cortez…”) as a kind of homage to the Slint guys and that whole era of Louisville music.

NN: What does the future hold for Rinehart? Do you plan to rework more music from others, or do you plan to set an original collection loose?

AS: I just finished recording 9 original songs with Kevin Ratterman (at his studio La La Land in Louisville, KY). I’m gonna release either two EP’s, or one full length, leaning toward a full length. I’m currently shopping it around to labels and such, doing that whole thing. I’ll be releasing the record soon one way or the other.

On future Rinehart releases I plan to genre hop a lot more. I don’t want to stay in the same zone for too long. Writing “songs” gets boring, being in a hardcore band gets boring, doing a weirdo project gets boring.

NN: Will there be any touring in 2014? Or just a show here and there?

AS: I’m not really sure. I’ll def play four or five shows around the time of the release—in Louisville, New York, and LA for sure. As far as touring goes I don’t know, we’ll have to see. Everything depends on life, scheduling, etc.. I get a kick out of touring but on the other hand find the process rather exhausting (and bankrupting). I’m sure I’ll end up touring sooner or later but whether that will happen right now I have no idea. That’s up to good ol’ fate.

NN: Are you involved in any other music related projects? What’s up with Saredren Wells?

AS: I am. I’m working with a producer friend who lives in New York who makes really good electronic-type stuff (I don’t know exactly what to call it so forgive me Naveen). He basically makes music and then I sing over it and we go from there. We plan to make more music together in the coming year. I’ll keep you posted.

Saredren Wells is kind of on the backburner right now. There are a couple of songs that are on this new Rinehart LP that I’ve considered putting out as Saredren Wells songs because they kinda fit that vibe, but my instinct is that I should refrain from going backwards. It seems to me the Saredren Wells stuff is at home in its own world, and for the time being I’m gonna leave it there.

This past Summer I played guitar and keyboards for the Brooklyn-based band Friends on a European tour. We’re homies in real life so that’s how that happened. The lead singer Samantha Urbani was one of the first people I met in the DIY scene in Brooklyn. She’s rad. She and her crew more or less introduced me to everyone in town.

Lastly, up until about February of last year I was playing and writing songs with a band called Splash. We wrote nine or ten songs together, did a US tour supporting Friends (the band), recorded a few songs, and just generally had a blast. I played my last show with them at Glasslands in February of 2012.

NN: This music you are exhibiting with Rinehart is quite a bit different from the tunes you were playing in years past with bands like Christiansen and Flight Nineteen. Do you still have a fondness for that late 90’s emo/post-hardcore sound, or is that in the past? Would you ever play music like that again?

AS: I’m proud of the music we made in Flight Nineteen. For what it is I think it’s pretty good. But I have to say looking back it seems a bit juvenile. Maybe that’s natural because we were only like 17, but my point is I’m not sure it was really all that unique. There are a couple of songs on this new Rinehart record that bring back some of those sounds, some of that loudness and aggressiveness. I like that. I’m way into synthesizing elements from disparate genres and making something new that’s a sum of all the different parts. That’s def my M.O. these days. Genre distinctions be damned.

Christiansen was really Brandon and Terry And Brad’s band. I just stopped in for a bit and tried to lend my talents. I was actually kind of a jerk while I was playing with them. I got in their way so eventually I kind of kicked myself out of the band and then they hit their stride and ended up doing quite well. I am down to use sounds from that era but it won’t look or feel the same. That thing is over.

NN: As a current resident in Brooklyn, can you tell us about a band in New York that Louisville folks probably haven’t heard yet, but should?

AS: I’d look up Guardian Alien. They’re really good. Also check out Pictureplane and DJ Dog Dick—both of those guys do really interesting stuff. And then there’s Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange). His new record Cupid Deluxe is super good. He played a couple of shows with us (Friends) in London. He’s super talented and really down to earth and he has a great way of dancing while he’s playing.

NN: What current bands in Louisville turn you on more than others?

AS: The Louisville bands/artists I pay attention to are Wax Fang, Evan Patterson (Young Widows, Old Baby, Jaye Jayle), Dane Waters, Straight A’s, State Champion, Tropical Trash, Connor Bell, Todd Cook, Rachel Grimes, Another 7 Astronauts, Cheyenne Mize, Joe Meredith, Twin Limb, Heather Summers, Billy Petot, The Deloreans, Anwar Sadat, and The Debauchees (next gen making us proud!). There are others I’m missing here so sorry in advance friends I just accidentally dissed and dis-missed.

NN: Are there any particular records that came out of Louisville that still hold a spot in your rotation?

AS: Yeah, quite a few. Every record made by Slint, Crain, Rachel’s, The Shipping News, Gastr Del Sol, and Palace Brothers/Will Oldham/Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Lots of other less well known ones.

NN: I understand you were recently in Louisville for a week or two. Where did you eat, drink, and be merry?

AS: Indeed I was. I’m basically sober so I hardly ever drink, but I hang out at Zanzabar and Nachbar quite a bit. I like both of those places. And I’m a foodie, so I did my best to try out all the new Louisville food digs. I enjoyed Four Pegs; had a great meal at that new barbecue spot where The Swan Dive used to be (Editor’s Note: He’s talking about Hammerheads); Harvest was good; Eiderdown is dope (shout out to my boyz Matt Filip and Drew English); that new taco spot El Taco Luchador was pretty sound; I’m forever a fan of El Mundo; not too shabby The Silver Dollar and that other new spot; Sari Sari’s great; Rainbow Blossom in the house; Meridian Café will treat you right; Santa Fe Grill oh me oh my—and lastly, shout out to the Mother of all Louisville eateries: Vietnam Kitchen.

NN: Do you have a favorite record store in Louisville?

AS: Not really. They’re all pretty cool in my book. Underground Sounds, Modern Cult Records, Matt Anthony’s Record Shop, Guestroom Records, Please & Thank You, Better Days, Astro Black—they all have their charms.
*Note: When I was a kid it was ear-X-tacy, Ground Zero, and Blue Moon (the record store trifecta of my youth). I’m happy we have so many great new record shops carrying on the tradition. Kudos to all of those business owners.

NN: Lastly, talk about three records that are blowing you away lately.

AS: Hmmm… The last record that really blew my mind (this was back a ways in 2012) was Grimes’s Visions. I love that record, everything about it. I can’t wait to hear what she does next. I’m totally invested in her success.

Other artists I’m digging on right now (current or not): Oneohtrix Point Never, Schoolboy Q, Reggie Blount, Cass McCombs, Drake, Iasos, Sky Ferreira, Aphex Twin, Kanye West, old Nine Inch Nails, Arvo Part, Kendrick Lamar, Jandek. And I’m starting to delve into the world of Throbbing Gristle’s Genesis P-Orridge. Wish me luck.