Lumberob | Interview | New Album, ‘Hunter Gather’

Uncategorized May 22, 2024

Lumberob | Interview | New Album, ‘Hunter Gather’

Lumberob will release his upcoming album, ‘Hunter Gather,’ on July 12, 2024, via Shimmy-Disc. His new release continues his tradition of merging eclectic psych-noise with avant-garde experimentation.

‘Hunter Gather’ showcases his unique blend of noise-pop and art-rock. Known for his extravagant live performances, Lumberob brings a refined yet chaotic energy to this studio project. Collaborating with Kramer, ‘Hunter Gather’ is a genre-defying work filled with vibrant sounds and inventive rhythms.

Lumberob, aka Rob Erickson, is an 8th grade honors humanities teacher in Manhattan whose vibrant performances blend splatter-paint looping with big beat sing-song, creating an exuberant sound and physical experience. Drawing from eclectic influences like psych-noise and avant-garde, Lumberob’s shows are a fusion of DaDa dancehall toaster and improvisational art dance madness. Collaborating with Kramer for over 25 years, their latest project, ‘Hunter Gather,’ is described as urgent madness, blending various genres into a sonic vaudeville energy. Described as Dada Ska or Electro-Skank, Lumberobics offers urgent art dance for working things out. 

“I love the problem of genre”

Your new single ‘My Goth Acquaintance’ has a deliciously lurid and fuzzy vibe, a dance invitation to the perversely inclined. What’s the story behind this intriguing title and what inspired its gothic allure?

Rob Erickson (aka Lumberob): I love the problem of genre. ‘My Goth Acquaintance’ leans into something familiar but certainly doesn’t stay in its lane. The video is playful within a survey of classic horror spaces of green-screen Nosferatu and Caligari, but clearly I am not goth. I love fuzz and slithery bass, and I wanted to make a sing-along that suggests a happy skank might be the best dance for the vampire-adjacent. Watch for my sweet puppy Mére Ubu, who is very excited about the song in her humpy way. The part of ‘My Goth Acquaintance’ is played by Dale Seever, the exquisitely crafted mystic journalistic persona of performance artist James Bewley, famous for his vaudevillian interviews of comics, writers, artists, and performers on his Deep Night series. He makes a cameo, but I kill him off pretty quickly. He deserved it. I need to thank Preston Spurlock for his wild processed work that shows up in the video. Also, Spencer Maxwell of Orange Echo Films directed and edited the video, and built out all the background imagery as well as all the layered echoing of me. Laura Gauthier built the Eraserhead-inspired stage which frames the video with her two tattooed hands.

Your upcoming LP ‘Hunter Gather’ promises to be a sonic journey through a kaleidoscope of genres, from noise-pop to art-rock to psych-primitive. How did you approach the creative process for this album, and what were some of the key influences that shaped its eclectic sound?

My ultimate loves are dark, playful, decorative albums like ‘Strangers from the Universe’ by Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 or ‘Jewellery’ by Micachu. I was just listening to Steve Albini talk about his goals of making records for future generations to discover. I like thinking forward as though music has a purpose. I like to dance, and I like to think I can dance to anything, including myself. My problem has always been the disconnect between what a live performance accomplishes and what a studio album tries to accomplish. All of ‘Hunter Gather’ was built from loops with improvised song structure, and I adore that feeling of capturing something energetic, something accidental… the difference between playing something correctly (whatever that means) and playing something urgently. I want these songs to surprise, but also, I am concerned with world-building. I like how genre shifts and how sonic environments tilt. I go crazy for micro-fiction like Donald Barthelme or Etgar Keret or Leonora Carrington… and if I may be so bold, while my live shows stay pretty illegible, my studio tracks are pretty compact little stories. That’s why this new track is so silly as it tries to juxtapose a goth aesthetic and absurdist narrative beside a little groovy skank. The bright yellow sunlight collides with vampire eyes. Bongos kill the goth vibe, or do they? I thrive in that genre confusion, that blur, or what might be considered a mash-up these days. I want Joseph Spence playing guitar with Conlon Nancarrow as the rhythm section all mixed by Lee Perry with U-Roy toasting on top then remixed by Mouse on Mars. That’s my jam. It’s a challenge to make new things mean something.

“My art tries to stay performative”

As someone who wears multiple hats, balancing a career as an 8th-grade humanities teacher with being a boundary-pushing musician, how do these seemingly disparate roles inform and influence each other in your creative endeavors?

My teaching is very performative. Eighth grade is never boring. I try to model a passion for the slow-bake consumption of text, a passion for the preciousness of expressive work. I teach reading. I teach writing. I try to be a correction for the fast-paced doomscrolling passivity in which kids consume our culture these days. It is difficult, but important, as the goal is always writing — and writing is an active task. Lumberob live shows can look and feel like workshops, like demonstrations. I don’t work from playback. I build everything live. It can feel pretty trippy, pretty trancey, pretty silly… but also pretty basic. I think songs emerging are the best songs, and the work of building out tunes, editing, and carving out structure from improvised takes are what my process runs off of. My art tries to stay performative, which is to say I want things feeling a little off balance, a little wonky, a little broken. My favorite comment concerning my old band Adult Rodeo, which is still true for my playing today, came from an audience member who said, “I didn’t even think y’all knew how to play your instruments, but then all of a sudden you ripped my face off. You guys rock!” It’s that sense of becoming, that surprise, that emergent force, that way we root for one another that makes music meaningful. I like Jeffery Lewis recently commenting in a post about how he would probably love a band that wrote on their guitarist-wanted flyer “FUCK PROFICIENCY!” I also have to laugh at how quickly the jackals jump on things. My video is already ridiculed in the comments somewhere as being “not scary” and “not punk” and “not goth.” Well, no shit! This is an experiment between categories. I am arch. I am the dark art.

The tracklist for ‘Hunter Gather’ is a wild ride, filled with titles like ‘Mouthmoon My Genre’ and ‘Steamwork.’ Can you take us through the journey of crafting these songs, from inception to final recording, and share any memorable moments from the studio?

I enjoy challenging what makes a song a song. Clearly I’m pretty happy with short, choppy pop structure. Always my wife Stephanie says I need more, always she asks for more. Ha! Someone said you’re supposed to leave them wanting more, or less is more. I’m like a minimalist working with a broken sprinkler-head splatter-paint maximizer tool. This is music for puppies… there’s beautiful stupidity found here. Memories from the studio would include my decision to keep the breaking of a nylon string in the mix. My friend David Mendez played some guitar on the record and inside that first tune called ‘Collapse,’ you can hear his string break and he responds vocally, like “oh, wah wah wah.” I decided to not only keep that in but repeat it. I mean, that is pretty dumb, some might say genius.

Collaboration seems to be a cornerstone of your creative process, particularly with Kramer, with whom you’ve worked for over 25 years. What is it about your partnership that yields such majestic and unpredictable sonic results, and how has your dynamic evolved over the years?

To begin with, Kramer is a sensitive player with eclectic tastes. He thinks cinematically, expansively, synaesthetically. He is a crazy good bassist and a classically-trained organist, and he has ears. The story of my exposure to Shimmy-Disc growing up in Stuart, Florida and how we eventually released Adult Rodeo records on that label in the late 90s is cute, but the work we did on these last two Lumberob albums was quite personal. He works quickly and seems to perform his mixes with a concern for energy and trajectory. Of course, this is a tendency he retains from his time mixing hundreds of albums on tape before there was such a thing as automation. Making music for Shimmy is quite liberating as there’s an understanding that genre is a playground and the catalog stretches to extremes. I was greatly affected by albums in high school by Torture Garden and Ween and Half Japanese and Kramer himself. ‘The Guilt Trip’ stands out to me as a heroic effort of wild psych art. Then there’s the purring beauty of the band Galaxie 500. ‘This Is Our Music’ still gives me chills with its opening feedback avalanche. There’s that juxtaposition again: emergent overwhelming fear that resolves into soft pleasure. Recently, his projects are so diverse: a mixture of archival spoken literature, ambiance, noise, banjos, and then there’s me. He agrees with me mostly, and that helps. It’s like sculpture. It’s like editing. He’s Gordon Lish to my Barry Hannah. We work hard to make things matter. ‘Hunter Gather’ is seriously goofy, and we take that very seriously.

Your live performances are described as workshops in exuberant sound and physical response, blending elements of improvisation with intricate sonic construction. How do you translate the energy and spontaneity of your live shows into the studio recording process, and vice versa?

I am happy when an audience appreciates how simple my process is… like how a sleight of hand magician makes the trick seem so effortless. There are far smarter, far easier ways to do my show. Proper gain staging, better interface, better software — but I refuse to perform with a laptop. It just makes me upset. I want to stomp; I want to dance; I want to toss things around. I want my ingredients to be obvious and my building process of “Lumberobbing” to be legible even though my vocals are generally nonsense. This release cycle is different though as I intend to play these songs live.

The term “Dada Ska” has been used to describe your music, highlighting its blend of experimentalism and danceability. How do you see your music fitting within or challenging existing genre boundaries, and what do you hope listeners take away from the experience of immersing themselves in your sonic universe?

I like to go fast and I can’t help but vocalize how I do… My priorities are always to make something funny that folds into something scary. That’s the game. The rules of my shows are laid bare. Mistake is an ingredient. I love when things break as I have mentioned before, the process of recovery and repair can be transcendent — especially if an audience chooses to root for me. “Dada ska” is a reference to the futurist vocalizing of Schwitters and Marinetti and Ball. It’s another juxtaposition of pop structure with function (I mean ska music is built for skanky dancing) and wildly experimental mayhem.

Your stage presence is often described as magnetic, with an ability to captivate audiences and defy categorization. How do you cultivate this larger-than-life persona, and what do you hope your audience feels or experiences during one of your performances?

Sometimes people seem to suggest that my show gave them permission to dance. I love to dance at shows; I am often the only one dancing at shows. This is very important. I want my audience to understand that they have permission to dance, even have permission to vocalize along with me as if we are able to insinuate ourselves into each other’s creative waves. My ingredients are simple. My rules are basic. My shows are brut. When it goes well, I can get an entire room hopping around to my weirdly constructed messes. It really is music for puppies, elegant puppies. Fancy bouncing only, please!

In an era where music consumption is increasingly digital and fragmented, how do you see your music resonating with listeners, particularly those who may be seeking something outside the mainstream or conventional?

I am not totally original. Looping has become a genre. I mean, Reggie Watts makes some fantastically yummy huckleberry sativa gummies. We are by definition derivative, derivative of ourselves. I enjoy my position within this Mise-en-Abyme driven garden of sonic horrors. Is it possible to drive a garden? It is now!

Looking ahead, what’s next for Lumberob? Are there any upcoming projects, collaborations, or creative endeavors on the horizon that you’re particularly excited about sharing with your fans?

I am always hustling. I am very excited by the roller rink that’s opening in Bushwick, Brooklyn called Xanadu. There are lots of potential performances happening there which would hopefully involve audiences on roller skates. I think I am mostly interested in my audiences wearing roller skates from now on. Seriously, I am always collaborating with Laura Peterson Choreography. She is involved in one of my videos for the record upcoming. Also, Arturo Baston, known as Base Tone, made a video for me. I am excited for that to be released in July – it is bonkers. I recorded a record with my long-time friend and collaborator Jad Fair and that needs to get finished and mixed at some point this year. We keep on.

Photo by Sarah Lamb

Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?

I think my favorite live experience (not exactly your question) was the time I saw Jad Fair and Tim Foljahn and Steve Shelley play as Mosquito. Their album ‘Time Was’ is a lost masterpiece of the 90s. My daughter Tallulah and my son Finnegan are old enough to have developed their own musical tastes and they have started to turn me on to some new music, or new-to-me music: Amyl & the Sniffers, Mannequin Pussy, Junip, Buke & Gase, Marissa Paternoster’s band Screaming Females and her band Noun, and those are just the rock bands. I love Pinc Louds, Endless Arrows, and my sister is Kevin Blechdom (maybe she’ll come around to making music again someday), her band Blectum from Blechdom made a new record a couple years ago, and Anni Rossi is back to making music and her sound is absolutely gorgeous and terrifying. Then there’s K. Porcelain. I think K. Porcelain’s song ‘Suicide Country’ is where I would tell people to go. Save yourself, go to Suicide Country!

Klemen Breznikar

Headline photo: Sarah Lamb

Lumberob Official Website / Instagram
Shimmy-Disc Official Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp
Joyful Noise Recordings Official Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp / YouTube

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