On Thursday night, Jason Narducy’s Split Single will play at Rumba Cafe with R. Ring (Kelley Deal of The Breeders) and longtime local favorites Bicentennial Bear. Friends were recently talking about the show and they mistakingly thought that R. Ring and Bicentennial Bear were having a split single release party! When I mention this to Narducy in an email, he says that he isn’t aware of people making this mistake in any other situation.
Late last year, Narducy released the second Split Single album, Metal Frames (listen below), featuring help from John Stirrat (Wilco), Jon Wurster (Superchunk) and Nora O’Connor and while it’s a straight-up rock guitar record, there’s a ’90s alt-rock feel to the songs. When you discover the bands Narducy has performed with as a touring member (mentioned in the interview), Split Single’s sound totally makes sense. And, how great is the video for “Untry Love”? This thing would have gotten heavy rotation on MTV’s 120 Minutes had it been released in 1996.
I own a few Verbow CDs, actually bought them in the ’90s when they came out, but I don’t think I ever studied the liner notes and had no idea you were the founder/singer in that band. You’ve played with a bunch of recognizable artists like Bob Mould, Bob Pollard (Guided By Voices) and Superchunk. What percentage of people do you think know you from Verbow compared to knowing you from one of the other bands you’ve played in?
Speaking of those three – Bob Mould, Bob Pollard (Guided By Voices), Mac McCaughan (Superchunk) – which one would you call a father figure? Which one is most like a brother? Which one would you have been good friends with in high school?
I’ve been very fortunate to play with these three indie rock giants. They are very different personalities. I discovered Bob Mould’s work before Mac or Pollard were releasing albums. Pete Townshend and Rick Nielsen were sort of like phantom father figures to me so, in my music world, Bob took the torch from those two in the rock timeline. I met Bob in 1991 so I’ve also known him longer than the other two. The closest I can come to answering your question is that I am more likely to drink coffee on a long walk with Bob Mould, more likely to drink beers and eat shitty food with Pollard, and more likely to drink beers and eat amazing food with Mac. Great stories and big laughs with all three.
You’ve got a lengthy history (ha, which I admit I only recently discovered) fronting bands and writing songs and I’m sure that’s what you’d most like to be doing but tell me about the satisfaction you get out of being in a touring band that you’re not fronting.
I enjoy performing songs that I wrote in my basement on tour with friends. I like traveling, discovering interesting places/neighborhoods, meeting new people, etc. I enjoy fronting a band just as much as being a band member. No preference. It’s nice to make all the decisions with Split Single – it IS essentially a solo project. I also enjoy not having to make any decisions – or very few – and just showing up to play songs I love.
It seems like due to some friendships and some (not so random) encounters, you’ve had some great opportunities with the previously mentioned artists. As the leader of Split Single, when you get ready to go and play shows, how do you find the guys who make up your touring band? Is there an audition process? Do you take recommendations from friends? Are the guys in this version of the touring band friends of yours and/or have toured with you before? (Full disclosure: I know Billy and am a big fan of The Kickback and it’s interesting to see him not in the spotlight just as you’re not in the spotlight when playing with Bob Mould, Superchunk, etc).
In a trio, everyone is sort of in the spotlight. I reach out to friends to see who is available/interested. Occasionally, I have played with musicians who were recommended to me.
Just for fun … fill in the blank: “If _____ was looking for a touring bassist, I would LOVE to be picked to join the band.” (Am I allowed to throw in my answer for you? I think you’d be an amazing addition to The Posies based on “Leave My Mind”)
What I really love about Metal Frames is how the songs sound familiar without sounding like carbon copies of anything I’ve heard before. Maybe it’s because I was lucky to have been writing about music as early as the early ‘90s and therefore exposed to so much great music during that decade but this album sounds like something I would have been listening to ‘95, just out of college and getting ready to join the rat race. I imagine you don’t really go into writing a song thinking, “Man, I really want this to sound like something from 1995”, but am I far off when I say that it sounds to me like something from that era? (Good lord, I love “White Smoke” which reminds me of Quicksand, or, maybe one of Walter’s post-Quicksand bands like Rival Schools)
No, I don’t intentionally try to sound like something from a specific era. I just pick up a guitar and write. I’ve never heard Quicksand.
Not to make you feel old (of course, I keep mentioning the ‘90s so … sorry about that!), but I’m guessing you’ve played in Columbus plenty of times (though Bob Mould and Superchunk haven’t played here since you’ve been in either band) throughout your career. Putting you on the spot (sort of, since this is an email rather than a phone call you’ve got some time to think), any memories of playing in Columbus or is it just another city in a long line of tour stops you’ve made?
I played at Little Brothers on my birthday with Robert Pollard and The Ascended Masters in 2006. My wife and kids sent a huge box of chocolate to the venue with a birthday card. All of the chocolate was eaten by Bob’s friends before I even knew it was there. They just thought it was part of the backstage rider. Pretty funny. No hard feelings, of course. Verbow opened for Sleater-Kinney at Staches in 1997 and we did a Newport lobby show once but I can’t remember who else played. I played with Telekinesis at Outland On Liberty with Portugal The Man and Unknown Mortal Orchestra but I honestly have no recollection of that show at all. I just googled “Telekinesis Columbus 2011” and that’s what came up. I don’t think I’ve ever played Columbus with Bob Mould or Superchunk.
I think I read (maybe?) that your goal with Split Single isn’t to hop in a van and criss-cross the country playing live shows to support the new album, that you’d rather do some strategic touring and only do short runs. Is Split Single that itch you want to scratch every couple of yours or do you think you’ll write, record and release music with more frequency if you put more time into the studio than on the road?
No big plan. I enjoy writing songs, playing with friends, making videos (like “Untry Love”, “The Sexiest Elbows In Rock”, “Monolith”, “Fragmented World”, etc), and doing email interviews.