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Q&A: Last Year’s Men’s Ben Carr

October 18, 2010. Chapel Hill, NC.. The band Last Year's Men, photographed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina..
October 18, 2010. Chapel Hill, NC.. The band Last Year's Men, photographed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina..

Last Year’s Men has a moniker derived from a Leonard Cohen song and suggests a group of older, world-weary men. The surprising reality is that its members are in their late teens and early twenties. But that doesn’t stop the band from crafting a blend of punk and garage-rock that belies their young years.

This Friday, the band will play a Hopscotch launch party at The Cave with fellow Chapel Hill music makers and Dive Party alums Spider Bags. Diversions staff writer Anna Norris talked to guitarist and vocalist Ben Carr about his approach to songwriting, vinyl and the merits of playing local shows.

Diversions: You’re playing with Spider Bags at the Cave for the Hopscotch preview show. The lead singer of Spider Bags, Dani McGee, helped produce your record Sunny Down Snuff. How did that come about?

Ben Carr: It started off as a relatively hands-off thing. He came in and was just going to work with us the first couple of days and set up mics and help figure out how to make it sound like we wanted it to sound. Then he took a liking to us and asked if he could sign on to produce the whole thing.

It was pretty awesome because I had been listening to the Spider Bags for a few years at that point, and then to have him help us out on the record, and for Dan and I to eventually become friends — it was a cool experience.

Dive: Your label bio describes your band as “The kind of music nerd that has to know every b-side and bootleg by the artists he’s into.”

How does that intensity and focus influence your music?

BC: Well, pretty much everyone in the band are record nerds. Especially Montgomery (Morris), now he’s part of the band.

But it definitely influences the songwriting a lot, because you hear the A-side of something, then you want to hear the B-side, then you just dive into more and more genres and sub-genres and you kind of become more and more influenced by it.

You just kind of become more educated about the genre or sub-genre you’re trying to write in. Once all those influences come together from a bunch of different sources, it makes the writing process a lot easier.

Dive: Do you go for the vinyl or are you a CD person?

BC: Definitely vinyl. Churchkey first approached us and wanted us to do a CD. We signed on just because we wanted a release. But then we kept on pushing after we signed the papers, and we were like, “Hey, when are we going to be on vinyl. We don’t like the sound of CDs.”

I think I own about 40 CDs, and I own a lot more records.

Dive: Did you pick up anything good for Record Store Day?

BC: I actually did not, due to some complications in my personal life. I didn’t end up making it out. I went last year, it was really amazing.

I played an in-store over at Chaz’s [Martenstein, of Bull City Records] place.

But yeah, Record Store Day is fucking amazing. It’s a really great way to support the independent music scene and help people get exposed to more music.

Dive: How do you feel playing a local show after being out on the road for a while?

BC: Playing a local show after being out on the road is such a refreshing experience.

If you just play local shows for a few months, you’re like, “OK, great, we’re playing another local show,” and you kind of take it for granted.

Then you come back from being out on the road, and it’s like a whole new experience.

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It’s all your friends, it’s new people, it’s usually more people than what you experience when you’re playing a new town.

It’s a lot more supportive, and quite frankly a lot more fun.

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