The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday May 26th


Q&A with The Music Tapes' Julian Koster

_Julian Koster is the man behind The Music Tapes, an experimental pop group from local label Merge Records, known for its unusual song writing and instrumentation. Coming to the Cat’s Cradle on Monday, his band’s “Traveling Imaginary” is more than just a concert — it’s a spectacular of music, games, magic and stories — all held beneath a circus tent.

Staff writer Bo McMillan recently spoke with Koster to find out just what’s behind the unique schema of the band, and also to explore his past as a member of indie-rock legend Neutral Milk Hotel. _

Diversions: I’ve read a lot about the current setup of this tour, specifically the circus tent it has been performed under, and it all seems very unusual and unique. Could you explain some of the reasoning behind this construction?

Julian Koster: The tent and the whole show were created out of what has always been our passion and our dream: to create new kinds of experiences for people to enjoy.

A lot of what we always thought of musically was to try and create an adventure that had a lot of sincere feelings and fun.

Dive: And is that where the games, stories and magic come in?

JK: Yeah, a lot of what has been most exciting to us about making entertainment for people has always been from the realm of stories and narratives and games; it’s very inspiring to be able to craft an entire experience for someone.

It’s very much like a music park ride is architected — everything that happens from the moment you buy your ticket is part of the whole experience.

Dive: Speaking of the whole experience, where did some of the band’s unique instruments come from? Specifically, I’m curious about the seven-foot-tall metronome.

JK: I’ve always gotten my happiness dreaming stuff up and putting it in notebooks. A couple years ago in Athens, Ga., my friends and I were at a potluck and some of them peeked over my shoulder and saw me drawing the metronome. I explained that it was a big, analog acoustic drum machine, and Scott Spillane, my bandmate from both The Music Tapes and Neutral Milk Hotel, and Terry Rowlett, an Athens painter, looked at it and said, “We could do that.”

Next thing you know, we’re all at his painting studio with a bunch of people chipping in their knowledge and their time, and that thing became real. I’d say that pretty much changed my life; it made me realize what was possible.

As far as I was concerned, I just figured that’d be a drawing in my notebook forever. I didn’t think it would come to life.

Dive: Now that you’ve mentioned Spillane, how does touring with The Music Tapes compare with touring as part of Neutral Milk Hotel?

*JK: *It’s like the difference between eating an apple and going to the circus; it’s such a vastly different experience. Neutral Milk Hotel was a very explosive thing that belonged on the rock stage and usually left it in tatters.

The Music Tapes, in a weird way, is more like a subconscious-based amusement; it’s something that exists in a very different plane.

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