Chris Archibald of Illinois

<img src="" alt=" " />At the record release & Cinco de Mayo party of Illinois, QRO sat down with <em>Kid Catastrophe</em> himself, singer/songwriter Chris Archibald....

  In the conversation, ‘Arch’ talked about why Illinois put out six Chapter EPs that made up The Adventures of Kid Catastrophe, the deluxe edition released that day, touring the east, touring the west, PR company/label/management/family Plus One, not being actually ‘good’ at his many instruments, trying to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records, Playboy Playmates, and much more…

QRO: Where did the idea of doing the six Chapters of The Adventures of Kid Catastrophe come from?

Chris Archibald: Well, ever since [previous label] Ace Fu folded, Plus One said they were starting a record label.  They were like, “Try to put together a record”.  So I gave them 112 songs – ‘There’s your friggin’ record…’

And then just collectively, we just tried to figure out how to release the most songs.  So we decided to do the whole Chapters thing.

QRO: What’s it like, now that all six Chapters – and the deluxe edition – are out?

CA: It was cool, watching the whole progression of it all.  The first few months, it was slow build, slow build, slow build.  Now that the whole thing has come out, I think everybody’s taking it…

The release of the Chapters, I don’t know how the rest of the world took it.  I don’t know how it was accepted.  But now that it’s one, final, deluxe thing, people are more like, ‘Okay, we’ll review it now.’  Once a month was too much work for people I guess…

QRO: Did each Chapter have a certain ‘theme’?  How did you arrange them?

CA: We didn’t.  That was mainly – I gotta give credit where it’s due: that was mainly Plus One.  I just gave them all those songs, “I don’t care which ones you use, or however.”  And they kept sending me the order, “What about if we follow up ‘Big Country’ with–’ “I don’t care, man!  Just release it…”

QRO: You’ve got a rather diverse set of sounds, from banjo-twang to hip-hop – do you think having separate releases works better for that?

CA: Yeah, it kind of had that ‘mix tape’ kind of vibe to it.  We couldn’t release it as one fluid piece of work, as it was all over the place.  That definitely also influenced the Chapter idea as too, because it wasn’t consistent at all.  Didn’t make sense.

Illinois playing Chapter 1’s “Hang On” live at Fontana’s in New York, NY on January 14th, 2009:

See also them playing “Nosebleed” and “Bad Day”

QRO: Where did you make those 112 songs?

CA: I have over 500 I’ve recorded myself, just in like my basement or in my bedroom.

QRO: What happened to the stuff you did a while ago with Mickey Petralia (Beck, Eels, Flight of the Conchords)?

CA: I don’t know what the hell is going on with that…

I don’t know what we’re doing with it.  It is recorded.  That’s a record we’re just sitting on, I guess.

QRO: So what is the Kid Catastrophe stuff?

CA: A lot of that stuff is old stuff that I had for years.  I just pulled it out of the vault.  And some, we just re-recorded it in my basement.

QRO: How did it compare with making What the Hell Do I Know? (QRO review) and Revenge of Some Young Kid EPs previously?

CA: Revenge was the same exact way.  Revenge of Some Young Kid was kind of just grabbing songs out of the vault that we’d already had done.

What the Hell Do I Know?, some of those songs, we recorded with Eli Janney in Brooklyn.  And the others were just ones we pulled out of the vault as well; and we gave them to him, and he remixed them.  That was kind of the same mutt, smut, ‘mix tape’ kind of vibe to it.

QRO: Why did you have “Old Saloon” in the last chapter, originally on Revenge, as the only non-new song on Catastrophe?

CA: Because I don’t think anybody knew about Revenge of Some Young Kid.  Plus One was pretty adamant about that.

And also, People-Food, one of the guys, Danny Stessen, who shot & wrote a lot of the video stuff, he was really adamant about that song.  He heard that and he saw something, that Chapter stop-motion thing.

Illinois playing “Old Saloon” live at Mercury Lounge in New York, NY on November 5th, 2008:

See also them playing “Hang On” and “Nosebleed”

QRO: What new songs do you really like playing live?

CA: “I Am Fine” – that’s a more like the hip-hoppy one.  Kenan Bell raps on it as well.  And we recorded it with Jon Siebels, who’s in Kenan Bell as well, when we were out in L.A.  We recorded it, and it turned out really nice.  I’m sure we’re going to use it for something soon.

Illinois playing “I Am Fine” live at Fontana’s in New York, NY on February 4th, 2009:

QRO: What’s next?  Do you have any post-Catastrophe material?

CA: I don’t know.  I’m sure we’re going to tour this, the Deluxe – we’re actually having CDs and stuff, too, the actual physical product of the Deluxe, finished thing.  That comes out in June.

But I don’t know.  I’m ready to release another record, or another couple.  I wanted to break the Guinness Book of World Records for ‘Amount of songs released in a year’.  I could do one a day, release 365…

I think it would just be a great press gimmick.

QRO: Especially these days – can put it online…

CA: Yeah, iTunes would be totally into it.

QRO: 112 – that’s a third of the way there!

And I have over 500, so I have 365 I’m not using…

QRO: How were all those East Coast ‘Chapter release’ tours?  Was it at all weary?

CA: Same clubs?  Yeah, ‘cause people were like, ‘Oh, I’ll catch ‘em next month,’ if they couldn’t make it out.  Usually, when a band comes into town, people schedule around that.  We just had changing crowds, which was cool, but we kind of asked for it, coming back every single month.

But it was definitely cool.  We reached a lot of people that way.

QRO: When you finally headed out west, was it a bit of a relief?

CA: Yeah, it definitely was.  Especially the time – warm weather was much needed.  ‘Cause it was snowing here.

It was after SXSW.  We went from Austin to L.A.  It was great to play out in L.A.  San Fran was really good.

QRO: How was SXSW (QRO recap)?

CA: It was good.  It was fun.  I mean, we already kind of have our things established.  Usually, when you go out there, you’re looking for a label, a booking agent, or something.  But we had all those pieces in line.

But it’s fun to see everybody, do your thing.  It’s South-by…  It’s ‘band camp’.

QRO: How was Kenan Bell (QRO interview) on the road out west?

CA: Awesome – those guys are awesome.  We’re best friends.  Those guys are awesome, a lot of fun.

Archibald & Illinois’ Martin Hoeger playing live with Kenan Bell on “Good Day” at Mercury Lounge in New York, NY on May 5th, 2009:

QRO: What do you think of ‘industry showcases’ like that, or CMJ (QRO recap)?

CA: Um… Kind of used to ‘em.  I understand it has to happen.  But it’s all in shambles – all you can do is go out and play.  You can’t really count your chickens.  I don’t know – I’m for it.  Usually, there’s a lot of people at those showcases.

QRO: Do you think Cinco de Mayo’s gotten too commercialized?  Do you think we’ve lost the true meaning of the holiday?

CA: [laughs] Absolutely – absolutely right…

But for me, it’s one of my good friends from back home, I call her ‘Bird’, it’s her birthday.  So it’s more of a celebration of her birthday for me.

I was never really in touch with the holiday, anyway.  ‘Cause I live in the suburbs of Philly…

QRO: It’s also one of those holidays where you only know the date because that’s the name.

CA: Yeah – like Fourth of July…

QRO: Do you have touring plans after this May run?

CA: I know there’s stuff in the works, but I don’t know what it is yet.

QRO: Do you know about any festivals?

CA: I don’t know.

Usually, how it works, from our experiences, they tell you two weeks before.  ‘Oh yeah, we just got you guys on Lollapalooza…’ ‘Oh, shit!’

QRO: Do you do anything differently when you play outdoors?

CA: You can’t see your tuner pedals!  It’s sunny.  That’s the worst thing.  ‘Cause of the lights, when you’re outside, you can’t see your tuner pedals.  So we have these little visors, packs of cigarettes that we take, so you can see your tuners.

QRO: How was working with People-Food?

CA: Awesome.  Those guys are really funny.  They actually made me a part of People-Food now.  They have a couple short films out that I wrote the scores for, and I want to keep acting in a bunch of their shit.

QRO: Where did the ideas for the videos come from?

CA: That was pretty much them.  We’d talked over the phone about this one idea of ‘The Adventures of Kid Catastrophe trying to find a record deal’, but once we got there, we just started talking about it, it was so stupid, we just came up with the idea of the metaphor of the goldfish, being the ideal thing to hold on to.

It was just so stupid that we just started going with it.  So it was pretty funny.

QRO: Where is that goldfish now?

CA: Don’t know.  I wasn’t allowed to take him on the plane.

QRO: But he wasn’t harmed…

CA: No.  ‘No goldfish were harmed in the making of Kid Catastrophe’…

QRO: Was the last video made up of just flash photos?

CA: That was the song I was talking about, “Old Saloon”.  He heard that song, and this whole ‘stop motion’.  I had to walk really slow, and they took thousands pictures.

Chad Nicholson shot all that stuff.

QRO: Was that really annoying, being followed by all those flashes?

CA: Naw, I felt cool as shit…

QRO: You felt like they were paparazzi…

CA: It was a big scene.  And the El Ray was sold out, too, so I was just walking through, and there was a whole crew with me.  So I felt cool.

QRO: Was that Cara Zavaletta from Real World/Road Rules Challenge in the last video?

CA: I don’t know.  I know there were some Playboy Playmates…

QRO: She was also a Playboy Playmate.

CA: Okay, then it was.  ‘Cause I knew they were from Playboy.

That’s funny.  I didn’t even know that…

QRO: It seems like Plus One is a bit of a community, from tonight’s date here with Kenan to the last time you were at Mercury Lounge (QRO venue review), with Kenan & The Heavy (QRO review), to the Central Park Summerstage (QRO venue review) show with The Kooks & stellastarr* (QRO review), to even The Morning Benders (QRO live review) & Jonny Kaps appearing in the last Kid Catastrophe video.  Did that attract you to putting out Kid Catastrophe on the PR company’s own label?

CA: We’ve been working with them for a while, and they did a great job for press and everything.  It just kind of felt right.  We became kind of a little family with them.

It just made sense, for some reason.  I know you shouldn’t put your eggs in one basket, but, for some reason, we were just like, ‘Yeah – Why don’t you be our press and our record label and our management?’

And it’s definitely ‘a family’.  ‘Cause I think they have great taste in music.  The bands they work with are all good bands, I feel.  I’m proud of it.

QRO: Was Cara Zavaletta showing up in the last video also through Plus One, because they work with Playboy’s ‘Rock the Rabbit’, and she’s a Playboy Playmate?

CA: Yeah, it’s all Plus One.  That’s not a bad affiliate, either.  Works for me…

People-Food & Archibald’s The Adventures of Kid Catastrophe, Chapter Six video installment – with Zavaletta, Kaps, & more:

Chris ShepardQRO: Where’d you find Chris Shepard?

CA: They call him a local legend back home.  He’s probably the greatest guitar player that’s ever walked on earth.

But it was just a matter of making him fit into our sound.  ‘Cause none of us are really ‘good’ at our instruments.  So when he came around, it was like, ‘Holy shit!’  It as so different to hear that song with a solo or something.

He was someone we all grew up with.

Andrew LeeQRO: What happened to Andrew Lee?

CA: He just needs some time out.  He was just going down some bad roads, that we felt this lifestyle wasn’t a good influence for that.

So we just put him on hiatus.  He’ll probably be back – whenever we feel comfortable enough to let him back in, to trust him…

Arch + MPC samplerQRO: What’s that new piece of equipment you have, which you put your vocals through?

CA: It’s just a sampler that’s got the hook on it.  It’s just an MPC sampler.

QRO: Guitar, keys, banjo, now that – when are you going to get a theremin?…

CA: I have one – there’s one on the keyboard.

I don’t know?  I get bored really easily.  And, like I said, I’m not that good, so I can only do so much on one instrument.  So I kind of cheat on a different instrument.

QRO: Do you think that’s why you said you weren’t that good on any instrument, because you move to another one?  Short attention span…

CA: Probably.  It’s like, I can’t master anything ‘cause I don’t have the patience to sit there and master something.  I skip around.

QRO: When you’re making up a set list, how do you pick songs, with your diverse songbook?

CA: These days, we’ve gotta run them by Jonny Kaps… “We’re thinking about doing ‘I Am Fine’ after ‘Nosebleed’” “Nope – it’ll never work…”

I don’t know.  It’s tough.  There’s always bookends at the beginning and end, and a whole bunch of shit in the middle.  It doesn’t matter how you arrange it – it’s not going to make sense.  So we just keep moving stuff around.

Illinois playing “Nosebleed” live at Mercury Lounge in New York, NY on May 5th, 2009:

See also them playing “Hang On”

QRO: When you were doing the East Coat Chapter tours, did you try, each month, to do that month’s material?

CA: Yeah.  We had to play three songs from every month.  We really wanted to be able to play all of the songs, ‘cause on What the Hell Do I Know?, we couldn’t play a couple of the songs.

QRO: What songs were those?

CA: “What I Could Do For You”, we never played live.  Pretty much that one, I guess.  But we could never get it down.

Illinois playing What the Hell Do I Know?’s “Screendoor” live at Rehab in New York, NY on December 3rd, 2008

See also them playing What the Hell’s “One on One”

QRO: Is it hard to remember all the songs?

CA: That’s the thing – I wrote these songs so long ago that you have to go back and listen to them.  I forget what sounds on the keyboard I used, or what notes they were.  Usually, when I pick up an acoustic, it’s not in tune.  I just tune it to whatever it is.  Kind of go in there and decipher what the hell is going on.

QRO: What about getting the rest of the guys to know it?

CA: That’s the great thing about Shepard.  He hears them, ‘Alright, it’s a G-minor, C-major’.  He can just like hear these things, then just point them out – and teaches me how to play my own songs.

It’s embarrassing, but it’s true…

QRO: What’s it like touring where you’re headlining, versus something like with The Kooks, where you’re opening.

CA: Well, The Kooks is definitely better, ‘cause you’re playing in front of sold out, thousands of people.

But there is something gratifying about headlining your own show.  It’s real honest.  There’s no bullshit to it at all.

QRO: Are there any new venues you’ve seen that you’ve really liked?

CA: We played a new venue in Chicago that was amazing – Sub T.

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