Skinny Vinny: The Answer to Everything
AAJ: Could you give a history of the evolution of Skinny Vinny?
JJ: Jules Vasylenko was out of town, in England. We had a trio with him, Boston Lamb & Veal. This was 2002. We thought he would be mad at us for playing together without him. There was also Vinny van Gogh, there was No Band, there were other projects...There was Dilettante, with Ryan McGuire, and Skinny Vinny came back when Dilettante started to fade. Then we decided to kick up the duo. We went to Toronto, and Baltimore. So this reincarnation? 2007.
JJ: We met at Museum School. I actually had a chess club. This is how I met him. I had a chess club at school, and I got the school to give me some money and to buy boards and little cheap-ass clocks, and I was playing speed chess with people, and I had a few people come at me, three of four, and then Andrew came down once. And I played him and I was very strict, "You can only use one hand," and I was yelling at him for using two hands. We became friends from there.
AAJ: Chess opens up a lot of boxes. Marcel Duchamp, for example...When you play together, is that anything like a chess game?
AE: Once we get into the hustle, it's real quick. We school ourselves on getting stoned and playing speed chess, over and over and over again. By the time we started making music together, it's hurry up and go.
AAJ: So the chess came first and then the love...
AE: Yeah, the first time I met him
JJ: We didn't get along.
AAJ: Is there any competition between you when you play?
JJ: I don't think we could play if there was.
AE: We need each other.
JJ: Even with credits, we're like, "Who goes first?"
AAJ: So what actually goes on, from a musician's point of view, in your duo?
AE: We've developed enough of a language that, when we sit down and play, we're just trying to feel each other out, feel the room and make it happen. We have our language, not to say we're done with developing it.
AAJ: Listening to the room, that's a good thing.
AE: We make some sound, how does the room react to it, how did Josh react to it, now where do we go, where do we go...In a weird sense, we're kind of always looking for the way out. You want to say just enough, you want to phrase it rightbut when things land, get ready to let go.
JJ: Less is more, for sure.
AAJ: In seeing you, and watching your videos, like the one you did in Northampton, last February , the audience was really getting into it, shouting out for "Freebird," and it was very serious music you were playing and you have to listen carefully, but there's a real sympathy
AE: Yeah, there's a physicality that may be serious, but you can see the way we're moving and the sounds we're producing that we're into itand you look around, and the audience is getting into it, even if they don't know what's happening.
AAJ: And there's humor to it.
JJ: Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes it's hard to sound that way without being pretentious. It's a weird line.
AE: That physicalityI think that humor does a lot for me. We play heady, conceptual music. You've got to sit down, take it apart. It's not easy listening. But I think our attention to the moment, our attention to playing it liveI remember the Northampton show. The kids were bopping there heads. We're playing screaming, high-pitched tonesthey were into it! Those shows were big! They'd never heard the sound before.
JJ: That goes along with energy, physicality and energy. I think that brings a certain instinctual awareness. You know it's now.
AAJ: Do you have any kind of musical theory behind what you do?
AE: We're into psychoacoustics. We will play all our sounds in a search for different ways to make our tones beat against each other and collide and make that kind of weird third tone in your ear.
JJ: Making your brain wiggle.
AE: We look out for that... You put two tones next to each other, they get out, and they kind of fluctuate.
JJ: We don't write about it our talk about it, we just call it.
AAJ: Would you call it intuitive or instinctual? Would those labels be accurate?
JJ: Sure, absolutely. We learn it through exploring it. It's always been exploratory and trying to abstract that sound enough where it becomesin you. It's in your head.
AE: We feel it 'cause we made it ourselves, and we've made a lot of mistakes and we've owned those mistakes, and made them happy things or good things...I think we each hear a sound and we play, and maybe it's a little different from what we hear, but we keep moving that target and I think we've covered a heck of a lot of ground.
AAJ: Now do you plan anything ahead, or is it all spontaneous, your performances?
JJ: No, we definitely plan stuff before. We have pieces, but they're
AE: Loose concepts.
AAJ: How do those come about, the pieces?