Your 33 Black Angels on Glamour: 'The Better You Know Us, the Worse You'll Think of Us'
Your 33 Black Angels
Photo by Winnie Cheung
The first rule of Your 33 Black Angels: Don't reveal any personal details. The second rule: There are no rules. Or is that the first rule? Either way, though neither is an actual rule, the psych-pop outfit takes the people out of the equation to concentrate on what is created, and does it in a non-hierarchical, all-ideas-are-welcome fashion, like some hippie, Borg-style collective. In a world of celebrity, where people are lauded and made wealthy and powerful for creating nothing, eliminating the person, the personal, and, most of all, the persona as best you can is a refreshing ideal. In the end, what's created is the only thing that basks in the glow of the spotlight.
"We're a little difficult in that we try not to reveal too much personal information," admits guitarist and singer Dan Rosato, almost apologetically. "The subject of the band and the music and the record is more important than any of our personal information."
"Also," says co-guitarist and singer Josh Westfal, "we're not the average linear character-based band with, 'Hi, I'm Ringo, I do this' — you know, that kind of thing that started sometime in the twentieth century. We're not the only band or project doing it this way. Hopefully, it's just its own entity that just moves along. Hopefully, that isn't too provincial."
But with a new album, Glamour, out May 12, not marshaling all the promotional means available and leaving it up to the art to sell itself is mass-commercial suicide. Not that it can't sell itself: Glamour is a delight of jangling guitars, spacey-sweet vocals, and electronic squiggles, a psych record rooted in beat-pop and experimentalism. Or maybe Your 33 Black Angels' stance is trying to birth an enigma. After all, the album is called Glamour, so maybe Rosato and Westfal want to create an air of mystery.
"Yeah — illusion, actually," Westfal says, softly and sarcastically. "We want attention but not scrutiny. The better you know us, the worse you'll think of us."
What information Rosato and Westfal care to give up after considerable grilling reveals that the band members are based all over New York City, the rehearsal space is in Greenpoint, and the pair launched the band about twelve years ago. Though Rosato and Westfal are the principal lyricists and songwriters who bring the bones of a song to the table, anyone who has something to contribute is welcome to do so after that. The method is even looser for live performances, where just about anyone is welcome to pony up their talents. Well, almost. Don't just show up to the band's record release show at Aviv waving your tambourine and expect to be a player.
"We have a cast of core people we've been playing with on and off for years. Then there are people who aren't playing with us currently, who might be playing with us in the future," says Rosato. "I think almost all of the people on this record have been on our records at some point."
The core people number Williston Cox (bass, keyboards), Jon Reeve (keyboards), Paul "Lion King" Colt (percussion), and drummers John O'Callaghan and Tim Shortle. Rosato admits it's tough to get together to rehearse. "It's not like it will be completely left out in the open," he says. "We have to rehearse a little bit at a time with whoever can make it, whenever they can make time. Then, ideally, we have a couple of rehearsals the week of the show and hopefully we'll tighten it up."
"On our record everything's important, but with the live show it's mostly the drummer," Westfal chimes in. "Hopefully, you know, everyone else is on the same page."
"That was a joke," adds Rosato. A drummer joke, no less.
"It was only half a joke," says Westfal.
"We're not that remarkable, but onstage it's a polarized thing," he continues. "Onstage, if you're performing — and that's part of the hustle of being a musician — that is us. As far as the record goes, that isn't us. We're trying to make something far more special than our clothes and our shoes, or our politics, or any of it. If a record was related that directly to me it wouldn't be that special. It would be really boring, really."
"Yeah, and the next record is going to have to be called Self-Deprecation," Rosato adds wryly.
Your 33 Black Angels perform on Friday, May 15, at Aviv, with Yonatan Gat, Altopalo, and DJ Joel Stones (of Tropicalia in Furs) opening. For ticket information, click here.
See also: Full-Moon Fever Fuels Esperanza Spalding's 'Emily's D+Evolution' Azealia Banks Proves 'Yung Rapunxel' Is Fierce Beyond '212' Jessica Hopper Compiles Greatest Hits for Her First Collection of Rock Criticism
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.