Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.
Brooklyn trio The Library Is On Fire is a straightforward, all-thrills, unpretentious alt-rock blast — a band that understands the perfect balance between noise and melody. It helps that frontman Steve Five is a working engineer to the art-stars, tweaking the most recent albums by Red Dawn II, USAISAMONSTER ,and Oneida. Sure, he’s adopted a good bit of their crunch and wail, but melodically, the Library On Fire could have been introduced by Matt Pinfield circa 1996 between some new ones by Local H, Hole and Dinosaur Jr. Unlike their Alternative Nation forebears, however, TLIF like their choruses loud and their verses loud too. Much of the credit for that can be given to drummer Pete Sustarsic, who just beats the everliving fuck out of his drums all over their upcoming debut, Magic Windows, Magic Nights (out April 6 on Fill In The Blank/RED). First taste, “Vanessa’s Theatre Of Peace” chugs like a Jawbox for the Death By Audio generation, full of Five’s well-played harmonies, while Sustarsic and bassist Mark Shue take turns at being virtuoso and caveman.
The Library Is On Fire frontman Steve Five on “Vanessa’s Theatre of Peace”:
What is “Vanessa’s Theatre of Peace” about?
“Vanessa’s Theatre of Peace” is about the comfort of being caught in a dream state where the feeling of someone whom you’ve lost has gone away. If you’ve ever had a dream where you gain that lost feeling or state, then upon waking you lose the feeling again, that was the starting point for the song. From there, it was an attempt to work out that cognitive dissonance and resolve those feelings of loss instead of regressing back to nostalgia and bad feelings again. The tragic thing is that you really can’t control your dreams, so a person is totally helpless to the recurrence of this feeling of loss, even if they want to get past it. It’s an attempt at joy.
What inspired the creation of this song?
There was a very special person who was very dear to me, and in classic style, I lost them pretty much unequivocally. I had an extremely difficult time with that, and found myself to blame mostly, to the point of pretty much a total meltdown and moving out of New York City. This song was sort of a Jeff Mangum-esque attempt at describing my state after surviving the loss. For a long time I had recurring dreams about them. I still do, occasionally…
Who is your favorite Vanessa, living or dead, and why?
Probably the Vanessa of the song, because she’s not real, splits into two, is at once transgressive yet innocent and is totally beautiful. And she has good style. That said, all three of us are extremely fond of the Vanessa who opened Vanessa’s Dumpling House in Lower Manhattan down by where Sonic Youth used to live… At first the song was called “Veronica’s Theatre of Peace”, but our drummer kept saying “Vanessa” because he couldn’t remember. It made more sense to us to call it that.
Tell me about making the noises at the beginning.
We set out this old solid-state cassette recorder at practice one day. It’s this huge green thing with a built-in condenser mic that says “educational model” on it that I found at a thrift store in Ohio. We were totally just fucking around, going totally apeshit, then spliced it in for dynamic effect. It’s basically an excuse to freak out and do something weird during our set, like some mutant musical Pentecostal exorcism. It changes every time. I donated the recorder to [GBV producer] Todd Tobias for use at his studio.
You did some recording with Robert Pollard. What was that session like?
I went over to Todd’s studio, sometimes we go get cheeseburgers. That particular time I went over and he was like, “Do you want to play guitar on Bob’s record?” and I was like “Yes.” Bob had already completed vocals, I think. There was a guitar plugged into the board, ready to go, and Todd started the song. I listened to it once and was just getting warmed up, then the song ended and Todd was like “Ok, that was good.” I was like, “Wait, what just happened?” I couldn’t even remember what I played until I heard the record. It still seems surreal. It is one of the greatest pleasures of my life and an absolute honor to even be a small blip in the GBV canon.
Tell me about the wildest show that you’ve your loft space, “TLIOF Headquarters.”
Oh man. The School’s Out Tequila Loft Party. Women, Library, Red Dawn II and Knyfe Hyts. I sang for Knyfe Hyts on a song and freaked myself out when I started sounding like that Deftones dude. Some dude from Greece puked up three flights of the stairwell, and I woke up to my landlord the next, well, afternoon. Someone also threw a rock through our window, presumably because of the noise.
What’s been the most memorable show you’ve played in New York?
We played Devil’s Night at Glasslands last year as Nivarna, our Nirvana cover band. It was really intense, I was totally spent three songs in, sweating in a wig and wool cardigan. Our friend Wolfy did a cameo as Curt Kirkwood. There was a girl crying when we were done, and these people saying “Fuck you, Kurdt! You killed yourself!” I think they actually thought I was him for a second. I didn’t know what to think of that. It freaked me out.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?
Doubles Trinidadian sandwiches on Nostrand Avenue and kimchee dogs at Snacky in Williamsburg.
The Library Is On Fire! plays April 8 at Death By Audio with Doug Gillard of Guided by Voices and Landlady