STEPHEN MALKMUS AND THE JICKS at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Sunday (May 18). $17.50. 416-532-1598, 416-870-8000.
Remember john lennon's infamous quip about how the Beatles were bigger than Jesus? Well, in some circles Stephen Malkmus is bigger than the Beatles.The day before I chat with the former Pavement frontman, I casually mention the interview in conversation with some thriftily clad indie kids and watch boys and girls alike swoon in lo-fi bliss. You can't throw a stone in a group of post-shoegazer fans without hitting someone who cites Pavement's seminal Slanted & Enchanted as an influence.
"Well, it doesn't, like, get you a cup of coffee or anything," he chuckles sardonically during an early-morning phone call.
Maybe it's just the inhuman hour of the interview - our conversation is punctuated by yawns - but his monosyllabic answers suggest that Malkmus is slightly pissed that the myth of Pavement trails him like toilet paper on a shoe. Makes sense, considering he's been flying somewhat solo since his old band folded back in 2000.
Matador released his self-titled solo debut, a collection of slightly shaky indie rock tunes, back in 2001. Since then, Malkmus has been touring relentlessly with his new band, the Jicks. His new Pig Lib disc, which dropped in March, is credited to Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, so the band is obviously factoring more heavily.
Malkmus contends that while his first post-Pavement disc was recorded Motown-style with a ragtag group of musicians after a mere five days practising in the studio, Pig Lib's more cohesive vibe stemmed from extended jam sessions in a basement festooned with Christmas lights.
He also claims the weirdly prog-rock vibe that threatens to overtake the disc is the result of trying to keep things interesting while aiming for an organic feel.
"I wanted to make a record in that American style - and British, too - where people just play together. If I was gonna take more of a Radiohead approach, breaking up beats and stuff, it wouldn't go that prog route, because you wouldn't want Thom Yorke on his drum machine while all the other people are playing. You'd take something from about five months ago and chop it up and chop something else up and have him sing and click that in over top of the beats.
"I was also listening to more acid rock, I suppose. Songs from 69 to 70, where the blues mix with our efforts to stretch things out a bit, so that played into it."
Aside from old-school prog, Malkmus has always plundered pioneering post-punk Brit band the Fall for artistic inspiration. Rumour has it, however, that Fall frontman Mark E. Smith has never been a major Malkmus fan, to say the least.
"Well, he's never met me, so I don't think he can't stand me for that reason. We had a sort of cavalier, devil-may-care attitude with the press in England. When you're young and you go through that English press thing, with all those magazine covers, we probably seemed a little bit light, like 'We like the Fall!' And maybe he thought that wasn't cool. We were just fans who thought they were a cool band, using what we could to make a good record. But on Slanted & Enchanted I appropriated some of their style for about four or five songs. Maybe photocopied would be more accurate. Maybe he feels bad about that. He's a trippy guy and has done some great music."