Leaving LA sparkling on the ground
Robert Deeble relocates to Seattle, resurfaces with new album due this summer
Published: Friday, February 28, 2003
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 21:07
The music of Robert Deeble is a testament to the joy of hidden surprises. The human tendency to be wary of the unfamiliar is one that we've likely all shared. Yet, there are those rare occasions where, in removing ourselves from the comfort of the mainstream, we discover something so unexpectedly beautiful that it reshapes the manner in which we think about the unknown.
Anyone who loves music has probably had it happen to them at some point. You construct expectations around an artist -- or carry none at all -- and are pleasantly surprised when those expectations are shattered by the genuine brilliance of what you finally hear.
Robert Deeble has no shortage of fans that could claim a similar experience in terms of their first exposure to the singer/songwriter -- myself included. His minimalist folk-sensibilities seem to evoke the otherwise latent vulnerabilities of his audience, rendering one of the most intimate listening experiences since Nick Drake's release of Pink Moon.
We caught up with the neo-Seattleite to learn about all of those things a song just doesn't tell you.
Jesse Robert: How does one only release two albums in a ten-year span and still manage to maintain a legitimate career? You have a huge following, but you haven't put out too much material.
Robert Deeble: Good question. I don't know. I've kind of put records out like the Olympics, once every four years on average. There were four track recordings that circulated a long time ago but really only two commercial full lengths. The track record gets goofy on dates because labels re-release stuff and often the art is done a year before the actual release (Earthside Down said '98 on the credits & released in'99). But yeah, kind of amazing ...
JR: What prompted you to move to Seattle at this point?
RD: I was located in Long Beach. It's a pretty cool little town.
JR: How does the music scene differ (LA compared to Seattle)?
RD: LA is kind of a mystery. It's the capital of the music industry but a zero for an actual community. I guess my way of explaining it is that all the lawyers and labels are there for the upper echelon of pop, classic rock and all that, but not new music. Old money, you know? People come into LA to talk to their lawyers or label and then play a show while there at the Roxy or something, but the rest of the time LA clubs have ridiculous no-name bands on the marquee, usually some pay-to-play college band or something. LA proper has no scene of its own ... its a really strange place, no pride of ownership. Silverlake is still cool and has replaced anything LA had, although it still carries some of ambivalence, there is still some life there.
JR: Is your way of life in Seattle a huge departure from that of Southern California?
RD: Very much so.
JR: Do audiences differ much?
Robert: Yeah, there is an audience ... (laughs). My wife and I wanted to move north for a long time and were waiting for the right time. There's an energy here, without sounding too earthy, an energy that LA doesn't have. Anytime I've toured, I've felt it, intellectually and artistically. I think generally in the northwest people just have this vibe about going out and doing what they want to do, regardless of age or scene. You get on the bus, and talk to somebody ... they're going to their job but they are really [trying to] start a company that plants a memorial tree for folks instead of sending flowers ... you know, some crazy idea on the Internet. Everybody's got their thing. It's refreshing. In LA, everybody's got their drive-in condo, they don't talk to anybody, they don't dream, they just bake in the sun, make money and go dead. We decided to come up here for a couple of reasons. One was the energy. Another was to explore some new life avenues. I'm going to grad-school this year.
JR: Oh, really? Where are you going?
RD: Without getting too into it, I'm enrolled in a very unusual seminary. Their approach is one that combines psychology and seminary studies together. I'm getting what they call an MSN (masters of spiritual nurture ... sounds like a cult leader, I know). It's a short program and depending how I feel about it I may broaden it to a masters in counseling.
JR: Do you plan on doing some sort of social work with that?
RD: I'd like to start a private practice at some point, in tandem with what I do now. That way people could tell me their sick lives and I could write songs off them and make a ton of money.
JR: Just make sure they sign the rights away first before you do that.
RD: My career is so low profile, they'd never know. Seriously, [while] touring years back I realized that I really enjoyed listening to people's stories, and that all my songs were just stories about myself, and others I cared about. I believe in the beauty of human life. I always have, and I'd find it much more meaningful to work with people than machines for a living ... so who knows.
JR: I told Dave Bazan from Pedro the Lion, at a show a couple of months back, that you had relocated back to Seattle. He was surprised and said he'd probably run into you eventually.
RD: (laughs) I love that guy.
JR: If the next album he records is actually the last Pedro album, like he's hinted, and he takes more of an acoustic route, I'm hoping for a Deeble/Bazan super group! Any chance of that?
RD: You need to ask him that! (laughs) I'll play drums. It doesn't bother me! Anything Dave Bazan wants to do I'm there. To be honest, I saw Bazan, about a month ago, at a show that he was doing but I don't think he saw me. I've kind of been a hermit, really, since I've lived here. The only one that really knows I'm here is Rosie (Thomas, from Sub Pop Records) cause we have mutual friends. I ran into Damien [Jurado] a month back. But yeah, the Pedro show was a solid packed night (as usual), and I wasn't about to hobnob. I do love that guy, and I love his writing. He always seems to be a genuine person, we don't know each too well but I think we have a lot in common.