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Hospitality: It Turns Out Our Music is Kind of Friendly Sounding

Music InterviewWeston PaganoComment

New York pop rock trio Hospitality hit the indie scene after their self-titled debut album was released by Merge in January of this year, drawing comparisons to Tennis and Belle and Sebastian. Transverso caught up with lead singer and writer Amber Papini at the Radio Room, a small dive bar in Greenville, South Carolina, where her band would be the last of four playing that night. The noise inside and “wet paint” signs above the benches by the door led us to chat standing in the parking lot, competing with the sounds of nearby traffic in the darkening autumn air.

TRANSVERSO: How have you enjoyed touring so far?

AMBER PAPINI: It’s been great, we went on these tours earlier in the year with Eleanor Friedberger and Tennis and that was awesome. Now we’re headlining and we get to pick out our own opening act, Teen, and they’re really great.

What’s the biggest show you’ll be doing this year?

We’re headlining Bowery in New York on November 2nd.

So how did you decide on the name Hospitality for both the band and your album?

Well for the album, I don’t know why we chose Hospitality. We went through a couple ideas; I guess we liked the name for the band ‘cause it’s sort of anti-rock and roll, anti-angst, and we always thought we could be like an edgy rock and roll band and have a name like Hospitality which would juxtapose with the meaning of hospitality, but it turns out our music is kind of friendly sounding so people think that we’re like twee, and I don’t know, kind of cutesy or something.

And now you can be rude to everybody.

[Laughs] Yeah now I can be rude.

How do you feel about being labeled “twee”?

Oh I don’t mind it, I like twee music actually. It’s weird, I didn’t really understand the definition and then I looked it up; I read some articles that people wrote about it and the music. I kind of like [the band] Orange Juice. It’s a really broad, weird description, first of all. I don’t know. I definitely don’t think that people are going to describe us that way with the 7” or the new material that were making.

So I understand that’s coming out on Tuesday, tell us a little about that.

It’s The Drift / Monkey 7” and comes out October 30th. I guess it’s a much more live recording than the record ‘cause its basically just the band playing and there’s not a lot of overdubs, and like I said, I don’t think that people are going to think “twee” when they listen to it.

Your mix of cheery, upbeat music and often more cynical lyrics creates an interesting juxtaposition. What is your thought process behind that?

I guess I always like music that does that. I like writers that do that. I’m a big fan of Elvis Costello, and I think I’m a pretty cynical person so it’s inevitable that it’s going to come out, but I also really like pop music and I like catchy melodies and all that, so I think that they can live together, you know, peacefully or happily.

Your debut EP came out back in 2008, why such a long time until the album?

I guess we had a few delays, one being Brian, our bass player, had an opportunity to tour with this band called White Rabbits.

I just saw them open for The Shins.

Yeah that’s right, they’re really big and they’re really good.  Brian wanted the opportunity and it was great and he really enjoyed himself, and the problem was while he was touring with them we didn’t really know when he was going to be back, so we had one-off shows here and there, and then getting in the studio, logistically, was sort of problematic. Finally, when we did get organized and get into the studio to record this record, then we were able to push things forward with Hospitality, basically.

New York is referenced a lot in your music. How has the urban setting influenced you?

Because I’m not from New York -  I’m from Kansas City -  I always sort of dreamed and idolized NYC, and I think, being a foreigner, it’s easier for me to notice little things and I can sort of pick up on stuff that, maybe, somebody that has lived there all their life and just sort of takes it for granted, can’t. I’m finding that I think distance always helps with writing and I feel like now that I’ve been away from Kansas City for, like, ten years now I’m going back and I’m tapping into that landscape and that story. It’s more comfortable for me to write about that world now.

You used to be a teacher. What was that like?

Oh, that was great. I pursued teaching ‘cause I thought it would be a good balance between being able to make music, and teaching. [It's] creative and you’re working with kids and you have lots of vacations and summers off, so I thought I could have a nice job, an interesting job that’s working with interesting people and doing interesting things, and then it would also allow me the time to do my own creative work, so it was really a happy relationship. And then when the record came out, we had to tour so much that I had to say goodbye and quit and it was very sad, but I think they’re happy for me now.

Did your students enjoy having a rock star teacher?

Yeah, I think they did. They were really impressed, and I think it was a big deal for them. They saw a video that we made, and I remember this little girl watching the video when we were in the classroom and I was standing there, and she kept looking at the screen and looking at me, and looking at the screen and looking at me, and I think it was like ‘Wow!’ They kept saying ‘That doesn’t sound like you!’ And the singing, they couldn’t believe that it was my voice. It was funny just to hear their reaction.

What is your favorite album of the last year?

For 2012 I really like the Dirty Projectors’ new record and Frank Ocean and Tame Impala; we’ve been listening to that record in the van.

I’ve been getting into Tame Impala too, it’s like John Lennon and Cream had an Australian love-child.

Yeah, it’s a really great record, very 70’s and kind of psychedelic. What else… oh, I like the new Grizzly Bear record, too. I guess that’s just off the top of my head. There are a lot of good albums out right now.

Any plans to get back in the recording studio any time soon?

Definitely, after this tour I’m going to just kind of lock myself up and write more songs, and we’re going to work together as a band, and hopefully we’ll be ready by 2013 to record. So that’s the plan.

You’ll have to make sure your roof doesn’t collapse on you like with Arcade Fire.

Yeah, were looking out for that. We’re going to try to get home, actually, there’s a hurricane coming and we’re going to try to get home before that hits.

Ever thought about doing a show in the middle of a hurricane?

Yeah, we have actually. We sort of did in Florida, there was like a rainstorm happening in the middle. That would be cool, that would be awesome, yeah. [Laughs]