Tonight at Gabe’s: Two psych-folk legends team up for a night of beautiful weirdness

New Bums
Ben Chasny (pictured) and Donovan Quinn will be bummin’ around Gabe’s tonight. — photo by Lino Brunetti

New Bums is a new project by two of the strangest, yet most talented, folk musicians to emerge in the past decade. Ben Chasny (best known for his solo project Six Organs of Admittance) and Donovan Quinn (best known for leading the psychedelic band Skygreen Leopards) play very similar music to begin with, but each with an idiosyncratic approach. As such, fans of both have eagerly awaited this collaboration, which proves how far two of the strangest guys in indie rock could push each other.

The duo released their debut record, Voices in a Rented Room, on Chicago’s Drag City label this February. The album took five years to finish, but the final result is a slack, off-the-cuff affair. There’s an intensity within all of their songs, most evident in their lyrics, but it’s buried by drunken, sleepy deliveries. The songs could easily be live, first-take recordings, with all their loosely interlocking guitar parts that seem to stretch out and tense up at just the right time.

New Bums will perform tonight at Gabe’s along with Earth and Circuit des Yeux. Why not get to know these two a little better before the show?

How did you two meet and how did the band come together?

We met through the legendary Willem Jones in San Francisco, started having late night drinks together which turned into cross-eyed jam sessions, and finally that mutated into New Bums.

I read your collaboration began about 5 years ago — what was the
process like and why did it take so long?

We live on opposite sides of the country now so it took awhile to make enough time to record an LP. After writing a bunch of songs we slowly started to figure out what worked for the band and what didn’t. Once the aesthetic of the band was branded on our brains we took a lot of time on the writing and then tried to record them quickly so we kept the off-the-cuff feeling we’d developed during those first late night sessions.

In your “Artist Conversation” in BOMB, you two talk about being on tour for forty days and forty nights (and in the middle of Lent, no less). How is the tour going? Have you been tempted to turn stones into loaves of bread or anything like that?

Tour has been great. We’ve been able to develop a weird sound that balances “out” electric guitar and folky acoustic. However we’re saving all our miracles for the apocalypse.

What are your biggest shared influences? What are your biggest influences that you don’t share?

Both of us listen to a lot of music so there are a lot of bands that fall into both categories. Obviously we both like Jacobites, Big Star, and outlaw country. We’ve had some disagreements on the quality of The Fall and Fleetwood Mac.

Where did the tag “Old Drunk America” come from? Is it a reaction to the oft-used “New Weird America” that’s been frequently used to describe your previous projects?


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Rian Murphy of Drag City came up with the tag. He’s a funny dude. It’s indeed a joke referencing “New Weird America.”

What’s your favorite song and/or album written by one another?

Donavon Quinn: One Thousand Birds and Shelter from the Ash

Ben Chasny: Winter In A Rented Room and Your Wicked Man.

Do you guys have any plans for when the tour is over?

After tour we are going to sleep for a very long time then head overseas for more shows. That will be followed by more recordings and more shows until we drop dead.

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