"The Pants that fit" by Marisa Aveling for CMJ Magazine
Stones Throw artist James Pants was recently offered a job with
Red Bull Music Academy. He accepted and, along with his wife
and daughter, packed up his things and left for Cologne, Germany.
“It’s pretty sweet because the advantages of a socialist country
are nice,” he muses. “I need to learn how to speak German
though.” Due to his fortunately newfound distance, Pants now speaks to us
about his self-titled third studio album through a small Skype window. Kraftwerk posters hang
on the wall behind him.
CMJ: I read somewhere that you had been watching a lot of Twin Peaks and call this
your ‘rebel record.’ Can you explain what you mean by that?
James Pants: I think Twin Peaks refers to how it is those ’50s and early ’60s diner kind of
songs, which I associate with that whole motorcycle riding, hamburger stand,
drag racing, whole late ’50s/early ’60s American culture. I was listening to a
lot of 1950s classic pop like Frankie Avalon and it’s just got that doo-wop vibe
to it. I can’t really give a reference but in my head it’s just got that tough guy
kind of mentality. I feel like a lot of people have spent a lot of time rehashing
the ’80s, and even though there are some ’80s sounds, I was influenced
more by the ’50s and ’60s but trying to make a whole new sound.
So it doesn’t have anything to do with the sort of ominous and sinister Twin
Peaks sort of sound?
Well in a way I like everything creepy. My M.O. is that I want pop songs but
with a sinister side. Maybe that’s from too much Gary Wilson and stuff like
that. I guess it is slightly ominous, I like to use a lot of sounds that are slightly
dissonant. Creepy on top of smooth sounds.
You’ve always shied away from big city living, and Twin Peaks is based in a small
town. Do you think that this aspect of your life is coming out on this record?
I think so. I’m a pretty private person in a way, as far as how awkward socially
I am—live shows aside, as I try to be more crazy for that. Big cities usually
tend to be more overwhelming for me.
They’re super fun, I always love visiting, but living there is much more of a
grind. I feel like there are more scenes going on which is good, but if I live
in a town where there is no music scene, I will still be able to make my own
music. You’re not being hit over the head with all these influences so you’re
able to make more original stuff. And it’s cheaper, that’s the main thing.
There’s more money for records and thrift store stuff.
When I look at music and the weirdoes of the world, that’s the kind of thing
I’ve been seeing—they’re from some town that you’ve heard of but never think
of. To me there’s a lot more originality in the smaller towns than the big ones.
James Pants self-titled album comes out May 3