[BadPanda007] Boy Without God – City Kids
Gabriel Birnbaum is Boy Without God and today is your lucky day because you can download all his brilliant discography for free!
Garnering comparisons to Beirut, Elliott Smith, The Microphones, Leonard Cohen, Akron/Family, Neutral Milk Hotel, Stephin Merritt and Sufjan Stevens, he enthusiastically wrote the cheerful “City Kids” for Bad Panda (and Ty Williams curated the sweet drawings).
Boy Without God is the solo project of Boston native and multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Birnbaum, who at his young age has already passed through many musical outlets, from the violent power-electronics of Catholic Skin and the saxophone fronted spazz-rock of The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, to stints with Virgin Records new signing Eli Reed and blog-buzz darlings Drug Rug and a continuing membership in the campfire singalong folk-pop group The Tiny Tornadoes.
Growing up in a musical family (brother Adam is a jazz pianist and sister Sara is a classical cellist) and studying the tenor saxophone through high school, Birnbaum initially pursued a career in avant-garde improvised music, performing in NYC with such luminaries as Andrew D’Angelo and Jim Black, and running the short-lived Boston Jazz Composers Collective.
Eventually feeling frustrated by the lack of a non-musician audience, he decided to try to bring free jazz into the indie rock world.
His next project, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, was a bridging of free jazz and noise rock, equal parts Albert Ayler and Deerhoof, and performed successfully at rock venues for rock audiences, securing a slot opening for Deerhoof. Important learning experience also came through tours in The One AM Radio, Drug Rug, and Eli Paperboy Reed & the True Loves, the last of which Birnbaum had been a member for three years.
Since 2006, Birnbaum has been very gradually shifting his focus to his solo songwriting under the Boy Without God name.
Recording voraciously starting in late 2006, and often utilizing his unique minute-a-day recording method, he had released seven home-recorded EPs and two full-lengths by the start of 2008, all of which are available for free. In summer 2008, after an extensive spring house tour with close friend Alex Morris (The Gilded Moons), he went into the studio with the recording and production guidance of friend Nick Boyajian, and took a more measured approach in the creation of Your Body Is Your Soul, applying his everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to a higher fidelity sound and more carefully considered songs.
Where do you live actually?
My body lives in Boston. My heart roams around, and can often be found in Copenhagen and NYC, among other places.
What is the last thing you ate?
just ate some bread with hummus and hot sauce. The bread was the Rustic Italian loaf from an amazing local bakery called Clearflour. If you’re ever in Boston…
Good bourbon whiskey, good coffee, good beer, good food. I think my real addiction is cultivating tastes that I can’t afford.
I have to say, I really love quotes. Picking one is going to be difficult…um okay, here’s two.
One is the lyric Leonard Cohen identified in an interview as closest to summing up his personal philosophy:
“There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
The other is from a Donald Barthelme story, and it’s a good thing for artists to remember when they are failing, which we will all do perpetually until the day when the vultures of success descend and suddenly we are celebrities who will forever harbor secret inner suspicions of failure, or at the very least fraudulence. This may happen after we’re dead, in which case forget the last part.
“Neglect is useful; consider what La Boheme would be if, in the second act, Rodolfo entered and declared, in a passionate aria, that he had just received a two-year grant from the Ford Foundation.”
I think the movie I have most consistently loved and been moved by is Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2. Aside from being beautiful and stylish, it has the characteristic I find in all my favorite art: an attempt to transcend this world by ultimate, unflinching immersion of oneself in it.
Bon Iver – Beach Baby. One of my favorite songs of recent times. It plucks all the strings in my chest without a single unnecessary note.
Best concert ever?
I think it has to be the show I played at Lades Kælder in Copenhagen in June for the music magazine GAFFA. I had no idea how to recreate my record, which is all me overdubbing things, in a live situation so I stole an idea from my friend Shira and got all my friends to form a huge chorus. Then I managed to talk some of the members of an amazing Danish band called Slaraffenland into being a horn section after meeting them at a bar. We barely had time to practice, and I was so worried, but somehow everything clicked and it was just amazing. The chorus were hammering on beer bottles and screaming at the tops of their lungs, the horns somehow played perfectly after one rehearsal, the audience was singing along. People I’d never seen before came up to me and hugged me afterwards; it was that kind of show.
One of the best shows I ever went to was when I was still in high school. I saw Alan Silva & The Celestial Communication Orchestra in an old church in Boston. It’s a huge band (2 tubas, 2 bassists, 2 drummers…seriously) composed of some of the best musicians left standing from the 60s and 70s free jazz scene, most with some kind of ties to Sun Ra. William Parker, Roy Campbell, Marshall Allen. They played for hours without stopping, and the effect was bizarre. At first it was amazing. Then you got kind of bored. Then it was excruciating and you wanted them to stop more than anything. And then somehow you broke into another layer of listening and it became even more amazing. By the time the show was over my friends and I all felt like we were hallucinating. We spent the next hour or so running crazily up and down Newbury St. (the main shopping street in Boston) until we burned off all that weird energy.
This a perfect place to make nice with some of the venues I know, but honestly, I don’t really like clubs that much. I usually feel uncomfortable in them. I wind up pacing in a huge circle wishing someone would talk to me and then, as soon as someone does, wishing they would go away.
I do really love Zuzu though, which is part of the Middle East in Cambridge, MA. It’s a really small room, warm and red with huge windows and super high ceilings. I only seem to meet awesome people there. I also like Lades, which I mentioned before, because the stage is really low and the musicians are right up next to the audience. I like venues that don’t feel like venues.
Favourite place on earth?
My favorite places I’ve only been to once.
Like the muddy field in Dragør, Denmark, in June, 2009 where they had the Dragør Market, which was basically like a county fair crossed with a huge outdoor garage sale and had a ride for kids where they got put in huge plastic bubbles and bobbed around on the top of a small pool.
Or the sad karaoke bar in Pensacola, FL where an overweight woman sang Dashboard Confessional songs to a near empty room until my friend Alex belted out Tainted Love, a song he’d never heard, and got a standing ovation.
My favorite place is my memory, basically.
Where would you wish to wake up tomorrow?
In a mountain cabin with lots of food and coffee and wine and books and a machine that lets me stop time because there’s way too much I’m supposed to be doing in Boston this week for me to be reading books in a secluded mountain cabin.
Discography (as Boy Without God):
There Are Bones in the Tres (2006, self-released) [dl]
Autobiography EP (2007, self-released) [dl]
Hangups EP (2007, self-released) [dl]
Songs to Sit in Empty Room To EP (2007, self-released) [dl]
I Am the Place Where All Lies Start EP (2007, self-released) [dl]
The Pity Parade EP (2007, self-released) [dl]
One Day the Distance Between Myself and God Will Disappear EP (2008, self-released) [dl]
Your Body is Your Soul (2009, self-released) [dl] or [buy]
Eight Delicate Olives Slowly Chewed at Midnight EP (2009, self-released) [dl] or [buy]