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Exclusive interview with Beirut

Assistant Arts Editor

Published: Monday, January 26, 2009

Updated: Monday, February 2, 2009 12:02

Assistant Arts Editor Gülfem Demiray of The Miscellany News spoke with Zach Condon of Beirut in an exclusive interview.

The Miscellany News: I read in your previous interviews that you decided that school wasn't really right for you, after trying high school, community college and college. So you went off to Europe with your brother. But why Europe, why not anywhere else?

Zach Condon: I think it's kind of a funny cliché, right? Like the American that wants to get cultured [laughs] ... I went to Europe because, I guess, I consider myself a Francophile. And I'm obsessed with French cinema and Paris. I felt like that was the first place I needed to see if I was gonna drop out of school and really go for it.

MN: Last year you cancelled your tour, you said, because you were overwhelmed by the interest in the band. Were you expecting your songs get this big, while you were just writing out scores in your bedroom?

No, not really. I had a certain amount of cockiness, I guess, as a kid. I cancelled the dates because I just felt we had been touring for so long, I felt like it's no longer about spreading the music, it was about enlarging the career. And it just didn't feel right.

MN: Where did you get inspiration for March of the Zapotec come from?

ZC: Well, I was supposed to do this soundtrack for a Mexican film actually. It was about immigrants and people smuggling, and stuff like that. So I asked the director to give me reference material, and he gave me a giant package of Mexican music of the different regions and the different sounds. But this specific one in Oaxaca really caught my ear because it sounded like music I already do. So, I mean I guess that's what caught my ear and inspired me to take it further. And I ended up not doing the film soundtrack because I wanted to do my own stuff I guess. I was being selfish basically [laughs].

MN: [Laugh] I guess that's always the best. Do you have any favorite tracks of your own? I mean, is there a song that you'd say, ‘This one is really special for me?'

ZC: Let me think … Yeah, you know there're a couple of songs that I re-did because I thought they had more potential than I first gave them. And they're from when I was quite young, actually. "The Shrew" — it's the last song of the EP. This song, I wrote when I was, I think, 16 or 17. And then I re-did it and took it down to Mexico and it just sounds awesome. I mean, for me, that's kind of a favorite. You know, that song has a long history for me.

MN: So, are you going to be playing that song at the Vassar show?

ZC: Yeah. Actually, yeah.

MN: Have you performed at other colleges before?

ZC: Yeah, we played at Princeton once, because I guess they had a kind of summer festival. And that was quite funny, it wasn't anything like the Vassar show. I saw the venue for the Vassar show, and it looks quite beautiful. The thing at Princeton was kind of a shitty outdoor festival thing.

MN: There are going to be Vassar students playing with you, and they are really excited. Some of the ones that I talked to told me that it's like a dream come true for them because they really like your music. I was wondering how you feel about playing with college students?

ZC: I would rather play with them than with seasoned professionals. I mean, I know they want to do it, they're really excited about it, and it's just going to sound so much better because of it. So I'm excited. I've never heard my music played on a full orchestra before, so for me it's going to be ridiculous, too.

MN: My final question … Is there anything you'd like to say to Vassar students?

ZC: [Laugh] I'm such a bad student. Don't follow my example, unless you really know what you're doing!




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