As the mind behind Silver Jews, David Berman commands one of the most devoted cult followings in music. Paired with a gnarly drawl and charmingly shambolic music, Berman's sometimes obtuse, always poetic lyrics have made him into an indie rock luminary. Now that he's finally gotten over his aversion to touring, that luminosity is on display for public consumption. It almost never happened, though; half a decade ago, Berman's bout with substance abuse nearly took his life.

Now the poet-turned-rocker is happy and healthy, and he's going back on tour in support of his sixth full-length album, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea. This latest Silver Jews jaunt kicks off next Thursday, August 28, when the band will be the inaugural act in BenCo Presents' series of concerts at Milo Arts, 617 E. Third Ave.

Berman's interviews are known to be as pithy and insightful as his lyrics, so I couldn't resist the chance to shoot him a few questions over e-mail. His unabridged responses are after the jump.

As the mind behind Silver Jews, David Berman commands one of the most devoted cult followings in music. Paired with a gnarly drawl and charmingly shambolic music, Berman's sometimes obtuse, always poetic lyrics have made him into an indie rock luminary. Now that he's finally gotten over his aversion to touring, that luminosity is on display for public consumption. It almost never happened, though; half a decade ago, Berman's bout with substance abuse nearly took his life.

Now the poet-turned-rocker is happy and healthy, and he's going back on tour in support of his sixth full-length album, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea. This latest Silver Jews jaunt kicks off next Thursday, August 28, when the band will be the inaugural act in BenCo Presents' series of concerts at Milo Arts, 617 E. Third Ave.

Berman's interviews are known to be as pithy and insightful as his lyrics, so I couldn't resist the chance to shoot him a few questions over e-mail. His unabridged responses are after the jump.

You used to be so adamantly opposed to touring or even playing live. You didnít want to be the center of attention in a room. Now you tour regularly, and you seem excited about it. Can you describe how that transition occurred?

From my perspective itís been a matter of saying yes to those 45 shows in 2006. And to another set of 60 shows in 2008. If you do something once you might do it twice. In 2008 bands ę stay on Ľ 24 hours a day 365 days a year. The bands of this era donít go on sabbaticals. No one can afford to turn down an opportunity. The question is, should the Silver Jews go into such perpetual promotion or not ?

Does the shift in approach have anything to do with surviving the horribly rough period you went through?

The current, festival-ready, approach is simple case of business doing business deeper inside the creative process than ever before. The historically irrational pursuit of fame has been taken up by pragmatic and ambitious individuals with unbelievable tools.

What do you think makes a good concert?

I like room to stand. I like it to be loud. I never go to shows of over 300 people. I havenít seen a show in an auditorium or a stadium since i was a kid.

And more specifically, now that youíre performing, what do you think makes for a good Silver Jews show?

I guess Iíd have to say ę antics Ľ.

You played some shows with Monotonix. Was that as bizarre a combination as it seems to be?

Monotonix are such a real time event to have right before a nostaligia trip. it creates a great feeling of openness in the crowd, who may come in feeling a little strait-jacketed, nervous about whether the Silver jews will be good or not. Most of the audiences have been completely taken by surprise. Weíve had the open in SF and Berlin and Tel Aviv and it always works. By the time I get there everybody has been smiling for while.

Your stop in Columbus is the first show for a new experimental venue. Itís an old school building that has housed artistsí live/work spaces for the past couple decades, and now theyíve built a new stage in the auditorium and are bringing in some of the shows that would typically have come to Little Brotherís, the club you played last time you came to town. Anyway, do you enjoy playing in unusual settings? Do you have a favorite venue to play a show?

I didnít know that about the venue. Itís the first show of the tour also.

Theyíll be christening it with silver jews.

There was a 130 year old vaudeville theatre in Leeds called City Varieties.

Houdini had worked the stage many times. I should have worn a bowler hat.

I was reading a long interview with you at Pitchfork, and you mentioned that you spend most of your time reading non-fiction, that you donít see the value in fiction. In the same interview you talked about how the new record has a lot of story-songs. Do you feel like made-up stories have more value in the context of a song than they do in the context of a book?

To the degree that a novelís end is itself, and thus kind of useless to me, I think I believe more than ever in the parable or anecdote as a transferable unit of knowledge, whose end is not necessarily itself.

A long story song can kind of push this line. They can give you that same feeling of being stranded in an irrelevant dimension that a novel can.

You also mentioned that the band is a sort of conceptual project, and that you donít want to dilute the essence of the Silver Jews by collaborating with serial collaborators like Will Oldham or including songs by your wife, Cassie. Where do you draw the line? What are the creative parameters for the concept that is the Silver Jews?

The parameters are officially cloudy. On one seven inch we even took in Nico for a song. But itís also true that ę we ę is just a disguise for me.

Youíve said that earlier in your career you were trying to make the same record over and over again, but Tanglewood Numbers was a departure from that. With Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, do you feel like you were trying to make another Tanglewood Numbers, or have you moved to a place where you can approach every record as a new entity?

This one stumps me for some reason.

Are you familiar with any of the bands coming out of Columbus these days? Times New Viking, Psychedelic Horseshit, the Black Swans?

I like the Times New viking and psychedelic horseshit a lot. Both make me laugh in a way I associate with Ohio. Ohians are the wittiest of all midwesterners, and artists in Ohio are funnier than anywhere else.

Ohio is a lot like Nashville. They get teased a lot, but they are cheerful anyway.

Nashville is known as this big music city, but much of it seems like session guys doing big-budget productions and bar bands playing covers. Have you encountered any bands there outside of that universe? Anybody making music there that resonates with you?

On the rock level the king is Dave Cloud. He is a magisterially psychedelic old crank. Dave Cloud and his Gospel of Power. Be your own pet was really good. The Cherry Blossoms. Spiritual Family Reunion.

Most of the best stuff happens at the Springwater. The place is visually such a classic dive bar it constantly gets rented during the day for CMT videos.

Thanks Chris, looking forward to being in Columbus,,,,,

DCB