Erik Kang used to show off his vast musical talents in Tiara, but for the past two years he's been traveling the country playing violin, pedal steel and guitar for Indianapolis-based Margot & the Nuclear So & So's. The day before his band played Lollapalooza, Kang took a break from the festivities to chat.
Erik Kang used to show off his vast musical talents in Tiara, but for the past two years heís been traveling the country playing violin, pedal steel and guitar for Indianapolis-based Margot & the Nuclear So & Soís. The day before his band played Lollapalooza, Kang took a break from the festivities to chat.
Seen anything good today? So far today I saw Yeasayer. They were rad. Our tour manager does work for them too, so heís the one who introduced me to the band. So I definitely wanted to check them out. They were really, really good.
Yeah, I saw them at SXSW and I liked them a lot better here. I think they sound better with a good sound system. Yeah, they kind of owned the stage, which is somethingóI think itís a little bit daunting to come here and play on a stage that big. But they did a great job. They killed it.
So even though you guys have a few festivals under your belt, you still consider it daunting? Yeah, absolutely. Earlier on this tour we did Forecastle Festival, but we played earlier in the day and there was hardly anyone there so it was really easy. We actually used it as ó I guess you could call it a dry run for Lollapalooza. Last year we did Monolith Festival at Red Rocks, and that was really scary actually. I think that was the first time we played on a stage that big outside, and honestly weíre so used to having bad sound systems that when you get a good one, you feel really exposed or something. Like all of the sudden youíre extra in tune with what youíre doing right and wrong. So yeah, itís still kind of a scary thing for sure. And you kind of feel guilty when you drink too much early in the day.
Well you guys are playing pretty early. So weíll probably be drunk by noon. (Laughs.)
Your record is coming out soon on Epic, correct? Well, we actually have two records coming out. The story is basically that the label wasnít really sure what they thought about our record as a whole, so they wanted to put out a record from the same session. We recorded for two months in Chicago, and at the end of it we had over 20 songs. And basically it came down to song selection. But our compromise with the label was basically that they put out both records, our version and their version. So on Sept. 29, our version of the record, which is called Animal!, will come out on vinyl and digital. And on Oct. 7, their version of the record, which is called Not Animal, will come out on CD, vinyl and digital. They share five songs, but there are seven songs that are different on the records. The sequence, the artwork, everything is different between the records. And yeah, thereís five songs that are in common, but I think just listening to the records youíll get a different feel depending on what the angle was.
What was it about the bandís tracklist that they took issue with? How would you differentiate the two records? I think our focus when we were recording was just to make the best contiguous work that we could. Artistically, I think that our record makes sense from start to finish. Epic wanted to make sure we got a lot of exposure, so a lot of the songs they chose were ones people might take an immediate ó like they might have a more obvious hook or something like that that might help people along, I guess. I donít know if Iím saying that right. I just feel like their selections of songs are the ones that are maybe a little more accessible to a wider audience.
So itís kind of the classic band vs. label thing? Yeah, a little bit, but at the end of the day theyíve been really accommodating. I donít know many bands that get to put out their record and a second record at the same time. We just put out this Daytrotter session. I donít know if you know about that. Itís a little EP we did live for Daytrotter. But itís been doing pretty well, and it kind of previews the new songs a little bit. So weíll see what people think. Ultimately I think itís just going to boil down to what people want more. And none of the songs that we recorded in Chicago were songs that we didnít want to do. Itís like, weíre happy with both records, itís just if we had to choose one to put out, it would have been ours.
How do they promote something like that? I think in some ways weíre lucky because most of our fans are already keyed in to what weíre doing. We use our MySpace quite a bit and post updates as to whatís going on with the band, so I donít think weíre really going to be surprising people by doing what weíre doing. And I think ultimately with our music comes the artwork and everything; we have a very distinct look to everything that we put out. I donít really concern myself with how theyíre going to market it. I just see it as hopefully more people will want to listen to us just because thereís so much out there to listen to, and if they like some of it theyíll want to get the other stuff. I donít know if that answers your question.
I just wasnít sure if they were going to put more emphasis on the one with their tracklist or whatever. Right. I think at the end of the day, I donít want to put words in their mouth, but I think if any of the songs grips someone, theyíre going to be happy. Because ultimately itís all coming out under the Epic brand, so whether itís something from us or from their tracklistingÖ
Is the future looking like lots and lots of touring? Yeah, basically. We went a really long time between that first record and this one, and we donít ever want to go that long again, so ó a lot of that was not our fault. Itís not by choice that we took that long. We had a guy on the Daytrotter website refer to our record as The Tofu Democracy. That was kind of an interesting dig on us. But hopefully it wonít be looked at that way. Hopefully it will come out. I mean, the press release and everythingís out, so itís happening. Theyíre promoting it and everything like that. I just hope people donít look at it in that light. Weíre an evolving band. Itís not like we were meant to be the same as when that first record came out three years ago.
How did you get hooked up with these guys in the first place? I used to play with Tiara, and Tiara was on tour with Miranda Sound, and we played a show in St. Louis along with Margot & the Nuclear So & Soís, in their form prior to me joining. I ended up playing foosball and hanging out with those dudes for like four hours that night, and we just hit it off really well. And whenever they were in Columbus or Cleveland Iíd try to go out to see them. We became really good friends, and they invited me out a couple times to just play with them in Indianapolis. And it just so happened that their cellist didnít really want to tour anymore, so they asked me to come on tour and basically join the band.
So when that all took place I was kind of following what was going on, and I definitely wanted to take the opportunity at the time. I was playing with the Cabdrivers, but Tiara was already over, and I think Eric was focusing on doing a lot of more solo or slimmed-down, pared-down shows. So it was kind of a perfect opportunity for me to go and do Margot. They picked me up on their way to Cincinnati. We played that show, no rehearsals, and then we went straight to New York for CMJ. We played three shows there, one of which was recorded for XM Radio without ever having rehearsed to play with me, which was really scary. But I think based on that stuff they thought I could hang with them (laughs), so it worked out. It was kind of a trial by fire I guess.
Any plans to uproot and move to Indianapolis? No. Iíve discovered that Indianapolis is a cool city. I think in some ways itís very parallel to Columbus. But in other ways I still prefer to live (in Columbus). I take the Megabus. Iím actually a huge endorser of the Megabus service. Usually I only have to go into the city for a couple days before weíre going to leave for any sort of tour, and ultimately when weíre on tour it doesnít matter what city I live in because Iím not going to spend any time there.
Do you still get to be around Columbus very much? I was home half of June and most of July. Iíll probably be on tour for like a month, home for 10 days, on tour again. When Iím home I try to keep busy, so I go to the music stores, I go to shows as much as I can. Whenever Iím home I think I just fall right into place. I see all my friends. I still check out the main Columbus websites and try to stay afloat about current issues. I heard about the Katie Reiter thing after I left, and that was pretty upsetting. Even though she had moved on to New York, it was still sort of ó she had pretty strong Columbus ties, and it was really unfortunate to hear what happened to her. And of course Noel (Sayre), but I was home to hear about that.
I donít want to end on such a sad note. Is there anything else Iím not asking you about? I think weíre going to try and play in Columbus before the end of the year, hopefully. If that happens, Iíd love for people to come check us out. Iím really excited about the opportunity to just kind of ó you know, I think there are a lot of really great bands out of Columbus, and I always try to say good things about them when Iím out of town and I hope the scene will appreciate what Margotís doing. I have high hopes for Columbus enjoying what we do. Thatís where I live. Thatís my favorite place these days to hang out. I know that sounds really stupid, but I just really like it there. So I always tell people to hang out, come check out Northstar Cafe and everything else in Columbus.