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August 1, 2006

Five Important Questions with Your Black Star

    your black starI heard this album — Sound From the Ground — a while ago, many months ago in fact, when I did a piece on Your Black Star that managed to upset a surprising amount of people in New Zealand (quickly: the band members had a poor tour experience that I cited, after which I commented in the piece about New Zealanders being quite fond of themselves, and then the Internet took over. Selah). Now, after being released by labels in England, Australia and Japan — to some critical acclaim — this album is finally coming out in the United States, which is good for the band and good for people who need to hear this album. It is good. Its title, in fact, is representative of its very essence, which is rare for a band: the sound is raw, visceral, and as such, somewhat ethereal.     YBS is all about transformation. One of the greatest advantages to creativity is the ability to change your output, and that’s really what this record is all about. This band has gone from a rather wimpy rehash of its influences to something bold and innovative. Singer-guitarist Jeremy Johnson has pissed on all the trepidation with which his somewhat fragile voice used to quaver; he’s confident in his lyrics, which drip with intelligent human-condition observations and the occasional wit.    The music — wispy, swirling guitars over driving bass lines (courtesy of Kevin Ratterman on the album, and Brandon Duggins now) and the sternum-rattling, pointed drums of Drew Osborn — has galloped away from the band’s former emo bent into something considerably more powerful and raw. It’s like how muted black looks so much better on things than glossy black. LEO: If you were Mayor, what would you do to help promote people like you in this city?Jeremy Johnson: One of the best things a Mayor could do to support and promote people like me in a city is make the city conducive to living comfortably, vitalize the downtown area (and NOT in the bullshit “Main Street USA” way with a hundred chain restaurants style that has made Indianapolis, Minneapolis and a host of other smaller cities unbearable) and make it a place worth going to. One of the big things that makes a city comfortable is the ability to walk around it and have a great time. I think that seriously considering the 8664 concept would not only seriously improve and build upon the city’s numerous parks and public places to walk through, but it would also ensure that the downtown area is as comfortable and suited to walking as the Olmsted parks for years to come. It seems like everyone is afraid to ask questions on that issue because they are so worried about losing the money. I’d like my Mayor and council members to grow some balls, and seriously consider other options than a 20-year-old study that was made when our riverfront was a festering pile of sheet metal and gas and not a beautiful park. In order to make Louisville a place worth going to, the Mayor should lay off the chain restaurants and stores! How is going to Louisville special if we’ve just got the same stores and restaurants as every other city? Boring!LEO: Which Louisville musician needs to get more attention?JJ: I really love the Fervor and they get a bit of attention, but I would love to see them getting more press and getting out of town more often.LEO: If music were food, what kind would yours be?JJ: See ... this is the kind of question that Carrie from Second Story Man probably loves ... I hate this kind of question. I don’t know, probably a corned beef sandwich like from Katz Deli in Manhattan ... it takes a couple bites to really get into it, but after that it sticks with you for days.LEO: Tell me about one of your favorite works of art aside from your medium. JJ: “As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner. An absolutely stunning book with beautiful imagery, challenging shifts in voice and an extremely sullen mood, which doesn't take itself too seriously in the end.LEO: What do you want to say that you know you shouldn’t?JJ: Man ... John Whitaker totally scooped me with that great Jane’s Addiction line ... OH! I totally don’t get Bruce Springsteen ... why is he so popular? I really don’t get it.Contact the writer at sgeorge@leoweekly.com