Hey Tristan! How did you go about choosing the songs?
Where do I start? There was a long list of around 80 songs, which after a week of sleepless nights I’d manage to whittle down to 60. I couldn’t begin to say how it eventually turned into eight.
As a poet with just a bit of a thing for Leonard Cohen, do you find yourself drawn to music that’s got some hint of poetry about it?
I suppose I do, but not as religiously as I did a few years ago. I think I used to place a much bigger emphasis on the lyrical side of music when I was growing up listening religiously to folk and americana. Dylan, Young and Cohen’s music survives on lyrics; you’re not going to take their chord progressions or melodies and consistently think there’s something fantastic going on. Over the last five or so years, though, I’ve got more and more into pop, blues, hip-hop, rock’n’roll, and I guess have learnt a few more things! From “worried notes” in B.B. King and Harold Arlen, to Kendrick Lamar’s chorus of “I love myself”, I don’t want to sound too obvious, but I suppose I’ve found that being articulate and poetic aren’t the only ways of saying something in music. Plus you can’t dance to Leonard Cohen, and God knows I’ve tried.
What are the first three songs you’d take to your island?
Genesis – “Invisible Touch” (Invisible Touch, 1986)
I probably have to credit this track with getting me into music. I remember sitting in the back of my parents’ car as a eight-or-something-year-old, approaching a roundabout on the A3100 as this song came on the radio. My mum’s always been a big fan of Phil, Peter and co., and so lent me a compilation disc called Turn It On Again, which I must have played every day for a year (never once returning it to its CD case, it’s a scratched wreck of a thing now). I wouldn’t call it one of my eight favourite songs, but it’s certainly stuck with me enough to bring to an island.
Leonard Cohen – “The Stranger Song” (Songs of Leonard Cohen, 1967)
This is the first song I was sure would be on my list. It was the first time I’d come across Leonard Cohen: the guitar pattern is completely mesmerising, lyrically it’s faultless, and the tone is so wry and earnest. The best recording I’ve heard was on the “Once More With Felix” show in 1967, where a tear rolls down his cheek as he finishes playing. “It’s hard to hold the hand of anyone/ who’s reaching for the sky just to surrender.”
Bob Dylan – “Mr. Tambourine Man” (Bringing It All Back Home, 1965)
There’s a lot of stuff in this song. When I’m stuck on this island, a few listens to this and I could be anywhere. There’s a great recording of it from the Newport Folk Festival in 1964 (a year before he was booed off stage for making his folk too electric), introduced by the late great Pete Seeger. There’s a real sense of community, with everybody sitting down and listening to a very talented runaway drugged-up troubadour.
What is the best band you’ve found through working at Exeposé Music?
A lot of local bands have really impressed me, who I might not have run across if it wasn’t for this. Filming the Poltimore Sessions with Daisy Vaughan was a highlight, and Delmer Darion‘s regular streams of electronica have been some of the best sounds I’ve heard from Exeter. Explicitly through the paper, though, my favourite release we’ve been sent was the debut from Isle of Wight brothers Champs, which sounded like the result of Simon & Garfunkel getting high with alt-J.
How about your next few songs for the island?
The National – “Slow Show” (Boxer, 2007)
The National are one of those bands that I just can’t say a bad word about. Even if they produced a gloriously self-indulgent album in homage to Meghan Trainor I reckon it’d have a touch of class. I mean, they once played their song “Sorrow” live on repeat for six hours in the name of art. “Slow Show” was my teenage angst song, is now my undergraduate angst song and will one day become my old man angst song, for sure.
Beach House – “PPP” (Depression Cherry, 2015)
Someone once described this song to me as feeling like you’re flying on the massive dog in The Neverending Story. The ending instrumental feels like Clifford the Big Red Dog‘s space adventure. This track is dream pop at its best, and there’s something vaguely soothing about the thought of Victoria Legrand whispering the introductory “Are you ready? Ready for this life?” into my ears, as I embark on a life in sand. Oh, and the LP sleeve is made entirely out of red velvet.
Future Islands – “Before The Bridge” (On The Water, 2011)
If there’s one thing that you should take from this article, it’s the video of Future Islands performing “Before The Bridge”. They’re a band that’s really impressing me at the moment. Samuel T. Herring is one of the most enthralling frontmen I’ve seen, where sidesteps, synth-pop, neo-metal and death growls combine into a small man who looks like he’s just stepped out of a public library. He’s also teamed up with serial-collaborator Madlib to form a hip-hop duo called Trouble Knows Me. This will be the “big club anthem” of my island, if the powers that be would ever let me control the music.
How would you describe your music taste? Has it been influenced by Exeposé Music?
It’s the usual answer, but I’m fairly open to everything. Sharing the stage this year with two editors inclined to punk and emo and one who swears by German rap has definitely opened me to a lot of music that I wouldn’t have looked at a few years ago. I’m not fully sold on all of it, but this time last year I wouldn’t have said Kendrick Lamar would produce one of my favourite albums of the year. I guess I’m growing up!
What are the last two tracks you’d take with you?
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Higgs Boson Blues (Push The Sky Away, 2013)
Nick Cave, the inimitable crooner said that, as far as the threadbare metaphor of albums being children goes, this one would be the ghost-baby in the incubator, with the instrumental loops as its tiny, trembling heart-beat. It’s surreal, stuffed with the dryest humour, featuring lyrical cameos from Robert Johnson, Martin Luther King and Miley Cyrus. There’s blues, post-punk, poetry, rock and roll. And what starts as “Hannah Montana does the African Savannah/ As the simulated rainy season begins”, ends with “Miley Cyrus floats in a swimming pool in Toluca Lake/ And you’re the best girl I’ve ever had”. It’s an epic, and might take me years to understand.
Sufjan Stevens – “The Only Thing” (Carrie & Lowell, 2015)
The last song I’ve gone for is from my favourite record of 2015. Sufjan Stevens’s Carrie & Lowell is an astonishingly touching collection of songs written on the death of Sufjan’s mother. It’s not all sad, though. “The Only Thing” has a part in the middle which sounds like the musical embodiment of geese erupting into song. Whenever I get sad or lonely on this desert island, I can be sure of Subaru’s lullaby to calm me down.
You’re producing Poltimore Festival this year, can you tell us a little about it?
Of course! Poltimore Festival is a non-profit initiative, for the dual purpose of showcasing the great music, theatre, art and film that comes from the South West, to raise money for the maintenance of one of Devon’s most secret gems, Poltimore House. It’s been going for five years now, and we’ve fully rebranded it this year with Poltimore as the focus. It’s basically an old hospital that’s burnt down that a group of us fell for. This year it’ll take place on 5 June, and promises to be a great day out!
What book would you take on the island with you?
This one’s easy. A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner. I realise I’m meant to say an impressive collection of religious or philosophical texts, but why do that when you could read the stories of a bear with little brain?
What would your luxury item be?
I was given a harmonica last Christmas, which I haven’t learnt to play yet. I’ll take that. Maybe when I practise the tune (or lack thereof) will act as a method of self-defence for my first few weeks in the wilderness? And I’d bring a jumper or two.
What’s been your best bit of this last year? And what are you most looking forward to next year?
Expanding Exeposé Music into the community with our showcase last September was a real highlight. We all got a real buzz out of selling-out the Cavern twice over. Filming the Poltimore Sessions with XTV has also been great fun, as was our Bowie tribute night in the backroom of the Lemmy with Campus Bands. I’m really excited to see where the new editorial team will take it next year, we’re in safe hands!
Finally, how have you found being an editor at Exeposé Music?
I’ve made a lot of friends, played a lot of music, and had a lot of fun. It’s been a great two years, thanks to everyone!