Vinyl collector and Echo And The Bunnymen acolyte Kelley Stoltz has cut a wide swath through the local lo-fi scene over the past decade, building up a discography that started with 1999’s The Past Was Faster and includes Crockodials, his track-by-track take on Ian McCulloch and company’s classic debut album, Crocodiles. Often recording in his Mission District apartment, Stoltz, who’s known for understated lyricism, has also made a name for himself as a gifted production auteur, with songs often shifting from Nehru-gazing psychedelia to a rocking garage stomp. His most recent album is last year’s Circular Sounds, his second effort for Sub Pop. On the verge of his solo outing at Noise Pop, Decider caught up with Stoltz at his record-store day job to talk about being perfect in Sweden and why he loves the music of New Orleans.
Decider: You’re repeatedly compared to Nick Drake and Leonard Cohen, which paints you into a pretty heavy iconic corner, but they aren’t very apt comparisons.
Kelley Stoltz: I agree. I think if you play a lot of acoustic or solo shows, like I used to years ago, or just having some quieter songs on your albums, you’re inevitably compared to Neil Young or whoever. It’s just the usual reference points that are easy, and kind of lazy for writers, instead of actually talking about the music. It seems like there are probably better descriptive terms.
D: With that in mind, the bassline in “Birdies Singing” from Below The Branches is pure Velvet Underground. Actually, the drums are pure Moe Tucker as well.
KS: Yeah, for sure, just playing a simple beat like that, and then the repetitive bass definitely evokes “Foggy Notion.”
D: Was it intentional?
KS: No, I don’t think so. I think anyone who’s involved in hipster rock ’n’ roll is just influenced by them in their DNA.
D: For those who haven’t paid attention to Echo And The Bunnymen, can you explain the impetus for covering Crocodiles and performing it live?
KS: Oh man, you’re lucky. You missed out on all that makeup, all the hairspray. The caterwauling. The atonal drums. Crocodiles is just one of those records I loved as a kid: Doors-y and ’60s, pretty garage, but not too heavy.
D: Since you’re opening for Stephen Malkmus—another Bunnymen fan—at Noise Pop, will you tailor your set for the Slanted And Enchanted fanatics?
KS: No, not really. I’m playing solo for the first time in maybe a year, so we’ll see how it goes. I’ve been writing a lot of new stuff, so it seems like a good time to try it out. If it totally sucks, then maybe I’ll move on to something else. I just picked up a drum machine, so I’ll try to figure out something interesting.
D: You’ve licensed your music to Volvo and Marriott. Did you struggle with the decision? Anyone cry “sellout”?
KS: The Volvo thing happened because of some wild phone call from an ad executive guy up in Sweden. He was wandering around listening to his iPod in a supermarket and heard my song and was like, “That’s perfect!” He was more just a fan than being contacted or connected in any way. Marriott came through Sub Pop.
D: What’s it like being on Sub Pop now? The name carries so much baggage.
KS: Yeah, it really does. It’s totally heavy. But, I don’t know, they’ve been around at this point for so long, another generation has come and gone from the grunge thing. I think that time when people associated them with Tad and Mudhoney and heavier records is over. I think most kids growing up now are like, “Oh, that’s The Shins’ label.”
D: You’ve mentioned Allen Toussaint and Huey “Piano” Smith as influences. Do you have a New Orleans connection?
KS: Well, I just love that stuff. I saw Allen Toussaint once at Jazz Fest here a few years ago, and he was amazing. I don’t know, there’s just something about the good-time music of New Orleans. It’s repetitive, it’s party music, it’s rock ’n’ roll. I love that feeling. I got backstage and Allen came out, impeccably dressed, a really sweet guy. And he wore just the right amount of cologne.