Extremely confused, and confusing, interview with Devandra Banhart from the summer of 2006. It was very late at night, I had no respect for the guy or his music and I kind of wanted to punch him for most of the duration of our conversation. That aside, we got along famously. The conflict referred to was the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War. He later dated Natalie Portman.
He plays guitar. He has a beard. He’s a regular oddball. But you probably knew that already.
I thought that as the head of this big successful “freak folk” movement, you’d live in a palace. But you appear to have a problem with bugs…
Yeah, we invited the fleas in. We worship them in this palace. It used to be a Buddhist temple where the flea is revered or worshipped. [pause] I find that term ‘freak folk’ extremely tacky and annoying and inaccurate.
I know. Someone in the bar told me to say ‘freak folk’, that you’d get really pissed off.
I guess it’s better than getting acid in your coffee. I’m getting too young for that.
What age are you?
I mean too old for that.
What age are you? What time is it?
It’s extremely late – it’s 2.40am. I’m sorry, I mean it’s extremely early – I’m 25.
Will the new album be a big ensemble effort, or just you and your guitar and beard?
It’s gonna be something true to my interests and tastes, true to my volatile emotional state. You drink coffee in the morning, you get bummed out, you have your pint. Those require different tunes to accompany them. I’m not one way all day.
Do you have any information for me at all?
I would say the record is a half a bummer, a quarter extremely boring, a half a quarter extremely breezy and oceanic and the last half a quarter pure pop. A couple of sessions are gonna be recorded on a ship. I like the idea of doing half land, half ocean.
Why a ship?
Well I don’t want to add an oceanic vibe. But I want to hear the seagull, the spray of the waves.
What’s the temperature?
The temperature is melt, melt, melting. Its incredibly heavy.
Are you playing in Ireland any time soon?
I’m going there. But I don’t know when. My friend Donovan lives there.
From “Don’t Look Back” Donovan?
From “all those fucking amazing records” Donovan. From A Gift From A Flower To A Garden. From Catch the Wind. Donovan is his own thing. He’s an incredibly important person. You need to be aware of that.
What are your ambitions?
Grow fins and swim away. That’s about it. Gills, fins.
I don’t know. I live in a state of extreme unconsciousness when it comes to doing most things other than making music or art. I am aware that the past has already happened and the future has not but I can barely shoot to the next hour. So your question is unanswerable to me at this stage. Hold on a sec… [Says something to a passer-by.] He’s from your part of the country. What were we talking about?
I don’t know. The situation.
The situation in Israel?
Sure, if you like.
That’s pretty interesting. About a week ago I was in Jerusalem. That experience was pretty heavy. Went to the Wailing Wall, where Jesus was crucified, to the spot where Mohammed became a prophet. So that’s just starting to sink in.
Do you have an ATM card or a mobile phone? Do you have a house? Where do you go when you need to go to sleep?
I’ve figured out how to manoeuvre through life in a very oddly communistic way. For example, I know how to draw certain things in a certain very specific way. I tear my pants up, I get holes in them. But I’ve got friends who know how to sew or they like my drawings. I live in that kind of world among my friends, all we’re doing is sharing. It’s something we’ve managed to do, because we haven’t listened to what people have told us.