Artist Direct interview with Conan Neutron on Better Luck Next Life
Here’s another great interview, this time with Rick from Artist Direct
Hint: Better Luck Next Life is the Big Lebowski
“Rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t have to be loud, dumb, and mean all the time,” smiles Victory and Associates vocalist Conan Neutron. “We don’t make disposable music. You can ignore it, but it’s not disposable, for sure.”
Victory And Associates definitely leave a mark with Better Luck Next Life [iTunes link]. The perfect amalgam of heavy and hypnotic, the band’s hardcore grit remains fortified by melody at the right moments. It also might just make you think in the process…
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Conan Neutron of Victory And Associates talks Better Luck Next Life, music, and so much more.
You guys strike the perfect balance between heaviness and hookiness…
We’re definitely fans of big ridiculously heavy music. However, at heart, when it comes down to it, we’re fans of rock ‘n’ roll—in its myriad of forms. There’s equal love for bands like Buzzcocks and Wire as much as, say, The Melvins. It’s cool that you’re hearing that. Sometimes, it’s hard for people to get what we’re all about with that because it’s pretty bombastic. For a lot of bands, it’s one or the other. We like to do both.
For you, what ties Better Luck Next Life together?
Well, it’s definitely meant to be a cohesive piece. That’s for sure. When one speaks of concept albums, there’s a real tendency towards, “Be the warrior, mystic heart of the night, and the orb of whoever”—that kind of ridiculous ostentation. The concept of this record is basically the overwhelming nature of the disconnection of modern life. We tried to put that forward in a way that shows the frustration and weird sadness that happens from all of these freedoms we have. We didn’t want to do it in a way that’s cynical, conceited, and mean though.
It’s more observant…
Right! “We’ll Have to Be Our Own Heroes” is a self-empowerment jam. It’s like, “What happens when the fellas that were supposed to save the day call in sick?” You’ve got to step up there. When you get to the end of the record and “Taste the Danger”, it’s the passing of the torch, if you will. The idea in between is an examination of all these communication tools. What do we use the advanced forms of communication and transmittal throughout all of history for? We use them to share cat pictures and memes to each other [Laughs]. It’s ridiculous. Everyone is talking, but is anyone really listening? If you ask people, they might stop and think about it, but it’s not at the forefront of a lot of people’s brains for sure. It can be a frustrating culture. I know it’s a weird thing to write a rock record about, but it’s where we’re at.
What’s the story behind “Taste the Danger”?
It’s totally awesome you mention it. I feel like that song gets overlooked by a lot of people. It’s one of my favorites. We had a song on our first record called “You Can’t Stop the Signal”. It’s a live favorite. We still play it all the time. The idea behind that song was whatever you do in life, whether it’s immediately recognized or not or whether it yields immediate results or not, it matters. The signal gets out there. “Taste the Danger” is a bit of a continuation of that. Communication goes out, and it isn’t necessarily something the originator of the idea will be recognized or lauded for. Stuff you do pays dividends down the line. If you look at music and culture as something bigger than a collection of things to click on, listen to, be done with, and then never think about it again, when you think of it as something so important it’s a big part of your identity as it is for us, the idea is you find other people who can find deeper meaning and help define themselves and who they are with this music. Ideally, down the line, if we do things right, we can add a little more to culture and make things a little cooler, rather than the other way around. There are a lot of space analogies too [Laughs].
Is it important for you to paint pictures and tell stories with the songs?
For me, it is. I think there are a couple schools of thoughts. There’s your Leonard Cohen or Tom Waits confessional telling deeply personal tales thing. Then, there’s the other end of it. People are telling stories and they may not be necessarily related to anything. They’re just singing the words. This record definitely falls somewhere in between there. Some of the songs definitely come from deeply personal places. There are also songs that are more allegorically informed. I’m a collector of phrases of things. A phrase itself can be consumed with a good amount of meaning beyond just what the words grouped together are. That’s something really cool. On the song, “Are We Having Fun Yet?”, it’s directly inspired by the show Party Down. The Adam McKay character is basically reduced to the Budweiser “Whassup?” guy. His existence is pretty much tied up in a stupid catchphrase. That show is so important to us because it’s this cross-section of delusion, disappointment, and hope. You get a phrase like that, and it’s super evocative. There are repeated themes like that throughout the record. I like phrases that can mean more than just the phrase. They’re words that grab you or snag you.
What artists shaped you?
I came to music through the world of post-punk like Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, Melvins, and Nirvana. I worked at a record store. Not only did I find bands like Television, Buzzcocks, and all of this amazing music that happened before, but I was like, “There’s also this country music that’s really cool”. It opened up my horizons quite a bit. When it comes down to it, I’m a rocker at heart. From the cradle, I was played AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles. That’s just in my bones for sure. To answer your question, I once said my political belief system is Fugazi, and my religious belief system should be Devo [Laughs].
If Better Luck Next Life were a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
I have to think about this! It’d have to be something with a dark undercurrent of greater meaning. I’m tempted to say The Big Lebowski, but I think it’s a darker record. Then again, that’s pretty good. Let’s go with that. It’s sassy. I think there are many truths told in jest. It definitely tells a story. It comes out great in the end. The Dude fucking hates The Eagles [Laughs].