Syd Butler of Les Savy Fav on FYF


So many rad bands are playing this weekend at FYF. Since the set times were announced last Friday, I’ve been fine-tuning a schedule that includes FLAG, Metz, The Melvins, The Locust, Jonathan Richman, Nosaj Thing… The genres and bands are so all-encompassing that a dozen music lovers can attend the same festival, have the best show ever, and never cross paths. And that’s cool and I respect people’s differing tastes but no one should skip Les Savy Fav.

This is a rare appearance by a Brooklyn band that dangerously and successfully balances art and punk, delivering concept, energy, and anarchy in spades, and hasn’t played for more two years. If you’re unfamiliar, check out the Les Savy Fav intro that Stereogum posted earlier this year. Fugazi, Enon, Gang of Four–those are the types of bands lazy journalists compare Les Savy Fav to, and this is a rare appearance not to be missed.

To celebrate the group’s reactivation for FYF (and a House of Vans show in NYC) I sent over some questions. Les Savy Fav bassist, Frenchkiss Records honcho, and David Cross comedy collaborator Syd Butler responded.

MW: What’s better, setting up an awesome festival like ATP or being invited to play one like FYF?
SB: Curating ATP was a dream come true but it’s always exciting to play festivals like FYF, see our fans, and have a great time together.

MW: Are you ready? How fast do the songs come back after a hiatus from music? How much of it is muscle memory? Vestigial memory?
SB: We haven’t played or really practiced in almost two years. We recently began practicing and the first day was pretty rough. I was surprised by how much work it takes to get to show level. Certain songs came back as if it were yesterday, but some songs we play have so many parts–especially for Seth, who sometimes plays three or four different parts at a time. So to remember all the changes was a challenge for all of us.  Some was straight-up work but some moments were easy. At one point, Harrison (drummer Harrison Haynes) looked at me with a smile and said, “I can’t believe how much muscle memory we have on these songs.” The hits were automatic.

MW: Any secrets to going forth for nearly 20 years now?

SB: I think at the end of the day we like each other and what we all offer as friends and as artists. We are constantly learning from each other, through thick and thin. Honest communication has been key for us.

MW: You’ve been way ahead of the curve in a lot of ways (like music) but comedy is one you don’t get enough credit for… Got any stories about making the DVD that came with Inches?
SB: I’m glad you brought this up. We feel very connected to the comedians that were in NYC at the time  (David Cross, Fred Armisen, Todd Barry, Eugene Mirman). We had toured so often with bands that when we stared touring with comedians it was a breath of fresh air. It felt obvious to us to combine what we were doing. The bonus DVD was put together very quickly and with great help from friends of Tim’s (singer Tim Harrington). It was done over the Christmas holiday and I was a complete pushy asshole trying to get it done in time. Tarikh Korula is owed a tremendous thanks for both helping us and dealing with me.

MW: Any chance of another collection of singles with maybe some extra stuff for us fans?
SB: We are writing for a collection of songs for 2014 as we need to play new songs for ourselves as well as our unbelievable fans. I am personally hoping for a later Spring release.

MW: So what can we expect at FYF?
SB: I have no idea to be honest. I am really happy we were invited as the lineup is amazing. I would be psyched to go even if we weren’t playing.

MW: What bands are you psyched about seeing over the weekend?
SB: I am really excited to see YYYs, MBV, Deerhunter, The Breeders, Metz, Charles Bradley, Eleanor Friedberger, !!!,  The Oh Sees, Beach House, and Ty Segall.

MW: Cool. Maybe I can buy you a Coke or something for all your rad music.
SB: Coke Zero is my jam. I have no idea why I like it so much. But you don’t need to buy us anything. Giant Robot rules and it’s always been a pleasure keeping up with you.

Catch the band at FYF in L.A. on Sunday, August 25 and then on Thursday, August 29 at the House of Vans in Brooklyn. Follow the band’s tumblr page, too.

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