Singer/songwriter Adam Green honed his signature personal style as one-half of Grammy-winning duo Moldy Peaches and through seven quirky solo releases.
Despite work with Beck, MGMT and Devendra Banhart, singer/songwriter Binki Shapiro really stepped into the spotlight as one-third of Brazilian-pop trio Little Joy, formed with the Strokes’ Fabrizio Moretti and Los Armanos singer Rodrigo Amarante.
When Green joined Little Joy on their Brazilian tour, he and Shapiro hit it off and decided to collaborate in the future. That time is now.
With their new Rounder release, Adam Green & Binki Shapiro, the pair has created an easy-going homage to the best of late-'60s folk pop and are drawing comparisons to John Lennon and Yoko Ono, as well as Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra, along the way.
Before their show at the Griffin on Sunday night, SoundDiego spoke with Green, who was at his chilly New York home.
Scott McDonald: How are you?
Adam Green: Pretty good. The heater just went on. So that’s pretty cool.
SM: The new record is really nice. The two of you complement each other nicely.
AG: I agree. I’m endorsing this one. [Laughs]
SM: Was it the Little Joy project that connected you with Binki?
AG: Absolutely. Well, I’ve known Fabrizio for years. My old band, Moldy Peaches, did a lot of touring with the Strokes, and I met her through him. It wasn’t momentous or anything. We just went to a Mexican restaurant, and she was there, you know? I don’t remember anything else about it. But I listened to their stuff and was really impressed. I wasn’t sure what kind of music it was going to be, but it was amazing. Then I went into the studio and did some backup vocals for them. After that, I felt really comfortable with Binki. I ended up going on a tour supporting Little Joy in Brazil -- where Little Joy is huge -- and Binki and I talked a lot. We felt like we could collaborate creatively. Really, I was looking to re-engage intellectually and musically. I had just finished The Wrong Ferarri, so I asked her and she said yes.
SM: The Wrong Ferarri is your movie, right?
AG: Yeah. It premiered at Anthology Film Archives in New York, and then we also did a screening at the Independent in Los Angeles -- also in Milano, Italy, and Mexico City. But by and large, it’s just a file that you can download from a site. Well, you can’t do it anymore, because it was too expensive to host, but you could at one time, and I think it was downloaded something like 300,000 times, but it never got a proper theatrical release. It was just a different kind of thing.
SM: And you filmed it with your iPhone?
AG: Yes. Originally, I started just fooling around filming Macaulay Culkin. He wrote a book full of poetic scraps and anecdotes called Junior. We wanted to make a Macaulay Culkin biopic based on Junior and were initially filming with his permission. He was meeting with us regularly, but it ended up falling apart. I found myself still wanting to make the movie and, I guess, just wanting to make the kind of movie I wanted to make. So I asked Mac to be in it, and he said yes. And the reason that it was shot on an iPhone was because it was the only camera I had. Actually, there were a lot of advantages to that. It made the spontaneous possible.
SM: This record is so easy-going, it almost sounds like it was recorded spontaneously. But there’s still no substitute for chemistry, and you guys seem to have it.
AG: Thanks. I think that we do. I didn’t know what it was going to be like, but it ended up being really easy to write with her. I hadn’t heard a lot of stuff with her on it, but I still thought she was a really big deal and really underrated. Binki is very articulate and we totally enjoyed writing from a lyrics perspective. I always say she sings like a lady, so I played the part of singing like a gentleman. And she doesn’t come at it from a blues thing. It was nice to meet her there in that respect. It sounds silly, but can you imagine me singing on this record with someone like Cat Power? It wouldn’t be half as good.
SM: It just sounds unforced to me -- like two people at the beach with a guitar.
AG: It’s funny that you say that, because the idea of the beach at night was one of our inspirations. We were definitely going for a night-beach vibe and, I guess, me being from New York, I do get kind of captivated by the myth of California. I’ve recorded my last few albums out there, and I think I’m far more impressed with it than the average person who lives there.
SM: Your trademark has kind of been how personal you get in songs and the exploration of your own idiosyncrasies. Was that difficult to do with someone else?
AG: I think it would have been very difficult to write a record with someone who didn’t embrace that aspect of me. That’s a big part of my identity. I think she really embraced a lot of my idiosyncratic ideas, but she also wasn’t afraid to say, "Well, that really doesn’t have anything to do with the song, Adam." And I listened. In certain ways, she reined me in a bit. I tend to be all over the place.
SM: Such a positive experience has to bode well for another collaboration.
AG: I think there’s a definite possibility of working with Binki again. But who knows? We’re both interested in doing some solo stuff, so we’ll have see. We’ll do this tour, the record will come out, and we’ll take it from there.
Blogger Scott McDonald covers music in San Diego for a few different publications and is the editor of Eight24.com