Editor’s Note: We recently spoke with The Heavenly States‘ singer/multi-instrumentalist Genevieve Gagon, who offered thoughts on the current conflict in Libya (in 2005, the band was the first to tour Libya after the travel ban was lifted), and showed that the band’s political awareness and passion ring true in their music-making philosophies.
To celebrate the release of their new Oui Camera Oui EP, out 4/19/11, The Heavenly States play Saturday at the Red Devil Lounge in celebration of Record Store Day, with Kill Moi, Farewell Typewriter, and DJ Bagel Ted (8pm, $15).
The Heavenly States – “Model Son”
Your upcoming show at Red Devil Lounge falls on Record Store Day. Was this intentionally planned? Can you tell us more about the show?
Oh yes. Supporting record stores and the idea of material presence, physicality, that was intentional. It’s even more important to put on your high-heeled sneakers and come out and be seen at this moment when the arts and artists are under siege and the outlets that support them are struggling to survive in Virtualistan. Also, we happen to have some very nice record stores in the Bay Area, so why not shout out? If you buy something at a record store on Saturday, April 16th, the day of the show, you get into the show for free.
The Oui Camera Oui EP is being released this month, closing in on an almost three-year gap since your last release. What kind of changes has the band gone through in the writing of this EP?
The band continues to do what it does but none of us are immune from the general state of things, the state of the state. We’re honed in on the new reality of the country. We’re watching closely and we’re getting ready. As for three years, this has become sort of a typical span for record releases. It used to be that an independent artist could put out a record a year but now even independents are behaving more like majors because a lot of people — the people that actually make the music — are broke. We’re trying to manage it by putting out an EP series — shorter releases within a shorter span of time. We want to be able to speak when it matters, especially now.
What is your connection to Britt Daniel of Spoon, who contributes to the EP?
Britt listens to other people’s music and seems never to tire of searching for good stuff or stuff that interests him. He supported our last record, Delayer, put it on his top 10 list, and let us open for Spoon at the Fillmore. We don’t share an agent or commercial interest or label or anything like that; it was all based on the music, and it was amazing for us to have feedback from someone whose work we really admire. After the Fillmore shows, Ted asked him if he would do something on our next record, whatever that might be, and he said yeah, so here we are. Old school. Band likes band, they make some music, end of story.
Having traveled to Libya, what is going through your heads about the situation there? How have you felt about the media coverage of the conflict — is there anything that we should know about the country that you think the media is missing?
There’s a lot that ‘s missing but there’s just no way to get into it all here. To cover a story like of the scope, complexity, and logistical difficulty of Libya, would require real fiscal and intellectual resources that our major media outlets are no longer willing or able to commit. That’s one problem — that without major fiscal resources, it’s hard to support both historical and investigative journalism, both of which are absolutely required to understand a story like this. Add to that the fact that the US relationship with Libya is long, secret, and in deep ideological play, so you will come up against a lot of walls and a lot of silence from all sides whenever you try to get answers. You are told you can’t have access because it’s a matter of national security or some other homeland BS, when really what’s at stake, always, is massive amounts of money being moved about in the face of gross ethical, environmental, and human rights offenses.
As for rules of engagement, first, as Hunter S. Thompson said, if you want to know what’s happening in the world, study oil, and secondly, follow the money. Unlike 2004 -2005 when we traveled to Libya and Egypt — let’s not forget Egypt — there weren’t the new independent and subscription media outlets that there are now. These are great resources and the work those journalists are doing is admirable, but as new independents, they are up against a lack of funds and generalized support when it comes to studying an issue like this. And of course now, you have to find ways into the corporations and banks if you want to understand what is really happening. Without that, there will always be a 5 year (or worse) lag in reporting, making it impossible for citizens to act like citizens. Without massive coverage of multinational corporate behavior, there is no politics. Nothing that unfolds onscreen is of consequence to the citizen because we learn too late.
How would you describe the youth culture in Libya, specifically, the general demographic of those that attended your shows back in 2004? What would you imagine their lives to be like in the midst of the country’s current events?
There is no way to describe youth culture in Libya in American language. The cultures can’t be compared at a glance. All I can say is that Libyan youth are disenfranchised, not free to move about the world, and suffering unemployment or underemployment. There is a privileged class that doesn’t have to live like this, as long as their elders follow the rules. There is a great divide between the haves and the have nots. Schools are underdeveloped and the country outsources most of its high level and post graduate level work. The haves travel Europe and America, spend massive amounts of money, and embrace the excesses of commodity culture in full. Meanwhile, the have nots and the thinkers are harnessing web technology, which is relatively new there, to try to understand the world and seize their own fate. All live under a powerful propaganda machine that exerts control and influence both internally and externally through threats and sweeping international gestures. Sounds a bit like America actually, except that Libyan youth may be a little ahead of the game when it comes to grasping the urgency of their situation.