Artist Devendra Banhart Waxes Lyrical on his New Album

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Courtesy of @devendrabanhart

The lauded singer-songwriter discusses his ninth record, Ape in Pink Marble – a beguiling collection of sounds inspired by references such as Asa Ferry and Twin Peaks

Ape in Pink Marble is Devendra Banhart's ninth album, an atmospheric collection of 13 songs complete with cover art by Banhart himself. It's filled with vignettes both whimsical and sweetly mournful, with a seductive palette of sounds ranging from delicate acoustic guitar, to disco and samba. Underscoring the entire record is a haunting sense of loss; opening track Middle Names was written for late musician Asa Ferry, while Mourners' Dance is a lovely requiem with overtones of Angelo Badalamenti's famous Twin Peaks theme. AnOther caught up with Banhart to talk about recording rituals, night-driving, going off-grid, and a certain, much-anticipated TV reboot.  

On the album’s title... 
There are a few interpretations that are weirdly personal that I'll keep to myself for a while. Then there's the more simple and direct one, which is that it's my own version of the male-female symbol. The ape being very male, impulsive, aggressive, dumb and base, and pink marble being very beautiful, soft yet strong, with a particular depth to it.

On driving in LA at night...
I don't work at night, so my opportunity to take a break from all the writing and recording is to just drive around. It isn’t like I'm particularly looking for anything. I don’t even try to interact with the city. I’m just observing and drifting and wandering, embracing that bewildered state. The comfort is the alone-together feeling, the music that I'm playing in the car and knowing that I'm forgetting the work of the day as best I can. It's the closest I can get to being subjective to some degree. So that drifting – it’s very much Los Angeles, this amorphous, non-linear, opaque kind of place.

On the enigmatic character from his song Linda...
It's about a person who, in one sense, feels that they're nobody because they're not on Google. We measure so much of our identity and our worth based on whether we’re Google-able. Google image them, if there's only one picture there, they must not be important. They must be worthless. And that’s very sad. It creates a lot of suffering. At the same time, [the song is] for the person who decides to get off grid and checks out. There's a lot of freedom in that.

On being present...
If you have really good incense, you don't light it un-consciously. Traditionally, you’re supposed to hold it with two fingers to symbolise the gift of full attention – it literally requires it. You're balancing the little tiny frail stick on just two fingers. Then you light it. That act already sets the scene for a better recording session because you've set the stage for doing one thing at a time and not living in the delusion of multi-tasking. It’s basically an exercise in becoming present. For people like me, I need to be reminded all the time. 

On Twin Peaks...
Once it was on Netflix, I was like OK, that's it. I just sat and re-watched the whole show. It was so good. [I was talking to someone] about how everybody aged and who aged the best. It's David. Jeez, he looks fantastic.


Ape in Pink Marble is out now on Nonesuch Records. The limited edition version of the album pictured above is exclusive to Vinyl Me Please.