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Jamming with Javelin: An Interview With George Langford ’02 and Tom Van Buskirk

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
The guy on your right is the one who went here and got drunk in the woods a bunch of times.

The guy on your right is the one who went here and got drunk in the woods a bunch of times.

George Langford and Tom Van Buskirk are cousins from Providence, RI, but together they are Javelin. Their well-received 2010 release No Mas first earned them recognition for their use of cut-and-paste samplings combined with Van Buskirk’s distorted falsetto. Their sound, self-described as “flipping through a radio,” is best heard in the heavily circulated single “Vibrationz.” It’s no wonder, then, why Hi Beams – their latest off of David Byrne’s record label, Luaka Bop – took fans and critics by surprise. Described by some as a total departure from their previous work, the 2013 release swapped their trademark samples for ten entrancing pop songs. Though Hi Beams may not sound like the Javelin we thought we knew, its thoughtful lyrics reflect on pertinent subjects like social media (“Friending”) and a man’s quest for a more meaningful existence (“Airfield”). Hi Beams is yet another demonstration of Javelin’s fearless ability to go where the changing times take them.

WSPN sat down with the duo before their performance at Falstaff’s last Saturday, March 29, which was sponsored by The Skidmore Entertainment Committee. Homecoming band HAP opened with a lively set full of new songs and old favorites. It was a night to make Skidmore students proud; not only did recent Skidmore graduates Ned Porter and Stephen Yell (both Class of 2013) return to play as one-half of HAP, but also George Langford, the drumming-half of Javelin, returned to Skidmore for the first time since graduating in 2002.

With the steady pulse of raindrops over our heads, Javelin talked about how they refuse to make music videos (with the exception of their 16-minute epic western, “Canyon Candy”), the moment when you know you’ve made it as a band (Dan Deacon will tell you so), and their favorite Talking Heads album (answer: it’s a trick question). Most importantly, we talked about George’s time at Skidmore, as he sat in the very same venue where he spent many of his weekend nights “dancing.”

WSPN: Do either of you have a favorite track on the new album?

Tom: I like “Airfield,” it sticks with me. We aren’t songwriters per say, but Airfield was kind of the first natural song that came out. We wrote it from a character’s perspective and, well, there’s a whole backstory really. I was thinking that there’s a guy who lives in California, he has a boring job that pays the bills – I pictured it in a chemistry lab – but he is just brimming with all these feelings that his life is not fulfilling enough. Then George had made an instrumental called “Airfield,” so I was like, okay, he lives by the airfield and he’s just this unfulfilled guy watching planes take off and all he can think about is how he wants to escape his existence.

George: We had a really great video idea for that song. It never happened.

To shoot it on a runway?

George: Yeah!

Tom: There’s more to the story [laughs] but I started to see how songwriters write. You think they’re the ones saying what they’re saying when they say “I,” but it’s not really them. They’re writing for someone else or an amalgam of people, which is easier to express.

I wanted to ask you both about a specific song off of Hi Beams called “Friending.” When did technology and social media come into play with your music?

Tom: Well, certain tech words like “friending” or “trending” or like the word “blog”… they’re just so ridiculous and stupid. So, in the song when I say those words in that tone, I was thinking how ridiculous do I sound saying these words seriously? Just because we put so much energy into them.

You specifically? Or more like the all-encompassing “we?”

Tom: I think everyone, yeah, the big “We.” It seems ridiculous when you look at it from a different perspective, how much energy people put into projecting themselves into this medium. But it’s very meaningful as well, which you can’t poo-poo. It really forms a large part of people’s lives.

George: Yeah, I still feel a little weird about it, but at the same time I check it a lot. But at the same time it’s business, and that’s the game you have to play.

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Weekend Distractions CXX

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

5:30pm- Graphic Advocacy: International Posters for the Digital Age, 2001-2012 @ Schtick Gallery
6:30pm- Beats For Beets @ Falstaff’s
7:00pm- OSDP Keynote: An Evening With Janet Mock @ Gannett
8:00pm- Jonathan Benbeniste’s Senior Music Recital  @ Zankel
8:00pm- Screening of The Bonsai People @ Spa
8:00pm- Turkuaz w/ The Alan Evans Trio @ Putnam Den

8:00pm- Drastic Measures Benefit Concert @ FileneHall
8:00pm- Spiritual Rez w/ Formula 5 @ Putnam Den
9:30pm- Battle of the Bands (winner plays Earthday) @ Falstaff’s
9:30pm- Awkward Kids Talking: Three AKT play @ Gannett

8:00am- Skidmore Intercollegiate Horse Show @ Van Lennep Riding Center
8:00pm- SEC Presents: Javelin and Hap @ Falstaff’s
8:00pm- The Sirens & Lilting Forward @ The Wilson Chapel

9:00am- Skidmore Manticores Present: The Man-Eaters Cup @ Wachenheim Field

Missing something? Let us know in the comments

SEC Presents: Javelin and HAP

Thursday, March 27th, 2014
Cool things happen when you find an abstract image on Google and layer it over and over and over.

Cool things happen when you find an abstract image on Google and layer it over and over and over.

This Saturday, SEC brings back Skidmore alumni lo-fi, indie-pop rock band HAP to open up the Falstaff’s stage for brooklyn-based electro-pop-rock duo Javelin. The two sets are sure to flow perfecty, with both bands offering bright, dance-inducing music.

Javelin consists of a set of cousins: George Langford (who went to Skidmore) and Tom Van Buskirk. Their sound is multifaceted, dynamic, and has matured wildly since their debut 2008 release, Jamz n Jemz. They’ve been known to incorporate electro-synth sounds, sampling techniques, noise rock-like riffs, pop-driven melodies, as well as a slew of coming-and-going instruments. The two are multi-instrumentalists and play everything from mandolin, to keyboard, to cello, to drums. They’ve been named a rising artist from Pitchfork, as well as given Best New Music accolades for their most recent project, Hi Beams. The seamless way these guys skirt the line between acoustic instrumentation and electro-pop sampling is what makes their music so rich. They’re definitely making moves with their lively, innovative pop styles, so get out and see them for free this Saturday at Falstaff’s, doors at 8.