Javelin and the Fine Art of Sonic Collage


The music that accompanies our Steam Egg video is the handywork of Javelin, the crate digging electro duo of Thomas Van Buskirk and his cousin/Javelin collaborator, George Langford. Live, they are known for frenetic shows that sometimes use 20 boomboxes to get the party started. They call their sonic collages, assembled from snippets gleaned from cheap vinyl, "Dollar Bins Of The Future," which mashup record store gems with a nice dose of added instrumentation. For Canyon Candy, they sampled old western anthems and sauced them up with jaw harps, harmonicas, and some drum machines too. I met Thomas near the herb apparatus that pumped eucalyptus scent into the steam egg. The herbs had been collected earlier that day, and now groups of people shed their clothes and entered that psychedelic ovum to get a whiff. Thomas had been the DJ for the night -- not the Herb-J, who picks the jams for the nostrils -- and we got to chatting about what Javelin, while sweaty people were birthed from that disco womb. In that moment, I realized that the steam egg was all about. It is a great magnet, pulling together interesting people from across the city, to exchange ideas, discard clothes, and let go.

Days later, Thomas and I continued our conversation Javelin, leaving Brooklyn, and the California dream.

You were based in Brooklyn but you left for Los Angeles. What drew you to Los Angeles?

Whenever I visited I always felt unburdened by the climate of LA, ecological and cultural. I remember the first time feeling as though certain barriers to experience had been lifted-- magically. Eventually I succumbed to the gravitation and just moved here.

Javelin - Soda Popinski | Video: Ian McAlpin

Seems like a lot of Brooklyn bands are leaving for L.A. Is this a trend that you're seeing?

I hear about this trend more than I see it in my own life... most of my friends making music in Brooklyn have stayed there.

How does the music community differ between Los Angeles and New York?

I am beginning to think that while comparing NYC and LA is a fun sport, in most cases it's apples and oranges. Having been in LA only a short time I can say that in New York, it generally feels like everything is coming at you all at once. LA seems more focused-- one thing at a time. I tend to prefer this way of working/being.

How is the music of Javelin influenced by California?

Up until now it has only been the idea of California, the simulacrum of California as depicted in film, literature and music. Our track Lindsay Brohan is about California through the lens of a BMX video from 1987. It remains to be seen how the place will be filtered into our music-- I hesitate to say it has already started to happen!

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Can you describe the process for making Canyon Candy?

Canyon Candy takes shape in three mediums... It began as a 10" vinyl record... It lives on in a short film by director Mike Anderson... And it is currently an art installation at the Clocktower Gallery in Manhattan, also by Mike Anderson. The process would take a while to describe but basically we were inspired by the American West (including Southern California) and decided to make a western album. We sampled cowboy records. We raised about $16,000 through Kickstarter. We turned Mike loose on the concept. We stuck to our guns.

Canyon Candy | Video: Mike Anderson

It's interesting that the songs can FEEL like California. Why do you think that is, and what makes a song a California song.

I couldn't tell you. Definitely certain genres or formulas are indigenous to here, as in New York, or anywhere else -- I guess the more distinctive in effect a place generally is, the more recognizable the feel when it comes to music that comes from there. And, as I mentioned before, the invented ghost or shadow or simulacrum of a place can eclipse or become fused with the place itself so this "feel" can become a mass delusion we all take part in (i.e. it isn't really real).

Watch the music video for "Mossy Woodland" by Javelin on Border Blaster

So, how did you first get involved with the steam egg?

Through friends! It's a pretty funny structure.

Do you think it really is a piece of art? It seems kinda tounge-in-cheek to me. What do you think?

It is a magnificent achievement in poured concrete... (steam and mirrors?)... It has a spaceship vibe, which while recognizable as such, manages to carry a strong level of inviting power.

You've been a DJ at the steam egg too. What artists would you include for the essential steam egg mix tape?

DJ Screw, Brian Eno's ambient works, Santo and Johnny, Lucky Dragons...

What are you working on next?

We are working on our new album!! Like most things with us, it's going to be significantly different from our previous recorded work. We are crafting new songs, writing vocals, and are working out an amped-up live experience for when we take these songs out on the road. We try never to step in the same footprint twice.

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