Two-time SPIN cover stars TV on the Radio have been relatively quiet since the untimely passing of bassist/producer Gerard Smith in April 2011 — just days after the release of their masterful fourth album Nine Types of Light. But, after two years of calm, activity is picking up again for the Brooklyn art-rock innovators. On Saturday, April 27, the four-piece will close out New York’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, a festival put on by the Brooklyn Academy of Music and curated by the National’s Aaron and Bryce Dessner. Singer Tunde Adebimpe has a second band on the bill as well, the newly formed Higgins Waterproof Black Magic Band. TVOTR are set to curate a May edition of England’s venerated All Tomorrow’s Parties fest (featuring De La Soul, Death Grips, Shabazz Palaces, Tinariwen, and many more). And, last but hardly least, we learned last month that band producer/programmer Dave Sitek has slated a brand new TVOTR single for release on his Federal Prism label this year.
Says Adebimpe over the phone, “It suddenly got really busy.” Luckily, he found a little time to talk to us.
Have you recorded new TVOTR material?
Yeah, Kyp [Malone, singer/multi-instrumentalist] and I went to Dave’s place and studio in L.A. the last week of March and we finished a couple of songs. I’m not sure what’s gonna be out when, but there’s new stuff coming. We’re sort of collecting material for a record, but right now we’re only thinking in terms of songs, smaller things we can put out regularly until an album seems possible. Which I love. It’s not that you’re less precious about the process, but I like coming in and saying, “Let’s make a couple songs,” not feeling any sort of pressure to lock ourselves in a room. [Laughs] I don’t think anyone has the space [in their lives] to do that ever again.
You guys get pretty intense when you’re making an album.
Everything else pretty much shuts down. It just naturally happens that way. But I feel like these newer songs came so quickly because we’ve worked together so long. There’s actually no more room for too much messing around, or for any kind of negativity. Maybe that’s being older, where you’re like, “Wait a minute. We all love each other very much. Let’s try to do something fun that we’d listen to.” I think what happens with bands is it’s like being around your family too much. “I don’t have a reason to dislike you but suddenly I do.” You need to give yourself space.
You’re working with Dave’s label. Is Interscope gone?
Ehhhh…we parted ways with them. To the best of my knowledge, they can ask about another record, but I don’t think we’re gonna do that. Um, yeah they did what they did. [Laughs] That’s as diplomatic as I can put that.
Have you worked out a plan for a new full-time bassist?
Live, we’re still figuring out what’s gonna happen full-time. We haven’t made any definite plans for that yet but I think we’ll do that closer to making a record. Right now it’s just the four of us and we’re just writing. As we get closer to doing something that’s gonna necessitate a real tour, we’ll probably figure that out.
What’s up with your new side project, Higgins Waterproof Black Magic Band?
The band grew out of the improv stuff I do around town. I was playing with [Tall Firs drummer] Ryan Sawyer a lot and always wanted to do something with my friends Josh Werner and Alex Holden. You have friends in bands and you realize you’ve known each other 15 years and never played together, maybe out of respect for your friendship. We started doing mostly improvised shows but you do that a few times and songs start coming out of it. It started off pretty noisy and there’s still a little bit of that element. It gets tripped out in places. If you like Can or This Heat, you’ll probably be into it. We recorded five songs that I’m mixing right now. We’ll put them out summer or early fall.
Are you excited to headline Crossing Brooklyn Ferry?
It’s always good to play in Brooklyn. It’s home for us, and it just feels like a normal exciting show, instead of being on tour forever.
And what about hosting ATP?
We’re really excited. It’s such a great festival… We’ve all been to a ton of them and we jumped at the opportunity to curate the lineup that we’d really want to see. I’m so psyched to see Death Grips, and I’m a huge fan of what Mykki Blanco is doing. And De La Soul… they’re one of those bands that are so much a part of your life that they’re like a pegasus or unicorn. I thought I would never see them.