The Skivies on its history and Lorem Ipsum

Since the fall of 2003, The Skivies (due Saturday, June 25th at The Meadowlark Bar) has graced stages in Denver with its alchemical brew of bizarro psychedelia and hard-edged, experimental guitar rock warped by unexpected twists and turns born of progressive structures turned on their head. Always seemingly up for theatrics, Skivies shows are often multimedia -- not with film but with the band wearing informal, often matching costumes like Devo used to do. That is, if Devo had somehow had Gibby Haynes for an artistic godfather.

The Skivies are releasing the follow-up to 2007's Between Appliance and Apparel, Lorem Ipsum. Engineered and produced by Toshi Kasai, longtime collaborator with The Melvins, Lorem Ipsum vibrantly captures the sound of the band with some of its excesses reined in, so that the songwriting -- never a problem with these guys -- can shine a little more brightly. We recently sat down and talked with the band's two remaining founding members, vocalist DJ Von Feldt and guitarist Zahari Tsigularov, and had a candid discussion about the new album and the band's history.

Westword: Tell me about the unique circumstances of your recent recording.

DJ Von Feldt and Zahari Tsigularov: We originally only had four songs. [both laugh]

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DJ:Action Friend got a hold of me and Toshi Kasai wanted to record us. We only had four songs. Action Friend had been telling them about us. Pretty much, Toshi was open to record us and we thought that even if we only had four songs, we couldn't miss this opportunity, even if it's only a little EP and we don't release it, I could listen to it later on and appreciate it.

You were familiar with his work before the recording?

DJ: With the Melvins, of course. We've always been huge Melvins fans. Plus what he did with Action Friend on his last album. I called Zahari and said, "We've got to do this. I don't care what we've got to do, we've got to make this happen.

Zahari: We had planned on recording when Steve Mercer was still in the band. When Sean Boyd joined the band, we started writing new material, and we'd been preparing for the recording stage for months. So it was nice to have a point where someone came in and kicked us in the butt.

DJ: But we'd been practicing four songs and a bunch of other stuff we'd been noodling around with. We recorded those songs and the next thing you know, we had time to kill.

Did you write the other five songs in the studio?

DJ: "Wingnut" is one we'd been doing for over a year. "Watermelon" is a jam we'd been doing at shows for a year. "The Ox" is an old one.

Zahari: "Albuquerque" was a jam that turned into a song.

DJ: "Albuquerque," "Lithium Grin" and "Status Epilepticus" were the songs we really had down. Toshi was good at telling us we could do what we thought was a good take again. He's good at cracking the whip.

Zahari: The songs we wrote in the studio, we got a good take and we learned to play them the way we wrote them there.

DJ: The only one we came up with on the fly, in the studio, was "Toshi's Lament." It was, like, two in the morning, and I think we were all drunk. It was originally twenty-five minutes. With two minutes of lyrics. Toshi jumped in and made noise and he was directly involved in it. I think that's where the name came from.

Zahari: We pared it down to about twelve minutes.

Let's talk about the history of your band a little. DJ, you were in that progressive rock band Paradigm before the Skivies, right?

DJ: Yeah, the Paradigm experience was one of those things I'll have to sit on the couch over that one. Have you ever noticed how none of our songs, or none of my lyrics are ever really personal or about pain? "The Ox" is the only one I ever wrote about personal pain. It was actually written about personal experience and a girl.

You're calling the album Lorem Ipsum?

DJ: If you're designing a newspaper article and you need dummy text, just jibberish? That's what they call it. It's the language that goes into the layout and none of it makes any sense. So it's tends to pretty much be my lyrics to most people.

Zahari: A lot of our songs are written beforehand and he comes up with those lyrics out of his ass. And a lot of them stay because they're pretty cool. That's the only quality I like about them. [laughs]

DJ: Is my ass?

Zahari: He comes up with a lot of cool lyrics on the fly.

DJ: It's funny to me because my lyrics to some people are gibberish, to me they're a painting. If you're going to try to read them in any kind of coherent sentence you'd be like, "What the fuck is wrong with this guy?"

They seem more impressionistic, like you said about a painting, because they're often so vivid.

DJ: It's weird. Usually when I sing about something I see an image or painting in my head and I'm more or less describing that.

Zahari: It's usually a picture of me naked. He does sometimes come up with lyrics on purpose.

DJ: Sometimes a dog finds a bone, is what it is.

You guys started in the fall of 2003?

DJ: It was October/November of 2003. My wife and I actually hired Zahari to build a website for us and her fledgling business. I saw him on Musicmates as a guitarist available. Then he had a link to his website design business and I thought, when I listened to his guitar playing, I thought, "It's not what I'm looking for, but he does cool website design." So my wife was like, two days later, "I need a website designed for my business." So I told her, "There's this guitarist...Not the kind of guitarist I'm looking for the Skivies, but he does awesome websites."

We called him up and met him down at Gabor's and went over the designs and stuff. He was such a cool cat I invited him down and said, "Hey, a couple of guys and I have a practice space and we jam down there." He brought this tiny Crate with a ten inch speaker and his guitar. We just clicked really well. A week later we set up a jam with Zahari and BJ Serekis, and we had fun.

Zahari: Two weeks later we had our first show.

Where was it?

DJ: Whiskey Bill's. I've got it recorded. We had no material. We just got up on stage and jammed for an hour, doing the most fucked-up shit. This is where I knew I had my guys. I called them up, after the drummer from Paradigm had started a new band and asked us to play, and said, "Hey, a buddy of mine wants us to play a show? Are you down for it? I know we don't have any material, but do you just want to get up and do it?" And everyone was like, "Fuck yeah!" That's the kind of people I was looking for. We're going to ride a flaming ship down together. We had half of one song written and that was it, and we built a 45-minute set.

You had the Brain back then, right?

DJ: I had an early version of it then, it was really rough. There was hardly any singing, just crank a bunch of knobs and make as much noise as possible. Our second show, I think, was at Garageland. I still have the poster on file, but I don't remember who we played with.

I ran into BJ not long ago. He's a truck driver now. I always loved that guy, man. It's funny, I was talking about him the other night and my brother was saying, "BJ was so fun to watch with you guys because there was that dangerous aspect, you didn't know what he was going to do." He'd get done and then he would start throwing his drums and start destroying the place.

Zahari: We'd get all giddy and go, [falsetto] "What's he going to do? What's he going to do?"

DJ: I love that guy. Very creative.

Zahari: Very emotional.

DJ: He just always had demons that haunted him. I wanted him so badly to stay with this band. Amazing talent, the demons just got the better of him.

 How did you end up meeting Christian Schwaed?

Zahari: Didn't we meet him through Josh?

DJ: Originally we were looking for a bass player after Matthew Hale left. Josh had an ad online and I answered his ad and it turns out he lived literally a block away from me. I went over to Josh's house and met Christian. He filled in with us one time here at the Walnut Room when we played as Mr. Goodspore. When we let BJ go, he played drums. Me and Josh ate a mushrooms in the backyard, and I ended up in the hospital. He said in Montana they ate them all the time. Josh played with us, but he didn't end up working out for us, but we stayed friends.

Zahari: Christian saw us play at a Lion's Lair show as Mr. Goodspore.

DJ: We ended up hiring Steve Mercer, and when we needed a drummer he said, "I've got this drummer and he's your guy." How did you end up meeting Steve?

DJ: Through New Ancient Astronauts, because he'd originally started the Astronauts with Don White and the other guys. We all used to play a lot of shows with the Astronauts and Aaron was like, "Dude, I've got a guy." We played the Larimer Lounge one night and Steve came to see us and he came down and played with us. Steve started teaching us things. He was just so talented and we were just a bunch of rookie hacks, and Steve had been in so many bands. He really helped propel us from being hacks to rookies. He was just way ahead of us. He knew what we were trying to do and he dug it. We got along well and without Steve...He helped us immensely with the time signatures and the weird stuff we do now, Steve kind of taught us. Why did Steve leave the band?

DJ: He wanted to. As talented as he was, he really liked producing and working on the other side of it. That's what he really wanted to do. He just produced Quoth the Raven's last album. He does fill in on bass on it under some assumed name. I think he always enjoyed being behind the glass. I used to ask, "Do you want to leave the band? If you don't really want to leave the band, I'd like to keep you." I could tell he was ready to go and do something else. It was cool. I wasn't going to stop him.

It seemed like an amicable split.

DJ: You look at all the bands he's been in, he's not one to sit too long in one place. He likes to do other things. I think for us it was, "Maybe we're ready to go on to another chapter."

How did Sean Boyd come to join the band?

DJ: He was in Red Glow Aviator. He was with them for a while, and they saw us at the Walnut Room and really liked us, and they needed some roommates and they called us up, and we were done sweating our asses off at that brewery practice space. I went and saw them at Larimer Lounge one night and, honestly, I loved the people in the band, but it just wasn't for me. But the thing that stood out was him, because his bass was so loud and dominant. Some bass players tend to blend in with the drums. He was just very prominent and loving that. I was watching him and think, "Man, I want a bass player like that. Dirty and loud and in your face." And I just loved his playing.

The band broke up, and they moved out and we split the room with Ed Marshall and his then-new project. Steve decided he wanted to do other things and because I always loved Sean's style I called him up and he was excited because he was always a fan of ours.

How did Ryan Pureber join the band?

DJ: We saw him playing with New Ancient Astronaut.

Ryan Pureber: I played with them for a year and a half until they broke up a couple of months ago.

DJ: The night we played the Toad Tavern with New Ancient, we were out on the patio with my family and I told Zahari, "Do you see that drummer? He hits like a frickin' cannon!" When New Ancient split up, we gave him a call.

What about Christian Schwaed's role in the band?

DJ: I told Zahari, "Until this CD release is over, his spirit is still there."

Zahari: He's not dead!

Would it be appropriate to ask why he parted company with the band?

Zahari: It was just a clash of personalities and creative differences.

DJ: I think after five or six years we were really starting to grow apart. I love the guy to death, but when there starts to be that tension in the room...

Zahari: When you start going to rehearsals and it's not fun, we realized something had to change.

DJ: I started making excuses not to come to band practice. We do love the guy. I just think as we've gotten older our lives have drifted in different directions. That was hard. Firing BJ sucked. But with Christian, that was the hardest fucking thing I've ever had to do. I literally didn't sleep for two or three nights. I do sincerely love the guy, but it was one of those things we had to do.

Who did the artwork for the new album?

DJ: Zahari! He drew it all up himself.

I had no idea!

DJ: Neither did we! He sent it out and I was like, "Dude, who did you get to do the artwork?" "I did." I didn't know you could fuckin' draw!

Zahari: The website is very sketch based and for this there is the brain and it says, "Lorem Ipsum" and I was thinking it was how DJ's brain works. It doesn't work really, just stuff comes out. I wanted to make it a little more interesting so I put it in a jar with some liquid in there and green was a good color. The bird is on the website here and there, just to show that even though the music can be intense and serious, but we have a sense of humor.

The Skivies w/Action Friend and Osyluth, 8 p.m., Saturday, June 25, Meadowlark Bar, $7, 303-293-0251, 21+

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