Five Questions … with Syd Butler of Les Savy Fav

September 2nd, 2011


Syd Butler is a man of many hats. He’s a devoted father, the bassist for Les Savy Fav, the founder of Frenchkiss Records and last, but definitely not least, a fervent Washington Capitals fan. The band (above, doing “Let’s Get Out of Here” for KEXP FM) played one of the very first shows at Music Hall of Williamsburg, and Les Savy Fav returns, with Oberhofer and Chron Turbine, for the venue’s fourth-anniversary show on 9/6. (It’s worth mentioning drinks will be just $4 each.) Butler, taking time out of his busy schedule, rang up The House List from the back of a cab to answer Five Questions.

I know you came out with Root for Ruin last year, and I was wondering if you’re working on anything new—a full album, an EP, new songs or anything like that?
We actually just dedicated this year to touring as much as possible. And this will be the final cycle of that. We went to Europe twice, maybe three times. We went to Australia and New Zealand. So we’ve been pretty active. Actually, not so much in the US, weirdly enough. But pretty active outside of the US since the record came out. But, no, members of the band have kids and newborn babies, and Harrison, the drummer, wants to finish his grad program. He took a year off for this tour. But that’s what our plans are at the moment.

Which do you think is more difficult, to make it as a band or as a record label in New York City? Or in your case, does one go hand-in-hand with the other?
For us, for a long time, it definitely went hand in hand because Les Savy Fav was out there on tour. So we could say, “Frenchkiss, Frenchkiss, Frenchkiss.” But with the success of Local Natives and the success of the Antlers and the Dodos, I think Frenchkiss has hopefully carved out its own little nook in this business. But the two are very, very different. I always thought they were a lot closer, but they’re actually a completely different left-brain, right-brain kind of thing.

Which band have you seen play the most, not counting any you’ve toured with?
I’ve seen Modest Mouse probably a bajillion times. Oh, you know what it is? I have an answer for you: It’s probably a tie between Built to Spill—they’re sort of like my Grateful Dead band—and Arcade Fire as well.

Which NYC musician, past or present, would you most want to play with?
I would love to play with David Bowie, but that doesn’t really count. A born-and-bred musician?
Well, he’s been here for decades.

I would love to play with David Bowie or to introduce myself. I met David Byrne a couple times, which has been awesome, and I’m sure I’d love to play with David Byrne if he hopped up onstage at a Les Savy Fav show.

Do you have any crutches when writing a song? Are there certain words or styles you feel you lean on too much?
I definitely hang on to certain patterns on my bass way too often. It drives me crazy when that happens, because every song I write or am a part of writing, I try to branch out and change my style a little bit. But when I’m feeling insecure I come back to a comfort zone. —R. Zizmor