Intrview: Common Prayer

This is an interview I did a little while ago with Alex and Jason of Common Prayer. The interview was originally published over on TLOBF. Here it is again incase you missed it.

Go here to hear their musics. Hopefully 2011 will see the band back over here!

Interview: Common Prayer

Can you think of two sentences that rhyme to describe Common Prayer?

Common Prayer sat in a chair, all the while people just stood and stared.
Their mouths fell open and no sound came out – but still the people began to jump and shout.

How has 2010 been for you?

Jason Russo: Busy, fruitful, fun.
Alexandra Marvar: A thrilling series of trial and error.

Did you enjoy coming to the UK? What were your highlights?

A: We very much enjoyed coming to the UK. Highlights included not being turned away at customs, Robin Bennett’s birthday show in Oxford, how fast the trains go, the ancient monk-made causeway in Steventon Oxfordshire, rocky Brighton beaches, the civilian orchestra at Paddington Station, learning what Cornwall is, and Neil Halstead trying to teach us to surf.

Do you have many new songs?

J: Oh yes. Some of which we began recording near the sea in Cornwall. We are very excited. We are aiming for a “The Books remixing the White Album” vibe.

A: It’s good to have goals.

How did you find and choose the images for the There Is A Mountain album cover?

J: The front was designed by Alex and a very talented young man named Mat Hudson aka Orphan Elliot. He makes me hopeful for graphic design and art in general. We wanted to fit everyone we knew on the cover – this is as close as we got. There are several generations of our families in there.

A: Also some mugshots of criminal offenders from the 1800s, and Werner Herzog.

Do you have a favourite mountain and why?

A: Mount Ararat because of its mythical proportions, but also because once I hung out at an elementary school of kurdish muslims at its base, then scrambled into its foothills to participate in the scattering of the ashen remains of a secret descendant of Attaturk, and then it rained for the first time in months—it was a very favourite-mountain-making type of experience. Mt. Denali in Alaska is pretty great too. Its size is inconceivable even if you’re staring at it.

J: I love the Catskills cuz I grew up hiking in them, lately I have been longing for the huge mountains of the American West though. My brothers and I plan to wrestle the bears there.

What’s the plan for 2011?

J: More music. We hope to be over there in the spring, maybe to finish some more recording, definitely to play some shows. Our second record will be ready by summer I think…

A: More travel. I have spent the latter half of 2010 devising massive list of excuses for us to come back to the UK.

Can you tell us about the O+ Festival and how it went? It looked really cool.

A: It went so well! Participating artists were paid for their art and music with medical, dental and other health services from art-loving doctors. Some of my favorite bands got cavities filled. Doctors’ appointments, chiropractic care, eye exams, acupuncture… Also there was tons of great music and giant wheatpaste posters all over the Catskills/Hudson River Valley neighborhood of uptown Kingston, where I live. So, we had a ball. We’re filing for non-profit status and already planning next year’s fest. Watch some videos at

What are your favourite records from this year?

A: The Books The Way Out, Foals Total Life Forever, Liam Singer Dislocatia
J: The Silent League But You’ve Always Been The Caretaker, Sereena-Maneesh Abyss in B Minor, Favourite Sons The Great Deal Of Love

Seen any good bands live lately?

J: At O+ we saw a lot of amazing folks including Nina Violet and Phosphorescent, at CMJ we danced around to Darlings, and at ATP New York we loved Papa M, and Dungen. At Truck Festival we fell in love with Islet (our new favorite band from Wales). I guess we only see bands at festivals lately.

A: Actually, I just saw Tunng recently in Brooklyn. I coveted their array of jangly percussive things and their sampler situation.

Alex, if you could give Jason a super power, what would it be?

A: I would give Jason immunity to illness.

Jason, if you could give Alex a super power, what would it be?

J: I would give Alex the power to read minds.

In a movie about Common Prayer, who would you get to direct and play each band member?

A: I guess I would be played by Parker Posey? The part of Karen Codd would be played by Michelle Williams. The part of John Anderson would be fought over by Jude Law and Owen Wilson and Jude Law would win. For the part of Jason, Alex would cast Robert Downey Jr., though Jason has occasionally elicited heckling cries of “Jeff Goldblum!” from his audiences. And Woody Allen will play his inner child. I will leave the casting of our English members up to a more knowledgeable transatlantic casting director.

Recommend something? It can be anything…

J: I recommend cured Italian meats (thinly sliced), the films of Mike Leigh and Robert Altman (well, Shortcuts at least), tarp camping or at least 3 nights a year sleeping outside with out a tent, the poems of Ikkyu, the band Magma (or just watching this), push-ups, trying not to buy too many things, the book “Underworld” by Don Delillo, a good knife, flossing/tongue scraping, kombucha, killing something and eating it at least once in your life, and making eye contact with people.

A: David Berman’s Actual Air. Specifically “Self-Portrait at 28″.

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