2005_10_arts_strugglers.jpgVery rarely do we sift through the piles of unknown cd's we receive and find a gem. One we pop in the cd player and not only listen to the first song in it's entirety, but listen to the entire album. In one sitting. Actually, probably the only time this has happened this year is with the Strugglers cd, You Win.
At the center and soul of the band is Randy Bickford, who for all intensive purposes is the Strugglers. With a voice reminiscent of Eddie Vedder and a flair for songcrafting Bickford manages to create one of the more simplisticly artistic recordings we've heard. It's alt-country and indie rock at it's best, and we suggest you go check it out live this Saturday. Details after the interview.

Let's get this out of the way, where did your band name originate?
Someone suggested it one night at a party at the turn of the century, and I thought it sounded very fine being a plural moniker for a singular artist. As such, the name refers to something other than the music-maker(s).

What is your favorite/least favorite memory involving New York?
More or less my entire tenure as a New Yorker was a happy time. Some highlights include eating at Massawa (the best restaurant EVER), discovering Surf Reality, and jogging in Riverside Park. Aside from 9/11, my least favorite time was the occasional New York Breakdown Moment (i.e., experiencing an already sufficiently traumatic emotional episode which is then rendered practically unendurable by the additional element of NYC noise, speed, traffic, urine stank, etc.).

What's your take on playing shows in New York City? If you could play at any venue here, which would it be (past, present...)?
I think NYC concert goers will always be a little more blasé about shows and everything else, really. I think for a long time now the reason for this has partly been a sense of obligation. New Yorkers are obligated to be blasé precisely because they are New Yorkers. Also, they affect a cynical worldview as a means of survival. There’s something wonderfully Darwinian about living in NYC. As for venues I’d like to play, Carnagie or Radio city.

Is there a difference in the New York music scene from your own local scene?
Carrboro is a small hippie town, and I love it. Things are more relaxed here in the music scene as in all other aspects. Also, it’s the South. Which I love but which might not be for everyone. The constant over-stimulation of the NYC music/art scene is something that’s hard to leave behind at first. But as a wiser feller than me once said, “You’ll also never see worse art than you will on the Lower East Side in Manhattan.”

Now its time for some fill-in-the-blank action

You know you’ve made it when...you release the inevitable double LP.
It’ll be time to pack up the gear for good when...Never! I’ll never stop making music!
I’ll never forget the first time I...did just about anything.
I’ll never forget the first time another band member...played two consecutive shows with me. That was fucking awesome.

Let's have some fun with word association. Give me your immediate feelings on the following (if you've got no discernable feelings, make something up that won’t embarrass you in the morning)

Yankees: Rich kids.
Mets: The cutters, my people.
Bridge & Tunnel: Ah, Hoboken. I hardly knew ye.
Blogs: Not for me. I don’t care to write about myself publicly—in a direct, non-fictional way, that is.
Pitchfork: Ambivalence. The image of a man patting me on the shoulder and saying, “Kid, the first thing we gotta do is turn you into a DIY success story!”
Times Square: Least favorite spot in NYC.
Lost: Durham, NC, USA.

A few quickies on the music tip

What's the most played song on your iPod (or an equivalent music playing device) in the past week?
“Heart of the Sunrise” by Yes.

Who would be in your ultimate music supergroup, your all-star Olympic team of rock?
Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson, Simon Nicol—oh, wait.

If you released a 7” what would you put on the cover?
Something like the cover of Tigersaw’s Sing! album. Such a tremendous cover.

What was the first/last album you bought on the day it was released?
First that I can remember was maybe Pavement’s Wowee Zowee. By that time I was a rabid fanboy. Actually I think that was probably the last one as well.

If Josh Schwartz, creator of the OC, asked your band to perform on his tv show (as Modest Mouse, the Killers and the Walkmen recently have) would you?
Sure—and almost more for weirdness’ sake than for exposure’s.

And finally...What came first, the music or the misery?
Music. I was ten when I began playing guitar, and—I was actually just telling a friend about this—I can remember trying to emulate the angst and misery in the bands I heard around me. It couldn’t be done. I think eventually this experience kept me from going down the path of clichéd sad bastard folk. Right? Right?

Check out some mp3's of the Strugglers songs here.
They play Red & Black [135 N. 5th Street in Brooklyn] on Saturday, October 29th. Check out their other tour dates here.