For genre-defying quartet Clogs, its purpose will always be about performing music for people to enjoy and hopefully like. The bandmates (Bryce Dessner, guitar; Rachael Elliott, bassoon; Thomas Kozumplik, percussion; Padma Newsome, viola) met while each attended Yale School of Music many years ago, and the four musicians have continued to create music ever since.
The band's fifth album, The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton (2010), feature vocals--a rare departure from its predominantly instrumental works--and the result is a beautiful arrangement of reflective harmonies that grow into something so unexpectedly pleasant.
Last year, NPR recognized Creatures as one of the best genre-defying albums of 2010. Do you prefer "genre-defying" to other terms such as "oddly constructed" or "classical-indie hybrid" or "avant-garde chamber" that have been used to describe your music?
Your official bio lacks such definitive distinctions and simply describes your music. How do you feel about these attempts to label to your music?
I don’t attempt to write in any style, or attempt to avoid a style. Style is not usually in dialogue in my music on purpose. It’s just a result of the musical idea meeting the outside world. This is not to say that I never think/feel about style. There are many thoughts and feelings running past my brain, and out again, as a piece comes into being.
I believe in most cases that a person’s style is going to be something at the center of what they do most easily. The music that comes most easily off our fingers, and the music that rings well in our ears. If there is an answer to your question, then it is one of the great mysteries of music: why we like what we like. Or "what is style?"
I do like "genre defying," since I am the mildest of political animals, so to defy a genre seems gutsy to me, if not a bit out of character. Hybrid might relay some information, but in my mind has the idea of disparate entities coming together in a conglomerate, jutting out in relief, as it were.
I think the great value of any of this is the intrinsic nature of the outcome and how we respond to it. I prefer people to be sitting back and enjoying the sonic journey than to be pondering the vagaries of style, asking, "Why I am here?" or "What frog am I?"
In reality, all my energy goes into finding ideas and their relatives.
In a previous interview, you confessed that you "don't think [you] probably will ever be popular." I guess that's a relative term because I would think you are on a musical high right now. Pitchfork and NPR love you. You're even on the lucky Pandora Radio collection. How do you feel about all the buzz around your music?