Portland's prime noise-folk up-and-comers, the crazy-talented kids in Norfolk & Western, are currently touring the States—not by locomotive (as the band's biography once claimed), but in a 15-person van. Adam Selzer and company—drummer Rachel Blumberg, bassist Dave Depper and multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick—are supporting the band's recent Hush Records release, The Unsung Colony. Selzer took a moment in Tucson, Ariz.—where "It's warm and not snowing like up yonder"—to tell Riff City about holiday touring, good tacos and his band's ongoing transformation.
Riff City: How's the tour been going?
Adam Selzer: I don't advise bands touring around Thanksgiving—unless you're Joanna Newsom. We're on the same tour path, but I know her shows are going really well. Maybe we should get a harp, and I should try to sing two octaves higher.
Dave [Depper, in his LocalCut.com tour diary] seemed particularly excited about Pittsburgh. Do you have a favorite city to visit on the road?
Pittsburgh is great! I think it could become the Portland of the East Coast. For me, I really love Tucson, especially this time of year—not too hot, and really good tacos.
Can you compare touring as a quiet act to playing noisier, band-oriented music?
It's much more fun. I do love my distortion pedal! Also, Rachel, Dave and Peter are such amazing musicians; I don't have to hold as much together.
Do you find that crowds are more receptive to louder music?
Well, sometimes. It's strange. The last few tours we did were opening for the Decemberists, then M. Ward, then DeVotchKa. I wanted to see what it would be like to play in front of smaller crowds...that were there to see us. It's definitely been smaller, but I think timing kind of bit us in the ass. Maybe we're taking the brunt of the white man's burden, being Thanksgiving and all....
Are you projecting Rachel's artwork on this tour?
No. We brought [the projector] along [and] watched Office Space in the hotel on Thanksgiving, so it's getting some use.
Describe the differences between touring with N&W and as part of M. Ward's band.
It's different in Norfolk because I feel an ownership of the songs. Matt lets us be really creative, so it's not like I'm a robot...and he has absolutely no ego whatsoever.
What do you see in the future for the N&W? Is the lineup still a rotating door, or is the current group more cemented?
Right now the tour is Rachel, Dave and Peter. And in Portland, we'll have Amanda Lawrence and Cory Gray. We're hopefully going to write some songs this winter. I want the next record to be even more of a collaboration than the last one: I feel like it's much more of a band and not my project anymore, which it was when it all started.
Norfolk & Western celebrates the release of
with John Weinland and Corrina Repp on Friday, Nov. 8, at the Doug Fir. 9 pm. $8 advance, $10 day of show. 21+.