Though they'd rather be making their own movies, Sonic Youth are back in the studio laying down atmospheric music for a French film and noisy dinosaur rock for their next album.
"We're improvising and getting into these long, elaborate stretches of music and keeping an ear for soundtrack cues but at the same time listening for how they would work for song elements," singer/guitarist Thurston Moore said last week. "We sit around drinking iced coffee, and then we start getting it together and playing and all hell breaks loose and it just becomes like a creative mosh pit for a while. And then after about 10 minutes we stop and have some more iced coffee."
For the next Sonic Youth album, Moore said they're going after a classic rock sound with the stylings of avant-noise rockers Whitehouse, whose sound is marked by eruptions of electronics and vocals. "It's pretty much where we've always been at in a way that sort of grand, American tradition but infusing it with complete and utter noise anarchy, à la Whitehouse. We're balancing those two concepts."
Moore said Sonic Youth hope to release the follow-up to last year's NYC Ghosts & Flowers early next year but they're uncertain of their situation with Geffen Records. The band has had no contact with the label for more than a year, he said.
"We don't really sell records that make any kind of blip on the radar, so I'd hate to do a record and have it come out and a week later it's pretty much over with. I'd almost rather put it out myself."
A Geffen spokesperson could not be reached for comment Wednesday (August 15).
The New York band is recording music for Olivier Assayas' film "Demonlover," starring Gina Gershon and Chloë Sevigny. Assayas previously used Sonic Youth's music in his 1996 film "Irma Vep."
"It was great for us to see our music be used by a director who we really responded to creatively," said Moore, who was turned on to Assayas' work by screenwriter/director Harmony Korine ("Kids," "Gummo"). The band at one point hoped to enlist Assayas to direct a video for a song from 1995's Washing Machine but, Moore said, "We couldn't really afford him."
Sonic Youth hope to transition over to doing their own film work via mixed-media DVDs, Moore said. Bassist Kim Gordon and guitarist Lee Ranaldo come from visual-art backgrounds, and the band has incorporated visual art into its stage shows.
"We basically want to make movies get away from this record-making business," Moore said. "DVDs are where it's at. I'd really like to do more visual work with our music and have it exist in the same medium. We'd like to actually create DVD as product, where it is full-on musical scoring, full-on song scoring and film and other visual media existing with it. ... We're pretty serious about trying to look at that as something to do as a band."
Sonic Youth are curators of the first U.S. incarnation of All Tomorrow's Parties, a music-and-arts festival that originated in U.K. The lineup for October 19-21 at UCLA will feature Eddie Vedder, Stereolab, Stephen Malkmus, Television, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Cat Power (see "Sonic Youth Invite Vedder, Malkmus To Their Party").