Regina Spektor: Timeless, But Never On Time

'I'm not a people-pleasing housewife,' Spektor tells Bigger Than the Sound.

Here is a story about Prince, one that has been repeated to me several times and one I am therefore assuming to be true: He has no concept of time. Or, more specifically, he does not believe in the constraints of it. If the Purple One has something on his schedule for, say, 2:30 p.m., it will probably happen sometime around 11 p.m., or whenever he declares himself ready. Or maybe it just won’t happen at all. Time does not dictate Prince’s routine, because he refuses to acknowledge its existence. This is amazing when you think about it.

[url id="http://www.mtv.com/music/artist/spektor_regina/artist.jhtml"]Regina Spektor[/url] is most definitely not Prince. But she is on the same time-management system.

To wit: I have interviewed Spektor three times. On the first occasion, she was profoundly late (so much so that she could’ve actually been considered early). The second, she was profoundly late and her handlers could not get in touch with her because, as it turned out, she had walked into a telephone pole. The third time was Tuesday, and once again she was late, and once again her handlers could not get a hold of her, though this time it wasn’t because she had injured herself — it was because she had fallen asleep and missed her alarm.

I am not including this information to point out how “quirky” or “childlike” or “naïve” Spektor is — because, really, those seem to be the only three adjectives music journos use to describe her these days — but rather, to prove a point: Spektor’s new album, Far, hit stores on Tuesday. It is the follow-up to her breakout Begin to Hope, which, if you’ve watched a TV drama aimed at the 25-54 demo, you’ve probably heard sprinkles of by now (Spektor, it should be noted, does not own a television set). And this makes Far a really big deal, not just for her, but her label, Sire Records.

And knowing all that, she overslept anyway.

“This is the one thing I would love to change about myself,” she laughs. “Sometimes I have days when I’m really good at being on time, and then I fall off the wagon. All it takes is one time … but sometimes I also think I feel too proud of myself when I am on time, like it’s an occasion. So I should probably work on that too.”

But she probably won’t, because time is a very funny thing for Spektor, and not just when it comes to scheduling. Far is the follow-up to Hope in sequence (and expectation) only — the songs on it date from as far back as 2001 or as recent as five months ago. She didn’t write, say, “Dance Anthem of the ’80s” or first single “Laughing With” specifically for the album — she just had them lying around and figured now was as good a time as any to release them onto the world. She decided to work with four producers — Mike Elizondo, Jacknife Lee, David Kahn and Jeff freakin’ Lynne — not because of their decade-spanning résumés, but rather “because they all seemed like humble, cool people.” These are not how hit follow-up records are made — not these days, and really, not ever.

Which is good, because the jury’s still out on whether Far will continue Spektor’s hot streak. Early reviews have been mixed — most seem to find fault in the quirk (the dolphin noises she makes on “Folding Chair,” the Germanic accent she adopts on “Machine”), while others miss the rough edges she bent her voice around on 2004′s Soviet Kitsch. These are all actually fairly accurate criticisms … I’ve listened to Far three times now, and I find myself noticing the same things; though, to be fair, I’m firmly entrenched in the Kitsch camp, as opposed to the glossier territory she explored on Begin to Hope. Then again, Spektor probably doesn’t care about this at all. Actually, I know she doesn’t, because she told me.

“I think people who really care about something they really like — it’s natural to only want more of that. Forget about music, people feel that way about shoes. They go back to the store where they bought a pair of shoes three years ago and they now all have pointy tips instead of round ones, and they don’t want any of that,” she says. “I’m that way. I would wear the same pair of shoes until I’m 80 years old. But music is a breathing thing, and they’ll always have those records. My job is not to make people happy, you know? ‘Can I get you more to drink?’ I’m not a people-pleasing housewife.”

And at this juncture, her handlers break in and try to wrap up the conversation. Spektor is due to leave for Europe in the morning, and there’s much scheduling to do. But before we go, I ask her about making music — twisty, turny, timeless and tangible music — in a time when none of that matters and everything is, essentially, completely and utterly disposable. She sighs and recommends a book for me to read, “The Lexicon of Musical Invectives,” which she describes as “a collection of nasty reviews of classical music, from Bach to Wagner,” then launches into a rant that one could describe as “delightfully quirky,” if one were a lazy music journo, though I prefer “timeless.” Or, rather, beyond the concept and constraints of time itself.

“I mean, in this book, it’s music criticism from the 19th century, and they’re ripping Tchaikovsky a new a–hole, but the thing that really gets me is that it’s written so beautifully. It’s nasty reviews in beautiful language, and that’s what I want,” she says. “My dad will forward me some of the stuff people write about me, and I think it’s all bullsh–. It’s all, ‘Oh, this sucks, that sucks, blah.’ I don’t want that. I want you to write poetically about how bad I suck.”

Questions? Concerns? BTTS@MTVStaff.com