Bishop Allen Interview

Originally published in Boyd Street Magazine on October 21st, 2008.

Indie rock band Bishop Allen may be from Brooklyn, but they still have a large Norman connection. They play at the Opolis quite often, they’ve recorded at Blackwatch Studios and have even toured with local favorites the Starlight Mints.

“I really like Norman, we know a lot of people there and we always have really great and fun shows there.” said singer/guitarist Justin Rice. “When we were recording down there, we were there for like three weeks, and it was freezing cold and there was this huge ice storm. We were pretty much just stranded in the studio. I always picture Norman coated in like a hockey rink of ice.”

The band is currently putting the finishing touches on their as-yet-untitled new album, which is due out on Dead Oceans Records early next year. Rice said the new album will be quite different from last year’s The Broken String and be more along the lines of their debut full-length, Charm School.

“We just felt like making songs that were upbeat, energetic, had a sense of humor, and that were fun. It’s got pep. It’s kind of like “Charm School,” but I think it’s much better,” said Rice. “I think we wanted to get away from anything that felt heavy-handed or melodramatic, and just get back to songs that had a sort of vivacity, but were also kind of understated.”

The band has spent most of 2008 recording and working on other projects and has barely toured at all. Rice said that they are quite excited to be getting back out on tour.

“We toured a lot last year, and there is certain point at the end of a tour when you feel you’ve just played your songs to death. So we were really excited to get off the road and write new songs, and now that we have them, we’re just excited to get out and play them. It’s really fun when something’s fresh,” said Rice. “I’m hoping we’ll be able to play somewhere between half and all these new songs.”

Fans can currently see Bishop Allen make an appearance in the recent Michael Cera film “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.” Rice said that they got involved in the project back when it was still in development.

“Apparently the film’s director, Peter Sollett, wanted a bunch of New York bands to be in the movie, so he was going to shows to check things out. He saw us, liked us, and got us involved very early on,” said Rice. “At that point we didn’t even know Michael Cera was involved, we just knew that Peter Sollett directed Raising Victor Vargus, which is an amazing film.”

Rice said that filming the movie was an incredibly fun and out of the ordinary experience for the band.

“We treated it just like a normal show. We just brought our equipment and played, except there were a ton of extras and this huge movie crew,” said Rice. “We wound up hanging out with the cast, and even played Tiger Woods golf with Michael Cera in his trailer.”

Rice has also been involved in quite a number of other film projects, including starring roles in Andrew Bujalski’s critically acclaimed films Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation. He completed three films earlier this year, including one with director Bob Byington, that are set to hit the film festival circuit early next year.

To many, Bishop Allen is considered a sort of “blog band,” as they receive a ton of coverage on the various indie rock blogs. Rice thinks that those blogs have had an overwhelmingly positive effect on the band.

“There is definitely a large contingent of people out there that read those blogs, and I think it’s pretty cool that those things still exist as like an alternative to the kind of codified, mainstream media. There is something very anarchic about them,” said Rice. “Any kid can start a blog. I met a lot of the people who run those blogs back when they were just like a kid with a computer, and now it’s grown into something else.”

Bishop Allen will be performing at the Opolis with An Horse and Electric Owls on November 5th.