Six Questions for ... Dead Man's Bones

dead man's bones

If Ryan Gosling wasn't in Dead Man's Bones, you wouldn't be reading this. Fine. There. But of all the actor-turned-musician projects that we've heard over the years, perhaps only the immortal Crispin Glover's "The Big Problem Does Not Equal the Solution, The Solution Equals Let It Be" is a more bizarre album than the self-titled debut from Gosling and his fellow actor friend Zach Shields. This isn't dumb hard rock. (Hi, Jared Leto.) Or predictable dance-pop. (Hey, Leighton Meester. Seriously, hey, what's up? Want to grab a drink?) Or hipster desperation. (Hey, Scarlett Johansson. We can chat after I'm done talking to Leighton.) The star of "The Notebook" and "Lars and the Real Girl" teamed with the star of, uh, "The Most Beautiful Thing" to make an extremely specific type of album with a strict set of rules: there would be limited rehearsing, limited takes, the songs would be about witches and zombies and werewolves and graveyards, and a children's choir would be prominently featured. There are so many ways for it to go wrong, but sheer determination and enthusiasm make it work better than it has any right to.

I chatted with the duo, conference call style, as they walked around windy Boston a day before the first show of their first tour. (Their only previous shows were at a marionette theater in Los Angeles. Seriously, these guys are doing very well at staying off-center. Did I mention how the opening acts for each show were picked by YouTube submitted videos, a sort of open-call talent show?) "We're kind of distracted. We both have extreme ADD, too," Gosling offered. Dead Man's Bones performs Saturday at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue.

So you're about to start playing these shows, which will be a new experience. How will you go about things?
Gosling: Carefully.
Shields: I don't know. That's what we're trying to figure out now. We haven't done it. Doing a puppet show was different because we were sort of the backup to the orchestra. And this will be the first time we're playing where we're kind of the focus of the night. We've never played with the kids that we're working with. It's a different choir in every city. In Washington it's a gospel choir. We're not going to rehearse with them. So I guess most of the show will be us working out the show together. It'll be that kind of strange first time thing, watching two groups of people come together and play a show.

(Children's choirs, strict rules and playing at the talent show, after the jump.)

Why did you decide to have the children's choir play such an integral role on the record? It's pretty much the defining aspect, overall.
Gosling: We just both really love that Nancy Dupree record and then the Langley Schools Music Project record. I don't know if that's a genre of music, but we just wanted to try it and make our contribution to it. Take a stab at it. There's something about those records that's just kind of hard to explain.

You had very strict rules when making the record. Why did you impose those?
Shields: The rules were made to keep us on track. (Playing live) is kind of the same idea, because everything is the first time.
Gosling: Just to make us appear better than we are. There's so many things -- don't get me wrong, the whole next record will be AutoTuned. (Laughs.) There are so many features and ways to fix things. But that's what we liked about those records we mentioned. You could just hear where they were at.
Shields: And that's what will be exciting about playing live. All that stuff we tried not to hide on the record, you definitely can't hide that when you play live. All the mistakes and things like that. Sometimes those can be the most exciting parts of a show, like if you go to a play and one of the actors forgets a line. It's an experience that's everyone is in together.

The songs on the album are kind of spooky, creepy, weird, but also have an innocence to them because of the choir. Is there any specific way you'd describe the sound?
Shields: We have a hard time describing it because we're so close to it.
Gosling: Other people's descriptions of it are much better than anything we could say. I don't know. I've heard all kinds of things and they all fit, sound pretty good to us. It's just what ended up happening. We took a road trip and brought a guitar. We just started writing songs and they all ended up that way. They were all a bit doo wop influenced, in a way. And they were all about ghosts. Or monsters. And falling in love. It just went down that way. I don't really know why.
Shields: We were just writing the songs and they were the only songs that we could make.
Gosling: We've tried to write songs that are not as specific, not as themed. But we just can't seem to right now. Hopefully we'll get there but at the moment this is all we know.

Where did you get the idea for the opening act talent show? Will it be a disaster? Will it be amazing?
Shields: (Laughs.) It'll be all of the above. Everything, all the time.
Gosling: There are certain places, like in New York, we have so many great opening acts. I just can't wait to see them. There's one guy that does this sort of poetic, slightly Buster Keaton-ish performance with his hat. There's another guy who ... well, I can't tell what he's going to do. But part for part of it, he will be a lizard. There will be this interesting Native American singer who does a set of tribal music. It's a place to show talents that aren't necessarily given a platform to be seen. If you do something that is a little unorthodox but is very personal to you, and you believe in it. It's not "The Gong Show."

You must have had some worries that people wouldn't take the project seriously based on the fact that you're very famous for being an actor. Were you always confident enough in the material so that wasn't a concern?
Gosling: Well, I don't think we're that confident about it. (Laughs.) I mean, we're gonna be old and die one day. You just do what you want to do, when it occurs to you.


By David Malitz |  October 16, 2009; 11:00 AM ET Interviews
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Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



This isn't dumb hard rock. (Hi, Jared Leto.) - Really? This is what you really need to say to make your point? First of all, you don't need to make comments that are very offensive. Second of all, it is not up to you to judge others like.

Jared Leto is a great musician who should be respected for all the great music he has brought to the music industry. Don't compare others by putting them down and obviously, you don't know what real music is.

Posted by: jess92 | October 16, 2009 11:22 PM

If the "actor-turned-musician" is a category,Jared Leto has nothing to do with it.
He is out of any category that some people,journalists or not,can create.
And his projects too.
Nothing to do with something "we have heard over the years".
Too much talented,creative and original,totally out of the chorus.
I don't want to force anybody to have my same opinion about Jared Leto,even if it's the same of thousands and thousands of people who appreciate him as a singer and a musician.
Only a suggestion:personal opinions should stay out of press articles,especially when they are so far from reality.

Posted by: CoolSex | October 16, 2009 11:32 PM

Making that tic-tac sized comment about Jared Leto was kind of uncalled for.
More than trying to promote the band you are interviewing in the article, you seem to be showcasing some type of personal problem you have with Jared.
Which, of course, if I am right, is completely unprofessional and give the Washington Post a shadow over its acclaimed articles.
You should have focused less on dissing Jared and the other actor/singers in your introductory paragraph and tried to praise and promote Dead Man's Bones more.
The interview and DMB were great, but those first nine lines were a pathetic jab at Jared's amazing band and the hard tries of the other two actors.
Please try harder next time NOT to offend people or don't try at all.

Posted by: ttaylor6277 | October 16, 2009 11:36 PM

Response from Jeniffer, another Echelon:

Honeslty, you have any idea of who Jared Leto is to be calling his artwork ‘dumb hard rock’? I don’t think so. 30 Seconds to Mars are one of the only bands that still making pure MUSIC with true and honest lyrics than can actually MEAN something. Do not speak of what you do not understand, please. If it’s not your type of music or art, i respect, but think about the others. This is a newspaper, not a personal blog where you can expose your opinion as you please. And if you have any personal issue with Jared, act like an adult and leave it out of here as well. It’s sad that a respected news source like WP goes to this point, acting like a teen, ironizing such a serious person when it’s about his work.

Sincerely, Jeniffer

Posted by: ttaylor6277 | October 16, 2009 11:50 PM

Okay first of all this so called "Actor turned musician" was really uncalled for! You must be upset with your life cause you work for the Washington Post! yes very sad job! You really think Jared Leto is a dumb rock band, have you looked around or done research? Really you must not be good at your job if you are saying this. You need to focus on what you are trying to say instead of acting like you are in the 3 grade! Acting all butt hurt over something stupid! You really are missing with the wrong fan base if you are going to talk crap and not go to some ones face and say it! Be a little bit cleaver when you are talking! Have some common sense seriously!!

Posted by: ziggydame | October 17, 2009 12:07 AM

The only good thing that came out of Washington was Grunge music (which isn't all that good anyway), and good coffee... The man that wrote this clearly doesn't know what the hell he is talking about, being a music critic you should actually try to adapt into every genre of music not just one. Anyways the Washington post is a sad excuse for a news paper... Your not the New York Post, or The Globe and Times... Congratulation David Malitz, you surly don't know what your doing.

Posted by: mollymisery | October 17, 2009 12:18 AM

Sorry about the comment above... I didn't know you where pasted in Washington DC... Blame the Canadian in me. Anyways as I was saying, I was wondering... Can you piss off mate? Are you seriously going to insult Jared Leto for being an actor... How about Jack White, or Zoe Saldana? You should mention a good few more names before you insult just one person... Because it makes you look as if your pin pointing only one person... IN other words verbally attacking him.

Posted by: mollymisery | October 17, 2009 12:35 AM

Sorry about the comment above... I didn't know you where pasted in Washington DC... Blame the Canadian in me. Anyways as I was saying, I was wondering... Can you piss off mate? Are you seriously going to insult Jared Leto for being an actor... How about Jack White, or Zoe Saldana? You should mention a good few more names before you insult just one person... Because it makes you look as if your pin pointing only one person... IN other words verbally attacking him.

Posted by: mollymisery | October 17, 2009 12:36 AM

REALLY??????? "This isn't dumb hard rock. (Hi, Jared Leto.)" .... RUDE and uncalled for!!! David Malitz, have you heard 30 Seconds to Mars new single- Kings and Queens? please listen to it in it's entirety... then make your HONEST judgement! You can't deny Jared, Shannon & Tomo are a group of phenomenally talented guys!

Posted by: lh6277 | October 17, 2009 1:59 PM

The only good thing that came out of Washington was Grunge music (which isn't all that good anyway), and good coffee... The man that wrote this clearly doesn't know what the hell he is talking about, being a music critic you should actually try to adapt into every genre of music not just one. Anyways the Washington post is a sad excuse for a news paper... Your not the New York Post, or The Globe and Times... Congratulation David Malitz, you surly don't know what your doing.

Posted by: mollymisery | October 17, 2009 12:18 AM

---------------

This post was funnier than the first 30 minutes of Saturdays's Broadcast show, and that's saying something.

Posted by: M__N | October 19, 2009 10:16 AM

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