French Negative is chiefly my [David Schaefer’s] project. A lot of people have been involved in it, most consistently Ellington Peet, but given the bi-coastal nature of my life right now (I go to school in Massachusetts), it’s pretty much me and whoever I’m making music with on X night. Using we/us pronouns these days. French Negative ceased to be completely-just-me-all-the-
The DIY scene in LA has been great to me. I sort of stumbled into it about a week before my bar mitzvah by way of the Echo Curio, which led me to Pehrspace, The Smell, and so on. I started going to a ton of shows and seeing new bands every other week. If that hadn’t happened, I might not be doing what I am today.
You recently relocated to Massachusetts. What was the transition from LA to the East Coast like for you?
It’s been very good. I love Western Mass. It has a really rich history of music and literature, and I can’t overstate the symbolic pleasure I derive from living and working in the land of not only the Pixies and Dinosaur Jr., but Emily Dickinson and David Foster Wallace. There’s a lot going on in the Western Mass today too, though. If you don’t believe me, look up Mal Devisa, or And The Kids, or Chasma, or Daikon Radish, or LuxDeluxe. Actually, just come visit.
What is your process for writing music?
It starts with trying to be as attentive as possible to what’s going on in my life, and writing down literally everything I think is beautiful, or interesting, or upsets me. Then I look at what I’ve written and sometimes I’ll throw the stuff that rhymes together, or sit down with my guitar and sing a phrase over and over until I think of what I want to come next. As far as arrangement goes, I usually try to let the song take shape in my head until it feels ready to actually attempt playing. When I’m first playing it, I try to stick as close as I can to the original idea of it I had in my head, but once I have that down, I get less precious about it and start shifting things around or throwing in new elements.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of Sufjan Stevens, Red House Painters, Hop Along, and Arthur Russell. Sufjan is a big one for me. I like his ambition. I’m also really influenced by books, too. As far as that goes, I’ve been reading some George Saunders, Italo Calvino, and Ludwig Wittgenstein lately.
You recently premiered a new song, “Hell,” on Stereogum, which takes an interesting perspective on what exactly hell is. Can you tell us about the concept of hell as you described it in the song?
Well, one of the things I was thinking about a lot while I was writing Sublimate Or Die was how whenever I get a migraine, my mind gets flooded with some pretty absurdly pessimistic thoughts (e.g. life is too long, I hate my friends, everything is awful all the time.) The kind of hell I was trying to talk about is one that consists of just thinking stuff like that, whether or not it’s true.
You’re premiering a new song on the KSPC blog now—tell us about it!
This song is called “I’m Tired.” It’s about running into someone at a party and privately freaking out about it. This song is interesting to me, because I wrote it a long time ago, and it’s a lot more vitriolic/ less self-implicating than anything I would write today. It’s from what I would call the “Mean Teen” epoch of David Schaefer songwriting. I still like it though, because I think it’s a great time capsule of where I was in my life when I wrote it, and also has a sweet-ass guitar solo.
What should we look forward to in 2016 from French Negative?
2016 is going to be a very big year for French Negative, or so the encouraging post-it note above my desk says. We’re releasing the rest of our debut, Sublimate Or Die very soon. I’ve also been recording over Ellington’s drums here in Mass with a rad engineer named Justin Pizzoferrato (who has worked on records by such classic Western Mass artists as Dino Jr. and Speedy Ortiz) and some of those songs will be coming out not too long after the album. We have a few shows coming up on the East Coast, some of which are on our Facebook already, and we’ll be announcing some California shows for this summer soon.