Death Vessel is, essentially, Rhode Island musician Joel Thibodeau. After a few years away fro the whole record-releasing business, he issued his third studio set, ‘Island Intervals’, earlier this year via Sub Pop.
The album – which is reviewed here – was recorded in Iceland, alongside Sigur Rós collaborator Alex Somers and Samuli Kosminen of múm. And, appearing on the track ‘Isla Drown’, is the unmistakable voice of a modern Icelandic musical legend, Jónsi.
So it stands to reason that Jónsi would want to interview Joel. Right? Right. And he has, here…
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Death Vessel feat. Jónsi, ‘Isla Drown’
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Jónsi: I sing like a girl, but you sing like a 10-year-old boy. What’s up with that?
Joel: At 10 years old I auditioned for the Boy Singers of Maine. I was accepted, but because the rehearsals were 30 miles away from home, I was unable to join. With four other children to look out for, my parents weren’t able to commit to the choir’s rigorous schedule. I imagine my vocal abilities peaked at that point. And you may sing sweetly, but your ferocity reveals itself at the ping-pong table. Thanks for annihilating me to win second to last place in the studio tournament. Home table advantage, I'd say.
Jónsi: So you have this really old, shitty Silvertone acoustic guitar? Can you not afford a better one?
Joel: Yeah, I play an old Silvertone 604 acoustic guitar I got from my pal Otto D’Ambrosio. He modified it slightly to perform better. I love the sound it makes. It suits my songs. A friend of mine recently gave me a Silvertone 319 that sounds just as good. You have a really nice Martin guitar, but you ripped the pick guard off and now its glossy finish is messed-up. What’s up with that? It still sounds fantastic, though. I recorded the song ‘Triangulated Heart’ (from ‘Island Intervals’) with it. Incidentally, it was the first song to ever be written at your new studio.
Jónsi: So, what’s up with your long black mane? How long since you cut it? Are you some kind of hippy?
Joel: I don’t have time to answer this one. I’m too busy primping my locks. Instead, I’ll quote the pleasant young man tossing a football – the American kind – to his friend in the street, whom I passed while walking my dog. He said, “You have nice hair, bro. Your dog’s a gazelle.”
Jónsi: Why ‘Death Vessel’? What does it mean?
Joel: When I thought of the name Death Vessel I was listening to songs like (Ralph Stanley’s) ‘O Death’, (The Stanley Brothers’) ‘Death Is Only A Dream’ and (Richard Thompson’s) ‘Wall Of Death’. Rather than holding literal meaning, I think it supports the sentiments of the songs I write.
Jónsi: Can you describe some of the lyrics on the album? I liked them. What are they about?
Joel: You wrote the tune and I wrote the lyrics to ‘Ilsa Drown’. The words were partly inspired by the collected stories in the book Icelandic Folk And Fairy Tales. I picked it up during my stay in Reykjavík, in hopes of getting acquainted with elf life. It was fun writing with your voice in mind. You had to sing “Algonquian” and “Bangor”, two words that had never before come out of your mouth.
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Death Vessel photo: Corey Grayhorse
See Death Vessel play live in the UK as follows (*dates w/ Marissa Nadler):
20th – The Cube, Bristol *
21st – Square Chapel, Halifax *
22nd – Komedia, Brighton *
23rd – Café Oto, London *
5th – Concrete, London (headline show)