The Silver Jews have been around for more than 15 years, but frontman David Berman has, until now, remained famously averse to performing live.
The band released its fifth full-length album, Tanglewood Numbers, on Drag City last October, around the same time agent Derek Becker of Satellite Booking got the first hints that Berman’s anti-touring stance might be changing.
“Dan Koretzky over at Drag City gave me a call and said David was contemplating or flirting with the idea of doing some shows,” Becker told Pollstar. “He wasn’t sure if David was going to commit to a full-fledged tour, but he was thinking about it seriously enough to warrant having an agent, just to have somebody to collect offers and that sort of thing.
“We didn’t pursue anything, really, we just kind of announced that he had an agent and people started coming to us.”
A dozen dates are booked in March through the South and East Coast, starting in Athens, Ga., March 10 and winding up in Ann Arbor, Mich., two weeks later. Three U.K. dates, as well as two more U.S. shows, were also recently confirmed for April.
“This first group of dates is just kind of getting David’s feet wet,” Becker said. “He would like to get to the West Coast but we’re not sure yet; we’re not ready to announce anything. It might be the fall.”
The Silver Jews have often been mislabeled as a Pavement side project due to the occasional involvement of Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich, but the group has always been Berman’s own, with increasing assistance from his wife, Cassie.
Although Malkmus won’t be along for the tour, Nastanovich is on board for drum duty and fellow Pavement alum Steve West is doing sound. Brian Kotzur, Tony Crow, William Tyler and Peyton Pinkerton – all of whom have worked with David and Cassie in the past – will round out the band.
Berman took the time to answer a few of Pollstar‘s questions via e-mail:
So first, the obvious question: Why a tour now?
I’d always had it in the back of my mind that I’d give it a go before I turned 40. I think if I could steel myself into doing 20 shows a year it would be a good thing.
How big an influence have your fellow musicians and their experiences had on you, in terms of your feelings toward touring?
Part of the evidence I had came from watching friends tour, though most of my aversion to performance is just the way I was born.
Has Cassie generally shared your reluctance to hit the road?
I don’t think so. She enjoys playing music in front of an audience.
There is some serious rockin’ on the new album. Did the nature of the new songs have anything to do with your decision to begin performing live?
In general, I have a more aggressive attitude toward my personal survival. The tone of the music and my willingness to promote it reflect that change of heart.
For some musicians, live performance is a way for their songs to develop and evolve. Is that sort of exploration a factor in your plans?
I don’t think so. Going through the old songs, it’s clear that while many are “finished” some were only abandoned and reopening them and futzing around is pretty uncomfortable. There are other things I want to give my attention to.
How are rehearsals going?
Gooder than good.
The word is more shows are planned later in the year, if this first leg goes well. Can you see yourself becoming a Dylan-style road warrior?
I think there must be something wrong with Dylan, and Willie and Haggard because they tour so much. It’s inhuman. I’m a stationary sort.
So it’s the first-ever Silver Jews tour. Are these the first-ever live Silver Jews performances?
Two years ago I played a five song set in Nashville. That’s been my longest live performance to date.