Deerhunter’s been buzzing loudly since the release of their sophomore album Cryptograms earlier this year. The Fluorescent Grey EP helped maintain the chatter some, but it’s the Atlanta quintet’s live presence — dresses, blood, and blowjobs, but also old-fashioned chops, volume, energy, and charisma — that’s solidified/ultimately justified the next-big-thing status. The rise to NY Times exegesis and Karen O love might seem quick, but it’s been a pretty long trip: Deerhunter started in 2001, co-founded by vocalist Bradford Cox, and this week’s worker bee, drummer/keyboardist Moses Archuleta.
Amid the hype, Archuleta maintains his day job, though he’s basically the last member of the band to punch the clock. A tipster alerted me to Archuleta’s 9 to 5 gig at American Apparel in Atlanta, so I caught up with him earlier this week to discuss gardening, light-bulb replacement, clothes folding, leg warmers, Current 93, and “The Most Unwanted Song.”
After our conversation, you’ll find “Axis I (F. Grey),” a track from the Atlas Sound/Mexcellent split 12″ out on Hoss Records. Atlas Sound is Bradford Cox’s solo project; the song’s a one-man glistening nighttime thump-in-the-echo-chamber demo/prototype for Deerhunter’s “Fluorescent Grey.” Go through it once, then listen to the two songs in tandem — it’s a quick lesson in how the group opens up and expands a headspace.
STEREOGUM: How long have you worked at American Apparel?
MOSES ARCHULETA: Since November 2005.
STEREOGUM: How’d you get the job?
MA: I was hanging out at this bar in Atlanta for an LCD Soundsystem afterparty a couple of years ago. There was free beer, but I was designated driver so I wasn’t drinking. After a good deal of really bad music, I tried rounding up Colin and Bradford to go. But every time I would find one the other would disappear. At some point in all of this, I’m standing around by a column looking around for one of them when this girl comes up to me. She’s wearing this ridiculous outfit of a leotard and legwarmers and she approaches me and compliments this sweatshirt I’m wearing. And then my shoes. And then my jeans. And then she stands back and is sizing me up, but the whole while she’s dancing and not missing a beat. So, I’m totally weirded out by now and wondering what’s going on. She asks me a couple of questions I don’t remember exactly and then walks away. Then she comes back a minute later and starts asking me about if I worked anywhere, etc., one thing lead to another, and I had an interview set up for a couple of days later. Basically, I was recruited while at a bar. The funny thing is, I really needed a job at the time and was having a difficult time finding one when I decide to go out one night and it just finds me.
STEREOGUM: Did she end up being a co-worker?
MA: Yeah, actually. She worked at the first store with me. She’s great, just a little hyper and very forward, which can be disconcerting if you don’t know her at all.
STEREOGUM: Had you worked in clothing or fashion prior to American Apparel?
MA: I worked at a used vintage clothing store once a couple of years prior. I didn’t do a whole lot there though: Organized, hung stuff up, steamed clothes in the back. That’s all I remember for some reason … steaming clothes around Halloween.
STEREOGUM: What are your duties at American Apparel?
MA: Well, I was a back stock manager, but I was recently taken down a notch due to the amount of time I’m out of town. As a back stock employee though, it’s a lot of organizing clothes, folding, shipping and receiving: Boring stuff. Whenever odd jobs come up, like gardening or fixing something or replacing light bulbs, someone in back stock does it. I get stuck with technology related tasks a lot. I ring people up sometimes and work on the floor, but not as much as I used to. The other guy I mainly work with in back stock is awesome too. We have our own (crummy) stereo in the back that we can listen to music on and he has great taste too. He’s always bringing in Current 93, Leonard Cohen, Sleep, Blind Willie McTell, and other stuff of equal quality. So, it’s nice to work with someone else where no complaining happens over what’s on the stereo.
STEREOGUM: What kind of gardening takes place in an American Apparel?
STEREOGUM: Have you ever piped Dopesmoker or Thunder Perfect Mind through to the front of the store?
MA: Haha, well, not through the front of the store. That would be something wouldn’t it? Some pretty weird music comes on through the radio in the store sometimes. There’s this one thing called “The Most Wanted Song” and “The Most Unwanted Song” that came up one time. It’s these two songs that are composites of what people were polled about them liking and disliking in music. So “The Most Wanted Song” is this over-the-top love song between a girl and guy that’s kind of R&B. It’s not too long (about five minutes) and contains standard instrumentation (guitar, bass, drums, saxophone). It’s never too loud and it’s moderately pitched and at a medium tempo. Then, “The Most Unwanted Song” is this obnoxious behemoth. It’s around 25 minutes in length, has operatic rapping, children choirs, strange lyrics (about philosophy, cowboys, and holidays), abrupt tempo changes, lots of soft-to-loud parts, and weird instrumentation (tubas, accordions, bagpipes, polka setting on Casios). I kind of like “The Most Unwanted Song.”
STEREOGUM: Have you ever met the guy who owns American Apparel? He seems to be pretty hands-on with employees … there was that whole hubbub about him a couple years ago, followed by the advertising campaign.
MA: No, I’ve never met him before. I’ve heard him talk some, but that’s about it.
STEREOGUM Does anyone ever come in and give you shit for these sorts of things?
MA: Some people do like to give you a hard time about working there. There have been spectacular rumors that have reached the point of where we supposedly have a drug den upstairs. It’s all fairly unexciting really. Work is work.
STEREOGUM: In what ways do folks give you a hard time? I imagine it’s similar to the things folks have to deal with for being signed to Vice Records, or whatever.
MA: Yeah, it’s exactly the same. There’s just this negative social stigma with a lot of people about certain “trendy” things at any given point in time. I don’t know why exactly. I think everyone just needs to take everything with a grain of salt, relax. It’s just a magazine that’s funny and that has a label. It’s not the Bible. American Apparel makes nice clothes that you can wear. It’s not a lifestyle choice. Unless you choose to make Vice or American Apparel those kinds of things.
STEREOGUM: What’s your favorite American Apparel ad?
MA: Hard to say … I’m kind of oblivious to the stuff because I’m around it so often. There was this one awhile back with this girl in thermal leggings, lying back on a couch with her knees to her chest and these cool sunglasses on. I really remember the sunglasses for some reason … these black and blue ones.
STEREOGUM: Has the band’s success gotten in the way of the job? Or, are they cool with you taking off time to tour?
MA: The job is very accommodating about touring. I just need to give a decent heads-up about time out of town and I’m good. As i mentioned earlier, I’m not a manager anymore due to this, but it makes sense and I’m still lucky to have a job in the first place.
STEREOGUM: Any plans to quit? Or, is it a nice centering device?
MA: Sometimes it’s overwhelming because I feel like I have two full-time jobs. But it’s hard to complain because I get treated well, have a flexible schedule, great benefits, work with good people, and the clothes aren’t so bad either. It’s definitely a steady source of income, unlike the band. And it is, in fact, a nice centering device. It keeps me on a schedule and that’s a good thing.
STEREOGUM: How’d you manage to be the last person in the band with a job?
MA: Well, Josh has a job, but it’s freelance work. Bradford and Lockett both lost their jobs because of touring. Colin may or may not still have his, but he’s not on the schedule yet. So I’m the only 9 to 5-er.
STEREOGUM: You co-founded Deerhunter with Bradford. What’s it like to have this recent success?
MA: It’s nice to have the past few years of work and ideas validated, sure. It’s been a bit overwhelming at times, but we’re doing well to keep our heads above water. I’m glad someone else likes what we’re doing. For the longest time, I thought we were about the only ones!
STEREOGUM: People are obsessed with the fact that Bradford wears dresses. Why not cash in on that … Has anyone suggested an America Apparel tie-in campaign?
MA: Ha ha, you’re the first. But I know that they’re always open to new ideas. Anyone out there in LA reading this?
And here’s “Fluorescent Grey”…
[Photo by Bryan Metlz]
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