The ‘Gum Drop XLIV: Hear New Damien Jurado, Win An Insound Gift Certificate

After hearing “Gillian Was A Horse” from Damien Jurado’s forthcoming Caught In The Trees, we contacted the Seattle singer-songwriter and asked if he’d want to premiere a track at Stereogum. Lucky for us (and you), it turned out he had two unreleased gems, both covers. This week’s Drop included a hauntingly beautiful take on Low’s “Murderer,” which you can listen to here. Additionally, we now have an MP3 of Damien’s excellent version of the Microphones’ “Where Lies My Tarp?” and his thoughts on both covers:

Damien Jurado – “Where Lies My Tarp?” (Microphones Cover) (MP3)

STEREOGUM: You mentioned being a big fan of both Low and Phil Elverum. What is it you admire about their work?

DAMIEN JURADO: With a band like Low, I have always compared listening to their music to that of a self reveling and holy, or religious experience. It’s hard to explain. The only way I could describe it is: If you were dying and that feeling of fear or joy comes over you … Low is what that experience would sound like. Everything revealed … and then light or dark, comfort and terror. It’s also present in the work of Phil Elverum: Songs that speak of an unknown darkness, i.e. the album Mount Eerie and “No Flashlight.” I’m fascinated by the unknown … So, when hear songs that touch on that, I’m instantly drawn in.

STEREOGUM: How did you decide on these songs?

DJ: Choosing songs to cover was a difficult task, only because there are so many great songs. Not that I would be good at covering all of them. I just chose the songs that I think I can play best, or at least give my best interpretation. Covering any song from an artist you admire is always nerve racking too, and it’s because you are automatically afraid of what the artist might think of it if they were to ever hear it … and not just the artist but also their fans.

STEREOGUM: Like a number of Phil Elverum’s songs, “Where Lies My Tarp?” has a mystical attachment to the natural world. It’s a small, beautiful moment (“Your bed is soft / Your face is sweet / Your gaze is true, / Your eyes are blue”) that becomes transformative (“I’m a birch canoe / I’m a wind that blew / I’m a migrating moose / on the prairie, loose”). What does the song mean to you? How is your take different the original?

DJ: When I do choose to cover a song (which is rare), I try to not stray far from the original piece of work. A lot of artists like to give their twist to it and i don’t think it’s necessary. If anything, it takes away from the song and says “look at me instead.” I want to emulate the original song as best I can. On the original recorded versions I’ve heard of “Where Lies My Tarp?” (live and studio), the tempo varies, so I didn’t feel guilty about slowing it down just a bit. This is also hard to avoid too, because, it is a short song … and I remember listening to it over and over and over again. That in itself is the charm … You just want to keep hearing it. It’s a beautiful song. Probably one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard in years. One of those songs that when you hear it, you wished that you wrote it.

Besides being one of many trades, whether it be, visual art or his very unique recording techniques, Phil has such a great way with words. The lyrics in this song are just a glimpse at what a brilliant songwriter he is. He uses many metaphors — and I like that. You can put on headphones, press play and all of a sudden you are in the song, at the very place he is singing about. I’m from the Northwest, where Phil is from, and so I’m familiar with the imagery he uses in his songs (trees, mountains, lakes). I often wonder how the listening experience is to someone who’s never lived here or has seen Washington state or the Northwest before.

STEREOGUM: It’s interesting how the gentle intimacy of “Where Lies” contrasts to the more blunt, distant toughness of “Murderer.” Did you record these covers at the same time? Were they meant to interact?

DJ: No, the covers were recorded months apart … each song is so different from the other, so there was no intention for interaction. If it sounds like there is, that’s great!

STEREOGUM: What does “Murderer” mean to you?

DJ: You know, I’m not sure. I’m not one of those people who analyze much on lyrics. I just sort of take them at face value. I did see the recent Low documentary You May Need A Murderer, and Alan Sparhawk is asked what “Murderer” means. I don’t quite remember what his explanation was verbatim, but I recall being surprised by his answer… this doesn’t really help. Sorry. You’re just gonna have to watch it. It’s a very inspiring documentary … and so is the one on Dead Moon. did you see that one? You should. It changed my life in some ways.

STEREOGUM: You mentioned to me that you “hardly ever or it all play covers live.” Why is that?

DJ: Because, I already have a lot of material already, that I sometimes don’t play that well. … and so, why add one more song that I know more than my own and completely ruin it, you know?

STEREOGUM: These are beautiful takes on these songs. Any plans for a covers collection at some point? Who else have you covered?

DJ: I’ve covered some traditional folk songs and one or two Nick Drake songs … the occasional Nirvana song in my kitchen … that’s about it. No plans for a cover collection. I just like doing things like one-offs for things like this instead. It’s more fun.

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You can catch Damien live:

09/07 – Sacramento, CA – Harlow’s
09/09 – Los Angeles, CA – Spaceland
09/10 – San Francisco, CA – The Independent
09/12 – Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge
09/13 – Seattle, WA – Triple Door
09/25 – Chicago, IL – Schubas
09/29 – Cambridge, MA – TT The Bear’s
09/30 – New York, NY- Mercury Lounge
10/01 – Brooklyn, NY – Union Hall
10/02 – Washington, DC – Rock and Roll Hotel
10/03 – Philadelphia, PA – First Unitarian Chapel
10/04 – Columbus, OH – Milo Arts

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On top of Damien’s Low, this week’s ‘Gum Drop also offered the chance to win a $100 gift certificate to purchase anything you want at Insound. Yes, in honor of good ol’ LPs (and 7″‘s, 10″‘s, etc.), Insound is in the midst of celebrating the Summer Of Vinyl. Basically, during June and July, they’re highlighting vinyl on the site through features and special sales. Here’s more info:

For eight weeks, we will hold eight different vinyl sales and promotions catering to you, the vinyl lover…

If that isn’t enough vinyl love for you, we are announcing our Insound-exclusive LP+MP3 program! Now when you purchase select vinyl titles from Insound, you’ll also receive the MP3s IMMEDIATELY at check out at no additional cost! Check out our current list of LP+MP3 titles here. And be sure to visit us often because our LP+MP3 catalog is growing more by the day!

You can get more info about the available vinyl, turntables, specific sales, etc., here.

One winner gets a $100 gift certificate good for anything on Insound. That’s right, it doesn’t have to be vinyl. Though that would be very thematic of you. Sign up to win here. Also, there’s still a chance to win last week’s prize of Bob Cousy All-American PF Flyers sneaks here.

CONTEST ENDS 07/16/08 AT 12PM EST.