A shy, wide-angled phantasm lives in the house of Califone. Her veil is ripped and exquisite. You never see her face, but you know she's beautiful. Ramshackle anthems fill the rooms—experiments in psychedelic blues and folk music. Acoustic guitars, banjo, optigan, horns, and scratched-at electronics have chipped away along with the paint in a sound that's older and wiser than its years. Singer Tim Rutili sits in the light of a lantern, writing with guitar and piano. His voice is a solemn refrain, pensive and muted, containing a quiet, downtrodden distance. He stops to take in the sound of crickets in the trees outside and scribbles lyrics with an unsharpened pencil: "By the time I filter down to you, a finger for an invitation/Too sane to find the feel, cotton blood in a jewelry box." Califone's six song-based albums are dusky gems. The Chicago-based band has the ability to let songs write and play themselves. Earlier this month, Jealous Butcher Records rereleased Califone's Sometimes Good Weather Follows Bad People on vinyl. The double LP is complete with outtakes and unreleased material from Red Red Meat sessions. Rutili spoke from the foyer of the house. The floor was marble and cracked. He didn't say where the house was.
You wrote a film and an album called All My Friends Are Funeral Singers. It deals with a psychic. Do you know psychics?
I know some psychics and talked to a few during the writing of the songs and film. Hard to say when they're getting information from some magical ether realm and when visions bubble up from a collective unconscious mind. I think energy follows thought, and maybe we're all a little bit psychic. I wanted to make a film about change and the process of letting go of old ideas. A story of a psychic trying to free the ghosts that have surrounded her since childhood seemed like a good fabric for a story about making a real change and progressing.
How does doing music for a film differ from doing music for an album?
Making an album is about creating music that triggers pictures in the listener. Making music for a film is about enhancing the visuals and serving the story and tone of the film. I love doing both.