The New York trio Hospitality are somehow a brilliant anomaly. On first listen of their eponymous debut album (released in US on Merge, and in Europe on Fire records), we found ourselves singing, with sheer surprise to one of its better pop songs, Betty Wang. Melody and words. And then we remembered as at the end of 2008 that had been the object of blog frenzy, with its perfect nod to Camera Obscura and humorous lyrics about a former colleague. Rather than capitalizing on its hype, singer/songwriter/guitarist Amber Papini, drummer Nathan Michel and bass-man Brian Betancourt simply decided to vanish.
Only to return about three years later, with a more confident persona, subtler and more complex orchestral arrangements and the will to write off any preconception about their tweeness. Looking at youth with a wink of disillusionment and wiseness of those who should and actually know better, the album is a perfectly realised series of short stories of office lives, pretend husbands, identity crisis, set against – although never fully adknowleged – a petulant yet irresisteble vision of New York. A few weeks later, we’ve found ourselves singing (and shamelessly dancing, because that’s what indiepop at its best can do) to all this debut’s songs.
It must be a good thing, indeed.
On the eve of a long american tour, we caught up for a quick Q&A session with Amber Papini.
First of all, would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello! I’m Amber Papini. I play guitar and sing in Hospitality.
You first emerged a couple of years ago with an ep and the infectious Betty Wang, which seemed to rule the blogosphere. And then, well……nothing. What happened? Did you consciously decide to take a long time to write and record the album? How did it all come along?
We didn’t consciously decide to take our time on the record. Brian, our bass player, toured the world for a few years with another band and Hospitality just laid low. It gave me more time to write better songs, I guess!
One of the things that strike about your debut is its attention to details whether in lyrics or arrangements. Are you perfectionsts, experimentalists or what?
I think we are a bit of all the above. We spent a lot of time working out the arrangements together. Some of us are kind of obsessive workers. We are always willing to change and rearrange stuff.
Horns and ukulele. reasons to have them on a record.
Although we were a three piece at the time of making the record, we liked the idea of expanding our instrumentation, live and in the studio. About a year before we recorded we started working with some horn players that Brian knew. Nathan wrote the arrangement and we had them play with us for some shows. When it was time to record we thought it would be cool to bring them back. This was our first time in a proper studio and we wanted to play around with arrangement.
The sound of the band has garnered comparisons with Belle and Sebastian and Camera Obscura, though I would say the album sounds more like a sassy party record. Would you agree?
I do agree. I think it is a very energetic record, kind of nervous and anxious. We all love Belle and Sebastian but we weren’t consciously trying to emulate them. I think only one song kind of sounds like them, but quickly moves into a different direction.
You admitted modelling your singing accent on Psychedelic Furs. Are they part of your influences? Added to the bands I was citing ealier, would you feel more at home in UK?
I think my singing accent came from listening to a lot of British bands when I was kid and watching old movies with actors like, Cary Grant and Julie Andrews. It’s a really subconscious thing. I’m not aware of it when I’m singing. I’ve never been to England, but I can’t wait to play the UK!
Betty, Julie and friends (of friends). The lyrics have a clear narrative approach. Can you tell us more about them?
When I wrote the songs for the record I was thinking about stories and narrative. When I write I often think about character and place. I was trying to create stories that felt like snapshots or pictures.
When is best to listen to Hospitality?
I like to listen while driving or taking a walk.
What’s next for you?
In July we are playing the Roskilde Festival in Denmark July 5th!