Under the aegis of frontman Sam Beam, Iron & Wine have gone from a surpassingly excellent bedroom folk act to a surpassingly excellent almost-pop band. His/their latest disc, "Kiss Each Other Clean," is one of the finest R&B/psychedelic/folk/'70s rock albums of this or any other year.
In advance of Iron and Wine's sold-out show at the 9:30 Club on Friday, Beam — who lives with his wife and five daughters in a tiny, sunbleached town outside of Austin, Tex., — talked to Click Track about his new disc, and the move from his lifelong indie label (Sub Pop) to a new home in the majors (Warner Brothers).
Everyone's making a big deal out of the fact that this record is such a departure, but does it feel that way to you, that it's really that much of a pop record?
It's funny — you're the first person to say that. I didn't think it was that big of a difference [either]. I thought it was a bit more economical, like it was a streamlined version of the last record. But everybody says it's drastically different, so I just say, "Okay." (Laughs.)
It's really not so shocking — it feels like you've been gradually making your way towards a record like this since your first one.
I think there's more of an R&B element to this one, and more economy to the arrangements. It's a little more slick. And sexy.
You're known for making bedroom folk albums. So does making an album like this force you out of yourself a little bit, because you need more people to make it happen?
Yeah, well that's the idea. Ten years into it now, [it's not about] translating what's going in my head to tape and failing miserably, it's more about going in with friends that you enjoy playing with and surprising yourself at the end of the day with what you come up with together. I learned a lot from making an album with Calexico ["In the Reins"] a couple of years ago ... It taught me a lot about having faith and humility and letting the cards fall where they will.
(On the major label move and what he won’t let his kids listen to, after the jump.)
How does being on a major feel? Does it feel any different?
It's cool. I'm just learning what my resources are. I've made all the records self-financed ... this one was no different. It worked very similarly in terms of the stuff I've been accustomed to. I'm sort of wading my way through.
But you were on a pretty big [indie] label before, too. So it's not like it's all limos and hookers now .
No. Well, maybe not the limos. Just kidding!
Does being the father of five girls change how you listen to music? Do you just [hear certain things] on the radio now and think, "Oh, no."
It depends on what it is. I have a 13 year old, and she's definitely into everything that's going on, and as a parent I don't [let her listen to] stuff I think is inappropriate. But most of it's harmless. It's definitely not worse than George Michael singing "I Want Your Sex" when I was in high school.
What don't you let them listen to?
Anything with sexual content. There's a lot of stuff with "[having illicit sexual activity] in the club" ... They don't really listen to the words, they're listening to the beat and the music, but as a parent I can't really say, "Okay, they're [not] listening to the words." I have to keep it away from them until they're old enough to make their own decisions.