Andrew Rose Gregory is perhaps best known as being one-fourth of the polycephalic pop culture cyborg that is the Gregory Brothers — the family behind Auto-Tune the News, the Double Rainbow Song and the Bed Intruder Song. In short, after Dick Cheney and
Keanu Reeves, he’s one of the last people you’d expect to have a (semi-) secret career as a navel-gazing singer-songwriter.
But he does. His newest effort, “Song of Songs,” is a contemporary take on the Old Testament’s song of songs of Solomon. The album, which features the voice of sister-in-law Sarah Gregory, The Color Red Band and input from Sufjan Stevens, is a many-layered, pastoral breath of blue-eyed soul without a hint of irony.
Gregory will play at the Graduate Lounge Saturday, Nov. 12 at 9:30 p.m. The Herald spoke with him about the television pilot he’s filming for Comedy Central, Katie Couric and harpsichords.
So what’s the story behind Auto-Tune the News?
All four of us we for a long time had wanted to be able to watch the news but we found that whenever we did it we’d fall asleep, it was so boring. So we realized if we were able to dance while we were watching the news, we wouldn’t fall asleep … If we added a baseline and a beat and a poppin’ Dr. Luke melody we wouldn’t fall asleep. I mean, I’ve never heard of anyone fall asleep while they were dancing. And it worked! Evan and Michael [Gregory] have degrees in music theory so they do a lot of stuff on the music end … we try to incorporate a lot of complex, interesting musical elements into the videos.
If you had to design your dream news team, who would be on it?
I have a deep love for Katie Couric, but I would kind of want to travel through space and time and bring up Edward R. Murrow. Nowadays there are a million newscasters that you could pass in the street without realizing it, and you kind of have to marvel at the days when everyone got their news from one newscaster that they trusted implicitly.
Your Charlie Sheen video has been viewed over 35 million times. That’s something like one view for every tenth American.
I like to think about it like the 7 billion people on earth, because I think if I thought of it in terms of America my mind would be blown asunder.
So tell me about this pilot you’re filming.
It’s awesome. It’s for Comedy Central, and it’s sort of like The Monkees for the year 2012. It’s a moderately fictionalized version of our lives where the four of us [the four members of the Gregory Brothers] are living in Brooklyn, so you see us making YouTube videos.
Is there an intersect between Auto-Tune the News and your solo career?
I’ve been a singer or a songwriter for seven or eight years. People are like, “Is this [most recent album] going to be another funny thing that the Gregory Brothers do?” but what a lot of people don’t know is that I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’m going to keep doing it. This album is my baby from start to finish. I worked on it while I was on tour with my other records. I took a month off my day job and went and lived with my friend, who was in the Peace Corps, in El Salvador for a month. We were in a tiny village on the top of the mountain with four or five hundred people … I wrote out the whole Song of Songs, I color coded it for all the parts I’d done, the parts I still needed to do, and the weird stuff that I was going to leave out — there’s a lot of comparing women’s bodies to goats. I decided to leave that out.
There’s a prominent religious note in your music and that of your siblings — in addition to your new album, The Gregory Brothers appeared as members of [Sufjan Stevens’ ] Welcome Wagon Choir. Did you have a religious upbringing?
I grew up in a pretty religious family. My dad was trained to be a Baptist minister … I’m thinking that’s also what I’m going to be doing sometime in the future. I studied religious anthropology in college. Writing this album was like going back to college in a really fun way. In college, I was studying texts like the Song of Songs and asking, “Why are these texts important? Why do people care about this? Why did people thousands of years ago care about this?” Then as I was wrapping up a tour in 2008 I was thinking to myself, “I don’t know what’s next for me,” … I was driving through Louisville, Kentucky at the time. This was town where my dad went to seminary and where my folks got married. Then my phone rang and it was my dad’s college RA calling me and it’s not like we talk very often. But he’s an awesome guy, who was a Marine and a Vietnam vet and he’d gone back to school three or four times. He’s half Choctaw, half Czech and he called me and said, “Andrew I just called to tell you that earlier the Holy Ghost came to me and gave me a poem and told me to give this poem to you.” That being said, I think this album is just a modern-day musical look at a really old piece of literature.
What are you listening to right now?
I just bought a bunch of Paul Simon records that I only know a couple songs off of from when I was a kid. I’ve also gotten really into listening to this one recording of Bach’s Goldberg variations, which are these crazy compositions for harpsichord … it’s like kickass background music when I’m walking through the city.
I did a little research and came up with a short list of other songs that directly reference the Song of Songs. If you and the bands in this list were to spend a month together making music in a remote El Salvadorean village, what would the result sound like?
(I Hate Heaven, The Residents; Glass, Bat for Lashes; Two Doves, Dirty Projectors; Solomon’s Song, Fucked Up; Kiss Me, Stephen Duffy; Dark Sekret Love, His Infernal Majesty; Dark I Am Yet Lovely, Sinead O’Conner; The Song of Solomon, Kate Bush; Songs of Songs, Christian Death)
Honestly, I would say that I’m not sure that we could have collaborated … my time in El Salvador being driven, largely, by extreme heartbreak and intense bromance. However, I think all of us would’ve had a really good time riding the Ferris Wheel at the Corinto “State Fair,” and all would’ve hopefully enjoyed playing my favorite carnival game of all time, which I blew maybe $3 playing at 25 cents a pop trying to kick over three maddeningly closely-placed Gatorade bottles with a soccer ball. I think Sinead O’Connor would kill at that.