Indy: You graduated with a degree in literature. How did you settle on music as a career?
PS: There were things about it that were appealing that aren't necessarily true of some other art forms. Maybe because it's the most aggressive, the most intrusive art. Loud noises? They're pretty inescapable.
Indy: You've waived the songwriting rules on your new album The Monitor. Some songs are seven, eight minutes long, and the closer, "The Battle of Hampton Roads," is over 14 minutes long.
PS: Well, 12 minutes of proper music and two minutes of space noises. But a song being 3½ minutes long? Verse, chorus, verse, chorus? All those things are completely arbitrary, anyway. There's nothing right or wrong about those rules. But they're not the most useful way for us to get our various points across, so who needs 'em? And it was easy to throw those rules out, because lots of groups had shown us other ways. And as far as the verse/chorus thing goes, all credit is probably due to Neutral Milk Hotel, who made the greatest rock 'n roll record ever that's without a single repeated refrain on it.
Indy: And you've essentially made a concept record, revolving around the old Civil War ironclad, the Monitor?
PS: Yeah. The ironclad is certainly appealing to me. In part, because it was the most astonishing man-made thing to ever float on water at the time — it was a beautiful piece of maritime engineering.
Indy: So you're essentially a hyper-literate guy who really knows how to rock.
PS: I think reports about those being mutually exclusive terms must've been exaggerated. All human brains vacillate between our cerebral and visceral impulses. But things work much better if you accept both of them, and pursue both of them wholeheartedly.
At Denver's Bluebird Theater, Sept. 15.