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20 Watts Interviews Fruit Bats by tjwell01
Eric Johnson (left) is back with the Fruit Bats

Eric Johnson (left) is back with Fruit Bats

PREVIEW: Download Fruit Bats’ “Primitive Man” MP3

After a four-year hiatus with The Shins, Eric Johnson is back with his first band and “first love” — Fruit Bats.  Johnson spoke on the phone with 20 Watts on his experience with The Shins and what it’s like to be back in the trenches with Fruit Bats, where he can once again say what he has to say as the frontman. He also touched on living on the West Coast and the new album Ruminant Band, which drops August 4th.

20W: It says on your blog that Fruit Bats were your  “first love.” What does that mean?

Johnson: I just meant it’s my first priority. It’s always going to be first in my heart.

20W: How did that affect your decision in joining The Shins?

Johnson: They were good friends of mine, so it didn’t feel weird. It wasn’t like some sacrifice. They pay well, and you get to go over to different countries.

20W: What was it like adjusting to a band like The Shins and the buzz surrounding the Garden State soundtrack?

Johnson: I knew more or less what it was going to be like.  I joined up a little after that whole thing. It was on auto-pilot at that point. It was surprisingly down-to-earth.

20W: How do you compare The Shins to Fruit Bats?

Johnson: It’s apples and oranges. [With The Shins], it’s a much steadier pay-check, not that it’s about the money.

20W: Did you take anything away from working with The Shins?

Johnson: It was difficult for me to take much away. With those guys, you’re removed from the business. Maybe you’ll see them updating their MySpace page. I’m not doing anything different now.

20W: In your older lyrics, you wrote a lot about living in the Midwest.

Johnson: Yeah, well I lived there. Now, I’ve been been living on the West Coast. I write about being homesick now. Well, not really. I love it out here. I’m staying.

20W: How has living on the West Coast affected your music?

Johnson: Well, on my last album, I was six or seven years younger. It’s not just an environmental thing, it’s an age thing. These days, I’m revising a lot more. I’m more meticulous.

20W: What about spontaneity?

Johnson: You need a fine line. It’s not math. It should be spontaneous. There’s something to be said about coherence. At the same time, you can write five verses without touching a thing.

20W: Are you feeling any pressure with the album since it’s been a while since you wrote music for Fruit Bats?

Johnson: No pressure. They’re my songs, and I hope you like them. I’m always trying to make a statement.

20W: After staying away so long, aren’t your fans expecting something special?

Johnson: Lots of Fruit Bat fans are Shins fans. I got a lot of fan mail, saying “put something out!” After four years, it’s bound to be special. I hope that it has what die-hard Fruit Bats fans like.

20W: Your album title is called Ruminant Band. Why?

Johnson: I wanted to change the name Fruit Bats. Fruit Bats was just me at the beginning. I always liked the word “ruminant.” We kicked around other band names, but it came back to Fruit Bats again. [This story] turned into a song.

20W: Are you ready for the big tour that starts on August 18th?

Johnson: Yup, we’re going to rehearse for two weeks at a beach house in British Columbia.

— Jett Wells

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