We’re talking to Robert Toher – one half of Brooklyn duo ERAAS – via Skype. Listening to Robert is kind of like listening to an auctioneer. Yes, he really talks that fast. And while he’s talking, I can hear him nervously tapping his fingers on his desk. He doesn’t sound like someone who gets bored at all
Interview by Koen van Bommel, photos shot by David Brandon Geeting in Brooklyn, USA
‘My expression for boredom would be just two parentheses with nothing in the middle. Or just an empty space’
Hi Robert, how is your day?
‘Fine! I just went for a walk. It’s finally starting to get better, you know, with the weather and all. I still think it’s gonna be a cold summer, but you know, whatever.’
This issue is about boredom. Is that something you experience often?
‘Not really, I’m pretty high strung. I’m always working on music, basically. Except for now, because some of my gear is being repaired. Other than that, I’m never really bored. I hope that doesn’t mess up the interview or whatever.’
How about when you’re on tour?
‘Well, we just finished a five-week tour. We drove across the US and Canada in a hybrid. Austin, my bandmate, drove the entire time. I suppose I was bored then.’
When I was preparing this interview, I googled boredom. I came across an article about Aboriginals in Australia. They apparently don’t have a word for boredom. When they’re in a car and it takes for ever, they just relax and look at the scenery.
‘Yeah, well, Australia might be more scenic than where we went. I don’t know. No, we saw some beautiful stuff on the way. The best parts were around British Columbia, Canada. It’s really beautiful and mountainous. Also Oregon is really pretty. There’s a lot of weird colours and vegetation.’
What’s your favorite expression to indicate boredom? Mine is ‘ugh’, because it’s kind of contemporary and really captures the feeling of dread that goes with being bored, all with just three letters.
‘Yeah well, if we can be that creative with it, I think mine would be just two parentheses with nothing in the middle. Or just an empty space.’
‘I’ll never be on of those cool people. I’m way too anxious’
Most of the time, when people are talking about art, they say it comes from pain and suffering and longing. Never from boredom. Can boredom be a source of inspiration?
‘I have this rule, that if I’m truly bored, I won’t force myself to work on music. Everyone I talk to who makes music says this. You know, when you’re making music it should flow out naturally. When it’s right, it all comes out at once. When I’m bored I can’t make music. I’ll just play with my synthesizer a bit, but nothing more than that.’
Kierkegaard said: ‘Boredom is the root of all evil.’ Is he exaggerating?
‘I think that’s subjective. Big statements like that aren’t right or wrong. We have this saying: “Idle hands are the devil’s tools.” That’s true, but not across the board. Well, for teenagers, I think that evil comes from boredom.’
What’s your favorite song about being bored?
‘What? Who would even listen to that? Are there even songs about being bored?’
I know Wavves has one.
‘Nah, I don’t listen to that. Some people say ambient music is boring, but you know, you just need to get into it. I mean, of course there’s a lot of bad ambient music, and a lot of noise music is boring. There is a lot of bullshit.’
Do you have a TV?
‘No, I don’t want to watch TV. I mean, I don’t judge people that watch a little TV. I don’t wanna come across as some teen that just discovered punk rock or anything. But it’s like, when you’re visiting friends or relatives, and you find them in exactly the same spot you left them in last time, in front of the TV, that’s depressing.
What do you think of people that feign boredom to look cool?
‘I hate that. I’ll never be one of those cool people. I’m way too anxious. I could never be so passive, I’m just too wound up. Being relaxed is cool and all, but if you put it on like a guise, nah.’
ERAAS are at OT301, Amsterdam on 16 May with Dirty Beaches – free for Subbacultcha! members.