Camping with Calvin
The K Records Sleepover
w/ Calvin Johnson, Mount Eerie, the Blow, more
Aug 12–13, Helsing Junction Farm (Rochester, WA), $8-$15, www.krecs.com.
LOCATED 18 MILES south of Olympia, Washington, on the banks of the Chehalis River, the Helsing Junction Farm has spent the last 15 years cultivating all manner of organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs and delivering weekly shipments of fresh produce to hundreds of local subscribers between Seattle and Portland from June through November. It's a place of remarkable tranquility—serene, remote, and needless to say, decidedly un–rock 'n' roll. What better place, then, for another isolated music festival dreamed up by the camp-happy K Records kids? Enter the Helsing Junction Sleepover, a two-day music festival out in the middle of Fuck-All, Washington, and featuring performances by some of the extended K Mafia's most notable constituents—a list that includes Mount Eerie, the Robot Ate Me, Al Larson, World, the Blow, and K patriarch Calvin Johnson, who was kind enough to give us the lowdown on this event.
What is Helsing Junction?
It's an organic farm that is operated as a CSA—or Community Supported Agriculture—basically a subscription farm. You sign up and get a box of vegetables once a week: beets, bok choy, whatever's ripe at the time. It works really well for the farmer, because they have a guaranteed audience for their vegetables, and they get paid in advance, and it keeps the land in small, family-owned farms. This particular CSA is run by two women, and has been in operation for quite some time—they have over 500 subscribers each week.
How long have you had a relationship with Helsing?
I've known them for about five years—I used to be a subscriber and I've been out to their farm a few times. Also, [farm co-owner] Sue Ujcic's son goes to Bard College, and a friend of his, Tim Donovan, has booked many Olympia people at Bard for us. Tim spent last summer on the farm, and was in and out of Olympia a lot, so we sort of rekindled our relationship.
What prompted the Helsing Junction Sleepover?
When Tim was there last summer, I think they got the idea to pursue some kind of party. They've been exclusively farming for a long time and were ready to try something new—something fun—in addition to farming. Sue got a hold of me and asked if I would be interested in co-coordinating the music for a small festival, so Khaela [Maricich, of the Blow] and I went down there and looked the place over to see how it would work. They wanted a name that would suggest staying for the weekend rather than just coming to see a show, and Khaela had the idea of calling it a sleepover... just a weekend away to hang out at the farm, sleep in the orchard, go swimming in the river, and listen to music.
Are there any accommodations on site?
No, not really—it's pretty rustic. No heavy-duty security or VIP tents or anything like that. There's an orchard and a couple fields, and people are expected to bring their own tents. There's going to be food for sale—prepared by the people at the farm—from what they've raised this year.
How is the Sleepover going to differ from other weekend-long, K-related events like What-the-Heck Fest?
We're coordinating this with the farm, and I'm expecting that a lot of the people that show up are going to be their subscribers. It's open to anyone, of course—but I really have no idea how many people outside of their membership are going to be in attendance. I imagine that it's probably going to be more family oriented—people who are familiar with the farm and want to hang out there.
On a side note, what's the story with your new record?
It's called Before the Dream Faded..., and it'll be out in October. I had the idea to work specifically with a producer—to leave the songs as open as possible to different ideas about production and arrangement. When it finally came to deciding who I should work with, I realized that there were a lot of different people I was interested in—so I just decided to work with all of them. Khaela, Mirah, [Glass Candy's] Johnny Jewel, and Phil Elverum all produced tracks. Each had very different approaches, and I think the songs came out pretty different—with my voice as sort of the unifying factor. It's pretty different from my last record.