The fifth album from TV on the Radio, Seeds, is a primed, ripened batch. Melodies spin inside of melodies, with layers opening into each other by trapdoor (see: the bookshelf that rotates to a secret room when you pull the book titled Purple Rain). The punctuation of TVOTR's Brooklyn-based funk sorcery is still taut and foreboding, but the songs seem more obtainable than earlier output. It's their first album since the 2011 passing of bassist and brother Gerard Smith. Themes of love run throughout. "Could You" drives and peels off with horns, 12-string (Beatles) Rickenbacker, and the tandem vermillion tenors of Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone. Guitarist/producer Dave Sitek yields sounds on Seeds that work together like cogs—spatial, yet wrapped tight. On "Careful You," Jaleel Bunton's scuzzy, pulsating bass tones climb up a scaffold of beats 50 stories high. For the outro, Adebimpe's voice becomes a staggered and muted refrain, descending through a progression eight times. He's either saying "don't know," or just repeating the word "now." It's difficult to make out through the gelatinous sheen of the filter. Bunton spoke from his little brother's in-laws' house in Pennsylvania on Thanksgiving Day.

Is stuff getting stuffed?

Yeah, there's all kinds of stuff getting stuffed. There are little kids running around. Old kids, new kids—it's the whole American Thanksgiving dream.

Why is Tunde singing in French at the beginning of "Careful You"? Oui, je t'aime, à demain, à la prochaine. I think it means "Yes, I love you, see you tomorrow, see you next time."

I couldn't tell you. That's all Tunde madness there. I could speculate, but I'd be doing him a disservice. It's that impressive, multilingual artist thing. Dave and I programmed the music on that one. It's one of the few songs we wrote while sort of jamming—an electronic jam, which we don't do a lot. We were in there just getting free [laughs]. I really like to make music that way. You start going for it, and let your intuition take over more than your intellect. We messed around with the core for maybe an hour, then everyone heard it, and they were like, "We like that, what's that?" Then Tunde added words to pieces of it, and we started disassembling it. He had that vocal melody.

What gear were you using? For the free-jam nerds.

I was playing keyboards. We had the setup all intertwined together with drum machines, keyboards, and sequencers all locked together to one MIDI clock, for the nerds. I like the Akai MPC. I like to start there. There's an 808 we use a lot. I like to mix and match, past and present.

The songs on Seeds have melodies inside of melodies inside of melodies. It's like Inception, the musical, with Prince playing John Lennon's songs.

This album was a little more collaborative than others, as far as vocal melodies. But Tunde and Kyp are really gifted at that. This is sacrilegious, but growing up, I always sided with the Stones in the Beatles versus Stones debate. I was never really a Beatles guy. All my elite music friends always told me how dumb I was. It wasn't until recently that I realized how precious what the Beatles had is. They've written so many great melodies that you take it for granted because they're so simple and attainable. I didn't realize what a talent that was until I got older. I'm not saying Tunde and Kyp write like the Beatles, but they're similar in that they can write melodies that seem like they've always existed. Which is really, really hard. It's something you have to just have. You want to make a melody seem simple enough, but not annoyingly pedantic. Not so simple as to be condescending, but simple in a way that feels like it's always been there. That's a real challenge. I get impressed when I see them do it.

Wayne Coyne says the Beatles had this way of playing something that was different from what you were hearing. With an ease that's not easy. The ease is a trick being played by your perception.

Exactly. Things that sound simple, but with something about them. There are a lot of melodies in the world that you can't respond to because they're so simple that they're not interesting, and it's not sincere. The Beatles have those melodies that sound simple, but when you dissect them as a musician, it's like, oh wait, it's not following the predictable pattern it seems like it's following. That's why it's interesting. It's simple, it's attainable, but it's not condescending, which is what Wayne was saying. When you take it apart, you see it's tricky. It's like a wheel inside of a wheel inside of a wheel!

Seeds was recorded at Dave Sitek's home studio in LA. Does that show on the album?

I'd say it shows in the way "Careful You" was created. We had the luxury of digging around for hours without it being rushed at all. We had the ability to let things flow. Another thing no one really knows is that we wrote probably 50 songs for the record. They got whittled down from things we had started and played with and were able to write and ride for a while. You can't really do that in a big, expensive studio. Also, the way this band works—and I've played in a lot of bands before—we aren't so much a guitar, bass, and drums band. It's not guys in a garage just banging it out; we require a computer and electronic equipment. The idea of a band writing songs, rehearsing them, then going into a studio and recording them doesn't fit this format. We write on computers and drum machines to get ideas down. We need an environment that's conducive to that—that's not your mom's garage. Dave's place gave the ability to create and move around that way. There are so few of those big recording studios left, and this is a reason why. The world changes.

TV on the Radio music never loses anything after many listens. How do you do that?

It's all an attempt. I don't know how successful we are at achieving that, but my musical agenda is definitely to make things that last. When I was a kid, a lot of what I listened to was from 30 or 40 years before my time—albums that have everlasting relevance to the human condition. I'm always listening to Howlin' Wolf. It's always going to make sense. It sounds like an era in blues, but it has an emotive quality that's so sincere. In general, I think if music is sincere, it will always have a place. There's always going to be some kid between the ages of 14 and 17 who falls in love with classic rock. I love Jimi, the Stones, the Dead [laughs]. It doesn't matter if the music world turns into just bleeps and bloops, somebody at that age is going to be like, "I just found the Talking Heads, oh my God, they're incredible!" Hopefully, we can leave something that remains relevant like that, but I'm not arrogant enough to say we've achieved it.

The title Seeds. What does that encompass for you?

We had a list of names for the album. The song "Seeds" was one that got written and recorded pretty early on. The name started to stick. It might have been an unconscious thing. It seemed appropriate. Maybe it's a conversation about the future of our band, and what this album represents for the band's career. This album was a restart. We had taken a break and didn't know if we were going to continue. And the decision's been made to continue, so these are the seeds of the next decade of this band, I guess.

And when shit goes down on the earth with disasters, seeds can sustain us. I'm sure you know about the gigantic underground Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. So you can neither confirm nor deny that TV on the Radio named this album after the Svalbard Seed Vault.

Correct [laughs]. I can neither confirm nor deny that we named the album after the underground seed vault.

How did you get Paul Reubens to be in the video for "Happy Idiot"? Were you a big Pee-wee guy?

I was a huge Pee-wee guy. He's one of the coolest motherfuckers in the whole world. I was so happy to meet him. And to have him be exactly the guy I hoped he would be. He's a hero. He was super cool, kinda weird, laid back, and so funny. He's a really brilliant dude. I was stoked. I loved Big Top Pee-wee and Pee-wee's Playhouse. But the two things I remembered the most are: "Mecca lecca hi, mecca hiney ho," and him in Cheech and Chong's Next Movie. When those two worlds collided, it blew my mind. I wish I could have hung out with Pee-wee in the '80s. It would have been great. I can't believe I got to hang out with and have Paul Reubens in a video. Just the fact that he'd heard of us before melted my brain. How was Paul Reubens listening to TV on the Radio? It makes no sense to me.

Tunde was wearing an excellent jumpsuit for your performance on Letterman. Where does he get his jumpsuits?

That's a custom-made jumpsuit. We're really stepping the game up. Custom Taylors and whatnot. Pretty banging. Kids, don't run out to the store looking for that jumpsuit, you gotta make your own jumpsuits.

Do you dabble with jumpsuit wearing?

Oh, I got a whole collection. I've been jumpsuiting for a long time [laughs]. My top jumpsuit is all white—it brings the power and the pain. You put that jumpsuit on, and you're transformed into somebody, right away.

You're from Kentucky. Basketball is like a religion there.

Yes. It happens when you're from Kentucky. It's bred into you. My uncles played for the University of Louisville. They were there in the '70s and played on one of the Final Four teams. There are places in Kentucky where, if you mention my last name, people go "Whaaat? You're a Bunton? Yeaahhh!" They get pretty crazy about it.

What music from Kentucky do you remember being taken with?

When you think Kentucky, you think bluegrass. There was a faction of the scene that was about blues, which I love, and grew up playing and learning on guitar. I love psych-blues. But when I was coming up in Kentucky, the music scene was more post-punk and hardcore. That ruled the city. Great bands like Slint, Rodan, June of 44, King Kong, and Endpoint. Bands would also come through, like Tortoise. That's what I got out of Kentucky. recommended