VOLCANO CHOIR Members Play Guitar To Chaplin At The New York Guitar Festival


Next Thursday, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Chris Rosenau of Volcano Choir will be performing at the New York Guitar Festival.  Justin and Chris have completed two sets of guitar music to accompany two films by Charlie Chaplin – One AM and Easy Street.  I caught up with Chris this week to see how the music is coming.

So you’re going to Eau Claire this weekend to finish up stuff?

Yep. We have everything written at this point,  now we just need to polish it all up.

How did you go about composing for the films?

Justin was gone so much of 2009 we decided it was best to have me take a crack at a film, just kind of feel it out.  So, it started this summer with me watching a bunch.  Nothing struck me right away.  Chaplin is nuts, but finally I settled on ONE AM.  I wrote some skeletal stuff for Justin and I to begin to work on.

I hear Chaplin’s drunk in this.


I’m sorry, please continue.

So, in November I went up and Justin and I fleshed out the skeleton that I had started. We also decided to do EASY STREET, and Justin decided to take that one on. So, we kind of split up the scoring initially. I loosely did ONE AM; he loosely did EASY STREET. Then, we got together, and we figured out the details and transitions, etc.

Have you ever scored a film before?

Well, [Jon] Mueller and I have done some stuff, little stuff for Milwaukee films in the past, but nothing to this extent.

There is this really neat theatre in Los Angeles called Cinefamily that has bands perform to silent movies.

What are you guys going to wear? Matching outfits? lapel pins? boutineers?

Let’s have a teleconference with you, me and Justin this weekend, we need your help to get this right.

I don’t have time to send you your embroidered blazer pocket handkerchiefs! On another note, how do you think the contemporary guitar music you’re making enhances the Chaplin movies?

We began listening to the original scores at first. They’re crazy, super fast piano stuff – nothing we really want to replicate or even try.

The quick stuff complements the physical comedy, right?

Totally. I think we found a really good way to approach things, mostly by trying to find overarching themes. We tried to find these themes and represent them musically and then try to use those as a foundation to write other parts that were more specific to exactly what is happening at the time. We worked really hard getting these pieces to where we want them.

How many instruments are you going to lug to NYC?

I have an electric, an acoustic, a lap steel, and all sorts of gadgets and pedals.   Justin has the same sans the lap steel.

Have you ever been so drunk you thought that an inanimate object was a real thing?

All the time.

The performance is on Thursday, January 21st.

Goodman House, 129 W. 67th Street
Tickets $40/45, (212) 501-3330

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