Stephen Malkmus just moved his wife and two children to Berlin. But it has nothing to do with the reasons that artsy rock ‘n’ rollers have traditionally gone there.

“Even though I know this is a big place to take drugs and party, it’s also like a really child-friendly place too,” he says.

A change has done the former Pavement frontman good in his professional situation too. For his fifth album with his band, the Jicks, he brought in Beck to produce. The result is Mirror Traffic, a collection of songs that see Malkmus’ witty turns of phrases married to sounds that are more artsy than the straight-ahead guitar.

Walk me through the evolution of Beck being somebody you might have admired as a contemporary to somebody that could produce your album.

 

It’s a really short walk. He called and said he was a producer now. I hadn’t heard from him and then out of the blue … he mentioned that. It just happened to coincide with the time we were going to be recording, and we were looking to find someone cool who wasn’t a really obvious choice.

Were there any moments in working with him where there was any resistance, either on your part or his?

Well, yeah. He would often want to make things a little less classic rock-sounding. Some of the songs that were just more standard Jicks songs, he would want to put the guitars in direct and plug them right into the board without an amp and make them sound more up front and things poke out more. … Sometimes I would think, ‘that’s odd.’ I think it gave it a different sound than some other records, which is important.

It sounds like you guys were having fun. You’re even laughing in the song, Stick Figures in Love. Do you remember what you were laughing at?

We were playing it differently than we had played it before. We were playing it a little slower, and almost shuffley R.E.M. style, and I think I was just kind of laughing at that because it had a different groove.

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