Human Behavior is a band I first saw live almost exactly one year ago, at a small art space in Austin called The Owl. They played a murky brand of eerie folk music that captivated me immediately. They mix traditional folk instruments like acoustic guitar, banjo, and violin with makeshift percussion instruments made from wooden boxes, deer antlers, and steel chains. This unlikely mix drones and plucks along with spoken and chanted lyrics and charmingly-loose choir vocals.
The lineup of the band fluctuates from tour to tour, basically whoever is available and interested in touring with Andres Parada at the time. Human Behavior is mainly his project, but he’s not interested in going it alone. I asked him a few questions about the band and their new album Bethpage, which is being released next week on Folktale Records.
Describing bands and music is hard. How would you describe the sound of Human Behavior? What’s been your favorite description?
Some people have said bluegrass drone. I like that a lot better than goth folk. Whatever it is, I just hope it sounds like a soundtrack.
Your songs feel like part of a much larger story. Are your songs based on fictional characters?
I’ll often mash up my own stories with parables from the Bible, but that’s only when I think they are the same story. So I guess I tell true things from the perspective of characters that some people might call fictional, or I tell stories that some might call fictional through my own perspective. I consider it all non-fiction though, maybe even ethnography (of the guilty white non-believer.) I only write in periods so that’s probably why they are always connected into bigger stories. I’ll write like a madman for a month, and then not write a thing until the next album. Fulfill the concept and then drop it.
I read somewhere that Human Behavior started as a solo project. Why did you decide to turn it into a full band?
I turned it into a band once I had the option. I wrote and recorded the early stuff in an old house in Minnesota that used to belong to my grandma. Once I was exhausted from being alone and tripping on mushrooms, I went to Tucson where I started gathering a band of non-musicians – people who had normal voices. I wanted lonely songs to be huge, scattered with shaky voices, like a church.
Your new album Bethphage will be released on February 3 via Folktale Records in Los Angeles. How did you become involved with them?
Chris Payne performs as Whitman, an experimental folk musician who I played with in Tucson a few times. He kept coming back, even though the shows were always terrible. I started asking him for advice on how to release the songs I was working on, and he offered to help. Shitty show solidarity.
The songs on Bethpage are just referred to as Chapters. Does the story thread on this album pick up where Golgotha left off?
Sort of. Golgotha was the death of Jesus, the hill of the skull, the resting place of the bones of Adam. Bethphage is one step back. It is Jesus weeping from a hill outside of Jerusalem, preparing his stolen donkeys for the trek to his death. In my own life, it is learning how to conquer depression through embracing it. The last album was me clinging to life, from fear of death, the desperation that I imagine Jesus experienced on the cross. This album is preparing for death, in hopes that the cure for the pain is the pain itself. I guess it’s a prequel.
What are some of your favorite snacks on tour?
Tasty Bites and Monster [energy drinks].
You folks covered Taylor Swift songs at a recent show in Tucson. How did you decide on that?
Everyone wanted it except for me. I said, “If you guys figure it all out, we can do it. I just don’t want to arrange those songs.” They said, “YES!” I ended up having to arrange an entire Taylor Swift set… I also ended up falling in love with her.
Nirvana or Metallica?
Nirvana for sure. They covered Lead Belly, and have been covered by Weird Al.