Interview by Sarah Bel Kloetzke
Photo by Bethany Schreiner
Luke Roberts is Q-pup: a Minneapolis singer-songwriter making baffling bedroom lo-fi indie folk. Prompted by a simple need to create, Q-pup has released six different collections of sounds that you can find on his Bandcamp—his latest being Ancient Agriculture And What It Means, released on Tilde Records.
GMN: How did you come to be on Tilde?
Roberts: I got on Tilde because it was the only local label where I personally knew the people who ran it. When I started out I didn’t know anything about anything but Erik Paulson was working with Tilde at the time and we tight.
GMN: Where did the name Q-pup come from?
Roberts: The name Q-pup came about just cause my dog was very cute. She was kinda mean and bit me a lot but she was good deep down.
GMN: Would you say that your newest album, Ancient Agriculture And What It Means is a sort of part two of Q-Pup And The 15 Layers Of Doubt or is it completely independent?
Roberts: The new album is very independent of 15 Layers. Ancient Agriculture is a lot more nostalgic and I think a warmer album. 15 Layers is very much about my mental state/life state when I wrote it. Ancient Agriculture is more about an amassing of feelings, a slower build.
GMN: What is the significance of your song titles? Like “Ishtar Gate (Cell Tower 1216682)” or “My Brother’s Bigfoot Sighting”
Roberts: Well all the song titles are pretty significant. On this record, a lot of them are things from my childhood combined with themes and thoughts on different topics. Ishtar Gate is the gate to the inner city of Babylon. It was excavated and taken away and I was trying to evoke that feeling of being somewhere you don’t belong, being somewhere artificial while being paired with certain elements of the Babylonian mythos (nostalgia tied to an early belief). I made the cell tower my Ishtar Gate because it signifies that artificial place that always feels alien but one becomes accustomed to. The cell tower was by my house.
“My Brother’s Bigfoot Sighting” is a song about my brother and about family through the lense of my brother seeing a large figure camping one year.
GMN: You’re an English Major. Do you think that heavily affects how you create?
Roberts: I think I’m an English major because I love literature and art and the humanities. That affects my songwriting I think definitely but I think me being an English major is a symptom, not the cause.
GMN: How did you come up with the concept for your “Eurytion, Stuck Through The Side (Tater Tots)” video?
Roberts: The video came about mostly by necessity. I thought it’d be good to show a video that brought up feelings of self-doubt and that video is what happened. We had access to an office building, I had an animal mask, sometimes I like wearing a suit. Alyssa Angeles (Day-New-Mwa) shot, edited, and directed the video and she did a great job.
GMN: Your songs use very specific imagery, and the lyrics seem to be very carefully chosen. Would you say your songs are more poems or stories? Fiction or personal narratives?
Roberts: I think my songs are probably closer to poetry. Most don’t have much of a narrative structure but there are sometimes short bits of narrative. Like an open window on a narrative. I try to keep the lyricism somewhat varied (though sometimes I fail at this).
GMN: Sprinkled throughout your music are references to things like Santeria, Soranus of Ephesus, Babylonian religion, Charles Estienne’s anatomies—generally stuff that not the average person knows enough about to reference regularly. Can you tell me about that?
Roberts: Well a lot of the things I reference in music inspire me to write, thematically and topically. So that’s one reason I use them. It helps me write, too, when a song can be about more than one thing, when I can draw on other topics to evoke older—and create newer—meaning. I also think it creates a powerful feeling of unity when you can take the more distant and maybe obscure aspects of art and culture and the more far away aspects of human experience and connect them to the personal and the immediate.
I’ve been writing more songs that are more narrative based and less referential and all over the place though recently which has been very interesting.
GMN: Lastly—what have you been listening to?
Roberts: I listen to a lot of music. There are things I seem to never stop listening to like The Microphones and Mount Eerie, Sufjan Stevens, Songs: Ohia, Smog/Bill Callahan, Joanna Newsom, etc. I love Milton Nascimento and a lot of Brazil MPB artists.
Recently I’ve been getting into the whole New Zealand Dunedin sound Flying Nun stuff. I’ve loved Tall Dwarfs on that label for a long time but I hadn’t really dived into their (Flying Nun’s) catalogue.
Watch Q-pup’s video for “Eurytion, Stuck Through The Side (Tater Tots)” here: