Monday, July 18, 2016

Flight of the Conchords: Aimless, and That’s O.K.

[ed. Glad to see the guys back. Yeah, they got it goin' on..]

Surrounded by the awe-inspiring geological formations that cradle Red Rocks Amphitheater here, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie could not help but contemplate the passage of time.

On a cool July evening, these two comedians and musicians from New Zealand, who perform together as Flight of the Conchords, told more than 9,000 gathered fans that they were sorry for having grown older since their last tour of the United States three years ago.

As they age, Mr. Clement said, “It ultimately reminds you of your mortality, and for that, we apologize.”

Their advancing years are showing, too. “In that time,” Mr. McKenzie said, “we’ve come to like jazz music.”

For the 18 years that this band has existed, Flight of the Conchords has been distinguished by its subtlety: songs, jokes and stage banter so understated, you could be forgiven for not realizing when the two men performing them are joking.

“There’s a very blurred line between the material and us just talking about things,” Mr. McKenzie, 40, said earlier that afternoon as he sat beside Mr. Clement, 42, on a dressing-room couch.

“The audience thinks everything is a bit,” Mr. McKenzie continued. “But often it’s not a bit — it’s just us figuring something out.”

There was a time, about 10 years ago, when this unassuming pair seemed to have it all figured out in their own quiet way. They had a well-received HBO series and two Top 20 albums, as well as a Grammy for an earlier EP.

They also had (and still have) a bluntness about their careers — a lack of interest in familiar enticements like wealth and fame, if not an outright cynicism about the entertainment industry — that can be mistaken for their authentically low-key demeanors.

So it was a shock to fans when, in 2009, Mr. Clement and Mr. McKenzie boldly walked away from their HBO series, “Flight of the Conchords,” which they produced in New York and starred in for two seasons. They put their partnership on pause and returned home to Wellington, New Zealand.

“It basically stopped being fun,” Mr. McKenzie said. “It really wasn’t a decision about money. It was definitely a decision about enjoying our lives.” (...)

On their present itinerary, they have nothing to figure out (except a few new songs) and nothing to promote (except themselves). They find themselves playing in bigger spaces than they wished to more admirers than they thought they had.

While they are flattered to still have a following, they point out that Flight of the Conchords was intended, as Mr. Clement put it, “as a hobby and a side thing” — something to do, to help them reach the things they really wanted to be doing. “This was just our learning-guitar project,” he said. “And then we had two songs. And then three.” (...)

This summer they have been trying out tunes about partying as tepid, timid grown-ups; a duet that imagines Mr. Clement and Mr. McKenzie as a dysfunctional father and son; and a country-western ballad about a mean-tempered hombre who meets his doppelgänger. (Their repertoire still includes favorites like the dystopian death anthem “Robots” and the domestic sex jam“Business Time,” on which Mr. Clement whispers that Tuesday night is when “we go and visit your mother, but Wednesday night we make sweet, weekly love.”) (...)

Friends of the band mates say they approached their hiatus with an intentional aimlessness.

The humorist John Hodgman, who often performs with Flight of the Conchords, said, “The feeling I got was not that they were itching to see what else was out there for them, but they wanted to see how much less was available.”

by Dave Itzkoff, NY Times |  Read more:
Image: Terry Ratzlaff for The New York Times