With the Drag City release of Early Times, a collection of old time Silver Jews tracks, it seemed like the right time to hunt down one of the band’s originals – Mr Bob Nastanovich. Bob was there back in the day, with David Berman and Stephen Malkmus, all huddled around the cassette recorder, putting down their songs. This was, in the words of the band’s label, ‘the birth of the Jews’. We fired some quick questions to Bob in an attempt to unravel the Silver Jews’ timeline.
Bowlegs: How did you end up jamming with David Berman and Stephen Malkmus back in the day?
Bob: We all lived together in Jersey City and, then, Hoboken. We couldn’t afford to go out every night.
Bowlegs: The three of you moved to Jersey City and picked up some day jobs, what was the plan at this point? Was there a leader among the three of you?
Bob: To live in the NYC area and pay our own way. Everyone led their own games. As far as Silver Jews go, David led. None of us thought it would amount to much.
Bowlegs: And at this point in time, guess we are talking 90/91? Was David writing most of the songs?
Bob: David and Stephen together. Actually, I participated a bit as well.
Bowlegs: And were you called the Silver Jews from the start?
Bob: Yeah, it was David’s idea.
Bowlegs: How did Pavement appear within this group of friends?
Bob: Pavement was a Stockton, California band at this stage.
Bowlegs: This new Silver Jews reissue record (Early Times) collects a couple of early EPs – are they the first things you got down on tape?
Bob: Pretty much
Bowlegs: They are primitive recordings eh?
Bob: Very primitive; a cassette tape recorder with one condenser mic!
Bowlegs: What songs on the release stand out for you?
Bob: Walnut Falcon, I Love The Rights; I like ‘em all. They spark vivid and blurry memories.
Bowlegs: The Silver Jews didn’t tour back in the day, but were you playing local gigs of any sort?
Bob: Not really; we were surreptitious
Bowlegs: What was David like to work with in the studio?
Bob: The studio was a tiny living room in a basement apartment. It was pretty lame. David was a font of enthusiasm.
Bowlegs: How did the band get picked up?
Bob: David edited and mailed tapes to Drag City. They thought it was interesting.
Bowlegs: Were you playing with Pavement at the same time?
Bowlegs: To be involved with the Silver Jews and Pavement, and to play on such landmark records must still feel pretty special to you?
Bob: I wish it would go to my head.
Bowlegs: Might you record or play with Silver Jews again?
Bob: I hope so but Malk lives in Berlin and I don’t like to be in bands without Stephen.
Bowlegs: What else do you get up to nowadays?
Bob: I work about 60 hours a week doing 5 jobs at the horse racing track here. It’s called Prairie Meadows.
Bowlegs: Tell us your best Silver Jews track and what it means to you?
Bob: Trains Across The Sea and New Orleans are two of the best songs I’ve ever been a part of. The Early Times stuff was a precursor to those.