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At Home With Devendra Banhart, The High Priest of the L.A. Scene

January 6, 2010 12:00 AM ET

Devendra Banhart has been tormented by over-privileged teens in Malibu, homeless in Paris and homeless in New York — but he's hopeful everywhere he goes. The rail-thin high priest of the new Los Angeles scene opens up to Rolling Stone's Vanessa Grigoriadis in our new issue, describing the circumstances of his globetrotting youth, key moments of musical discovery (like when he listened to Vashti Bunyan's Just Another Diamond Day on repeat for a month) and the creation of What Will We Be, the most straightforward rock album of his young yet prolific career.

When our cameras ventured to Banhart's East Los Angeles home, the songwriter recounted how he came upon his new album's title, revealing, "I find myself meditating on Kleenex and thinking about how it used to be a tree and what will I be, and sometimes I feel like my soul is blowing its nose on my body, so somehow a title came out about that." Banhart also shares some stories about the album's single "16th & Valencia, Roxy Music," inspired by — surprise — Bryan Ferry's art rock band and a magical intersection.

We asked Banhart for his favorite moment of the decade and got a resolute answer: "Now. ... The future has not happened and the past already has, so just enjoy this." Grab the new issue to read about how the potent psychedelic ayahuasca solved a serious medical problem (and inspired the wriggling serpent tattoos on his feet), how he risked his life wearing a dress to high school and how he showed up in New York City with $600 in his pocket and landed a record deal.

Related Stories:
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Devendra Banhart's New Album Gives Him "Panic Attacks"
Beck Duets With Devendra Banhart on Dylan Tune at Tour Opener

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

More Song Stories entries »
 
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