SW: You seem to enjoy having a concept in place for most of your albums, whether it's writing 69 love songs or making records where all the song titles start with the letter "I." Where does this come from?
THE MAGNETIC FIELDS The Neptune, 1303 N.E. 45th St., 682-1414, stgpresents.org. $30 adv./$32 DOS. 8 p.m. Mon., March 19 & Tues., March 20.
Merritt: I've actually done three records with concepts or themes. The first one is The Charm of the Highway Strip, which was a theme album about travel; the second was 69 Love Songs; and the third was i, in which all the titles begin with the letter "I," but the songs have nothing to do with each other, and they're alphabetically arranged on the album. The actual theme of that album was that it was basically soft rock, that it had a genre to it, unlike our other records.
But it does seem like you crave these self-imposed rules each time.
The Rolling Stones have sounded pretty much like the Rolling Stones since they began, even with Brian Jones playing the oboe. But we have a more fluctuating membership and definitely more fluctuating instrumentation than the Rolling Stones, so whenever we put out a record, we have to decide what's going to happen beforehand because it's not going to just fall into place. I have a houseful of instruments. We're not going to put them all on every record. We have to do some editing.
Do you have a favorite song on Love at the Bottom of the Sea?
How about a favorite lyric?
No. I don't really do favorites. My brain doesn't really think that way.
But if you're putting together a set list, doesn't there have to be some kind of preferential treatment for certain songs? Or doesn't somebody have to figure out which songs make the cut on an album?
It's not me. I don't usually pick the singles, for example. In the case of this album, "Andrew in Drag" just sounds like a single, and I agreed with everyone else that it was the optimal first single. But on previous records where we have put out a single, I'm sometimes surprised by what people choose.
Can you tell me about the album cover and whether it ties in with the title?
The title was chosen for it having nothing to do with any of the songs. The cover was designed to have nothing to do with the title or songs. This is the first record I've done in a while with an arbitrary title and arbitrary graphic. It kind of harkens back to the cover of 69 Love Songs, which kind of looks like a big pair of eyes.
Does anything stand out to you about playing Seattle versus playing other cities?
Cupcakes. We've played at Town Hall a few times now, and up the hill from there, there's this wonderful cupcake place.
Hopefully the promoter will make sure you are fully stocked for your shows at the Neptune, then.
I hope not, actually, because I'm on a diet now.
Well, if they're there anyway, will you have the self-control to not eat one?