Vulture caught up with Banhart to talk about recording in a remote area of Northern California and his favorite songs of the decade. You live in the Los Angeles area, but recorded your new album in Northern California.
I started re-reading books by the writer Richard Brautigan again, and I wanted to record in the same town where he worked. Where in Northern California did you go? The people there are very guarded about their community, and they asked me to respect that. Is that because they grow marijuana there?
Which ones do you sing in on this album? One of them is this new one I discovered, an extinct dialect from these Native Americans called the Pit River Indians. The historical book I found had some phonetic words that survived. There are maybe only twenty words.
I thought, Fuck, man, this is a dead language. This would be cool to use. What inspired that song? So in the beginning, I state my woes to the goddess, and in the next part, we state her name and ask her for something.
I thought, Who makes the most ineffable, sacrosanct music? It was an Alice-inspired moment of music. Growing up, you lived in Venezuela for many years. I just returned there this winter, because my cousin got married. I was living there during the coup. Any music on the radio has to have some modicum of an indigenous instrument.
I find that to be a totally fucking fascist way of instilling some sort of culture. A lot of musicians use Twitter nowadays. You dated Natalie Portman for a spell. Are you guys still on good terms? I love her super-much. The decade is almost up. What are some of your favorite songs of the aughts?