The Bohemian Musician On Stripping Down with The Girl of His Dreams
After releasing his debut album, Oh Me Oh My in 2002, Devendra Banhart emerged as the evangelist of the folk revival movement. Nearly a decade on, Banhart has collaborated with everyone from Beck to Phoenix to MGMT, and is now signed to Warner Bros, who put out his 2009 Grammy-nominated album, What Will We Be. With the move to a major label came a haircut: He swapped his hippie locks for a shorn bookish style, on display in today’s Oliver Peoples film, which finds the consummate boho romping around with his girlfriend Rebecca Schwartz in next to nothing, save for some specs.
What attracted you to the Oliver Peoples project?
The reason I agreed to do this stems from my love for American Psycho—they mention Oliver Peoples in American Psycho. I just want to make that clear. Also, of course, if you want to jump around with your girlfriend naked all day, why not?
Was it awkward being naked with your girlfriend in front of a crew?
No, that part was pretty easy. I complain a lot, you know. But I can’t complain.
How did the two of you meet? Was it love at first sight?
Not on her end. Definitely on mine. We met on Halloween, one of the more romantic holidays. Valentine’s Day is a lot scarier than Halloween. I was dressed as Courtney Love and drunk, and I wasn’t expecting to meet somebody. I guess that’s usually how those things happen. She was dressed as a Frida Kahlo Day of the Dead girl.
How did you woo her? Love songs? Poetry?
The opposite. I don’t think I’ve ever met a girl who was more turned off by songwriting. She actually laughed at me presenting a song I wrote to her; she’s very—how do I put this?—mean, is the word. It was the fact that I eat Hawaiian pizza and smell bad. The fact that I eat pork chops and suggested we get a McFlurry at McDonalds. It was that I wanted to eat junk food with her.
Name a few of your favorite love songs.
“I Fall in Love Too Easily,” which is a classic jazz song; “My Funny Valentine”; anything by Sylvester. I also think R. Kelly has a million amazing love songs. “There’s Something About Us” by Daft Punk is not even about the right one, it’s about there’s something about them—I think that’s a more realistic, really perfect love song. There’s this ethereal, nebulous thing that connects you to somebody and that’s the thing worth singing about. Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” is a perfect love song, because it’s like whoa man, I’ve had enough of this shit! I like “I’ve had enough of this shit” songs.
What prompted you to cut your hair?
I cut it awhile back and I can’t remember having long hair anymore. It was all Rebecca, completely. I’d like to say that I tried to tie-dye it and had to cut it off—but no, she made me cut my fucking hair somehow. And in a really smart, manipulative way where I thought it was my idea. Whatever she said, suddenly I’m like, 'I should really cut my hair.' It was probably something as obvious as 'Don’t cut your hair.' But I like it.
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