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A chat with Siren Festival headliner (and ex-Pavement frontman) Stephen Malkmus

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Malkmus_jinks_lThe annual — and free! — Siren Music Festival has become a must-attend event for indie-rock fans in the New York area, and beyond, over the past few years. The recently announced line-up for this year’s shindig, which takes place at Coney Island on Saturday, July 19, includes Broken Social Scene, the Helio Sequence and Beach House. But the festival’s big draw is ex-Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus, who will be performing with his current band the Jicks. EW.com called the droll singer/guitarist to talk about the festival, his other big show this summer (Lollapalooza), and why more people should be having sex in public.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Do you have any special plans for Siren?
STEPHEN MALKMUS: Not yet. But it’s still months off, you know. I could have a sex change by that time and be a completely different person.

Well, just bits of you would be completely different.
That’s true. Just don’t call me “him” or I’ll be really offended.

Presumably, as the headliner, you can really lord it over all the other acts.
I guess so, but we wouldn’t. I’ve never said, you’re the opening band, the porta potty is your dressing room and the rider’s on the bottom of it. See ya!

You’re also doing Lollapalooza. Have you played it before?
Notthe new incarnation in Chicago. When I was in Pavement we toured onkind of the dying breath of [the touring] Lollapalooza with SonicYouth. That was pretty fun. I really enjoy these summer tours where youplay in these big anonymous sheds.

That makes a change — most rock stars say that they love playing to seven people in dive bars.
Maybe if they’re always playing the sheds. But we’re always in the dive bars.

addCredit(“Stephen Malkmus; Barry Brecheisen/WireImage.com”)

You’ve been on tour a lot recently. Have you been playing any rarities or covers?
We did a Fear cover called “I Don’t Care About You.” That was prettyfun — some of those classic punk songs are almost second nature tome. We did a Mungo Jerry song, which is slightly embarrassing. “AlrightAlright Alright” it’s called. That goes down pretty well. It’s kind ofhard to get out of your head in a certain way. Maybe that’s bad. Youknow, they don’t spend a lot of time on the lyrics.”

Are you more likely to be found playing Scrabulous or having sex on the tour bus?
I used to be a semi-serious Scrabble player. But I put down my tiles.I’ve hung up my rack. And we don’t have a tour bus, we have a van. So [the sex] would be pretty public. I wish that kind of thing went on, insociety in general. If people got it on in vans without tinted windowsor whatever. But that doesn’t happen.

So how do you occupy yourself in the, uh, van?
We read. But other people get nauseous in the van. So sometimes I willread stories to them. For instance I had the biography of the 13thFloor Elevators, this legendary band from Austin, so I read that to theband while we were on tour and everyone chuckled. You know, I find thegood bits.

Do you have any books in mind with which to entertain the Jicks this summer?
I haven’t. But I was reading about a British guy namedCherry-Gerard. He was on the South Pole expedition with Robert Scott,the British guy that died [while returning from the Pole in 1912]. It’scalled The Worst Journey in the World. They want to find out about these bloody penguins. I could read that.