The Books are 40-year-old Dutch cellist Paul de Jong and 29-year-old Bostonian laptop-music whiz Nick Zammuto, who met through a miracle of real estate: They were living in the same Inwood apartment building in 1999, and discovered that they were both obsessive collectors of “found sound.” They soon proceeded to make their own joyfully found sounds: snatches of acoustic virtuosity in front of hot-jazz rhythms and eavesdropped conversations. We spoke to the odd couple as they launched their first tour, for their third release, Lost and Safe.
You formed your band over a spaghetti dinner. Are you gourmets?
Zammuto: That’s what we do. We make food and the music sort of happens from there.
It sounds like you’re using a lot of homemade instruments on the new release.
Z: Recently we’ve been making things that we can bang on or that bang themselves. If you put a speaker on one end of a pipe, for instance, and a microphone on the other and start playing your sound collection through them, you’ll have just the strangest kind of orchestral resonant instrument.
You’ve recently set up camp in the Berkshires. Why move?
Z: When you’re so sensitized to sound, it’s easy to become oversaturated. New York’s like caffeine—just the brightness of everything on top of everything else and these crazy conversations on the street.
You’ve never played live before, right?
De Jong: Only once. It took us two months to put together a half-hour set.
What scares you most about the tour?
Z: It’s a little disconcerting when you’re forced to be spontaneous in front of large numbers of people.
What do you imagine your groupies will be like?
D: I think the emphasis is college students, especially graduate school.
Do you get any stalkers?
Z: We don’t really wear the right clothes.