The circumstances were tragic, but the end result of TV on the Radio postponing its two First Avenue concerts from April to August may have been somewhat to the fans' benefit. Or so theorized one of the band's two vocalists.
"It takes a lot of time for us to inhabit our songs," said Kyp Malone, the willowy voiced, woolly bearded singer and guitarist in the forever-revered Brooklyn-based art-rock band.
"We don't really record them live in the studio. We do it more piecemeal. And in a lot of ways, we write them in the studio. So I feel like we're starting to finally inhabit the songs now."
Talking three weeks ago via his cellphone from an art gallery in Vancouver -- the interview ended when a gallery staffer shushed him -- Malone confirmed something this writer has long said about TV on the Radio: You can never fully appreciate its eccentrically recorded, deeply layered albums until you have heard the songs performed live.
It's a point that seems especially relevant this time around. TVOTR's latest record, "Nine Types of Light," has earned a decidedly more mixed reception than its predecessors, "Return to Cookie Mountain" and "Dear Science" (the latter being a wee bit hard to follow, considering Rolling Stone, Spin and Entertainment Weekly all named it the best record of 2008).
Many of the songs are mellower, prettier and sometimes even romantic and downright slinky in parts, as is audible in the single "Will Do" and one of Malone's most swooning moments on record, "Keep Your Heart." Malone, however, denied the widespread assessment that this is their "love songs album."
"I can speak of several songs off any of our records that speak of love and desire and things of that nature," he said, but then conceded just a bit. "There's maybe more of them on this record, or they're being articulated in a more assured way.
"Maybe that's it: We're just writing better love songs."
To facilitate the new songs on stage, the band curiously added a trombonist to its road crew, an addition that Malone said was a long time coming: "We have a lot of different reed and brass parts on record, so it's nice to actually have someone blowing air on stage."
Ultimately, he said, "we're having a lot of fun with this new material."
Of course, the members of TVOTR probably deserve to have a little fun after what happened this past spring. Just a few weeks after hitting the road to support "Nine Types of Light," bassist Gerard Smith died from lung cancer. The 36-year-old musician had already been replaced on tour, but his passing still hit his bandmates hard.
At first, Malone was reluctant to discuss Smith at all: "It was [four] months ago when my friend died; it's hard to articulate, or even want to talk about it at all," he said. However, sort of like when TVOTR has a new album to break in on stage, it just took Malone a while to open up the floodgates.
"In a 15-minute interview, I couldn't begin to describe his personality or his three, almost four, decades on the planet," he said. "He was a very generous person, and a very prolific artist and he cared a great deal about beauty."
Asked if it was hard to return to the road, Malone replied, "Have you ever had someone die? Did you quit your job because of it, or was it even feasible to quit your job?
"This is our job. It thankfully happens to be something I want to be doing. It's also a potential way to honor the life of my friend -- my friend who we've all been doing this with for a decade."