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We gave Burian five words—emo, indie, singles, hometown and tweens—and let him talk until he was finished.
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Al Burian walks down train tracks in Chapel Hill, talking about his indefinite plans for the indefinite future.

Burian—longtime Chapel Hill author, artist and musician in Milemarker and Hellbender—has been in Chicago for the past seven years, making music, writing, and publishing his occasional personal zine, Burn Collector. He's returned South, but he's not sure how long he'll stay. He had a reading at Internationalist Books last week and has a solo electronic performance at Nightlight this Saturday. Other than that, he's happily undecided.

We gave Burian five words and let him talk until he was finished.

EMO: Meaningless musical category designed to more easily package things. Emo, I guess, is short for emotion, but I don't know. You had punk, which had this sort of rebellious, packaged sense. Then hardcore, which was more political and DIY-oriented. And emo sort of seems like it was the step back to taking a lot of the politics and individual meanings out of a music scene. I think that emo sort of served the same function that New Wave served in the late '70s or early '80s. It sort of gives people an entry into counterculture that's a little safer. It's less threatening, I guess.

INDIE: I've been thinking about my place in counterculture, and it seems like a lot of things that were undiscovered—the places that used to be hidden where you could do what you wanted culturally and not be worried about it—have been dug up. There's still a little room to maneuver. But I like indie because it doesn't have strong aesthetic parameters. With emo, you know what you're getting.

SINGLES: Like seven-inches? You could go seven-inches or being single. I just got a new single out, a solo seven-inch out. I'm kind of happy to still be in the running on putting out vinyl 45s, although it's completely strange and archaic. I guess I'm also single, and that's a good thing to be in the town of Chapel Hill. It's good to be single and out of the puritanical Midwest.

HOMETOWN:Your hometown can be comforting, but it can also be a real shackle. I'm on a little brain vacation being here. It's definitely comfortable, and it serves the function. Your hometown is the place you can't really escape from in good and bad ways. Coming here I was trying to be a little anonymous, and it's amazing how many people I run into. When you walk around your hometown, you sort of experience your whole life but in nonchronological order. ... It's like a surreal, this-is-your life experience.

TWEENS: Well, the whole concept of the teenager is a pretty recent invention. My friend Bill Tsitsos, who's a sociologist, likes to talk about this, how the concept of the teenager is because we have more leisure time. It gives you another sort of consumer bracket, unlike back in the old days when you turned 12 and had to go work in the factory. He theorizes that's where all the problems started, that they should just abolish the teenager. But they haven't. They've come up with another gradation. It makes me feel older. We never got to tween.

Al Burian performs as ill Eagle at Nightlight Saturday, Jan. 26, at 9:30 p.m. I, Crime and Jon Mackey's Weather Machine are also on the bill.

  • We gave Burian five words—emo, indie, singles, hometown and tweens—and let him talk until he was finished.

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