When fans ask brainy multi-instrumentalist and producer Rostam Batmaanglij — who performs as simply Rostam — why he departed his academic-rock outfit Vampire Weekend two years ago, he has a single response: Look at the far-ranging work he’s done since, like his “I Had a Dream That You Were Mine” collaboration with Hamilton Leithauser, or his recent solo bow “Half-Light,” and its adventurous material such as the Spector-esque “Bike Dream,” a string-carried “Thatch Snow,” and the Far-East-filigreed, backmasked “Wood.” None of it would have happened otherwise, he clarifies. Plus, he remains close friends with his old bandmate Ezra Koenig, with whom he still plans to collaborate.
How do you sense sound? More visually than aurally? I don’t have a simple answer for that. I guess it’s something I care a lot about and I have since I was a kid. I used to print out interviews with producers that I’d find online and read them in bed at night. I’ve always cared a lot about sound, and I’ve always been drawn to music, and listening to music loud alone in the house. So ever since I was a teenager, I always knew that I wanted to record music and be responsible for those recordings as they happened.
Would you wait excitedly on weekends until your folks went to a movie so you could crank the stereo? A little bit, yeah. I mean, my parents let me have a drum set in my bedroom when I was in tenth grade. So they were totally okay with me pumping some decibels into the house, I guess.
What producers did you study as a kid? The early one was Nigel Godrich — I was really fascinated by what he produced, so I would find every album he worked on. I was also really fascinated by Led Zeppelin as a kid — they made me want a Les Paul really badly. I remember going to a guitar store with my dad and asking them for the cheapest Les Paul that they had. They brought out this 1980 model with ‘Seconds’ written on the back of it, which meant that there was some kind of error at the factory, like an aesthetic imperfection. But I still have that guitar — I’ve recorded it on a bunch of different albums and it sounds great.
You’ve probably collected an arsenal of diverse instruments by now. I do find that me buying an instrument often results in me writing a song on it. In fact, on this tour, we’re playing a new song that I haven’t recorded yet that I wrote on mandolin. I don’t know what the precedent for the song is. But these days, I just trust my gut and go from there.
IF YOU GO: Rostam
Where: Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 23
Tickets: $20 to $22, Sold Out
Contact: (415) 255-0333, www.eventbrite.com