April 26, 2012

The Music Behind the Mayor

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A Cornell alumnus and Ithaca’s youngest mayor ever, Svante Myrick ’09 appears in The Sun on an almost-daily basis. But today, The Sun explores a different, lesser-known side of our mayor. In an arts-focused interview conducted last week, Myrick weighed in on Slope Day, discussed which superhero would make the most valuable city employee and picked the actor best suited to star in his biopic.

The Sun: What’s the best arts event you’ve attended in Ithaca?

Svante Myrick: Porchfest. The music is so varied. So you’re just walking down the street and in one block you’ll see the Gunpoets, these phenomenal local rappers; in the middle of the block you’ll see the Grady Girls doing their Irish music with strings and banjos and violins, and then at the end, you’ll get to see Cody Austern-Aceto with his ukulele singing with his high clear voice. It’s the most amazing confluence of musicians in a setting that you never get to see.

Sun: What sort of band, event, artist or other act would you most like to see in Ithaca?

S.M.: That’s tough, we’ve got some great local folks, and because of Ithaca College and Cornell, I’ve gotten to see people I never thought I would — Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Ratatat. I mean, it’s hard to covet! But I know for Slope Day, there’s always the usual that people hope for. Are the Red Hot Chili Peppers still what everyone wants?

Sun: I keep hearing Lady Gaga, which will never happen. And it would be terrible.

S.M.: Yeah, I’m not sure about her. The best Slope Day I ever saw was Snoop Dogg because he had a full band with a horn section and drums. When you’re playing in an open space like that, one person on stage or even a group of people dancing on stage will get boring after a while. Plus, with the energy that a group like the Red Hot Chili Peppers would bring — that’s why I always wanted to see them at Slope Day.

Sun: What’s your idea of the worst concert ever?

S.M.: If I had to sit through three hours of Tim McGraw and Bonnie Raitt, that’s probably my nightmare. I mean, I like a whole lot of different styles of music. Different I’m fine with, but the weepy, sappy, sugar-sweet, saccharine nature of some of that country? I don’t think I could make it.

Sun: If you could spend ten minutes with any writer, alive or dead, who would it be?

S.M.: I always wanted ten minutes with Kurt Vonnegut. First, he’s just hilarious and he’s got this fantastic worldview I’d love to hear more about. Plus, he was a Cornellian and he wrote for The Sun. In ten minutes, we could go deep pretty quickly because we’d have a common understanding with the Cornell and Ithaca connection.

Sun: Which comic book superhero would be most beneficial as an employee of the City of Ithaca?

S.M.: The Flash is very tempting, because he could fix all of our potholes in an afternoon. Superman is tempting, too: imagine how much better our air service would be if he could just carry the planes. Of course Wonder Woman with that lasso could make criminals tell the truth, but I think the best superhero for Ithaca would be Storm from X-Men. There are days I’m convinced Cornell has her locked in a basement somewhere. Whenever the pre-freshmen are visiting, it’s 70 and sunny, but the rest of the year, when they want the students inside studying, it’s overcast and freezing. I think she’d be the best one if we can just get her out of that basement. Let her make it sunny all year.

Sun: You and the City Council form a band. What’s it called and what kind of music do you play?

S.M.: Well, I can’t sing and I can’t play any instruments very well, but I would be a phenomenal backup dancer. A doo-wop, Supremes type of thing. I’d put Eddie Rooker up front and Seph Murtagh on piano. It would be like Prince and the Revolution with a lot of backup vocalists and dancers. And all the songs would be about taxes and potholes. We’d have to create a committee to come up with a name. That’s perfect: a band-naming subcommittee.

Sun: What are five of the most played songs on your iPod?

S.M.: This is going to be embarrassing. It’s probably Prince, with “Little Red Corvette,” Adele’s “Cold Shoulder,” probably “Some People Hate” by Jay-Z and undoubtedly Kanye West, something from 808s and Heartbreak. Maybe “Robocop.” Oh, and “Pretty Wings” by Maxwell.

Sun: Three movies that changed your life?

S.M.: Hoop Dreams, a phenomenal documentary about two young men on the southside of Chicago. They start following them in eighth grade and follow them for six or seven years on their quest to make it to the NBA. It ends up shedding light on the education system and the drug culture and the impacts of all sorts of urban and federal policies on the lives of young people. Do the Right Thing, a Spike Lee movie that I just love. And Cool Hand Luke. I love the whole movie, but there’s this one scene where they’re tarring the road and Paul Newman starts working three times as fast as everybody else. His enthusiasm is contagious and the job that was supposed to take them all day gets done in a couple of hours and they get the rest of the day off. That scene just blew my mind.

Sun: Who do you want to play you in your biopic?

S.M.: [laughs] In my biopic! Yeah, when they make the world’s most boring movie. They’d call it Committee Meetings: The Svante Myrick Story. Well, on the one hand, you want them to be handsome, but not that handsome. I think my brother would do a real good job, but if not him, I’m going to go a whole different way and say maybe Shia LaBoeuf. It’ll be an alternative take. Or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I think he embodies how I feel about how I look, if not necessarily how I actually look. [The Sun notes there is, in fact, a resemblance.]

Sun: Would you rather have President Skorton follow you around with his flute for the rest of your life or President Obama follow you around singing Al Green?

S.M.: Oh my god, could they not team up? Al Green would work really well with the soul flute. President Skorton gets down, but when Obama sang Al Green, that gave me chills. I think I’d take President Obama, with all due respect to President Skorton. It’s mood music, you know?

Original Author: Gina Cargas