When I spoke with Devendra Banhart, he was in front of a kitchen table in Los Angeles while Rodrigo Amarante of Little Joy fame played guitar in the background. Banhart was in the process of getting ready to go on tour to promote his new album, What Will We Be. He’ll be playing at The Ark tonight at 8 p.m.

Devendra Banhart

At The Ark
Tonight, 8p.m.
Sold out

“I’m not too shabby,” Banhart said in his phone interview. “I’m not as happy as a clam, but I can’t complain.”

To mentally prepare himself, he recites poetry.

“Let me quote a poem by Nanao Sakaki. It’s called ‘Please,’ ” he said. “ ‘Sing a song, or laugh, or cry, or go away.’ ”

“I’ve been just kind of repeating that poem over and over again in my head. That’s been really helpful, it’s been really fun,” he told me.

He lets me in on a secret.

“A piece of music trivia is that the cover of (Little Joy’s) record, with the woman falling into the water — that’s my mother. I’m happy to tell you that little secret.”

Devendra Banhart has always seemed like he’s been full of secrets. He talks in riddles and half-truths. Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell whether or not he’s serious.

Sometimes, however, it’s patently obvious that he’s not.

“I also have a project with Fab (Fabrizio Moretti, of The Strokes and Little Joy) where we just make extreme colognes,” he says in all earnestness. “The first one we’re making is called ‘Ninja Smell.’ “

Another, more likely collaboration is “Megapuss,” Banhart’s project with Moretti and Greg Rogove.

“We have songs that don’t fit into each other’s respective bands, and the last project, which was called ‘Mayor Prints,’ was really kind of an experiment and kind of a big embarrassment,” Banhart said. “This time we’re trying to make songs that aren’t trying to be jokes. It’s nice to have a serious project.”

Banhart has a predilection for going off on wild, unbelievable tangents. He says he collects ranch dressing from all over the world, and claims to want to direct a documentary about old people in cocoons, in swimming pools — he regrets that he can’t, because someone else came up with it first. He seems extremely eager to talk about music, so long as it’s not his own.

“I just want to make mum music,” he said off-handedly. “Mums are our demographic, you know.”

Banhart, who’s been touring and recording regularly since 2002, says that the moms of the world also get to decide how long he’ll record music and go on tour.

He shows clear disdain for the “freak-folk” label he’s been tagged with.

“Call it star revival, call it funky junk … just don’t use that nomenclature,” Banhart said. “I don’t think anyone that’s ever been called that has called themselves that.”

Banhart’s current playlist is extensive. He rattles off a list of artists that you might expect — Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes — and then he tosses in some more unexpected names, just for good measure.

“I like The-Dream and Mariah Carey a lot,” he claimed. “I fucking loooove T-Pain.” He drew out “love” so that it sounded like a ten-syllable word.

He seemed uneasy about talking about his own work. His voice quieted, and for once, he wasn’t the flippant, creative jokester he had been throughout the entire interview.

“I still haven’t figured out how to write music. I’m still trying to figure out how to tune a guitar. Working on that one octave. Working on that scale until it turns into a mode,” he said.

“I don’t really know what I’m doing, and I don’t really know how that stuff happens,” he added. “It’s just very painful whatever it is.”

“It’s just very painful,” he said again.

As a final question, I asked him what his idea of the perfect date would be.

His voice shifted, brightening, and suddenly he played the role of the effervescent hooligan again.

“Two people, one fat suit, eight horse tranquilizers and ‘Twister.’ Of course.”

Of course.

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