30 Minutes with Elliot Easton of the New Cars

How's this for a mashup: Former Utopians Todd Rundgren (second from right in photo) and Kasim Sulton (right), together with ex-Tubes drummer Prairie Prince (left), join guitarist Elliot Easton (second from left) and keyboardist Greg Hawkes to form the New Cars. If their first single is any indication - the ultrabouncy "Not Tonight" from The New Cars: It's Alive! (10th St. Entertainment/Eleven Seven Music) - it sounds like a match made for the fast lane.

How have people reacted to the New Cars? They've been very positive. What I'd say to fans of the original Cars is that, if you come to our concerts with an open mind and see the songs are being performed with love and respect, you won't be disappointed. I hope we'll see two generations at the shows: parents who grew up loving the Cars, and their kids, who are into bands like Weezer and the Strokes.

How do you feel about the fact that the way people get their music now is changing? I'm okay with it. I have an iPod, and I buy songs from iTunes. I mean, how many times have you bought an album because you like a particular song, and it turns out that's the only song you like? In the old days, albums were made up of hit singles and a lot of filler. Now, people have the opportunity to put playlists together of the music they really want to hear.

The Beatles were really the ones who introduced the idea that an album could be a cohesive unit. Now, things are shifting back to a singles-centric mentality. While there are still some great albums coming out, the album itself isn't the only way you can get your music. When I was a kid, music was very much a shared experience. When a great band came out with an album, you'd make a little party out of it - listen to it with your friends and study the album cover. It was almost like going to a movie; it was something consumed from beginning to end. It took you on a little trip, and that was great.

It was like an appointment. You'd go to the record store on Tuesday, and when you got home, you had already blocked out the time so that the only thing you did was listen to the album. It would be nice to see that come back.

Is the CD itself in danger of becoming obsolete? The CD is just a storage medium for digital information. You can get that information through a piece of plastic or through the Internet. The thing I'd miss the most if it all went downloadable is the artwork. Most people these days buy a CD, load it into their iPod and iTunes library, and then put it on a shelf. They don't have to pull it out anymore when they want to hear the music. But album covers are another way to express a band philosophy, a way of commenting on the music.

What kind of iPod do you have? I've got a 40-gig with about 10,000 songs on it. Various genres - not just rock and pop but jazz, loungey stuff, kitschy tiki-bar stuff. And I love bossa nova from the 1960s, folk and blues, and Chicago blues especially. I have pretty eclectic tastes.

That blues focus makes sense, since Otis Rush and Albert King are among your influences. Absolutely. And Mike Bloomfield.