Well it lets me interact with other humans. I think that there's a bunch of talk about the music industry and all of this kind of stuff and about how all of these things are changing. I think for me it does a couple of things. If you're intimidated by it, it'd be like hustling yourself all the time. Kind of the way when a fly is when you're trying to eat a sandwich, you know? It kind of demystifies the artist, which I don't think is a bad thing. There's all this sort of vicarious washed out shit, and I think an interesting challenge for artists.
Are you going to perpetuate the VH1 corporate history and be like, "We're like this all the time! Don't you wish you were like us? Blaaah!" or be like, "I'm playing a show. I pressed this record."
The presale on my record went up and someone posted the link to where it was for sale on the band's Facebook page. And it was cool because you were watching people who were like, "I'm enthusiastic about this art" and they helped each other find it. And it's the same thing with the Record Store Day 7". Some of my friends were like, "They didn't have it in my city" and then I would just get on the Internet and go, "Does anyone know where they are?" and people would go, "Oh, there's some in Oakland. There's some in Boston." I'm not like fucking "punk rock, every man of the people" guy but it is fucking cool if someone wants to find something that you made and provide a service to help your customers find it. And that's what I was saying about "demystifies the artist" - when it comes down to it, if I were a painter, I'd be doing paintings for a pope or a fucking king a couple hundred years ago. But now I help people find what website to buy my record on on Twitter and there's fucking popes and kings everywhere. I'm lucky enough that it just so happens to be my art.
What's home like for you? In regards to the quality of Southern living, does that kind of slow you down when you're all over the place?
Yeah. I grew up in the middle of nowhere. Even going back to all the stuff about the Internet. Really all of that is just based off of my experience as a person. I'm in the middle of nowhere, and you grow up in a place like that, you have to go find other people to be able to make sure that you're real a little bit. You have to maybe do things to meet those people and develop relationships with those people and then you're not alone. The Southern thing probably does affect a lot of that, because to me it's very small. It's just something that I do and I do it with other people and if I'm lucky other people show up and I made this piece of art about this crazy feeling I had. And when I go into town, I go to my girlfriend's house and we play with the rabbit and we watch Celebrity Ghost Stories. And that's awesome! I like travelling though.
Is this about to be a tour that you're going on or is it just a few shows?
There's going to be some shorter runs that are going to escalate and build up into a "tour" tour. I like them [the band] enough that... even for a band now you can just go, "There's nothing coming out, but we should go on tour!" Stew, he makes movies. Daniel plays baseball. He's a carpenter. He builds bicycles. I really like playing music with them.
So this tour, you're playing everything from DIY venues to bars to bigger shows with Lee Renaldo - do you have a preference for one or the other?
Yeah. I think I do. I like to keep my band happy. I like to be in the best environment to keep them comfortable and that people will want to go to. I personally don't really have that much of a preference. I'm very allergic to mold. If it ain't moldy, I am down with it. Also, it's important to be able to do all of them and that's another reason why we practice so much because it is crazy. Where it will be like "You're going to play a basement, and then the next night you're going to open for Dr. Dog at the War Memorial and then you're going to go play in some bars and then you're going to go to SXSW and then you're going to play the Third Man Showcase!" You know what I mean? The environment's always changing, so we have to be prepared for it to change. It's very different. The outside festival stage is totally different from playing a basement.
You've been heralded as a spokesman for the current state of being a twentysomething. How do you feel about the world around you?
Well that's interesting, because I jut had kind of a bop-on-the-head experience with that last week. You know because I was in school... Okay, fuck it. I graduated from college in 2008, and I graduated and I didn't take out any loans and I was fucking broke and my band was doing really good and then we decided to do our own projects and so I'm like "Oh well, I'm fucking 23, 24."
So I started going to graduate school and I found a correspondence way I could do it and bought a phone, talking and writing papers, and working on a twelve-page paper in a fucking Starbucks in Baltimore or something. But I was also able to live and have access to financial aid that I could buy guitar strings with or put gas in my van with and that was easier than finding a job. And it's kind of becoming a job. So then by the time I graduated in March, I went to SXSW and I got back and I had been dedicating so much of my time to school, you know five or six hours a day working on a thesis and stuff since about January - Which I had to record this record and do my thesis at the same fucking time and that was insane.
It was just like everything that you want happens NOW - "I'm your shadow dream world!" So anyway, I got back and I had all this free time and I don't like not doing anything in the daytime and so I was like, "Oh well fuck, I'll get me a part time job. I want to learn how to do this or whatever," and I go and interview for these part-time jobs and it's just like the craziest shit on the planet. It's like, "So, uh, you got a masters and you want to work part-time? I think you're a little too busy to fucking work in my restaurant part-time" - like it's a fucking career opportunity to work in a fucking restaurant. So then I'm hanging out with people that I grew up with that I respect and one of them got a degree in psychology and was working in a fucking grocery that went bankrupt. And now he wants to work in the VA but they got a six-month hiring freeze going on. One of my friends drives from Murfreesboro to Nashville to deliver pizza in a rich neighborhood because the tips are good.
The problems are real. There are parts of me sometimes where I get feeling funky and I fucking play guitar, you know? I think maybe there's lots of "Well I was told if I just did good in school I could do whatever I wanted to do, and I don't think that was making french fries at McDonalds but I guess that's what I'm going to have to do. Or I'm gonna have to go back to school and get even smarter and never be able to articulate how fucked this is."
I have a group of people in town here. We all care about each other. We all try to find work for each other and that's the closest thing to adapting to it that I know about. Even going back to reinvestigating the language of interpersonal relationships and what their social possibilities are. It's people. It's all people. Reality is people.
I guess the thing that's weird and that maybe I've kind of noticed and that I have a fear of and I empathize with people - they're having to work in jobs that neuter them of their ability to closely interact socially and turn that into a means of individual and collective survival. You're not necessarily able to do that working at a McDonalds. There's only so many possibilities existentially and economically at Kroger. One of the reasons I do music is so I don't end up isolated in a job like that. I can't survive without that social thing of being able to talk.
It seems really great that you have this platform and you can make your own reality. It seems like you're really appreciative of that fact.
Well I think it's a pretty human thing to be interested in making your own reality and I think what a lot of people walk into is the "just 'cause I said so" reality and they have no choice but to survive in that reality and people get frustrated but you know we could talk about it. We don't have to just go home and stick our weenie in the pool jet. We can interact with each other. And as humans, even going back to identity, you could either interact as a human being and not just as a type of person too.
It's kind of like you go and you bag those groceries with your masters degree, but then you're free because you get to wear whatever you want. [sarcastically] You know what I mean? And it's all of these lame fucking concessions, these pacifiers, that are turning these human animals into these type of people. That's what I got on that.
That actually ties into my last question - If there was one album or song that you would use to communicate with beings from another world, what would it be?
Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers - 'The Modern Lovers' because he's not angry. He's not angry, he doesn't hate his parents and he just wants a girlfriend. And he loves art.