That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore (or was it ever?)
“You can look at this world and say ‘what a shit show I'm not going to bring
human beings into this world, I'm just going to be a monk and watch the world die.’
But we don't do that. We keep going.
That’s the comedy.”
I interviewed my messiah for the Detroit MetroTimes earlier this month. Here are some bits from the cutting room floor and a link to the final interview. Because, really, no amount of space could contain an interview like this, anyway.
Only after talking to Josh Tillman do I see how incredibly fitting it was that my introduction to Father John Misty was by means of a Youtube link texted to me by a drummer I was certain I was in love with after only two weeks of late night phone calls and confessionary back and forth re: our depressive tendencies and flawed treatment of intimacy in the late summer of 2014.
“Hey.” he said. “This reminds me of you.”
The link revealed a song “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” from Misty’s 2012 debut Fear Fun, a mischievously hazy autobiography. The video followed a rabid, grief stricken Aubrey Plaza trashing a wake turned personal exorcism only to wind up in the reluctant arms of a lanky bearded Misty. “Someone’s gotta help me dig” he pleads against the steady pulse of clashing high hats just before condensing the complexities of his various intoxications with the line “Retracing the expanse of your American back/With Adderall and weed in my veins/You came/I think?”
I replayed this song no less than eight times immediately after it was sent (and another few hundred in the months that followed.) As it turns out I was not in love with that particular drummer in the late summer of 2014. After further exploration of Fear Fun, what I found was a long-winded narcissist whose romantic view of the world was veiled with hedonism, anxiety and carnal lust for lust and it was those very things I had been missing. An open door and my sacred guidance counselor it is here that Father John Misty would solidify himself as the sole survivor of my growing collection of half-lovers and almost forevers.
By the time 2015’s follow-up I Love You, Honeybear was released I had satiated most of my aforementioned primal desires and synchronized with the records shift from misadventure to matrimony. Essentially a love letter, Honeybear’s conceptual provocation poured hope into the craters Fear Fun drunkenly tripped over. The albums title track provided the opening lyrics “Mascara, blood, ash and cum on the Rorschach sheets were we make love.” which ushered in subsequently the next two years of my life with another drummer and another nearly almost.
“This is the best interview I've ever had.” Tillman laughs and I instantly have to wonder just how agonizing his previous interviews must have been to make my heavy-handed therapy session stand out. “I had a realization towards the end of making Pure Comedy. I did make another record about love.”
Comedy finds Tillman floating against a sea of orchestral depravity as he challenges his own narrative and our collective conscious. Conversational, confrontational and satirically epigrammatic, he invites us to use our phone’s dormant home screen as a mirror. Calling out our cultural obsession with social media (even on our respective deathbeds,) global warming, misguided faith and most predominately himself. Which is why I had to share in my confusion over the fact that I have had more sex to Pure Comedy, a record that is so clearly about the plight of existence and the eventual death of Earth with my current partner (who appropriately is the only love I’ve ever had that actually fucking gets it and who isn’t a drummer) than any other record in my sexually active adulthood.
The night before I am scheduled to interview Josh Tillman via phone call, he saunters into my dream looking exactly how you would expect him to look. Tailored yet unbrushed, bearded and without socks fingering through a record collection I don’t actually own. I wore red and smoked his cigarettes one after another while he amorously held The Carpenters Carpenters vinyl close to his chest like a talisman with a secret backstory. “Is art pointless?” He asks, pulling the record from its sleeve. I knew even in my dream that my response to this question had to be cautiously crafted as it had the ability to dismantle him either way. I expel the smoke from my lungs and intake more, “It only matters if it matters to you.” I woke up here and when I talk to him a few hours later I decide not to tell him about this dream or the countless others that preceded it.
“Wait a minute, I know who you are.” he says in real life and in real time. “We’ve met like 3 or 4 times. It’s you.”
He laughs and I smile knowing that he, Father John Misty, is still my longest lasting relationship and that, well, it’s not quite as lonely as it seems being merely a speck on a speck on a speck.