We interviewed a lot of people in 2015. I know this because, in order to compile this list, I read upwards of 60 Q&A’s with a wide array of artists who would go on to define the year. A lot of the interviews we published this year focused on process, but the byproduct of having musicians talk about their art is that sometimes they say really profound, moving things without thinking twice about it. There are a lot of quotes in this list that do just that — they make you think about what it means to be a human being, how the music we like helps define our personhood. There are other quotes included on this list that are simple reflections on the year. There’s talk of IO Hawks, drones, anniversaries, and ridiculous tour riders. The following were all selected from straightforward Q&A’s (meaning no profiles) published in the year 2015, presented in chronological order. Reminisce with us.
You know the record company will check in every now and again and ask about what kind of record you are making, and early on I’d just be like, “It’s a rap record and a kind of global pop record, whatever whatever” — basically just making up shit because I didn’t know what to tell them.
– Mark Ronson on the making of Uptown Special
I wrote a song “Can We Still Be Friends?” and I played it for my mom and she was like, “That’s the Cheers theme song,” and I was like, “No it’s not.” But I played the Cheers theme song and I was like, “Oh my god, it is.” But whatever. I didn’t mean to do that, so obviously it was kind of an unconscious thing, but I think that’s funny. I’m okay with those references, Cheers theme song and stuff.
– Tobias Jesso Jr. on his old school sound
I want to get to a place where I can literally spit out of my mouth what is going to be on the record in five minutes. I keep wanting to feel this more immediate connection with what I want to say, not what I subconsciously want to say.
–Twin Shadow on mature songwriting
Relationships can be a lot more complex than you ever imagined as a younger person. From ages twenty to thirty five when you’re really going through your first batch of serious relationships, you have a lot of these fairly elementary realizations about human interaction: how everybody is kind of fucked up and there’s no real getting around that. And you’ve got to find people who are fucked up in the right ways to complement you for a while.
– Jessica Pratt on writing about love
Um, no I don’t hate being in Limp Bizkit. I’m very aware of my band. You know, I totally get tons of people don’t like it and think it’s a joke. And then we have a really strong fan base that are great. And it’s been something I’ve always been part of, on and off, but something that’s always been my band, and whether people think it’s dumb or not, or elements of it aren’t cool, whatever. We’ve always had really fun live shows.
– Wes Borland on whether or not he actually hates Limp Bizkit
I’ve been reading about this Biocentrism thing. I’m actually kind of dumb, but I like reading stuff that is over my head. Like I’ll read some Hegel just to get inspired by how confused I get.
–Ruban Nielson of Unknown Mortal Orchestra on looking for inspiration in unconventional places
Being cut off, you work extra hard and try to put a signature on your sound. And when you do that, it radiates. You can hear that in our bass and the guitars, which are like beams of sunlight. You can hear that we’re not from LA or Chicago. We’re not from anywhere but here. Florida is crazy as hell but there’s an energy here and some musicians are able to hone in on that.
– Torche’s Jonathan Nuñez on making music in Miami
There are a lot of moments in the lyrics where I was like, “I don’t know if I can say this, I don’t know if I want a bunch of people to be knowing that I had this thought.” Then on the other hand, it’s like, I should just say it, because I think people appreciate that honesty, and also, I always appreciate in music when I hear someone saying something in lyrics, when I’m like, “Yeah, I’ve thought about that before,” but you never hear it out loud.
– Colleen Green on writing I Want To Grow Up
The whole album was a very stoned album. We smoked a lot of pot in the studio — constantly, basically. Which is interesting because it’s the first record that we did this way, just severely stoned the whole way through the writing process and the recording process. A lot of times I would get, like, a little too stoned, you know? And then just go in and play guitar parts because I would have to really focus and in order to keep from like freaking out. So there’s a lot of that on there. And then I stopped smoking weed after that record. [laughs]
– Jake Orrall of JEFF The Brotherhood on the making of Wasted On The Dream
Get off of Mom’s computer. If you are a musician I’ll listen to you, but if you aren’t, I don’t care what you have to say. I don’t need some fucking kid in his 20s telling me what black metal is.
–Leviathan’s Jef Whitehead on his not-black metal album Scar Sighted
I don’t understand the culture of people poking fun at artists because they’ve got requirements on the rider which probably, speaking from experience, Jack White probably had very little to fucking do with, d’you know what I mean?
– Noel Gallagher defends Jack White’s tour rider
Primrose Green is this cocktail my friends and I invented where you mix whiskey with morning glory seeds, basically. You have three or four of them and you’re kind of drunk and tripping. I don’t know … I guess it’s kind of the classic “write about things that fuck you up.” It’s just about a time and place in my life, this fun shit my friends and I did. Primrose Green was a nice title, I thought, why not? I wouldn’t recommend [the cocktail] to anybody.
– Ryley Walker on the title of his album
I think it’s always funny when an artist has all these interesting things to talk about and then they get really successful and their songs just become about being on the road and playing shows. Those things aren’t relatable, you can’t get into that. [laughs]
– Purity Ring’s Corin Roddick on keeping music relatable
There’s things I love about the innocent me who was writing that second verse that didn’t really go into a bridge, or didn’t understand structure or how things were going to happen. There’s an innocence to that… Sometimes, I allow myself to break rules if it feels better still. And I think maybe I’m not so Swedish in that way, where everything’s mapped out, and I’m just like, “But it feels good,” and that’s enough. I think you have to fight both sides of that. There are rules and there is structure, but there’s nothing more enjoyable than breaking all of the rules when it feels right to do that. I think that’s something I don’t want to ever lose sight of in that world.
– Carly Rae Jepsen on writing towering pop songs
Calling myself a musical genius is aspirational. A rapper lives out his fantasies rather than keeps it real, but the point is that he’s living out his fantasies, and that’s where you find truth. This is why we like Björk, or David Bowie, or Daft Punk — these aren’t typically authentic “I wear what I wear everyday on stage” kinds of musicians. They aren’t falsely modest indie rockers that are allergic to the appearance of artifice. They understand that in artifice there is the word “art” — that’s where it comes from. Artificial. It’s like you have to admit that there is something highly unnatural about performing and presenting yourself as public person, but this is where you find the truth: in people’s fantasies. So I really want to be a musical genius. That’s why Chilly Gonzales is a musical genius. Because Chilly Gonzales is my fantasy.
– Chilly Gonzalez on becoming a musical genius
We both just realized that no matter what industry you work in, everyone is going to have an opinion. Because of the era we live in now, it’s just so easy to critique people or say dumb bullshit about people, and it’s also very easy to see it. I just laugh about it now, and I feel kind of bad for the person who felt the need to take time out of their day to take a moment and say to me, “You are fat and I hate your music.” It’s like, OK, then don’t follow me on the internet or listen to my music, and go follow some skinny girl’s music who you actually like. Live your life, you know?
– Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino on ignoring the haters
[Taylor Swift] told me that her mom and dad had been really, deeply into my music and I got a real kick out of the fact that she’d been named after me. Obviously it wasn’t her choice, it was her mom and dad, but nonetheless a great connection I think.
– James Taylor on being Taylor Swift’s namesake
I also have this strong feeling that people wanted me to be troubled. They were disappointed that I was no longer this broken person — this strung-out, confused, broken person. I got this very strong feeling that people preferred to idolize that old image of me, and weren’t so happy to get on board with someone who just found a little bit more meaning in life and a little bit more understanding. I don’t like to get hung up on that idea. And I don’t think rock ‘n’ roll has to be this prolonged adolescence. I look at people like Leonard Cohen or Willie Nelson. They age into themselves, and their music ages with them. I would like to see that in myself, too. I don’t know what will happen as I age. Maybe I’ll start sitting at a piano to write songs or something. But it will be interesting to see what happens. It will be interesting to see what comes along with becoming more of an adult.
– Christopher Owens on growing up
It’s all about inspiration, because if you aren’t inspired by something and then you sit down like, “This song’s gonna be for the club; this song’s gonna be for the radio,” then personally I feel like you’re a fucking loser.
– Vince Staples on writing honestly
Freedom is a means to an end. Very often you hear people putting so much emphasis on having the freedom to choose, and living the lives that they want. And I understand that I have been very fortunate to be born into certain circumstances that allow me to do whatever I want to do, for the most part. But freedom can also be enough rope by which to hang yourself. I went through a long period of time where I didn’t have to answer to anybody, so I made a lot big mistakes: things that I don’t necessarily regret now — because I learned from them — but I overdosed on that freedom for a while. I think as you get older, if you mature and grow in the right way, then eventually you realize it’s not really freedom that you’re fighting for. It’s what that freedom can get you.
– Jason Isbell on being Something More Than Free
I have no idea what this band’s narrative is. I’m hoping it’s one of those boring stories where success keeps falling in the laps of a bunch of morons… like Entourage. I am old. Probably too old for this shit. But what else am I gonna do? I don’t have kids and I don’t have a future. It’s either this or spend my time on the internet logging my opinions on food, politics, and television shows. I’d take being in a barely-known band from Detroit over that fresh hell any day.
– Joe Casey on Protomartyr’s narrative
I like that he split his pants. It’s very bold to not wear underwear on stage. If anything, I’m wearing like, two pairs of underwear on stage. Just in case of an accidental… You’re bending over, you’re fixing your pedals, you might flash everybody. Lenny Kravitz didn’t care. Just squattin’, leather pants, commando.
– Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz talks #penisgate
It’s really good to play other people’s songs live and get in their head. I’ve always been like that. I’ve always liked playing with somebody else and collaborating, just to get out of my own head all the time. Everybody does, but artists especially, we torture ourselves. So it’s good for me to immerse myself in somebody else’s work.
– Natalie Prass on covering her idols
Yes. “Radio Number 1? from 10,000 Hz Legend. I had this idea … how to explain this? It had something to do with our hands reaching for some untouchable waves, and these waves were in the air, and it’s a kind of gum, you know? Something sweet. Stereogum.
– Air’s Jean-Benoît Dunckel on the song that gave this blog its name
I guess if the present isn’t very pleasant, then you do tend to reminisce more. I mean, everyone has moments of that. I’ve been less than happy at certain stages of my life, and I find that you tend to start looking backwards. But in general, I don’t really think about it. Still, you can’t really escape from your own shadow. It’s funny; I can’t help sounding like me when I’m singing, for obvious, physical reasons. But also I can’t help sounding like me when I play guitar or I play keyboards, for less obvious psychological reasons. You are who and what you are.
– New Order’s Bernard Sumner on nostalgia
This is just a totally fucking new age of kids who don’t really understand what “punk” is — or even the history of punk rock — but to them it’s just this attitude of doing whatever the fuck you want to do. If you want to go in the sense of completely “DIY,” pure do-it-yourself mode, then even somebody like fucking Diplo is punk. He doesn’t go through any label. He does everything himself. So the whole idea that the genre of “punk rock” music being two guitars and screaming … all that shit to me, that’s just a scene, and that’s different than being punk.
– FIDLAR’s Zac Carper on what it means to be a true punk
It’s something you forget as you get older because you’ve got families and you’ve got a mortgage — well, if you’re lucky you’ve got a mortgage, anyway, or you’ve got to pay rent or you’ve got your car payments and what not — you get so obsessed with, like, “Oh my god, I need to provide for my family, I need to earn.” And then you forget all that incredible thrust that you have when you’re young. That being said, I did leap into a crazy situation — I went to America to basically live with three men I’d never met before. I wouldn’t recommend that to very many women [laughs].
– Shirley Manson of Garbage on the 20th anniversary of their self-titled album
I feel like people in general would prefer to have their own experiences getting into the songs. And some people, by the way, don’t care about that side of things at all, and that is just fine. The way the songs are written — the references and the double meanings, those sorts of things — for me, those give life to the music. Those are for me. Those make the air breathable and the ground solid underfoot.
– Joanna Newsom on pillaging lyrics for meaning
IO Hawks are like vaporizers for your feet.
– BloodPop talks IO Hawks
It’s the future that we all were promised, only now you need exercise. As soon as they make something that everyone can just fly around on, it’s the exact moment we realize, you know, we really could stand to walk down to 7-Eleven. You know what I mean?
– Wayne Coyne on IO Hawks, too
People would probably love to be in bed and say, “I want new sneakers,” and then five minutes later there’s a little robot outside their window with the sneakers, that would be lovely for them, I suppose. That’ll probably just get us to a place where it’s normal for there to be a little flying robot outside your window and you wouldn’t think of how weird that really is. Once we’re used to the sight of these robots buzzing around how are we gonna be able to distinguish between the robots delivering our sneakers and the robots that are spying on us. I would rather not have robots looking in my apartment. But maybe they are already there, you know what I’m saying? It just seems like a kooky idea.
– Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus on drones