Josh Tillman has given a zillion interviews promoting Pure Comedy, one of the year’s best albums so far, and more than two months after the album’s release, its press cycle does not appear to be winding down. One of the most in-depth Father John Misty features of the year arrives today via The New Yorker. It’s an especially impressive story in that it managed to seize and maintain my attention even after I’d already read most of the rest of them. Among the highlights, there’s a trip to Nyack College, the evangelical university Tillman dropped out of; there’s some commentary from Ed Steed, the cartoonist who did the Pure Comedy cover art; there’s the revelation that Beyoncé recorded a different Tillman composition before she got to “Hold Up,” which transpired due to Tillman’s friendship with producer Emile Haynie; and there’s some reflection on his own self-destructiveness in interviews: “Once you’re on the hamster wheel of self-justification, it’s hard to get off. You’re, like, I can fix this interview with the next interviews.”
But maybe the best part is this anecdote about Dave Grohl dropping by S.I.R. Studios while Tillman and his band were rehearsing for tour:
At one point, Dave Grohl, of the Foo Fighters, appeared in the studio. He and Tillman talked near Tillman’s microphone stand. They’d never met, but Grohl acted as if they had — the old assumption that all celebrities know one another, or, at least, drummers from iconic Seattle bands who have gone on to have big careers of their own — while Tillman’s nonchalance edged into indifference. As Grohl was leaving, Tillman called out, “You’re welcome to come in anytime and listen to some folk rock!”
“Feel free to turn on some lights,” Grohl said.
“He’s like a Bill Murray of rock: just kind of shows up,” Tillman said when Grohl had gone. “Actually, Bill Murray is the Bill Murray of rock.”
Following that rehearsal emerged another amusing story, this one about Art Garfunkel visiting Fleet Foxes back stage:
[Trevor] Spencer and Tillman left S.I.R. Studios together. In the parking lot, they saw Gene Simmons in an Escalade, taking a nap. They took Tillman’s car, a black 1999 Jaguar XJ8, which he’d bought for three thousand dollars. (Emma has one, too. It replaced an old Cadillac hearse. The Misty vehicles are part of the lore.) There was a yoga mat on the back seat and a pile of parking tickets on the floor. Crawling down Hollywood Boulevard, they spoke dryly of eminences they held in less than high regard. David Crosby. Art Garfunkel. Tillman remembered a night when Garfunkel visited Fleet Foxes backstage after a show: “The first thing he says, ‘Isn’t it great to hear that sold-out crowd cheering, so you know business is booming?'”
“He also said, ‘I hear you’ve been ripping me off.'”
They were quiet a moment. “Music attracts more decent people nowadays, much to its detriment,” Tillman said. “Boring guys who make nice music.”
Wait, why was Gene Simmons napping in his car? Not very rock ‘n’ roll — unless he was sleeping off an all-night rager or something.