Talkin’ To Scott Aukerman Re: R U Talkin’ R.E.M. Re: Me?

Kevin Bartelt

Talkin’ To Scott Aukerman Re: R U Talkin’ R.E.M. Re: Me?

Kevin Bartelt

The great podcast U Talkin’ U2 To Me is billed as “the comprehensive and encyclopedic compendium of all things U2.” It’s a claim as bold and bombastic as the band being documented, and — to be perfectly fair — it’s a designation with which one might quibble, if one were feeling a bit pedantic. For instance, the podcast falls short of being “comprehensive” or “encyclopedic” in any conventional senses of those words. It is not a “compendium,” for functional purposes. And while the subject of U2 is addressed — sometimes at length — the show’s focus is not strictly contained to “all things U2.” There are occasional digressions into…film, for instance. Or money. Or Turtle from Entourage. There’s an entire episode of U Talkin’ U2 To Me ostensibly dedicated to the music of Staind, the Massachusetts band behind the 2001 top-10 hit “It’s Been Awhile.” Except U Talkin’ U2 To Me? hosts Scott Aukerman (Comedy Bang! Bang!, Mr. Show) and Adam Scott (Parks And Recreation, Torque) don’t actually like the music of Staind. Really, they don’t care enough about Staind to have a strong opinion either way. The episode in question — “Staind Glass” featuring special guest Todd Glass — is just an inane extension of a pointless joke that went way too far. And it never stops going. It also never stops being funny.

It’s not all a joke, though. Scott Aukerman and Adam Scott (dba Scott & Scott, or “the Scotts” for short) absolutely, sincerely, unequivocally love the music of U2 — and they have passionate, detailed, obscure, nuanced, idiosyncratic, stubborn, thoroughly developed yet ever-evolving opinions on that music. They are, in short, geeks, and they geek out by getting in a room and doing a podcast together, whenever their packed schedules will allow. They also absolutely, sincerely, unequivocally love talking about U2 on their podcast — but they have limited attention spans and crazy-fast brains and weird senses of humor, so they tend to veer WAY off-topic, winding up someplace else altogether.

Those digressions are frequently the funnest parts of UTU2TM, and they sometimes consume entire episodes of the show (which regularly eclipse the 120-minute mark). Still, even allowing for all the non-U2 talk, ultimately, how much U2 can two dudes talk? So after 24 episodes of U Talkin’ U2 To Me (produced, in fits and starts, over a 40-month span), the two ran out of U2 to talk about. During the show’s last episode, November 2017’s “Songs Of Experience,” Scott & Scott kicked around the idea of starting a new podcast, maybe devoted to a different band, e.g., Adam Scott’s all-time favorite band, i.e., “the American U2,” aka R.E.M.

For some of us, this had the ring of a sweet but empty promise, the type of thing two old friends say to one another after a long night spent catching up. “This was a blast. We gotta do it again sometime. Soon.” For others, this was clear evidence the Scotts would be doing a new podcast. About R.E.M. Soon.

For once, thank fuck, the optimists were right.

Today, the Scotts drop ep 1 of R U Talkin’ R.E.M. Re: Me? It’s insanely funny, and if you stick around past the first hour-plus of gags, it goes into great depth (seriously) on the subject of the R.E.M.’s debut single (“Radio Free Europe”) and first EP (Chronic Town). It is all truly, joyously wonderful. You should listen right goddamn now. Here:

If you wanna know a little bit more about R U Talkin’ R.E.M. Re: Me?, let’s start with the podcast’s name. Now, OK…look, that’s a bad name. But you gotta understand where that name comes from to understand how bad it is, and why that’s funny. See, first there was…I dunno, single-celled organisms or whatever. For the purposes of keeping this tight, let’s start with Comedy Bang! Bang!, which is Aukerman’s day gig. CBB is a surrealist sketch-comedy podcast that comes out every week, with Aukerman playing host to a revolving cast of comedians, actors, and musicians, who just improv or workshop the strangest shit they’ve ever imagined, and carry it, over time, to irresponsible extremes. CBB has spawned an entire universe of characters and projects. For example, Nick Kroll and John Mulaney developed the characters Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland on CBB, eventually bringing them to TV via the “Oh, Hello” sketch on Kroll Show, and then to Broadway, where they played to sold-out rooms every night. (Last time Kroll did CBB, he said he’d have to charge Aukerman $10,000 to deliver a single line in Faizon’s voice.)

And R U Talkin’ R.E.M. Re: Me? arrives via a similarly circuitous route, starting with some stuff that happened on CBB. Lemme backtrack.

Adam Scott has been a semi-recurring player on CBB, and for a few years, he was joined on the show by his Parks And Recreation colleagues Harris Wittels and Chelsea Peretti. That combo produced a handful of deeply beloved CBB episodes, which were subtitled “Farts And Procreation,” because Aukerman thought that would be a good name for a super-niche fetish-porn parody of Parks And Recreation. In 2011, Aukerman and Wittels launched a CBB spinoff podcast called Analyze Phish, and that name was a groan-inducing “joke” (aka “foam” — long story) playing off the title of the 1999 comedy Analyze This, starring Robert De Niro. Here’s the premise of Analyze Phish:

Harris and Scott are comedians, music lovers, and friends. Where do they differ? Harris loves Phish, and Scott does not. On Analyze Phish, Harris navigates the vast landscape of Phish’s catalogue to find entry points for Scott while trying to explain the live Phish experience without the use of illegal substances.

So ANYWAY, Adam Scott was a guest on ep 3 of Analyze Phish (“Jam Sesh With Adam Scott”), and when the two Scotts decided to launch an Analyze Phish spinoff dedicated to the music of a band they actually liked — i.e., U2 — it made some sort of sense that they would go with a different ridiculous De Niro reference, this time calling back the actor’s iconic “You talkin’ to me?” monologue from Martin Scorsese’s 1976 classic Taxi Driver.

It could have been worse. Consider this: Wittels was a guest on ep 2 of U Talkin’ U2 To Me?, “The Joshua Tree,” and at one point he suggested to the Scotts that they consider rebranding their show as R U 2 Talkin’ U2 To Me?, because he was of the opinion that additional syllables made any joke inherently funnier. The Scotts debated the merits of this suggestion, ultimately deciding against changing the name of their just-launched show, but it easily could have happened, right then and there, as you’ll know if you’re familiar with the conventions of Comedy Bang! Bang! (formerly known as Comedy Death-Ray).

There’s an argument to be made that R U Talkin’ R.E.M. Re: Me? should have been called R U 2 Talkin’ R.E.M. Re: Me? First of all: That would have been a truly ridiculous name, and it would have been delightfully hilarious to hear Scott Aukerman say it out loud at the top of every ep. Second: It would have been an apt tribute to Wittels, who died in 2015. (Read this.) Third: It would have been a pointless joke whose nonsensical origins were immediately clear to, like, 350 people, and a total mystery to the rest of the world.

These self-referential, interconnected in-jokes present an unusual challenge to anyone trying to write about any of the above-mentioned shows. If you’re a fan, and you’re familiar with the references, there’s a tendency to craft your work for other fans, to casually call back as many jokes as you can possibly can while still writing semi-complete sentences. That’s part of the fun of being a fan, and that’s how fans communicate.

Lemme give you an example: Invariably — and this is not just a prediction but a PROMISE — somebody, probably several somebodies, will jump into the comments at the bottom of this post and award me a grade of “C+.” If you don’t get that reference, you will think I’m being…insulted? Graded a bit harshly? (Graded fairly? The beneficiary of grade inflation? I guess it depends.) If you DO get the reference, you’ll know that this is the highest praise that can be offered, but it’s not even intended as praise, per se. It’s just one fan throwing a sign to another. It’s geeky as fuck, quantifiably pointless, and one of my very favorite things about the whole entire internet.

If you’re not a fan…well, first of all, you’re not writing about this stuff, unless you’re writing a one-star review on iTunes. Those are usually pretty fun, too, especially if the reviewer gets REALLY fired up. But forget writing about it — how are you even supposed to read about it?

True story: I wrote a short piece for Stereogum when the last ep of U Talkin’ U2 To Me? came out, and I dashed that thing off as fast as possible, never stopping to consider my audience. I just strung together as many in-jokes as I could remember off the top of my head. Here’s one comment on that story:

One of the best articles about a podcast I ever read. C+

Perfect. I felt pretty good about myself when I read that! But then, I saw this comment:

Someone fill me in here, I feel incredibly left out. I understand negative amounts of this article.

Bummer. That was not my intention! I was just trying to make people laugh, not alienate anyone. I did my best to explain the whole enterprise in that very comments section, and I’m gonna excerpt part of that explanation here:

[I]f you listen [to the series] from the beginning, it can take on this pretty electrifying Waking Life-style collective dream-consciousness sensation. Also it’s just a blast to track these jokes from accidental conception to whatever distorted shapes they take on over time. At its most frenetic, the hyper-references are so densely layered, emerging and disappearing so quickly, it can feel like you’re tripping balls on Space Mountain and hallucinating the birth of the universe or something.

But the fun part, for me anyway, isn’t trainspotting the references; it’s just the feeling of hanging around with these two super-fast, super-funny, super-smart goofballs. I think that’s especially true if you grew up with nerdy stoner kids like that, because it takes you back to a time and feeling you really can’t recreate. I laugh like a 13-year-old when I listen to this show, and that’s a rare form of laughter. And THEN, listeners (like me) will occasionally throw out incongruous references in online forums (like this one), and every once in a while, other listeners will catch one of those references and throw it back, which ever-so-slightly expands that parallel universe to include those listeners as residents rather than merely tourists. That’s the other fun part (again, for me): calling back and stupidly giggling at esoteric in-jokes with strangers online, who aren’t entirely strangers anymore.

I can tell you right now that R U Talkin’ R.E.M. Re: Me? dives right into the deep end re: references. But when I interviewed Aukerman about the show (Adam Scott was unable to join us, because he was filming his Fox series Ghosted), I wanted to do it in a way that would serve both the novice and the hardcore fan. To that end, I largely avoided in-jokes during our discussion. (This was more difficult than it sounds, because at a certain point, those in-jokes become second nature.) HOWEVER, I did choose to open with an in-joke, to which we refer again later in the interview. I’m gonna explain the joke here, and hope that helps in some small way. Yes, I fully realize I’m murdering the bit, but I think that’s OK — they got a zillion of ‘em.

So here goes: On ep 9 of U Talkin’ U2 To Me, “Slowing It Down,” the Scotts were joined by guest Paul F. Tompkins (who is never far from any comedy podcast). Apparently, Aukerman was feeling a little testy or something, and as a result, he relentlessly tortured Tompkins by asking him — again and again, for two straight hours — “When did you first hear of U2?”

Tompkins did his best to answer the question — initially sort of earnestly rephrasing his response each time, as if Aukerman had merely misheard him every other time or something — but eventually, it became clear to everyone that Tompkins was trapped in hell, where he would remain for eternity.

It was a GREAT ep.

STEREOGUM: I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t begin our interview by asking you this question: When did you first hear of R.E.M.?

AUKERMAN: [laughs] That may be one of the first questions asked on the show.

STEREOGUM: Great. Start you off with a softball then.

AUKERMAN: I must have heard certain songs like “So. Central Rain,” and also probably I must have heard…uhhhh…what’s their first single? [laughs] We’ve been talking about so many of their songs. Oh, “Radio Free Europe,” I must have heard that on the radio. But I didn’t really ever listen to them until I saw a poster in my friend’s bedroom when I was 15 for Fables Of The Reconstruction. He got me into a lot of cooler alternative music than what I was listening to at the time, which was mainly like Hall & Oates and Huey Lewis And The News. So he got me into the Smiths and Echo And The Bunnymen and a bunch of stuff, and my other friend at the same time was getting me into X and the Dead Kennedys and OMD and things like that. So really, when I was 15, I started opening my eyes to a whole bunch of new music. I saw this R.E.M. poster and my friend said to me, “Oh, that’s not a very good album, actually.” So I didn’t actually listen to that one. I heard of them probably in 1985, but didn’t really listen to them until 1986 when Lifes Rich Pageant came out.

STEREOGUM: Your answer is very similar to the one that Paul F. Tompkins tried to give, actually, when you asked him the same question about his experience with U2. Numerous times.

AUKERMAN: Is it? I don’t recall.

STEREOGUM: So did you become a fan right away? Did you click with R.E.M. the same way you did with U2?

AUKERMAN: It was a little different than U2 because I think a lot of what I liked about U2 was wrapped up in their singles, initially. It also weirdly was sort of coordinated in the fact that they were somewhat considered to be a religious band in the early ’80s. And so growing up in the Christian church, that was sort of considered to be one of the only rock bands that it was OK to listen to. So I think by the time that I hit 16, when I started listening to R.E.M., I was listening to a lot of different types of alternative music. Then I got into it with Life’s Rich Pageant, which is still one of my favorite records. [After that] I went back and discovered and listened to all of R.E.M.’s early albums and became obsessed. They became a band I was rooting for, because they hadn’t become popular yet — whereas U2, by 1986, were one of the biggest bands in the world.

STEREOGUM: I remember you guys talking about R.E.M. on one of the U Talkin’ U2 To Me? episodes. I recall Adam saying that they were his all-time favorite band, even more so than U2. And I kind of got the feeling that your enthusiasm was a little more reserved. Is that fair to say?

AUKERMAN: There definitely comes a point in the podcast where we diverge in terms of our listenership, unlike U2. The U2 show, we both had different entry points in different years, because Adam’s a couple years younger than me, but we continued to listen and buy all the U2 albums the day they came out. There’s a point during the R.E.M. show where we diverge, and I suddenly have never heard an R.E.M. album after that. So what’s interesting about this series versus the other series is at a certain point everything is gonna be sort of new to me. And I’ll be listening to these albums for the first time.

STEREOGUM: Have you recorded most of the podcast already? Have you recorded all of it already? Is it done?

AUKERMAN: No, I wouldn’t say we’ve recorded most of it. We’ve got a number of episodes in the can, but we sort of have to do that. We’ve been recording ever since late last year. I think on our last U2 episode we sort of teased out, “Should we do this?” [laughs] Even though we knew we were gonna record in a couple weeks. We sort of teased it to get people excited about it, even though we knew. Basically during the Christmas break, Adam wasn’t shooting anymore and I didn’t go out of town, so we had a lot of time to stockpile some episodes knowing that once the new year came around it would get a little busier. But there will be — much like the U2 show — a certain point where it catches back up with us because already Adam’s so busy that he hasn’t been able to get back in the studio for a couple of weeks. So at a certain point we’re gonna run out of episodes and then it’ll become the weekly grind that the U2 show became for a while [laughs]. But our hope is to get through all the albums along with a bunch of little weird side trips along the way, hopefully, like the last series.

STEREOGUM: I was wondering how you were gonna start this podcast, because you built up so many recurring in-jokes and sub-podcasts over the course of U Talkin’ U2 To Me? Are those going to transfer over to the new show, or are you going to start cold and expand the universe as you proceed?

AUKERMAN: It’s something that we didn’t really talk about. But it’s a good question because I know, much like the U2 show, there will be a lot of R.E.M. fans who are excited just to hear another podcast devoted to R.E.M. I think there are a couple out there currently. And if R.E.M. are one of their favorite bands, they’re gonna be excited to listen. And then they’re in for a crushing disappointment once they learn that roughly half of the episodes are not even devoted to the band [laughs]. So it’s something we didn’t even discuss, because our reasons for doing it are: Adam always really wanted to discuss these bands with someone, and I think he’s kind of a frustrated music critic in a way. I believe that was his second choice for a career.

STEREOGUM: Oh. God. Well, he’s very lucky he got his first choice.

AUKERMAN: [laughs] I know. He’s lucky he got a more symmetrical face, I would imagine, than most music critics [laughs]. But I think it’s something he really enjoys doing, talking about these bands. And there’s a point in the show where he talks about how when he was in high school he would be playing R.E.M. on his Walkman, and he would go over and forcefully put headphones on other people’s ears and force them to listen [laughs]. So I think that behavior has naturally escalated now to where he’s forcing fans of his to listen to R.E.M. songs. But we also do it to just hang out with each other and to have fun, so I don’t think that we are necessarily trying to make it accessible to the R.E.M. listener because, undoubtedly, they’re going to probably hate it anyway from the types of mail that we get from U2 fans. So it’s really more for music fans in general and people who are interested in R.E.M. and don’t mind our personalities [laughs].

STEREOGUM: I think one of the things that made the U2 podcast so fantastic — and I expect the same will be true of the R.E.M. podcast — is that you guys are such incredible superfans, and when you talk about the music, you do so in a way that could only be communicated by someone who truly loves the band. But there’s also this deep familiarity that allows you to be more irreverent than you would if you were discussing a band you didn’t love. Like, I think, if you’re a huge U2 fan, you can make fun of the band in a more intimate way. And I think maybe other U2 fans hear that.

AUKERMAN: After getting some R.E.M. episodes in the can, I found that U2 are inherently a more ridiculous band in a lot of ways. They’re so much larger than life. They’re very similar bands in the sense that they both became popular around the same time, and sort of heralded the public zeitgeist being interested in alternative music that exploded in 1992 with Nirvana and grunge and everything. So they’re very similar in a lot of ways, but U2 are so much larger than life — just the fact that two of them call themselves Bono and the Edge [laughs]. Like, that’s already ridiculous. I don’t think R.E.M. has anything remotely comparable. So it’s definitely interesting. We get a little more into the music; this time we try to critique every single song they’ve put out, which we didn’t really do with the U2 records. Sometimes we’d skip over songs — the early records, I don’t think we even played a lot of them. This one we’re going track-by-track, including the B-sides.

STEREOGUM: You said that one of the reasons you guys are doing this show is just because it gives you an excuse to hang out. For me, as a listener, that’s something comes across really clearly. One of the reasons I loved the U2 podcast was because it brought back this feeling I had when I was 16 or so, just hanging around with buddies and listening to records and making fun of each other. You don’t really do that anymore as you get older.

AUKERMAN: You just don’t have time to hang out with your friends and talk about music all that much. That usually coincides with more responsibilities, either children or graduating college… It is a really fun thing that friends don’t usually, normally, get to do. When you get a new album you don’t usually unwrap it or download it and then call your friend and go, ‘let’s listen to this together!’ [laughs] Music in your 20s, and 30s, and 40s becomes sort of a solitary experience. You’re listening to music alone usually. You’re listening to it in the car, you’re listening to it on your computer, or on your stereo, or on your turntable, but there’s no one else around you. At most, you put something on at a party. If it’s dance music, people maybe will pay attention to it. If not, it just becomes background music. But it’s just fun to talk about music with other people — and talk about your different experiences with it. A lot of what we’re trying to go into with the show is, “what were you doing when this album came out?” And we’re just talking about our lives and the effect that the music had on our lives. Some funny stories are coming out of it, stuff that I don’t know about Adam, and stuff that Adam doesn’t know about me. So it’s just fun to do with a friend in a way that you don’t get the opportunity to do as you get older.

STEREOGUM: Do you want to talk about any of the guests that are going to be on the show or do you want that to be a surprise?

AUKERMAN: We’ve only recorded one guest so far: Lance Bangs, who was a guest on the U2 show. And similarly to U2, Lance befriended the band, worked for the band, made films for the band, and even filmed their last show ever. So it was really great to have him back on, and he brought some unheard demos from Green that we listened to. So that’s the only guest that we’ve had on any of the shows that we’ve actually recorded at this point. As for other people coming up, we definitely have a wish-list of people but nothing’s for sure yet. For the first U2 show, we had no idea that U2 would ever want to be on it. We kind of joked about it in the early episodes. But at this point there’s an expectation that, yes, R.E.M. are not only gonna be on it, but they will re-form and play on the show. And that’s all we really need: We need a good three days of their time where they re-form, they play in one of our backyards — we have a backyard barbecue that they play at — and that’s really all we want from them, and that’s why we’re doing the show.

STEREOGUM: That sounds reasonable. Do you insist that Bill Berry take part or will you accept the latter-day R.E.M. lineup of Mike Mills, Peter Buck, and Michael Stipe.

AUKERMAN: Bill Berry is non-negotiable. He has to be there.

STEREOGUM: Good. I think you have to hold that line. I think it goes without saying that Paul F. Tompkins will at some point be on it?

AUKERMAN: I don’t really know his relationship to R.E.M. or if he has ever listened to them.

STEREOGUM: Might be a question worth asking.

AUKERMAN: It definitely would be, probably, the first on my list of questions for him.

STEREOGUM: This is sort of a somber question, but I’ve always felt that Harris Wittels was such a big part of U Talkin’ U2 To Me? even when he wasn’t a part of it. Because I sort of saw U Talkin’ U2 To Me? as an extension of Analyze Phish, and both are extensions of Comedy Bang! Bang! and especially the “Farts And Procreation” episodes that featured both Adam and Harris. I was wondering if you ever think about his presence when you’re doing these shows with Adam.

AUKERMAN: I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience with someone who has passed away, but every once in a while I will think — and this happens for Comedy Bang! Bang! as well as the new R.E.M. show — I’ll say, “We should have a guest on,” and then I think, “Oh, I’ll get Harris!” And [laughs] and then I remember, no, I can’t get Harris. And it’s always a huge bummer. That definitely has happened with the R.E.M. show. I think he was on three episodes of the U2 show, two of which we recorded back-to-back, and he had to get back to work because I think he lied about where he was [laughs].

STEREOGUM: Wait, “back to work”? Wasn’t he doing Parks And Rec with Adam at that point?

AUKERMAN: I think he gave Parks an excuse that he had to work on something with Adam [laughs] and he showed up and recorded a couple episodes with us. He had so many great jokes on the U2 episodes. I definitely miss him and wish that he could’ve been on one of the episodes of the show. Undoubtedly, he would probably hate the band, which would be funny. Harris and Adam and I, we had such similar senses of humor, but we had such wildly divergent senses of what we liked, it always made for really fun episodes.

STEREOGUM: I think it’s fun as a listener, too. I mean, look: Me personally, I honestly just do not like U2. Frankly, as far as I’m concerned, the only good thing about U2 is that they gave us the podcast U Talkin’ U2 To Me?. I now get excited for a new U2 record just because of that podcast. But man, you had to win me over. Now you’ve got a new podcast with a new title. How do you sell that to people who don’t like R.E.M.? How are you gonna convince them to listen to this show?

AUKERMAN: You know, I get it. I get that there are gonna be people out there who, for whatever reason, dislike these bands. But what was interesting about the U2 show is that, I think we made a lot of people U2 fans that would never ever dream of picking up a U2 album. We get pictures from fans all over who are going to their first U2 concert, who never would’ve dreamed of going to a show before. People write to us all the time saying, “I hated U2, and now you’ve convinced me to spend $250 on front-row tickets to their show” [laughs]. You know, who knows why anyone likes something? There have been things that I definitely have liked ironically, and then I cross over into actually liking it [laughs]. I don’t know why that happens, where you sort of kitschily like something and think, ‘Oh this is stupid,’ and then it becomes one of your favorite things. I don’t know why. When we started the show, I hadn’t really listened to R.E.M. in a number of years, and I was sort of where the audience who hasn’t listened to them would be — I was rediscovering the band, or discovering them for the first time in a lot of episodes. It’s been really interesting to me to go back and listen to these old albums from 30 years ago with fresh ears, so I think a lot of people who only know of R.E.M. from “Losing My Religion,” they probably don’t know a lot about the early records, which are stone-cold classics. So that’s exciting. But, you know, let us convince you [laughs].

STEREOGUM: That’s what you were trying to accomplish with Analyze Phish. That was the whole point: to try and convince you, literally, why the band Phish is worth listening to. Do you think that’s the mission of the new show, except with R.E.M.?

AUKERMAN: I even say in an upcoming Comedy Bang! Bang! episode that Analyze Phish kind of worked on me. Phish are no longer something that, if I were to hear it, I’d groan and say, ‘Please turn it off.’ I now have a lot of good experiences wrapped up in listening to that band, so it now triggers those kind of emotions in me where it’s crossed over into enjoyment. I think so much of music is tied up in our emotions of how it made us feel while we were listening to it. So now, for some people, because of the U2 podcast, when U2 comes on they can’t help but kind of smile because it’s wrapped up in how they had a really good time listening to the series. Maybe that’ll happen with R.E.M. as well.

Adam and I get into this on the show, like, how do you talk about music? Usually it starts with comparing it to something. Like the R.E.M. song “Auctioneer” reminds me of an early Cure track from Three Imaginary Boys, for instance. That’s one way you can talk about music: by comparing it to other music. But I think, with the show, we try to wrap it up in feelings and experiences and how it made us feel when we first heard it, how it makes us feel when we hear it now. And hopefully, that’s then translated to new listeners, and their experience listening to us talk about it is now wrapped up in that song as well. Like I can’t hear Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” without thinking of my 8th grade dance, which was the first time I ever slow danced with someone, and that’s just wrapped up in that song now. I’ll probably never hear it without thinking about that. I think that’s one of the wonderful things about music: The experience of listening to it is such a big part of it.

STEREOGUM: Jeez man. You’re getting into some heavy stuff here.

AUKERMAN: Thank you. I was just talking off the top of my head.

STEREOGUM: Now people will listen to the new show expecting some high-concept deconstruction of our psychological response to music as it relates to our formative experiences or whatever.

AUKERMAN: [laughs] And it is not that at all.

STEREOGUM: I know Adam once said that he thinks R.E.M. are the greatest American rock band of all time, and I think you had maybe disagreed with him on that point. First of all, do I have that right? And second of all, what are your feelings on that take if I do have it right?

AUKERMAN: I think it is right. They’re Adam’s all-time favorite band. Without giving away too much about the show: We differ on what we like about R.E.M. and I think that certainly comes to a head in the show. I mean, Adam’s biggest fear in doing this series — he mentions this on the show — is that I would hurt his feelings [laughs].


AUKERMAN: I definitely think that he gets his feelings hurt in some episodes.

STEREOGUM: That’s what happens when you love a band: It’s hard to remove yourself, and then it’s like you’re the person getting insulted.

AUKERMAN: Look at Analyze Phish. Harris, who hardly would ever get his feelings hurt about anything, there were some moments where he kind of felt tender by my slams [laughs].

STEREOGUM: So this show is coming out every week? Is that the plan?

AUKERMAN: We’re hoping for it to come out every week until we don’t have time or albums or anything to talk about. If you include Chronic Town they made 16 records, so that’s sort of the baseline right there: We’ll go through the 16 records. And then there are just things that kind of pop up naturally, and then there are little spinoff episodes. So if I had to guess, in my mind, it’s sort of like a 20-episode thing, much like the U2 show. But things kind of pop up and I know there will be some surprises that kind of happen — one in particular that I kind of do know about but don’t want to spoil. But that’s sort of our intention is to do somewhere around 20 episodes.

STEREOGUM: I can’t wait to hear it. Thanks for taking some time to talk about the new show, and more importantly, thanks for doing the new show.

AUKERMAN: Thank you for being so interested! And you’re invited to the backyard barbecue.

more from Interviews