Mark Duplass Is Ready To Face His Blog-Rock Past
If you’re feeling any guilt about quarantine-induced creative inertia, take heart: Mark Duplass finds himself “weirdly thriving” at the moment and he feels kinda guilty about that too. “The inherent privilege of where I’m at is so obvious and ridiculous,” the wildly prolific 43-year old writer/actor/director says at the beginning of our Zoom call, “so all we’re dealing with are the quotidian bullshit stresses of remote schooling and ‘does my soul feel as fulfilled as it should?’”
In addition to new episodes of his HBO series Room 104 and some other projects he’s not at liberty to discuss, Duplass is newly devoted to revisiting some ideas he once shelved for not being commercially viable and planning costumed theme nights for his family dinners (“lost at sea” and City Slickers were big hits). He’s also gotten into holotropic breathwork, a therapeutic practice where altered breathing rhythms result in a meditative state he likens to “a light mushroom trip.” Though Duplass was skeptical at first, during a recent session accompanied by music, “I woke up and I was singing at the top of my lungs in harmony with this song without knowing what was happening. And then I cried for two hours.” Those two hours helped accomplish what Polyvinyl Records couldn’t in 15 years — convince Duplass to revisit his dormant indie rock project Volcano, I’m Still Excited!!
Polyvinyl will be reissuing Volcano, I’m Still Excited!!’s out-of-print debut EP Carbon Copy with a slew of bonus material, including clips from a 45-minute hometown set in Austin shot by Mark’s brother and filmmaking partner Jay. Though a curiosity in the greater Duplass Brothers oeuvre, the video betrays what VISE!! really is to both Mark and most people who were around at the time, a time capsule of early 2000s indie rock: three young men wearing homemade T-shirts in a band with two exclamation points in their name, rudimentary keyboards, elements of chintzy new wave and agitated post-punk played with unbridled enthusiasm. During a mid-set break, Queens Of The Stone Age’s “No One Knows” plays over bar chatter.
If the self-described “earnest goofiness” of Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! seems charmingly dated in the more fraught, overtly political context of 2020 indie rock, that was kind of the point for Duplass: The project began when tendonitis and a general lack of public interest ended his career as a po-faced singer-songwriter and he switched to keyboard, an instrument he could play relatively pain-free. Still living in Austin at the time, Duplass recruited energetic drummer John Robinette and guitarist Byron Westbrook, an ace arranger and seasoned indie rock veteran at the age 22 (by the end of Volcano’s run, he had been replaced by future Sufjan Stevens band member Craig Montoro).
In their short lifespan, Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! were a quintessential blog-rock band, one that could have conceivably set Duplass on course for a respectable, relatively low-profile career similar to the bands that lured him to Polyvinyl — specifically of Montreal and Mates Of State. But the positive press generated by Carbon Copy all but dissipated by the time their self-titled debut and only album dropped in 2004. Their biggest hit briefly scratched the college radio charts and currently has about 71,000 plays on Spotify. The first reviews that pop up for Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! are an atypically glum 3-star writeup in All Music Guide and a typically flippant 5.5 at Pitchfork. And though their career arc is almost exactly on par with Polyvinyl archetypes American Football prior to their triumphant 2014 reunion, Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! hasn’t become a cause celebre for a generation of indie bands. If anything, Duplass readily admits that a lot of people probably still get them confused with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
But none of this had shaken the faith of Polyvinyl, which had been waging a rather public campaign for reappraisal of what many staffers have long considered one of their most underrated bands. Label co-founder Matt Lunsford launched a Kickstarter campaign to press Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! onto vinyl in 2009, and in a Noisey interview from last year, he named it as one of the ten most important albums in the label’s history — along with the label’s formative documents of midwest emo (Frame & Canvas, American Football, Look Now Look Again), best-sellers (Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, Alvvays), and Celebration Rock. “I would never miss a chance to talk about this record,” Lunsford said to Noisey, whereas Duplass has given one interview about the band since their 2004 breakup.
At that point, he had already landed two films at Sundance and was in the process of creating The Puffy Chair, his first definitive piece. Even if their impact on indie rock as a whole is imperceptible, Duplass attributes his entire filmmaking enterprise to the DIY ideals and creative ingenuity learned in Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! If we consider Carbon Copy as the animating force behind his vast body of work, up to and including the mainstreaming of mumblecore, it’s probably one of the most influential pieces of indie rock of the past century.
Duplass has few regrets about ending Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! months after the release of their only album — “I was in a phase of my life where I was really close with my brother, really close with my girlfriend [actress Katie Aselton] who’s now my wife and was realizing that life on the road was going to destroy that home life,” he explains. “As much as I enjoyed the music we were making, I saw a path for myself in film.” But of late, his therapeutic work has inspired him to find tactical ways to incorporate songwriting in his life, to respect that “there’s a latent need that needs attention” — an upcoming musical episode of Room 104 features Brian Tyree Henry, best known as Paper Boi from Atlanta, though his plans to involve Mark Kozelek in a subsequent plot never came to fruition. He describes his musical approach nowadays as “using the idiot,” acting on impulse to commit ideas to social media, jam with his children, or stumble into the studio at 2AM to record ideas that came to him in dreams (followed by more crying). “There’s a part of my spirit that gets fulfilled with music that does not get fulfilled with making movies,” Duplass observes. “There’s a freedom and a looseness and it’s hard to describe, but you and your readers and everyone know what I’m talking about.”
STEREOGUM: There aren’t any of the typical reasons to justify the reissue of something like Carbon Copy — it’s not celebrating a round-number anniversary, there hasn’t been a revival of early-2000 indie rock and Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! isn’t touring. But Polyvinyl has been trying to restart the conversation about Volcano for over a decade, so what made the time right for you to finally say yes?
DUPLASS: Here’s what I think happened — the Polyvinyl guys are really heartfelt and love their bands and have held a torch for it. And they’re also really fucking smart. You can take their side of the story, but personally, I think they’ve been watching me a little bit and were like, “We wanna do something with Mark and we’ve got this Carbon Copy thing. He’s off in his film world but…have you guys noticed that Mark’s posting all this music playing on Instagram and Twitter?” I think there was a little meeting with them, in the best way, “I think if we go to him now, I think he’s vulnerable…and I think we can pull him back in.” And they were totally right and by the way, I was totally happy to be pulled back in.
STEREOGUM: Polyvinyl has frequently referred to Volcano as underrated or overlooked. Did you ever get the feeling that you were underrated at the time?
DUPLASS: Never did, and I’m not just saying that to be falsely humble. You gotta understand where I was coming from as an artist, which was a place of, “I have no business being here.” I grew up in the suburbs of New Orleans, I went to a Catholic high school that prepared me to be a lawyer or a doctor or a hedge fund guy, I made an elliptical jump out of that world into this world and so I viewed myself with an immigrant mentality of, “I’m migrating to a new area.” All I hoped to achieve was one tiny foothold and maybe my kids can go from there. I really saw myself that way. So the fact that we had a record deal with Polyvinyl and we were getting out on tour and we charted on college radio somehow, through [Polyvinyl label manager] Seth Hubbard and his brilliance? That was gold, and I know we weren’t making enough to make a living and I did feel like, in an alternate universe, a song like “In Green” sounded enough like Jimmy Eat World to make a crossover. I did have those thoughts about what could’ve been. But there was never, “we didn’t get our due.” In fact, the only feelings I have that are complicated are a sense of guilt for leaving the band behind, not only for my band members but also Polyvinyl, who believed in us and invested in us. I know enough about the business of indie rock to know it’s not one record that makes it work. You put out six records, it’s the concept of compounding in investing, you build this thing slowly and after 10 years, you’re of Montreal and it’s working.
STEREOGUM: I’ve seen bands talk about how they feel it’s necessary to embellish or completely make things up to create a narrative for themselves early on, and after it gets repeated so many times, it just becomes fact that can’t be corrected. When you look back on Volcano, I’m Still Excited!!, is there anything about the backstory where you think, “we got away with one there”?
DUPLASS: Most of that stuff with us is pretty true and I probably underplayed the physical and psychological turmoil I was going through as I transitioned into that band, because I didn’t want to be viewed as damaged goods at 25 years old. I was terrified! I really saw myself as a troubadour singer-songwriter, I was gonna be an Indigo Boy for life! So the fear for me was good in how it fueled the fire for Volcano and it taught me a big life lesson on how to pivot. There’s one really big lie in there, though … slowly through the years, this story comes around about how I was signed to Mercury Records as a singer-songwriter and it’s in a couple of interviews. The truth is, I knew an A&R person who had no power there that liked my music and occasionally sent me an email. I started talking about that and some person said, “and Mark Duplass had signed a demo deal with Mercury Records.” And I was thinking, “I have a moment here to correct this. And I’m not going to because I want to look cool.” I was less far along as a singer-songwriter than the lore might make it out to be, I was still a dude selling a thousand CDs out of his van. The weird thing about that story, and I’m sure this will be no surprise to the indie musicians who read this, is that at the time when I could go out on tour, press a thousand CDs, sell 600 of them and give away 400 — it was oddly more profitable than being in Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! because it was all me, I spent and made all the money.
STEREOGUM: Is that CD still out there?
DUPLASS: They kinda are and I don’t want people to see them. I’m trying to evolve as a human being, but I’m not there yet. I don’t think I want people to know.
STEREOGUM: I tried to imagine what the Mark Duplass “singer-songwriter” album sounded like — since it was Austin in the late 90s, was it something like Elliott Smith?
DUPLASS: I was listening to Shawn Colvin, so I tried to go that way with production values. I produced it myself, but I didn’t know how to arrange, so it’s a little off. But I remember one night playing a show in Madison, Wisconsin when I was 21 and the kid who booked it was my age, and you know, you sleep at their house afterwards. He had a drum kit and he was like, “Hey, I want you to take this song of yours and I’m gonna play along with it, just you and your acoustic. And we’re gonna record it on my 4-track, I want you to hear it this way.” And I didn’t understand the beauty of lo-fi music, I was still in the mindset of “fidelity and craftsmanship or bust.” He basically made me a very Either/Or-sounding recording and it blew my mind. And he sent me away with the Elliott Smith CD and that was the beginning of moving into this other direction.
STEREOGUM: Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! was the exact opposite of “painfully earnest singer-songwriter.” Was that concept for the band in place before you formed it?
DUPLASS: There was definitely a reverse engineering of the band so it could be something sustainable. The whole model I built for myself as a filmmaker came from the moment I built Volcano — I wasn’t smart or educated enough to know how to do it then, but I was figuring it out. I knew two things: I’m not building a seven-person band because we’re not gonna fit in my van and there’s not gonna be enough money and there’s gonna be that much more relationship dynamics making it too complex and therefore, more chances to break up. So I’m gonna do it with three people, tops. That was a financial and a “we all need to get along” decision. Also, I needed to play an instrument that didn’t cause physical pain, so that was already a limit right there. Then I started building with the things around me — I know I love John Robinette, he’s gonna be the hero of this band, he’s a lot less grumpy than I am, he’s gonna be the one who gets us all rallied, he’s gonna be our mascot. And our friend Byron Westbrook was way downstream, he was the guy who didn’t go to college, so by the time we were 22, I was getting out of college and starting to become a serious artist, he was already four years in, made five records that failed and knew how to arrange and how to record. I needed him in a kind of Chris Walla position and he did a great job of slowly bringing me out of my singer-songwriter idioms and teaching me how to arrange. At the same time, I decided to go to music school at the City College Of New York. For $1500 a year, you could go study at their music composition program. It was the best thing I did, I went there for a year, learned how to arrange, was listening to all this crazy classical music and I brought some of those elements into the band. A lot of musicians have this moment — as a songwriter, you don’t know the circle of fifths and you don’t know how music works, you sit down at your instrument and hope for a miracle. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t, but when you get stuck, you don’t have the tools to get out of it. And [going to CCNY] gave me so many tools that made me sustainable as a songwriter. All those things conspired in the moment to become Volcano, I’m Still Excited!!
STEREOGUM: What was the first song that made you realize that you were on the right track?
DUPLASS: There were two moments — I was getting really obsessed with writing songs in rounds based on classical music forms, and I stumbled onto “Trunk Of My Car” early on. I sent it to Byron as a friend and it didn’t have any of those cool bass moves in it. He said, “Great but you’re missing a building step,” and he sent it back with some ideas that felt cool, but it felt a little cold and intellectual. But formalistically, we were there. And then, something clicked from my old singer-songwriter side, which is like…”I’M IN A RELATIONSHIP SO I’M GONNA PUT MY FEELINGS IN MY GUITAR.” I tapped into that guy for “2nd Gun.” But instead of just using I-IV-V chords, I was like, “I’m gonna try to use these [music theory] principles.” If you examine that song, it is bananas all over the place but it still feels like a pop song, that was when I was really steeped in music theory and knew how to use it well. And that was the crystallizing moment of, “There’s a lot of cool things happening here.” Earnest love of my relationship and its complications from my singer-songwriter world, really cool intelligentsia stuff with the music choices and the chordal changes, and at the same time, it’s blazing at a high tempo and it’s goofy and silly. If I’ve come to understand what I have to offer the world, it is goofy earnestness. It is my flavor, it is what I am uniquely qualified to tell — I have perfected it in film, but it 100% started with Volcano, I’m Still Excited!!
STEREOGUM: Your brother Jay filmed the live video that comes with this reissue, was he typically coming out to the shows?
DUPLASS: That was the early days, we weren’t gelled yet. It was at Emo’s, that was the dream venue so you could see on my face, “holy shit, we’re here, this is cool!” I think we were just playing to our friends, I don’t think there were fans yet, some of our friends maybe liked it, they probably didn’t. That was really, “We are trying to figure this whole thing out.” Jay was unbelievably supportive and I think genuinely liked the band. That was a time when the relationship between me and Jay was at its most healthy in a lot of ways. He just wanted to see me win, he saw me suffering a lot before that, so he was just a total fan and not threatened by any of it. We had not cemented our career as filmmakers yet, so the band couldn’t threaten it. He was there a ton, we have some 16mm footage we shot at Stubb’s that was beautiful, I’m going to try and dig that up at some point. And Jay was figuring himself out as a cinematographer, you see all those zooms he’s trying out that we were just starting to think, “This could be interesting for our movies.”
STEREOGUM: When Volcano eventually relocated to Brooklyn in 2004, that was kind of the zenith for indie rock, the Meet Me In The Bathroom days. Did you see yourselves as part of that?
DUPLASS: No, we did not. We were not against it and we were not for it, we felt so hodgepodge just because of the nature of the band. Not to get too in the weeds, it was me in New York in the bedroom of the apartment I shared with five other guys, building Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! without knowing I was building it, sending demos to Byron in Austin and Byron giving me education on how to expand this, being my Mr. Miyagi of this new venture. And then us realizing we’re gonna make something together, but we can’t record something in New York, it’s too expensive. Byron had a studio in Austin and Jay was still living there so I could stay with him. So I just brought my van down with all the gear and we recorded there. I identified more with being an Austin band. I wanted to live in New York and the guys were looking for a change, but there wasn’t a big strategic move that we needed to be a New York band. There was a small part of us that thought it would be easier to tour if we’re up here and closer to lots of cool cities, but it probably would’ve been smarter to stay in Austin and pay cheap rent.
STEREOGUM: Did you have any friends at the time that were getting caught up in that wave of blog-rock hype?
DUPLASS: Not. At. All! I felt like such an outlier and an impostor really, because we made the lateral move in. A lot of people I’ve talked to have been like, “It was cool, I was friends with the guys from Death Cab and I went on tour with them and subbed in on bass, and then I started my own band and they took me out on the road.” I’ve heard so many stories like that. We didn’t know anybody and when I first built this band, I thought, “I’m just gonna take us out on tour and lose a little bit of money.” I worked as an editor, editing commercials and shit, so we could make money and lose it. And so when we went on our first tour, we were playing half of the old singer-songwriter venues that I knew from back in the day who were just…“What the fuck is this, and why are you here?” I remember feeling a desire to be a part of the scene, and we had a really hard time. Every now and again, there were guys who were really good to me, there was a guy in Buffalo who booked a place called the Mohawk and he really liked us. Kindercore had a showcase there, and he let us open up at 8PM just to be a part of it. We were so desperate for that type of companionship and community and we didn’t really get it until the Polyvinyl family welcomed us in. That was such a fun time because I remember thinking when we signed with them, “Here we go! They’re gonna put us on tour with Mates Of State and we’re gonna blow up!” And then I quickly realized all the bands that I want to go on tour with, they’re trying to get out on tour with bands bigger than them. We have nothing to offer them. It was the two freshman bands on Polyvinyl, us and Decibully — we’re the two least attractive guys at the dance so we’re just gonna have to dance together.
STEREOGUM: What were the markers of success that let an early-2000s indie rock band know they were starting to get some traction?
DUPLASS: The first one came before Polyvinyl, where we put out the Carbon Copy EP. We made a huge mistake that we had no idea of — we put it in that little sleeve instead of a jewel case, which meant when you tried to send it to radio stations to get airplay, you would get lost and no one would see it. Our friend [publicist] Daniel Gill helped us to get started and he cut us a ridiculously cheap rate to promote the Carbon Copy EP. He was grown up enough at the time to say, “I’m gonna help you out with this, but let me be clear — nothing is gonna happen. No one knows who you are, you’re in a sleeve and no one’s gonna see you, but fuck it.” And what happened off that is that “2nd Gun” charted and we couldn’t believe it. Like, holy shit, something could be happening here. It didn’t turn into anything, charting on college radio doesn’t mean much, but it was something. And then … I know it’s not the most unique story, but when we signed with Polyvinyl, we’d get the feeling that nothing has changed. We’re out here touring, there’s still seven bands on the bill, we’re still in the middle or early and there’s nine people here and … fuck, what happened? And then all of a sudden, you show up at the Empty Bottle in Chicago and there’s 450 people there. And a lot of them are there to see you because you got the right rotation on the college radio station, and it clicked into the couple of colleges up and down that board, so they came out on a Saturday night. Those things would give us big hope. I never thought we were going to be huge, I always thought Spoon was the model. Three guys, keep putting out these records. We write songs that are inherently, I don’t want to say pop-ish, but mainstream. And we operationalized those songs in lo-fi, junky ways so it keeps them from being too clean and MTV-like and that is not dissimilar to Spoon. And Spoon is gonna get their sync licenses and all these shows because they have these fans. I saw a path for us that might’ve worked.
STEREOGUM: In a previous interview, you said that therapy helped you “forgive yourself for not being a Coen Brother.” Does Spoon play that role for you as a musician?
DUPLASS: I don’t really know those guys and I don’t know how they view themselves, but that was the vision I had for us back then — if I could get to this level, that would be tremendous. I met Britt [Daniel] before because we did him a favor once. A friend of ours directed the video for “The Way We Get By”; we used to run an editing business in Austin and we let them use our machines. And then our good friend Maggie Phillips, who’s our music supervisor, she used to know him and helped us license that song for The Puffy Chair. He was very good and friendly to us at a time when they didn’t need to be in The Puffy Chair and they certainly didn’t need to cut us a rate of 1/15th of what they usually charge, but he did it to be nice.
STEREOGUM: There’s also an interview from 2004 where you talk about how Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! might make $300-700 from a show and that a placement in Queer As Folk brought in “four digit” income. Has that made you more inclined to give bands at that level a chance when choosing songs for your films?
DUPLASS: First of all, I have a ton of survivor’s guilt and that plays into it constantly. Room 104 is a show that I do on a relatively low budget, it’s not like Togetherness where I could pay to license Fleetwood Mac songs and shit like that. I set a price and, while I can’t talk about it, I set an MFN [Most Favoured Nations] deal where everyone gets the same rate when your song is licensed for an end credit on Room 104. And that is because Maggie and I see what happens in our business — “Let’s temp in a really cool song by Led Zeppelin and then let’s go find some desperate fucking band that will give us a song that sounds like it for $500 and rip them off.” We pay way over the top for indie bands in that regard because it’s peanuts on the film scale and it means so much to them.
STEREOGUM: Did you read the reviews for the Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! self-titled?
DUPLASS: I read Pitchfork for sure and I think I was prepared for it! I gotta be honest, I don’t know how to say this without sounding disparaging, but the Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! self-titled record is not a masterpiece. It shows a ton of promise and it’s very interesting. I would want to listen to a second record and see what they did with it. But it’s not deserving of the greatest reviews in the world, and I think it was kinda fairly reviewed! There were some people who kinda loved the shit out of it and they would go with me in that goofy earnestness and my films are not dissimilar. All my films get really good reviews now because I’m known and the people who don’t like my movies, they don’t review them because they’re like, “Mark’s a nice guy and I get what he’s doing and I don’t need to shit on him,” you know? I think that would’ve happened with Volcano. But let me be clear, I would’ve killed for a huge Pitchfork review that would’ve catapulted our band forward. As for Carbon Copy, that was such a fun thing to make because there were no expectations. No one knew who we were, so it was incredibly well received.
STEREOGUM: After the record came out, how quickly did it become apparent that you couldn’t continue forward with Volcano, I’m Still Excited!!?
DUPLASS: The record came out in February of 2004, we went on a nice big US tour and another hodgepodge tour of … “What are we doing here, we’re playing to nine people. Oh shit, we’re now playing Northsix in Williamsburg and 500 people are here, this could be working!” While I was on those tours, I had already made a film that got into Sundance and then I made a second one that got into Sundance, so I was starting to feel the pull. New Brad wasn’t a success, so I just had to turn it into a song. I was writing The Puffy Chair while I was on the road, I distinctly remember driving in the van with John and [new guitarist] Craig Montoro, Byron had left. I had this little dictaphone and I was writing The Puffy Chair by speaking into it while I was driving and I felt my spirit starting to get pulled in that direction. We took a little time off from touring, which is natural, I went out that summer to shoot The Puffy Chair, and while that was happening, they were booking our massive seven-week European tour that was gonna start right when I got done. I finished The Puffy Chair and knew it was gonna be great, or at least great for what I could make at the time. I knew I wanted to be with Katie and get married and have kids. I saw my life and it did not involve Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! and I was committed to a seven-week European tour.
STEREOGUM: Bands frequently talk about how the first European tour can intentionally lose money, it’s more of a way to set up a footprint to expand upon next time.
DUPLASS: What I was also told by our booking agent was, “Listen, you go and you do this tour, but here’s the thing — when you’re out there, you’re gonna be booking your next tour and making connections there. It’s different, you’re going to work directly with a lot of promoters.” I was faced with this decision where I knew I wanted to leave the band — but do I tell them before we leave? I didn’t want to do that because I didn’t want to ruin the fun. But what if I’m out there and they think the band’s continuing, they’re going to want to book more shows, so I can’t do that. So I made the horrific decision to tell them all three days before we left that there would be no more Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! With all of the emotional awareness and skills you might imagine a 26-year-old indie rock musician had, it did not go well. It was a stressful tour in a lot of ways, but also kinda amazing in that it was a last hurrah. When we got back, we played one final show at CMJ in 2004. We would always start “2nd Gun” out of another song in the setlist and it never should’ve worked because the count and where we would come in was always confusing. But we always got it right and we always nailed it. And we missed it on our last show, we were like, “Maybe it’s a sign!”
STEREOGUM: The Volcano, I’m Still Excited!! story has so many familiar 2004 beats on it — “we played SXSW, we did CMJ, we would’ve killed for that big Pitchfork review!” Do you feel envious of indie bands getting started now where everything is even more DIY and decentralized, or nostalgic for a time when a path at least existed?
DUPLASS: The way that I think about that most of the time is in relation to filmmakers, because I know what my path was as a filmmaker and I’m constantly in touch with younger filmmakers. But now that I’m thinking about it as a musician, it’s actually quite similar. When we started, it was, “Alright guys, you clearly missed the boat on, ‘Oh my god, it’s 1991 and I can record an album at home for the first time and if you make something decent, you’re gonna break out, congratulations!'” That was fucking over when I was coming up. It was a difficult path and it smelled bad, and there was no money and it was hurtful, but at least there were some rails and I liked that, it was good for me at that age. The only thing I will say now is that there’s this feeling of nobody knows anything anymore. There is a tremendous freedom in that and that’s what I encourage in young filmmakers and young artists in general. The democratized technology has been around for a while, but the delivery systems have changed — pretty much anything can happen. While that might make you feel a little hopeless, I think there is hope in it. I think I needed those rails at my age, I might’ve drowned in the sea of infinite possibility of right now and the hopelessness of … and I hate to say this, but it’s realistic that you could make something objectively great and have it not get heard.
STEREOGUM: What I’ve seen over the years is that people will almost invariably be nostalgic for the way things were in their early 20s — artists in 2035 will probably look back on the current day and think, “Man, there was such a clearer path in 2020.”
DUPLASS: I’m really interested in newer forms of music, I’m trying to crack some different ideas of how it can be listened to. I’m in the unique place to do that as a person who loves telling stories in a narrative, visual world and now we have narrative audio podcasts, telling stories like that. And I think somewhere in music and podcasts and narrative, there’s a new form to be had and it’s something I’m exploring a lot right now. It’s very exciting to me, and the technology is definitely there to make that for free, for sure. I’m hoping that people will dig in there. I’m interested in things where we press play and don’t skip tracks, where we have to do long listens and sit for a while and see what that feels like. I’m weirdly becoming a musician again in some strange way, but I’m just at the precipice of it.
STEREOGUM: In the last interview you did for Volcano, I’m Still Excited!!, you mentioned enjoying Mark Kozelek’s most recent work, and those are basically podcasts set to music.
DUPLASS: I became a little friendly with Mark Kozelek, I tried to convince him to do an episode of Room 104 with me. I couldn’t convince him, so I ended up playing the part, it’s gonna air in July. But we became friendly and email every now and again, and on his new record, he has one of his lovely, long talking opuses and I believe one of the quotes is, “And I watched Creep and Creep 2 because Mark Duplass is a friend.” I was like, that’s it — I can die now.
The deluxe edition of Carbon Copy reissue is out now digitally on Polyvinyl; the vinyl is out 6/26. Pre-order it here.