Former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman has garnered a lot of attention for his new musical project, Father John Misty, since his departure from the Seattle indie-folk band.
Though he’s best known recently for his single “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”— a dark, percussive song about death and sex whose music video boasts an emotionally and physically ravaged Aubrey Plaza—Tillman has been putting out solo albums as J. Tillman, and that’s long before Fleet Foxes approached him to drum for the band.
For the most part, his personal, sombre tunes as J. Tillman flew mostly under the radar.
“I had been friends with Casey [Wescott] and Christian [Wargo] for a while,” Tillman explains, over the phone from LA. “They had their original drummer who played on their first couple recordings, who played on their first tour and I guess it just didn’t work out. I ended up getting a call from Robin [Pecknold] while I was at work, and he just asked me if it was something I might be interested in. I was kind of like a hired hand, there was very little for me to do [creatively]. All I had to do was go on tour and know the songs.”
Meanwhile, Tillman was still writing and releasing his own music, always with one foot out the door of the Fleet Foxes band van.
“In some way, I was busy doing my own music. In retrospect, I realized that I didn’t even really believe in my own music that much anymore. I mean, I was 27 when I joined that band, which is pretty fuckin’ old in rock years,” he admits, crassly. “I was pretty out of the loop. I didn’t even realise how massive of a thing it was.”
Creatively miserable, Tillman realized he had to kill both his commitment to the band and to his solo effort, J. Tillman—a name, he says, came to be more of a burdensome alter-ego than a true representation of his creative self.
“I had used my own name within an inch of its life,” he says. “I realised that this J. Tillman person was kind of an alter-ego. Part of the reason I didn’t want to do it anymore, for very brief bursts of time, I could make these albums and explore my own angst and subconscious. I had a very hard time answering for that person because, in my totality, I’m not that J. Tillman person. It was very confusing because I was going by my name, people were kind of confused when they met me because of my conversational voice and my sense of humour is kind of the direct opposition to what people would assume because of my music.”
Father John Misty, on the other hand, is a creative output which more accurately reflects Tillman’s sense of artistic self.
Fear Fun, Father John Misty’s debut album, is full of dark, witty and often sarcastic songs—sentiments echoed by the singer’s own glib and sardonic nature—though, musically, the album is airy, folky and beautiful. Much like a Fleet Foxes album.
“It’s a real marker in time,” says Tillman of creating Fear Fun, which is not merely a record, but also includes a novella. “Fun really played a big part in writing these songs. When I wrote the novel that’s in the album, I had a lot of fun doing that. I was like laughing my ass off. I couldn’t stop doing it, I was so engaged. I was spending hours and hours doing it. I kind of had this revelation that fun is a really good barometer of whether or not I’m doing anything that’s really of use to other people. The less dissonance, the more fun you’re having. For me, writing from what I view as being my conversational voice and my actual world view, which is kind of satirical, that’s fun for me to do.”
Father John Misty plays Venue on Saturday, July 21.
By Kristi AlexandraBC, British Columbia