Father John Misty… how do you describe Father John Misty? This is the moniker of Josh Tillman, someone you might recognize as a past member of Fleet Foxes. His first album as Father John Misty was the product of a very… ahem… interesting road trip and a little help from some friends. His music is a little folk, a little rock, and a lot of heart. And his album? Fear Fun is something I haven’t taken off of my record player (it sounds INCREDIBLE on vinyl) since I got it, and I have a feeling it won’t be coming off any time soon.
Josh has a very interesting outlook on just about everything, and is definitely never short on words. He was definitely one of the most fun and interesting interviews I had at FYF, and I learned a lot about him and his thought process during our chat. I think I’d rather let John do the talking for himself here!
Spencer Moya: So I am here with…do you prefer Josh or Joshua?
FATHER JOHN MISTY: Josh.
S: How’s it going today? How was FYF?
FJM: It was great. Yeah, the show was fun….it’s going well. No serious tragedy has befallen me yet today! So, total success.
S: Good news, I hope it continues in that direction! So, “Fear Fun” is the first album you have released under Father John Misty. I’m just curious as to why the name change from your previous works.
FJM: Most of it was just kind of for fun, in all honesty. I had never been in a position where I could have chosen an imaginary/band name because I had gone by my own name for so long. So, it was really just too good of an opportunity to pass up to create some totally ridiculous imaginary fantasy name for myself.
S: So, it there anything behind the name “Father John Misty”?
FJM: Ummm…no. When you pull back that curtain, there is nothing there. Not a god damn thing (laughing). Empty as a tomb.
S: Cool, nice (laughing)! So I know you’ve been touring extensively just with your projects as well as with other artists. What’s your favorite part about being on the road?
FJM: What’s my favorite part? That’s kind of like saying, “So, you’ve got six sticks that are jammed into your eyeball. Which one of those feels the least like there’s a stick in your eye?”
S: So, what’s you least favorite part then (laughing)?
FJM: I don’t know, touring is this really irrational thing. Because I’ve been touring since I was 20 or something, and the conditions under which I was touring at that time would have scared most people away from ever doing it. I don’t know so it’s really bizarre, but there’s just something about being transient that really excites me. Like, I, for whatever reason, find it thrilling to travel vast distances for no reason other than to play for 5 people somewhere that you don’t want to be. Something very confusing and magical about it.
S: So, what is your most favorite place that you’ve been to or traveled to?
FJM: I don’t know, I’m not sure that you’d call it….”traveling” is a bit of a misnomer. Because you really just end up seeing the inside of rock clubs. Like you go to Rome or something and you just see the inside of a rock club.
S: (What about) outside of touring?
FJM: I do think this trip that I took that preceded me moving to Los Angeles was one of my favorite trips of recent memory. Partly because it had no real destination or purpose, you know? Most of the time when I’m traveling it’s because you have to be at this place on such and such a day. And so, things kind of fly past you faster because there’s always this fixed point right in front of you of where you need to get. So, it had been a long time since I traveled in the way that I did up and down the West Coast where there was no fixed point. It’s much easier to get some real sense of what was happening in the moment.
S: That’s awesome. So, you said you just moved to Los Angeles. Why this city and not any other?
FJM: Mostly because a friend of mine and my inability to do things (like find a place to live). I’m profoundly lazy. To quote Louis CK, “the thought of putting a stamp on an envelope makes me want to throw up.” That’s definitely true of me. I was just kind of happy with this idea of living in a van. A friend of mine (when I was on this trip) was like, “Are you gonna live somewhere?” and I was like “Uhh, I think so, I think I kind of want to move to California.” And he was like, “Well my buddies have this place in Laurel canyon and they’re looking for someone to rent out this shack that’s on the house” and I was like “Alright”. At that time I had no concept of the geography of Los Angeles and I thought “Oh, Laurel Canyon!” (I mistook it for Topanga Canyon) and I was like “I’ll be way out there all isolated and alone and it will be really cool!” Then I went back to Seattle and got some s**t, and then started driving back and as I was driving back I realized that I had moved to Hollywood. I didn’t really appreciate the fact that Laurel Canyon is in Hollywood more or less. And that was this really hilarious moment – but the absurdity of it was really liberating.
S: Are there any other artists in any other medium across the board that have inspired you or that you have really enjoyed?
FJM: NO! No one has ever inspired me and I don’t enjoy anything (laughing). Ok, I’m trying to think of people who are really inspiring to me. Waylon Jennings is really inspiring to me, Yoko Ono is really inspiring to me. I’m reading this philosopher Slavoj Žižek right now and that’s really inspiring. It’s weird, musical inspiration is really hard to pin down, you know? Sometimes the music you play, like say you pay a certain “style” of music…like with me I don’t really listen to a whole lot of “singer-songwriters”, or the ones that I do don’t really totally do what I do. But something about, like Arthur Russell or something is really inspiring to me just because he’s a creatively liberated individual and it shows in everything he does and I find that really inspiring.
S: Cool well thank you so much I really appreciate it.
FJM: You got it.