Mental explorations and the beautiful man-voice of Father John Misty


Eric is back – see a few recent posts of his – and this time he’s talking Father John Misty, whose excellent album Fear Fun you can stream below while reading.

It was admittedly only a couple weeks ago when Father John Misty was in the, “Ummm, I’ve heard of him, but I can’t remember in what context” category. Now, it’s hard to imagine a time when we weren’t inseparable, in a very one-sided sort of way. He’s playing in Phoenix on Oct. 10, at Rhythm Room, no less, which is always a plus for me. I learned the other day that I would most likely be attending a rehearsal dinner instead, with only an outside shot at catching his set afterward. Double frowny-face. Don’t get me wrong – I’m gonna fulfill my obligation like a big boy and not pitch a fit, since these are good friends of my girlfriend and people I like, but I juuuust got to the point where I’m like “I haaaave to go see this guy!” Harumph.

I’ll back up. Recently, I was catching up with my brother, who asked me if I had heard of him. I knew I had, but like I alluded to, I was kind of “meh” about it. He brought up the fact that his most recent video featured Parks and Rec show-stealer and personal fave Aubrey Plaza in a flower-eating, makeup- and blood-smearing, tour-de-force music video (apparently those still exist). I’m listening. We watched it, and in addition to enjoying her go legit cray-cray, I realized I had heard the song on KEXP before, had written it down for later listening and never followed up on it.

My brother then brings up the fact that he used to be the drummer for Fleet Foxes, one of our favorite bands. Ahh. Although I had done some serious Fleet Foxes YouTubing like this and this and thisPitchfork, Lollapalooza, in Tucson and in an unforgettable Phoenix-only collabo with Bon Iver. It’s an easy road-trip soundtrack choice, mix CD staple and around-the-house-chillax-mode favorite.

Once I learned about his Fleet Foxes background, I started to try to connect the dots. Wait – I remembered the Fleet Foxes drummer doing some solo albums, but his name was J. Tillman. Standard huge beard, long hair, etc. Hadn’t listened to his stuff, so no opinion one way or the other. My friend had gone to his show at Modified Arts – one of the last indie shows at that venue before it turned back into a full-time art gallery. I can’t even remember if I asked her about it later.

So is this a different dude? Apparently not. He just cut his hair off (as captured in this awesome and very NSFW video with his ladyfriend), did some, ahem, “mental exploration” of sorts, shall we say, to find his narrative voice, quit Fleet Foxes and decided his name was a pretty arbitrary thing anyway.

Anywho, since my brother told me about the esteemed Mr. Father, I’ve been pretty well obsessed. And apparently I’m not the only one: Comedian Duncan Trussell has brought a lot of people his way on the interwebs. Sirius XMU, a friend informed me, “wants to marry him.” Although Pitchfork gave his newest album Fear Fun a good-but-not-great 7.3, his awesomely sarcastic Twitter rampage may have gotten him even more love and attention than a more-glowing review might have in the first place.

It’s always a plus when you get the added dimension of actually liking the musicians you listen to. Suffice it to say this guy is an interesting study. Watch this one about his songwriting process – bonus: a bug happens to fall out of his hair. Kinda gross, but I like that Watch the ease with which he makes friends with strangers( And oh yeah, his new album Fear Fun happens to be pretty dang awesome.

Whether he chooses to evoke the signature Fleet Foxes pastoral folk sound on certain songs or switch it up with more straightforward jangly rock on the album, I’m not gonna front, you guys. Father John Misty has a seriously beautiful man-voice. That haunting, ethereal quality that you couldn’t fake in a studio if you tried. Listening to Fleet Foxes songs now, I can place his specific voice in the middle of all those gorgeous harmonies, and it gives me new respect for his contributions to the band.

Although he’s put out several albums as J. Tillman, having only spent significant time with this Father John Misty, his level of musicianship was impressive to me pretty immediately. Have you ever noticed that ex-drummers seem to make, when attempted, pretty dang good frontmen/solo artists? Forgive me if I’m taking too many liberties with the sort of sports/music crossover sometimes found on this blog by using this analogy, but in the same way that former Major League catchers like Joe Girardi and Mike Scioscia make great baseball managers because they relate well to players, they’ve been there and done that, and have a sense of what works and what doesn’t in terms of the inner workings of the game? To me, drummers-turned-frontmen like Josh Tillman or Dave Grohl seem to do well in their second musical lives in much the same way. They’re musician’s musicians, likable dudes, and they understand the subleties of rhythm and song structure.

Fear Fun is certainly a crazy ride and wonderfully diverse in content and style. Like a Fleet Foxes album that Devendra Banhart would have made, it’s kinda all over the place, and I’m still really new to it. Total cop-out alert – according to him, the album functions as a sort of novel within a novel (I’m told there is also a novel within the actual liner notes), but I haven’t spent quite enough time with it to begin to decode that or all of its crazy lyrical imagery, so I’m not even going to try right this second. Maybe in like a year. I can tell you I’m hooked, though, so stay tuned on that. Since my job and lifestyle don’t include regular spirit journeys, I’ll probably never get it the way some people might. I have, however, found myself a new favorite thing/person/album/YouTube search for a while, which is still quite good.

One last thing – if you can make it to the show, please go. For me. If you get to talk to him after the show, please do it. For you. Here are some possible conversation topics if you’re at a loss:

What kind of shorts you should buy for your trip to Australia?
Who’s playing at Tillmania this year?
Lucid dreams – I assume he has them and am super curious.

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