BIOGRAPHICAL COPY – DRAFT #12
(music critics please skip to chapter 1)
I have never, prior to now, really written a love song.
Or, I admit, called anyone “Honeybear”. I just couldn’t resist putting the phrase “mascara, blood, ash, and cum” next to that word.
The pet names I employ are far stupider than that.
Love songs, here in what will certainly be remembered by history as the nadir of human art, or maybe “The Plastic Age”, are just so passé. I remember something about a major label singer-songer bucking her label’s insistence that she deliver more “love songs” by writing a song about not-wanting-to-write-love-songs and it being a big hit. HAR HAR
That probably happened an embarrassingly long time ago to be considered relevant.
Why am I opening this bio that way? How has that part made it through to the 12th draft? What is her name?
I just watched the video for that song like twice.
That is how much I do not want to write this bio.
But for however much I do not want to write this bio, I want someone else to write it even less.
I’m actually kind of having fun now, which is probably more than I can say for you.
I would now like to take this opportunity to pontificate on the current state of love songs in the culture:
Love songs (or even just “love” as a topic) are at the major disadvantage of being based on the oldest, most fundamental inspiration in the history of human consciousness. The best concept we as a race have cultivated, by now, we’re just, like, so over and have decided it’s good for little else than fueling celebrity gossip, soccer mom erotica, reveling in sophomoric self-pity with, or reducing down to eye-rolling truisms at the end of computer animated liberal ideological propaganda kiddie movies. Hence the collective, pervy fascination with 17-21 year old entertaino-child slaves detailing the scintillating intimates of their very public romances in tabloid real-time since we’re all more than happy to concede that a, God forbid, spiritual notion of romance just doesn’t make for.
Okay, this is derailing quickly.
Did you see what I was doing there? I do it a lot.
I avoid talking about myself honestly by making grand, incoherent, reductionist commentary rooted in my pretty dim and generally uniformed view of humanity.
I don’t really know if love songs are passé or whatever. Maybe they’re all the rage. I don’t care.
I will say, however, that it seems like the only acceptable perspectives from which to write about love in the current cultural hegemony (HEGEMONY, HEGEMONY, HEGEMONY) are that of 1.) persecuted, heartbroken pathos or 2.) infantile, sentimental banality. More often than not the former (1.), which is really not to sing about love at all, but rather the absence of love, which is self-pity, which is nothingness, or, more accurately: jerking-off, which takes a lot less work than honest-to-God fucking.
TAKE THAT, WORLD.
I did not just take a break to jerk-off.
So, at risk of sounding precious, let’s try again:
I’ve been writing songs for this album since 2011. It has taken on a few different manifestations in the by and by. Its original conceit was one of lots of depressing, gory play-by-plays of prurient misadventure and sexual humiliation. A few of them made it onto the album.
“She blames her excess on my influence, but gladly hoovers all my drugs. I found her naked with her best friend in the tub, and we sang “Silent Night” in three parts, which was fun.”
This was comfortable territory for me by this time, and, high on a couple half-baked transcendental realizations, I figured my work in terms of transforming and, as Jodorowsky puts it, “creating a soul” were over. I had discovered my “true self” and a fixed identity which catered to my ego and pain, and decided my purpose on this fucking rock was to systematically obliterate that self for the sustained production of a certain type of song.
Then I fell in love with a stranger in a parking lot.
What the fuck was I supposed to write about then? Kissing in the rain? Looking deeply into each other’s eyes? Riding dolphins betwixt rainbows of eternity?
I WON’T DO IT!
Love, and songs for that matter, knows things about you way before you do. For example, that you desperately want a radical transformation out of the state of being your original tragedy (God! Mommy! Why?) left you with.
“I brought my mother’s depression, you’ve got your father’s scorn and a wayward aunt’s schizophrenia. But everything is fine, don’t give in to despair, ‘cause I love you, Honeybear.”
That you want to dismantle an intellect which is just set on a feedback loop of telling your self-pity what it wants to hear.
“Maybe love is just an economy based on resource scarcity, but what I fail to see is what that’s got to do with you and me.”
That you want to know the fucking truth about yourself.
“I’ve got nothing to hide from you. Kissing my brother in my dreams or finding God-knows in my jeans. You see me as I am, it’s true. The aimless, fake drifter and the horny, man-child, Mamma’s boy to boot.”
That you suspect there is more to the co-joining of souls than just replaying your karmic cycle with different host bodies over and over.
“How many people rise and think, ‘Oh good, the stranger’s body’s still here, our arrangement hasn’t changed’? Now I’ve got a lifetime to consider all the ways I grow more disappointing to you as my beauty warps and fades.”
That you are exhausted by letting your fear and contrarianism define your future.
“Say, do you wanna get married, and put an end to our endless, progressive tendency to scorn provincial concepts like your ‘dowry’ and your ‘Daddy’s farm’?”
That as loathe as you are to admit it, your personal truth (pluralistic, I know) is often found in your contradictions, and you suspect a real sense of identity can survive these polarities.
“That’s how you live free – to truly see and be seen.”
Topics which aren’t cliché, sentimental drivel to me, and I pity those poor geniuses for whom they are. In fact, it all sounds like a real motherfucker to try and address in 45 minutes of music.
It would have been impossible for me to write about the last few years of my life in some singular, didactic way and have it bear any resemblance to the truth. I lost my mind with jealousy as well as discovered a new echelon of liberty I had no idea existed. I flirted with disaster and also realized my love is a precious thing to give. I indulged my planetary self-pity and learned how to kill my ego by seeing myself through the eyes of someone who loves me. Thus, this thing is a little all over the place, and simultaneously all points on the same continuum.
Father John Misty aka Josh Tillman, says of the album, “I Love You, Honeybear” was recorded all through 2013 to 2014 in Los Angeles with producer Jonathan Wilson, who I also recorded and produced 2012’s Fairly Fun with. There’s a case to be made that it sounds and acts a bit like solo-era John Lennon, Scott Walker, Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson, and Dory Previn, while taking more than a few cues from Woody Allen, Kurt Vonnegut, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Muhammad Ali. Blammo. It has a decidedly more soulful presence than Fear Fun, due in no small part to the fact that I am truly singing my ass off all over this motherfucker. The album is really characterized by the scope and ambition of the arrangements. Nearly every tune is augmented by something special, be it orchestral strings, a mariachi band, questionable electronic drum solos, ragtime jazz combos, soul singers, or what have you. I’m pretty sure there’s a sitar in there somewhere. Blammo.
“I Love You, Honeybear” is a concept album about a guy named Josh Tillman who spends quite a bit of time banging his head against walls, cultivating weak ties with strangers and generally avoiding intimacy at all costs. This all serves to fuel a version of himself that his self-loathing narcissism can deal with. We see him engaging in all manner of regrettable behavior.
In a parking lot somewhere he meets Emma, who inspires in him a vision of a life wherein being truly seen is not synonymous with shame, but possibly true liberation and sublime, unfettered creativity. These ambitions are initially thwarted as jealousy, self-destruction and other charming human character traits emerge. Josh Tillman confesses as much all throughout.
The album progresses, sometimes chronologically, sometimes not, between two polarities: the first of which is the belief that the best love can be is finding someone who is miserable in the same way you are and the end point being that love isn’t for anyone who isn’t interested in finding a companion to undertake total transformation with.
I won’t give away the ending, but sex, violence, profanity and excavations of the male psyche abound.
My ambition, aside from making an indulgent, soulful, and epic sound worthy of the subject matter, was to address the sensuality of fear, the terrifying force of love, the unutterable pleasures of true intimacy, and the destruction of emotional and intellectual prisons in my own voice. Blammo.
This material demanded a new way of being made, and it took a lot of time before the process revealed itself. The massive, deranged shmaltz I heard in my head, and knew had to be the sound of this record, originated a few years ago while Emma and I were hallucinating in Joshua Tree; the same week I wrote the title track. I chased that sound for the entire year and half we were recording. The means by which it was achieved bore a striking resemblance to the travails, abandon and transformation of loving someone. There: I said it. Blammo.”
PRODUCED BY JOSH TILLMAN AND JONATHAN WILSON
MIXED BY PHIL EK
MASTERED BY GREG CALBI