J. Tillman, former Fleet Foxes drummer, metamorphosed into a shamanic lothario for 2012’s masterful Fear Fun (PIAS Coop/Bella Union), his first release as Father John Misty.
You’ve undergone a major shift since your last album.
Yeah, I think so, because with the song “Honeybear” – I wrote that very early on and it’s about my depression and anxiety and defeatism and nihilism and whatever else I insinuate. When I wrote that song I thought, “This is how I’m going to be forever.” But as things have progressed and as you get to the song “Holy Shit”, there’s this realisation that you haven’t received a death sentence. When you start seeing yourself able to actually control yourself, that’s very empowering.
Empowering enough to move from LA.
I moved there and was like, “I’m just going to blow up my fucking life.” And I went crazy – I really went for it for a few years. But then it ran its course. All of a sudden, I was talking about unravelling these emotional addictions. And my emotional attachment to these things was so strong, so in some ways it was good to just be away. God, I’m making it sound like I went to fucking rehab or something. I really didn’t.
It’s about not serving a master. In this last year, I’ve really been consumed with trying to create some clarity. That means no drinking, smoking, caffeine, eating a plant-based diet, and wanting to evolve into some new different state of being where I can see the world as it is, as opposed to viewing it through this network of appetites and weird emotional desires and confusion. I smoked about two packs a day for 10 years. I was living in five-minute increments. I would just be sitting somewhere and all of a sudden I would think, “Maybe I don’t have my cigarettes.” I would reach for my pocket to see if they were there, my heart would start racing. It was really crazy. I started to realise that it was cutting every thought that I had in half. If you see yourself powerless like that all the time, you start to have very little faith in yourself.
What prompted you to give it up?
Through my twenties, I was really suffering from depression and anxiety, all these maladies that you think of as being just purely intellectual. But so many low-grade addictions create more problems, and you don’t even get the advertised benefits. But yeah, if you have a clear mind and a clear body, it’s power, and that sort of power has become very interesting to me, even creatively. I mean, I definitely thought at some point that being fucked up was an essential component of my creativity. But that’s an idol, you know, and my whole thing is about killing idols and killing these things that you worship. I think that was a myth that I had to confront.
So, it’s about harvesting a sense of self.
Yeah. It’s a big responsibility to go through the pain of cultivating a soul. A lot of this plays into the new album, because there is something about intimacy that is very painful. It can bring out your jealousy and your possessiveness, your temper tantrums and your anger and your neediness. I would really rather no one see these aspects of myself because it makes it very hard to believe that anyone could love me, with these very, um, repulsive character traits.
The Bowery Presents Father John Misty I |SummerStage, Central Park. Wed, August 5, 6 PM