Another week centered around the hospital for my family means a delayed Toxicity this week, dashed off during my Friday lunch break. Let’s get right to it.
Mikel Riffs on Fans, Critics
Earlier this week, music site Riff You published a typically revealing interview with Mikel Jollett, in which the artist opened up about his uneasy relationship with the fame and attention that his songwriting has wrought.
Yeah, I fucking hate it. I do not want to be in the public eye at all. It’s not like I want to, but want to control it…I just do not want to be at all. I just want to make music and then return to my life. I don’t ask for it, I don’t court it, I don’t want it, I don’t want any part of it. I don’t want to date famous people, I don’t want to be a famous person…I don’t want any part of that shit. I want my own private life with my friends and family and I want to make songs.
That said, he still has a great deal of appreciation for his fans.
For the most part, our fans are very thoughtful, intelligent and sensitive people. Your typical Airborne Toxic Event fan is either a 16-year-old honours English student, a couple in their 30s, or an idealistic college kid who wants to be a novelist. They tend to be smart and thoughtful people, so I really enjoy their company and I’m always amazed that they come to shows. I am always like, ‘wow, you guys are here!’
Likewise, Mikel revealed his mixed feelings about the song insights he has shared through social media over the past year (which, it should be noted, the fans absolutely love).
I find a lot of it vulgar. Like, I don’t want to talk about [the songs like that.] My manager wanted me to put those [explanations] up, so I put them up. People seem to like them and that’s cool. But, I definitely don’t want to be in the position where I am not trying to be grateful to people who are fans of my band…because it’s awesome.
At the same time, it feels vulgar to me. I don’t want to talk about [the songs] in my daytime, analytical self. I don’t like that people discuss and analyze music. I hate fucking critics. I hate people who think that a song can be broken down into its composite parts. It just doesn’t work that way. I hate awards…all of that stuff seems like such bullshit to me. So I don’t want to talk about it. I want the contract to be between artist and listener…just about the song. If you like the song, listen to it – the same way I did with songs that touched me while growing up – like the Velvet Underground. I didn’t care what Lou Reed was doing that day or thought about when [making the song.] I didn’t care if he was a thoughtful person or kind of a prick, or the nicest guy ever. Who cares? I just wanted that moment with the song.
It’s an interesting position Mikel finds himself in. His ability to devote his life to songwriting and performing depends upon that work finding an audience sizable enough to support he, his bandmates, crew and management team. And yet, that audience entails the very fame he wishes to avoid.
Fortunately, by and large, the integrity and depth of the band attracts an audience that is similarly thoughtful and respectful. But the more successful the group becomes, the harder it gets to keep a lid on things. This no doubt gives rise to an internal tension: how big does the band really want to be at the end of the day?
As close followers of the band, we at This Is Nowhere are acutely aware of this dichotomy. We want to engage with Mikel’s work in a meaningful way while always respecting the art of it, knowing full well that the songs stand on their own and that none of our words can do them justice. We analyze in the daytime what poured forth from the soul of the writer in the dead of night, and there are inherent limitations in this endeavor. We trust that Mikel and the band understand the heart behind what we do here.
“California” Video Hits iTunes
After its release last week on YouTube, The Airborne Toxic Event’s latest music video is now available for purchase on iTunes. Speaking of “California,” we learned the identity of the young actress who plays… well… a young actress who finds stardom harder to come by than she expected.
— All Star Music (@allstarmusicla) May 14, 2015
Tara’s performance brings a ton of heart to the video. Well done!
Outlook for Summer: Bullish
While things have been quiet for The Airborne Toxic Event this week, the same cannot be said for Anna Bulbrook, who has devoted much of her downtime to her fledgling band, The Bulls. Ahead of a Fullerton, CA performance last night, KROQ played The Bulls’ latest song, “Small Problems,” on their “Locals Only” segment. A crunchy bassline underscores Anna’s spacey vocals as she urges her lover to deal with “what you call your small problems,” repeatedly intoning, “You’ve got to change your heart.”
The station also suggested that the band will release their debut EP this summer, so stay tuned for new music coming soon.
It’s about time for me to be getting back to work, so here are some quick links to things that caught our eye this week.
Mimosas and Tea reflects on TATE’s return to London last month. “Airborne Toxic Event is on a very short list of bands that I will drop anything and everything to see if the distance does not require a plane ride, (and even then I may be convinced).“
Punks in Vegas provides another solid review of Songs of God and Whiskey. Incidentally, Alternative Buffalo is the first known radio station to air tracks from SOGAW, with both “Poor Isaac” and “California” getting played of late. “I have never been a fan of b-side albums. They always felt like a marketing gimmick, bands saying, ‘here’s some songs we don’t think are good enough for an album, but we still want you to pay for them.’ I was surprised, upon listening to the album, that The Airborne Toxic Event managed to avoid that.”
X96 presents an extensive gallery of photos from Airborne’s acoustic set at the recent BASH pre-party.
We’ll close this issue by jumping on the “Goodbye, Letterman” bandwagon and look back fondly on The Airborne Toxic Event’s first appearance on The Late Show back in 2009. The band won themselves many fans with this performance of “Sometime Around Midnight” – not least of all the host himself, who would invite them back four more times, and handpicked them as the musical guest for his 25th anniversary show. Thanks, Dave, for your unflagging support of our band.
Glen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.