Father John Misty Just Quit Fleet Foxes: We Get High in His Van
Until January, Josh Tillman was the drummer from Fleet Foxes. When I meet him at Good Luck Bar in Los Feliz it's two weeks after the announcement of his departure from the band. Slumped over the bar, beer in hand, the bearded 6'4" singer-songwriter stands out; through somewhat of an awkward grin, he navigates our conversation eloquently.
Maximilla Lukacs Father John Misty
No longer a member of one of the most successful folk ensembles of the past decade, Tillman recently completed his ninth solo project, recorded upon his relocation to Los Angeles from Seattle. It's his first under the new moniker Father John Misty and its title, Fear Fun, speaks to the opposing dualities of his personality. Comedian and actress Aubrey Plaza (from Parks and Recreation) gets crazy in the video for his single "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings," which you can see below.
The album was recorded in Echo Park last spring with producer Jonathan
Rich Wilson, who also produced local band Dawes' previous two albums.
Tillman soon tells me he'd prefer to leave the bar and smoke weed in his van during our interview. This only serves to further the mystique I've already derived from his Tumblr page, which features photos of the singer on stage at a strip club sandwiched between heady quotes from existential philosophers.
Before leaving the bar, Tillman has a brief conversation with fellow singer-songwriter Will Oldham, who's called to praise the last song on Fear Fun, titled "Everyman Needs a Companion."
As we arrive at Tillman's Econoline van parked a few blocks away, he explains his decision to release Fear Fun under the name Father John Misty, as opposed to J. Tillman, the moniker under which he's released his previous solo albums. "In my mind, this J. Tillman person is a far more romanticized, fictionalized person to the world than this ridiculous name, Father John Misty," he says. He goes on to explain how he felt distanced and trapped by his songwriting persona as he matured in his personal life.
"I wanted to bring my conversational voice and my musical voice in to alignment. The ridiculous name is about satisfying this morbid sense of humor I have that says 'Maybe the most honest thing you can do is to just call yourself something stupid and say something real.'"
The name Father John Misty is partly a reference to cocaine, as in "Misty Mountain Hop," and partly a reference to Tillman's life-long exploration of religion and spirituality, which started with his evangelical upbringing in the suburbs of Washington D.C. Out of despair, Tillman considered becoming a pastor for a brief time during his youth. "I wasn't good at sports. I wasn't good at school. I didn't see anything outside of Christian jobs," he says. After becoming unglued from religion in his teens, "I was so angry and terrified that I'd been raised that way that, at some point, my number one mission became to make as big of a joke out it as I could."