A soulful presence

As the drummer for indie folk-rockers Fleet Foxes, Josh Tillman was probably not the most likely candidate for solo stardom.

Thursday, 19th May 2016, 6:01 am
father john misty 02 Guildhall Southampton

But with two albums now under his belt in his guise as Father John Misty, he’s been going from strength to strength.

Second album, last year’s I Love You Honeybear, is a concept album, no less, and worked its way into numerous end of year lists in 2015.

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 Fear Fun with.

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‘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.

‘It has a decidedly more soulful presence than Fear Fun, due in no small part to the fact that I am truly singing my a** off all over this.

‘The album is really characterised 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 behaviour.

‘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.’

So there you have it.