TIME MANAGEMENT J. Tillman

The Fleet Foxes drummer’s got plenty
going on for his own lone self, thank you very much.

 

BY LAVINIA JONES
WRIGHT

 

He plays
smart-alecky onstage sidekick to indie wunderkind Robin Pecknold as the drummer
for Pecknold’s great white hope of a beautiful folk outfit Fleet Foxes.  But besides his drumming duties in Fleet
Foxes, Joshua Tillman is an incredibly prolific frontman and songwriter in his
own right, penning over the last five years seven full-lengths, an EP, and a 7″
single titled “Wild Honey Never Stolen,” which was just released January 26th
via Western Vinyl. 

 

2009 alone saw
the release of two praiseworthy full lengths by Tillman – the shimmering, early
folk tome Vacilando Territory Blues and the heady, sparse Year in the Kingdom – which, though slightly different in execution, are both anchored by Tillman’s
golden pipes.  He’s a beautiful singer, a
shiver-inducing songwriter, and an infamous smartass. 

 

Never one to
pass up the opportunity to exercise his languid wit, Tillman answered Blurt’s wordy questions in his signature
style: succinct, semi-honest sarcasm. 
Could we have interviewed a semi-conscious Mariah Carey and gotten
better results?  Probably.  But Mimi did not make two beautiful albums in
one year, while J. Tillman did.  So we interviewed him.  Apparently he is at capacity for music he can
ingest fully, he considers his brother a contemporary, and he likes Hugh Grant
rom coms. 

 

***

 

BLURT: You released two full-lengths on
top of touring with Fleet Foxes in 2009.  Where do you find the time?

 

TILLMAN: Yesterday
I watched “Notting Hill.”  That’s how much time I have. 

 

In your mind, what were the differences
between the two records – Vacilando and Kingdom?  At the beginning of the year, were
you intending to make another record so soon?

 

I wasn’t
intending to make the record until very soon before I recorded it.  One
day I just realized I had all these songs with a cohesive internal logic.
 The process of making Vacilando
Territory Blues
was a pretty unfocused, protracted mess.  Year in the Kingdom was pretty breezy.

 

Did the “Wild Honey” material come out of
the Kingdom writing sessions? 

 

Both were
written around the same time, and I considered sticking them on the album, but
they felt too narrative.

 

You’ve said that when you write a song,
it starts out with a lot more verses and content than the final version. 
What happens to everything you strip off?  Do you ever incorporate lost
verses into live versions a la Leonard Cohen?

 

I’ve done that
in the past; a lot of the earlier songs require some lyrical caveats. 

 

The songs on “Wild Honey” are meant to be
sing-alongs, you’ve said, about the apocalypse and King Arthur’s last
stand.  Why do you think these sort of sinister two topics lend themselves
to sing-along format?

 

Historically,
group singing frequently emerges out of a brutal existence.  

 

Is it easier emotionally to write songs
about historical topics than about personal topics?  Or are they one in
the same?

 

Whatever’s
easiest on your emotions probably isn’t very interesting.

 

You said a really interesting thing once
about discovering music free of associating it with your parents, like Neil
Young and Bob Dylan.  Do you prefer to discover music that way now, free
of association – i.e., random selections in a record store rather than something
that friends foist on you?

 

I don’t have the
same zeal for discovering music that I did at one time.  A lot of what I
listen to is the same stuff I’ve been listening to for years.  I have a
real relationship with it.  There’s only so much music I can ingest
wholly.

 

Do you consider yourself part of a
musical scene or community in Seattle? 
Do you listen to the music of your contemporaries, or mostly stick to the older
stuff?

 

I listen to my
brother’s music quite a bit, I suppose he’s a Seattle music community contemporary, but
I’ve kind of lost touch with what’s going on in town. 

 

At 6 full-lengths, with a lot of time and
effort put into your J. Tillman work, how does it feel to be getting a lot of
attention leveraged from being a member of Fleet Foxes?  Do you mind your two roles being inextricably
linked in some people’s minds?

 

I guess it would
be pretty unrealistic to think that that fact would escape people’s attention.
   

 

How would you define your role in FF?

 

“The drummer.”

 

Though it doesn’t seem to so far, will
your Fleet Foxes work eat up J. Tillman time?  Will there be less time for
solo stuff in the next year or so because of FF?

 

I don’t worry
about what I’m not doing. 

 

How does the experience of touring with
Fleet Foxes differ from touring behind your solo work?  Which do you
prefer at the moment?

 

Well, I don’t
tour manage the Fleet Foxes.  

 

 

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