Although this was my second interview feature posted for FasterLouder, it actually turned out to be my first-ever interview. So there’s a piece of history here, kids! I was really, really nervous going into this one – not only was I doing my first interview, I was speaking to New York legend Adam Green. He was a pretty big deal for me back then, and to some extent he is now as well. I can still sing a stack of his songs off by heart, and I’ve always had a soft spot for his music.
So, did I have anything to worry about in retrospect? Not at all. Adam was, to this day, one of the most entertaining people I’ve ever spoken to. He’s naturally charismatic and eccentric, and it made for some absolutely killer quotes. The feature itself is a little choppy, but I’d develop my style over time – and this was as decent a start-off as any.
– DJY, July 2013
Some musicians are uncomfortable speaking to complete strangers about the music they have put their heart and soul into, and will often be a little rude or unfriendly. Not New York’s anti-folk poet laureate Adam Green, however. The second we are connected, I am welcomed by a very enthusiastic “Holy shit!”, followed by a very intimate detailing of the night before.
“I never get hungover – I don’t know why,” he explains as if speaking casually to a close friend. “But I feel like I’m in a state of euphoria as I walk around!” Green’s night involved going to a friend’s house and drinking at a fake bar that a friend had built within their house – an adventure that may seem out of the ordinary to most. Green enthuses, however, that he is “always looking for new things to be a part of”- a trait many musicians these days just can’t flaunt.
But there’s a lot more to Adam Green than his late-night antics. By day, Adam Green makes music. Great music, too. Since starting out with fellow oddball Kimya Dawson in the now-revered Moldy Peaches (yes, from the Juno soundtrack), Green has gone on to a low-key yet fruitful and entertaining solo career.
Earlier this year, his fifth solo album, Sixes and Sevens, was quietly launched to generally positive acclaim. The album is a collection of short, sweet and diverse pop music that he is decidedly proud of. “It’s been a long time coming,” he says of the record, his first since 2006’s Jacket Full of Danger. The first track on the album in particular, entitled Festival Song, is a bold and self-described “bombastic” artistic statement that derived, ironically, out of an uncomfortable fear.
“I never liked playing the festivals,” he explains. “I didn’t understand it. I was just someone who went to festivals – I used to get a lot of nerves before going on.” The solution? “I thought of making up a song up that I could open up at a festival with, and it would build up the show to be alright. That’s what the song started as.”
Another noticeable aspect of Festival Song is its starkly different vocals – light years away from Green’s distinctive liquored croon. “The more angry and lonely and defeated that I sang this motherfucking song, it just sounded shit-punk-better.” This led Adam to unconventionally sing the song worse with each and every recording. “I feel sort of like a vampire,” he muses in the most casual way one can say they feel like a vampire. “I’ve always wanted people to see me as more Goth, and they never do! I think people now know I wanna suck their fucking blood.”
A vivid imagination? Certainly – but anyone who has listened closely to Adam’s smart, abstract and often slightly ridiculous way with words in his music would expect nothing less. Ask him the tales of any of the characters featured in his songs, and you’ll receive a glowing, in-depth anecdote. Talk of Carolina (“her lips taste just like sunk ships/But her breasts taste just like breakfast”) brings up memories of the eponymous character of the song slinking around her apartment – “Like a cat”, he emphasises. He also tells of the abusive relationship between her and an unknown friend of his. “He perceived her soul to be made of farts and shit – it was just a piece of trash, and he told me so.”
Shifting talk to Emily (“Baby, when I get you on that Persian rug/That’s the kind of movie I’ve been dreaming of”) elicits an entirely different, far more upbeat response. “What a lovely, lovely woman she is,” he says happily. “She came to my concert once looking like Goldilocks!”
With such fascinatingly weird and wonderful stories to tell, it’s natural to be inquisitive of the driving forces behind the man’s lyrics. When it comes to his inspiration, however, Green blames not a musician, book or writer – but a voice in his head. A voice, he reveals, that has been getting him into a spot of trouble.
“I’ve been pissing off strangers lately,” he states matter-of-factly, claiming that not everyone “gets” him and his little lyric-inspiring voice. “It’s my own fault, I think. I always think people can understand where I’m coming from – but then I say something and it offends them, and before I know it they’re crying and their boyfriend wants to kick my arse. Some people just don’t like my tone.”
Certainly, Adam isn’t going to impress everyone in his travels. Having said that, he’s still certainly acquired quite a devoted cult fan-base for his particular brand of indie pop. One country in particular that has warmed to Green’s style, interestingly enough, is Germany. “I think, at first, it was just because of my good looks,” he says in regards to this unnatural phenomenon. “They’re probably so boring, that I just make a boring thing and they like it.”
Green’s touring schedule has taken him to various hot-spots around the globe for years, with his Australian visit finally on the horizon. The tour sees Green taking the best of both worlds – a high billing at Meredith Music Festival in December, and three far more intimate east coast shows. When asked which scale show he prefers, he confesses that he will just “go where he is told”. “If someone says I have to play a monkey cage in an Egyptian zoo… y’know, I’ll give it a shot.”
Certainly the semi-ironic boldness of this statement, the eccentricity of our conversation and the genuine lightning strike of brilliance that comes through the Adam Green discography is certain to culminate in these upcoming shows. The tour will surely intrigue many – including Green.
“Who’s Meredith, anyway?” he asks me.
“Is she cute?”