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Adam Goldberg Talks About West Coast Romanticism And Living Anxiously

Adam Goldberg Talks About West Coast Romanticism And Living Anxiously (photo)

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Adam Goldberg was staying under an assumed name in a hotel that tried to charge him $20 for some toothpaste when I caught up with him about his latest record, The Goldberg Sisters. He got out of the crowded LANDy business after confusing debacles with a Taiwanese pop singer, a Mexican troubadour and another Landy who was already on Myspace featuring Auto-Tune raps with titles like “I Just Wanna Fuck.”

Thus, out of a necessity to differentiate himself, The Goldberg Sisters were born. Incidentally, there really are two Goldberg sisters, but it’s clear at this point that they have nothing to do with this record. We talked about all the twiddling that went down, and then moved on to some mutually favorite subjects, like David Lynch film scores, and the little moments in films that stay with you forever.


The last time we spoke you had just released a record as Landy, and it had been a labor of love born of many years. But The Goldberg Sisters was much more sudden, are you finding your stride?

I think a little bit. The thing with Landy was that I was recording just because I was recording, you know? And every so often I would take stock and think, oh it would be great to make this all reside in one place. It wasn’t conceived as a thing where I got so immersed that I couldn’t see my way out of it. It was just that I was recording for many years and at a certain point thought I should try and do something with all this stuff. Once that kind of barrier of putting out a record, calling it a record, was broken for me, I think it allowed me to feel like I could move on – and experiment with something that was a more proper studio production.

You worked again very closely with Aaron Espinoza (Earlimart) on this. Which one of you is the bigger knob twiddler?

Geez, man, we’re both, pretty bad [laughter]. But, it’s also why I think it works. We were working in such a tight time frame that it doesn’t get excessive. I think this is a testament to his mixing ability — I mean granted we would do some redos here and there, but his initial mixes were like a song a day. Taking in a lot of fuckin’ material. I don’t mean the length of the songs, but we amassed, or I tend to amass, a lot of stuff, and a lot of layers. Making sense of all that and just filling it just becomes its own version of playing music. He and I definitely have fun with that. And I think it’s probably in a way liberating for him too because it’s not, you know, his music, and I think he’s likes that I like to take a less learned and pretty twittily approach.

Which technical feat or bit of wizardry were you most, were you most pleased with?

That “BFF” song from the LANDy record was in many ways like a model, the sorts of drum sounds and the way that we would do strings was really similar. It’s actually the more organic stuff that I found challenging. It’s this sort of thing, I’m maybe more proud of because [we took] an organic approach to something that we could have just done with synthesizers. Most prominently on this record, “The Difference Between Us,” it didn’t sound like this, per se, but I had in mind modeling it after Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick string arrangements. So we would just track, and track, and track that stuff. And, then we’d start pitching stuff up and down. And we kinda did that with the trumpets too, to kind of create a little mini orchestra basically. We’re using Andrew Lynch who plays trumpet, Merritt Lear and Roxanne Daner on violins, and then I would play harmonium. We’d pitch that down and that kinda gave a lot of the songs this big bottom which sounds uncannily like a baritone sax or something. And then there’s all the usual sort of stuff, a lot of tape echo. Shit like that, all over the record. You know, the more analog echo-y stuff.

I know you feel a necessity to expose yourself. And I don’t mean physically, but in an emotional way.

Mm-hm. I have exposed myself physically too. So, I have no problem with that either. But, go on.

Um, Well, you’ll don’t have to share with me later. You could say it’s true of many creative people, but you’ve always struck me as being exceptionally confessional. What are you confessing on The Goldberg Sisters?

Yeah…. There’s another kind of way of being artist which I completely appreciate, envy in some ways, but don’t entirely understand how it’s motivated. I mean I would have to venture to guess that the large majority of people who consider themselves artists are dealing with their issues through creative means. I responded to those sorts of filmmakers and musicians as I was growing up. As a kid, I always felt sort of less alone really, if I felt someone was revealing their own kind of solitude. I found it to be a source of comfort — which is not like I feel like I’m doing anybody a service. It’s just something I’ve always responded to. So what am I confessing to? I would actually say that this is a slightly less diary-like record, then the first one. If were to have conceived of that LANDy record from the start, I don’t know that it would be like so fucking lovelorn you know? The first song [on The Goldberg Sisters] is about somebody that I knew, the second song is completely narrative. And then there are other songs that are blatantly revealing about meditations on mortality, which seems to be kind of a running theme, if I had to pick one.

[Laughter] And you were playing a guy on TV in, “The Unusuals,” that had a brain tumor at the time of recording your last record.

Yeah, right. And we never really found out what the hell happened, cause the show got canceled. But yeah, exactly, tapped into my own insecurity about that sort of thing. It was an ironic part. I actually chose that. I was initially offered a role of my partner, who is the hypochondriac [laughter]. And I thought it would be more interesting for me to play the guy who actually is sick. [laugh] Even though it made me a little anxious.

Speaking of your TV work, I know you were busy with Robert De Niro and this pilot.

Well, I mean he’s an executive producer on this television pilot [“Rookies”] that I’m doing.

I don’t want to be indelicate, especially if you don’t know exactly what’s happening but what can you say about it, about “Rookies?”

Oh, no, yeah. It’s totally out there in the world. I don’t see why they give a shit because a pilot is nothing until it’s picked up, but, especially these days every single pilot and every single casting decision is discussed, and you know, in a tweet or blog. But it’s a cop show in New York. It’s very different than the one I did [before]. I play a guy who was fired from a newspaper actually — as crime reporter — you know because basically there’s no newspapers anymore, and enlist as a rookie cop. And I’m like the oldest guy there [laughs]. All the people involved are just really fucking cool. Richard Price wrote it, who wrote “Clockers,” and “The Wire,” and “The Color of Money.” And James Mangold is directing the pilot, he did “Walk the Line” and “3:10 to Yuma,” so that was a big incentive to me.

I hope it gets picked up, everybody knows you were the best part of “The Unusuals.”

Oh, come on now. Hey listen that was a great cast! I mean they could have had a two-time Academy award nominee on their cast if they had just held off for like another two months.

[Jeremy] Renner.

Yeah, anyway, he would be miserable now though. I mean, he wouldn’t be doing no Mission: Impossible [“Ghost Protocol”]. Mission impossible would be him doing a movie [laughter].

By the way, I didn’t know you had a sister. Is she hot?

I can’t really… [laugh]. I have two half-sisters. I mean my Dad had another wife. Well, you know how it works. People get remarried, and so when I was in my 20s, my Dad had two daughters.

I kind of gathered that you didn’t actually have a hot bearded sister working on the album with you…

Yeah, well, that remains to be seen. Let’s just, we’ll just leave it at that.

We could hope.

Though I think that my father is taking some credit for the band name, which, he’s entitled to do. I mean, he has created me in part, so he’s more than welcome.

What film would would you inhabit if you could?

Goddamn good question. I would say “Double Indemnity.” It’s such a tragic, it’s a train going… well literally, such a stupid metaphor because it’s about a train there, but the thing is going off the tracks the whole time. That tension and anxiety shouldn’t be a place that I want to reside but obviously, A: is. And B: there’s something super specific about the locales in that movie — which I only recently discovered are almost all in my neighborhood. Like his apartment, I’d always been obsessed with his apartment. And it’s raining. These little moments in that film, I’d absolutely want to live in, particularly in his apartment. For years growing up I’d modeled my living situation on it. So I had these sort of dingy, ’30’s and ’40’s Angelino apartments.

The sort of West Coast romanticism that maybe New Yorkers can’t quite fathom, but I follow you.

Exactly, that’s right, that’s right. It’s one of the reasons I get defensive about Los Angeles because I think there is this incredibly rich, kind of mood there. It’s just not quite as tactile and it’s more subterranean or something. And maybe it only really exists in those movies and books. I mean when I went to college, I was sure I was going to leave LA, I was a fish out of water and I made no sense in LA and all that. And I left for college in New York — and then I ended up dropping out after a year — but point is, I started reading all this Raymond Chandler, and then Bukowski, and John Fante and I started seeing LA through that scrim. It’s not necessarily all that evident, I mean most of what you see driving through LA are a lot of, you know, mini malls with frame shops in them.

What film scores do you love — given that you’ve scored some of your own films?

Tindersticks did two movie scores that are just incredible, two French movies.

“Nenette and Boni?”

Right, “Nenette and Boni” and “Trouble Every Day” was the other one. I used to go to sleep to both of them, but “Trouble Every Day” particularly, every single night. It’s also when I smoked. I feel like it lent itself to the lights going out and having a cigarette in the dark. Now I’m less inclined to put on anything that would make me want to smoke or drink when I’m trying to go to sleep. One of my favorites — and I actually used some of this in “Scotch and Milk” — is “Elevator to the Gallows,” Louis Malle movie that Miles Davis scored. Haunting, beautiful score. Another one I incorporated into “Scotch and Milk” was the score to “Touch of Evil,” which is maybe one of the best movie scores of all time. Almost all of Lynch’s movies. Where his sound design ends and Badalamenti’s score begins, that crazy marriage is really the kind of thing that excites me in a score.

Absolutely. You quit smoking? That’s great man, you’ll live longer.

I don’t know. I mean, it’s very possible the damage has been done and I’m just gonna live more anxiously.

You can find Adam Goldberg and the Goldberg Sisters at: www.thegoldbergsisters.com, @goldbergsisters, and @theadamgoldberg.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.