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Interview: My Morning Jacket on black metal

Interview: My Morning Jacket on black metal (photo)

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Last week, My Morning Jacket released “Holdin’ on to Black Metal,” the second tease from the band’s forthcoming sixth LP, Circuital. The song feels like soul music of the strangest sort, with a gnarled guitar line that jumps and swivels and horns that splash at the most surprising moments. In a falsetto coo, frontman Jim James sings like he’s vying for a lover’s attention, a sentiment that seems even more urgent when both an all-female choir and a distant baritone double his melody.

But this isn’t a love song. Rather, James sings about catching waves and getting sustenance on “Lucifer’s beach,” images that make sense when considered alongside the title. Black metal, the vicious and infamous form of extreme metal that took root in Scandinavia more than 20 years ago, has often been considered an outlet for young, adolescent aggression, much like hardcore punk and hip-hop. Remember, Burzum’s Varg Vikernes was still a teenager when he first set fire to Norwegian churches. “Holdin’ on to Black Metal,” then, questions whether or not we need to give up such music as an outlet for our anger in adulthood. According to My Morning Jacket’s Two-Tone Tommy, the answer is definitively no.

ATO Records releases Circuital Tuesday, May 31. That same day, legendary filmmaker Todd Haynes will direct the live stream of My Morning Jacket’s hometown, release-night show at the Palace Theater in Louisville, Kent. Stream “Holdin’ on to Black Metal” above.

When’s the first time you heard black metal? How did you hear it, and what did you think?

I showed up to the black metal party late. When I was 13, I got into whatever metal a small town Kentucky kid had access to–Obituary, Slayer, Metallica, etc., the standard metal fare. I somehow missed out on Venom. A few years ago, our business manager, the most metal of accountants, turned me on to Ruun by Enslaved, and that same year we checked out 1349 at a SXSW showcase. Wouldn’t say I fell in love with the genre right away, but I was definitely fascinated by the imagery and history. The speed reminded me of the thrash that I devoured in middle school.

Also, there had been so many disappointing “huge” metal releases over the past decade and change that made the discovery of black metal more significant. It didn’t feel too referential or bored with itself or trying to be relevant, like those albums did. Especially seeing these bands live, the show felt real, like the theatrics of the corpse paint wasn’t for entertainment’s sake but was vital to the musical expression itself. But maybe that’s because I want to believe it’s real?

My dad used to play this album Black Mass by Lucifer when I was about five or six years old just to see how I’d react to it. It was an all-electronic album from the early ’70s with a two-points-up pentagram and goat’s head on the back cover. Hilariously, the band Lucifer was just one guy with a synthesizer–a guy named Mort. But it was the heaviest and scariest experience of my young life every time that album came off the bookcase. I think some part of my fascination with metal in general is wanting to experience that fearful thrill again and again, wanting to believe in it just enough that it feels real for a moment.

Do you or did you ever consider yourself a fan of black metal? Does anyone else in the band?

I don’t know about the other guys, but I own a handful of black metal albums that I really love. The new Krallice record is amazing! So I’m a fan, but it’s not the only genre of music I listen to, or listen to every day.

I may be hearing the song incorrectly, but you seem to be expressing skepticism about adults holding on to things as absolutely bleak and dark as black metal. Almost like punk rock, you need it when you’re a kid and everything sucks; but as an adult, that sort of darkness might not allow you to function in the world. Does this interpretation hold for you at all? When did you realize that?

It’s always felt more like a tongue-in-check acknowledgement of that particular viewpoint, one that the general public certainly has about metal as a whole–or punk rock or science fiction or comic books, like these are things that you should leave in the past so you can join the real world.

There’s no doubt that an obsession with anything–even a genre of music or a TV show or a movie or collectibles–can be a distraction from what’s really going on or a way to hang on to the past in a way that keeps the responsibilities of life/ adulthood at bay. But there are also things that can only be expressed, or are easier to express, through escapism and especially through music, so much so that its importance should never be discounted. How difficult would adolescence have been without the music that helped carry us through it? No one enters adulthood feeling none of the emotions they did when they were 16.

Do you see any correlation between that idea and gangsta rap?

Absolutely, though I’ve never understood why misogynistic lyrics and violence towards women was such a part of it lyrically, or why it was so accepted. Maybe hearing Biggie say “shoot your daughter in the calf muscle” is funny to someone, but it sounds pretty fucked to me.

Tell me about the children’s choir. Who are they, and when did you decide they made sense on this track?

The children’s choir is actually a group of women we’re friends with. They were recorded in a funeral home in Louisville, which makes it more metal?

Is there any music you’ve outgrown completely as a person and listener?

Some of the hardcore/punk I listened to in high school. It can be beautiful when instruments are played badly with passion, and really unlistenable when they’re just played badly.

What can you tell me about recording this song as a band?

Jim’s demo was built on a loop he had made from a Thai pop song called “E-Saew Tam Punha Huajai” by Kwan Jai & Kwan Jit Sriprajan. His mission to the band was to perform the loop like child soldiers roaming the streets. We recorded several takes but the first one–where we’re all just getting a feel for playing the loop together–was the keeper.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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