Interview + Upcoming Shows w/ Jon Lindsay
Jon Lindsay and company will be heading out on a short US tour on their way to SXSW. They’ll be making stops in Macon and Savannah before heading West and then returning to North Carolina. In the past few months, Jon’s most recent record Escape from Plaza-Midwood has become on of my favorites. I chatted with Jon this morning about the album, SXSW and his upcoming record.
Jon, I thought it would be interesting (if you can put up with it) to have you go through a few of the tracks of Plaza-Midwood and tell me a bit about each one. The songs on the album have a way of standing alone in very specific tones but when listened to consecutively, they expand on the bigger idea of your record.
“These Are The End Times” – What exactly is this song about? I’ve talked with friends who have the album and everyone seems to have a different answer..
Yo! What’s up Sean. As you said, this one seems to mean such a range of different things to folk. Which ultimately, above all else, is what makes it a good one, right? I mean, that’s the goal: that songs resonate beyond whatever point of specific intention I may or may not have had when making them. I’m of the mind that for me to offer some absolute reveal (if that were even possible in the case of this or most other songs) would somehow not be as cool as maybe only riffing on just a few shades of personal meaning it has for me but not going any farther for fear of blowing a sweet deal for other folks and their individual relationships to the interpretations they’ve settled on for themselves. Which of course is the best, truest and most “real meaning” of any song, I think. Sorry for the aloof preamble, but that being said, I’ll just tell you this as opposed to trying to unpack things at the line level: It’s just become sort of this rad, bizzaro fight song to me that refuses to rest and be pinned down even in my own mind now. It seems to feel different and mean something different almost every time we play it. So all the things it was to me in the beginning have now changed as if it were someone else’s song to begin with. Which is why I still like it. Man, I didn’t tell you shit just then! Ha!
“Futuretown” – Is this about a dream you’ve had or something you’ve read? It’s a strangely original concept for a song lyrically and might be one of the catchiest on the album.
Ok, I’m realizing now that I can only get by on the previous evasive, non-answer the one time, so here goes. Believe it or not, this song is sort of my answer to “Hey Nineteen” by Steely Dan. A recent interview asked me if it was “my indictment of hipster culture in Williamsburg” which was hilarious, and a valiant effort at the analysis, but it’s not that either. It’s not a dream or something I read – if anything, it’s a metaphor for constantly feeling one step behind of everything fleeting on the wind – culture, dreamgirls coming up behind you everyday by the millions like Whackamole; the relentless pace of the world that will never take a second, let alone a day off – and wrestling with the spectrum of emotions that go along with that. Fucking growing up, basically. Which of course for me, happens in spurts and ultimately, hopefully, will never really ever completely conclude in any traditional sense of the term. The speaker has been there and done that. He’s well aware that all that’s beautiful is transitory and ephemeral and can only be held in his hand for a brief moment before it turns to ashes, if even that long. Somehow he still “believes” enough to carry on and is still glad to be in the game and along for the ride, but he knows the real deal. He’s always self watching and he’s ALWAYS aware of the clock. Definitely not a new theme, so I wanted to expound on it with a super imaginative conceit. I felt that instead of grounding the song in all the normal correlatives you’d expect, it was much bolder to put the speaker of the song in an actual world that makes his feelings hyperbolic. The more I got in bed with the idea, the more it snowballed. And I went for it. I’m pretty all-in with my stuff and this idea had to be noncommittal, regardless of anyone’s thoughts on its relative success or failure; though I’m very happy with how it turned out after taking the chance. Clearly the sentiment the speaker comes back to over and over, as in the hook, is that, to me, he’s mostly resigned (in a good/healthy way) to the fact that all things must pass, even as quickly as they come sometimes – or even before they really even come. He’s got his head on straight. To be sure he’s nostalgic for the world from whence he came, but I wanted to be clear that when push came to shove, he has no problem holding his own in that other place. He’s a survivor and a magnificently adaptable beast. And he has a good warning to impart regarding believing one’s own hype and the lure of what’s out one’s window, or screen, or whatever. And for all his ability to hang, I’m sure he’s happy to be heading back the other way where he can still get a Traveling Wilburys record on 180 gram vinyl and find something to play it on.
“Me and the Dog” – What’s to say about this one? If the song is literally about the relationship a man has with his pet, it’s a charming and honest tune, but this is another song that I’ve discussed with people with no real conclusion.
This one is really about a dude and his dog, to be sure. But there is a lot more going on. Like a lot of the songs on EFPM, it’s a character portrait with tons of fictional creative license, mixed with a little autobiography. I’m always synthesizing man, it’s the only way for me or shit gets boring. Even in the super confessional stuff, I have to mix in some “what if’s”. Otherwise I’m just writing in my journal. The most interesting character/idea that almost immediately emerged for me when working on this tune was the previous owner of the Dog that the speaker of the song wonders about. We get a remove when we imagine THAT person’s life, and past experiences with the Dog before the Dog came into the speaker’s life. And that allowed me to take all kinds of interesting liberties at the line level in imagining this dude’s situation, sensibilities, etc. But like any apparent villain (or republican), I’m not interested in just a one-sided judgement or anything like that. I’m interested in sympathetic bad guys. Think Humbert Humbert, the best one of all time. This guy did some bad shit, but I feel that that it’s much more durty and complex and lifelike to imagine him passed out on the porch keys stuck in the door, etc. Lost. You can’t help but wanna help him up, toss him in the shower and tell him it’ll be ok. Even if you know it won’t. So yeah. Does that help? Gah!
You’re heading out on a 2 1/2 week tour through the South to SXSW and back in the next week. Highlights include supporting Langhorne Slim in Wilmington, being featured at the Savannah Stopover Music Festival, plus playing the NMFL Official 2012 SXSW Showcase. What are you most excited about for this run of dates?
Man, you’re too modest. We are doing all that fun stuff and those are some of the highlights for sure – but what about the show we’re doing at your party in Macon. I’ve only played Macon once, and I can’t wait to be back. Don’t sell yourself short, hombre! Let’s fuckin’ party! I’m really excited about this whole run. The Langhorne dudes are sweethearts. We played a sold out show a few weeks back with them in Asheville, and we’re actually doing the Wilm one with them, and a show in our hometown with them the next night. Will def be a couple blowouts. This will be my second SXSW, and other than playing, I LOVE seeing all my music homies. With all the gonzo touring the past few years, we’ve stacked up quite a lot super dear friendbands. They really are kinda like my family. Fer real. And I love reunions. Even though the Love Language say “if we try to unite then we might just turn back into dust, it’s only natural for us.” I’m looking forward to turning back in to dust on this tour.
Also, when are you going to have some music videos online? I kept thinking of these things I would love to see when I listened to the album for about the third or fourth time.
Man, tell me about it! I wish we had some videos for past records cuz there could be some great ones. It was really just a time (total lack of it) thing in the beginning. During the first few records I was doing Benji Hughes, The Young Sons, The Catch Fire, working on plays and touring like a lunatic, not that the touring part is any less grueling now… We just never got around to making videos. But given the narrative nature of a lot of the early work, they would def lend themselves over wonderfully to some good videos. But rest assured, with Summer Wilderness Program and all albums from now on, I’m gonna over compensate;) We have a few in the works now that will surely be pretty cool. I’m really only doing the Jon Lindsay thing with my time now. I mean, I have other projects on the horizon, but I won’t step to anything again anytime soon that will take near as much focus off of my thing as past side endeavors have.
If I remember correctly, when we spoke a few months ago, you mentioned that you would be heading to Europe following your shows in the US. What’s up with that and will it be the first time you’ve been?
Yes! We are touring Europe in November. Will be my first tour over there, but I have family in Switzerland and my Dad’s mother is 100% French. So certainly not my first time just being in Europe. I also studied a bit in Italy while in undergrad. So I know what to expect when we get over there, and needles to say I’m bursting at the seams just thinking about it.
I did note that you share the same name with an American body builder and every so often, someone changes your picture on the site to his image. Have you ever gotten to meet the man and see what he thinks of your music?
Never met him and don’t really care to. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but I’m really sick of seeing his crusty mug and all those nasty ass oiled up beefy chicks when I google myself just to see what’s out there. Fortunately, it looks like I’m beating him pretty hard these days on the old interwebs. Just waiting for the day that he’ll give up on being Jon Lindsay. There is only one, dude! Let it go! Man, people are gonna think I’m a fucking dick just now. This is my sense of humor for those of you who don’t know me. I’m really a teddy bear and I hate myself, I promise.
Lastly, as it’s getting late on my end and I don’t want to start asking you stupid questions about the end of the world and such, what can friends and followers alike expect out of you in 2012?
This is the year Sean, humbly, I say unto thee. The biggest thing is the second LP, Summer Wilderness Program, will be out this spring. Stay tuned for all the news and details around that very soon. It’s a 13 song LP that took me about a year to make with everything going on, and I’m really excited for folks to hear it. I’m doing a few solo shows on the West Coast again this year after this tour that starts in a few days, and that’ll be in April. Then this summer I’m tracking the 2nd EP of holiday related jams, and that’ll come out in Oct or Nov. There will be one more USA full band tour this year, too – we just don’t know yet if it’ll be before or after Europe. I also have a few new minor side projects going on that are not super time consuming (clearly I can’t help myself) and you’ll be the first to know about those when the time com
Jon Lindsay 2012 SXSW Tour Dates
03/06: Wilmington, NC @ The Soapbox w/Langhorne Slim
03/07: Charlotte, NC @ Visulite Theatre w/Langhorne Slim
03/08: Savannah, GA @ SXSW Stopover Festival
03/09: Macon, GA @ Roasted Lounge by The Blue Indian Presents
03/10: Oxford, MS @ Two Stick
03/11: New Orleans, LA @ The Saint
03/13: Austin, TX @ Ten Oak for SXSW Official Showcase
03/14 – 03/15 @ SXSW
03/16: Memphis, TN @ Kudzu
04/20: Charlotte, NC @ Petra’s
04/28: Memphis, TN @ Ardent Studios The Warm Up
04/28: Memphis, TN @ The Hi-Tone
05/12: Charlotte, NC @ Chop Shop for VH1 Save The Music
05/17: New York, NY @ Rockwood Music Hall
05/24: Raleigh, NC @ Tir Na Nog w/The Catch Fire