Interview- Commodity market: Tillman more than a Foxey fad

music-jtillmanJosh Tillman–- mystified by myths, motivated by ice cream.

"I think I could really go for an ice cream right now," says musician J. Tillman, "but just one of those Ben and Jerry's small cups, with the spoon built in. If I get a pint, I'll just go through six episodes of Battlestar Galactica in one evening and ruin the svelte, homeless-looking figure I have."

The Seattle-based musician  may be behind the scenes of the mega-hit indie-folk band Fleet Foxes (since drummers are usually overshadowed by their bandmates); but don't count this rhythm-maker out just yet. He recently released his eighth solo album, Year in the Kingdom, to critical acclaim and seems perfectly happy with his solo work.

"I had played with Casey [Wescott] and Christian [Wargo] before, when the scene was small and everyone was buddies," Tillman explains. "At the time, I felt like I was just playing with friends, but then it got all huge and took over my life."

Whatever his inspirations, Josh Tillman is an artist who wants to play what he wants.

The Hook: You've recently gained fame with Fleet Foxes and have been quoted saying, "I've been wanting this for fifteen years." What's your idea of success?

JT: It's bizarre– this is what I wanted, and now it's here.

The Hook: What is with Fleet Foxes and beards?
JT: Six years ago, when I moved to Seattle, I had a beard, and everyone was trying to do the rock 'n' roll thing with leather jackets and black hair, and people would come up to me and ask, "Are you going to shave that beard off?" Now, random people are like, "Awesome beard, man!" and girls come up after shows and say, "I want to grow a beard!" It's ridiculous. In three years after this folk sh*t is over, I'll still be rocking the beard.

The Hook: How did your proclivity to music all begin? Was there ever anything else you wanted to do?
JT: Josh Tillman at thirteen wanted to be in the NBA, not in an indie-rock band. I played power forward, but I'm not very good, so that's prohibitive in tryouts. But also at thirteen was when I started playing drums–- and the tides shifted.

The Hook: In the past, you did an interview with a blog posing as "Jesus Christ"–- do you have a relationship with religion?
JT: I have some religion, but I'm not reductionist about it. Religion is maybe the greatest distillation of human creation over human history, the ability to create abstractions and mythologies. Making music feels similar to automatic writing in the 1800s. [laughs] That interview was years ago!

The Hook: Well, a simple Google search on your name turned it up.
JT: Stupid Google. I just read a big New Yorker article on Google, and it really turned me off. The owners seem infantile–- having million-dollar hobbies, like para-sailing on the moon and rollerblading to work. I don't trust anyone like that.

The Hook: So what are your million-dollar hobbies?
JT: I read a lot. Maybe giving interviews.

The Hook: There's been a lot of confusion as to the origin of your sound–- it's often classified as "southern," yet you're immersed in the Pacific Northwest. How do you balance those images?
JT: It's hard to respond to things with no basis in reality, so I usually just say "Yeehaw."

The Hook: How do you maintain an intimate relationship with your audience as your concert attendance size and overall popularity grows?
JT: You feel more obligated to give the people what they want, when really, it's your prerogative as an artist to tell them what they want. But I guess that's what happens in a commodity marketplace.

The Hook:
Have you felt like a commodity lately?
JT: It's depressing, so I'm trying to make sense of it, combat it, be self-deterministic.

The Hook: Well, isn't that the point? Isn't music a vehicle for self-expression?
JT: It seems counter-intuitive, but you should reclaim your own experience independent of the local audience's experience.

J. Tillman plays at the UVA Chapel, Thursday, November 19. The show starts at 8 pm, and tickets are $10.


Share your thoughts on Tillman and the Foxes in the space below by 11pm on November 15; the best comment (funny, insightful, whatever) will win you a free pair of tickets to the show! Be sure to use a real email address so we know how to contact you. The winner will be announced on November 16.


Update [11/11 5:18pm]: Tillman has specifically responded to this article.

Read more on: fleet foxesj. tillman


Chen, I just added a link for online ticket sales at the end of the article.

I've been waiting for someone to pick up where Kenny Loggins left off. Looks like he's finally come.

whoooops, used a fake email address on my last winning post. it's really tornadotittietwister@rocknabeard,com bring on them tickies

I can't wait for the 19th, and I hope, considering his career is finally in the place he'd like it to be, that his shows reflect his ideal concert. When an artist plays what they like and the audience appreciates it, that's when they find true fans.

What an idiot. Fleet Foxes= My Morning Jacket meets N Sync

cookieJar, I think it'd be unfair for you to win based on the awesomeness of your email address, but seriously, wow.

I was 3rdish row for Fleet Foxes @ Lollapalooza this past summer, and in between songs, they went into the subject of beards and camping. Somehow the conversation turned to who's beard they'd most like to live in. As they went around the group, it was a unanimous decision that Josh's was the fluffiest, most envied, and most comfortable live-in beard. They were fantastic and had such a natural presence. Their harmonies are just indescribable, that day especially given the fact that Robin was sick.
Seeing J. in an intimate setting like the Chapel would be amazing. Where online can we find additional tickets? I've been searching for half and hour to no avail...

I don't personally agree with Paul either, but to be fair, he's not alone there; back in June this video of Rolling Stone critic Christopher R. Weingarten was plastered all over the music blogs. His most passionate rant, which starts at around six minutes into the video, hinges on his hatred of the Foxes. The whole thing, though, definitely highly recommended.

i take issue with you, paul.

Have fun at the show, Chen!