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It’s a real balance, though, because when you start getting into the whole contingent of people who look at bands like The Lumineers or The Black Keys, or whatever bands people are talking about when they say, “That’s real music, man”—if you’re desperately searching for quote-unquote real music, and you’re locating it in white guys playing blues riffs, or you’re locating it in an instrument that’s made of wood, I think you’re
The Silver Gymnasium is driven by stories from your own childhood, so there are obviously some elements of nostalgia, which is another big part of what’s going on in music and the culture as a whole. What we see a lot, though, is people creating these sort of vaguely 90s-ish vibes and sort of vaguely remembering this time that they probably weren’t actually old enough to remember in any meaningful way. But your new songs are packed with very specific details and facts and fleshed-out stories. How important to you was that distinction?
Well, that’s a distinction I do want to make. It would be disgusting if this record was just me being like, “My childhood was so cool!” That’s not really the point. The point is I believe that if you get really personal and heartfelt with your own material, that people are going to respond to it because people are similar and people can relate. Hopefully people who grew up in the 80s can relate, but hopefully people who grew up in the 90s can relate, too, and hopefully people who grew up in the 50s can relate. Like, I relate to The Nightfly by Donald Fagen, which was about growing up in the 50s. My autobiographical material, you can just think of it as the wood that you throw into the locomotive. You’re trying to get somewhere, and it just so happens that when you use some gross old wood, the locomotive’s gonna go extra fast, because you’re putting in real stuff that’s deeply meaningful. Although a lot of it is meaningful to only me. There are things in these songs where I don’t think anyone, not even my brother or sister, would know what the hell I’m talking about. Those things are put in out of the faith that there will be a charge that comes out of it. Not necessarily where people will literally know what I’m talking about, but where they feel a crackle of electricity that comes off of it. A lot of what I’m talking about, when you break it down, is standard memory stuff—you know, looking back on your life from a later date. But because it’s very specific to me, hopefully it feels lived in and authentic, as opposed to cookie-cutter, general nostalgia, which is something that seems to be smothering the culture right now. It’s a minefield that I walked through with every single thing related to The Silver Gymnasium, trying to avoid a knee-jerk, BuzzFeed nostalgia, or a twee, ukulele nostalgia and try to go for the real stuff that sort of smells a little bit, if that makes any sense. •