Billboard Cover Sneak Peek: Hozier, Alabama Shakes & Father John Misty on Coachella Plans & Rebellious Secrets
Hozier, Father John Misty, and Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard have all earned critical acclaim for their musicianship onstage and in the studio, but we bet you wouldn't expect one of them to liken him or herself to "a pedophile at a wizard wedding."
Yet there's a common thread running through these performers -- one of teenaged rebellion turned into lucid, provocative adult expression. Did you ever realize what a sexual song "Take Me to Church" is? Maybe not. But what might seem like polite folk and soul-rock at Coachella 2015 has an edge to it. Here's how it came out in the new Billboard cover story, on sale Friday, March 27.
1. They all left more ordinary pursuits to chase the music they wanted to make.
Howard grew up a tall (now 5 feet, 10 inches), biracial (her father is black, her mom is white) girl in a small Alabama town who felt like she didn't quite fit in until she met future Alabama Shakes bandmate Zac Cockrell and bonded over Led Zeppelin and the Ramones. Before the band took off, she labored through 12-hour days at an Athens, Ala., post office, praying for a chance to quit.
Coming of age in his native Ireland, Hozier frontman Andrew Hozier-Byrne planned on becoming a shrink if his career in music didn't pan out. "I was a pretty well-behaved kid, much to my regret," he says of his rule-abiding younger days. "I realized I'd rather not please people and not loathe every minute of existence… So I turned away from all that and started doing what I wanted to do: music."
And before taking on the Father John Misty persona, Josh Tillman had been a rock star, albeit from behind the drum kit of a very tame rock band, Fleet Foxes. Now, he describes himself as a "spiritually constipated" individual who dresses "like a pedophile at a wizard wedding."
2. Father John Misty is into 19th-century philosophers…and perversion.
Speaking with Billboard, Tillman slipped into his Misty persona and opined, "The function of art is very different from the function of some kind of Hegelian prescription for decent civilian living." In case you were wondering, "Hegelian" refers to the teachings of philosopher G. W. F. Hegel, who taught that all of reality can be expressed rationally.
"I'm not creating an instruction manual for decency," he explains. "I'm trying my best to give some oxygen to my own experiences, good or bad."
And how's the tour been going? "People are responding to me as they would a pervert on the bus," he declares.
3. And Misty and Hozier have got some unique ways of singing about sex.
Father John Misty's 2015 sophomore album I Love You, Honeybear was inspired by Tillman's relationship with his wife, Emma. But in the deranged world of Father John Misty, no detail is too dirty. "I will totally admit that there are disgusting things on this album," he says. "I mean, calling Emma a blowup doll, from a social perspective, is fairly heinous. But you have to believe me -- that song is just about major confusion and hypocrisy. Those are just the kinds of compliments that a jealous, impotent man has to offer."
Meanwhile, Hozier's surprise hit "Take Me to Church" topped website xoJane's 2015 sex-song playlist, as it used Catholic language to intensely describe sex through the frontman's powerful vocal delivery.
4. Making their Coachella debut is a little intimidating.
"I'd made a conscious decision to make music for a much smaller audience," admits Hozier. "I did not think it would resonate with mainstream culture." And now the singer -- who recorded the vocals for "Take Me to Church" in his attic -- is a much-buzzed-about act at Coachella, which he calls "one of the big mother" festivals.
For Howard, making her Coachella debut with bandmates Heath Fogg (guitar), Zac Cockrell (bass) and Steve Johnson (drums) is a bit staggering. "Sometimes I don't know what to say to 100,000 people at once," she says, "but it sure is cool to look at them."
Read the full Billboard story when it's out Friday, March 27.