That one came pretty… it came pretty instantly. I had taken a sleeping pill because I was pretty jet lagged. And I looked down at it and was like, [singing] "pills to wake, pills to sleep / pills pills pills every day of the week." And it was just like, okay, I'm using the language of advertising to talk about a very personal story and also a very uniquely American macro story about capitalism run amuck on mental health, and an opioid crisis as a result. So how's that for a hit song of the summer?
Obviously there's a satire element to the song, but also like you said, you were using sleeping pills. Do you have a conflicted relationship with them, or where do you come down on that?
I don't have a hard and fast rule. For years I've had anxiety and depression so there's an element to pharmaceuticals that's tremendously helpful to me. I'm not like, "Well just go take a hike if you're feeling down!" It's more complicated than that -- that's not going to cure depression. So I'm psyched on the help I've gotten as a result of helping regulate my brain chemistry. But at the same time, going into Benzo Land, all that stuff, I didn't have a lot of coping mechanisms for anxiety and depression, so I was not doing the healthiest things for me when anxiety would flare up. But it was never like an epidemic-y problem for me, it was just, "maybe I should reel this in a little bit and find some other methods of self-soothing." That was really it. But I'm not an anti-pills person -- my God, most of my friends are medicated.
There's another pretty personal song on the album, "Happy Birthday, Johnny." Is that the same Johnny as "Prince Johnny" from St. Vincent?
Yeah, Johnny's been with me a while. Everybody has a Johnny.
I don't want to pry, but seems like a difficult situation. Did you feel anxious about being so personal in a song?
No, because I think a lot about shame. The human experience is universal, everybody has their Johnny. Everybody has their dark nights of the soul moments where they're on the edge of the metaphorical building. I feel very comfortable sharing those because I think they're universal.
Yeah, I think it makes people feel less alone when they hear others vocalize things in art that they're feeling.