Father John Misty: People Respond to My Live Shows 'As They Would a Pervert on the Bus'

Eric Ryan Anderson
Father John Misty photographed on March 11, 2015 at 632 on Hudson in New York City.

Talking to Josh Tillman, who will perform as the subversive folk singer Father John Misty at this year's Coachella, is not like talking to other people. "The function of art is very different from the function of some kind of Hegelian prescription for decent civilian living," he begins, winding himself up for what becomes a series of pretty riveting rants. "I'm not creating an instruction manual for decency. I'm trying my best to give some oxygen to my own experiences, good or bad."

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One would expect this kind of talk from the man behind Father John Misty's second record, I Love You, Honeybear. The critically exalted album, which debuted at No. 17 on the Billboard 200, is a careening, psychologically unhinged concept record, set in louche Los Angeles, about the depravities and ecstasies of love, inspired by his relationship with his wife, photographer Emma Tillman. "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."

 

 

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Tillman, 33, is an incarnation of the madcap poet archetype, a blend of soul-singer sincerity with Jim Morrison's posturing, swivel-hipped sexual swagger. He describes himself to Billboard as a "spiritually constipated" individual who dresses "like a pedophile at a wizard wedding." Raised in suburban Maryland by evangelical parents, Tillman moved to Seattle at 21. (He and his wife now reside in New Orleans.) In his late 20s, after several years spent performing and recording his own material, he joined the alt-soft-rock band Fleet Foxes as its drummer. He toured with the Grammy-nominated group for a few years, but one gets the feeling he is only now beginning to make his cultural and ideological jailbreak. "These shows have been great," he says of his tour, which began in Europe this winter and will take him through the United States this spring, including his spotlight show at Coachella. "People are responding to me as they would a pervert on the bus."

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