Ethan Hawke vs. Phosphorescent: The Complete Interview | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Ethan Hawke vs. Phosphorescent: The Complete Interview

Southern Roots

Dec 12, 2018 Ethan Hawke
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With a career that spans three decades and four Academy Award nominations, Ethan Hawke is among the premiere names in film. First making his mark as a young actor in movies such as Dead Poet’s Society, Reality Bites, and Before Sunrise, Hawke has remained one of the most consistent American actors, going on to win further acclaim for his roles in such works as Gattaca, Training Day, and Boyhood. Throughout his career the Austin-born actor has remained prolificin 2018 alone he also stars in the films First Reformed, Stockholm, and Juliet, Nakednot only on the screen, but as a stage actor, screenwriter, filmmaker, and novelist.

With Blaze, Hawke returns to the director’s chair for his first feature narrative in over a decade. Based on a memoir by Blaze Foley’s onetime lover, Sybil Rosen, Blaze depicts moments from the troubled life of outlaw country singer Foley, whose work just recently has started to garner a respect and following he never knew before his death from a mysterious gunshot wound in 1989, at the age of 39. In the film, Foley is played by musician Ben Dickey, a first-time actor whose work here won him the highest acting award given at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. He’s joined by Alia Shawkat, Sam Rockwell, Steve Zahn, and Kris Kristofferson. Actor-musician Charlie Sexton, known for the 1985 hit “Beat’s So Lonely” and as a member of Arc Angels and Bob Dylan’s band, has a remarkable turn as Foley’s close friend, the similarly tragic country singer Townes Van Zandt.

Matthew Houck, better known under his recording moniker Phosphorescent, is returning this fall with a new album, C’est la Vie, on Dead Oceans. The self-produced album is his first in five years, following up the widely acclaimed Muchacho, which found his distinctive brand of country-threaded rock reaching the most listeners yet. C’est la Vie also marked the Alabama native’s return to the South: the album was recorded in his new self-built studio in Nashville, where he now lives after a stint in New York.

Both artists had a mutual admiration for each other’s work, not to mention many shared tastes in music. In our joint interview, the two also touched on parenthood, the ways that being from the South finds its way into their work, and just how hard it is to make what they do look or sound easy to audiences. A shorter version of this interview ran in Issue 64 of our print magazine. This is the complete interview, combining the print article with a bonus Q&A that ran in the digital version of the issue and additional material.

Austin Trunick (Under the Radar): Ethan, can you tell me how you first encountered Matthew’s music?

Ethan Hawke: Believe it or not, I can never remember how I first came into contact with music. I think a friend of mine told me about Matthew’s To Willie album. I always loved Willie Nelson’s To Lefty album. I thought there was something brilliant about the idea of doing a To Willie album, mostly because Willie’s always treated like this deity. Saying thank you to him, through his music, I was touched by the album when I listened to it. You know, frankly, I just prefer a lot of the production compared to the original versions of the songs I loved. I think I killed that record, I listened to it so much, and through that I started listening to more of your music. I just grew to love it more and more, with the last album being my favorite. To be honest, when I was doing a production of Macbethand this is a little embarrassing, Matthew, I don’t want you to think I’m a geeky fanbut I have this elaborate warm-up that goes into playing a part like Macbeth. I had this playlist of all your music, the song “Wolves” and that song “Remain”...

Matthew Houck: Holy shit, man…

Ethan: ... and the song “Cocaine Lights.” There’s a certain group of your songs that falls into this category where they’re extremely moody, evocative, haunting, and kind of profound without really trying to be. That music really put me into this perfect space. The last thing I’ll say, [there’s something] I’ve come to really appreciate. You constantly see people doing tribute records, and usually they’re pretty lame. But when you covered Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” and your work on the Day of the Dead recordevery time you set your mind to cover a song, it’s a song that I already love. “Storms Never Last,” the Waylon Jennings song you coveredwe must have some kind of simpatico, because every time you cover a song it happens to already be one of my favorite songs of all time. So, I became a huge fan.

Matthew: Wow, thanks for saying that. [Laughs] Thanks a lot, man. I never would have thought you’d heard a lot of those things. Definitely, the last record reached a lot more ears, but wow, yeah, thank youthat’s all I can say. That was all very flattering. The Willie record, for example, I absolutely agree with what you say about the covers stuff, and tributes being super-susceptible to being very corny. With the Willie record, in particular, yeah, I mean, he’s Willie Nelson. He’s a hero for lots of people. I’ve loved him longer than I can remember; a lot of early memories were formed around his songs. So, I don’t know, I feel like it’s not super hard to be respectful of what it does for you, as a listener, and then do your own version of it.

Ethan: I also think that one of the things with artists that record over a long period of time, [they’re] vulnerable to the ebbs and flow of where production is. You know, a song that was recorded in the ‘80s is different than one that was recorded in the 1970s. It’s nice to hear your take on these songs that spoke to my childhood, tooI don’t remember where I first heard these songs, either. My first concert was Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic in 1976. They’re like a part of my DNA, those songs. But to hear them with a production value that speaks to my ears and my time, it’s really satisfying. It works for me. I also like the lineage of how songs get passed from generation to generation, and songs can be sort of like time travelers. A good song lasts. The way Willie was honoring Lefty Frizzell, I don’t think I’d know who Lefty Frizzell was if it wasn’t for Willie’s album To Lefty.

Matthew: That’s exactly right.

Ethan: That was my entry point. And now, I think my kids know a lot of those Willie songs from your covers. They like that production value; it speaks more to them than had I played something like Honeysuckle Rose for them.

Matthew: Again, yeah, that means a lot for me to hear. [Laughs]

Ethan: Yeah, that’s all I’ll say! Compliments are a conversation-killer.

Matthew: I’m really glad you like the production. It’s tricky on my end, because a lot of production choices have not been really thought-out, because I had to work with the tools I had at hand. And so, I listen to my own stuffor maybe you watch yourself on screenand all you can see is the cracks in the armor.

Ethan: The mistakes make a lot of noise, and all the good things fall on deaf ears when you’re evaluating your own work.

Austin Trunick (Under the Radar): The two of you were born in the South. Matthew, that influence can be heard in your music, and Ethan, it’s a place you’ve often returned to in your films, such as Blaze or those you made with Richard Linklater. Even though you’re both New Yorkers now, how much do you feel that being from the South plays into your work?

Matthew: Actually, I left New York and moved to Nashville a few years ago, so I’m back down here. But, it’s still complicated. I think it’s in your blood, in a lot of ways, as far as what you lean to in art and the way you generally feel about things. I think I spent a lot of years trying to get away from whatever it is that makes me Southern, but at a certain point you realize you’re gravitating toward a lot of that stuff and maybe you didn’t realize it.

Ethan: I hear you struggling with a question that I struggle with, too. I think that if you stay connected to whatever is unique about your DNA, positive and negative, you can draw upon that well and it’s easier than trying to pull up roots and make new ones. Even some things like religion, even though you might hate it, those symbols speak to you and are part of who we are. If you try to run away from them, you end up tripping.

Matthew: Absolutely.

Ethan: My father always lived in Texas. My parents split when I was young, and so Texas always took on a symbol to me of longing for, you know, masculinity, or a father figure, whatever words you want to put on it. I longed for it. Through my friendship with Richard Linklater when I was younger, in my early 20s, it brought me back to Texas. We wrote the whole Before trilogy in Austin, and Boyhood we shot in Houston and Austin. There’s a great Larry McMurtry line that says something like, “You can’t leave Texas without permission.” I always kind of felt that it calls you back. You know, my mother was 18 when I was born, and she took me to Connecticut. I kinda felt like I was taken from Texas without permission, and so I’m always finding myself back there.

Matthew: Were you living there again when you met Richard [Linklater], or was it just to make those movies?

Ethan: It was really just work that had brought me back there. I have wanted to move back there, but I have a bunch of kids and it keeps me oriented in New York. But, like you, it’s kind of mysterious-I don’t really know. Sometimes I hear this in your music, too. A lot of the negative aspects of the South get played up a lot. One of the reasons why I wanted to make Blaze is because there is a strong Bohemian streak throughout the South that’s intellectual, progressive, Bohemian, that’s rural. One of the things I love about [Kris] Kristofferson is that he kind of represents a man I knew a lot growing up: a person who grew up rural, who is not afraid of a fight, and is very progressive, that saw this country as a democracy, who believed in the unwavering equality of mankind and was willing to work hard for it. We have Willie, but you don’t hear a lot about that, and part of the love of making Blaze was getting to wave the flag of Southern Bohemia.

Matthew: I think you succeededI was really moved by it. I think biopics can be tricky. I’ve known a lot more about Blaze Foley in the last two years, but before that he just got put in that little [category] of “outlaw troubadour dude.” Like, I knew he got shot, but I’d always assumed for years he’d been shot in a bar fight. That’s just how their stories go, y’know? Southern Bohemian country, and the outlaw thing, I think to me it seems like a code for these kinds of people to find each other.

Ethan: Yeah, yeah, like-minded souls.

Matthew: Exactly. I think it was great that you tapped into that whole thing. Because, to me, [biopics] seem rife with traps to fall into that would so easily make it sentimental or cheesy. But the way you did it, it was great.

Ethan: Thanks. You know, I do really despise the phrase “biopic,” to be honest. One of the things I really enjoyed about making Blaze was that so many people know nothing about him. I could just use his story to talk about a life in the arts. Do you think Raging Bull is about Jake LaMotta? It wasn’t reallyit was about life and feelings and human stuff. But if you’re doing Ray Charles or Johnny Cash or one of these definitive biopics, you get trapped in impersonation, and you get trapped in their mythology. But I’ve known so many great artists in my life who were met with absolute indifference. Every time I see a biopic, there’s always that inevitable scene where they make it big, you know, and it’s almost like making it big is what made their life worthwhile. And so it was like, I wanted to make a biopic about someone who never makes it big, for fuck’s sake! And so Blaze was perfect for that.

Matthew: Exactly. You’re right. Yours wasn’t like that, and I liked that.

Ethan: I’m wondering, have you ever covered any of Townes [Van Zandt’s] songs?

Matthew: I did, yeah. There was a compilation that came out a few years back [More Townes Van Zandt], and I’ve played tons of songs over the years, but as far as recording, just this song called “Why She’s Acting This Way.” Do you know that one?

Ethan: No, I don’t know that one off the top of my head.

Matthew: It’s a weird, deeper cut. It’s got this sort of weird flute. You know on some of those Townes records how the production got sort of crazy.

Ethan: Yeah, like his production of Flyin’ Shoes is pretty strange.

Matthew: Yeah, exactly!

Ethan: That whole record, you’re not sure what he’s going for.

Matthew: “Pancho and Lefty,” for example, is just a stunner of a tune. I think that’s the reason he became a sort of modern classic.

Ethan: You know how they put one of Chuck Berry’s songs on a vinyl and sent it into space? For me, if I had to send a ship into outer space and had to represent the mass of American poetry, I would put “Pancho and Lefty” on there.

Matthew: Yeah. What a tune, right?

Ethan: It’s so strange and mysterious, I can listen to it over and over and over again-you’re never quite sure what happens. It somehow touches everything. There’s a great quote he said about it, that it was about two Mexican banditos he saw in a movie two weeks after he wrote the song. [Laughs]

Matthew: And Charlie Sexton [who plays Van Zandt in Blaze]? Dude. He was phenomenal. He does him to a tee.

Ethan: Yeah! Doesn’t he do an amazing job?

Matthew: How did you know he was going to be able to pull that off?

Ethan: Well, Charlie and I met… Charlie had a small part in Boyhood, so we got to know each other over the years. I started talking to him about acting. He was really interesting to talk to about acting, he’s very serious about it. He’s intrigued by it, and he thinks about it the right way. I did this movie where I played Chet Baker [Born to Be Blue] and the whole time I kept thinking about Charlie and how much better he would be in this part. And then when I sat down to write this movie about Blaze, I thought, “God, who the hell could play Townes Van Zandt? Any normal actor would look like such a poser.” I thought, “The guy who plays Townes Van Zandt has to actually play.” And then I thought of Charlie. He helped me work on the script, and he was brilliant. He was so much fun to work with. He went down a rabbit hole in that part. It was part of the idea of making that movie: Blaze is a musician and one that most people haven’t heard of, so I felt that in the subconscious of the movie he would be right. You know, nothing is more irritating than watching some really famous, amazing person talk about how hard it is to not be famous.

I also wanted to tell you, I feel really lucky as a fan of yours to get this early cut of your new LP. It’s so good! I’ve only had it for three days, but I’ve listened to it and feel so moved by it. It seems like the perfect follow-up. I know that your last album [Muchaco] is sort of the work that most people know you for. In my mind, all of your work has been incredibly consistent. It’s always interesting. I can listen to all of those records over and over again, but this one I’m so excited about. You did this one in Nashville?

Matthew: Yeah. I wound up building a studio down here, actually, almost by accident. I got an old console down here, from the 1970s, and it kind of dictated everything that came after it. It required a bunch of space for it, then I had to have a lot of wires run, and build a room in the house that I found. I guess I spent more than I probably should have, but yeah, that’s the end result of that, at least. [Laughs]

Ethan: There’s a title on there, “My Beautiful Boy”...

Matthew: Yeah, “My Beautiful Boy.”

Ethan: I was so touched by that song.

Matthew: Thank you. To be honest, I almost took it off. I had two kids since the last record, I have a four-year-old and a two-year-old.

Ethan: It really moved me, I have to tell you. I cranked it up. I’m in a strange place right now, I have a 16-year-old son. There’s this strange thingand I hope he doesn’t mind me saying it-but I feel I’ve never been in love with a man before. I’m watching him turn into a man. I’ve never really been like, “Wow, he looks great in that shirt!” before. I’m in love with him, you know? I’m in love with him like I was when he was four. You’re gonna be amazed, but watching a boy turn into a manit’s cliché to even speak on it, but the word “profound” fails. It’s mystical, and it’s strange. You see this guy, and you see his mother in him, and you see yourself in him, and you see your dad in him. That songthere’s just something I love about how you have a way of being very, very simple and being very penetrating at the same time. And, that’s always what I think the goal isthere’s a joke I used to make, and it’s if someone gives you an award for acting that means you’ve failed, because they saw you acting. You really do it welland I think you’re just being yourself.

Matthew: That’s it, yeah.

Ethan: Your music, even when the production value is really intensewhere my intellectual brain knows a lot of work went into itit feels easy. It feels effortless. It feels natural. When it feels easy like that, it’s really enjoyable to listen to over and over again. I feel that way about this new record.

Matthew: That’s really funny, because that was the running joke across this record, how much hard work it was to get it to sound like that. [Laughs]

Ethan: That’s the thing! With this movie, Blaze, the lead actor who plays Blaze Foley [Ben Dickey] is a musician who’d never acted before. We went to Sundanceand my whole life, I’ve been asked these same questions, like “What was the hardest thing about playing this role?” And you have to say things like, “Well, learning to play the trumpet” or “learning to ride a horse” or “understanding Russian,” or, I don’t know, whatever, some dumb answer. And it was so funnyhe said, “You know, the hardest part was acting.” [Laughs] “That was really hard, pretending I was someone else in a believable fashion.” It’s all the simple stuff that’s really frickin’ hard.

Matthew: I don’t think I’ve ever seen any footage of Blaze, so there was never anything that took me out of the movie, or made me think, “Oh, this guy is acting.” But, then again, I’ve seen a ton of footage of Townes and I never felt that way watching Charlie [Sexton], either.

Ethan: You have to kind of tip your hat to the mythology without doing an imitation. What’s great about Charlie is his life and music are in his eyes. He has things to offer. One of the things that always makes a good performance is when you have something to say about this world. There’s a reason people should pay 14 bucks or whatever to hear what you have to say. Charlie has something to say about musicwhen we first started doing this, I thought if he could put all that he’s learned and all that he knows about his years on the road, his life in music, the people that he’s met, the disappointments and heartbreaksif he could put that into his character, then we wouldn’t be getting some reheated meal. We’d be getting an actual, creative act in the frame of using the legend of Townes Van Zandt to tell a story. You really need to make it personal. If it’s not personal, it’s not interesting.

There was one thing I thought you might get a kick out of. Have you ever crossed paths with Kristofferson in your journeys?

Matthew: Yeah, but only to say hello and chit-chat for a second. Not in any real fashion.

Ethan: Leading up to doing this interview, I was thinking about what I could say to this guy that might be interesting to him. Can I tell you a story about Kristofferson on this movie?

Matthew: Yeah!

Ethan: It was interesting. He has a fascinating relationship at this point in his life with his memory. It comes and goes, and sometimes he remembers things and sometimes he doesn’t, and he’s really open about it. He’s very funny about the benefits of living in the moment when you don’t remember much. One of the most amazing experiences on the movieI spent a lot of time thinking about who could play Blaze Foley’s dad, and it seemed like an opportunity to do two things at once with Kris. One, if I cast him, he is sort of one of our fathers of outlaw country music, and to put a genuine, card-carrying icon in this small role seemed good. I also felt that it was this subliminal pat on the back to Ben [Dickey], as a musician who was starting to act. I always loved those stories of Dennis Hopper going to see Kristofferson play in some tiny club in L.A. and casting Kris in The Last Movie. The whole spirit of what those guys were up to I’ve always found endearing and inspiring. And so, what better father figure for Ben to have than a guy who was one of the best musician-actors that we know, right?

Matthew: Right.

Ethan: And so I wrote to him, and he agreed to come. He did his whole scene, it went really great, and we wrapped him and everybody applauded. His wife came up to me about an hour later and she said, “Kris is really unhappy.” And I go, “Why? What did we do?” She said, “He’s mad at himself because he forgot to do what he came here to do.” I said, “What do you mean? He did a great job!” She told me he really wanted to re-do his close-up. In the scene, his kids come to the hospital and play him a song. And, you know, I’m operating on so little time, and the idea of going backwards caused me physical pain. But, I think, “We’ve got Kris Kristofferson outside and he wants to come in and re-do close-ups, we’ve got to do it.” And so he comes back in and up to me, and he says, “You know, I get so used to everybody I meet wanting to play me a song. Sometimes I just turn off a little bit, and I just get polite. I forgot that I was acting, and this is my son and my daughter, and they’ve come to see me when I’m in the hospital. And you know what that means, don’t you?” I say, “No, what does it mean?” And Kris says, “Well, when you’re my age, it means you’re saying goodbye. That’s what it means, and I forgot to play that when you put the damn camera on.” And so we put the camera on him again, and he just openly cried in front of everybody. It was clear he was thinking about his own kids in his imagination. It was so beautiful, and what I found was so remarkable about it was that this was still an artist at work. I kinda thought he was just doing us a favor by being in the movie, but he had something to do there that day. It spoke to me so much about who that guy is.

Matthew: That scene is super moving…and yeah, he’s exactly right. Life should be about what’s happening here and now. I get hung up on thatit’s easy to wonder about what exactly the hell it is you’re doing, but nothing matters except the thing you’re making. Just staying true to that.

Ethan: And letting that be enough. I spend my whole life re-learning that lesson. My brain is always two feet ahead or behind me, regretting or anticipating something.

Matthew: I think you touch on that in this Blaze movie. There’s always a second layer of getting [your work] into the world in some way or having it serve a purpose.

Ethan: I sometimes think that songswell, your kids aren’t quite old enough yet, but get ready, Harry Potter is coming. With four kids, I’ve gone through those seven books four times now. I think sometimes too much about them, but in Harry Potter there are these Horcruxes, right? Where you can put your spirit into an object. Sometimes I think that’s what is in these songs. Even lesser-known Townes songs are almost infallible in their simplicity and beauty, and they’re lasting. His legend has only grown; he’s more famous now than he was when he was alive, and his music has gained more power. It’s almost like the best of these guys, the best of what they had to offer the world went into their songs, and that really was enough for them. Sorry my Harry Potter reference was kind of lame. [Laughs]

Matthew: Did you know Townes? Or, did you know Kris Kristofferson before this movie?

Ethan: I knew Kris, but I never knew Townes.

Matthew: Yeah, he died in the late ‘90s.

Ethan: He was around when I was around, and I had friends who had played with him. He was still playing clubs in New York when I was living there and starting acting. You know, at the end of his life he was playing with the Cowboy Junkies a little bit, and trying to make some very different records. But there’s so much pain there, and so much hurt that it’s something very real. In a way, for me, Townes was kind of a cartoon genius, a lot harder to write about and talk about. I think Blaze, to me, represents a working artist. I think Townes was on another level, with that level of mystery and enigma that some artists have where their lives almost don’t make sense. You know, interwoven songs, getting his teeth pulled…you don’t know if they’re true. I mean, the story he told about digging up Blaze’s body! [Laughs]

Matthew: You think he was just throwing coals onto the myth, that sort of thing?

Ethan: I don’t know. We’d have to ask people who were really his family and friends, but my feeling is that he understood that a certain amount of mythmaking was essential to selling music. I think there was no greater gift he could give to Blaze after he died than saying that he dug up his body to get the pawn slip back for his guitar [from Blaze’s suit pocket]. Because he knew that was the kind of thing that would get people talking about somebody, and that’s gonna end up selling records. It might take 25 years, but it’s just the kind of thing that catches a young filmmaker’s ear and makes him want to write a movie about him.

Matthew: That’s exactly right, yeah.

Ethan: You know, Dylan can be accused of that too. Johnny Cash. I got to work with Kristofferson a couple times, that’s how I knew him. It used to bother himI don’t know if it bothers him anymorethat Johnny Cash would always exaggerate their stories. Cash would tell a story about how Kris flew his helicopter and landed on his lawn to hand him the demo of “Sunday Morning Coming Down” with a beer in his hand. Kris would tell me, “Do you know how hard it is to fly a helicopter? I could never do it with a beer in my hand, and my demo tape!” [Laughs] “Is it true I can fly a helicopter? Yes. Is it true a made a demo tape and gave it to him? Yes. But I had to get June to give it to him.” Johnny would make up these larger-than-life tales, but it would generate a lot of the energy around his music.

Matthew: I wonder if stories like that would still land. Maybe these guys had teams who cooked up some of those stories, but I feel like a lot of them knew themselves, kind of intrinsically, which ones would land. There’s some quote by some writer, I can never remember who, but they said, “Never let the facts get in the way of the larger truth.” That’s always stuck with me. Maybe these guys weren’t trying to sell something, but create some magic in this world, or shed light on some magic that was already there. It didn’t matter whether a story was 100% true or not.

Ethan: I think that’s really well-said. I think the best versions of that are when artists push life just to its outer edges to shine a lot on how magical it is. It’s kind of awesome, in a way. That was Neal Cassady, too. Did Cassady really do all of those crazy things because he had to, or did he know what Jack Kerouac was writing about him? And, does it make a difference? In a way, maybe his life was his art. And so maybe he thought, “I’m gonna die getting run over by a train while counting railroad tracks.” There’s some part of me that thinks maybe he was always thinking of what would make a great story, and there’s some part of me that likes that.

Austin: There’s something you said at Sundance with the film, Ethan, about how it’s “the moments of spontaneity that people remember.” I’m wondering how that applies to each of your work?

Ethan: I was talking about how a lot of good art is building a room in which spontaneity can happen and be captured. Whenever I read a piece of writing, even, that feels too elaborately thought-out, it lacks juice to it. The reason why people love Jack Nicholson’s workthe reason why I love Jack Nicholson’s workis that you get this feeling that he didn’t always know he was going to do what he did. With Blaze, I was trying to create for Ben and Charlie an environment where they could just play. For example, one thing I noticed about Ben and Charlie was how much they love to tell jokes. And then I was listening to [Blaze Foley’s] Outhouse Tapes, and old Townes records, and I realized that Blaze and Townes loved to tell jokes. What’s the word you used for them? Like balladeer, or songsmith…

Matthew: Troubadour.

Ethan: Yeah, troubadour! Song-and-dance men, you know? Play a song, tell a joke, tell a story. And so just to get the guys relaxed before we roll, I’d ask them to tell a joke. Some of those we wound up using in the movie. The camera loves that shit. You can kind of tell by the way people are laughing and they’re looking, that they don’t know what’s going to happen next. It helps get the acting bug out of the room. Do you have that in recording, too?

Matthew: Oh, yeah. There’s nothing that sucks it all out of the room than focusing too much on the mechanics of something. The trick is to make it appear effortless, I guess. But as you said, the work is building that space, and if you do that right you’ll be able to capture it when it happens. I don’t rehearse, you know, because then I feel like when I do it I’m just reciting something. A lot of songs on the record are first or second takes. I recorded a lot of them before they were really writtenlike, I didn’t have the lyrics yet, I just kind of had an idea of where I was going with it. But I had everyone in town already, so we put some time in and just recorded. No one thought these would be the actual takes, we were just playing while the tape was rolling. But that’s the story behind a lot of great, old records, as well.

Ethan: Oh, yeah. All those Elvis Sun recordings, they were just rehearsing.

Matthew: Those takes were always inevitably better than the later versions. I even tried to overdub some stuff, and bring some guys back down to see if they could do something better, but we never reached that original potential when we were just being musicians and doing what we do.

Ethan: I always think about the opening track of [Bob Dylan’s] Nashville Skyline. You’re just listening to Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan sing, and they don’t get the lyrics right. One starts a verse, the other starts another verse, they’re clearly off, but it’s so beautiful. You can listen to it again and again, and it always sounds like two friends playing a song that one wrote and the other didn’t quite know. It’s those mistakes that make it.

Matthew: Absolutely. You just have to run with it and see what happens.

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