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FATHER J0HN MISTY & POOR MOON Eavesdropping on a pair of multitalented, Fleet Foxes-affiliated songwriters
P.O.S An anarchist dance party with Doomtree’s “Plain Ole Stef”
ith an ear for diversity and a
mind for critical thought, Stefon Alexander—better known as rapper P.O.S—has maintained operations as a multi-instrumentalist by day and rap artist by night. The early-30-something is a man whose DIY/punk upbringing aligns him more with Ian MacKaye than Kanye West, and that’s reflected in his many and assorted rock-band roles, including his current gig as keyboardist/vocalist for Marijuana Deathsquads.
INTRO BY Michael Danaher / Photo by Chona Kasinger
After playing in such acts as Pedro the Lion and Crystal Skulls, Poor Moon’s Christian Wargo and Casey Wescott found themselves as part of Seattle minstrels Fleet Foxes. Fellow talent Joshua Tillman—formerly known as J. Tillman—too became part of that equation, and the three partook in the band’s troubadour-ish tales and lovelorn harmonies. But while Wargo and Wescott began a classically folk-based side project called Poor Moon, Tillman decided to leave Fleet Foxes all together, beginning a new chapter as Father John Misty. Here Tillman and Wargo talk about evolving as songwriters, playing what you play versus playing what you like, and not singing like a sad wizard. Joshua Tillman: I remember walking into your closet room on Capitol Hill [in
Seattle] and seeing the complete Beatles songbook there. That was a really indelible image. I, at the time, recognized this huge chasm between the music that I was playing and the music that I liked, and those two things took a long time to intersect. Christian Wargo: Whenever I would get stuck or bored with my set of chords, I would go in and Paul [McCartney] would teach me a new chord or sequence of chords. You only need a handful to get yourself going and recognize how a change in a song works and why it’s so satisfying, and delay the gratification with these other chords and then drop this one in there. JT: It’s that deliberate-writing thing that I didn’t come into until recently. I don’t know that I could actually write a J. Tillman song anymore. Once you rip that membrane and you don’t believe in yourself as that person anymore, it’s almost impossible to go back to that. CW: [When I wrote the song “Clouds Below”] I kind of channeled what I perceived
Neil Young would do, and I literally took on the character of his voice. I will do that, even jokingly, if I’m stuck while writing. The lyrics sound less corny if you sing it with Neil Young’s voice. JT: I’m constantly ad-libbing songs in different genres and making words rhyme.
There was some weird little switch that flipped where I was like, “If I make the lyrics good and de-cheesify them a little bit while they’re still humorous…” That realization was like, “Dude, you have a big voice. Why are you singing like a sad wizard? That’s not what comes out of you when you are just singing in the moment or singing for fun.”
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But no matter the project, Alexander continues to reinvent himself with each release. His latest as P.O.S, We Don’t Even Live Here, is a testament to his 360-degree perspective of both music and the world we live in. Here he discusses what has changed in his life as well as the new album’s danceable vibe and anti-capitalist theme. Is your life different on a personal level since you released Never Better in 2009? It really is—completely, actually. I think in the time between finishing Never Better, hitting the road to tour, and sitting down to start this one, my views on the way the world works are entirely different. I was
The many sides of stef When Stefon Alexander isn’t performing under the alias P.O.S, he keeps busy with an assortment of other projects, including his Minnesota rap collective Doomtree, the freak-out futurepunk group Marijuana Deathsquads (borne from hardcore band Building Better Bombs), and contributions to the Gayngs megacollaboration (founded by Deathsquads bandmate Ryan Olson). Overwhelmed? Here are a few selections from his discography to stay up to speed.