Candy Hearts's latest EP, The Best Ways to Disappear, is available now.
So apparently you were kicked out of your first punk band?
Yeah, I was. [laughs]
I have to ask–do you know what your old bandmates are up to now and if they're aware of Candy Hearts?
Yeah, they're really supportive of it. They all work jobs in [New York] city, I'm pretty sure. I don't know, they're nice guys, so it was just kind of funny. They were my friends through high school and stuff.
Oh, ok. So not a totally acrimonious break up, I guess.
No, not at all. Though they did say that having a girl (bandmate) was bad for their image and that was reason. [laughs] But, you know, whatever.
I'm pretty sure you got the last laugh, so…it worked out.
Your second full-length was called Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy. Are you and the rest of the band fans of Louis CK?
Yeah, we are. We really like him. I'm not even a huge fan of standup comedy and he's one of the only comics that I really like. The other guys though, they love stand up and they actually introduced me to it.
What was it about that particular bit that inspired you to name the album after it?
I think one of the songs on the full-length had to do with kind of accepting the fact that things aren't always perfect, even when they're pretty good. We felt like that title really went along with that theme.
It's a great title. There's a wistful quality to a lot of Candy Hearts songs and I feel like that title really encapsulates that super well.
Yeah, I agree.
Some of your songs really remind me lyrically of early Liz Phair, but I don't see that comparison made a lot. Are you and the rest of the band fans?
Yeah, she's great. We love stuff like that. That's a huge compliment, thank you!
Certainly. Now, as I understand it, before Candy Hearts, you and [guitarist] Kris [Hayes] were in a project that could be described as country. Are there any country artists that some of your punk fans might be surprised that you listen to?
I feel like it shouldn't be surprising, but I definitely love Taylor Swift. I don't know if she should totally count as country any more. I like the Dixie Chicks a lot. I'm trying to think of who Kris likes, because Kris really likes country, like old country. People like Justin Townes Earle. But yeah, we like country and folk a lot. Do you think those influences can be heard in Candy Hearts at all?
Yeah, I definitely think it influences the band. I find myself writing things that are a little bit country and I try to tone it down or save it for something else because I think it might not be right for Candy Hearts. But you can definitely hear a little bit of a country influence in our more acoustic songs, like the way we arranged the cover on the 7-inch and the acoustic version of "Miles and Interstates."
You've mentioned before how it can be kind of nerve-wracking to think about how people you know might react to your songs–like your family. I was wondering if you ever thought about whether potential romantic interests might be scared off by the possibility that they might end up in one of your tunes. Have you had any experiences like that?
I actually did. There was this guy and he came to one of our shows and was acting so weird. We were talking about hanging out for so long and he was acting so weird. And I was like, "why are you acting so weird? I thought you wanted to hang out with me." He invited me over, he came to our show. And he was like, " Listen, I just don't think it's a good idea to hang out with you. Hearing all those songs about boys doing you wrong and stuff, I just don't want to be one of those."
I mean, he wasn't wrong, though, because I wrote "Bad Idea" [from The Best Ways to Disappear EP] about him. [laughs]
Oh, man. He became the single! That's like the worst thing that could've happened to him.
Well, he probably shouldn't have been so weird!
I'm curious about the first time-- at any point, even before Candy Hearts–that you sat down and wrote a song and became confident songwriting was something you could pursue seriously. What was the turning point for you in music?
Oh, geez, I don't really know. I'm gonna be honest that I go back and forth…I have a lot of anxiety about writing songs. Like I'll love a song that I write–I'll absolutely love it–and since I started playing guitar when I was a lot younger, I always felt that way, even though looking back now the songs were really bad. And then I would instantly change my mind and feel like I absolutely hated [the song in question], that's complete crap, I'm never going to be able to do this, no one would listen to this, it's terrible. And then I'll change my mind again about the same song. But I think what made me feel like we could pursue this full-time was just seeing those kids at our shows, hearing the first time that they sang along, and you know, came up to our merch table and wanted to take pictures with us and told us how much my songs meant to them. And it made me feel like maybe I don't have to be perfect, I could just do the best that I can and maybe somebody will like it.
Yeah, absolutely. Seems like more than a couple somebodies have liked it–myself included.
Yeah, definitely. So you were a songwriting minor in college, is that true?
Yeah, yeah I was.
In punk rock, we have a lot of people who are self-taught and come at being musician from a very unschooled perspective. Do you think your education has influenced your involvement with the band in any way?
Um, I think it helped me meet the people who were in my band. All the past members…the older members were all part of the music program at my college. But I don't think that it affected me in any way writing-wise because I don't really pull out all the music theory I know when I'm writing a song. I just kind of write what I hear in my head. And then maybe later if I'm stuck on something I can pull it out. But I tend to just do what I hear in my head versus what I think you're supposed to do based on what I learned.
Is that to say that the way you write Candy Hearts songs is at odds with what you learned?
No, I don't think it's against what I learned, though. Pop songs have a certain structure that most follow. [But] I kind of learned in school that you don't have to follow any sort of formula as long as it sound good to you, even though certain pop songs on the radio and stuff do. Like we have a couple songs that don't have choruses on our first record and a lot of shorter songs that maybe would be considered too short to be played on the radio, but they're all songs that I really like and when I listen to the record, those are the songs that I tend to really fall in love with. The ones that are kind of a little bit odd in structure.
Yeah. I recently watched a video of you covering "Bad Scene, Everyone's Fault" and that's totally a song with the no-chorus structure that works really well.
Yeah, the lyrics always change in that one.
It's unconventional but definitely successful. Which reminds me, I'm probably obligated to ask what you think the best Jawbreaker song is.
That's really tough. I change my mind depending on my mood. I definitely love Dear You the best, that's my favorite [album]. But for an actual song on the record, "Bad Scene, Everyone's Fault" I really love. But what's the one…I'm really bad at titles because my iPod is just like–I feel really old school with an iPod–but it's just like labeled "Track 1, 2, 3, 4." [Laughs] What's the one with the lyrics that are talking about playing video games alone?
Um, it's not "Fireman" is it?
No, I like that song a lot, though. It has a long title that sounds like a movie, like a Star Wars movie, or a video game name.
And it's on Dear You? See, now I have to look this up.
When you transcribe this, no one's gonna get that (laughs).
Is it "Lurker II: Dark Son of Night"?
Yeah, it's that one.
You can't go wrong with either of those picks. Those are both good picks.
I like every song on that record.
I'm a little shaky about "Oyster." What do you think about that song?
I like it, it's actually one of the first songs that got me in to Jawbreaker because it was more poppy. I know my friend bought me that record, and he was this great guy who would always do really nice things like that and I, uh, didn't really care, and I kind of threw it my car and much later, years later when I was moving away to college I picked it up and listened to it. And "Oyster" was the first song that I really liked. I started listening to that song and gradually started listening to the whole thing and I totally fell in love with it.
So this guy who you at least initially didn't appreciate. Did he become a muse for any Candy Hearts songs as well?
No, I always felt really bad because I was kind of mean to him in retrospect. But, I just want to be his friend. [Laughs] He definitely showed me all the good music that I currently like but didn't really appreciate as much then.
Now for the inevitable question…You've been outspoken about some of your experiences with sexism in rock music. What do you think needs to happen for the punk scene to handle gender issues better?
Well, I think it really has to start with girls. I mean, even when you criticize what someone's wearing. I read online that I was wearing shorts at a show. It was 100 degrees outside. I was wearing shorts and they were really short. And even if it's a compliment, someone being like "Oh my gosh, her ass is whatever" … Women are the ones who pick on each other the hardest I feel like, and whether they're criticizing someone's hair or weight or whatever it is, you're just making it okay for boys to do it. So I feel like it has to start with girls being more accepting of how everyone's different and just kind of keeping their minds open to the fact that not everyone has the same experience in life as you.
It's really cool that Candy Hearts toured with Allison Weiss earlier this year because I definitely see her and you as the kind of female musicians that really challenge a lot of the stereotypes. And I think when people are exposed to those kinds of examples they start to think about female participation in punk differently.
Allison really is a great example because she's really the mastermind behind her whole project and she runs her whole business. And I definitely have seen a lot of girls, especially on that tour, who were telling me that they were inspired to make music or pick up a guitar but they were afraid and having trouble finding bandmates because the boys that they knew who played wouldn't take them seriously. And just to help girls overcome that feeling of being insecure because they're not taken seriously is good enough for me. If I could help five girls just do that, I'd be happy.
You've mentioned being attracted to songwriting and playing guitar because you'd been a writer and a poet first. Who are some writers or poets that you've been reading lately?
Well, I've been really into Miranda July. I just really like the way she writes. I think it's really pretty. And I've been actually really into, really analyzing TV writing. Which I know, makes it sound like I'm just watching a lot of TV–which is true–but I'm actually looking at it for, you know, the writing of it. Like "Girls," I'm so excited for that show to come back on. I really like the way that Lena writes those characters. I think it's a really fresh take on a modern, feminist "Sex in the City." Not that "Sex in the City" wasn't feminist, but it's much more modern and younger. I think that female characters aren't often written as real as [Dunham's] are. I mean I know that's what all the critics say, but that's probably because it's true. [Laughs]
That's about all I have for you. Thanks for talking with me!
Thank you so much for interviewing me! Punknews rules.
I'll quote you on that.
You can. I'm sure the commenters will make fun of it, but…
Is there anything they don't make fun of?
I think I'd be upset if we weren't made fun of on punknews because I would feel like something weird was happening.