Loose Strife

An MP3 blog

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

#6 - A chat with Bright Eyes, breakfast in Minneapolis, boys that want lovers they don't have to love

“A Lover I Don’t Need To Love “ – Bright Eyes

This interview with singer/songwriter Conor Oberst (aka: that Bright Eyes dude) was conducted over early afternoon bloody marys at a killer Minneapolis breakfast/lunch cafe called Hell's Kitchen (89 South 10th Street), right around the corner from the landmark Let It Be Records. We mainly drank, but it should be noted that their wild rice porridge---made with cream and berries and toasted hazelnuts---is to die for. Ditto the breakfast bruschetta with marscapone, their homemade lemon-vanilla yogurt, as well as the homemade blackberry jam, orange marmalade, and chunky peanut butter (spiked, I’m guessing, with candied peanuts—an inspired touch) that arrives at your the table on a condiment tray for free (!). Easily one of the top ten breakfast joints I’ve ever eaten in. The original Ralph Steadman art on the walls only makes it tastier.

Conor Oberst has very thin, very beautiful hands that tremble when he lifts his glass. This makes me worry for him in a paternal way---though by our second round, the trembling has stopped. He fingers his string necklace, a gift from Todd Baeschle (now Todd Fink, having taken his wife’s last name; very cool), a childhood friend from Omaha who fronts The Faint. His band opened for Bright Eyes last night at an all-ages show at my beloved First Avenue, where I spent literally hundreds of night watching bands back in college in the ‘90s, and did an absolutely glorious version of the Neutral Milk Hotel song “Holland 1945,” which, with all due respect to his royal Conor-ness, was the highlight of the evening (Jeff Mangum, where ARE you? You are SO FUCKING MISSED! Olivia Tremor Control are reuniting – come on, dude! You don’t even have to call yourself Neutral Milk Hotel. Just make music for us again!)

Conor [sipping and making a puzzled face]: These taste, uh….
Loose Strife: Funny, weird. Interesting….yeah, I know! Apparently, the history of Bloody Marys holds that the drink was originally made with beer in it. Here in Minnesota it usually gets served with a little glass of beer called a “beer back.” But as a point of pride, these guys make it old school, and actually mix the beer in….
C: Huh. It’s pretty good, actually.
LS: Yeah. This place is great. Sorta goth. I thought you’d like it….Hey, I thought you just drank red wine? You were drinking beer onstage last night.
C: Yeah, I’ve been diversifying [smirks].
LS: So I wanted to ask you a few things. Has your life been threatened since singing “The President Talks To God” on the Tonight Show? I thought that was so amazing….
C: Surprisingly, no. I…
LS: I….sorry to interrupt…but I remember when Sinead O’Connor tore up the picture of the pope on Saturday Night Live, which is the only TV moment I can really compare it too, and she caught no end of shit for it. Frank Sinatra dissed her….
C: Well, he’s dead, so I guess I’m safe there. I heard there were lots of fucking right-wing nutjobs writing stuff on the internet…
LS: Well, yeah---that’s what they do, when they’re not fucking up the world. Where’d you get your outfit? It was totally Travis Tritt!
C: The rhinestone shirt I got from the Omaha Salvation Army; that hat I got in Nashville.
LS: Did Emmylou Harris hook you up with the haberdasher?
C: No, actually, I
LS: She’s so hot, my god…she must be like 60. Is she single?
C: Uh, no. [glances around room like he’s looking for someone to rescue him]
LS: Sorry, sorry---I know, that sounded sleazy…I’ve just always had this thing for her.
C: She was so totally nice when I met her; she was like your super-cool aunt with a million stories….she’s really seen some shit.
LS: Wow. [interviewer, obviously braindead in the headlights of a star, fails to ask the painfully obvious follow-up “what were some of her stories?” Sorry.] So I read online about the line you ended the song, um….
C: What song?
LS: “When The President Talks To God,” on Leno with…
C: Oh. That phrase “Fil mish mish,” you mean? It’s Arabic for…
LS: It’s like slang for “when pigs fly” or something?
C: It literally means “when apricots bloom in spring,” I think---it’s basically Arab street slang for “I doubt it,” which is the last line in the song.
LS: Where did you learn it?
C: A friend in Los Angeles, an Iraqi girl. She taught it to me. I figured if I was gonna be on TV all over the world, I should at least say something to the millions of Arabs that hate our guts because of our fucked-up President. That he doesn’t speak for all of us.
LS: Right on, brother….So I liked the show last night. It was definitely a different vibe than the Leno performance. Very new wave. Like you were a different person, almost.
C: Yeah, well, it’s a different thing.
LS: So I gotta ask you something: I’ve noticed that, after years of girls yelling “Conor I Love You!” at every show you play, more boys are yelling it now. At the shows I saw last year, it seemed about split---half girls professing their love, half boys. But last night it was definitely more boys. What’s up with that?
C: You think? That’s disappointing [smiles]. No, seriously, that’s always kinda weird no matter who’s saying it. Actually, I’m cooler with hearing guys say it, ‘cause…..um….I dunno, actually. Maybe ‘cause it seems less, like, exploitative….
LS: Exploitative of the fans?
C: Maybe that’s not the right word. Less, um….I don’t feel as responsible for the guys yelling it, I guess.
LS: But they might love you just as much as the girls, yeah?
C: I doubt it…Fil mish mish [laughs]
LS: But what do you think they’re latching onto? I noticed a LOT of guys singing along to “Lover I Don’t Need To Love.” Like sports-bar guys, not the sort of guys you’d expect to be Bright Eyes fans.
C: Well, that’s good, I guess---right? You don’t want to always just preach to the converted.
LS: Sure. But it’s the classic fallacy of authorial intent. I hear that song, and I perceive it to be equally about a boy and a girl, the boy singing the first verse, the girl the second. And it’s so sad, and empathetic to both of them --- about how love is painful, and yet we all have this weirdly masochistic desire to be hurt, again and again…
C: Uh-huh… [nodding and scanning room]
LS: …But watching these guys sing along, it seemed like they were just reducing the complexities of the song to “I want a girl I can fuck and forget about in the morning”---like it’s some anthem to the boring, stereotypical unwillingness of guys to be emotionally available for any longer than it takes them to shoot a load.
C: Well, you can’t control the way some people are going to interpret your music…But the song is sort of about that, too, really. And…well, don’t you think that’s a little condescending? You don’t know how sensitive these guys might be, or what they’re feeling. They might be hearing the same things you are, feeling the same things you are.
LS: Yeah, well, I guess. But I doubt it. Fil mish mish, right? [laughs stupidly]
C: [Standing up] Hey, I really gotta go, dude. I gotta get back to meet the guys in the band. Thanks for the drinks.
LS: Dude, thanks so so much for talking to me. You are, like, my hero.
C: No problem.….What’s the name of your site again? I’m sorry---I’m out of it….
LS: Loose Strife. It’s a flower. But it’s about music and sadness and blogs and food and self-loathing and other stuff too.
C: Cool. [reaches out to shake LS’s hand while looking him directly in the eye, very sincerely. Note: Conor’s fingers are remarkably delicate.]
LS: Thanks, dude. See you around.
C: See ya. [walks quickly towards front of restaurant and out the front door, turning left towards his hotel on Nicollet Mall. LS finishes the last gulp of his Bloody Mary, then reaches over and finishes the rest of Conor’s. The waitress, a tall, big-boned, quintessentially Midwestern goth chick with a rat’s nest hairdo that’s dyed half green and half blonde shoots LS a faintly disgusted smirk.]


"Lover I Don't Have To Love"

I picked you out
Of a crowd and talked to you
Said I liked your shoes
You said thanks can I follow you?
So it's up the stairs
And out of view
No prying eyes
I poured some wine
I asked your name you asked the time
Now it's two o'clock,
the club is closed we're up the block
Your hands on me
Pressing hard against your jeans
Your tongue in my mouth
Trying to keep the words from coming out
You didn't care to know
Who else may have been you before
I want a lover I don't have to love
I want a girl who's too sad to give a fuck
Where's the kid with the chemicals?
I thought he said to meet me here but I'm not sure
I got the money if you got the time
You said it feels good I said I'll give it a try
Then my mind went dark
We both forgot where your car was parked
Let's just take the train
I'll meet up with the band in the morning
Bad actors with bad habits
Some sad singers
They just play tragic
And the phone's ringing
And the van's leaving
Let's just keep touching
Let's just keep keep singing
I want a lover I don't have to love
I want a boy who's so drunk he doesn't talk
Where's the kid with the chemicals
I got a hunger and I can't seem to get full
I need some meaning I can memorize
The kind I have always seems to slip my mind
But you but you
You write such pretty words
But life's no story book
Love is an excuse to get hurt
And to hurt
"Do you like to hurt?"
"I do! I do!"
"Then hurt me."


Post a Comment

<< Home