“Only ever be the girl who just almost died in my house,” Father John Misty sings on “Strange Encounter,” off his latest album under this moniker, I Love You Honeybear. If we’re being honest, every run in with Josh Tillman is a bit of a strange encounter.
No one knows that better than Amy, a woman Tillman pulled on stage during his Coachella performance last year. He asked her if she’d help a strange dream of his come true, and, being the good sport she was, Amy agreed. She found herself in a rather Kubrick-esque moment, sitting on a wicker chair covered in balloons and surrounded by flowers, giant teddy bears, and dancers in white robes and elephant masks while the band played Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man.” Tillman sang right to her, sitting in her lap and stroking her hair.
As Father John Misty, it’s par for the course for Tillman, whose songs are filled with sharp observations delivered in a crooning stream of consciousness. Those sharp observations are mostly directed at modern American culture: his favorite color is “capitalist green,” for example, and he often calls out audience members holding their smartphones in the air throughout his sets. (During the first of two recent performances at the Observatory in Santa Ana, he grabbed a fan’s iPhone for a stage selfie. “Now you can just stare at that the whole show,” he quipped.)
With Coachella 2016 right around the corner, we’re bummed that the festival will be lacking FJM’s particular brand of oddity. In his honor (and as a gentle nudge to Goldenvoice ahead of planning the 2017 lineup), we decided to look back on three of our favorite Father John moments.
Two hours of acerbic wit comes free with every ticket to a Father John Misty show. That plus some banter that makes no grand social or political statement at all: at Coachella last year, he implored everyone to take a moment, in the name of safety, and asked, “Does everyone have a lightsaber? Get one for you and your family.”
Thank God for social media, because it allowed Tillman to live-tweet a terrible Tinder date he witnessed in L.A. “Dude went in strong exploiting presumed insecurities///she is talking about energy spheres///lots of mock accents happening///very steamy,” he wrote. He kept it up for about two hours.
“My interpretation of Ryan Adam’s classic album, 1989”
Tillman’s antics could be dismissed as a novelty; he is a clever puppeteer in control of the press, who will write about anything (or so he’s convinced). And that’s not our hypothesis. It’s his own. He proved it single-handedly when he recently covered Ryan Adams’ Springsteen-esque cover of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” and “Welcome to New York,” which he recorded in the style of the Velvet Underground. He took it down, though, because he claimed Lou Reed told him to in a dream. If that sounds like nonsense to you, you’re absolutely right.
“I was annoyed at the media,” Tillman explained to Louisville’s 91.9. “I was like, ‘These people will print anything,’ so I went and gave them the most fraudulent, the most blatantly absurd, unprintable piece of surrealistic nonsense—and they printed it!” And he was correct—we ran with the story ourselves. (To be fair, it seemed reasonable coming from him.)