Musicscan: Are sad songs more worthwhile or do they seem more profound to you somehow?
The Good Life: Yes, to me, but also do a lot of other people. I mean music serves a lot of purposes. For a lot of people that I am in touch with, including myself, are more interested in being more profound in lyrics and sad music tends to have that effect that songwriters are always searching for. It is like that in most mediums of art, but music serves a ton of different purposes and it is so subjective so that there is no wrong way to perform, I guess.
Musicscan: Since your songs come across as being quite personal, I was wondering how much of them is still fictitious?
The Good Life: I think I am getting better at broadening more fictitiously. It might actually be more common for writers to say I am getting better at being personal, but that is where I come from, where a lot of us were going for from the start was being too personal. So I have been experimenting how to be more fictional, just because I love storytelling. But fiction is almost always based on peoples personal narratives and I am no different.
Musicscan: Personal is always conceived as being more authentic for some reason, but fiction can be quite authentic and well done, too. Do you think there is even a difference between the personal and the fictional?
The Good Life: Yes, there is, but then you get into autobiographical stuff or documenting or storytelling. Fiction is personal most often, but I think that stronger writers can write less personally. Maybe I should say the more fictitious you can write and really pull it off to the point where it is really believable, that impresses me. I have been trying to push into that more. I dont think Album Of The Year is a very good example of that, because it is slightly fictitious at best.
Musicscan: But can you influence how you are perceived even? For the people it might be the same thing, if you are telling a story that is totally made up or if you are telling about your own experiences?
The Good Life: Can you influence how you are perceived? I am not sure what angle you are taking on that. Something I thought of is at least for music or for albums the artwork is hugely influential for how it is perceived, but I am not sure if that is what you were getting at.
Musicscan: I was more getting at the fact that when people talk about The Good Life, they always talk about your lyrics and how they are based on your own life and your experiences and it is thus conceived as authentic. If you tell totally made up stories, it might be just as authentic to people or put differently: Isnt authenticity always constructed through certain information conveyed and by the way the media portrays you?
The Good Life: Yes, but I am not sure. For me personally, there is some kind of mistake that people have heard so much about what I go through personally. That was a mistake that was born years ago when the Cursive record Domestica came out. It was actually part of the bio for the press release that I was recently divorced and ever since then it has been following me. You could maybe compare that to a really strong fiction writer who is writing such an incredibly personal narrative and nobody knows.
Musicscan: I guess in the end it is always up to the people what they make out of it.
The Good Life: Yes, although when people find out or when they feel it is not personal they feel somehow cheated. The way it affected them is no longer accurate or real. And I found for the position I am in, it is a big deal for people. If they feel it is somehow fabricated or manufactured, they feel cheated. Maybe even rightfully so, because in the music industry right now there is this problem of people manufacturing things, for example Emo being a tag and the amount of dollars brought from peoples pain. If it werent manufactured than it would feel like the man behind the curtain or the Oz or something like that.
Musicscan: I just saw you guys play the Sarah Kuttner TV show a couple of days ago and it felt pretty weird with the studio setting and the generally awkward atmosphere. Do you feel comfortable doing things like that?
The Good Life: Well, all we had was people telling us about what the Sarah Kuttner show was and initially it was only called VIVA and I didnt know that that was only a TV show on that channel. For the most part it was just really boring, because it was just sitting around for hours on a day off when I would have loved to have done something else. But on the other hand, experiences like that are interesting. I dont see TV sets that often, so it was kind of fun.
Musicscan: You dont have to deal with that in the States?
The Good Life: No, I have not been on a TV show that big in the States.
Musicscan: What makes for a great live show in your opinion?
The Good Life: I think when the room is one the same page, I think that is what makes for a good show. So often it is just in peoples heads whether there is this unsaid vibe, if it even truly exists or not. I guess it is just in ones head. But if on one given evening, its in lets say 70% of peoples heads than you are all experiencing something similar and thats what I think makes better shows.
Musicscan: How important is the communication aspect for you during a show?
The Good Life: It probably depends on the band. Dont you think there are maybe some types of bands where the audience doesnt want communication? They want some real separation from whatever entity it is. Then there are also other bands like The Good Life where I think shows go better when there is as little barrier as possible between the band and the audience. I sense that that is what people prefer at least to me as a performer.
Musicscan: Is there a way you can influence the situation or do you just go in there and do your set and then react to whats happening?
The Good Life: I know that there are some laid back approaches I can take to a set, where I can really ease people into it in order to make it a warmer, closer or smaller experience for people. But coming back to manufacturing and whatnot, I only do it if I feel like it. For instance, we play similar sets every evening, but I have never been very comfortable with performers that say the same things every night and so I can never do that. I also dont want to write on the setlist in here: warm up the crowd or make sure that you say something or pick someone from the audience and make them feel like they are something special.
Musicscan: That is what I was going to ask you next anyway. How do you keep it fresh for yourself? I mean you are on the road probably eight or nine months out of the year.
The Good Life: Sometimes we will do small things like doing radically different setlists. Sometimes if we get really bored or if its unusual, like the Rotterdam show on this tour for example, we wrote every song on pieces of paper that we possibly knew how to play including songs we didnt really know how to play (laughs), including little joke things that I was setting up for the rest of the band and we threw all the songs in a glass and had people pick them. We figured if everyones playing the game, well play twelve songs and well just be a jukebox and play whatever comes up. Sometimes it really comes off as a ritual. Then it is really just up to you if you make it a good to or not. Isnt it like that with anything, though?
Musicscan: Yes, definitely. Totally different subject now. What is it with sex and Omaha bands? The Faint use it pretty much all the time and you use that theme quite frequently yourself.
The Good Life: Oh good question. I mean we have our different scenes and we write about different things and different communities or different art forms deal with different things, but sex is prominent everywhere. I can probably only talk about myself personally, I dont know why The Faint does it or Conor Oberst does it. I write about relationships too much and I have been aware of it all along and I used to write less about it. But then more and more I was taking this approach of when you are writing these songs with these lyrics than that is just what you are tackling. That is also what a lot of people are turning to when a new Good Life or Cursive record comes out. So I dont really mind being that person, so if anyone is sexually aggravated or is having misgivings or are just interested in that similar content.
Musicscan: Wouldnt you say that sex is treated differently in the States compared to Europe for example? Sex is such an ambivalent issue in the States. On the one hand party made out to be a bad thing and it is stigmatized, but on the other hand everybody is, of course, into it. But you deal with it on a very honest and direct level that is hard to find in other American bands like that.
The Good Life: What is kind of cheap about me doing that even is that I realize how easy it is to write lyrics that really arent challenging sexually or anything like that, but how much of a reaction you can really get. I think we are on the same page, because we probably both wonder why. I havent really thought to notice that Americans and Europeans react differently towards it, though, but I think the fact that you are asking this question might be an example of it. It probably makes sense, at least as far as my personal experiences. There has always been that weird paradox that America is so conservative, because it seems so wild and unruly, but it is also so Christian. They would probably look at Hamburg as a pit of sin; I am sure many Americans would anyways. I am not saying that there are Americans running around saying dont go to Hamburg, but I can imagine that they probably would if they went there.
Musicscan: Do you think there is something particular about the people from the Midwest that also reflects in the music?
The Good Life: Yes, I recognize something particular about the East Coast, Midwest and West Coast, South and Southeast I should say. What these things are it is not always easy to put your finger on, because maybe I am not much of a sociologist to really go in depth with it. There is a lot of conservatism in the Midwest and so there is a lot of practicality. People have wondered a lot of why Saddle Creek came out of the Midwest and there have been a lot of different thoughts on that, but there is definitely something to the Midwest people. I would definitely say that. It is nothing unusual or anything like that. I am talking about subtleties of a country.
Musicscan: How much of your environment and immediate surrounding is reflected in your music? Is that an influence at all or do you think your music would sound the same if you decided to move to NYC for example?
The Good Life: Yes, I think it would, but especially if you grew up in New York or Los Angeles
well in the Midwest there is the whole concept of one in a million shot and it is impossible to succeed in it and to have any kind of career or any kind of success in the arts or any entertainment field. I think for people growing up in those big cities, the odds get a lot smaller and I think that ruins a lot. Maybe that would ruin different types of different mediums, but the mediums that Saddle Creek works on would be ruined or would not have been created in New York.
Musicscan: Adam Green just released his first book of poetry, I guess you could call it, in Germany. I had to think of you. Have you ever thought about doing something like that? Would something like that be appealing to you? Is that something you could also imagine doing after the bands?
The Good Life: No, not poetry, but I am interested in writing first and foremost. So I am working on just writing in general quite a bit. As far as my next steps are concerned, I always feel like it is too early to really get into it. But it is just storytelling again. It is like what I have been trying to do with music for years now, but pop songs are just pop songs and even if you try to branch it out to an entire album, which is what I have been trying to do. I thought maybe if I take every song of the album, it will make some overall story like with Album Of The Year. But it is still so disabling and defining, because they are only these little bits, these little segments of storytelling. I would like to have a more relaxed and open page. I think I want to try to coincide my writing with the music or do it alongside with it. For as long as I have done music know, which is about 15 or 16 years, I get something that I want to keep doing and there is also something that feels good and that is flattering about people being interested in albums and when you are a songwriter and people are interested in your next album. That makes me want keep doing it. Maybe their interest sparks my own interest. Maybe I am interested in what the next record is going to be like as well. I have considered not doing it anymore, but I have talked myself out of it. This just happened over the last year, I guess.
Musicscan: Since you are such a busy person, is there even time for experiences and relationships that you are describing in your lyrics?
The Good Life: I mean I have toured too much now, or rather I was touring too much. I actually only have two tours this year. This one is half over and then I am going to do the US with The Good Life and then I have the rest of the year off and I have the rest of my life off in the sense that I havent scheduled anything. That is all deliberate, not to find a young woman and settle down with, but to actually pursue writing and to actually have time to take any of these weird experiences and turn them into something.
Musicscan: What do you think has to be the incentive for people to go out and purchase a record these days?
The Good Life: I think that is a really good question. Personally, if I feel some kind of connection to an artist or to a songwriter or to the music that they have written then I want to go out and buy the record and be part of or momentarily become part of their community and what it is that they do. Maybe the incentive goes back to what we talked about a bit earlier, about personal narrative and about being personalized perhaps. I think if an artist really means something to you, you would want to be more of a part of it than downloading a track can ever offer you. Youd want the artwork and youd want to feel good about contributing to that. Something like that maybe. I mean you are right, what is the incentive? For me it is easier as a songwriter, because it is currently my career and so I feel that responsibility for other music that I am interested in. I feel the responsibility to go out there and purchase it, but that is coming from a different perspective.
Musicscan: Yes, definitely. It is a very optimistic perspective, too. Do you think that songwriters maybe will have to approach their songs differently or just work with a different concept of what a song is or should be? Can the compact disc still be the medium of the future?
The Good Life: This is kind of answering your question, even though maybe in a different way. I have put a lot of effort into the artwork. I could be wrong, but I feel like I am getting a little bit of a reputation for what the artwork is going be like and what the subject matter of the artwork is going to be. If that became more of a necessity for a listener or a fan, then maybe could be an incentive, but it is very hard to say. I personally think the artwork is really important and it is an important aspect of the music, but that is coming from the fucker who made the artwork (laughs). I mean there is a big argument about the physicality of anything, of what you can hold in your hands. Or take the example of film. Has the film box ever been such a big deal to anybody or if you could download any film you wanted from here on then does anyone care to hold a DVD or a VHS tape in their hand? Probably not. With music it is the same thing. It is a fight. Vinyl still exists because there is still a small community that feels like they need it in their hands and they still want to be a part of it physically. Will that last? Probably. If vinyl would have died the way cassettes have, then what would our argument be? There is not much strength behind the CD case. Even when I say that I do buy these albums, the artwork doesnt last in my hands very long and if I lose it I dont really care. But I am also not a CD collector but I do collect vinyl, because I find it attractive.