Do your songs come to you as effortlessly as they sound like they do?
The skeleton of the song usually comes really quickly, from fooling around on guitar or keyboard or building from a drumbeat. For my own sanity, I wish that stuff could come, and I could get it done in a day and move on. But I typically coop up for six to eight months when I’m making a record, laboring over a snare-drum sound or the right word for the bridge. When I’m in the midst of that, it seems very difficult.
The name change, the lyrical transformation—was that you feeling like the stuff you dug when you started out wasn’t what mattered to you at 30?
Definitely. I just wasn’t that interested in making overtly jokey music anymore, and I really didn’t enjoy the name of my band anymore. It was interesting for me to try to write a song about a science-fiction theme or a horror theme that was still, hopefully, moving and poignant. But my head is definitely at a different place than it was when I was 23.
How challenging is your lack of a full-time “band” when it comes time to tour?
I’ve toured as a four-piece, a trio, a duo and solo, and the instrumentation is always changing. I enjoy that a lot, because songs always end up different, as people bring different strengths to the table. But we always put in a lot of work for the tour, a lot of rehearsal. The grass is always greener. When we’ve played with bands like Nada Surf or The Wrens, you see this chemistry that seems really exciting to me. But the flipside is that I work in a very specific way. I make a decision, and it’s done—no arguing about what the bassist should be playing in the chorus of Track 10.