I asked Rookie readers on Twitter if they had questions for you, and someone wanted to know what you thought of Beyoncé’s new album. We could start there.
I will admit that I haven’t purchased it yet, so I haven’t seen all the videos in full, but I was just blown away by the creativity. I would cry if I had to make that much visual content for an album! Just on that level, it’s phenomenal. But it also just feels like the album that I have wanted to hear from Beyoncé for such a long time, and I’m so happy that it has happened. I liked what you guys said about her not being afraid to let her feminism evolve, and you can hear that in this record, which I think is so important and such a hard thing to bare. It feels really personal. It meant a lot to me—I was just like, Shit, I’m so happy that this exists right now and also I’m so glad that no year-end lists matter anymore. [Laughs]
I’m so happy she exists now too! Some guy on Twitter said, like, “Oh, I’m so sad for your generation that you don’t have the Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden.”
I saw that! [Laughs]
I was like, “Ugh, no, we’re fine. We don’t need testosterone-y bands to worship…”
[Laughs] People always say I was born in the wrong era. And I’m like, just don’t. Stop.
I like being alive now, because I can appreciate things from the past without having to actually live in the ’50s or whatever. Can we go way back for a moment? Tell me what some of your influences have been, not just in music, but writers, movies… You’ve been interested in all kinds of culture from a very young age, so I want to know what you feel has shaped you the most.
Reading has always been the thing that I’ve done the most, apart from sleeping and stuff, so I guess that’s a good place to start. I am one of those people who read everything, regardless of whether or not it’s shit. I don’t know why, but I will have just as much fun reading something really awful as I do something really good. Anyway, three or four years ago I had, like, my moment with short fiction. My mom gave me a Raymond Carver book and I was like, This is so cool. Before that I’d been into Roald Dahl short stories and stuff. Tobias Wolff’s writing has had a big influence on me. There’s this guy called Wells Tower who has only one collection, but when I read it at the age of 13 it was the best collection I had ever read. It was so good! That book that I gave you, by Claire Vaye Watkins—I think she’s incredible. And Kurt Vonnegut—he’s way sassy, but I love that.
Short fiction appeals to me because of the necessity of conciseness—that’s what writing songs is about, but times 20. I like people who can build something great and huge with a very limited amount of time or space. It’s difficult to do. Kurt Vonnegut is a good place to start if you haven’t read a lot of short fiction, because he’s fun and his humor is really black. Raymond Carver will put you in a sad, dire mood for sure.
You have a very strong visual aesthetic as well. The “Team” video is so gorgeous, by the way.
Oh, thank you!
No, what is that?
It has Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek…
I love Shelley Duvall! And I love Sissy Spacek!
It’s amazing! It was directed by Robert Altman, and the movie came out of his dream—he dreamed the casting, the story, and how it would look.
That is exactly what happened with the “Team” video. But also, how cool is it that those two girls did a movie together? Have you seen that clip of Shelley Duvall on YouTube just saying “Hello, I’m Shelley Duvall” in a variety of different costumes? It’s so weird! I don’t know if she had a TV show or something? But it’s like: “Hello, I’m Shelley Duvall”—cut to her in overalls on a barn set. “Hello, I’m Shelley Duvall”—cut to her looking like the Good Witch Glinda in some kind of fairytale situation. I love Shelley Duvall!
I will have to look that up.
It’s very inspirational. [Laughs]
This is a hard question, though, because you forget every single movie you’ve ever watched. I’ve had an appreciation of film for a long time, but it’s only been in the past year that I’ve really started to pin down what appeals to me. Have you seen Take Shelter?
Oh, man! I love like, horror-y, thriller-y type things, and Take Shelter is this awesome kind of psychological thriller without any of the lame tropes of that genre. It’s just so beautiful—every frame is stunning—and it has Michael Shannon in it, and he’s so incredible. You should watch it! And then films like Martha Marcy May Marlene—I think that one is really awesome as well. Oh god, I’m so bad at doing this!
I mean, I obviously do have strong visual leanings, and I know when I like a film visually—I’m just like, Oh, whoa. I remember when you discovered The Virgin Suicides, and then I watched it kind of along with you, and it really resonated with me as a teenager. I mean, I am still a teenager.