Matthew E. White, The Mountain Goats
The SoCal-born trio’s songwriter and established indie rock demigod John Darnielle has released an LP’s worth of songs each of the last five years. He’s only getting more confident.
“I think I get better at writing songs every year,” he opines from his home in North Carolina, where the band’s now based. “And I think that will continue for the next 45 years. Then I’ll die.
“That’s my plan.”
The Goats’ new Transcendental Youth doesn’t necessarily move in mysterious ways, besides a new streak of gorgeous brass, but its mythologies are right in the pocket of Darnielle’s canon.
“Making ‘the album’ is pretty weird when you think of it as a day job,” says Darnielle. “Imagine if you had to go into a day job for 12 days every year, and you had to really kick ass because how you do in the next year depends on how well you do in those 12 days?”
Darnielle’s written Biblical songs about Jesus and Satan, and though he’s not traditionally religious, he can rattle off obscure, New Testament fables as well as an encyclopedia’s worth of death metal.
“It’s all coming from the same place. Satanism is in reference to the Bible, it has to be,” explains the revered Decibel columnist. “I think any kid who’s ever been into the devil has to know about both; it takes a broader frame of reference.
“It’s a silly idea, but it’s a fun silly idea.”
Plenty of people are willing to tell Darnielle he’s legend. Fans are legion and passionate, more than willing to make him divine. How do you stay grounded when so many people are lifting you up?
“If you’re a songwriter, you have a big ego to a certain extent. It’s an arrogant job by nature. But if people say my stuff means a lot to them, that’s profoundly humbling. I’m a music listener. I know what it means when you allow a song to move you.”
– Luke Winkie