The Mountain Goats Go Goth

Jun 5, 2017

The Durham-based band Mountain Goats' fourth release on Merge Records a tribute to Goth music, including some of the bands that didn't quite make it. The new album is simply titled Goths. Songwriter and singer John Darnielle joined Eric Hodge in the WUNC studios to talk about the album. 

Following is an excerpt of the interview. It has been edited for length and content, but you can listen to the full version below. 

Eric Hodge: Was it challenging to celebrate Goth with no guitars, in Nashville, on a board used by Steely Dan?

John Darnielle: Is that a Steely Dan board? No kidding? Whoa, I'm glad they didn't tell me that before I did it, because I would have spent the whole time in worship.

Eric Hodge: Some listeners may not be familiar with Goth, and maybe you could give them a quick thumbnail.

John Darnielle: Musically, it's an outgrowth of punk. You know, punk is a big explosion and it begets a lot of stuff. But it's more punks who are explicitly obsessed with [David] Bowie.

Eric Hodge: You have to have a song about wearing black... it sounds like you were having fun. And this is a real loving project for you.

John Darnielle: It's interesting that you say fun, because there's two songs here that are a little more autobiographical and that's one of them, that are about harder times in my youth. But at the same time, it was so much fun.

Eric Hodge: The Grey King and the Silver Flame Attunement talks about filing down teeth, being hard core (but not that hard core), Pontiacs and making peace with the surface dwellers.  I think you may have to explain this one to me, but it does stick in my head, all the time!

John Darnielle: Thank you. So this is really interesting to me. When you have a new record, it's hard to pick a favorite. They're all your favorite. But that one, they lyric is about a very brief experience that happened to me when I was about 19 or 20 and working at the east county regional headquarters of the L.A. public library.

And it was not Halloween. And I pulled up, and I probably would have been getting on the freeway. I look over and I would have been driving an Isuzu i-mark. I'm not looking super hip. And I look up, and I don't know what kind of car it was, I say a Grand Am in the song, but it could've been a Camaro, I don't know. 

And it's got four people in it, my age, maybe a year or two older, but I look over and the driver smiled and he had fangs. And then the light turned green! And I was like, "Whaaaat, was that?" And I didn't know, right? And it stuck with me, because you don't get to ask any questions.  If you want to know the rest of the story, you got to tell it yourself.

The new recording from the Mountain Goats is called Goths and its available now.  John Darnielle is the songwriter, the singer and a novelist.