What were you like as a teacher?
“I was a 23-year-old punk rocker and weighed, like, 80 pounds. I didn’t want to make anyone think we were friends, which was really important. My first assignment was to grade an exam for a lesson that I hadn’t even taught. I handed kids Cs and Ds and they fucking hated me.”
You published your first novel, Scale, in 2015. Was that a lifelong ambition?
“When I was 13 or 14, I thought writers were the coolest fucking people in the world. They were like rockstars to me. I loved the idea of being a writer.”
Which authors lit that spark in you?
“It sounds so basic and clichéd, but I got into Jack Kerouac. When I found the beat writers and spontaneous prose as a medium, it seemed perfectly parallel to the way I wanted to write, because I was such an angsty, energetic kid. Spontaneous prose had the stylings of punk rock. It disregarded form and seemed like a ‘fuck you’ to the established rules of writing, and that fell in line with why I got into the music and books I did.”
Did you find it hard to just sit and write?
“It was tricky. I had to figure out how to trust myself to write, no matter what. Writing lyrics is like filling in a crossword puzzle: you know how many spaces you have and you know what direction you have to go in. Writing a book, none of that was there. I had to figure it out as I was going. I’m still pretty happy with it, but I’m on my second one now and learned a lot of lessons. When you know you’re capable of it, it’s very empowering.”
Did any of the feedback to the book surprise you?
“Yeah, it’s actually being optioned by a production company called 3 Arts, which has done Parks And Recreation, 30 Rock and the Netflix series American Vandal. It got across the desk of a man called Ari who called me and has taken me under his wing and has shown me how to develop that story into something consumable on a mass scale. We’re going to try to get some names attached to it and take it to some different networks. That’s a plate that’s spinning right now. It’s really weird to say. It’s very cool.”
Did it change how you approached lyric writing on Low Teens?
“Yeah, I knew simpler was better. I look back at all the things that I did prior to the last record, and I had all these ideas and things I wanted to say, but I wasted so much space by clouding it with nonsense. I don’t want to disparage anyone who likes certain things that I might think are terrible, but I could have stripped so many layers off and said something important. I’m figuring out how to strip it down to its most basic element; I think that’s what people connect with.”