Do you know why that passenger has decided to join you?
Maybe reaching this point in my life. There’s new sets of problems and worries and new responsibilities, a new world that we live in, mortality, losing people. Every time you lose someone close to you it becomes this mark on your heart. And that keeps happening. I didn’t really experience real loss until I was an adult, which is a blessing, but it’s also a curse because it all started happening a lot. Even with younger bands that we’ve played with on the road, people who aren’t my best buds – but it affects me. I remember breaking down when Caleb [Scofield] from Cave In passed away, and I didn’t even know him. I just feel like we’re in the same weird boat. And I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read about and watched the whole thing unfold with [Scott Hutchison] of Frightened Rabbit. I didn’t know him either, but I felt somehow connected to it because we’re all soldiers in this thing. It’s really heartbreaking to me.
That seems to one of the unavoidable truths in life – that the older you get, the more people you lose.
Right. And I watch my parents, who are in their 70s, and we speak about this stuff. My parents are very aware that they’re getting up there and that their friends are dying. And I see them living, like ‘Damn the torpedoes – let’s go to fucking Sweden!’ That’s my parents’ vibe and I fucking love it because it makes me so hopeful that I’m going to live – and I fucking have to make sure that I live. It’s very inspiring watching my parents do the thing, and any time I’m like ‘Oh, my back, my foot, my knee’ – all these new things I’m feeling mentally and physically – I look at them and I go, ‘You’re good. You’re 40, man!’
Man, this is most depressing interview!
But that’s kind of the point. Because, in the context of Aging Frontman, you presumably never imagined having to deal with this stuff when you started The Movielife. And yet here you are now, having to deal with all this extra baggage.
Right. The things I’m writing about now aren’t things that just pop into my head. I’m really considering it all.
But at the same time, you said Better is your favorite thing you’ve ever written. So would you trade any of that in?
Absolutely not. And as much as it’s difficult, and there’ll be more. That’s what life’s going to be – there’s going to be extreme moments of bliss, there’s going to be boring mediocrity and there’s going to be extreme moments of devastation. And we don’t know when they’re coming. But it feels awfully good to sing about it and helps me to feel kind of leveled out mentally. And boy, does it feel good to sing these in front of a crowd of people that I know feel what I’m talking about. I’m lucky that I get to do that. I don’t know where I’d be without being able to have that release and that outlet to write about it and then perform it. It keeps me happy. And that’s the thing: You could hear the record and be like ‘Fuck, man…’ but another reason I’m happy -- and I’m not always happy, there’s darkness -- is that I’m able to do my thing and enjoy life.
And there’s nothing like the fear of death to make you want to make the most of your own life. But at the same time, it’s also easy to forget to do that because real life always takes over again. Do you want this record to act as that kind of catalyst for people?
I feel like it always turns out that way. Because when we all connect and I come back to their town, wherever it is in the world, and I’m singing these songs, people will sing along and they’re never sad. They’re singing it and they’re smiling because it’s doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s supposed to make you feel good. Like, I’m a big David Bazan fan, and I feel amazing from his sad songs. They’re not meant to make you feel sad. They’re meant to be like ‘Hey man, I’m here, too! Let’s fucking get through this shit.’ Could you imagine if it was just sad songs that made you feel more sad? Sad songs are so inspiring to me.