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Tim Heidecker: From soft rock to medium rock

on November 11, 2013, 12:00am

Heidecker and Wood

Tim Heidecker is one of the more intriguing, versatile comedic minds of t0day. His Adult Swim gig with cohort Eric Wareheim, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, is a cult favorite, and contains some of the most uncomfortable moments allowed on television. Since its conclusion, they’ve joined Reggie Watts, Sarah Silverman, and Michael Cera to create a YouTube channel called, JASH, where comedians can create shows, short films, songs, and basically whatever they want, which explains Tim’s Kitchen Tips, one of the best cooking shows online.

Outside of comedy, Heidecker has also recorded two full-length albums with longtime Tim and Eric musical collaborator, Davin Wood, under the Heidecker and Wood moniker (including 2011’s promising Starting From Nowhere). Recently, Heidecker took some time to sit down with CoS to discuss the new album, Some Things Never Remain the Same, his new secret album with Gregg Turkington (aka Neil Hamburger), and the process of recording albums on time constraints.

This new album, Some Things Never Stay the Same, sounds really great.

Oh, thanks!

Did this album start out kind of like the first, Starting from Nowhere, where it was a collection of songs that you and Davin had been working on? Or was there a concerted effort to write a new album?

It was similar to the first record where songs had just been collecting. We had this folder of projects. That’s the way it always kind of starts. This one was a little different in that there were these demos I’d make in my garage, and I’d do my best to kind of sketch them out and make them sound decent. Then, they’d get saved, and I’d send them to Davin, and they would just accumulate. It got to a point after like a year of the first record being out, where we said, “Okay, we’ve got a bunch of songs in various stages of completion, so let’s pick the best ten, and start working on them.”

Was it similar with the first where the music came first, and you would write lyrics after?

Generally, the music comes first. Some of these were songs that I wrote pretty much exclusively, and the words and music came simultaneously as I’m sitting there writing the song, sort of starting out having an idea of what kind of song to write, and seeing it through from there.

I feel like this album expands from the first. The first focused on the softer side, the Simon and Garfunkel softer side, and this one is more upbeat, honky-tonk piano. Was that something that came naturally, or did you want it, from the start, to be a different sound of the ’70s than what you had with the first?

Yeah, we definitely didn’t want to get pigeon-holed as the guys who just do soft rock records, you know? We felt like we explored that, and we have a pretty wide palate of influences and kinds of music we like to make and like to play. I think early on with this record, as we stuck a name on it, like, “rock record.” [We said] let’s just open up a little bit. The songs I was writing were a little heavier, so it’s more medium rock as opposed to soft rock. [Laughs.] I like singing in that kind of voice, and just not worrying too much about what style we were going for, and not trying to stick into some kind of genre that we’ve created with the first record. It’s a little more eclectic, and a little more whatever genre fits the kind of songs I’m writing, and trying to see that through.

Right, yeah. A song like “Cocaine”, with the driving pianos, reminds me of the songs you did on the show with Pusswhip Banggang, and then a song like “This is the Life” has a Michael McDonald, Doobie Brothers vibe to it.

Definitely!

You definitely accomplish that shifting of genres, but it’s not so far out of left field that it gets confusing or anything.

Right, yeah. That’s good. It’s actually really good to hear these things [laughs], because very few people have heard this record, so I’m kind of vulnerable with it. [Laughs.] Kind of like, “What did we do?” Because you sometimes get so inside of it that you kind of think, “I wonder what this actually is?”

I feel like this album, and the first, you guys have done a great job of making the music catchy and fun, and you can enjoy it just for that. But, after a few listens, you notice the, at times, ridiculous lyrics, or vice versa, as well where you notice the lyrics first. It’s a great parody of this time period by making the lyrics as specific as possible in the broadest terms possible.

Yeah, exactly. Very literal. Not a great mind writing these lyrics, maybe. [Laughs.] First of all, musically, we care deeply about making good sounding music. We love doing that. Davin and I are both very passionate about getting a good sound, and making the record sound good, and pretty, and having a good rhythm. We love that. We’re not doing this just as a goof. [Laughs.] We like playing the music, and the music is really fun to make, you know? And it’s satisfying when it comes out sounding really good. So, we put a lot of time and effort into that.

But, lyrically, I think the difference between the first record and this record is in the first record there’s a little more of a thought of, “The lyrics can be kind of meaningless sometimes, and if you listen to it closely enough, you can say, ‘Oh, well none of this is making any sense.’” Whereas, in this record, some of the songs consciously have ideas in them that are still from the perspective of the narrator who is a comedic person, a fool, is misguided in some way, or stupid.

But, a little more thought went into making the lyrics tell a story or have a point of view, not just be placeholders where the joke is, “Hey, has anyone listened to a lyric of a Doobie Brothers song? They’re pretty silly. [Laughs.] So, that was kind of different and fun to do.

There’s a lot of comedians that start bands and release music, and it’s interesting to see them do it in a serious way. Like Steve Martin and his bluegrass releases. It’s nice to see you guys taking it very seriously, and it’s genuine, but it also fits your comedic sense. It’s not like Eddie Murphy’s new reggae song he did with Snoop Lion. I don’t know if you’ve heard that at all.

(Laughs) No. I think I heard a little snippet on the news or something, but yeah, it forces you to recalibrate how you’re supposed to think about who Eddie Murphy is to listen to it. I guess? I don’t know. I mean, I like not worrying too much about it. All of this starts from a small self-expression. It’s me being compelled to write a song because something comes up in my head as an idea, and then it’s just seeing it through. The choice is that I like there to be a murky confusion about what is real and what is not real, what is serious and what is a joke, and I think that makes it really interesting. It fits into my whole plan, what I’m doing in all the stuff I do.

So, that gives me the room to put a song like “Coming Home” on there, because that’s lyrically valid. It’s pretty straightforward, even though it’s coming from the point of view of a traveling guy on the road, a Bob Seger kind of guy or something, singing about being on the road. I’m not really on the road, but in a lot of ways I am. I travel a lot. We do tours, and I was away all summer doing Eastbound and Down, so there are parts of all that stuff that is genuine, [that] comes from me. Then I take it to the left a little bit, or make it a little weird. Some aren’t at all. Some are just complete fabrications. It’s just a fun way to mess with people’s expectations. It’s certainly not for everybody.

Heidecker and Wood 2

Yeah, you said in interviews for the first album that when it comes to fans of Tim and Eric and the comedy that you guys do, when the interviewer asked you, “How do you think they’ll take it?”, your response was very simply, “I think our fans have learned not to be surprised by anything.”

Yeah, and in fact I think they expect it, expect to not be given the same old stuff over and over again. And, you know, this isn’t going to be for everybody. It’s not going to be for all the Tim and Eric fans, either. There’s people like, “Well, I don’t even like this type of music. Why would I want to listen to an homage to it?” [Laughs.]

Kind of along those same lines, around the 4th of July, you also released a song with the Yellow River Boys. Is that still a full album that’s coming out in the fall also?

Yeah! I think that’s going to come out a little closer to Christmas. I don’t have an exact date yet, but it’s definitely coming out. It’s a full LP. Every song is about the subject of drinking urine [laughs], and it’s a project that is me and Gregg Turkington, who I work with a lot. This is one of these ideas that, annoyingly, you have an idea, and you’re like, “Fuck! Now I have to see this through. I have to see this whole thing through? [Laughs.] I just have to do it now, and it has to be as good as possible!” It took a lot of work, but it came out really good. It’s fun that both these records are coming out around the same time, I think, because they’re very different.

This one is much sillier, much broader, much bigger, almost bigger production in some ways. It is kind of the anti-Heidecker and Wood record. It’s just really filthy and gross [laughs], but at the same time it’s this high concept that I hope people will get. I can imagine a lot of people not getting it, you know? I can imagine reading Pitchfork or something, saying, “We get the joke! You don’t need to make 10 or 12 songs!” Well, the joke is that we made 12 songs! That there is a band that all they care about is this one thing, and that it exists! This record now exists. It’s out there in the world. And there’ll probably be another one, [laughs] because that’s even funnier to make two records.

You guys are the Kottonmouth Kings of piss drinking songs.

Yeah! [Laughs.] So, that’s just fun to do. It’s fun to express these ideas and see them through. To make them as good as possible.

That song has been on repeat for my friends and I for a while.

Oh, good! We’re excited about it. We were kind of like, “Let’s see if we can keep this secret record. We don’t know who is behind it. This fake band and everything,” but I think we’re also, secretly, really proud of it. [Laughs.] We think it’s really cool. I’m going to try to promote it pretty heavily when it comes out.

Going along with that, are you and Davin going to be touring for this album? Or are you going to be touring for the Yellow River Boys album at all?

I don’t know. We’re going to try and play some Heidecker and Wood shows around the album. It’s hard. We’ve done it in LA before, and we put together this really great band. The music is challenging to do live because it’s such a studio record, with all the bells and whistles, so it’s hard. We put together this band with a horn section and everything [for the LA shows], and that’s a little hard to do. But, I don’t think a tour is coming. It’s just not my full-time thing, and the demand certainly isn’t there at the moment. But, I like just making the records. That’s why we’re doing it. It’s fun to play live and everything, but making the records is pretty satisfying on it’s own.

You mentioned touring is not the full-time thing. You’ve got quite a few things on your play nowadays. You’ve got everything you’re doing with JASH, you and Gregg doing On Cinema at the Cinema, and Tim’s Kitchen Tips, and all of that.

Yeah, and Eric and I have two shows. We’re going to be busy. If this record goes to #1, maybe we’ll have to go out and play some shows, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. [Laughs.]

With all of that, where did you find time to record two full-length albums?

Well, the Heidecker and Wood album takes a long time, and it doesn’t happen in a concentrated period of time. It kind of happens probably over a year, and weeks will go by without working on it. We’ll come in and do two or three songs at a time. It is that kind of thing that you chip away at it when you can. This record was a little different than the first one. We actually went into the studio and recorded a real drummer, and kind of did it legitimately, then took it to my garage to do the over-dubs and everything here. I think the next record we do, I’d really like to block two weeks or something and just do it in the studio, not make it a thing that lingers on and on.

Then, the Yellow River Boys record was very interesting because I wrote these songs, and, like we did with the Heidecker and Wood album, just demoed them out. But, I really wanted the record to sound as polished, and as clean, and professional as possible, so I found this band in North Hollywood that were fans of mine. They had done some Tim and Eric covers, and they had this studio. I called them up, and said, “I’ve got this project that is just eating my brain, and I want to see if you guys want to just take my demos and make the tracks. I’ve heard your work. You guys are really talented. This is a genre of music that is pretty familiar to everybody. There’s a pretty good reference for it. Would you guys want to do that?”

HeideckerWood_SomeThings

 

These guys were super excited, and thought it was hilarious, and said, “We’d love to!” So, I just gave them these demos, and said, “Just send me the record, and I’ll sing over it.” [Laughs.] It was sort of this experimental collaboration, and it worked out. I got these tracks, and said, “Holy shit! This sounds amazing!” And they said, “We haven’t even gotten into the overdubs yet.”

They brought in James Valentine from Maroon 5 to do all these solos. It turned into this thing where all these session guys were playing on it, and I just sang it all in my garage and sent them the vocal track. It was really fun, and ended up not taking a lot of my time to do. It was kind of like, “Wow, this is an exciting new way to make stuff quick.”

Wow, that’s great that you were able to just say, “Ok, guys, take care of it,” and they just ran with it.

Yeah, because one of the things we’re going for is this feeling of studio musician, kind of generic country-blues, and that’s the way it might have gone back in the day. You have a song, and you get a bunch of studio guys to come in and just lay it down. It has that feel. It rocks, but it’s real clean. It’s very right on the nose.

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