META FOLK-ROCK: The Night They Drove Old Josh Tillman Down, And All The Bells Were Ringing

SUB POP:  Father John Misty has delivered a hilariously meta new video for “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment,” a standout from I Love You, Honeybear, his acclaimed album.  The new visual was helmed by writer-director-producer Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3, Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation). Tillman says of the clip: “This video is partially inspired by the LeBron James quote “It is precisely the superficial differences between people who are otherwise alike that inform the hostilities between them.”  Special thanks to my body double Tyler who I had to kiss no fewer than two dozen times and whose breath I can still smell in my mind’s eye.”   Meanwhile Pearce adds: “It has been an honor to explore the palpable sexual chemistry that exists between Josh Tillman and himself. I hope this video does their enduring love affair justice.”

PREVIOUSLY: It is shortly after 10 a.m. on yet another glorious, sun-kissed day in Babylon when I show up at Tillman’s compound high atop Misty Mountain. His publicist assured me via text when I deplaned that he was awake and eagerly awaiting my arrival, but he seems surprised and unprepared when I get to his front door. For one thing, he is completely naked. “Sorry,” he says sheepishly after pulling on some pants. “I’m sure you’ve seen worse.” I tell him it will make for a colorful opening scene for the FJM-MAGNET-COVER-ARTstory. Shirtless and shoeless, wild-haired and sporting one of those Old Testament beards, he escorts me back down the stairs to a small room adjoining the pueblo. Ordinarily, this serves as the studio where he works on his paintings, but for the next couple days it will serve as my guest quarters and locus of more than eight hours of intensive on-the-record conversation.

The room is rustic and airy. A gentle breeze climbs up the green mountain and funnels through the windows and open door like a peaceful, easy feeling. There is a small choir of crickets sounding off in the corner, and the occasional lizard scampers past my feet. They are adorable, just like pocket-size dinosaurs. There are a half-dozen canvasses leaning against the walls, all brightly colored, lurid and childlike in their primitivism. None has a title except the one he calls Mona Lisa 2. Tillman excuses himself and returns with two steaming mugs of java and a peace pipe. Time to wake and bake, it would seem.

Well, when in Rome.

Despite the fact that, by his own admission, Tillman got a shitty education, constantly shuffled from one barely accredited Christian school to another for acting out or asking too many questions, the good Lord blessed him with a beautiful mind. He is witty, well-spoken and well-read, not to mention a preternaturally gifted prose stylist.

We sit cross-legged on the floor and pass the peace pipe before launching into an intense and expansive conversation about art and God and ghosts and all the crucial events that lead up to us sitting here: his profoundly unhappy fundamentalist upbringing in the exurbs of Washington, D.C.; his nervous breakdown at a Christian college in upstate New York; his narrow escape from the prison of belief; his desperate exodus to Seattle; his joyless tenure in Fleet Foxes; his forays into psychedelia, including a visit to a shaman in the Cascade Mountains who squeegeed away the crusted ego that was blinding his third eye and fed him Ayahuasca until he realized, to quote Bill Hicks, “that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves”; the murder of J. Tillman, the birth of Father John Misty and all the fun times in Babylon that ensued. All of which he is nakedly honest about, sometimes painfully so. He is eager, he says, to answer the many, many questions nobody has bothered to ask him. The result is one part dictated memoir, one part sinner’s confessional and one part talk therapy. MORE