Hi Arthur! Where did you guys get the inspiration for this video?
It was kind of a back and forth. I had this seed of this idea of pulling out kind of a karaoke theme and turning it into a meditation on paranoia. We wrote a treatment and knocked around some ideas and got to this point that you see now.
What is "Play by Play" about? Are the lyrics important to you since they're featured in the video?
That's a weird question because in a way, lyrics to me function as a like, trip content. I have a really hard time remembering lyrics. I have a hard time paying attention to other lyrics in other musicians' writing. To me, the thing that's most powerful about music is its ability to create. Part of what this project is about is creating that sense of genericism but using that to imbue the non-content in a way with a more histrionic degree of meaning than most pop music would.
When you guys filmed, did everything go as expected? Did anything embarrassing happen?
I was embarrassing myself pretty much the entire time, but that was just because I'm socially anxious [laughs]. No, everything went great; everything went really smoothly. We had a hiccup with the sound for a little bit, but it turns out it was just an old wire and that was it!
So you get nervous when you're on film?
Oh yeah, totally. By the end of the night I had to like, take shots of tequila to forget about myself for a little bit.
Is that something that happens when you perform in public as well, or is it just a different feeling when it's on film?
It's really different on film. I mean, A) it's being archived and played back to you and B) I've been performing a record and in a live context you can just freak out. It's an act, and there's an exchange of energy between the performer and audience. It almost requires a higher level of affect just to keep engagement. For filming and recorded sound, there's a certain degree of reserve. If you overstate something in either of those contexts, it comes across as very overstated. It's like the difference between film and theatre: theatre actors overact for a reason, because it has to read to the back of the room, but on film you're underacting. You almost pretend you're not acting. It's scary. It's totally scary, definitely.
Mykki Blanco is featured in your other single, "Counting." Are there any other artists you'd like to collaborate with?
Sure, there are tons, but I don't know who they are yet [laughs]. I don't know! Mykki's great. I have been a friend of Mykki's for a while. I think what he does is really incredible. I've been talking to a few people now, but it's weird how hard it is to find the time—especially when you're so used to working in a particular way creatively—to fit into somebody else's methodology of working and finding a place to do something.
Your album Anxiety is a very emotional album. What kind of place were you in when you wrote it?
I was in grad school. I was stressed out and I had released the first record and was trying to tour on it a little bit and trying to make sure that I kept any sort of interest in my music going. I was in a complicated relationship [laughs]. There's a reason why it's called Anxiety, it's just a nod to the basic anxieties of trying to live and being ambitious and trying to keep all my ducks in a row while feeling kind of like a chaotic baby inside.
What's your favorite music video of all time?
I really like Spike Jonze stuff in general. That Christopher Walken one I thought was pretty cool. I just think he knows how to walk that line between great idea and well-considered execution very well. I grew up with '90s music videos primarily. I didn't have TV but I would go watch MTV at my friend's house. It was a lot of REM videos, just like moody, '90s alt-rock videos. Music videos are weird [laughs].
If you weren't a singer, what do you think you'd be doing as a career right now?
Well, I finished my master's, so I'd probably be a PhD candidate right now. Or hopefully I would be. I'd like to think I would be. I finished in May and now I'm switching over to music full-time, so yeah, that would probably be it.
Since the video revolves around karaoke, we have to ask what your favorite song to sing at karaoke is?
That's a really good answer.
Yeah, I'll stick with that then [laughs].