Matias Corral The story of February 2013 in music was 2003 (Sorry, Thom…
- Posted on Oct 3rd 2012 3:30PM by Dave Steinfeld
This month, Mann returns with Charmer, a straightforward pop-rock outing that includes such winners as "Labrador," "Crazy Town" and the title track. The just-released video for "Labrador" is hilarious, belying the beauty of the song itself. Mann and director Tom Scharpling -- who is played by Jon Hamm in the clip -- decided to do a scene-by-scene send-up of the "Voices Carry" video, but with a twist. If there's one thing that's clear about Aimee Mann, it's that she has a good sense of humor.
Spinner recently had a chance to chat with the woman who NPR called "one of the top 10 living songwriters along with Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen."
I was wondering about the title track [of Charmer]. The sentiment reminded me of something you [said] when I interviewed you last -- that you were fascinated by people who were narcissists and had a kind of charm but maybe an underlying emptiness or weirdness.
Yeah, people in general interest me. One of the great human struggles is the struggle with your own ego and identifying with certain things and then believing that that is you. That's what I think they mean when they refer to a "false self." You're identifying with these things but the things aren't you. Your opinions aren't you. Your thoughts, even, aren't you. I think that's really interesting and you can sort of catch glimpses of it in yourself. When I was much younger, I remember having an argument with a boyfriend because he liked this song that I didn't think was very good. It really threw me off balance that he would like this song! Because if your belief is that you are your opinions, when somebody disagrees with [your] opinions, it's almost like they disagree with you as a person. It's a very immature viewpoint but it's also -- you know, it goes kind of deep. It's almost a spiritual concern, in a way. Like, what is your real self, what is your false self? What does that mean? In what way do you connect to people? I don't mean to sound super pretentious, which I realize I already do [laughs]. I'm just trying to get along without feeling disconnected and anxious -- which I have in my past.
I wasn't expecting you to say that but it's not pretentious at all. One of the [other] tunes on the new album is "Labrador." It's a very nice song but the video is hilarious.
Well, Tom Scharpling is the guy who directed it. He's a comedy writer. His instincts are so dead on and he felt like there was sort of a nostalgic interest [in the "Voices Carry" video] but also a ridiculousness factor -- especially if the setup was that I was coerced into it. He thought [that] was really funny and I totally agree. And having Jon Wurster, who's a good friend of mine, play the guy in the [video]. He's so funny and he's got this high voice so it's even more ridiculous. I thought it was a real inspired idea.
Even the fact that now the guy wants you to look more punk rock!
Well, exactly! That was the one thing we changed. [It] was like, "Let's have him want to go back to the '80s!"
When I spoke with you last, you were boxing quite a bit. And there was some talk about turning your album The Forgotten Arm into a musical. Two-part question: one, are you still boxing and two, is [the musical] still a possibility?
It could [be], at some point. I have a different book writer that I'm working with and the ball is kind of in his court. He's super busy. It's David Henry Hwang, who has written many fantastic plays. At some point, when he gets less busy, he'll finish his first draft and then we'll kind of go back into it, talk about where the songs go, what needs to be rewritten and that sort of thing. That probably won't happen for another six months.
I haven't been boxing. There are, like, four different reasons. One is that I got some weird thing with my eye, where I started to not be able to wear contact lenses -- and it's kind of hard to box in glasses! I mean, even if you're just hitting the bag, it's still hard because you wanna pull your gloves right next to your face. And there's a bunch of other reasons. So I haven't been doing it -- which is too bad 'cause I do love it.
A number of people have cited you as one of their favorite songwriters. Who are some of your favorite songwriters -- either now or when you were growing up?
Early Elton John. And early Elton John is a good seven [or] eight records. You know, that sort of Tumbleweed Connection era. I [also] loved the Beatles, obviously. Neil Young, Dylan, Randy Newman, Loudon Wainwright. I think Michael Penn, my husband, is a great songwriter.
Fiona Apple is a huge influence on me. I think she's possibly the best lyric writer out there. Her lyrics are just poetic, insightful, great craftsmanship -- you know, [they've] sort of got everything.
'Til Tuesday was a Boston band. I wanted to ask you about the Boston music scene as you experienced it.
The scene when I was there was super exciting. [My first] band, the Young Snakes, was like this ridiculous art-punk outfit -- I mean, pretty unlistenable songs but I supported myself just playing shows around town! We played four times a week or something. It was like the punk/New Wave scene so there were a lot of really interesting, creative, often bizarre but still fascinating bands. A million clubs and people just went out all the time. It was great.
Tell me a little bit about how the Portlandia episode [you appeared in] came about.
Well, I'm pretty good friends with Fred Armisen. As he explained it to me, Carrie [Brownstein] had hired a cleaning service and the woman who showed up was someone who was in a band that she'd seen! She just thought that was such an odd thing. So I think her and Fred started to riff on it, and kind of came up with the idea of having me play [the role]. You know, suppose you were a big fan of the person. But at the same time, you want your house cleaned [and] they aren't that great of a house cleaner. How would that pan out? They would say more or less what they were after and then we just improvised most of the scenes. I"m playing the straight man so my job is a little easier -- you know, just try not to laugh too much (she laughs).