Fashionably late

Fashionably late

By
October 8, 2009 07:30
adam green

adam green. (photo credit: )

 
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Imagine your boss calling you in and saying, "Goldman, I just read that business report you wrote seven years ago. It's great, I'm giving you a bonus." That's sort of what happened to Adam Green, who seven years after co-writing and recording the childlike love song "Anyone Else But You" with Kimya Dawson, his partner in the indie rock band The Moldy Peaches, suddenly found himself the subject of accolades - and royalties - after the song was featured in the closing scene of the sleeper 2007 hit film Juno. It's not like the 28-year-old Green was sitting around waiting for his past work to be rediscovered. Since the Peaches disbanded in 2004, the scruffy, cult folk-punk hero has released a series of off-kilter acoustic albums full of quirky, compelling songs and seemed content to inhabit the fringe side roads of fame. Suddenly, with the notoriety of "Anyone Else But You," the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter was thrust into the mainstream limelight. Thankfully for him, he was wearing sunglasses to keep out the glare. That enabled him to endure some decidedly un-indie-like promotions like appearances on American daytime TV talk shows where he performed a one-shot reunion duet with Dawson. "It reminded people that the record exists, but it's not like I've had to do anything or go out on tour in support of it. Mostly, I've just been receiving checks in the mail," Green told The Jerusalem Post last week from his dressing room in a London club where he was preparing to perform. Hearing him expound candidly on his career, fame, songwriting and Whoopie Goldberg in an open but somewhat innocent manner, it's easy to understand how he could write songs like "Anyone Else But You," with lyrics like "Here is the church and here is the steeple \ We sure are cute for two ugly people \ Don't see what anyone can see in anyone else but you." "I did this one thing to promote the song with Kimya after the movie came out - on 'The View with Whoopie Goldberg.' In general, I was miserable doing daytime TV, but it was kind of enjoyable. How can you say no to Whoopie?" he laughed. "Whatever, I don't think it was in mine or Kimya's interest to keep it going. We'll just stick to what we're doing." For Green, that means steadily building a small, loyal following, especially in Europe, as this generation's Jonathan Richman - part nursery rhyme sweet, part punk rock cool - performing rocking acoustic songs about odd subjects, including "Jessica" (about Jessica Simpson) and "Novotel" about... well, you get the picture. HIS LIVE show - which arrives in Tel Aviv at the Barby club on October 12 - is unpredictably entertaining, meaning sometimes Green gets a little tipsy, belting out a ragged but heartfelt set of improvised lyrics and half-finished songs. Tonight, he was lamenting a recent London show he performed together with his pal Carl Barat of British alternative rock band The Libertines, which didn't go quite as expected. "It was supposed to be more fun that it was. I was kind of weird and lost myself after the third song or so. I attempted to salvage what was left with some performance art that some people enjoyed," said Green with more than a touch of regret. "It was supposed to be showcase of how good we were at songwriting. But I ended up being really drunk and I forgot a lot of the lyrics. But it's just a live show, and hopefully people don't come to shows expecting a recreation of a record. But it should have been different and better and it's my fault. I really wanted it to be good." Green's best intentions derive from growing up in a family of high achievers in Mount Kisco, New York, a half hour outside of New York City. His father, Mark, is an accomplished neurologist specializing in migraines, and has written two books on the subject, while his brother is a noted astronomer. Raised Reform, Green admitted that he gave up on organized religion soon after his bar mitzvah. "I'm an atheist now. I'm not at all observant now, what's the point?" he said. "I hope it's not too late to make my first trip to Israel." Honing his musical chops at the turn of the century in the legendary Sidewalk Café anti-folk scene in New York City along with the likes of Regina Spektor, Green formed The Moldy Peaches with Dawson in 1999. "That whole scene felt so vital. I'm not sure if people who are now playing open mike nights in New York are having similar experiences. Maybe it was just a special time then," said Green. The gritty band achieved some indie success in the early 2000s and toured internationally with label mates and friends The Strokes. In September 2002, Green marked his solo debut with the release of Garfield, followed in the following year by Friends of Mine. By 2004, the Moldy Peaches were history, and more solo albums followed including 2005's Gemstones and 2006's Jacket Full of Danger. HIS LATEST album, 2008's Sixes and Sevens, contains 20 musical vignettes compacted into 49 economical minutes, a feat that Green brushed off as normal productivity. "I think that I'm as prolific than I need to be. There are a lot of people who release a lot fewer records and songs. I don't know what they're doing with their day, where does it go? It doesn't make any sense. If you're a songwriter, that's what you're doing. Write a song!" he said. Green disclosed that many of his lyrics are off the cuff, stream of consciousness ramblings that he molds into songs. "I write a lot of my songs by just singing to myself. I used to do it on a little Dictaphone when the inspiration struck, but now I can do it walking around on my cell phone," he said. "I like to write when I don't have anything else to do. I don't find it inspiring to write when I'm upset or out of feeling desperation, like some songwriters. It's best when I wake up, drink some coffee and sing walking around the neighborhood. Usually, when I'm upset, I tend not to do anything." Green described the content of his next album, already finished and due early next year, as "kind of a mellow folk music, loosely based on romantic dysfunctionality, which is basically what all music is based on," he laughed. "I guess my goal artistically is to create a picture of a person - me - by filling in some spaces that I haven't explored. I try to use humor juxtaposed with some poetic images to create that picture." While Green practices his craft with earnestness, he tries never to take his music too seriously, he admitted. But even he draws the line at some things. Take, for example, the backing vocals to one of the songs on Sixes and Sevens - "Tropical Island" - which was recorded by his friends, the brothers from Hanson. "They had this 'Lion Sleeps Tonight' thing going - "A-Weeb A-Weeb A-Weeb," he laughed. "I didn't think it was really useable. Maybe I'll release it as a B-side." Always finding a home for a song, as opposed to having a hit record, is one of Green's goals. As a solo folkie troubadour, he knows that he's something of an anachronism in today's ProTool musical world, but it seems to bother him not a bit. "I still have high hopes for acoustic guitar type music, that it's always going to be around," he said. "It's the same reason I'm interested in painting - there's always something to paint that people are going to want to hang on their walls. It's the same with the acoustic guitar - there's always something worthwhile to sing. It's dumb when people act like it's an anachronism. It's not, it's as basic as talking."

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