The Lowertown Line

S4 E7 | FULL EPISODE

jeremy messersmith

jeremy messersmith performs in front of a live studio audience, and discusses being king of wuss rock, embracing nerd culture, and his fundamentalist upbringing.

AIRED: June 12, 2017 | 0:26:45
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TRANSCRIPT

- [Interviewer] Roll?

- [Man] Roll it.

- [Interviewer] Oh, okay.

You are the self-proclaimed King of Wuss Rock?

- Yeah,

yeah.

(mellow rock music) (whooing)

- [Interviewer] So, what does wuss rock mean to you?

- Well, rock with feelings

and maybe not the stereotypical masculine feeling of

fight and hurt, anger!

Destruction, death, but, you know,

like the other range of emotions

that human beings are capable of experiencing.

♪ Well I found honest work and Lord knows I tried

♪ Well I found honest work and Lord knows I tried

♪ Robbed a bank and ran from the fuzz

♪ They asked the teller just who I was

♪ She said I don't know but he had John Dillinger's eyes

♪ Well for five long years I was wanted by the FBI

♪ Well for five long years I was wanted by the FBI

♪ I was shooting pool at the hall

♪ Wanted poster up on the wall

♪ Ain't that you

♪ You got John Dillinger's eyes

♪ Well I caught one in my chest and two in my thigh

♪ Well I caught one in my chest and two in my thigh

♪ I saw a man rush to my side

♪ Took a photograph as I died

♪ And all because I was born with John Dillinger's eyes

♪ Well that newspaper man won the Pulitzer Prize

♪ Well that newspaper man won the Pulitzer Prize

♪ He keeps it by his bed on a shelf

♪ But one thing that he'll never tell

♪ Is every day he thanks God for John Dillinger's eyes

(mellow rock music)

(audience cheering)

♪ Makin' up a song about Mr. Nakada

♪ Nothing really rhymes with Mr. Nakada

♪ I'll try and I'll try 'til the day he dies

♪ Hopefully long from now

- I really, really wanted to be a guitar player,

like, with mystique, and it turned out that

I didn't really have any mystique at all

and I also couldn't really play guitar all that well.

Uh, so, just kind of on, like, a whim

I audited a songwriting class

and then all the sudden it was like, oh!

Okay, like, these things have, like, a structure.

They can be, like, made.

And, I'm good at structure.

I have a background in computer science.

I understand how to build a program

and that's all songs are.

Songs are, like, information in, like, certain sequences

that, like, express ideas and, like, manipulate

and hack peoples, like, emotions, you know?

Like, okay, I think I can do that.

- [Interviewer] So, what's the trick to hacking

people's emotions?

- You have to use yourself as a test subject, unfortunately.

It took a while to be able to figure that out,

you know, I wrote, like, a lot of really bad songs

and they weren't really about anything.

The subtext was always like a desperate cry of,

hey, everybody, think I'm cool.

(laughing)

I think that was about it.

Eventually, you just get to the point where you're like,

Why would anyone care about this?

Why do I care about this?

Oh, maybe I need to not write songs

that project me as who I wanna be, you know,

or I want people to think that I'm cool

or funny or something like that

and what if I just wrote stuff that was just

as raw as I could make it?

♪ I have a knack for awkward silences

♪ Late night drunk text messages

♪ I'm great at playing dumb

♪ She doesn't care much for my politics

♪ For sentimental atheists

♪ Who disagree for fun

♪ We're off to an awful start

♪ Proudly showing off our purple hearts

♪ Comparing battle scars and who shot who first

♪ Hiking skirts rolling up our shirts

♪ So who hurt who worse anyway

♪ She had a thing for West Point graduates

♪ Thank God she grew out of it

♪ But man were they a thrill

♪ She says lately she feels bored with guys

♪ I laugh she just rolls her eyes

♪ And gestures for the bill

♪ We're off to an awful start

♪ Proudly showing off our purple hearts

♪ Comparing battle scars and who shot who first

♪ Hiking skirts rolling up our shirts

♪ So who hurt who worse anyway

(mellow rock music)

♪ Who shot who first

♪ Hiking skirts rolling up our shirts

♪ And who hurt who worse anyway

♪ Who shot who first

♪ Hiking skirts rolling up our shirts

♪ And who hurt who worse anyway

♪ We're off to an awful start

♪ Proudly showing off our purple hearts

♪ Maybe this time it won't leave a mark

♪ Proudly showing off our purple hearts

(mellow rock music)

(audience cheering)

(laughing)

This is me getting my first musical instrument, a trumpet.

- [Interviewer] And did you like the trumpet?

- Yeah, I loved it.

I still have it.

It's literally right there, that same trumpet.

(chuckling)

I don't think I ever thought of music

as, like, a possible career option

until maybe I went to school to study music.

Even still, half the time I'm like, is this my job?

Do I get, like, this is what I do for a living?

I go around and, like, I make noises with my mouth

that, like, please the auditory organs of one

mammalian species on this planet, like,

that's what I do for a job?

That's insane.

That's literally me showing a chicken at the county fair.

- [Interviewer] So, you had a pretty strong

religious background growing up?

- I was home schooled until I went to college, basically.

At some point, I was like, nah, I don't

really buy much of that anymore and um,

I think I'm actually much happier

not having to carry around the, you know,

a lot of the cognitive,

cognitive dissidence

that can come from a fundamentalist upbringing.

You know, when you grow up and every single

person that you've ever met in your entire life says,

you know, the Earth is six thousand years old

or whatever else, then it can be a bit of a reality check

when you, kind of, arrive in the real world

and find out that a lot of that stuff is literally not true.

I mean it's like a textbook existential crisis,

where all of a sudden, everything you know

and believed is kind of just yanked out.

And you're forced to confront it.

It's funny.

I've written about, kinda that process for me

in songs and things,

and I've kind of mourned the loss of my childhood religion,

I guess.

But I think therapy is a great tool for that,

for peeling off like social conditioning.

For actually getting into the core of who you are,

and I certainly find that also to be the case

with song writing,

or I imagine, like any kind of creative are people

go through is,

you're ultimately just kind of dismantling,

yourself in order to get to know yourself,

and you're stripping away the things that maybe

don't make any sense,

and hopefully finding out who you actually are.

- [Interviewer] Is it painful?

- It's painful in like the way that like,

taking off like a scab is kind of painful,

in that it can hurt a little bit.

But it's really gratifying at the same time.

♪ I was born in a mortuary full of worry

♪ Ice water in my veins

♪ Gave my heart in the school library

♪ Never knew her name

♪ Lost my tongue in the sanctuary

♪ Heaven spare me

♪ Hands raised above my head

♪ Sent my brain to the seminary

♪ Never seen again

♪ Swing low

♪ Grey bones

♪ I don't know

♪ If I'll ever be whole again

(mellow rock music)

♪ Left my spine in the wedding chapel

♪ Full of people

♪ Feet turning into lead

♪ Lost a leg at the iron foundry

♪ Where they found me dead

♪ Drained my blood at the mortuary

♪ No more worry

♪ Ice water in my veins

♪ Took my bones to the cemetery

♪ Where they still remain

♪ Swing low

♪ Grey bones

♪ I don't know

♪ If I'll ever be whole again

(mellow rock music)

♪ Swing low

♪ Grey bones

♪ I don't know

♪ If I'll ever be whole again

♪ Swing low

♪ Grey bones

♪ I don't know

♪ If I'll ever be whole again

(crowd cheering)

- All those dragons everywhere.

Look at this, double handed flames, oh fire.

Oh I missed him,

that's okay.

- [Interviewer] Nerd culture.

- Yeah.

- [Interviewer] You're into it?

- Well yeah, I'm a nerd I guess,

so yeah I'm kind of like into nerd culture

and the like.

The nice thing about being a nerd is that you can

kind of just pick whatever thing you're interested

in and be a nerd about it.

I find that it's a culture filled with lovely

obsessive people.

I mean intelligence isn't a requirement,

just that you love it. (laughing)

The Legend of Zelda for Nintendo is still my favorite

video game of all time.

It was just this exciting giant, you know,

world and, probably about every four or five years

I'll put it up and I'll play through the original

Legend of Zelda.

But I've never actually beaten the game before.

There are two kind of quests.

So you beat the game once,

and then, the whole world kind of changes,

and you can play through the game again,

but it's a totally different map,

and I've never finished the second quest for Zelda.

And I think it's just because I don't like the idea

of it ever, ever really ending,

so I always get to like, the last dungeon

and I kind of stop cause I don't ever want to,

I just never want to finish it.

It's just too much fun.

(tranquil music)

♪ On the far side of the universe

♪ There's a little sphere

♪ We call the Earth

♪ It's an undiscovered paradise

♪ You'll love it here

♪ People are nice

♪ We're far from perfect

♪ We spend a lot of time

♪ Inventing ways to kill each other still

♪ We think you'll find a lot to love

♪ Once you get to know us

(mellow rock music)

♪ We have everything you'll ever need

♪ The internet

♪ Daytime TV

♪ We used to have these things called trees

♪ But who needs them

♪ Not you and me

♪ We've made mistakes and

♪ Many of them are

♪ Sadly irreversible still

♪ We think you'll find a lot to love

♪ Once you get to know us

(mellow rock music)

♪ If you line up all the broken hearts

♪ On Earth they form a trail of crumbs

♪ Through the stars

♪ Guiding you and your spaceship

♪ But provided that you're not too soft

♪ And tasty

♪ You're arrival might just be the start

♪ Of a beautiful friendship

♪ We're far from perfect

♪ But some of us are genocidal maniacs still

♪ We think you'll find a lot to love

♪ Once you get to know us

♪ Once you get to know us

♪ One you get to know us

♪ We're not all that bad

♪ Once you get to know us

(crowd cheering)

- It helps me to have an idea of the album as a whole.

And I think of it like, when you first start playing

guitar for instance, like,

you learn one note,

and then you learn to add like, another note,

and then once you know like three,

you can play a chord, you know,

and it builds that way.

And then you realize you can take a chord,

and add another chord.

And then that grows.

And you realize you can have like sections of chords,

and then, you realize, oh I can put like,

a melody onto those too.

And then I can put words on the melody.

And then you just keep stacking, and stacking, and stacking.

And then once you have all those,

you have a song, and that's cool.

But then, you can also like, take a song,

and put it next to another song,

and sometimes, that will kind of like,

one song can be used to prepare another song,

like, prepare an idea.

And then you cans string those along, until you have,

you're telling like a bigger story,

filled with a lot of ideas,

and then you have a record.

And then you take the record, and then you think,

is there like a visual concept,

that can express all the ideas, and you know,

the flow of the songs and the records,

and all that stuff.

Oh and then, oh, how did we make this record?

Did that also, like have to do with the values

espoused in the songs, like what does the media

landscape look like?

Is there a way that we can express this on,

you know, music videos, or through print,

or what does a live show look like?

What's the ideal environment for that?

Like really, there are like, creative things,

at like every single level of putting out a record,

and I think I didn't really realize that when I started out.

And now I'm kind of starting to enjoy

the whole process of, making a record

and putting it out.

Whereas before, I would have been like,

oh I wrote a song, and I'm done, you know.

Not so much.

I think being an artist is, also about preparing people

and preparing the context.

You know, trying to create a scenario in which,

when by the time I get up and play on stage,

like I can't fail when I'm up there.

People have already like, they know a bit of the songs,

you know a bit about me, they know maybe a bit about

how things were made,

and they are primed and ready.

♪ Late night call and I'm at your door

♪ Teenage tears on the kitchen floor

♪ I pull you close and hold my breath

♪ Feel your heartbeat through your summer dress

♪ Shuffle our feet slowly to the stereo

♪ And if your boyfriend suddenly appears

♪ If your father comes home and finds us here

♪ You and I we won't need an alibi

♪ It's only dancing

♪ It's only dancing

♪ Mirrored ball and a cover band

♪ Just for kicks won't you take my hand

♪ It's something that all good friends do

♪ It's not like I'm in love with you

♪ What a crazy idea where did you get that

♪ Let's tangle up our finger tips

♪ and I'll rest a hand upon your hips

♪ There's nothing to see it's all so innocent

♪ It's only dancing

♪ It's only dancing

♪ It's only dancing

♪ It's only dancing

(mellow rock music)

♪ A clip-on tie and a sweater vest

♪ You wear a veil and a wedding dress

♪ I watch you part a crowded room

♪ A perfect bride and a perfect groom

♪ As you float across the ballroom in his arms

♪ And I wanna scream I wanna burst

♪ I wanna blame the whole damn universe

♪ But the same three words I whisper to myself

♪ It's only dancing

♪ It's only dancing

♪ It's only dancing

♪ It's only dancing

(mellow rock music)

- [Announcer] This program is made possible by,

the States Arts and Cultural Heritage fund

and the citizens of Minnesota.


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