3. When did you start writing, and why?
I started writing when I was in elementary school. The first story I remember writing was about these crazy colored fuzz balls who lived under a kid’s bed. I think they were called Fuzzies, and they came to life and went to school with him in his backpack and they beat up bullies and helped the kid cheat on a math test. I could be missing some of the details, my mom probably has the thing in a box somewhere. I won a $50 gift certificate to a local book store with that story! I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a journal and a pen on me. I can’t remember a single time when I didn’t think it was important to write down my thoughts; at the very least they could be interesting to my kids someday, flipping through stacks of papers and little notebooks their dad left behind.
I wrote my first book of poems because my mom got cancer in 2005 and it scared the shit out of me. I think it was the first time I really put it together in my head, my mother was going to die—if not from this cancer then from something, and I didn’t think I could bear to go through that. Then I thought about [my wife] Sarah dying and my friends, even my dog. Then, of course me—I was going to die too and it could be at any minute. I mean, I have always known that, but seeing my mom get sick made me intimately aware of death.
For whatever reason what I needed to do to get through that weird time in my life was to pour myself into a project that was just mine. Maybe if I wasn’t such a shitty guitar player I would have recorded a folky solo album or something, but since that wasn’t an option I just wrote like it was the only thing that mattered to me. For a few weeks, it really was; it gave me a place to go where I didn’t feel so temporary.
4. You’re releasing a new book, Trading Sunshine For Shadows. Tell us about it.
I released Trading Shadows For Sunshine during a strange transition in my life. I had quit my band (Strata) and was working in an office doing design work. My plan was to leave music in the past, to try and be content with a ‘normal’ life. I was proud of the book at first; I thought of it as the last creative thing I would release. I experimented with fictional short stories, which I don’t think are bad, they’re just not true. Each poem I wrote felt a little bit false—like I was sugar-coating things, and trying to put a positive spin on what should have just been left raw…unhappy endings and all.
Trading Shadows For Sunshine was out of print for a while, and people kept asking when it would be in stock again, but I wasn’t proud enough of my work to reprint it as it was. That got me thinking of re-writing the entire book, removing a lot of the fictional stories and expressing the truly dark parts of my emotions. It got to be so dark in the end that I decided switching the title to Trading Sunshine For Shadows made more sense than to call this a re-release of a previous book. The feeling is completely different.
5. The cover feels deeply personal. What’s the story behind the image?
That photo has haunted me ever since I shot it. Sarah and I were having a really rough year. Close friends of ours were dying [what] seemed like every couple of months. Just when we thought we were going to get through it, another one would go. It was just awful, and this photo of Sarah in the bathtub—it was such a strange night, she was so drunk and so sad, I was terrified she was just gonna die of sadness right there in the bath. And I don’t know why, I just felt compelled to grab my camera and shoot a few pictures. It felt like an important moment in our lives. It wasn’t a happy moment like a wedding or a baby’s first step, but something just as massive for that time in our life together—her eyes are normally so bright and clear, and you can see in these photos she’s just looking right through me. At one point I put my hand on the edge of the tub and she put her hand in mine, and I felt like our hearts were trying so hard to keep each other alive.
6. Tell us about your drawings—when did you start and why?
I remember drawing roses on girls’ arms at school, like fake tattoos, and the guys would always ask for their last name in Old English. Kids would have to sign up or get in line at lunch to get drawn on. I think I liked the attention that came with being able to draw well. I was actually better at drawing when I was in middle school than I am now, but I like to think that now I choose more interesting subject matter.
8. You were selling them on Etsy for a while, and then went through some censorship issues. How did that all come about?
I did have some prints and some originals for sale on Etsy for a minute. I was really attracted to their DIY spirit and I felt like their community would embrace me as one of their own—a guy trying to make a couple bucks making stuff he enjoys making—then I guess enough people flagged me and the Etsy authority came along and suspended my store. I was pretty furious about it, but it prompted me take a different approach. I’m sure they didn’t even notice the commotion I thought I was making, but I worked up a photocopied zine full of my drawings and I called it Self Portrait—since the cover was a picture I drew of my own dick.
9. Now you have your zines—tell us about those.
Self Portrait is the title of a zine I put out periodically—and by that I mean, whenever I feel like it. Number Two was thrown together in the middle of a mania/depression that nearly ended my life. It’s scary to look at it now, because I kinda blacked about a month out of my memory. Who knows what that thing looks like from the outside, but it’s another strange chapter of my life where I’m glad I made something in the midst of all the chaos. Otherwise I might not have anything at all left to remind me how bad I can feel sometimes.
10. So many people know and love The Limousines. Can you talk about the direction of the new album, and how you’ve evolved since Get Sharp?
When we were recording Get Sharp we were just getting to know each other. We didn’t even know if we were going to be a band and take it seriously—we were just two guys passing ideas back and forth over email. We played our first couple shows midway through the creation of the album, so we started to see potential in moving away from the glitchy-electro stuff we started out doing and more toward big beats and songs we could sing with a few thousand friends.
Get Sharp is the sound of a band forming. We’ll see what happens with the next album; who knows if we’ll even finish it, or it could be amazing. That’s what’s so fun about the Limousines, we’re completely independent—nobody tells us what to do.