Photo by Lalitree Darnielle
They say you should never meet your heroes. This is a phrase most commonly repeated by those fans who find that the real life version of the one they idolize could never compare to whatever manic dream of a person they have concocted in their head. It is the reason I fled immediately the time I saw all the members of the band No Parents in my local Goodwill one day…
However, Joseph Fink, author and creator of famed podcasts Welcome to Night Vale and Alice Isn’t Dead, is a braver man than I. In his new podcast, I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats, Fink sits down with John Darnielle, lead singer and songwriter of the legendary folk band the Mountain Goats to discuss music, fandom, and inspiration. Season one focuses on the 2000 Mountain Goats release All Hail West Texas, with each episode dedicated to a different track off of the album. Each episode Joseph and John discuss the history of the song and what it means to them, how it came about, and how it fits into their life stories–Joseph as a fan of the music, and John as its creator.
Photo via Merge Records
If you are already a fan of The Mountain Goats, it is easy to assume that you know everything there is to know about John Darnielle. Listening to his entire discography is a lot like having a long, drunken talk with someone you just met at a party, but felt like you have known for years. He achieved legendary status with his powerful yet simple lyrics paired with his honest and well crafted storytelling. With subjects such as abuse, addiction, heartbreak, and an ever-developing relationship with God, Darnielle wears his heart on his musical sleeve. This podcast, however, does something that listening to the music cannot. Episode by episode, Darnielle reveals himself to be a man who cares deeply about his community, his relationship to God, and his family. Nobody should be shocked that Darnielle is a big fan of Jesus Christ–the Mountain Goats have an entire album with songs named after verses of the bible–But listeners may be surprised to hear just how much Darnielle is invested in scripture. In one episode, Darielle and special guest author John Green (famed author of The Fault In Our Stars) Share their love of hymns, even if they end in seemingly sacrilegious phrases like “hail satan” such as in the Mountain Goats hit “the Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton” does. There are moments where Darnielle is moved to tears by his passion for God, community, and love. Darnielle is a someone who, in his nearly twenty three years of performing, has scarcely told interviewers his age, and yet here he is, allowing listeners into his home to hear him give his passionate homilies.
Each episode also features visiting artists who are fans of the Mountain Goats and thier own recordings of each episode’s song. While this may seem like a recipe for an unabashed Mountain Goats love-fest, it actually serves a deeper purpose for listeners. This podcasts shows how the art we love inspires us and how it comes to mean something to someone. Both Fink and the visiting artists ask John deeper questions about his life and work not because they have to, but because they care enough to. John responds thoughtfully, making for a rather rare look into raw thoughts of the “tortured genius”. It breaks down these barriers we set as fans, as well as the false identities we place upon our heros. After all, it is very hard to romanticize a man who is literally (according to episode four) talking into a microphone covered by a sock.
Photo by DL Anderson
Anyone who knows me is aware of my own obsession with the Mountain Goats. I once played an entire hour of their music on my radio show, I design future tattoos based around their lyrics, and of course, I seek out and listen to podcasts dedicated to them.
Through I only Listen to the Mountain Goats, I met my hero. And this time, I’m not running.
Listen to the I Only Listen To The Mountain Goats Podcast here
And Listen to the I Only Listen To The Mountain Goats Album here
SHELBY JOY LEONE | Hail Satan | KXSU Music Reporter