Along with his comedy partner Eric Wareheim, Tim Heidecker has made some of the most truly unsettling comedy of the last decade. Along with a series of musical collaborators (Yellow River Boys, Pusswhip Banggang) he's made a bunch of equally disturbing jams. Now, with his first solo album—In Glendale, out May 20 on the new Jagjaguwar imprint Rado Records—Heidecker is going "somewhat earnest."
In the video for the song "Work From Home," directed by Austin M. Kearns and premiered above, Heidecker takes an increasingly surreal one-shot stroll through his home while being just a touch overly candid with an unseen employer as to the reasons why he won't be coming into the office today. It's a charming example of Heidecker's current implicit mission statement: songs first, jokes second.
In a quick phone chat with The FADER last week, Heidecker talked Glendale, Trump, Randy Newman, Nicolas Cage, and more.
Is this based on real experience? Did you ever actually have jobs from which you’d work from home?
Well I used to have a day job, about fifteen years ago or so, where I would actually call in sick quite a bit. But mostly I would call in sick to work with Eric on stuff. I would usually miraculously get sick on, like, a Friday morning. I would say that I had some food poisoning or something. And then I would take the train down to Philly and we’d make a video that weekend.
Food poisoning? That was your go-to?
A lot of the time it was, “I had some bad sushi,” which now that I’m thinking about it sounds very sort of obviously fake.
There’s some Miller Lite in the video. Is that your bad beer of choice?
I was pretty hands off with the video. Music videos are not my forte; that’s Eric’s claim to fame. So I realized, since I’m not good at it, I should just give the project to somebody who might really bring their own thing to it. So I was hooked up with this kid Austin who directed it, and we worked the idea out together. He had an idea that had too many little story points, I guess you could say, and I talked him away from that. But then I let him take it.
Usually I’m very, very specific. This was a nice thing to just kind of walk into. “Oh, good. The robe you’ve chosen is great.” It was a very pleasant experience.
You’ve called these new songs “somewhat earnest,” which I like. How did you get to this place, of near-earnestness?
I think I’d gotten better at songwriting and production, and, this particular collection of songs, I didn’t feel like I needed a collaborator for and I didn’t really need a gimmick or a character to hide behind. These were unironic songs. They weren’t meant to be bad, or stupid.
You’ve named guys like Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman as inspirations. Those are artists that are now definitely appreciated by a lot of critics and fans but have been, at different points, thought of as not exactly the “coolest,” for lack of a better word. Did that ever make you feel like you were enjoying a guilty pleasure?
No. I've never concerned myself with what is cool. I feel awkward around people who are perceived as cool. It makes sense that these guys get their recognition a little bit later. Specifically with Randy Newman, sometimes it’s hard to hear his earlier music without the baggage of his more popular kid-friendly songs. But when you do, you find these records that are, like, incredible: beautiful and funny and sad and poignant. I don’t know, I like being told a story in songs. I can follow the imagination of the songwriter a bit. That’s the stuff that speaks to me the loudest.
You’ve messed around with some skewering of presidential candidates so far this election cycle, specifically with Jeb Bush. Any plans for more?
I wrote this song the other day about Donald Trump’s pilot for his plane, and it’s really fucking dark and fucked up. I recorded it and I think I’m going to release it, but not yet. I was just fantasizing about what [the pilot’s] story is. What must he think about this? And, without giving too much away—what might he able to contribute to the situation?
You have a song on your album called “I Saw Nicolas Cage.” Did you also see Nicolas Cage having that strange fight with his buddy Vince Neil?
I did, I did see that. It didn’t seem like a fight. It was like an embrace. But, yeah, let’s keep Nicolas Cage in the news ‘cause it’s relevant to my album. It helps me. And anything that helps me is good for America.