Father John Misty drummed and sang with the band Fleet Foxes. But his solo albums — full of cynical, yet heartbreaking folk-rock songs — have made him an indie star. After performing a few songs, we had him share with us his dinner party soundtrack: A playlist of songs he’d spin at a party. His choices included everything from Harry Nilsson covering an old pop classic to a song that’s… well, a little blue.
His first pick was a tune called “Turiya and Ramakrishna,” by jazz great Alice Coltrane. One thing to keep in mind: Father John is a… we guess “prankster” would be the word to use? So fittingly, while this song played, he stood on our prop coffee table and happily kicked the drinking glasses sitting there to bits.
Rico Gagliano: For the folks at home, Father John Misty is destroying the set.
Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s right.
Rico Gagliano: This is a gorgeous tune. Why are you starting your dinner party with this one? It’s actually kind of downbeat to start off a dinner party with.
Father John Misty: I’ve never had a dinner party in my life.
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right.
Rico Gagliano: OK. So, theoretically…
Father John Misty: …Just presuming that I would have very cultured friends who would need to hear some Alice Coltrane.
Rico Gagliano: I’m assuming you’re a fan?
Father John Misty: Yeah, a very big fan.
Rico Gagliano: Do you much about her? But I know that she was a multi-instrumentalist and a harpist. She was like, one of the few jazz harpists ever.
Father John Misty: Yeah. Yeah, I have like, a guiding principle, in terms of musicians that I really love, where I don’t want to know any biographical info or…
Rico Gagliano: I’m sorry. I’m sorry I just ruined it for you.
Father John Misty: So, thanks for ruining…
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah.
Father John Misty: Whoever that was for me!
Rico Gagliano: I’m sorry. That was Iron Maiden I was thinking of. Sorry, that was Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah. Well, here’s something that you didn’t know about her. Her grand-nephew is…
Father John Misty: Is Fly-Lo, as I call him.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, you did know that. See, all right, you’re withholding.
Rico Gagliano: You know him?
Father John Misty: I don’t know him.
Brendan Francis Newnam: So, her grand-nephew is Flying Lotus, an electronic musician.
Father John Misty: Yeah.
Brendan Francis Newnam: And he has a song where he actually loops that song.
Father John Misty: That tune?
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah! And we have that right here.
Brendan Francis Newnam: What do you think?
Father John Misty: Dinner party just went up a notch.
Brendan Francis Newnam: There, it did. Yeah, it did.
Rico Gagliano: Yeah, buddy. Either that or we just went to the Standard Hotel, and we’re sitting in the lobby.
Father John Misty: Yeah. For it to be a Standard Hotel… for it to be any like, modernist hotel lobby music, you would have to feature the lyrics, “Just breathe.”
[Rico and Brendan laugh.]
Rico Gagliano: And the long pause, yeah.
Brendan Francis Newnam: We could bring that back, and we could maybe hear how that would go.
Father John Misty: [While track plays, he sings.] Just breathe. Do do do do dooooo yeah yeah.
Rico Gagliano: We’re going to release that, by the way, and make a ton of money.
Brendan Francis Newnam: All right, so the party is now up a notch. It is now time for your second selection of that you’d play if you were ever to have a dinner party.
Father John Misty: Yeah, if I ate.
Rico Gagliano: [Laughs.] You are slender. You’re a slender man.
Father John Misty: Or had friends.
Brendan Francis Newnam: We could start by playing the clip of this next song.
Father John Misty: Yeah, I don’t like introducing things.
Rico Gagliano: OK.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Let’s play it.
Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s a shame that you don’t learn anything about these musicians because I think you’d really like Nilsson. I think you guys share some interests.
Father John Misty: I think it’s definitely time for me to release like, an American Songbook album. Reinterpret the American…
Rico Gagliano: That is Harry Nilsson from his “American Standards” record with “A Touch of Schmilsson in the Night.”
Father John Misty: It’s a whole… he just kind of tweaks it, even in like, the sweetest moments. If you can walk that line of devotion without losing your soul, that’s like, a very rare thing. And I think, you know, he doesn’t sacrifice himself to do service to these songs because a lot of those songs just sound like static to us. They’re so canonical and familiar and whatever.
Rico Gagliano: Yeah, we know them so well.
Father John Misty: Yeah.
Rico Gagliano: Yeah. That was originally 1931, I think. Bing Crosby or something recorded that.
Father John Misty: I’ve covered this song. I’ve done it.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, really?
Father John Misty: Yeah, I do it live. It usually has a fairly detrimental effect on merch sales [Rico and Brendan laugh.]
Rico Gagliano: Speaking of having a detrimental effect on things, why don’t you introduce your last song? Because we’ve got something to say about this song.
Father John Misty: This next song is called “Mozarella Swastikas…”
Rico Gagliano: That’s real.
Father John Misty: …By Adam Green.
Rico Gagliano: And we’re going to play just enough of this for you people in the audience to get the gist. You’ll understand pretty quickly why we can’t spin too much of it for you. [Abbreviated clip plays. Hear the song below. Warning: the song has explicit lyrics, obviously.]
Rico Gagliano: All right. First of all, this is a public radio show.
Father John Misty: OK.
Rico Gagliano: People in Salt Lake City are hearing this at noon.
Father John Misty: Yeah.
Rico Gagliano: So, thank you for that.
Father John Misty: To be totally honest with you, I only chose this song because this is a hypothetical exercise [Brendan laughs]. It was actually the most offensive song I could find.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, yeah. We got that.
Rico Gagliano: It gets really bad.
Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah. I mean, it is really bad.
Father John Misty: It gets really bad. Yeah. There’s…I think the 14th verse of this song features like, a cavalcade of people [censored] onto a [censored], and someone has to eat the [censored], and it’s horrible. It’s truly, truly horrible, yeah.
Rico Gagliano: All right. So, Father John Misty, ladies and gentlemen!
Brendan Francis Newnam: There it is!
Father John Misty: Thank you very much.