Donkey Jaw: You’ve said that “I’m Moving Back to My Parent’s House” was inspired by the best minds of your generation having to head back to the nest. There was a recent article in “The Guardian” about the perpetual man-child and “prolonged state of infantile bliss” as the new American dream. What are your thoughts on that?
Charles Latham: There has been a lot of harsh criticism of what has been referred to as the “boomerang generation”. What’s often left out of these critiques is that young adults who are moving back home after college or a period of living independently aren’t necessarily doing so by choice, or because of a reluctance to mature: the combined factors of a poor job market, the ever-rising cost of living, and, for so many, crushing student loan debt, often makes independence unsustainable. This phenomenon began well before the Bush Recession was a publicly acknowledged reality, and hasn’t had the benefit of a sympathetic analysis. If young men and women living at home with their parents have become perpetual children, it is a symptom rather than the illness itself. It’s actually the antithesis of the American Dream rather than a new version.
I wanted to write a first-person narrative that expressed the emotionally complex nature of this particular situation: here is a person who is experiencing failure at an early stage in life, due to circumstances which he doesn’t even realize are beyond his control.
I tried to make “I’m Moving Back to My Parent’s House” (which could be an essay) into a three minute song.
It’s been several generations in this country since the state of the economy has been felt at such an immediate, every-day, gut level, and that thread runs through every one of these songs.
You write in the same dark, but wildly entertaining/comedic vein of songwriters like Steve Poltz and Hayes Carll. Ever listen to those guys?
I haven’t yet heard either songwriter, but from your description I’m sure I would like them. I like “dark and wildly entertaining” .
How do you craft the characters in your songs?
I tend to write about myself or people I know, or situations I could easily find myself in. I use songwriting as a way of personalizing social issues.
Your single “The Internet Sexual Predator Talking Blues”, a song about the scandal surrounding ex-Congressman Mark Foley was blessed by Pitchfork. Seems like they would be ripe subject matter for the picking some day given the love/hate relationship folks have with their opinions. Any plans for something like that?
That would be a bit hypocritical of me, as I tend to use songwriting as an outlet for my own critical opinions. I don’t always agree with their reviews and tastes, but not any less than any other outlet. Criticism isn’t objective journalism.
People often use the term “tastemaker” like it’s a bad thing. If Pitchfork has succeeded at being widely read, good for them.
I would never fault anyone for writing about art, and thereby placing an importance on it, especially in this country, where music and art programs are always first under the knife in our educational system.
A few years ago, you made a trip to NYC to explore the origins of the antifolk movement at The Sidewalk Cafe and subsequently founded Antifolk SouthEast. Do you still keep up with any of those players?
One of the many reasons I’m so excited to be part of the Hopscotch Music Festival this year is to make music with and hear the music of my friends in North Carolina. Antifolk SouthEast consisted of musicians from the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill (“The Triangle”) area, all of whom, I’m proud to say, I’m still in contact with. In fact, members from two of the principal bands in the collective (The Wigg Report and Midtown Dickens) will be joining me on stage at Hopscotch.
What was the biggest lesson learned from those days?
It took moving away to learn that vibrant, supportive local music scenes don’t exist in every city.
You are releasing your latest collection of songs “Fast Loans” exclusively at Hopscotch Music Festival 2012. Tell me more about that and the nifty eco-packing for the music.
The last thing the world needs is more plastic, so “Fast Loans” will be available as a digital album, accessible by purchasing a card with a unique download code. The card is made of 100% recycled (and recyclable) material.
I chose to package the album this way because there isn’t any other information I’d like to convey other than the music and the artwork: I wrote, recorded, and produced the songs by myself, so there aren’t any other musicians to acknowledge, or anything special about the process. I didn’t record it in the woods or in the south of France, just mostly in my bedroom in various apartments in Philadelphia (where I lived until recently).
Charles Latham makes his Hopscotch debut alongside Curtis Elller, Elephant Micah, and Donovan Quinnat at Five Star on Thursday, September 6th at 10:30PM.