Named SPIN‘s “Band of the Month” for their first release, Her Brilliant Fifteen, the Motion Sick draw parallels to Vonnegut with lyrics ringing of social commentary. Never too serious while slinging weighty subject matters and unconventional musical themes, the band remains profoundly simple in the melodic nods to their literary muses and societal inspirations. Mike Epstein of the Motion Sick answers PopMatters’ 20 Questions.
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
It was a few years back, but I cried at the end of the movie Immortal Beloved. There is something about the frequently occurring disjunction between creative genius and personal happiness that always gets to me. I am sure the movie was highly fictionalized, but the ever-mounting misery throughout the life of Beethoven, perhaps the most famous musician of all time, was enough to get me.
2. The fictional character most like you?
I often feel a little bit like Arthur Dent. I often feel like I wake up in the morning to small-scale battles only to find out that the Earth is about to be destroyed. Also, I always carry a towel.
3. The greatest album, ever?
I’m pretty partial to Radiohead’s The Bends. “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” is a perfect, neverending song. I once looped and layered it on a radio show I was doing for about two hours. I find essentially all of their work after OK Computer to be unlistenable.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Quite honestly, I never understood why they didn’t do a cross-over story in the late ‘70s. Captain Kirk could be taught to use the force by Spock, who, quite uncoincidentally has the same ears as Yoda, but is not similarly pigmented. Also, there is significant evidence that both characters are Jewish. Yoda’s backward speak is modeled after Yiddish-speaking immigrants and Spock’s split-fingered salute is based on an ancient symbol of the Jewish Priests of the Temple. Prosper and live long you will.
5. Your ideal brain food?
I’m a vegan so I don’t eat brains, but my favorite headline ever from The Onion is “Zombie Dietitian Recommends All-Brain Diet”. The article also included a photo of a zombie in a suit at a podium pointing to a food pyramid with brains in every section.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
I don’t think I’ve yet made any great accomplishments, but any time I’ve had to work hard to get anything done, there is always a great feeling upon completion. I tend to keep on moving and not spend too much time worrying about what I’ve done, because it’s always a lot less interesting to me than what I am doing.
Photo: Tanit Sakakini
7. You want to be remembered for…?
Inspiring at least one person to approach life inquisitively and analytically. It’s abstract, but the actual creations we leave behind will eventually die. The people we inspire and influence will pass that along for all time. Arthur Miller once said his greatest creation was his children. Although many consider him one of the great writers of modern times, he believed that his plays would be forgotten in a century at most.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
I appreciate those who are brilliant, but also teeming with humanity. Albert Einstein comes to mind. He also had great hair. I also really enjoy the works of Alfred Hitchcock, Kurt Vonnegut, and Nikola Tesla.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
The song “Happy Birthday,” the movie Death Race 2000, and cell-phone adhesive bling.
10. Your hidden talents…?
I’m good at the video game M.U.L.E., typing fast using no more than three fingers, and eating a quantity of food disproportionate to my body size.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
“Just go out with her already!” That advice came from about 100 independent observers.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
I’m quite fond of my newish video camera. Though I haven’t yet done much of it, it will allow me to document aspects of my existence that I might like to pass on to future generations of Epsteins. I have recently developed a great interest in my origins and the lives of my ancestors. The more I learn, the more I see commonalities in personality, desire, and decisions. I didn’t ever think that I would develop such an interest, but now I’d like to document my life and my family’s history for the entertainment and education of those to come.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?
I’ve never owned anything Armani. As long as I look like an awesome hipster, thereby tricking people into thinking that I am somehow leading a superior existence, I don’t really care.
Photo: Bethany Blodgett
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
I’ve never really learned anything from meeting anyone of great general fame or note. I guess if I were having a special dinner party, I’d like it to see the following people in attendance, interacting with one another: Fidel Castro, George Clooney, Paris Hilton, Bill Clinton, Amelda Marcos, the corpse of Alfred Hitchcock, and Martin Starr.
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
1. Eastern Europe, the late 1800s, to hang out with great grandfather. 2. New York, Year 3008, just for kicks.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
Rock and roll.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or…?
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
I guess if I really wanted to be somewhere besides Boston, I would be there, but I am really into the music, food, and weather of Seattle.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
The truth will catch you, just wait…
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
I am trying to figure out how to teach statistics to the resistant. Mostly, it involves making diagrams of the possible outcomes of things like coin flips that include birds swooping down and eating the coin mid-air. Also, I am trying to write a song about how women fire their undergarments at the Motion Sick in a concert setting.
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