Jim Carroll's band Unicycle Loves You changes styles every album, and now are smothering joyous pop hooks in fuzzed-out indie grit. This dynamic fuels ULY's sound, but as this 20 Questions reveals, Carroll is fueled by oh-so-much more.
Jim Carroll does not like compromise.
He is, after all, a Chicago boy who makes no qualms about his displeasure not only with pre-packaged pop stars, but also the very music industry he is a part of. Following Unicycle Loves You's Brian Deck-produced debut album in 2008, Carroll's once-DIY solo project has morphed into a full-blown band, and with each record, they seem to be changing up their style, moving from power-pop to garage-crunch with surprising ease, and never staying in the same place twice. Actually, that last part is quite literal, because after years of pounding the streets of the Windy City, the group only recently moved to New York City, and now the Big Apple, along with the rest of the world, gets to hear the band's latest opus, The Dead Age, once and for all.
For their new chaotic, noisy disc, Carroll seems to want to take some pop hooks and dirty them up as much as possible, dragging them through blown-out speakers even as the melodies can sometimes be as sweet and catchy as peak Cheap Trick. Just listen to "Suicide Pizza" and the anthemic "Endless Bummer" and you can hear indelible choruses ready to burst onto the radio, but writing easy pop hits was never Carroll's intent. He once wrote a song so catchy that a label exec said "You know, if you release this, this'll be the song you're singing for the rest of your life, right?" He realized it was true, shelved it, and soon played the more interesting game of hiding hooks in the band's unique and quirky saves of sound. They are a self-sabotaging pop band, and that tension that exists in every song makes for some heady, smart, and downright fun listening.
Tackling PopMatters' 20 Questions, Carroll makes no bones about his faith in the group's new album, how great it'd be to time-travel back to NYC in the late 1970s, and how he is constantly "fueled by the hatred that I experience on a daily basis" ...
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1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
I only cry at the death of a loved one.
2. The fictional character most like you?
Ignatius Reilly from A Confederacy Of Dunces. He has absolutely no way of relating to the social confines of modern society.
3. The greatest album, ever?
The Dead Age by Unicycle Loves You
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
5. Your ideal brain food?
Hatred. I am fueled by the hatred that I experience on a daily basis.
6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?
I'm rather content that I even get to write music, produce albums, and play shows for people.
7. You want to be remembered for ...?
8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?
Filmmakers that write, direct, and star in their own movies. ie: Shane Carruth (Upstream Color), Cory McAbee (American Astronaut), and Miranda July (The Future).
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
My Bloody Valentine's Loveless is pretty flawless. What a typical answer, but whatever.
10. Your hidden talents ...?
I can cook foods really good like.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
If you want something done right, do it yourself.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
Bought: my Gretsch. Borrowed: money. Stole: my wife.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or ...?
Please stop ...
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Martin Luther King Jr., Timothy Leary, Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman, Eric Andre, Cara Delevingne, Kim Gordon, Kim Deal, Trusten Williamson, William Klein, Kevin Klein, Kurt Vonnegut, Gordon Ramsay, Paul Rudd, Hannibal Buress, Krist Novoselic, Jimmy Carter, Jerry Garcia, Samantha Fox, Miles Davis, Carroll O'Connor, Frank Zappa, and Lark Voorhies.
15. Time travel: where, when, and why?
NYC 1978. Hang out and make noise art stuff with Jim Jarmusch, Thurston Moore, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Debbie Harry, and Steve Buscemi before they get famous.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation, or Prozac?
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or ...?
Laughter. Comedy saves lives.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
We recently had the opportunity to visit New Orleans and found that it is the place.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Thank you so much for forcing me to pay for something else that I can't afford. I'm so happy that I voted for you both times.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?