I believe that anyone who can get an NME article to end with the line: “It’s Father John Misty’s internet, we just live in it”, has made it. However, opinions about him are divided. Many think him hysterical, others cannot stand his troll-like approach to the world. His tendency to remain under the radar and warrant the term “underrated”, a love of taking the piss and a great big bushy beard is what makes Father John Misty the charismatic figure that he is. His fans are borderline obsessed with this enigmatic man who is cool and quirky and weird and incredibly talented and produces music that is meta and complicated. It’s time to step into his church and be converted to the beautiful sounds of Father John Misty.
His real name is the very boring, very ordinary Joshua Tillman, which does little to convey the mystique of the man behind the name. Originally determined to take on the role of pastor after growing up in a religious household, he thankfully decided to become a musician and sing songs that would never be deemed Sunday school appropriate. His religious upbringing meant that no secular music was ever played, and only at the age of 17 was he introduced to Bob Dylan, whose music was considered acceptable for his short-stint as a born again Christian.
After some solo work and playing in a number of bands, including the folky Fleet Foxes, he gained a following, however the music he produced lacked the depth and irony that was later introduced into his solo work. The natural succession then was to adopt a moniker, produce the music he wanted to, and introduce the world to Father John Misty. The first single off his album Fear Fun, “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” is dark, melodic and gets right under your skin. The accompanying music video never gets tiring, featuring a distraught and disillusioned Aubrey Plaza, as Misty croons ‘Jesus Christ girl, what are people going to think?’
What sets Father John Misty apart is that he’s smart, he’s passionate and his writing is profound. And he also thoroughly enjoys defying expectations and being completely ironic and contradictory. His melodies are often upbeat but feature scathingly dark and cynical commentary on everything, yet he is also romantic in an unconventional way, prevalent on his album I Love You, Honeybear, released in 2015.
He (randomly) penned lyrics for the House of Cards theme song, he turned up on Beyoncé’s Lemonade album and has worked with the likes of Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey and Kid Cudi, while covering a range of artists from Rihanna, to Nine Inch Nails to Arcade Fire. If you’re a fan of the latter, you’d probably agree that Win Butler and Father John Misty are a match made in heaven. He stopped one of his shows to bemoan Trump’s speech at the Republic National Convention describing it as a “demonic clown pageant coronation of our next potential idiot King”. He produced and then removed a cover of Taylor Swift’s song “Blank Space” done in a Velvet Underground sound because Lou Reed told him to in a dream. Eclectic he is.
At the beginning of 2016, he was nominated for Best International Male at the Brit Awards, alongside Justin Bieber in the same category. In an interview, he admitted that his publicist told him he had literally no chance of winning yet he still chose to attend the awards. When Bieber inevitably won, Misty was aware that the camera would pan to him to get a reaction shot. His answer was to look disinterestedly at his phone, turning himself into a meme. He has used this meme for commentary on Kanye West and Donald Trump when they invariably say something moronic, using the hashtag #mastercard which was the sponsor of the Brit Awards. He also chose to create his own clothes line called ‘Life of Padre’ as a parody of West’s Life of Pablo, for the sole purpose of fucking with everyone.
After deleting his Twitter and Instagram accounts (à la Radiohead prior to the release of A Moon Shaped Pool), fans eagerly await news of a new album. He still updates on Facebook, like recently when a contestant from one of those American singing shows (that just won’t die no matter how much time passes and the winners go absolutely nowhere and fade into the lapses of memory) covered “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”. His reaction? Why god why. Classic Father John Misty.