Swinging Modern Sounds #80: I Just Don’t Want to Wait Around Anymore

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Longtime readers of this column may remember a narrative piece about Mark Mulcahy and the band Miracle Legion from 2010. And I also wrote about him for another publication on the occasion of his last solo album, the excellent Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You. What would have been impossible to forecast at the time that I wrote those earlier pieces was that Mulcahy would reconvene Miracle Legion, a noteworthy band here in the Northeast with a passionate cult audience, and that those shows, and the success of Mulcahy’s solo album, would launch him from the wilds of a certain New England town (where he’s raising twin daughters) back into any discussion of noteworthy contemporary American songwriters. For a guy with a nearly forty-year career, Mulcahy sounds like anything but, with a remarkably strong and ambitious onstage life now, enough so to be doing the reunion tour with Miracle Legion (it winds down in late April, with shows in New York at the Bowery Ballroom, at Mass MoCA, and in the town where it all started: Hamden, CT) and planning multiple solo releases this year as well. He is acting like a musician in his twenties or thirties, as though he needs to prove it all again.

The occasion of this interview was not only the last shows of the Miracle Legion reunion, but the release of the new Mulcahy solo album The Possum in the Driveway. Mulcahy’s Possum is, like the animal titularly referred to, a sly and imaginative affair; it’s highly melodic, acerbic, sad, and funny, extraordinarily well sung (as all things Mulcahy are these days), and also exceedingly well arranged. It’s not an indie rock album at all. It makes indie rock sound like something a teenager would do in the shower. Indeed, I don’t think the word masterpiece is out of the question here, or, at least, career-defining. I think you would have to go back twenty years or more to find Mulcahy so sure of what he means to do and so able to get there with the resources at his command. This is what music is supposed to be when it aspires to be art. And that’s part of why Mulcahy is such a fascinating character. He’s a middle-class kid who never finished college who is nonetheless as artful at turning a phrase as an MFA candidate (when I said that I might be late to the interview because I was driving from New York, Mulcahy said that traffic from NYC to New Haven, where we were to meet, was about as “reliable as a marble in an ice cube”). He’s a person who has had tremendous hardship in his life who is nonetheless self-evidently full of joy and excitement about the world, and he’s a person who has had a difficult career in music who nonetheless still wants to make his mark. Without overstating the case, there are few contemporary artists I can think of who are more worthy of musical esteem than Mulcahy, who are still capable of swinging for the fences as Mulcahy does on The Possum in the Driveway. It’s no wonder that people like Thom Yorke and Michael Stipe and Black Francis have sung his praises over the years.

We talked over Thai food in Mulcahy’s former home town of New Haven, CT, and he gave me an ongoing disquisition about what the town was like in the less gentrified seventies, when he booked and cleaned the punk rock club down the street from Yale. As with just about everything out of his mouth, the rap about New Haven was both funny and poignant. Mulcahy was once a sort of Jim Morrison-ish beauty, and now he has an Ozark beard that, with the knowing gaze, gives him an avuncular greatness. It’s in the songs, too, human wisdom.

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The Rumpus: From my privileged position of knowing you a little bit, I feel like you never wanted to do the Miracle Legion reunion shows.

Mark Mulcahy: I wouldn’t have thought so, no.

Rumpus: I remember when you were getting ready to do the Polaris reunion gigs, I said “Hey, would you ever consider doing a Miracle Legion show?” and you shut it down. At least that’s how I remember it. So, what changed?

Mulcahy: Because we did the Polaris thing—we reunified—it sort of got the manager thinking and he said, “Well, what do you think?” And I thought, “Well, it’s probably a bad idea but, if you can make it work out some way, then I’ll do it.” And then he did make it work out and we got a couple of pretty good shows and we could go to England. There was some second guessing and hand-wringing before we actually did it. In the months of the dates coming up, there was a lot of “Who wants this?” Like, I said to a friend of mine: “Are you coming to the show?” and “Are you nervous?” and he goes: “Nervous? I’m scared out of my fucking mind that it’s going to suck!” And, right, that’s how I felt! Plenty of times when a band gets back together it’s like (insert gagging noises).

But then I thought “okay” when starting to listen to these songs; I like these songs and I hadn’t heard them in a long time and it became like something to look forward to, A Trip to Bountiful where I’m going to hear these things I haven’t heard in a long time. I used to love playing those songs so I hoped it would be that way. [Mr.] Ray [Neal, guitarist of Miracle Legion] came to town and he and I got together to practice and it just was awful! It just sounded… just bad. And then I got into a real sort of panic. We did a lot of duo work, too, and that was never anything that we did that well, but I thought it would sound better than that. Then we got together—the four of us. We practiced at this farm house and it was this classically dusty, dingy, farm house. Then we went into the backyard and it sounded really good.

Rumpus: Was it because you’d been playing with the rhythm section in Polaris?

Mulcahy: Those guys had been playing. The problem with Ray was that he hadn’t been doing it for a long time. If you fall out of playing, “whatever” gets lost. But if you keep going… it’s like a house that’s lived in feels lived in and if nobody lives there, something’s wrong. So, he lost his kind of mojo, whatever. But he got it back pretty good! Eventually, by the time we got to the later shows, we were feeling pretty strong. We’re putting out a record of pretty much the last show we played in America: in this barn in Iowa. It sounds pretty crazy, you know. Anyway, we sort of got it back and I committed myself to no nostalgic thought of when we were playing or talking to the crowd about something that happened a long time ago. I wanted to make it like how Dinosaur, Jr. does their thing.

Rumpus: Move forward.

Mulcahy: They just move forward. We’re just going forward all the time; it’s been pretty enjoyable, you know, to do. I couldn’t do it that long; we’re doing it again. Part two of thinking I’d never do it again is going on again! I’m glad we did it, you know.

Rumpus: So, what about you and Ray? Dinosaur, Jr. is a good example because I hear that Jay still doesn’t talk to Lou; he send messages to Lou through Murph. So, whatever the interpersonal issues were, they’ve managed to transcend them to do the shows but there are still interpersonal things. Were there politics to you and Ray doing it again?

Mulcahy: I’m pretty sure it would all happen again if we were in it for the long haul like those guys are but we’re not. I was walking in my yard after we played a few shows and it was like it’s funny, you know, even after three shows, it’s all back. It’s all in the same room it was in before. When we pulled up near The Bell House—we had been driving a lot that day— I stopped at a red light and Scott (the bass player of Miracle Legion and Polaris) got out and started walking, didn’t say a word!

Rumpus: [Laughs]

Mulcahy: I’m like “You’re going to walk?!” and he’s like “Yep!” That’s just totally classic. We’re at a point where we’re just beating each other up as a band. As rough as anybody else, but we had a very rough tenure in the music business. Not much went right. Some things went right and I’m super happy but a lot of things were negative. Like anybody.

Rumpus: So, when you say—as you did in the oral history of Miracle Legion that I read online—that you love Ray like a brother, you mean the kind of brother where you hit each other with blunt force objects occasionally.

Mulcahy: No, no! We don’t have anything like that; we don’t even argue.

Rumpus: I’m speaking metaphorically.

Mulcahy: We don’t even really argue. It’s not so much like that; it’s more I’m so intertwined with him, with who I am. In my adult life, I grew up with him; we’re brotherly like that. We see each other sometimes and it’s always good. Personally, I have great times with him but, working with him—I don’t think I can do that anymore. I don’t know if he could work with me either on something long-term. I’m so into what I’m doing on my own that I’m not looking for a partner.

Rumpus: So the trajectory is not to reunify again in five years, and maybe write some songs and tour some more?

Mulcahy: No. There were a couple of moments when we thought: “Yeah, maybe we could record something” but I don’t know why I would do that, not because I don’t want to or think it’s some awful thing but I just don’t have enough time in my head to do that. We’re a great example of something that would be “Never say never,” so I don’t have any desire to say “Never.” It all happened where someone said “Hey, I’m going to play this gig for tons of money” and I’m like “Wait a minute; I thought I said no, but…” [Laughs] The same goes for Polaris: I never thought we’d do that but somebody offered us a ton of money and we thought, “Okay, maybe we should think about that” and then you’re kind of glad, you know. I didn’t do it just for the money but I got the money and it was great.

Rumpus: What about Polaris?

Mulcahy: That I could see doing again. Not because it was any more or less pleasant; that has its own tiny, little life. We’re not taking from some long period of time; it’s only one little thing and you can do it and everybody’s happy and there’s low expectations because everybody loves it. If I walked in and said I’m from Polaris, it’s like “Great!” There’s no baggage; there’s none of the usual. There’s no reason to not do it.

Rumpus: But you played Miracle Legion songs at the Polaris show that I saw, so, in a way, the only difference is: no Ray.

Mulcahy: That’s all. It’s nothing to do with him that it’s more fun to do Polaris, it’s just that somehow that was really fun. Every song is a winner. There’s only this many; you only have to play those. People are so ecstatic, you know?

Rumpus: What about playing guitar? You have to play guitar in Polaris and you don’t have to play guitar in Miracle Legion, right?

Mulcahy: I know and, I have to say, man: that was one of the great revelations. I don’t want to play guitar; I just want to sing. So, I’m going to try, when I get back to doing my own gigs, to somehow find a band that allows me to just be the singer or mostly just the singer.

Rumpus: Yeah.

Mulcahy: I’m really well-suited to playing my songs on guitar because that’s the way they make the most sense, even though we’ve tried other guys. I’m a drummer playing guitar so I’m the glue but I want to find somebody…

Rumpus: So, you’re saying that really good guitar players are too good or something?

Mulcahy: It’s funny; I’m a real bar chord man. You play guitar, right?

Rumpus: Yeah, I’m more folkie. I press the little dots down in the little diagrams.

Mulcahy: See, I can’t do anything like that. I’ve had guys play with me and struggle with all the bar chords; their hands are in pain from so much bar chord work.

Rumpus: When you say that you want to sing, does that mean that both playing guitar and singing restricts your ability to express yourself as a singer?

Mulcahy: Pretty much. I’ve never gotten very good at guitar, you know. I’ve gotten good enough and, when we play a lot of gigs I’m pretty good, but I still don’t really know where all the songs start. I have to look at the other guy to see if that’s the right place and I have all these notes to myself like “two and one.” [Laughs] So, I don’t know enough—I should be more embarrassed. I just really enjoy it. Playing guitar and singing are really hard to do; it’s just so much more fun to be the singer and it’s so rare. In general, there aren’t a lot of bands who just have a singer. I think, for my presentation of myself, I do better just singing. People are happier. You ever just go see a band or see somebody who’s a singer but he used to play guitar?

Rumpus: I think David Bowie had that struggle, you know, because he was not such a great guitar player. I was given to understand that he really didn’t feel that confident about singing and playing at the same time. You know, all those early songs he wrote on guitar but he didn’t like to do it on stage that much.

Mulcahy: So, he did originally play guitar?

Rumpus: Sure, in Spiders from Mars, he played acoustic.

Mulcahy: Yeah, I guess he played acoustic, yeah. I’m so stuck on this: there’s a version of him on YouTube doing “Heroes.”

Rumpus: Oh, the acoustic one with just the trio?

Mulcahy: Nope, it’s a whole band.

Rumpus: Oh yeah?

Mulcahy: It’s later; he’s like fifty, maybe sixty. It’s just amazing, man! He’s kind of drunk; he’s got that band he had for a long time. He finishes up and he goes: “Oh man, I really felt that” and he looks so happy and this is an older guy really digging it and being really cool. I can just watch it over and over.

Rumpus: So, can I ask you about the new record?

Mulcahy: Sure, if you want to.

Rumpus: So, if I didn’t know better I would say that the new record is a reaction against The Miracle Legion reunion tour but, as I understand, it was recorded before The Miracle Legion tour, right?

Mulcahy: Yeah, it’s been recorded for a pretty long time.

Rumpus: So, you began after the Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You record with these songs?

Mulcahy: To be honest with you, I started it before that.

Rumpus: Really?

Mulcahy: It’s been going for a long time; it’s taken a long time. I’m not calling it a masterpiece but a masterpiece approaches something that takes this much time; it’s like a Leonard Cohen thing where it took me five years to write two lyrics. So, it took a long time partly because something just kept getting in the way of it and, partly, because, to me, it’s an elaborate thing that has lots of parts in it and a lot of musicians and a lot of thinking. A lot more thinking than I do now! I wouldn’t make a record like that now; if I was going to make another record, like the one I’m working on, it wouldn’t be like that at all. I don’t know how to go back to making one like that. Some of those songs were much longer than they are now.

Rumpus: I want to hear the long versions!

Mulcahy: That’s how I was thinking, you know. In a way, I wasn’t thinking: “Is this too long? Is this too much? Is this the right way to do something?” I didn’t have any thought like that; I love that about it. I thought we were going to keep going and then Scott [Amore] had done these mixes of it.

Rumpus: Scott is the producer?

Mulcahy: He produced the record. He’s a keyboard player.

Rumpus: Oh, he plays the Wurlitzer? I was going to ask.

Mulcahy: He plays all those crazy things and he also played a lot after I left. He was like “Hey, I’m going to add this in there!” which is not normally how I would go about it and then he had done these mixes and then we just put them on and went “Wow!” Me and him and Kenny [Maiuri] got together and said “You know what: that’s good, man! That’s enough.” I always wonder about painters, about when it’s done. About a book, too. I guess a book is finished when a guy goes, “I can’t take it anymore.” So, there was a little bit of that kind of thing going on.

Rumpus: The keyboards are front and center throughout the record; there’s a ton of electric piano on it. That, in my way of thinking, supported the idea that it was sort of an anti-Miracle Legion record because it’s not a guitar rock record in the same way that I would expect (in a way, that the Mark J. Mulcahy record is a guitar record, you know). It seems like a lot of stuff is built around keyboard parts. Did you write at the keyboard?

Mulcahy: I’m pretty sure I did, yeah. Some of them I played drums on. I guess I was fooling around on the piano; I’m on the piano the same way I’m on the guitar. I just play enough to make something up but I could never play a song in a club or something. That’s when I can play drums. I’m doing that on this record: I play drums. Plus Scott has all these insane keyboards that most people would melt to get their hands on. There’s an ATI on there, a lot of things you never see a lot of. And all those horns and stuff; I really dig all that.

Rumpus: Who wrote the horn parts?

Mulcahy: The guys. One guy’s a real great trumpeter. The guy who played all the reeds and stuff—that’s a real piece of genius, man. He should be doing anything he wanted. He said, “I don’t know if you want to hear this,” and I said, “Sure, I do!” He wrote this five-part clarinet thing. We had a lot of really great players but, you know, we were moving around and there’d be a year between nothing and we’d go to some other place.

Rumpus: So, you didn’t record in one studio?

Mulcahy: It wasn’t like that and then I got involved with Polaris. I’m not a helicopter artist—I do one thing and then I’m on the next thing. I’m not doing five things at one time.

Rumpus: How much post-production stuff went onto it? A lot, I guess. They overdubbed a lot on it?

Mulcahy: Well, that was Scott. He was doing a lot of manipulation; it’s a very manipulated record. He’s in the Tony Visconti band.

Rumpus: The thing that was interesting to me was that I was feeling like there was a particular reverb sound on the vocals that was pretty much constant throughout and I was going to ask you if there was a particular room that got you that reverb sound.

Mulcahy: It’s Scott, you know, and normally I wouldn’t like that! I’d say that normally I don’t want to be that lost within the thing. Even though I didn’t think about it until I finished it and had someone hear it, the vocals are pretty prominent. I didn’t think of that. I feel like we’re all on the same kind of wash and swirl: the “waste” is what we always used to call it. It’s all this waste waving itself around the ideas. [Laughs] And I’m happy with a lot of the ideas! I like the concepts of the songs; I’m happy to get that idea or whatever that is out. All the sonics and the singing and the tune, I want that but I want it to have some idea! Whenever I have songs that I’ve put out that don’t have any idea—even if it’s a stupid idea—I like the idea of saying it. Like “Shiny Happy People”: I don’t like that idea. That’s not a good idea to put out. You know what I mean? And I love the guy.

Rumpus: Does the album as a whole have a thematic unity for you?

Mulcahy: Not particularly. Where it tightens up are the sonics of it and the idea of it. It really feels like a piece of music. On the one hand, it feels like a big piece of music to me and, on the other hand, nothing really goes together.

Rumpus: But there’s a lot of Hollywood shit on there. Hollywood keeps coming back into it, so much so that I sort of felt that Geraldine (in the last song, “Geraldine”) had to be Geraldine Page.

Mulcahy: [Laughs] No. I love Hollywood. I want to go there. I’m going there! I want to live there! I’m getting an Airbnb.

Rumpus: After I read the Miracle Legion oral history thing, I realized that, over the years, all my many attempts to infuse meaning into the lyrics of Mark J. Mulcahy were probably entirely erroneous. And that’s maybe how you want it! You have suggested that you really like the fact that people can kind of read into the lyrics and project onto them and you don’t want to take away potential meanings that might accrue to the listener by disabusing them of their personal interpretations, right?

Mulcahy: I believe that. At the shadiest of times, I believe that.

Rumpus: How do you reconcile that then with wanting to get a particular lyrical idea across?

Mulcahy: Well, this record’s not that. Mark J. Mulcahy was me just trying to be clever on some level. You know, making stuff up from nothing—there’s nothing there; it didn’t happen to me… that’s its own trick. I don’t discount that as meaningless. You want to put it together to make people think. If it was “Shiny Happy People” or something, it’d still be going nowhere. All these songs are all about something. I can’t think of all of them but they’re all a tribute to somebody or some explanation of something, some exposition of some idea. Maybe “Hollywood Never Forgives” is not really…

Rumpus: I want to talk about that song because that song is totally crazy! Was there a demo of that song? How did that song get made?

Mulcahy: We were trying to make it all day. Maybe I was on guitar and Kenny was on drums. I remember we’d always go to this pizza place so we went to the pizza place to get the pizza and we’re coming back with the pizza and I’m like “Kenny, it’s just not going anywhere.” I hate to be always looking for something but I’ve learned now that, in the recording, you have to look; it’s not going to just happen. It happens by accident but you have to at least know that it happened or look for it to happen or wait till it happens. The thing you want is an intangible thing. It’s not a real thing. The thing that happens happens because everything worked at some time, for three minutes or something.

Anyway, it was, for me, a bullshit discussion of, “It’s not working; it’s not happening. We’re not getting anywhere with this thing,” and, “I know! We’ve been here all day working on this one stupid thing!” It was very short and Kenny goes “All right, let’s switch, man: I’ll play keyboards and you play drums.” I think that’s what happened. So I get on the drums and I’m no ace on the drums either but I like my drumming for me. So we just started going bananas and boom! There it was. One time, I think—you listen to it and are like, “There it is!” It’s crazy. So we just went crazy with the rest of it. It was easy once something good happened. Does that make sense?

Rumpus: That makes sense but was the skeleton of the form of the song apparent to you or was that discovered in that moment when you swapped instruments?

Mulcahy: I think that’s what it was. I was playing on guitar and doing nothing.You know, this kind of hokey nothing, I think. Somehow, we just decided… we made a decision to do it better! [Laughs] It’s just so frustrating, to keep tracking something is annoying. You really lose everything once you’re on take twelve. People can do that but that’s people who have days and days; they can block out for six months. Tom Petty has said something like “We spent six months on that song.” I wouldn’t want to do that but it’s nice, you know.

Rumpus: So, you’ve never worked that way? You didn’t work that way even on like Drenched [the Miracle Legion album from 1992, recently rereleased on Bandcamp]?

Mulcahy: The only time we blocked out the studio was, yeah, with Drenched. That was six or eight weeks of recording in one studio. It wasn’t for creativeness. We already had done it. If I had any brains, I would have put out what we already did; there’s a demo of most of those songs that’s much better, for my money.

Rumpus: Really?

Mulcahy: Oh, yeah. I think so. I know it better and that we made it in Cambridge… you know Fort Apache?

Rumpus: Sure.

Mulcahy: Fort Apache had two places in Cambridge and we were actually at the one in Roxbury (a dangerous part of town) and we slept there and we’d buy bags of groceries and sleep in the control room; it was all very how it normally would be. It’s great; we invented everything there and then we went to LA. The producer was like, “Okay, what did you guys do here? Let’s go do that.” It was really soulless, you know. He brought in—and I’m sure the guy’s great—Bonnie Raitt’s saxophone player. He had a panama hat and was like [mimics musical sounds]. It was all kind of empty. That was too bad because it would’ve been sweet to be there for six weeks but I don’t think they let you do that; the producer was there to make sure we were on track and not wasting money.

Rumpus: So, mostly you do it in just a few takes these days?

Mulcahy: It’s funny because the one I’m doing right now is just great; we’re in this round room. It’s in a place called Chicopee, Massachusetts and we’ll just keep going, you know. Just try it again and again and again and then there’s a couple times where we’ll be doing it and we’ll get something pretty good. It’s real relaxed so there’s no frustration or anything and then I’ll start singing and go, “You know what, man: we probably should be in a different key.” Nobody says, “Different key?! Dude, why didn’t you say that before? You’re wasting time!” We’ll just do it again. It’s all been really relaxed but it is a lot of takes, you know. I don’t know how to do it. The main thing I’ve learned is that you’ve got to look for the thing you want. It’s like, have you ever seen that show American Roots?

Rumpus: Yeah, sure.

Mulcahy: He talks to all these old geezers and you listen to all these old dudes and they’re walking music things that just know and probably never have to wait. But you know it’s all about “How do I make a tune?” and they’ll put some song on from 1948 or ’55 and it’s so awesome and you just want to find a way to make that happen. My friend told me that he went to see Neil Young do Unplugged (when they used to do that) and they played like six songs and then he goes, “What do you guys think, sounds pretty good, right?” and the band’s like, “Yeah, man” and he says, “Okay, let’s start” and they had already started. Being done, he’s like “Let’s start,” and they started all over again because that’s when it sounded right to the guys. I’m learning how to pay attention to myself, you know.

Rumpus: So, does that mean, with The Possum in the Driveway, you knew that it was going to have this incredibly suped-up, complex, highly arranged sound?

Mulcahy: No, I didn’t. I really didn’t. We settled in on the basic track and we went to one studio just for one day and I called these couple of guys I knew—they’re really good players and really good guys, and really thoughtful—that showed up and had all these things figured out and were like, “I want to do this,” and we did it and it was always great. We did that a couple more times and it wasn’t always the best way: being on a deadline and trying to assembly line it but on that particular day… The sax player (this guy called Peyton Pinkerton) was great and a bunch of guys came in that were really good; it all turned into “Who’s got something to bring” and then I was just singing on top of everything. I didn’t really play that much on it where I would’ve normally played more stuff.

Rumpus: That contributes to it not being a rock album in a conventional way because it doesn’t have that mid-tempo Mark Mulcahy rhythm guitar sound. There’s very little of that.

Mulcahy: I’m happy that I made something that’s outside of myself, kind of. I don’t want to say I’m worried that not everyone’s going to like it. The manager didn’t like it for a really long time; it took him a long time to come around and say, “I really like it.” It’s probably something that you have to listen to a few times. A lot of times you put a record on expecting the thing and maybe that’s not what’s there.

Rumpus: It’s so rangy in terms of vibe of various songs. In a way, I was thinking that it reminded me almost of an early ’70s album because it doesn’t have a dominant style on the album. Every song is different from every other song. Which I think is really interesting.

Mulcahy: And deep and weird and wrong and echo-y. Some of the songs we really had to trim the fat out because there’s still this much more and I was kind of thinking, “Let’s just let it go till the end,” because more weirdness happened but you kind of have to rein it in somehow.

Rumpus: The first song is deeply beautiful.

Mulcahy: The first song is a really quiet tune; it’s so on the money, you know. The first time we played that song was at—I played a gig with Ben Katchor at a synagogue called Nature’s Weakness and it was four different acts. I only played two songs but that was one of them and four people came up to me and said “What was that?” As much as I talk about getting a groove and finding a groove, “What is that?” is one of the greatest reactions to one something you did. They’re stupefied by something that got into their head immediately. That kind of song is not like a pop song, you know, repeated.

Rumpus: I think having “Stuck on Something Else” at the opening and “Geraldine” at the end is a real journey. Then the record goes all over the place in the middle of it but it starts at this spot where it has a major impact and then it comes back to a place where it has a major impact. This is what you want a record to be like!

Mulcahy: You want to…

Rumpus: Go somewhere.

Mulcahy: You want it to fill some of your time up instead of not. It’s like maybe going to the movies. I mean, I’m talking about my own record in a way that I don’t want to but it is: I put it on and it takes a long time to hear it all. Forty-four minutes. It’s not necessarily what’s happening in the world, meaning there’s some attention span involved but I don’t want to give up on people’s attention span.

Rumpus: Is it true you’re going to release another album this year, too? Is that possible?

Mulcahy: That’s actually a different record. I’ve got these two records that I finished.

Rumpus: What’s the other one?

Mulcahy: The other one is a bunch of songs that I just wrote and had them; I thought they went really well together.

Rumpus: Does it come from a similar place as the Possum songs?

Mulcahy: No, they’re not like that. They’re probably like short story-type songs. They’re more of a short story-type of thing instead of me trying to tell someone how much I love them. That was my plan: to put out this [The Possum in the Drieway] and then, in the next couple of months, put out the other one, and then, if I can finish what I’m doing, I’ll try to release three records in one year.

Rumpus: How do you account for the massive increase in productivity in the last five years?

Mulcahy: I’ve blown it a lot in my life by waiting to make records and waiting for the opportunity or something, especially with Rich [Murray, Mulcahy’s manager]. I see that I can do something and have the chance of at least being something. I just don’t want to wait around anymore. I don’t see the point. To speak to the positive side of the attention span, people do want more. You can put out stuff and not lose people; they’re happy to keep having things coming at them. Writing is the best part and the rest of it is whatever else you have to do to make it be somewhere but I like writing and I’ve got a system where I can do it.

Rumpus: Is there more room to make stuff with your daughters being older now?

Mulcahy: It’s actually, in a way, a little trickier because I used to do a lot of things and they’d be so asleep that I’d never wake them up and now they wake up so it’s a little trickier because I don’t want anyone to hear what I’m doing. When you have headphones on and you’re screaming, you don’t know how loud you are. I kind of wish I had my own little place somewhere but I may not be so close to that, actually.

Rumpus: They’re nine now, right?

Mulcahy: They’re actually eleven.

Rumpus: Oh, they’re eleven? So, soon they’re going to be like, “I don’t give a shit about what dad’s doing downstairs.”

Mulcahy: [Laughs] I think they like it so much that, if it’s in the middle of the night and I wake them up and I stop, they’ll go, “That’s great. Sounds great.”

Rumpus: That’s so sweet.

Mulchay: They’re big fans. They’ve seen me, they’ve seen Miracle Legion, and they’ve seen Polaris, so they’re just big fans. There’s a great picture of the two of them and a friend of theirs at a Miracle Legion gig; they’re in the balcony at the Iron Horse and it’s from the side and they all look so ecstatic. Yeah, they’re no problem.

***

Feature photograph of Mark Mulcahy © Rich Murray. Photograph of Miracle Legion © Kenneth Bachor.


Rick Moody is the author of six novels, three collections of stories, a memoir, and a volume of essays, On Celestial Music. His most recent publication is Hotels of North America, a novel. With Kid Millions of Oneida, he recently released the album The Unspeakable Practices (Joyful Noise recordings). More from this author →