How about a story from growing up in West Virginia?
I grew up there in the '80s, and my dad was a railroader, so the trains were always close to my thoughts. They would pass through all of these major cities and get covered in graffiti. It was so confusing to me at first, and it took years before I understood what it was. I always thought there was someone trying to send me a message, or I'd pretend that was the case, anyway. I couldn't really read, so I'd make up what I thought all that alien writing said. I'd write it down and show my dad. I wish I could remember what [I thought] it said. Clearly, it was something like "Get the hell outta here!"
Do you remember the first time you picked up a guitar?
Absolutely. My dad's best friend was a man named David Parsley. It seemed like he always had a guitar around. I couldn't give you an exact moment, but I know it was in my grandmother's living room. There was definitely a lot of rock 'n' roll around. Classic rock, mostly. Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, early Starship...
You've called San Francisco the most amazing city in the world.
I've started to lose perspective. This city will consume you if you let it, for better or worse. I've always thought that San Francisco lets you know pretty quickly whether or not you belong here. It's a very gritty city with a lot of the Wild West still coursing through its veins. You don't really see all that stuff on TV or in brochures, but it's here. There's a lot here for people who have nothing left anywhere else. It's as far as we could go in a lot of ways.
Tell us everything you did yesterday, the more detail the better.
Bought a new belt. Walked down Market Street with my girlfriend in the fog. Went to band practice in the afternoon and forgot to eat. Wymo [Wymond Miles, guitar] came over and we talked about life pretty heavy for a while. Once he left, I read and tried to comfort my cat because she's in heat. Fell asleep watching John Adams. Pretty exciting stuff, huh?
Tell us about "Poison Wine" from the Secret Walls EP. Right at the two-minute mark is one of the most gorgeous and melancholic/uplifting moments of music I've ever heard.
It was a very rough demo for months. Tim [Cohen, guitar and vocals] and I did it on four-track and probably drunk and high out of our minds. The riff seemed to go nowhere but down. I assume that part came about out of necessity. The song was begging to be pulled out of that bleakness. A silver lining, I suppose.