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Don’t expect much news (or even set times) from the Sunday Supplement, the on-site newspaper for the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival this weekend, edited by Brooklyn-based duo Tall Firs. The group, composed of Aaron Mullan and Dave Mies, has become something like a house band for the festival, and their Supplement deals primarily in all the long-term emotional devastation that’s fit for print. A perfect complement for the their quite-bleak folk, it is a continuation of a conversation the two have continued since their shared Maryland youth as teenage semi-delinquents, mapping a bemused path through oblivion and life.
Lately, they’ve been running cover songs by other ATP performers through their bummer filter and posting the results. With plans to spin the Supplement into a book, the festival’s record label will soon re-release the Firs’ spare and soul-burning LP, Out of It and Into It, through a new distribution deal with French Kiss.
Did you two have any seminal festival experiences growing up?
Dave Mies: Growing up outside of Washington DC, our local “alternative” radio station was WHFS. At their annual WHFestival, we saw the Violent Femmes during their heyday. The only food at this thing was pizza, boxes of which kept arriving all day on trucks. When the band went on, the sky was filled with flying pizza boxes the fans were tossing up in the air. Some of the boxes weren’t empty though, and half a mushroom pie landed on us.
Aaron Mullan: We saw a weird lineup of Gang of Four at this thing too. We had never heard of them before. Andy Gill totally blew my mind.
What are the pros & cons of playing a hangover slot?
Mies: The pros are obvious: listeners who are too tired and hungover to bother walking out. So are the negatives: listeners who are too tired and hungover to show up at all.
What’s the most trouble you’ve gotten into at an ATP?
Mies: In England we inadvertently spiked our driver’s orange juice with MDA. He forgave us, but he was pretty salty the day after.
If you could design an ideal ATP from scratch, what would it look like?
Mies: The Tall Firs have a fantasy list of performers a mile long. In terms of amenities though, I’d love it if all the venues were seated — just not so tightly that you couldn’t get up to buy a beer without pissing people off. I guess we’d need big rooms with lots of folding chairs, so you and your friends could camp out wherever. And a cafeteria would be cool, someplace with a salad bar and a bunch of different shit in metal troughs. Holy shit, I think my ideal ATP would take place in a well-funded old folks’ home.
Mullan: Pontin’s, where it all started and where the UK version is now headed back to, really is the ideal location. New York City is also pretty rad. I mean, if I thought there was somewhere else radder on Earth, I’d move there.
Who is the imagined reader for the Sunday Supplement?
Mies: The kind of person who knows that pain is inevitable, but suffering can be hilarious.
Mullan: People who see the glass as half empty, but still half full of Scotch.
Probably a similar question, but how do you envision a typical ATP attendee?
Mullan: When I am at an ATP event, I have a feeling which I guess is what a normal person feels in a small town. I feel like I could talk to anyone. If a total stranger offered me a bite of their sandwich, I’d eat it.
What kind of feedback have you gotten for the Supplements?
Mies: The audiences seem to really dig the Supplements. They often bring ’em to our performances and shout out questions pertaining to the especially dirty ones. Our biggest French fan did express some displeasure regarding a story about a penis surgery I had. I think they also do a lot for people while they’re on the toilet, as each story is about one dump long.
How do you recognize and/or render cover songs as something bleak enough for the Tall Firs?
Mies: I think we can turn just about any smile upside down. It’s all about technique: when you sing and play as slow as we do and drop everything down a few octaves, the world is your miserable oyster. I’m half-joking. Our music isn’t melancholic to bring people down. I’ve always gravitated toward sad music because it makes me feel less alone. After all, John Lee Hooker was nicknamed “The Healer,” not “The Bummer.” The blues brings us closer together, and that’s what “warms the ice around the heart,” said Kafka.
Did either of you ever step to [Shellac’s] Steve Albini when he ran the poker room?
Mies: If I’m spending my hard-earned money for kicks, I wanna make sure I get off, so I stay from gambling. I’ve got enough vices.
Mullan: Yeah, I [once] walked in the room at the end of the night. I was totally wasted, but weirdly one of the last capabilities I lose under the influence of alcohol is my understanding of probability. I folded maybe four or five bullshit hands, but on the very last hand of the night I had the nuts. People thought I was too drunk to know what I was doing, when in fact I was just almost too drunk to know what I was doing. I probably won like $20. I’m sure I wasn’t the big winner of the night, and I’m sure I bummed everyone out. But it was fun for me.