Jeremy Messersmith's got a death obsession, but he's not writing tunes inspired by Twilight or Bauhaus. The Minneapolis musician's approach falls somewhere between that of Elliott Smith and Camera Obscura, marrying sad lyrics to warm-and-sunny melodies.
I spoke with him recently about his new album, The Reluctant Graveyard, and how he sees dead people when he writes songs.
Messersmith performs at the High Noon Saloon Aug. 10.
On your Twitter profile, you call yourself a nerd. What do you mean by that?
Nerds are really just people with highly specialized knowledge, sometimes bordering on the obsessive. These days I try to apply that psychological quirk to writing melodies and lyrics.
What inspired The Reluctant Graveyard?
I was inspired by a quote from Brian Eno: "Why am I not making the music I'm listening to?" It feels like every so often, musicians have to drink at the fountain of pure '60s rock, before corporations destroyed it. I listened to a lot of the Kinks, Velvet Underground, the Zombies and a few newer retro bands like Camera Obscura and Grizzly Bear.
Where did its graveyard theme come from?
The graveyard idea came to me during the recording of my previous record, The Silver City. I had done one record about growing up [and] one record about midlife, so it seemed fitting to do a record about death to finish the trilogy. Plus, a graveyard is a great creative sandbox. I got to explore different characters from lots of time periods.
Why are you stopping in Madison?
Something funny always happens when I play there. Either the sound guy sleeps through my whole set, or the hair band I open for can't play any songs because their custom light show keeps blowing fuses, or some dude just stands there screaming at me for half the set. Madison is always an adventure.
What else would you like to tell your Madison fans?
I'll be playing an acoustic set about murder, death and inevitable mortality. If that doesn't set the perfect tone for your romantic evening, I don't know what will.