Can you tell me a little bit about the album title? Dear Miss Lonelyhearts sounds intriguing, is there a story behind it? Yeah, there’s a book I read written by a guy named Nathanael West in the '30s called Miss Lonelyhearts. So for this album, I approached it from the perspective of that novel's protagonist. It’s a story about a guy who is a newspaper advice columnist getting all these letters about people talking about their pain, talking about their lives and asking what they should do. He’s kind of going through this crisis of his own, in how he can respond to these people with really genuine kinds of help and encouragement, and I thought that was really interesting. In some ways, inspiration comes from wanting to help yourself out of something and it also comes from wanting to help see stuff in other people’s lives that you want to help them out of and I think that resonated with that book.
Where do you see your sound on the spectrum of mainstream, pop, rock and underground indie rock? How do you think those varying influences effect what you do? That’s a really interesting question. Varying influences and spectrums... I feel like that’s definitely the case for us. In some ways, it was the case for us in the very beginning. I think it’s a really cool thing that we have a fan base that is in a lot of different avenues. We’ve always done pretty okay on the radio, but by no means is our fan base a radio fan base. We've always had something more of an indie-kid following, but that’s definitely not the whole story either. It comes from a lot of places and I think that’s a really positive thing that we don’t have necessarily just one niche of people that identify with us. At the same time, you always want to grow as a band. I think on the last record, we were eager to grow our audience. For this record, we just kind of thought about it less and wanted to just do what we do the best way we do it. The degree to which you try to expand deliberately and consciously versus honing your craft is always kind of a funny thing to balance.
What we had from the internet buzz, there’s really nothing impure about it. Even after getting attention from something like the internet, as a band you’re still left to your own devices as far as 'Is the music any good?' and 'Is the live show any good?'
You were one of the cusp bands that became famous through internet attention. Now, that's something that the industry has trended toward in a big way. How do you feel about that? Yeah, I think that one biggest pushes for us, getting attention, was having a lot of stuff happening on the internet. The fact that we got a lot of attention from that is just positive—there’s really almost no down side. If it had been a few years before and we had a song on The O.C. and that got us a lot of attention and lifted us up into the bigger world, I might be a little bummed on that. But even what we had from the internet buzz, there’s really nothing impure about it. Even after getting attention from something like the internet, as a band you’re still left to your own devices as far as 'Is the music any good?' and 'Is the live show any good?' I think that it was great timing for us because we just had been touring so much and had the benefit of people coming to see the band, liking it and becoming a fan from it. So it's been great for us.
What was the first thing on the internet that someone posted or someone said about you that had you really excited or that you thought was really important, if you can even remember at this point? I remember, because blogs were not 'new' but they were new enough to where I didn’t know who was doing the best writing or which ones were cooler. I have a friend, Doug, who lives in New York and I remember this one time I hadn’t talked to him for a long time and he emailed me like, 'Hey! You guys are on this music blog, My Old Kentucky Blog.” That one and a couple more and he said, 'These guys reviewed something of yours.' We were like 'Whoa, what does that even mean? Is that like 20 people or 200 people?' I had idea what that meant. At that time, we actually decided we need to get in the know about this world, this culture. So we ended up sending a bunch of CDs of our first EP out to people and a lot of those people reviewed the EP and it was enormously helpful for us. Gorilla vs Bear was another one. We had very close ties with the band Tapes 'n Tapes, the band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, a lot of these groups that were getting lot of attention so it was kind of a bizarre moment.
The reality is, we’ve probably been burned more by people we felt like were really, real. Like a lot of blog people or people that we would hang out with at shows early on—people that praised us and loved us— those people were just as quick to pretend like they never even knew us at different points.
If you could choose between the extremes of the spectrum, let’s say Best New Music on Pitchfork and buzzing on indie blogs or being #1 on the radio, which one of those would you rather be? I guess in some ways we’ve experienced, not the extreme of either of those, but both sides of that. I think that early on, the radio is really fickle and with most of those fans, they’ll come to one show but will they stick with you forever? Will they be a part of the larger culture of what you want to do? Maybe not. The reality is, we’ve probably been burned more by people we felt like were really, real. Like a lot of blog people or people that we would hang out with at shows early on—people that praised us and loved us— those people were just as quick to pretend like they never even knew us at different points.