Gimme something spooky.

A lil story about making a dumb thing this summer.

Earlier this summer I made a silly thing with my friends and wanted to write about it here. This might be old news to you at this point, but I didn’t have a big prestigious email newsletter at the time in which I could write about it SO LET ME HAVE THIS I HAVE SO LITTLE IN LIFE PLEASE. Also, it is Halloween so it seems fitting to write about something spoOoky.

This May was a weird, transitional month for me. I was what you would call “homeless” because I didn’t have a place to “live” and was using “air quotes” more than usual which may explain why I didn’t have anyone “willing” to “live” with me. I was sort of couchsurfing, lugging a suitcase around to anywhere I could crash. My friend and fellow newsletter writer Lauren, who plays in the band Worriers, was headed out on tour for a month and very kindly let me sublet her room. To stave off depression, I would walk many miles during the day, and at night I would watch I Think You Should Leave on Netflix until I fell asleep.

The first person who had told me about this show was Chris Farren. “It’s the funniest show I’ve ever seen,” was his description. Pretty high praise from a notably funny person himself (my opinion). So I went home, put it on, and 108 minutes later I had devoured the entire season. And then I watched it again. And again. I think I watched if four times in a month. Enough has been said about this show and how its timeless brand of offbeat humor is the perfect escapism for our chaotic times. (Although if I’m being real, every website I’ve seen trying to rank the sketches has been DOGSHIT. Someone pay me to do it right.) But on a personal level, I can’t think of another piece of pop culture that so quickly infiltrated my entire friend group. It felt like I watched it and the next day everyone was quoting it. People were dropping references to it so casually, both in person and on the internet, that this brand new show felt like it had been part of pop culture for years. Not to be dramatic or nothin’, but I would cite this show as a large reason my brain did not completely explode this summer.

Anyway, so one morning, I’m making coffee, singing a song that had been stuck in my head for three weeks: “The bones are their moneeeeeyyy, so are the woooorms.” It’s a song from one of the sketches that, in case you haven’t seen it, is sort of a take on the “Folsom Prison Blues” recording scene in Walk the Line. Two musicians are playing an impromptu song in a studio to win over the skeptical producer. The straightman guitarist whips out a poetic, somber verse about getting shot down at the town saloon. Then the bass player (portrayed by show creator Tim Robinson), under the impression that the producer wanted “something spooky,” chimes in with his own nonsensical verse about bones being skeletons’ money and also the worms, and repeating some version of that over and over, completely demolishing the integrity of the song. It is absurd and it is beautiful. I love every second of it.

Lauren’s roommate Megan heard me murmuring this tune to myself and, likely in an effort to shut me up, started talking about the show. We joked about how the goofy macabre imagery of that sketch would make for a perfect Alkaline Trio song (which my friend Em has pointed out), but then we thought, NO! It would make for a perfect Murder By Death song. 

Meg and I were planning on seeing Murder By Death in a couple weeks out in the California desert at a venue called Pappy & Harriet’s where they were scheduled to play with Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers. So I took out my phone and sent MBD frontman Adam Turla a text (yeah I have his number and I own a cell phone NBD): “Have you watched I Think You Should Leave yet?” He said that he hadn’t but had been meaning to. I asked him if he would go along with an admittedly goofy idea I had where he let me and Meg film him covering the song from the Bones sketch. For reasons unbeknownst to me, he agreed pretty much on the spot, sight unseen. Why he entrusted me with the integrity of the career he’d been building over the last 20 years, I have no idea.

For the next few weeks, he’d send me videos of him rehearsing it and I immediately knew it was going to be good. He was really committed to it, which is par for the course for him. When those guys commit to something, they REALLY commit. I mean, they released an album of songs that Adam sings to his dog for chrissake.

Fast forward to July 8. We show up to the venue with Meg’s gear. The place is this Old West Pioneertown. We first set up in front of a cool looking general store but a very stern guy in a motorized cart told us we had to leave. (More like I Think You Should Leave am I right???) I thought to tell him that they didn’t even have motorized carts in the Old West but worried he would challenge me to pistols at dawn, which is my greatest fear in life.

So we instead picked an open lot, set up the camera, and pressed record. Despite the temperature being in the 90s, Adam walked into the shot, in full “costume,” and absolutely nailed it. In that moment, he WAS the character. I genuinely believe that had the show not cast the actor from (I’m told he was on Entourage but I’ve never seen it), Adam could have filled this role. Then their piano player David Fountain skipped into the shot as the Tim Robinson character and added chaos to scene, just trying his best to capture Robinson’s on-the-spot absurdity. It took a few takes—either because they broke out laughing or because it’s surprisingly tough to do the cadence of that song justice—but Adam played it the exact same way every. single. time. We didn’t realize until editing it weeks later that all of his tracks synced up perfectly. What a friggin pro.

To us, who had watched the sketch many, many times, the whole thing was hilarious. I don’t think the rest of the band had any idea what the hell these two were doing. Laura and Marc had also not seen the show and watched in polite bewilderment:

It took a little time to get the finished video out into the world since Meg was diligent in obtaining approval from the show to properly credit and post it. I don’t work in video production so I had no idea you were even supposed do this. Getting “approval”? Going through the “proper channels”? Ha ha ok whatever you say, man! (This is a good time to mention that Meg worked for Hopeless Records for a while but recently left. So if you’re looking for someone to hire for your photo/video needs, hit her up!)

I love the finished result so, so much. We posted it around Instagram and Tim Robinson smashed that mf Like button on one of the posts, so he has seen it! And, in theory, approves! People seem to dig it. BrooklynVegan was nice enough to cover it. The AV Club did not cover it but instead wrote about some rando covering the song into his cell phone which doesn’t seem nearly as cool but hey to each their own!

You can watch it here. Long live I Think You Should Leave and long live Murder By Death:

Also, since it is Halloween, you are legally obligated to listen to the World/Inferno Friendship Society today. Here’s a long Rank Your Records interview I did last year with the wonderfully eccentric Jack Terricloth, which produced this great story:

And it was a packed house. And the kids literally did rip up the place. So to save the fucking club—because they really were wrecking it—I said, “OK, acoustic instruments out.” And we did a marching band thing out to the boardwalk, because Cha Cha’s was in Coney Island. So I led the riot out onto the boardwalk. But I go back in and the guy is screaming at me. And I’m like, “I just fucking saved your club!” And then he threatened to keep our equipment for the damages. And I said, “Absolutely fucking not. I told you this would happen!” And he said, “You don’t know who I am. I’m a made man!” Which, later, that turned out to be true. But at the time, I was like, “You’re not a fucking made man. You’re an actor!” So we did get all our equipment.

Oh! And the best part of this story. The guy hired a publicist to call every club we were playing for the next month and a half on tour and said, “These guys are monsters. They’re gonna wreck your club. You have to cancel the shows.” So every night, we’d get to the club and someone would be like, “We have to talk to you, we hear you’re very violent.” And we’re guys in suits and pretty girls. We’d send the ladies in to talk to them, and they’re very charming. Not one show was cancelled. But this guy did more work than any publicist I’ve ever hired! We got so much press out of it that after the tour, I called the guy and said, “You were fucking great! Can we hire you?”

Oh, and we can’t get through Halloween without some Misfits #content. Here is this thing I wrote a few years ago where I dug up some of the Misfits’ high school yearbook photos and wrote what is borderline teenage fanfic about them. I was real lucky to have had a job that afforded me the freedom to spend an entire day researching and writing something so unbelievably stupid. Solidarity to the Deadspin writers who quit yesterday in lieu of forfeiting that same freedom. Write free or die.

Dan.