Better Oblivion Community Center Surprise Release One-Sided Interview with Chester Middleworth
Somehow lost in the shuffle of Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers’ new release is the duo’s enigmatic chat with a made-up-sounding interviewer, which served as the record’s press release.
Have you heard the new Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst record? Sad, huh? Cathartic? Obviously. OK. Here’s something you may have missed: The songwriter duo, who have a sense of humor, did a brief Q&A to accompany the record’s release, which can be read in full on the album’s page at the Secretly Store. In lieu of a press release contextualizing the album, the two laureats gave a stunning series of one-word answers (“No.” “Nah.” “Yeah.” “Burmese.” “Sure.”) to an alleged person named “Chester Middleworth (PHD),” who made the classic mistake of over-preparing for the interview.
Chester: I wanted to talk about “Dylan Thomas” cuz that’s the first single, right? It’s the first single and the last song you wrote for the album. There’s a lot of death and ghosts on the album, and mentions of illness and feeling unwell and being anxious—and those are things you’ve both written about a lot—which is partly why this collaboration works so well. Dylan Thomas, we all know, is the esteemed Welsh poet who died in 1953 at the age of thirty-nine. He’s mentioned for “dying on the barroom floor” and you know, he was definitely a big drinker. He was drinking at the White Horse in the West Village every night he was in New York before he died. And he fell into a coma at the Chelsea Hotel and died soon after at Saint Vincent’s on 8th Avenue. Did you know that he actually died of emphysema, pneumonia and bronchitis? And that in November 1953, the month he died, over two hundred people died in New York City from air pollution? He probably died from smog.
Elsewhere, Middleworth falls prey to the scathing sarcasm of Bridgers’ uncompromising wit (Chester: Can you describe each other’s song writing in three words? Phoebe: Cis white male.) and Oberst’s dedication to factual reporting (Chester: You have a spot in LA, on the West Side. Conor: East side.; Chester: That was the Salutations tour? Conor: Ruminations.).
While most of the pertinent facts do find their way into the conversation one way or another, the biggest takeaway from the interview—if this wasn’t already gleaned from the record’s guerilla marketing tactics and the duo’s giddy social media activity—is that these are people who could use a break from the stuffy reverence their consecrated sound probably warrants.
Better Oblivion Community Center is out now via Dead Oceans. In addition to sad and cathartic, it is also incredibly good.