Underground college radio fans all over the United States and Europe have been buzzing about the trippy, sparse “post-doo-wop” of Idiot Glee. Here in Lexington, Kentucky, the creative force behind Idiot Glee, James Friley, can often be seen poking his head into local shows and playing Al’s Bar, but he will soon be embarking on a tour of England and New York City in support of Idiot Glee. James grew up in the Church along with his brother, Ian Friley, who has graced our pages and podcast before as Good Morning Passenger, and found a measure of success with his previous band, bedtime. James admits he doesn’t obsess about God as much as he obsesses about music, and hasn’t been to Church in while (we’re working on that), but James still has to defend the Church in interviews and explain to people why he doesn’t drink. In this interview, James talks about his upcoming tour, his varied influences, and his relationship with the Church. Highly recommended.
Your MySpace page mentions that you’re about to go on tour through New York City and England. Tell us about that tour and who you’ll be touring with.
A: I’ve got 9 days or so with the band Women, 7 of which are in the UK. Really exciting because they’re honestly one of my favorite new bands. It’s my first time touring overseas in any band, I can’t wait. Also just signed a deal with a UK label that’s putting out my album in 2011 worldwide (minus N. America), so they’re doing a PR campaign… it’s very exciting.
Your previous band, bedtime, met with quite a bit of underground success, but it seems the band has been inactive lately. Did you break up or are you just taking a break?
A: Hard to tell, we haven’t practiced in almost a year. Our last show was September last year. I just stopped calling practice and focused on Idiot Glee. I don’t know what they consider us, but I say we’re on an indefinite hiatus.
So Idiot Glee is just a solo project or do you have a band with you?
A: Solo project. I have had a band back me up a few times (Tiny Fights). Not sure what way it’ll go in the future, but solo for now.
Idiot Glee, like bedtime, has a very strong experimental feel with seemingly few predecessors. What influenced your sound?
A: Beach Boys albums Pet Sounds and Smiley Smile, Arthur Russell, Brian Eno… and some modern stuff like Bradford Cox’s bands, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. Probably mostly the local scene, though. Tiny Fights, Three Legged Race, ATTEMPT, anything associated with RESONANT HOLE (resonanthole.com).
How did you get started with music when you were younger?
A: My older brother took piano lessons, so I followed. My dad introduced us to Yes, the Beatles, Genesis, David Bowie all pretty young… great dad. Haha…
In a previous interview, you ended up defending the Mormon Church from an interviewer who didn’t seem to know much about it, even though you say you rarely go anymore. Do you find yourself in that position often?
A: Hmm. Yes. People 90% of the time don’t know a thing about the Church and come with these ideas they got from a friend, or read on the Internet, or misinterpreted from the show Big Love, which I like… run on sentence, sorry. It’s not so bad. Just a little annoying sometimes when they don’t believe me, like I’m lying to them.
Does your faith influence the music you write? Do you ever explore religious themes in your lyrics?
A: Not too much. There were some bedtime songs where I talked about, very cryptically, the Holy Spirit, God in general. Thinking about Idiot Glee songs… not too much. In an early song I simply stated “Is this what I should be doing?” because sometimes I question my obsession with music, and lack of obsession with God.
Do you ever see yourself going to Church again in the future?
A: I think about it occasionally. I’d like to visit a singles ward here in Lexington sometime. I tried once my Freshman year and ended up going to a family ward, got kind of scared, never went back. I like the thought of raising my kid Mormon, or at least in a very Mormon way… so we’ll just have to see 🙂