Adam Goldberg (who you might know best from his on screen performances in films like Dazed and Confused, Saving Private Ryan, Zodiac) is set to drop a new psych pop record, Home: A Nice Place To Visit, under his music project The Goldberg Sisters on May 4th, and we couldn’t be more stoked for the release! I hopped on the phone to him a few months back to talk about his various creative outlets and how they overlap, how he’s given up on the fleeting dream of becoming a tattoo artist, and about how you shouldn’t mix him up with the other Adam Goldberg, the ABC TV show guy, because (as you can probably imagine) it does happen from time to time. Check out the full conversation below, and be sure to pre-order the album here, because it’s INFECTIOUSLY GOOD! Here we go:
So congrats on the forthcoming record! I know there’s a photography component involved – what can you tell me about that? Did the photos inspire the songs or vice versa?
It’s not that literal. I’ve always been a photographer/filmmaker, but I started to get heavily into what became expired Polaroids and larger format film, which I’d never shot, so 4×5 and 8×10. There’s less of a literal relationship between the two as I guess there is some sort of ineffable interplay, which is I guess to say that they both sort of seem to exercise a certain muscle, and exorcise certain demons. There’s always kind of sort of been a photographic element, even in my first release for LANDy, there was kind of a book that came in the CD.
There’s another way that these things coexisted, and this has actually been giving me some pause, because it might actually cause me to change the title of the entire project, which my guys right now are really thrilled about. [Laughs] But I’ve had this Tumblr blog, kind of since when Tumblr started I think, and it’s called Home: A Nice Place To Visit, and the initial impetus was that every day I had to upload an analog photo, and every other day I had to upload some kind of recording, it didn’t really matter how good or bad. And so I kept up this kind of obsession for a year, and many of these became seeds for songs, at least on the Stranger’s Morning record, and then ultimately this one as well.
But this project was to take things out of the realm of the virtual and make it really concrete, you know? So I’m not releasing a CD. Not that that isn’t concrete, but it feels now like an ephemeral, kind of transitory means by which you listen to music. Digital feels so unreal to me, though obviously it’s an important way to distribute it. Vinyl has made an obvious comeback, so it just seemed to time out well. Vinyl is the same size as a photography book that I’ve been wanting to do, and I’ve been wanting to do an exhibition of the blog in a sense. So I think that’s what you’re getting, and it’s all kind of rooted around my personal life, and very much about home or homes and that sort of thing. It’s an implied relationship that you can read into and have your own suggestive experience with, basically.
And speaking of concrete experiences, will you be performing these songs live? I know I’ve read other interviews where you’ve said that you don’t necessarily enjoy the experience of being on stage in that capacity.
Well, yeah, and there are a lot of reasons. Fundamentally, I don’t have a band, so that just becomes a process of putting one together. That in and of itself has been difficult in the past. There have been times at gigs where I’ve thought, “Oh, I’ve felt what you’re supposed to feel.” But it’s not what I do all year round, so any time that I have to do it, there’s no consistency to the plan and you have to learn everything. Even when I write a song, I have to learn to play it on all these other instruments, because I don’t intuitively play those instruments. So it’s just too much work and too complicated, and I get incredible anxiety. I think that’s probably at the root of it. Now that the live review has retired, I have fantasies about putting a band together that plays the music all Brian Wilson style, like he’s at home recording and they’re on the road. [Laughs] That’s a genuine fantasy of mine.
That sounds like the dream scenario. Maybe one day! [Laughs]
It’s funny, I had a dream three months ago, which is interesting, because I had a dream when I began making music that I could suddenly play music, and within a few months I could, when before that I couldn’t. Anyway, I had a dream a few months ago that I was playing live, and it was a totally different kind of scene – I was just a lead singer, it was small and stripped down, some kind of combination of Nick Cave and Sonic Youth, kind of Blonde Redhead, but it also had this grandeur to it, like Father John Misty. And it was weird, because I could hear the music and I knew what I was doing, and I thought, “Fuck, this is really good. Maybe this is where I need to go. It takes a lot of the pressure off, and I’m just the lead singer not worrying about all of the changes and the effects.” And I tried later that night to kind of replicate what I was doing in the dream, but I couldn’t get there. So that dream band is also retired.
It was a good run. Now, you channel your creativity through a lot of different outlets. If someone were to come up to you (at a party or something) and asked you what you do, what would be your primary way of explaining that?
If they say “What do you do,” then I say I’m an actor, because anything else just kind of sounds pretentious. But when I talk about my music, I think I usually say “I make records.” I’ll say, “I’m shooting a music video for this song I made. I make records, and I take a lot of photos.” [Laughs] It’s all kind of just one big thing. I think the acting thing is kind of separate. Obviously there are performative and exhibitionist qualities to these other things, and acting is obviously considered one of the arts, but I do consider that a job. Especially as the years go by, it’s very much a job.
Is there any creative medium that you’ve tried and ended up hating?
No, but I only mean that because I don’t think I’ve tried something that I don’t feel like I could…or, wait, here’s one! Tattooing! I went through a brief phase where I was trying to learn how to tattoo, and this is just incredibly ironic, because I’m a horrible drawer. If you saw my penmanship…I mean, if I was some really important person, and my journals were left behind, it’d take some kind of code breaking linguist to figure out what the hell I’m writing. But I was always really into tattooing, and I became kind of close with Mark Mahoney, who’s kind of one of the great tattooists of all time. We were talking about opening a place, I was buying old tattoo guns and putting my own shit together, tattooing oranges and fake skin and my ankle and stuff, and I just realized it wasn’t who I am. My wife is an incredible artist, but if I even trace something and it comes out looking remotely like something that isn’t abstract expressionist then I’m shocked. It’s sad to me, because even when I make films it’s really frustrating – I can’t make good storyboards. That’s not to say it isn’t something I’d still like to do, but I suppose filmmaking in many ways has been the most frustrating, because it’s been the most frustrating and most disappointing.
Right. And finally, I have to ask you, because I’m sure it happens at least a little bit, but how often do people mix you up with the other Adam Goldberg, the ABC TV show The Goldbergs guy?
I actually did a pilot for ABC the same year, and I can’t even imagine how much more confusion there would have been had that show been picked up. I’ve known about this guy for a long time, but I was sort of stunned that he was going to use the same name for the kid, even though that’s his real name. I told everybody that would listen that this would create all kinds of confusion. Anyway, I could go down a somewhat acrimonious path on that one, but I will just say that’s not my show. [Laughs]