Interview: Mister Goblin Discuss Their New Album ‘Is Path Warm?’
Posted: by The Editor
In 2018, the beloved Maryland band Two Inch Astronaut announced that they were going on an indefinite hiatus. For the better part of a decade, the band excelled at making noisy, jagged, and oftentimes chaotic post-punk, amassing a cult following in the process. After their indefinite hiatus was announced, Two Inch Astronaut frontman Sam Woodring began to release music under the name Mister Goblin, and on the project’s first full-length Is Path Warm? Woodring has come into his own as a solo artist, creating a gorgeous album filled with fuzzy guitars, infectious melodies, and gripping lyrics. I spoke with Woodring about Is Path Warm?, trying to distance yourself from your previous work, collaborating with Sadie Dupuis, and much more.
The Alternative: Your first EP as Mister Goblin was Final Boy and you reference Friday the 13th and Halloween 3 on the new record, have you always been into slasher films?
Sam Woodring: Not always. When I was really little I was petrified of any horror related thing. I guess from maybe sixteen going forward I became increasingly into horror to the point where now I’m not interested in watching or consuming anything else. Even though the music itself obviously isn’t super spooky sounding, aesthetically I wanted to try and weave that stuff in as much as I could.
So you’re into all types of horror?
Yeah, I don’t discriminate a whole lot. I think my bread and butter is teen slasher movies though, like “Nightmare on Elm Street”—I’m actually not huge into “Friday the 13th” but I love “Scream”, “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, and “Cherry Falls”.
Your previous band Two Inch Astronaut went on an indefinite hiatus in 2018, was there ever a period of time where you thought you might take a break from music for a while?
Not necessarily taking a break from making music, but part of what drove that decision was that we had kind of set that precedent in Two Inch Astronaut that we were a real band, like we toured and did all of the things that a band is supposed to do. After a while, it became difficult to keep our lives together and keep up the facade of being a band that does stuff. It was more a realization that this was going to be not like a hobby or anything, but not exactly the focal point of my life. Once we shed the Two Inch Astronaut identity, I knew that whatever I was going to do next, I was still going to try and work as hard as I can to make songs but it’s not going to be as huge of an undertaking, I’m not going to be touring all year long.
Did you put any effort into trying to distance yourself, at least sonically, from your previous stuff?
For sure, that was one of my main goals. It took a while to try and figure out how to do that, the EP took much longer to write and complete than even the full length did. I kept trying to tinker with everything, I remember working with Mike Thomas who produced Final Boy and going back and forth with him like “Can we put these weird drum machines and trumpets and all this shit in all these songs”, just going back and trying to make them weirder and weirder until they were kind of unrecognizable. I think part of coming to terms with making music is realizing that there’s certain things that you’re good at and there are certain things that you’re going to want to do that you’re never going to be good at. I listen to a lot of rap music and if I had my druthers I would love to rap, I think that would be really fun, but could I do it? Absolutely not.
What was the first song from the album that you finished?
I think I had “Health Class Teacher” done first, I even recorded a version of it during the Final Boy sessions that I never used.
That’s my favorite song on the album. Like a lot of the other songs on the album, it does a good job of being funny and earnest while tackling these serious themes. Do you think that maybe set the template for the themes of the rest of the album?
Definitely, I think that’s why I didn’t end up using it for Final Boy, I was like I feel like I actually have a direction here as far as lyrics so let me just save this because I feel like I could flesh these ideas out a lot more, so yeah it definitely dictated a lot of the stuff on the new record.
There seems to be a common thread throughout the album of people wanting to reach out to one another but not knowing exactly how to go about it or clumsily doing so. Is this something that you see a lot of in your life?
Yeah, I think it’s sort of heroic but still sort of goofy how people try to reach out to each other or make connections or help each other. I think one of the ideas in the album is even if it’s not the most graceful, even if you don’t say all the right things or intervene in the right way, just a relationship is what matters. Like in “Health Class Teacher”, that’s a real story by the way, we came in and the teacher was like “Put your hand on your heart and repeat after me, I’m not gonna kill myself” and we were all like what the fuck. Maybe that’s not the best way to go about that, but people loved her and it was kind of an adorable thing even if it was kind of weird.
Sadie Dupuis from Speedy Ortiz sings on 3 songs from the album. How did the two of you first meet?
We met in 2012, Two Inch Astronaut was on tour with our friends Grass is Green and they played with her old band Quilty, so she came out to the show and we met there and then we played together a couple of times. I filled in on bass for Speedy Ortiz in the early days for a couple of shows and we’ve been friends ever since and have collaborated on a couple of different things.
You didn’t work with a lot of people on the new record, what made you want to collaborate with Sadie?
I think we have a lot of musical things in common and we have a good musical sympathy on the things that we’ve done together. We did an EP together where we both sang over these instrumentals that my friend made and it was a lot of fun. I think we’ve always wanted to do more stuff together that wasn’t just somebody filling in for somebody else. I was working in Baltimore and she was living in Philadelphia, so I guess it just worked out.
Do you have a favorite song on the new album?
I think “Fix Your Face” is the one that’s closest to my heart. I think musically I like “Any Other Gun” the most, it had the heaviest outside musical influence of any song on the album because I had my friends come in and do overdubs and stuff, so the song kind of became this whole other thing.
Is Path Warm? is out now via Exploding In Sound Records
Michael Brooks // @nomichaelbrooks
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