I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Eric D. Johnson From Fruit Bats is Ready to Buy Some Glittery Pants

by Network Awesome
April 11, 2011

"Eric D. Johnson is a singer, songwriter, film score composer and festival producer based in Portland, OR. He is most well known as the front man and sole permanent member of the band Fruit Bats, and as a multi-instrumentalist with The Shins and Califone." That's what his bio says, but when pushed grilled by the crack N.A. Mag editors he confesses to be in-love with what the fellas of Yacht Rock called "The Smooth". Even though we think he's a snappy dresser he also tells us about his upcoming tour wardrobe.

NA: So you fellas are feeling the 70's vibe sin these videos, eh? What do you think it was it about that time that generated so many great artists?

I think it was time, plain and simple. By the 1970's, rock music was evolved kind of at the perfect moment - the strands of it were starting to shoot out in so many different directions really fast. If you look at what music was like in 1963 versus 1973, its pretty insane. What I was trying to go for with this collection, though, were just serious rock stars. The 70's into the 80's was when the rock star persona reached its utmost climax. If the Stones invented rock-stardom, it was honed by a whole bunch of others (like some of the dudes shown here) a few years later. That's why even though I love mellow folk jams and country rock and early punk and whatnot from the same time period, I decided to leave those out of this particular mix and go for the serious tight pink pants.

NA: And if their music was so incredible - as was the case with, say, Roxy Music, why were their clothes so shockingly bad?

Well, I think chicks dug it! Any interview with Bowie -or any other outer-space transvestite from those days - will reveal the fact that getting girls was weirdly the main reason for wearing silver high heels and stuff. I actually kind of dig Roxy's outfits on that Whistle Test performance, though I might not personally rock the Dracula Elvis costume or housefly eye goggles.

NA: Was proud to see 2 ELO clips in there as I'm also a dedicated fan. How do you feel about the early ELO (progy, Beatle obsessd and more strings) as opposed to the later years (pure pop & disco)?

I generally think "On the Third Day" is my favorite ELO record - which would kind of be considered early-to-mid-period, right? To be honest, I think their progression was almost as perfect as anyone's for ten years. I do indeed like their prog-tastic early shit but I'd be lying if I said I didn't like the Xanadu soundtrack, too. Jeff Lynne's production was always about forty years ahead of its time, literally.

NA: Followup - Did you know that Discovery was named so by Jeff Lynne thinking it was "Disco-very"? (groan)

I did not! And I second the groan!

NA: Whoa, big surprise to see 10cc in there! It's cool as I also have a big love for them! Do you trace elements of your own music to this sort of "soft-rock" from the 70s? You guys down with the smooth?

I do love me some smooth rock, and I've always worn that influence pretty well on my sleeve with Fruit Bats. I think its starting to become a more pervasive sound in lots of records these days, which is great. As a radio obsessed kid in the early 80's, I ingested that style of music pretty voraciously and it never really left me, I suppose. 10cc even goes beyond the soft rock tag for me. They have soft-ish elements ("I'm Not in Love" could arguably be the greatest soft-rock single ever). But they've got more depth than, say, Orleans... I've always kind of thought of those 10cc dudes as sort of sophisticated cheeky shredders. Analogous to a mellow British Steely Dan, maybe. I'm a huge fan, safe to say.

NA: Last one, you guys are on the road a fair amount. This the sort of music that you're listening to in the van or you guys change it up a lot?

Change it up a lot, though these type of jams are in pretty strong rotation for sure.

Questions by Network Awesome writers and editors. We're a lot of fun - you can find us at apocalypse-themed parties, museums of science and industry, and snarky media-obsessed websites.