Interviews

A Conversation with Late Night TV

Photo by Emma Grabowski

The evening of February 7 marked the homecoming show for Late Night TV. The band was performing at The Embassy, a house show venue previously run by band members Holden Curran and Bow Smith. The homecoming show also marked the band’s last show with the lineup of Curran, Smith, Justin Moffitt, Tyler Wolfe, and Belvin Olasov. I had the chance to sit down with Justin Moffitt and Tyler Wolfe after the show and talk about their upcoming album Good Mourning, moving forward with the band, and a slew of their favorite pop culture moments. Both Moffitt and Wolfe were very genuine and open, and we ended up talking for nearly an hour outside of The Embassy.

The Embassy was just past a bubble tea café, so I stopped by on my way to pick up some Late Night Tea to have with Late Night TV. We began the interview with Moffit – who sings, plays guitar, and writes for the band – and drummer Wolfe drawing their own interpretation of the band.

Justin: Do we need to leave empty spaces for Bow and Holden? It’s sad. They played tonight, so they’re still in the band… I’m just going to leave blank, ghostly figures with sad faces.

Emma: One in a jumpsuit and one with long hair.

J: Oh, I can’t. I don’t have that artistic talent… Alright, I feel like this is us. I drew the two ghostly figures because Holden and Bow are leaving the band. This was the last show. I put myself in the middle just because that’s always where I am onstage. I didn’t really draw anything abstract. Pretty straightforward. That’s just how I am after a show, I guess. How about yourself, [Tyler]?

Late Night TV Band Sketch

Tyler: I drew myself with a nice pair of shades on – just because I’m really cool. And I have a shirt on that says “Rock ‘n’ role,” but “role” is spelled r-o-l-e, like my hero Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Not my sole hero – just a hero. Someone I looked up to. One of his famous quotes is “Know your role,” and that’s just a really cool credo to live by.

J: You know, we need Belvin. Put a stick figure in there for Belvin.

T: Can you smell what The Rock is cooking?

E: Do you follow wrestling at all?

T: Occasionally. My brother would watch it a lot as a kid, so I’d get exposed to it through that. He and his friends would have play-wrestling where they’d throw trashcans at each other, and I would come and hang out and be like “Hey, let me help out.” I was five years old.

J: There’s no wrestling related stuff in the band.

T: I’ll watch WrestleMania every other year. It’s great.

J: I feel that. I was really into wrestling.

T: I just keep re-watching the clip where Trump gets a Stone Cold Stunner.

J: Why is that not used in attack ads more? That’s the perfect attack ad.

T: He can’t even take on Stone Cold Steve Austin.

E: One of the girls that was here is related to Stone Cold Steve Austin.

T: Could she get us a meeting with Stone?

E: I don’t know. I don’t know how closely related they are. But are you related to anyone famous?

J: No.

T: My genealogy said that I have a vague relationship to one of the King Henrys and some singer from Canada. It’s very, very long, long, far away.

J: My mom’s side was French, [and] they were Colberts, so I wonder. It was literally a hundred years ago, though. That side is the Colberts.

E: You have an album coming out soon.

J: Yeah!

E: Good Mourning. Would you like to talk a little bit more about that? What things you are excited to release to the public?

J: Good Mourning is going to be about six songs. It’s been a really wild process. We went in [as] really kind of green musicians, and Corey Campbell (Babe Club), the guy who’s recording with us, is really guiding us along in the experience. I think the single we put out is really strong, but I’m just a lot more excited about the other songs, honestly. I think we just got into a groove after we finished that one. Really excited for a song called “Discount Cemetery” to come out, which kind of encaptures like the whole sound I’m trying to go for [on] the EP because it’s the only death one. I’ve always had this idea because my life has kind of been centered around death in a way. It like it was always like [the phrase] “Good Mourning” [was] in my mind, and I always wanted to make like an album. But then, when I finally got to, I’d grown up so much that there was only one death-related song. So [I kept] the name, but that song really means a lot. I’m excited for it.

E: When you say that your life has revolved around death a lot, do you want to go a little bit more into detail about that?

J: Yeah, I guess that’s a weird part.

T: He’s low-key goth!

J: I’m super goth. By the way, it’s a pop-y record. It’s super, super fun and exciting. The riffs are amazing.

T: You gotta listen to the lyrics to really get the dark side.

J: But yeah, my, when I was a kid, my sister passed. I was six years old, and she passed and she died of cancer. That got me into [these camps for] kids with cancer and their siblings, and from that, I ended up being really involved with that environment. I made a lot of friends who died, so that’s what I mean. As a kid, [death] was really thrust on my head really early, like “Dude, you’re mortal.”

T: You got some limited time on this earth.

J: Exactly! So yeah, I’ve just been really obsessed with that fact since I was a little wee child.

E: That’s really interesting though, and it’s cool how you like shaped it into – like you said – a pop-y kind of record. I heard a bunch of people yelling [at the show] that Ulysses was a dance song

(All laugh)

T: I guess I started that. It’s our first single, and it seems to be the one that gets people moving the most. It’s got a good four on the floor.

J: It’s not a happy topic. It’s funny, but it’s just like a lot of songs are not really happy topics, but they end up being happy songs.

E: [Like the band Clairity,] she just like goes full pop, and all of it’s like “Everyone hates me and it’s okay.”

J: Yeah, I think that’s the way to do it.

T: It’s a big thing, yeah. Dark lyrics.

J: I don’t really like like writing music – or even really listening to music – that’s like “just be happy; everything is awesome,” you know? I mean ,if you’re going to the beach, that’s great, but otherwise I don’t really listen to music [like that].

T: Yeah, I mean if you have those endorphins to spare.

J: Yeah exactly! I’m saving mine for the winter.

T: Can I have some more endorphins, sir?

J: We’re a whole bunch of vitamin-taking, “drink more water” believers over here.

T: Yeah, we’ve sowed our wild oats.

J: I couldn’t have had enough water in that show, like I wish we had had a gallon jug behind the drum kit.

T: We should all get camelbacks

J: That would be hydrating too.

J: It always – it happens in the interviews, they’re like, “So, Good Mourning, you know, that’s a weird title.” I’m just like, “My sister died,” and we’re just like, it’s all open from here. Why does it have to be weird? People just get quiet, and that crap was just so long ago. It’s just relevant because, if I’m going to write my first record, it’s going to be centered around everything that’s happened in my life up to that point, and then, you know, the second one will be the happy beach songs.

(laughs)

T: You’re going to have to start some drama to have more things to write about.

J: Oh crap, I want a career after music.

T: He wants to be a politician.

J: I’d like to be a state senator. I’m taking the LSAT in June… It’s my passion. This is the hobby.

E: Do you guys have a new member of the band coming in by the way?

T: Yeah, we’re trying out some new folks right now.

J: It’s hard to find the bass players. They’re an elusive bunch. I don’t think anyone’s hit us up for bass. We got like a thousand guitar players and not a single bass player.

T: Somebody who can lay down a real funky groove. It’s interesting- the dynamic change, you know? Excited for the flux and mutation of what’s going to happen for sure.

J: Because it was such a natural build-up. It was literally me with an acoustic guitar, then it was me and [Tyler] – I was playing acoustic guitar still, and Holden came and then Bow then Belvin. It was just one after one after one; we kind of built up off of that. But to have half the band almost leave… It’s going to be a really weird dynamic. Just like bringing people into what has naturally progressed to having some kind of balance, trying not to tilt it. I don’t know, I’m getting kind of…

T: From the four shows we played as an acoustic group…

J: Those were bad.

T: They were very small, like open mics.

J: I’m glad there were only like four people there.

E: What open mics did you play at?

T: It was all the Elliotburough Mini Bar and once [at The Embassy]. My drum kit was a pair of bongos on a trashcan and a snare drum.

E: That’s amazing.

T: It was really small.

J: We were doing our thing.

T: Really just throwing it out there.

J: That’s what we’re reverting back to.

E: So Late Night TV is going live in technicolor.

T: Yeah! Going HD… 4k!

J: No, let’s put the first EP out before we try to go HD. Or that could be the name of the sophomore. “Going HD.”

T: HD Late Night TV in HD!

J: On the beach with a margarita just going at it.

T: Heck yeah.

E: You’ve mentioned the beach a lot; do you want to do some beach songs?

T: A couple of the songs that we don’t have in the set anymore were beach songs. One is.

J: Yeah, it’s weird. I don’t like the beach. I’m a hydrophobic person, I don’t – like really don’t mess with the ocean. I’m fine with a pool. I don’t want to get into it, but people always pressure me because people don’t think I can swim because I’m afraid. It’s like, no, if you’re afraid of water as much as I am, you’re going to know how to swim because otherwise, like what? It’d be stupid, so… I’m just afraid of currents.

T: He knows too much to jump in a pool.

J: Yeah. Don’t like the beach, but I like beach songs.

E: Who was your favorite beachy [artist]?

J: That’s a good question… I really like Monster Truck Rally. They do like… instrumental. I don’t really listen to music with words when I want to do something, and I can’t really pay attention to things at the same time, so instrumental Monster Rally [is] good.

T: Surprise, this one’s gonna blow you away – Beach Boys.

J: The Beach Boys!

T: They make some cool songs about the beach. No, they’re really cool. Brian Wilson has a beautiful sense of melody, and, personally, I really enjoy garage-y beach stuff, like Shannon and the Clams. She has some really cool, garage-y [songs]… I have an appreciation [of the Beach Boys]; I wouldn’t say they’re a huge influence, but it was one of those records in college where it was like “Wow, I’ve never really gotten beyond the surface-level songs.”

J: Have you ever checked out Margaritaville?

T: Yeah! Jimmy Buffett! The titan!

J: It was all coming to Jimmy Buffett. Our next record’s inspired by Jimmy Buffett.

T: Cheeseburger in Paradise.

J: Oh yeah.

T: Pure earworms.

J: It’s like I hate it, but I love it.

T: It’s so fun. Good troll music.

J: Didn’t you hear it when you were up there? Weren’t you like, “Oh, that’s totally Jimmy?” Jimmy in spirit. He’s taken over this poor soul!

E: Besides Jimmy Buffett, who are your influences for your sound and also who influenced you to get into music in the first place?

J: Mine is definitely my cousin who released a CD under the name David Elliot. I never met the dude. My uncle just sent it to my mom. I met my uncle twice; it’s not like he was a direct influence, but it was just this stranger that sent a CD, and I would listen to it all the time. It was really good. It was kind of like folk. I just remember one lyric was “I’m the ghost of the moon” or something like that. But I lost the CD, and all of the CDs are lost to some flood, apparently, so I’ll never be able to listen to it again, which sucks. At the same time, it might be for the best. I don’t know. But he was number 1. It was just really cool to know that I had family out there that was doing that. My good friend Gabby [as well], who made music under the name Peach Crush. Just seeing her do her thing. She made really good music, so I was just like, “I can do it too.” I’m trying, at least. Then Heyrocco; I went to high school with Nate, and the same thing: “I know that dude, and he’s doing it.” That, and then music outside of that. I think all of the stuff I’m doing right now is from my acoustic guitar/folk phase. I still haven’t played electric as long as I have acoustically, so I’ve always been drawn to that. Connor Oberst and Mount Eerie; Johnny Cash. Sun House, maybe. I really like Japanese Breakfast right now. If I could make music that sounded like Japanese Breakfast, then I would be really happy.

T: I really had to think about it while you were saying that, and I think my mom played me a cassette tape with Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” on it when I was maybe eight years old, and that song was so beautiful and cool that it made me want to take up playing woodwinds and horn instruments. That was one of my first big introductions to music when I joined band when I was eleven. I played stuff like that all through high school and college. Contemporarily, I would say Mount Eerie. I really like his approach to folk music and his later approach to-

J: That record’s so sad.

T: Not that late; more like his 2008 and 2009 stuff.

J: That record was still really sad.

T: Honestly, every record. But just really locked-in kind of music. Krautrock, and then a mixture of modern, psychedelic, [and] garage, which I definitely kind of stick to just from where I’m coming from with my abilities as a drummer just try to keep it reined in. Trying to keep it kind of erratic, but not too much.

J: Yeah, you’ve got a controlled chaos; I like it. We like Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Buffett, and Krautrock.

E: When writing, what’s something that you really want people to take away from what you produce?

J: I’ve never even thought about that. Every single song besides “Bed-Stuy” – I didn’t write “Bed-Stuy.” I helped compose it, but that was Holden [who wrote it], but every single song is something that’s really important to me. Take “Ulysses” for example, which is the single that’s like about having ADHD and that people think it’s just like this phony mental illness or that it’s arbitrary.

T: Just being lazy.

J: It’s highly correlated with depression, alcoholism – it really affects you a lot. So yeah, I was an alcoholic. I just remember writing that lyric “Yeah, I’m worn out.” I was really drunk at night, and I just wrote that. It’s kind of been stuck in the back of my head for a while, but I tied it around to Ulysses the story. I quit drinking, but the song means a lot.

E: Congratulations on quitting drinking.

J: It’ll be six months in a couple days. It came out of nowhere. Time flies. After the first month, it became less of a problem. It kind of sucks being in a band playing at bars.

T: Can’t take advantage of the free beer.

J: I know! I dreamt of this! Now the idea of beer in my mind doesn’t even sound satisfying; that’s the saddest part. I used to love beer so much.

T: I’m 25, and just over the last couple of years, it became… like where does this play into what all I’m trying to get done? I feel too distracted by being out and drunkenness to really enjoy it as much anymore.

E: You know how you sometimes find a song that’s like, “Oh hey, that’s my personality right there?” What would that be for you guys?

T: I have the ones that are me this month… this moon cycle.

J: I feel like – not lyrically but sonically – would be “Feel My Pain” by Kurt Vile. I just really like that song a lot. It kind of works because, like I mentioned earlier, I like sad songs that don’t feel sad. It’s kind of sad, but like “I’m going to take on the world” sad.

T: Hmm.

J: He listens to a lot of music.

T: I do.

J: He’s always got something new going on in the car. I never listen to music; I’m weird.

E: I feel like that’s a weird, unspoken stereotype; if you’re a musician, you must listen to music a lot.

J: Oh, yeah, no, I don’t. It’s bad. I always want to, but that’s the thing about being ADHD – it’s just like, I can’t. I’m super busy and have so much homework. Got two dogs. I feel like, for me, music has to be a sitting down [thing], like in the car. I listen to music in the car, but that’s it.

T: I found the song that fits my personality. The rapper Blueface has been really hot right now, and he put out a song called “Studio,” and the lyrics are “When I was down, I hit the studio, hopped in the booth, and let the truth be told.” I feel like when we hit the studio, then that’s exactly what I did. It’s a part of me.

J: I saw that one coming.

E: Well I didn’t! But I liked it.

[all laugh]

T: Please make sure that gets in print.

E: Who in SC do you want to collaborate with? You guys did a song with Jamie Gray. That one was one of my favorites of the set. I really liked it.

J: Thank you. I appreciate it. That one took an odd amount of time to write for such a simple song. It was a memo on my phone for like a year, and then I went through all my memos – there were 50 of them – and was reading them. That was actually my first collaboration ever other than within the band. I honestly [would choose] Jamie Gray again. I’m very particular about, like, “The song is mine! Don’t try any structural changes!” I like doing stuff within the band with the dynamic we have.

T: Same. I don’t write songs. I just write the drums.

E: Have you ever tried writing songs?

T: Occasionally. I’ll just be in my day-to-day, and I’ll think of something that would be a great song. A lot of times, it’s just really goofy stuff that me and my roommate – he’s also a musician, and he writes a lot of music, and we’ll just throw back really goofy song ideas. I never write them down.

J: Music can be temporary.

T: I need to do it. Too ADD.

J: Voice Memo.

T: Exactly. The closest I usually get is tweeting them out.

J: I don’t know what I would do without Voice Memo.

E: It makes my job a lot easier.

J: I had a radio show for three weeks.

E: What was the theme of your show?

J: It was originally going to be on global politics. It was going to be me talking, and then I realized no one was going to be listening, and that would be a lot of time to be putting into it. Then it just switched to music, and there was no theme. I basically played whatever I was listening to. I played a lot of Places to Hide; I remember that.

E: Did you have a name for the show?

J: Yes, Culture Wars. If I was going to do it again… I really like words, obviously; words are dope. But I heard the best insult of all time. It was a video talking about how Disney tried to do a Disney Europe, and it almost bankrupted them, and this French dude in a newspaper called their Disney Europe a “cultural Chernobyl” right after. I thought it was the biggest diss, especially from a French dude.

T: I loved reading about that, the Euro Disney failure. The French hated it.

J: They didn’t even do any market research. They were like, “Oh, I’m sure the French will love this…” We’re big Disney historians.

T: There’s a YouTube page called Defunctland; they get really into Disney stuff.

J: Theme parks are really interesting. There’s a lot at stake, and there’s a creative aspect that the guests are expecting, so you’ve gotta do it at just a really large level and really hope it don’t screw up.

T: You’ve gotta be immersed; it’s gotta be a destination, cost six months of savings, and have ten-dollar beer.

J: I want a theme park. I’m gonna become a state senator… and find a theme park out of there somewhere. A national landmark.

E: What’s your favorite Miyazaki film?

J: Spirited Away because I remember seeing it and immediately turning off the TV and running to my neighbor’s house and running through the door and being like, “Yo, were you just watching Cartoon Network?” It was a crazy show! I was eight years old. It was dope. It was really wild. But I’m not a huge Miyazaki fan; I just remember that moment vividly.

T: I’ve seen every one. Seminal, of course, is Spirited Away, and I feel like I really had the biggest heart-to-heart with Kiki’s Delivery Service – the tale of her going into adolescence was really beautiful. And then I really loved Princess Mononoke just cause it’s so bad-ass. Then I really love-

J: He’s going down the filmography!

T: Each one I love in a different way! And then Totoro… My dad’s best friend from high school came to visit when I was five years old, and he was a really cool, really artsy guy, and he was like, “Hey, I think your son would really love this,” and he gave me a VHS of Totoro. I’d never seen any anime or anything before, and that was the first thing I ever saw.

J: I just watched Cats Vs Dogs. All on repeat… It was an odd movie!

T: [What’s] been a cool thing: I feel like we really strive to be better. Whenever I’ve felt like, “This is fine,” that’s when I do my worst shows. Then I get the build-up and energy, and I’m like, “I can do so much better; don’t settle for this.”

J: Every time I settle, it’s the worst show! Every time I’m like, “Oh we got this!”

T: “We can knock this out! It’s nothing!”

J: “We don’t need to practice…” That’s thing that sucks that I’ve noticed. I have to take the LSAT in June and it’s a lot of studying and I’m in school full-time. I’m working almost full-time; I’ve got a girlfriend and two dogs and band. My life is just juggling all that. It’s like, “How do I give the band enough time to take it to the next level?” We’ve been playing the same songs for so long, and I’ve written twice as many songs as we’re playing now, but we haven’t been able to get to them because we’ve got five band members. We all have different things. It’s just, I guess, time. I’m taking some time off.

T: “You gotta know your role.” We’re going to have to, moving forward. We’re gonna be in gestation. We’re gonna be metamorphosizing. Late Night TV version 3, coming soon. 3.0. Came from acoustic to electric to even electric-er.

J: Now we’re going post-sonic.

T: Sky’s the limit.

J: We’re going to make you think music. We’re just gonna stare at you. You hear a C note, now you hear a D note.

T: Become Tool. We’re gonna go metal.

E: Any closing comments you’d like to make?

J: For the research file that’s happening right now, twenty years in the future, it was all a lie. I don’t believe anything I said, and I disavow this whole interview.

T: Be cool and have a good time.

Late Night TV’s EP  Good Mourning is set to come out in April, but in the meantime, you can check out their first single “Ulysses” on all major streaming platforms and their second single “Discount Cemetery” on SceneSC’s 2019 South Carolina Music Sampler.