High in the sky?


John Gallagher gets serious with the Airborne Toxic Event

Mikel Jollett never wanted to be a songwriter; he dreamed of being a novelist like his idols, Charles Bukowski and Philip Roth. “There was a time when I wanted to be a younger, fitter, better looking Bukowski. The fact that he had no problem aiming the arrow of blame on himself really appealed to me. The idea of ‘f*ck you and your good impression’; I like that.”

During his first years of adulthood and after graduating from Stanford, Jollett moved back to his hometown Los Angeles where he worked as a carpenter and contributed to magazines and newspapers such as Filter and The LA Times. But everything changed for the Californian native one week several years ago during a period when his father was terminally ill, he found out his mother had been diagnosed with cancer, his partner had left him, and he himself was diagnosed with a life-threatening autoimmune disease. It was then that Jollett started writing songs and formed the Airborne Toxic Event.

The troubled period which Jollett speaks of certainly reflects in the lyrics of the band’s self-titled debut album. It has led to some criticism. Pitchfork Media, which rated the album 1.6 out of 10, suggested TATE had created an embarrassingly crude and cliché album in an attempt to copy successful and acclaimed indie bands like of Arcade Fire and Bright Eyes. “TATE embodies the Hollywood ideal of paying lip service to the innovations of mavericks while trying to figure out how to reduce it to formula,” according to Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen. In reference to the album, Cohen joked that “it’s the musical equivalent of showing up to a bar with a bad fake ID and throwing a hissy-fit when you get carded.”

In response Jollett pleas, “I was a struggling writer living in my room, trying to write an album when I thought my parents were going to die. I don’t know how you get more indie rock than that.”

From a hotel room in Norfolk, Virginia, the front man from this major label indie band speaks with the cockiness you might expect from someone who is touring the world for the third time on his debut album and is still selling out shows in New York City and Philadelphia.

“I don’t understand the desire for social climbing; I hate the idea of trying to make a good impression. What’s magical about guys like Bukowski is the power of ‘f*ck it’. Never underestimate the power of ‘f*ck it’; the sense of freedom – I don’t care if I look bad. That’s what I find extremely compelling. That’s where you live in your head.” TATE commence the European leg of their world tour next month and hope to start recording the new album this winter.

The Airborne Toxic Event play the Olympia on 11th November.