Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Birthday Dad. Together we discussed celebrating birthdays year round, songwriting, their album “The Hermit” being on vinyl, and so much more!
1. Mustard is grateful to have you join them at Music Shelf. How are you doing today?
Happy to be on the shelf. I’m doing pretty good!
2. You are Birthday Dad. How do you manage to celebrate every human’s birthday? Do you fill in for absentee fathers?
Well, you know what they say, “Anyone can be a birthday father. But it takes a heart full of birthdays to be a true birthday dad.”
3. Your father gifted you a mini Les Paul at the age of four. It collected dust until you turned ten. Can you recall some of the blink-182 inspired songs you wrote? Do you still have this mini Les Paul?
I don’t remember how any of them went, but they were pretty terrible. I was probably 12 or 13. But looking back I was definitely learning good songwriting foundations.
I do still have that guitar! It’s at my parents house and it probably needs a lot of fixing up, but it lives on.
4. What was your songwriting process back then? How has it evolved? Has anything changed?
Honestly not much has changed as far as how I write the songs. Generally a simple guitar part and catchy melody. I think what’s changed is my taste has evolved and gotten better and my talent has finally reached a level where it aligns with my taste. So I don’t hate everything I make anymore. Just the stuff you don’t hear.
5. You are tasked to choose one Bright Eyes album for all humans to listen to. What album is it and why?
All humans should definitely listen to “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning” because that was the first album this human heard and it changed his life. It’s a classic that I feel like anyone could enjoy.
6. Is there a song or album that had a significant impact on you?
I would say “Dog Problems” by The Format had a huge impact on me, specifically in creating this album. It was the first album I heard as a kid that had strings and horns and a big band and it made me want to do that some day.
7. Who (or what) influences you?
Whatever I can pull out of myself that feels real, or anything I can pull from the world around me. I watch a lot of TV. I’ll get influenced by random things. I recently wrote a couple songs after hearing Canadian director Matt Johnson talk about the Epic of Gilgamesh and getting inspired by that.
8. What is your creative process?
It usually starts by picking up a guitar or sitting at the piano and hating myself. I force myself to do that a bunch and maybe after 30 times you record a little something for later. Or I’ll come up with melody and lyric ideas in my head a lot and that’s how songs usually start, with a verse or a chorus and I’ll sit down and figure the rest out with an instrument.
9. How would you define your style of “emo pop?”
I definitely write simple pop songs, but the lyrics are usually fairly emotional or dealing with heavy themes. If you aren’t listening to the lyrics you might not be able to tell because a lot of the songs are upbeat or happy sounding. You’re tapping your foot and nodding along before you realize you’re listening to a song about god sending a gasoline flood to kill us all.
10. Last September saw the release of your debut album “The Hermit.” You found help with this album through Reddit and Fiverr. Could you share more about what it was like to put together this album?
I would start with just recording my piano and vocals and when I had a couple songs and realized I wanted to put together an album I knew I would have to go to the internet for help. I had an idea for a trumpet part and went to /r/trumpet or something silly like that to ask for help. Matt was the first person to reach out and did a hell of a job so I used him on almost every song.
Found my drummer from a Neutral Milk Hotel subreddit and once I had those two on board, the sound of the record came together very quickly. I filled out a few more things I wanted like saxophone and strings by going to fiverr and was stoked at how smooth that experience was as well.
I was lucky in that I had my friend George Gadd to handle the mixing process so we Frankensteined this thing together over two years and some zoom calls and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I also recorded all my piano and vocals on my phone, so he really had his work cut out for him.
11. How did the global pandemic help shape “The Hermit?”
I would say it helped me justify my isolation and push into myself a little more which fueled the lyric writing. I was already writing about staying inside and watching TV. But I did not know the world was gonna give me permission.
12. Mustard has observed that some humans have trouble confronting their mortality. You confront yours on “Death Too.” For those who may be feeling the same way, what advice would you give them? How do you take care of your mental health?
I do not do a very good job of taking care of my mental health. The mortality thing trips me out for sure, but what usually brings me comfort is that I am not the first nor will I be the last to die. It’s gonna happen to all of us! And my brain probably has some lizard chemicals it will release to protect it from any scary thoughts when that time finally comes.
13. Do you have a favorite TV Dinner?
I like the one with the penguin on it. I think it usually has a fudge brownie.
14. By the time this goes up “The Hermit” will be released on vinyl. How does it feel to have this record be on Vinyl?
With any luck at least! We are having some web host issues currently. But it is a surreal feeling. It is the only goal I had for this album and to finally hold one in my hands is gonna be a dream come true.
15. What is next for Birthday Dad?
I’m gonna put out a split 7” with A Place For Owls some time this year and I’m currently in the middle of writing LP2!
16. Where can readers listen to your music?
You can find me wherever you stream music and pick up a pink or clear vinyl of The Hermit at refreshrecs.com