Brad Petering of TV Girl is soft spoken, quietly acerbic, and intellectually present – his breadth of music knowledge is only rivaled by his observational humor. There’s some feigned animus, some enigmatic shadow boxing, and a lot of lyrical prowess. Presently, there are few musicians more interesting, curt, and candid. TV Girl’s decidedly undressed aesthetic is imbued with warm colors. Their sound distills the memories of a different time, and wrings them out over a contemporary lens. Petering knows how to write a lyric – the vulnerability and wit is always felt. In advance of his show at The Hideout on April 1, Brad answered questions on everything from social media to Spotify.
Rob Patrick: Are we reading too hard into this, or is the title of your upcoming album, “Who Really Cares”, a reference to your disenchantment with music journalism?
Brad Petering: No. I keep my disenchantment to where it is appropriate. Which is twitter. I reserve albums for artistic statements. I hate songs that are about the music industry. Yuck.
Just last week, Julia Shapiro of Chastity Belt told us that she doesn’t think Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast is a particularly talented writer. And, reading your “Best Music I Didn’t Actually Listen To In 2015” list, you say some pretty similar things. In 2011, those same drawbacks would have been seen as endearing. Why the sea change for both musicians and music listeners?
What is one to make of Best Coast? I dunno. Her music is certainly not very good. But then, most music isn’t very good. The only thing that makes me sad about Best Coast is that I thought she had a really good thing going at the beginning with those early EPs. Even her debut was pretty good. I think she’s someone with very limited talent as a writer who got thrust into a position where her writing would be widely circulated and scrutinized. That’s actually a hard situation for someone to be in. Then again, she’s making a butt load of easy money playing music for adoring fans around the world. So how bad could she have it. Chastity Belt, on the other hand, is a great band. I love “Cool Slut” Great tune.
To me, you, Spencer Krug, Mark Kozelek, and Owen Ashworth are writing some of the most important lyrics right now. There’s a perceptive, frustrated, but hopelessly romantic lilt that comes across in your work. I think a lot of artists aren’t able to tap into that kind of prose. What’s important to you when you begin to put pen to paper?
I’m not sure. I get satisfaction when I come up with a clever line. Like most people I get my inspiration from people I admire. My favorite lyricists are Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, Laura Nyro, Leonard Cohen, Andre 3000, Carole King. Most times, I’m trying to do whatever it is that I think they accomplish with their writing. Even though I’m not as good as them, trying to emulate them helps improve what I do.
As an artist, what has been your experience with Spotify? Do you think it has a permanent place in music?
I’ve said this before other places. But the minuscule payments that artists get from Spotify have more to do with their labels ripping them off than Spotify. I know because we have no label, and we get paid a decent amount by spotify, consistently, twice a month. I talk to friends in bands that are way more popular than us and am saddened to hear that they don’t get any money from spotify because everything goes to their label. So before anyone picks a beef with spotify, I would focus on the bigger issue which is that labels insist on handling digital distribution for artists even though it’s the easiest thing to do in the world for an artist. It literally takes 3 days and 75 bucks and you could put you album on Spotify/itunes/tidal, just like Beyonce’s. It’s criminal the amount of money labels steal from artists. People sign to labels because they want their CDs in stores but really owning your own music is so much more important and lucrative even.
I love Julia Holter. You love Julia Holter. The random person reading this article probably loves Julia Holter. As an artist, what is it about her approach to music that speaks to you?
She’s just special. She operates on a higher plain. Her music is so subtle, but it describes huge emotions. That’s the hardest thing to do and the most powerful thing when someone does it right. I could never do what she does no matter how hard I try.
Over the years you’ve spent a lot of time in San Diego. What are the city’s publications doing right and wrong for musicians?
I have no idea. But if I had to throw out a wild guess I’d say they probably need to write better more interesting things.
Modernly, do you think that artists could survive without actively tending to social media?
Yes. I think people who refuse to do social media even have an advantage. Social media is such a degrading thing. People who don’t do it keep their mystery and their dignity. And those are two things that are very important to someone’s legacy in the long run.
Do you think that the reemergence of vinyl has helped modern musicians sell their work on the road? What’s your take on its renewed popularity?
Of course, because they are relatively cheap to make and you can jack up the price and call it “limited edition” It’s a pretty sweet scam. I couldn’t tell you why people like to buy them. I would rather buy a t-shirt of a band I like.