Interview w/ The Goldberg Sisters


Adam Goldberg’s Rolodex of films is so vast that if you flipped through it you would hear the sound of a hummingbird’s wings. The forty-year-old thespian, producer, director, musician and general jack of all trades is the entertainment version of a Swiss army knife. But Goldberg does them all well. From rocking a creaking, battle worn helmet through the maw of a steely European theater in “Saving Private Ryan” to directing the greatest corkscrewed-travelogue video of all-time in the wily, unhinged “Running with the Bulls” (think Frommers Mad Hatter style), Goldberg has been decidedly busy doing, well, just about everything. This year, under the moniker of “The Goldberg Sisters”, Adam releases his first full length album, after molting his previous pseudonym as LANDy, and fleshes out a sonic, ethereal and multi-layered record that bolls over any preconceptions that you may have had about actors turned musicians (which isn’t really fair, because Adam has been a musician for quite some time). The Goldberg Sisters’ album has an airy, spectral sensibility while retaining the power of a battle axe splintering wood. The dichotomy is especially rich in songs such as “Shush” and “Mother Please (The World is Not Our Own)”, where, hauntingly enough, Goldberg’s vocals ooze a sensitivity and snark that John Lennon would be proud of. Cinema Spartan was lucky enough to talk to Adam about his newest record, his tour in Europe, and the state of modern music.


Robert Patrick: You just got back from Europe. What was your best and least favorite memory of that tour?

Adam Goldberg: The best would be my arrival at LAX. And the worst? Gee, where to begin. I’m not the world’s best traveler. This could be a very long answer. I actually had several nice train trips. I would listen to music and some of the time it was very meditative. At one point I played this smoke filled bar in Brussels where you could barely see your nose in front of your face, and I had stopped smoking awhile ago, so I felt like I was going into cardiac arrest. I only got around four hours of sleep before I boarded a train the next day to do a junket in Holland. Then I took a train from Holland to Paris, and I guess I got train sick or something because my body just shut down. There was really nothing funny about it; the situation was really unpleasant. That would have been the worst time. But we also were able to take some good photographs. The problem was that we were only able to see Europe in bits and pieces.

Hopefully the good and the bad evened each other out.

No they didn’t. It’s an optimistic view but it didn’t.


Coachella just wrapped up this weekend. Have you ever been, and, more importantly, would you consider playing in Indio at any point in the future, if only to be maimed by the 110 degree heat?

I would play there if they gave me a night show. I’ve been there twice. The first time I was there I was kind of pampered because I was there with The Flaming Lips; I was in the shade most of the day, and I saw Air and Belle and Sebastian and it was lovely. The other time I was there I went for myself. Being the pampered person I am, it was more tiring that time around. (laughs)

So that means there will be no 3:30 pm set-time for you in the future.

Most of the times that I have gone live it’s for promotional purposes, so it’s always hurried. I don’t play live regularly, so it’s kind of an uncomfortable thing for me. Just in general it’s sort of a difficult question to answer.


If you had to choose one song, for a first time listener to hear, which track would it be and why?

That’s a good one. I guess it would be what we chose as a single, which is “Shush”.  The song encompasses various things that the album contains. There’s a classic rock feel to it that I have been experimenting more with this time than with prior recordings.


You have cited bands such as T-Rex and The Beatles as influences, but who do you see as redefining music, modernly?

To be honest, I’m not the best person to ask. I’ve always – well, that isn’t true I haven’t always – but at some point I stopped becoming a contemporary music listener. I went back and I listened to records that I didn’t really listen to that much of because I couldn’t see the virtue in them. When The Pixies’ “Doolittle” came out it blew my mind. That was all that I listened to. But I think at one point I started to go back and listen to all of the things that I had taken for granted, because they were just the things that were on the radio when I was growing up. Basically, a lot of things that I overlooked became provocative to me in a way. I don’t know. I guess it’s hard for me to say. Something like “The Soft Bulletin”was an example of something to me that hadn’t sonically happened up to that point. That album was moving things, if not forward, then in different directions. But at the same time, there were signals that felt rooted in classical compositions. I think that, ultimately, that’s what I find myself gravitating toward.


You were quoted as saying that you would rather not listen to most Grammy-winning artists. Has this changed now that Arcade Fire has won best album?

I don’t know. The Flaming Lips were nominated for a Grammy, so I think my quote was in reference to actors to were in bands. Most mainstream music or Grammy-nominated music can be good, but mainstream validation doesn’t necessarily mean artistic validation. It’s the same thing with the Oscars; some things just slip through the cracks.


In an era that is so dominated by mp3 singles, digital play lists and instant gratification by way of electronics, do you think that people have been desensitized to the practice of sitting down and listening to full albums as they were intended to be listened to?

Oh yeah. I cant say for a fact, but when you have a CD player or an MP3 player in your car, it becomes easier to skip around. CDs had pretty much just been invented when I was growing up, but we had tapes, so if you wanted to switch to a different song it was a little bit of work. Of course it’s not as simple as that. You cant blame technology, because, as you know, even with a record you could skip around. But I always felt that you had to earn the song that you really liked. I don’t know if this is a function of my own OCD or if I really just believe in what an artist’s intention is. There’s just something about listening to an entire record.


With the resurgence of vinyl, do you think that people will begin to listen to entire albums again? Will concept albums ever come back?

I think there’s certainly been a little bit more of that in the past few years than there has been in awhile, but I cant say for certain that the concept album will ever make a comeback, because, for me, those records were always a phase for an artist. As with vinyl, I’d like to think that we’d all go back and embrace analog photography, and that Polaroid would go back in business, but it’s not going to happen. With my new record I kept pressing the label about vinyl – no pun intended – and it was simple that the math wouldn’t allow for it.


Do you think that Pitchfork Media is the new Rolling Stone magazine to today’s music consumers? What is your opinion on the current state of music journalism?

I don’t have a lot of nice things to say about Pitchfork. Everyone told me that we had to get Pitchfork, but if you aren’t regaled by them, even if your album is getting good reviews in certain circles, it’s almost like your album doesn’t exist. That world is fairly alien to me. I’m kind of told that these things are important, and I guess to a certain extent they are, but I don’t have any real personal feeling about it.  Obviously we want to get as much surface exposure as possible. It’s the same thing with movies and the internet, really; films are getting more exposure through these sites and it’s a good way to find out about things you may have not known about. And then there’s another part of me that thinks that there is so much out there that it’s hard for anything to find the surface.  When it does it’s indicative of quality, otherwise it’s completely arbitrary.


There’s a running bet with our staff that Andrew Garfield and Jim Sturgess is the same person. Can you settle this, especially since you‘ve had a run in with Andrew Garfield, or someone that looks like him?

(laughs) Wait. Who’s the other guy?

Jim Sturgess was in “Across the Universe” and “21”.

I don’t know. It could have been, but I don’t know the other guy.

Can we just call them one entity?

(laughs) Yeah. And maybe there’s a third guy.

More than likely.

I’ve actually been looking at pictures of Andrew Garfield recently – I don’t know why – and I think the guy was broader. There was something Finnish and broader about him. I guess this makes me a bigger hero.


You publicly professed your love for Anna Karina, and yet none of her films are on your top five favorite movies list. Is she on another movie list of yours that I’m unaware of?

(laughs) What kind of list was this? Was this the Rotten Tomatoes thing?

Yeah, it was.

Was John Cassavetes on there? I don’t know. “Double Indemnity” is one of my all-time favorite films, but I wouldn’t say that Barbara Stanwyck would make a list on her own. I was a big Godard fan in my twenties, not to say that I’m not anymore. I love “Umbrellas of Cherbourg”, but she’s not in that particular film. It’s in the same vein, though. There’s one film that was very close to making that list, which is a Godard musical that is escaping me.

So a revised list in the future?

I need a bigger list. Five is ridiculous.


If you were to create a pull-quote to put on your album’s poster, what would it be?

I like this sort of thing, so I did it with my first record, but I’m not sure many people got it. But that’s not what you mean. You want something that a critic would say, right?

Yeah, exactly. Something like, “Rollicking roller coaster rollick”.

That’s a lot of pressure. I wish this question would have been e-mailed. How about “Music for Navel-Gazers”?

That’s perfect. If you Google your name, Seth Rogen’s Wikipedia page pops up on around page three. Any explanation for this?

There’s so many fucking Adam Goldbergs out there now. I gotta tell you that it’s not cool. I almost changed my name. But give me a Goddamn break, because half of the time I’m receiving fucking Twitter alerts about some football player. There’s also a writer guy – and this is not cool – his name is Adam F. Goldberg. He has his initial in there because we’re both in the writers guild. But for his first movie he wasn’t in the writers guild because of some crazy loophole. He actually received a couple of checks of mine. The guy is actually a really successful writer now, and I don’t begrudge him his success at all. But about a year ago, when Fox was talking about an “untitled Adam Goldberg project”, I was getting congratulated. That’s called confusion in the marketplace. (laughs) You should call this an exclusive. Say that I’m “petulant, narcissistic and enraged” over this Adam F. Goldberg thing. I don’t care about how he refers to himself in his personal life. And maybe it’s because Fox decided that, because of my success on their show “Head Cases”, that it was a good idea to call this fucking pilot, for six months, the “untitled Adam Goldberg show”. I had writers that I knew calling me up and congratulating me on the pilot.

Is this the Christian Slater show?

Exactly. And, once again, Adam F. Goldberg is totally cool and I’m fine with that. And I happen to know for a fact that the guy is using my picture on his personal Facebook page because he thinks that it’s funny. But whatever. Fucking Jews, man. Every time. Oh it’s Passover, so never mind. And this Seth Rogen guy, doesn’t he have a writer that he works with named Adam Goldberg? It’s just an endless list. These parents have the same idea: “Oh he’s a Goldberg, let’s name him after the first fucking name in the bible.” It’s like a Google swamp.


Are you ever going to release “Running with the Bulls” in DVD format? I think that you should demand that Criterion release the thing.

(laughs) Yeah, right. Looking back on that it was a good opportunity. I have my good days and I have my motherfucker days. I was asked to make a travel show, so I made that thing. I don’t know that it’s ever going to be released, but I have a copy of it on a DVD that you can at Staples. You need to TiVo that shit, man.

It’s so ridiculously good. I love that thing.

Thanks. It was an incredible amount of fun to experiment with. I think we put a hundred-hours of footage in it just trying to make sense of it in a couple of weeks.


Do you think that you could ever convince The Flaming Lips to open for you?

(laughs) Wayne loves to experiment, but I don’t know if he would want to subjugate himself to that.


You told Magnate Magazine that you’re a fan of burritos, and, if I’m quoting correctly, that you have eaten many: Does that mean you’re a fan of San Diego? And if so, when are you going to do a show here?

The real question is when I’m going to do a show outside of Brussels. San Diego is definitely on the list. San Francisco, Santa Barbara. All of the sans. The burrito thing. How did that come up? It was something where they were trying to be funnier than the potential response and I refused to take it. I decided to out-snark them, and that’s all I can remember.


More information on The Goldberg Sisters can be found here, Adam’s Facebook page, or the ole’ trusty Myspace page located here.

Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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