The Paper Chase: Interview with John Congleton

Well the Earth is going to be fine. It’s a matter of whether or not the Earth is going to be able to sustain human life. A lot of the album is basically a checklist of ways that the Earth and nature…

Can knock us off.

Right! Now I have to ask-I got this album about a week or two before the swine flu started making headlines, so I was pretty weird when one of the songs about a flu epidemic contained the line ‘In an unmade bed/ In Mexico / You will catch my cough/ You will catch my cold.’ Did that freak you out when the swine flu started spreading from Mexico into the United States and the media frenzy that followed?

When I first heard about it, I was in San Francisco and a British music magazine called me for an interview. I had overslept and I was kind of out of it. The first question they asked was, ‘Do you feel like you were being prophetic when you wrote “The Common Cold”?’ I hadn’t even heard about the flu yet and I was knee-deep in recording. So I was like, ‘What the fuck are you talking about?’ Every single interview I’ve done since then I’ve been asked that question. The answer is I don’t know. Those words just seemed to work. Honestly, the reason I picked those words is that it just seemed that Mexico would be idyllic location for a couple to go away to rekindle their relationship and how much it would suck in that moment to catch something nasty and contagious.

When I first heard about the album, I thought it would be like end-of-the-world scenarios, but these songs are really very topical and relevant to what happens everyday.

I think it’s important that people know that I take no personal delight in bad things happening. When hurricane Katrina happened I was seriously heartbroken and just mesmerized about how horribly our government had reacted. I want people to understand that these songs are metaphorical for the problems we get ourselves in as humans. People always tell me, ‘Don’t sing about that stuff, ’cause when it really happens you’ll feel bad.’ But that is precisely why I want to sing about it; because it’s superstitious nonsense. Whether I sing about it or not, it’s going to happen. It will never ever stop.

This album is volume one of two, can you give any insight on what we can expect on volume two?

It’s coming out next year, it’s entirely written, most of it is recorded and none of it is mixed except a couple of songs. I don’t want to talk too much about it, because I don’t want people to have any expectations on what to expect. I will say this: That the overall feeling of the second record is going to be more of describing the aftermath of a whole new set of natural disasters. Different type of album for sure and I think people will hear why it was a good idea to separate them.

Catch The Paper Chase on June 25 at Mercury Lounge in NYC and on June 26 at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ. For more info, visit