Thursday, December 22, 2011

Local Love

My year-end series asks local bands and musicians to choose their favourite local albums of the year. Grab a copy of WE or read on here.

Local love — Best albums of 2011

Think Bryan Adams, Theory of a Deadman and, ahem, Nickelback are the be-all-and-end-all of Vancouver music? Think again. Thanks to local record stores, online resources, increasing radio play and a steady stream of live gigs, Vancouver and B.C.-based bands aren’t just the open secret only hardcore music geeks know about. In fact, this has been such a stellar year for our music scene, we couldn’t narrow down our top picks and instead turned the task over to the bands themselves. Welcome to the first of our three-part, year-ending series, Local Love, wherein local bands pick their favourite local albums of 2011.
Hannah Georgas and other local musicians and bands pick their favourite local albums of 2011

Describe yourself/your sound: Catchy, melodic, indie-pop, with many twists.

Your pick: My favourite BC record put out this year is by a new Vancouver band called Drawn Ship. The record is called Low Domestic. It’s amazing! The lead singer, Lyn Heinemann, is a dear friend of mine.

Describe yourself/your sound:I front the recent breakout lo-fi group Pleasure Cruise, and keep my country whiskey-soaked as a solo artist.

Your pick: I recommend Louise Burns’ Mellow Drama, released on Light Organ this past spring. A beautiful solo debut meant for old souls with dear hearts. Heavy on both vibe and verb, Louise is an artist that sings in colour.

Describe yourself/your sound: Defined by our combination of haunting female lead vocals, endearing harmonies, folk-inspired mandolin and brazen horns.

Your pick: Destroyer’s Kaputt sounds like how I sometimes picture Vancouver — a young woman so beautiful in fleeting moments, but most of the time drowned in rainy melodrama. My favourite song of the album “Poor in Love” is a tribute to the young people finding love despite how much it costs to live in this city. The album as a whole is a tragic experience in musical soft-core pornography and is inherently entrancing.

Describe yourself/your sound: Orchestral indie-pop band with twists of noise, folk and art-rock.

Your pick: Destroyer’s Kaputt (Ed's note: see above for image). It’s one of the best produced albums we’ve heard in a long time. We love how Dan Bejar uses iconic ’80s sounds with sophistication and humour; almost like a black comedy. It’s free-form pop music that makes you want to watch Dynasty with your cat, and get physical like Olivia Newton John all at the same time.

Describe yourself/your sound: Reminiscent of the beauty and darkness of what was, music for trick or treating or reading books.

Your pick: Dead Ghosts ST/LP is our choice for this year’s best local album. Everyone can appreciate classic ’50s pop rock ‘n’ roll as well as good neo-garage country twang. This particular slab of vinyl surpasses many cut-of-the-cloth bands, ever since that little old band from Atlanta, GA, arrived on the scene. Also proving that Vancouver has more great bands than people know, but fortunately for Dead Ghosts they are a household name on most U.S. and European vinyl junkies’ record shelves.

Describe yourself/your sound: Folk/rock band with songs filled with heartfelt melodies that tell stories of love, loss and hope

Your pick: The Hidden Sayings Of Maria in the Shower because I went to [Maria in the Shower’s] CD release party at The Waldorf in May and it was a stellar show! A diverse album that’s sprinkled with vibrant songs that have a traditional approach that are poignant and uplifting. It’s better to just
experience them for yourself.

Describe yourself/your sound: Heart-on-sleeve pop about life’s biggest curiousity — love — and all the complications that come with it.

Your pick: Bruise by Adrian Glynn. It’s Tom Waits meets a young Bob Dylan. Perfect for a bubble bath and a bottle of red. I’m drawn to how heartbreaking “Blue Belle Lament” feels. Sigh.

Part II
Last week Hannah Georgas, Jody Glenham, Ruffled Feathers, The Belle Game, Mode Moderne, Redgy Blackout and Carly Rae Jepsen offered their thoughts on the best local albums in 2011. Welcome back for the second of our three-part, year-ending series, Local Love, wherein local bands pick their favourite local albums of 2011.

Describe yourself/your sound: Equal parts arty and accessible, sexy and sweet, bad-ass and beautiful..

Your pick: Cardiography by David Vertesi. This album has beautifully understated production supporting David’s magnetic baritone. It presents a collection of heartfelt songs in a very real and organic manner. It sounds and feels close to home.

Describe yourself/your sound:  Roots-rock band whose songs evoke memories of camping trips, late-night campfire jams, and the open road.

Your pick: The British Columbians’ Made For Darker Things. They’ve been making the kind of noise we love for a few years now. Made For Darker Things is the kind of album you can put on both when you’re gearing up for a back alley brawl, or simply when you have a thirst for a stiff drink and a desire for a secluded moment of reflection. They’ve created a rich, and dirty landscape, and we’ve witnessed them pull it off live on stage too.

Phil Hanley

My interview with comedian Phil Hanley is in this week's WE.

Phil Hanley

Comedian Phil Hanley comes home for the holidays

Say what you will about the much-maligned buttondown or English prof frock, but Vancouver-born, Brooklyn-based Phil Hanley knows how to work a cardigan. In fact, his choice of attire says a lot about the standup comic himself: he is confidently amused by his own awkwardness — faux or not; appreciates functional irony — dude is skinny, likely gets cold easily; and understands the value of having a “look” (he’s gotta stand out in the standup crowd). He’s also really, really funny. WE spoke with Hanley in advance of his headlining gig Dec. 22-23 at the Comedy Mix, and got the scoop on everything from tourists in Times Square to backstage antics at The Late Late Show.

You’re at home in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, which seems to be the beacon of all hipster jokes.
Well, it’s the beacon of all hipsters. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. You sense there’s some friendly competition going on with mustaches and eyewear.

Was Movember a big thing there?
In my neighbourhood, you can’t even tell. It’s been Movember for years.

So, you’ve done shows everywhere, but what’s the contrast between a Vancouver audience and a New York audience?
You kind of know what you’re in for in Vancouver. You can get on the same page and come to some conclusions about how everyone feels in the audience. Tonight for instance, in New York, the club’s just off of Times Square, so it’ll be, like, six dudes from the Netherlands, and a German couple and a dozen members of a junior college basketball team. And then I’m doing an indie, alternative room in Brooklyn. Like, people from Ohio and then all the kids who moved out of Ohio and try to pretend they’re not from there. The contrast is great; it’s a good place to try and get a good read on things.

I saw you open for Charlie Demers earlier this year at the Comedy Mix. It was great.
Oh cool. I play the Mix often — Rob and Mario, the people who own the club, have been so good to me. If I’m in Vancouver, I’ll play there every night. It’s my favourite club. It feels super homey. If I’m getting ready for a showcase or a TV thing, I’ll always go back to work on it in Vancouver.

This is a question every Canadian artist asks themselves, but at what point did you decide leaving Canada was the right thing for your career?
I’d come to New York after high school and loved it. It was always in the back of my brain, like even before I started comedy, I wanted a reason to come and live here. And, also, the documentary Comedian. It’s about Jerry Seinfeld. After his sitcom is over, he starts from scratch and builds a new act. I watched it right before I started doing standup and it just looks so glamourous; he’s poppin’ into all these clubs. (Laughs) Of course, that’s a side you only get to see if you’re Jerry Seinfeld. But I’d also heard how many shows you can do in New York. Vancouver’s a great comedy scene and if you bust your ass you can do lots of shows. In New York it’s limitless to how many shows you can do in a week.

What’s your record?
I recently did 28 shows in two weeks. But some of that was on the road. You can do a lot of shows here if you get lucky with the scheduling and the subways.

You’ve been on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. He seems fun and unpredictable.
It’s the most fun that I’ve had and it’s because of the vibe of the show. The person who books the comedians is really cool and nice. And [Ferguson and I] chatted and joked up until about 10 seconds before they bring you out. It’s really mellow. There’s like a bar backstage and William Shatner — I was getting ready, but my agent and my friend were in the bar area and got to meet William Shatner and a woman from Community. It’s like a bar with a big screen and it actually looks like a proper bar inside.

Phil Hanley performs Dec. 22 (8:30pm) and Dec. 23  (8pm and 10:30pm) at Comedy Mix (1015 Burrard),  $12-$15 from

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Exclaim Year-in-Review write-ups

My contributions to Exclaim's Year-in-Review include Bon Iver, Jenn Grant and Sunparlour Players.

Bon Iver Bon Iver, Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar)
Back in 2008, Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver, won over hearts by taking the broken pieces of his and turning them into his bedroom-bruised debut For Emma, Forever Ago. His outstanding follow-up reveals that while time (and success) healed certain wounds ― note that his own moniker takes the title (twice!) this time 'round ― our folk-hero is still a fractured soul searching for his place in the world. But this time he's armed with fabulous '80s flourishes. The hopeful "Calgary" starts tranquil and cold, but warms as the layers of drums, guitar and synthesizers crescendo and retreat. "Holocene" aches with a similar winter-y feel, but the drum rolls and spare arrangement focus all the attention on Vernon's vocals and the lonely refrain "I can see for miles, miles, miles." For all this distress and earnestness though, Vernon's bolstered by some balls, as evidenced by "Beth/Rest," the album's last song. It works both as a brilliant summarizing of affairs ― electronic keyboards, vocal distortion, moody saxophone ― and a warning cry of what's to come. It forces the listener to fully consider the scope of Vernon's bizarre and brave artistry. Thankfully any egregious bravado is tempered by his grounded humbleness, which is a refreshing combination compared to other creative geniuses.
Andrea Warner

Jenn Grant Honeymoon Punch (Six Shooter)
The faltering steps before you somersault down the rabbit hole of love are sometimes the only clear moments one can remember during the hazy, heady first six months of a new relationship. And as good as that feels ― that promise, those elements of surprise and intense attraction, a hint of something special ― it's everything that comes next that's the stuff of real love songs. Jenn Grant's Honeymoon Punch details every moment of that kind of next-level shit: the moment you both realize that you're in it to win it with all the hope and humour and occasional heartache that entails. Album opener "Oh my Heart" remembers those moments with a kicky, pop love letter while "Baby's Been Away" finds our lovers struggling with priorities against a twinkly one-two shuffle. "Paradise Mountain" is that bittersweet moment where you debate whether it's mean to be, longing to get back to the beginning. It's a brave collection that celebrates real, true, transformational love with lots of momentum from helpful sources: a bass clarinet, synthesizers, and playful forays into '50s pop rhythms, soul and even a little riot grrrl defiance. But true to form, despite the album's often upbeat nature, it's impossible to know for sure if Grant will let her lovers have that happy ending. The final track, "Stars to Waves," is a beautiful, crazy, two-parter (soft, sweet lament and triumphant, instrumental frenzy) that, wisely, lets the listener choose his or her own ending.
Andrea Warner

Sunparlour Players Us Little Devils (Outside)
Sunparlour Players' evolution from Andrew Penner's solo effort to three-part collective with Michael "Rosie" Rosenthal and Dennis Van Dine hasn't been seamless, but the disparate influences and inspirations are what make the band's third album, Us Little Devils, so great. It's the sound of three people moving in harmony ― but that doesn't mean they arrive at the same place every song. In fact, the little devils themselves take huge pleasure in deviating with whiplash speed from any expected alt-country trajectory. There are wild detours into punk and metal-lite, gospel, soul and even the rough waters of a sea shanty. These unexpected journeys might be disorienting at first, but isn't it nice as a listener to be surprised and even a little freaked out? It's disorienting but awesome to stumble from the Kings of Leon-esque environmental plea "Green Thumb" to the aggro-rock attack of "Like an Animal" before going all aflutter on the lilting "Damn All You," which is both sexy and mournful thanks to gentle percussion and creaky piano. This is the right kind of devil's play.
Andrea Warner

Coeur de pirate

My interviews with Béatrice Martin appear in December's Exclaim and online.

By Andrea Warner

Béatrice Martin may record as Coeur de Pirate (aka, heart of a pirate), but her new album, Blonde, could be subtitled "Heart on Her Sleeve." At first listen, it's sunny-sounding, '60s-influenced, piano-based pop that builds on the winning formula of her 2008 eponymous debut: hooky keys, winking vocals and catchy choruses. But even her non-French speaking fans can't help but pick up on a few lyrical cues that something has made the 22-year-old blonde more than a little blue. "I was kind of invisible when I was a teenager," Martin says. "I didn't really have a lot of friends. I didn't feel like I belonged anywhere. Then all of a sudden I was releasing a record and everybody knew who I was, especially in Quebec. Suddenly everyone knows your story and it's so weird!"

That sudden fame brought its own strange loneliness, Martin says. On top of the innate learning curve of growing up from an 18-year-old into a 22-year-old, she says she didn't have a clue about boys or managing friendships. And then she had to deal with falling in and out of love in the public eye. "I started getting attached to people who could understand where I was coming from, and the bad part was I was falling in love with these people and I wanted to learn everything from them, and that pretty much set the tone for Blonde."

Martin's reluctant to name her heartbreak, but concedes that it's pretty obvious to whom she's referring: Jay Malinowski, the singer/guitarist for reggae-rock outfit Bedouin Soundclash, and Martin's collaborator on their short-lived indie pop band Armistice. "It's really just a tribute to him," Martin muses. "It was really complicated and I was just pushing him away all the time because I was so scared of being lonely. I really talk about that in the songs."

She laughingly says she's her own worst enemy, but she's working through her insecurities. "I cope with it through writing and that's really what happened [with Blonde]."

News breadcrumbsplit Nov 11 2011

Coeur de Pirate Grows Up with 'Blonde'
By Andrea Warner 

Three years ago, Coeur de Pirate's eponymous debut became one of the few French-language albums in Canada to become a crossover hit with English speakers, thanks in part to singer-songwriter Béatrice Martin's modern, youthful twist on the timeless art of piano-driven pop. Her follow-up album, the recently released Blonde, finds 22-year-old Martin all grown up, delving deep into the '60s for influences from the Beatles and the Beach Boys, crafting sunny-sounding tunes about heartbreak and loneliness.

"I was thrown into an adult world quite quickly," Martin tells Exclaim! from her home base of Montreal. "I was kind of invisible when I was a teenager. I didn't really have a lot of friends. I didn't feel like I belonged anywhere. Then all of a sudden I was releasing a record and everybody knew who I was, especially in Quebec. And suddenly everyone knows your story and it's so weird."

She admits that on the surface it would seem as if she had it all after Coeur de Pirate came out. She wanted to fit in and please people, so she attended everything and in return everyone told her she was wonderful.

"I felt really lonely at times," she laughs, ruefully. "Not a lot of people understand that, because they're all like, 'This is so great! You should be livin' the life!' And it was more complicated than that. Through all of it, I didn't really know how to act with boys and keep friends because I was always away. I started getting attached to people who could understand where I was coming from, and the bad part was when I was falling in love with these people and I wanted to learn everything from them, and that pretty much set the tone for Blonde."

The main person she fell in love with was Bedouin Soundclash's Jay Malinowski, with whom she briefly collaborated with as Armistice. She declines to talk specifics about the breakup, but says that the relationship acts as Blonde's throughline, and at first, the songs were written just for her to vent and try to move on, though it took a couple of tries to make it stick.

"There was an angry moving on," Martin laughs. "There's a trying to win back the other person moving on, which is not really moving on, but still. I've been through a couple of phases, especially with this one. I'm really not bitter when it comes to what happened between -- it's fine. It's really just a tribute to him, or how I love too much, maybe? I love too much, but I wasn't even there. It was really complicated and I was just pushing him away all the time because I was so scared of being lonely. I really talk about that in the songs."

Well, if you can understand them. But even if you're not fluent in French, there's a melancholy that lingers just beneath the surface of many of the songs, even though sonically the album is arguably one of the happiest, swingy-iest, warmest kiss-offs yet. Particularly since the album ends on an emotional high note: a song inspired by her current boyfriend and a welcome forecast to the future. Martin is actively working to make sure her romantic past doesn't repeat itself.

"I was my own worst enemy, it was terrible!" she laughs. "Now how I deal with it is I ask, 'Is this what I want for myself?' Do I want something that will make me feel uncomfortable and insecure, or do I want something that will make me feel better and good and wanted and loved? I think that's just something you have to deal with on your own. But I like to cope with it through writing and that's really what happened [with Blonde]."

Blonde is out now on Grosse Boite, and Coeur de Pirate plays Toronto's Mod Club tonight (November 11).

Young Adult

My review of Young Adult is in this week's WE.


Starring Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt
Directed by Jason Reitman

Depending on which side of twee you fall, director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody’s acclaimed debut, Juno, was the love-it-or-loathe-it film of 2007. Their acid-tongued, gut-punch follow-up, Young Adult, is an entirely different beast — though likely no less divisive.

Charlize Theron stars as Mavis, a 30-something mess of a woman who managed to prolong her high school glory years by ghostwriting a popular teenage book series. But the books have fallen out of fashion — no vampires — and Mavis can’t crack writing the series finale. Luckily, a distraction arrives: her happily married high school boyfriend, Buddy (Patrick Wilson), sends a group email blast about his new baby, prompting Mavis to return home — beautiful and blond with big city glamour — to win him back.

The reunion doesn’t go as smoothly as planned. Buddy’s now a small-town dad who loves family-friendly restaurants and his bland, big-box existence. But Mavis is hellbent on seducing him, much to the chagrin of fellow barfly Matt (Patton Oswalt), the schlub she can barely remember despite being locker neighbours for four years. Two decades later, Matt’s still notorious as the guy who survived a vicious beating by jock assholes his senior year and Mavis is still the psycho bitch prom queen who “should” be happy but isn’t. They’re kindreds in arrested development and the reason why Young Adult resonates so deeply, despite its bitter surface.

In less capable hands, Mavis could be terribly one-note, but Theron fills out the edges of her character’s abhorrent behaviour, bringing Mavis to a believable breaking point where she briefly lets her barbed-wire guard down. It’s a fascinating performance, and Oswalt matches her every move, particularly in a devastating monologue as Matt recounts his horrific attack.

In a traditional movie, this moment would mark Mavis’ breakthrough, her grand catharsis where she starts to finally heal. That ain’t Young Adult’s style. The film’s beauty is that when it finally offers a glimpse of her fractured soul, it just as quickly snaps shut again. It’s not interested in a big emotional reckoning or tidy resolution. Rather, Young Adult knows all too well the frustrating truth about growing up — most of the time it’s two steps forward, one step back. — Andrea Warner

Patton Oswalt

My quick Q&A with Patton Oswalt ran in last week's WE. The full transcription of our interview will be posted soon.

Patton Oswalt

MOVIES: Patton Oswalt makes leap to ‘Young Adult’

Comedian/actor/writer Patton Oswalt has put his trademark on the funny schlub role (King of Queens), but he’s garnering serious Oscar buzz for reaching outside his comfort zone in the new ink-black comedy, Young Adult (opening Dec. 16), Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody’s first post-Juno collaboration. The film stars Charlize Theron as a 30-something writer who comes home to win back her high school boyfriend — who’s now happily married with a new baby. Oswalt plays Matt, the equally damaged voice of reason who becomes her confidant. WE caught up with Oswalt in person at the Whistler Film Festival last week, where he received a best supporting actor award — likely the first of many this awards season — for his Young Adult performance.

It seems more natural for comedians to transition into acting than vice versa. Did it feel natural for you?
Well, not at first. The transition began around ‘95. I think I was lucky enough that I hung around with people who were like, ‘Just because you’re doing well at stand-up right now, acting, writing and stand-up are all completely different disciplines, so approach them all as if you were at ground zero and square one.’ Do not assume ‘Oh, I’ve got other skills, how hard could this be?’ And it goes both ways. There are plenty of actors I’ve seen go, ‘How hard could stand-up be?’ and honestly, they are completely different disciplines and they are equally difficult to pull off.

So why did you want to do Young Adult?
I wanted to do it because they offered it to me. I don’t have a lot of choice right now about what I do. (Laughs) It’s not like, “Tell Spielberg I’ll get back to him! I want to read this Cody thing first.” It was offered to me, but I was so excited I was being given such a difficult script to do. A script that could have easily gone the wrong way if the tone wasn’t right. I wanted the challenge. I wanted to know if I could do it.

Do you have the Hollywood glaze of trying to stay away from too much lip service?
I have the glaze of not having slept in three weeks. I’m very, very lucky. I know this is going to sound so fucking cheesy, but it’s so true: my wife is so fucking awesome at spotting the ‘you don’t need to think about this’ or ‘ignore this.’ And also, I have a circle of really amazing comedian friends around me who all we do is bust each others’ balls. No matter what I do, movie or TV-wise, they’re there to remind me next week I have to go on stage again and be funny. So, no matter what you do now, you gotta just keep working, keep doing stuff, don’t get wrapped up in one fucking thing ‘cause that will kill you.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Allison Crowe

My feature on Allison Crowe is in this week's WE.

Singer/songwriter Allison Crowe has this advice for aspiring musicians: “Never give up. Just keep doing it and eventually it will all make sense.”
Singer/songwriter Allison Crowe has this advice for aspiring musicians: “Never give up. Just keep doing it and eventually it will all make sense.”

MUSIC: Allison Crowe brings cross-country Tidings

Long before Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was the ubiquitous cover of choice for musicians to abuse and misuse, there was singer/songwriter Allison Crowe’s version in 2004. Her soulful, tortured take on this Canadian classic made media around the world take notice. Never heard of her? You’re not alone, and it’s time to change that.

For 15 years, the Nanaimo native — who now divides her year between B.C. and Newfoundland — has been defiantly DIY, making a career for herself through non-stop writing, recording and touring. She started her own label, Rubanesque Records, in 2003, and has since self-released eight EPs and albums, including Tidings, the basis for her eighth annual seasonal concert at the St. James Hall, Dec. 11. For the 30-year-old Crowe the reward is modest but satisfying: a fiercely loyal, international fan base, and all on her own terms.

“There was an opportunity in 2003 to sign to a label, and when I got into the thick of it, I realized that’s not what I wanted at all,” Crowe says, over the phone in St. John’s. “I prefer to be able to do, write and play what I want. That just means too much to me.”

Crowe acknowledges that while a label might be the dream for a lot of musicians, the reality is drastically different.

“Whether it has to do with wanting to change your image — which kind of freaked me out — or change how you wrote or play or who you work with, I’m not into that,” Crowe laughs. “I’m pretty headstrong and stubborn, so I would be hard-pressed to have someone tell me what to write!”
It’s hard to imagine anyone trying to rein Crowe in. A classically trained pianist and guitarist, her influences run the gamut: there are echoes of folk, jazz, pop, soul, rock and blues throughout her records, and her breadth of covers rivals that of any cabaret artist.

Crowe says this diversity will be reflected in her Tidings concert, which will feature Christmas standards and a few of her personal favourites, including songs by Joni Mitchell, Patty Griffin, the Beatles and, likely, that Cohen cover. Crowe anticipates seeing familiar faces in the audience, citing fans who come out every year to celebrate the holidays with her. That closeness with her fans only validates her choice to stay independent all these years. She admits it hasn’t always been easy, but she has some advice for fellow artists still struggling with the uphill climb.

“Never give up — because sometimes you really want to,” she laughs. “Just keep doing it and eventually it will all make sense.”
Allison Crowe performs Dec. 11 at St. James Hall (3214 W. 10th), 7pm. Tickets $15-$20.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes

My interview with Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes is this week's cover story at WE.

Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith: reports of Mewes death have been greatly exaggerated.
Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith: reports of Mewes death have been greatly exaggerated.
Credit: Supplied

ENDLESS LOVE: Jay and Silent Bob grow up

Kevin Smith’s evolution from filmmaker/actor to Prince of Podcasts has been a well-documented series of starts, stops and staggeringly strange sidetracks. He spent the indie cred he earned from his 1994 debut Clerks on a variety of beloved fan favourites (Chasing Amy, Red State) and critical flops (Jersey Girl, Cop Out). He’s also never shied away from spilling his guts, be it online, via Twitter, in interviews or — starting in 2007 — his first podcast called Smodcast, recorded with friend and business partner Scott Mosier. That podcast has elevated Smith into a whole new career, as the master of a veritable podcast empire known as the Smodcast Podcast network.

It’s been a vastly different experience for friend and frequent co-star Jason Mewes. He and Smith made their acting debuts in Clerks as Jay (Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith). The characters caught on with fans and went on to appear in most of Smith’s earlier films, and even headlining Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.  But Mewes’ career was sidelined by a years-long detour into drug addiction. For a long time it seemed to most fans that the funny, endearing actor had taken his embodiment of his vulgar, stoner character to extremes. Smith even recalls People magazine asking him for a comment on Mewes’ (incorrectly) reported overdose death. After several attempts, Mewes finally got sober and Smith convinced him to open up about his experiences on — what else — a podcast. Jay and Silent Bob Get Old started in 2010. The pair just recorded their 58th episode and have taken the show on the road. In advance of their Dec. 7 show at the Vogue, Smith and Mewes spoke with WE in separate interviews, opening up about the ways heroin messed with their friendship, recovery and redemption.


I feel like I know everything about you from listening to Jay and Silent Bob Get Old. Like, from genitals to drugs. Is there anything off-limits to you?
No. I mean there’s definitely been times where — my wife tours with us and I’ll have told Kevin something about us and it’s not even that I don’t want to talk about it ‘cause I’m embarrassed, but I’m worried she’ll get mad. There’s definitely stuff I probably know about Kevin that I couldn’t bring up without asking him first... But he’s usually open to everything, too.

You’ve done a lot of these shows and talk all the time. Do you ever run out of stuff?
I can definitely say I’m getting close on running out of sex stories and stuff. Ten years ago, being really high and drunk or going out to a club and meeting some girl, like we’ll be talking and when we’re on stage I’d remember something, like, ‘Holy crap! I remember that same night this happened!’ There’s still stuff to talk about, I mean day-to-day stuff goes on, but I try not to tell anything twice. I try to keep it fresh. But the thing is I’ve been with wife now for almost six years, so the adventures and the fun of going out and meeting brand new girls and going out and doing crazy stuff has slowed down. But there are still interesting things that happen.

In the last episode you were detailing this lengthy OxyContin story and I was struck by just how much crafty-ness goes into scoring.
Oh definitely... You sit there and think of ways like, ‘Oh my friend just got a $1,000 cheque and if I tell him that my electric’s getting shut off and it’s only $110 he’ll believe it because it’s a weird number and he won’t want me to go without electric, and then I need a ride to the dope man so I’ll tell him I have to go pay my electric bill at this place and then I’ll tell him to park around the corner so he doesn’t realize I’m going into a crack house and not a business.’ It’s pretty crazy the ideas you come up with and the manipulation.

How long have you been sober?
It’s been 607 days. I keep it on my computer and track it before a show.

Do you find it difficult to be around weed?
No, not at all. My wife smokes, my buddies smoke. Before I even got sober I stopped smoking weed. When my mom was really sick I was taking care of her, she got THC pills, and I remember it saying take one every hour or so and I took, like, three, thinking, oh, I smoke weed, I’m going to need more.’ So I took three and I remember sitting there, tripping out like I was on acid. My mom had trouble breathing on a daily basis, but looking at her messed up it was really exaggerated and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I have to call the hospital but I can’t because I’m so high and the cops are gonna come.’ And I remember thinking, if I’m this out of it, I can’t take care of my mom. So it scared me from wanting to smoke weed ever again. It sounds ridiculous, but I have flashbacks of me tripping out that day and I’m afraid if I smoke I’d trip out like that. So, weed doesn’t bother me. Drinking, I don’t know, I like drinking but it’s just easier not drinking. It would be so obvious and I’d be busted and I’d have to tell everyone I drank and I fucked up, then my wife would be mad, then the next day I’d have a hangover and then it definitely wouldn’t be worth it. I stay away from pills, heroin and coke, of course. If I know any one’s doing that, I just don’t surround myself with them.

Kevin calls himself a goody-two-shoes and says that you’re the bad boy, but you seem to have a good-guy side, too.
As much as everything was messed up when I was younger — like, my grandma raised me for years and, I don’t know, I wouldn’t say I was a bad boy, but I was more carefree and willing to try and experiment with stuff than Kevin. I didn’t have my parents there. Like, he even says, if he was going out at 10 o’clock at night and came home late, he’d get yelled at and they’d wonder where he was. At 12 or 13 years old, I was allowed out ‘til one or two in the morning. It was different for me.

Do you feel content now?
Yes, definitely. Work-wise, it’s pretty awesome how we all get to work with each other and tour together and all that. I almost want to work more. We work a lot, but I want to work more. The only thing that could fulfill me anymore is if we could — I’ve been telling Kevin that the ideal situation for me is if we could do his next movie and the touring through June, but then start a TV show. We could work together every day and make enough money to live and just spend every day together.


The last time we spoke, in March, 2009, it was pre-Cop Out, pre-Red State and pre-your Smodcast empire. Your life has had a complete overhaul.
And the powerhouse podcast, Jay and Silent Bob Get Old, wasn’t even a glimmer in someone’s eye. Mewes was still crawling from the wreckage. He’d fallen off the wagon pretty badly and he had just started to get clean; maybe he had three months under his belt when Smodcastle opened its doors. He’s not himself when he’s doing the nonsense... We had to fill a slot, and Mewes was around, so I said, ‘Hey, we could do a Jay show, you and me, and talk about gettin’ clean.’ For years I’d told him, ‘Dude, just talk about your problems, just tell people you used heroin, tell people about the OxyContin. It’s much easier to fight a dragon if everyone can see it. Right now it’s just you.’ And he’d be like, ‘I can’t man because you don’t get hired after people find out you’re doing skin-poppin’ drugs.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, but you’re being held prisoner to it, even when it’s in the past.’ We went for it and called it Jay and Silent Bob Get Old... Within six months that dude had gone from, ‘Uh, I don’t know if I want to do this’ to selling out a 1,600-seater. It was just predicated on sitting there talking about his drug abuse past, not to mention his myriad sexual antics. We didn’t conceive it as an intervention podcast, but by the time we got to the sixth episode, it became clear that’s what it was... The show is kind of like a filthy, funny version of an AA meeting. It mixes in the tragic, because make no mistake, these tales of heroin are tragic. They’re cautionary tales. They’re certainly not meant to encourage anyone to pick up a needle.

Or glorify it.
Not in the least! But he’s entertaining as hell because he can talk about doing heinous stuff to his body and still make it kind of funny... That podcast has saved his life, man, or it’s certainly changed his life. The idea of having so much of my life and future tied up with Mewes, it wasn’t that way anymore. At points I didn’t want to make those movies anymore because the dude was such a prisoner to the heroin. It was irritating. You want to tell an addict to just shake it, stop doing it, but it’s much deeper than that. I have no experience with that kind of stuff. For me it’s like dieting. First do less and then do nothing, but I’m the last guy in the world who should be giving dieting advice. It was a trying time back then, so much so that if someone had said, ‘Hey man, you and Mewes will be in hardcore business together and you’ll make your living sitting together talking, more so than from the movies,’ I would have been like, you’re absolutely fucking crazy. But that’s where we stand today. He’s living proof that you can’t count anyone out. You know, Mewes was a guy that none of us wanted to let go because he’s all heart. Nickle-fucking-head, but all heart. He had gone down the path so many times, we’d begun to count him out. But it all came from that podcast, because he figured out his own self worth.

And he’s so ridiculously endearing.
Ah, he is! And this is a dude who stole money from me, this motherfucker, $1,100! I remember asking the cop at what point I could prosecute and it was $1,000. That’s how we got him into rehab the first time. This is a dude who’s fucked me over and all of his friends over and we still love him. He’s a dude worth saving. And he ended up saving himself. It came from him seeing that people enjoy him, they love him deeply, like not just through the character he plays but who he actually is. He’s a guy who took all the goodwill that came with the character he played and brought it into the real world. And they’re two very different things but at the same time they’re very indiscernible as well. (Laughs) There are very subtle distinctions between Jay in the movie and Jay in real life.

Your careers are tied together. Do you feel a sense of responsibility for him?
I used to. Our relationship was very father-son, which was weird. I got to train for fatherhood long before I had a kid myself. For a long time that was our relationship. For the last year, it’s been, ‘Hey man, you’re my friend. I don’t have to take care of you. You can actually take care of yourself.’ And we actually take care of each other by taking care of ourselves now... I got a phone call from People magazine once saying, ‘Do you have a comment about the overdose death of your friend Jason Mewes?’ Years later to be able to laugh at all that stuff and see him head towards buying his first house and see moments where he can win in a battle of wits with his wife, that’s inspiring.