As fans gear up for the March 29 release of the Mountain Goats' new album, All Eternals Deck (their first on Merge Records) and their upcoming tour dates across North American and Europe, band leader John Darnielle is still working diligently on another passion project. No, not his other band, the Extra Lens either.
After experiencing the glow of completing his first book of short fiction, inspired by Black Sabbath's Master of Reality, for the 33 1/3 series, Darnielle has been after that same sensation ever since, working diligently on a new novel.
"I've never really felt quite as incredible a sense of satisfaction as the day I turned the manuscript in [for Master of Reality]," Darnielle tells Exclaim! "It's like, 'Wow, you finished your book, that's a feeling.' You never really get that when you're making an album, even when you do finish it because you have to go through all these phases of mixing and revisiting mixes and sequencing. It's a very slow process, but with a book, it's like, 'Okay, manuscript's in.'"
The other main difference between making Mountain Goats albums and writing a book for Darnielle is the pace. An astoundingly sharp and prolific songwriter, Darnielle is finding it far more difficult to wrap up his second literary production.
"I'm working on it really slowly and at this point, I expect to finish it when I'm 80 or something because I'm being really meticulous about revising it and am really ambitious about it," he explains. "It's about a guy who, when he was young, damaged himself very badly and finds himself in a position reflecting on other people who are as young as he once was and are also in the process of damaging themselves. It's a novel and I'm happy with the individual chapters I have, but I wish it went quicker. When I write songs, I burn through 'em. I sit down and I don't get up until I'm done writing one. I sit there with a guitar and a notebook and I stay there and, at some point, one to four hours later, I stand up and I'm done. This is very much like trying to polish a stone.
"I work on [the book] on tour and at home and it grows this way and that. I've thrown out whole subplots. I wonder if, at the end of my life, it's gonna be like, 'Well, he never quite finished his second book, but he made a lot of records.'"
In terms of musical ventures outside of the Mountain Goats, there's nothing immediate aside from a conceptual idea Darnielle has been batting around.
"I've been talking with a fellow from Chicago about doing some stuff in the symphonic world because I listen to a lot of classical music. There's a guy who tries to connect people and bring those two worlds together, and he's trying to figure out who I could be paired with. But for now, I'm busy touring with the Mountain Goats."
As of Tuesday (March 22), you can stream All Eternals Deck here on Exclaim.ca and get ready for the album to drop on March 29. Also, down below, you can find Mountain Goats' upcoming North American tour schedule, which includes one Canadian date on April 3 in Toronto.
3/24 Richmond, VA - The National
3/25 Washington, DC - 930 Club
3/26 York, PA - Strand-Capitol PAC
3/28 New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom
3/29 New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom
4/1 Boston, MA - Paradise
4/2 Ithaca, NY - Castaways
4/3 Toronto, ON - Opera House
4/5 Chicago, IL - The Vic
4/6 Nashville, TN - Mercy Lounge
4/7 Atlanta GA - Variety Playhouse
4/8 Chapel Hill, NC - Cat's Cradle
4/10 Asheville, NC - The Grey Eagle
4/11 Columbus, OH - Wexner Center
4/12 Pittsburgh, PA - Mr Smalls
4/15 Philadelphia, PA - Theater of Living Arts