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Interview: Allie Goertz gives Rick & Morty the electro-pop concept album it deserves

 

In this writer’s opinion, “Rixty Minutes” — the eighth installment in the madcap sci-fi adventures of Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty — is the finest 22 minutes of television produced thus far in the millennium.

Couched in a twist of the time-honored “bottle episode” trope melded with improvised digressions into streams of consciousness, “Rixty”, the silly cartoon, explores honest to gosh, meaning-of-it all-type shit. The Smiths (a typical American family with no Morrissey connection) learn that their lives would be much better without each other. (Or maybe not?) They also find out what TV looks like in a world where humanity evolved from corn, observe an emotionally abusive Garfield analoge from planet Gazorpazorp, and view a trailer for gratuitously titled interdimensional action blockbuster bonanza, Alien Invasion Tomato Monster Mexican Armada Brothers Who Are Just Regular Brothers Running In a Van From An Asteroid and All Sorts of Things The Movie, a.k.a. Two Brothers.

On top of all that, the third act’ll jerk yer tears just as ruthlessly as any Pixar flick.

 
 

But in the opinion of Los Angeles musician and comic Allie Goertz, “Rixty Minutes” is not its era’s greatest episode of television, nor is it the best Rick and Morty episode. She prefers “Auto Erotic Assimilation” (S02E03) in which Rick reconnects with old flame Unity, an incorporeal hivemind, whose drones transfer and expand her all-encompassing will and personality into new vessels by vomiting into the mouths of unaffected individuals — generally, without consent. People cry at the end of that one sometimes, too.

Goertz briefly considered herself finished mining television for muses following her 2013 LP, released under the once-clever, now-unfortunate title, Cossbysweater. But then the vicious genius of Rick and Morty co-creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland inspired an entire EP’s worth of tracks reflecting their show’s perverse magic and wonder. Composed with three months and a handful of Kickstarter bucks, Sad Dance Songs sees Goertz trade acoustic folk for lo-fi electro-pop. The results, akin to the soundtrack of a glorious Sega Genesis adaption that’ll never be, are over yonder at Bandcamp.

 
 

Goertz granted Vanyaland a block of Skype time to chat up her creative wares, and indulge my undeterrable compulsion to discuss Rick and Morty.

[NOTE: The following is loaded with spoilers for Rick and Morty season two.]

Barry Thompson: You’ve done a bunch of songs based on TV shows. Why did Rick and Morty warrant an entire EP?

Allie Goertz: I actually thought I wasn’t going to write about cartoons anymore, and even publicly said that I wanted to step away from it. But I fell in love with [Rick and Morty] so much that I wanted to write a dance album, and there were too many characters I wanted to sing about. I didn’t want to make one list song.

 
 

Why did lo-fi electronica seem like the best way to capture the essence of the show?

Since some of the show takes place in space, it didn’t really make sense to go about it like a nerdy folk singer. When I sang about Millhouse or Freaks and Geeks, that made sense, but it didn’t make sense for R&M. Also, I didn’t want to limit myself in terms of storytelling or how full I could make it sound, and I wanted to experiment with bass and drums and keys and do a lot more with it.

Favorite episode?

The Unity episode [The aforementioned “Auto Erotic Assimilation”], which made me want to write the album. In terms of sheer laughs, my favorite is the Mr. Poopy Butthole episode [“Total Rickall”]. What’s yours?

 
 

“Rixty Minutes.” No contest.

It’s so good, that one. That’s what the song “All I Wanted” is about. In the end, I cried my eyes out. It was just such a romantic and sad story.

Yeah, I like the conflicting messages in that episode. Morty goes on his famous “Nobody belongs anywhere,” rant, but in the end, it turns out Beth and Jerry actually do belong together. Or at least I think that’s what’s happening?

 
 

Yeah, so what Morty says — nobody exists on purpose, we’re all going to die, let’s go watch TV — that’s the entire theme of my album. “Dance Bitch,” which is sung from Rick’s point of view, it’s about coping and self-medicating and doing things just to orient yourself. For Rick, the coping mechanism is drinking. For Beth and Jerry, it’s pretending that their marriage is going to work, despite knowing that they probably shouldn’t be together. It’s all these different characters struggling to find happiness, and when the show lets them experience happiness, it’s such a nice thing, especially when it’s through something as simple as watching a TV show.

The Meeseeks didn’t appear in season two. Good thing or bad thing?

Roiland and Harmon have said they didn’t want to rehash old stuff yet, and I totally agree with them. It was a good choice to leave us wanting more. I’m happy that Birdperson came back, because the way he comes back and his exit are so huge.

Yeah, they did bring back Birdperson, but they can’t ever do it again, unfortunately. Are we correct to think Rick is becoming more like Morty, and Morty is becoming more like Rick?

 
 

Yeah. Morty has become more destructive, and Rick has been realizing the consequences of his actions. I wouldn’t say that they’re becoming each other, but they’re both growing in ways that they need to. I would hope that Morty doesn’t become too much like Rick. I would see the entertainment in it. I would love it as an episode, but as an overall arch, it would be sad to see him think less of others and more about himself.

In season three, would you prefer they return to the status quo by undoing all the upheaval from the end of season two — which they could get away with, because they’ve done similar things — or would an entire season with the Galactic Federation occupying Earth be preferable?

The entire season option. I really want the situation with the GF to play out, especially because they’re taking a lot of time to finish the next season, and it was such a big deal when Rick gave himself up for his family. No part of me expects them to just reset. If they did, I think it would be a big slap in the face to the audience, albeit a very funny slap in the face, but I just don’t think that’s what’s in the creators’ hearts. Dan Harmon pays off his characters so well. He obviously cherishes all of the characters on Community, so I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Isn’t there something magical about hearing a cartoon character say “fuck?”

It’s also fun for me to sing. I’m not normally someone who uses profanity in my music, in fact I haven’t until now. I always liked making things that shouldn’t be pretty sound pretty, and that’s something the show does on its own. It’s constantly finding beautiful ways to articulate very bleak ideas, and take things that can be super sad and make them hilarious, or vice versa, so I wanted to do that musically.

 
 

What’s next for you? You mentioned you used to think you were all done with cartoon songs?

I think the reason I said that initially was I felt like I was really forcing myself to do something, and really pigeonholed myself. The truth is that if I continue to find things that inspire me, I‘m not going to stop being inspired just because the inspiring thing is a cartoon. This project was particularly fun, because I had never played synth or drums or electronic stuff before, and it just kind of widened up what I can do. Instead of looking down a very specific path, this just made me go, “Cool. I’ll have my next project when it feels good, and I’ll go from there.”

Follow Barry Thompson on Twitter @barelytomson.