The Bedroom Philosopher looks like a man who enjoys a nice cup of tea, so we meet at my mum’s house. There we are served in glorious backyard splendour, in ill-matching mugs our tea and on toasty squares our marmalade.
Justin Heazlewood, the philosopher in the bedroom, has just released his fourth album and is eager to talk to us about it, like a person who is eager to talk about themselves is when being interviewed for an article about themselves. Awkward enough? Wait.
“I opened a comedy show with a song about a depressed mother, all her kids have moved out and she’s wondering what to do with her life. Rule 101 in comedy, open up on a big note, come out punching. And I’m like, nuh. I rock up with this song about a sad woman.” Justin chuckles. “Life is light and shade, really funny, like hilarious, but also really depressing. In equal measure really. Most respected artists seem to cover that spectrum.”
We are talking about his new album. “It’s an exercise in overcompensating. Me trying to run screaming away from the whole comedy box that I’ve been shoved into, like a scared kitten after Christmas day when no-one wants me anymore. I’m like ‘I want to be taken seriously! Look at me, I can play my instruments!’ It’s wanting to have an album you can put on at a party and everyone doesn’t leave the room. An album that you could have, well, not complete intercourse to but maybe just a light finger, only external.” My mum heard that. Justin seems determined to create these awkward scenes.
“When your audience haven’t worked out what you’re doing, that’s when you’ve got their full attention. So I’m constantly ducking and weaving, like some side-burned Cheshire cat. The thing about our gigs is that the audience have to do a bit of work, they’re over the top. You have to put bits of the puzzle together. It’s musical Ikea, we’re hurling the pieces out and people have to assemble them themselves. The average band is throwing deckchairs at the audience, pre-assembled items, but we’re all about the parts.”
The Awkwardstra, as Justin dubs them, are recent additions to his one-man stylings. Justin has recently (last year) added a percussionist and sitar player.
“I’m amazed sitars aren’t used in more music in general. I’m a massive Cornershop fan, they were one of the only cool bands who made it a feature. The Beatles did great stuff with it and when I heard it I was like wow! You know, guitar 2.0. It’s that sweet drone.”
Justin also publishes in The Big Issue and works for RRR radio in Melbourne but is definitely focused on his folk/comedy music career. “It took me half a set to realise that I’m quite happy just to do songs. That’s the main reason why I’ve been doing all these music tours, so I can concentrate on the freakin songs and not have to worry too much about how funny it is. But then I get there on the night and I’m like ‘aah! It’s not funny! People will hate me’. I’m a slave to laughter. It’s an emotional addiction you get from doing stand-up comedy for too long. I’m still not free of its needy grasp. Whereas your average musician can rock in and play his heartfelt ballads and, you know, a few claps will do. Jesus, I’m needy, I just need so much validation from the crowd.”
Brown and Orange is The Bedroom Philosopher’s latest album. It features album artwork reminiscent of early 90s neo-deco kitchen and high school kitsch. Justin has created an awkward persona and this is evident in the pictures as well as the lyrics. Songs such as ‘Party In My Head’ are at turns insightful and stupid, while ‘Jesus On Big Brother’ is, well, odd. The album, perhaps because of Justin’s intentions, seems to demand to be considered as a piece of art. Whether or not you like the brush strokes, you cannot deny its legitimacy.
My mum hands Justin a biscuit that he takes distractedly. He is too caught up in his vitriolic diatribe against popular music.
“A lot of lyrics are disposable and purposeless, really average poems put to music. The Flight of the Conchords album, it’s really obvious what they’re doing there. I have a real hard time with everything being neat and tidy, tied up in a neat little bow and everyone going ‘yes yes I totally get this’. I wanna smash the whole thing down a bit. I’m the weird kid in art class who’s just made some weird half robot half octopus thing out of clay, and no-ones talking to him. I’m really trying hard to go against the grain. At the same time I do want to be respectful to the audience, I don’t want to be one of those artists who goes ‘I’m doing something really weird, fuck you’ then throws a bucket of black paint over the crowd and runs out.”
Justin then throws a bucket of paint over my mother and runs out. My mother blames me for the entire incident.