If you go to an MGMT show this spring, chances are you’ll see Simon O’Connor onstage. As a touring instrumentalist for the alt-rockers, he’s helping to bring the songs from their new record Little Dark Age to life in concert. He’s also crafted some intriguing tunes as the frontman of his band Simon Doom. In 2017, Simon Doom released their debut album, Babyman. Now, they’re back with a new single, “Lucifer the Light Bearer.”
We recently had the chance to catch up with O’Connor over the phone. He talked to us about creating Babyman, collaborating with artists for a music video, his history with MGMT, and more. Read all about it below!
TYF: You just played a show with Beverly at the Black Cat in DC. How did that go?
Simon Doom: It was a lot of fun. It was our first show out of town after our record’s been out for a little bit. So we had no idea what to expect. And there were people there! And there were people who knew the songs, people who wanted to talk about the songs. And it was exciting ’cause even though this band has been around for a couple of years, due to the fact that I, myself, and other members are involved in a lot of other projects, we’re kind of a baby band and moving really slowly. And really just getting started. So it was nice to see that. Kind of like a first for us. It was a lot of fun. And Beverly are incredible, so we decided to play with them. It was a really great time.
TYF: Your last album, Babyman, was partially inspired by becoming a father. What have the themes of your new music been?
Doom: The main theme… It’s not intentional. You know what I mean? I wish it was intentional; I wish I could choose the themes of my music. And to some extent, I should be able to. But for some reason, I can’t, and I end up writing about the same things. I think that a lot of the new material is about feeling like an adult for the first time. I think that’s a byproduct of being a father, and something my father said to me… He said like he felt like he was he was tricking the world into thinking he was actually a grow-up until he had his first child. So it’d say it’s about the upsides and downsides of feeling like an adult—like, at one point, feeling irrelevant, kind of feeling like “What are you doing writing and making rock and roll?”, but other times feeling like I’m more capable and more able to do this than I ever have been before. So that’s kind of some of the main themes. It’s a bit more serious than anything I’ve ever written before. There’s a bunch of new [songs] coming out, so…
TYF: Do you have an album coming out soon?
Doom: There is more than an album written. It’s more about finding time to finish recording. But yes, I will say the album will be out hopefully by the end of the year. If not, early next year. But it’s still in the process of being created.
TYF: I was reading your interview with Noisey, and in that interview, you had an interesting quote. You said, ““I rejected punk intensely when I met all these hippies in college. It was one of the biggest regrets of my life.” Do you want to elaborate on that?
Doom: It’s the fact that I rejected punk and tried to do other stuff. I shunned my punk influence for a long time, only to return to my roots later in life and find where I’m comfortable. And that’s definitely with… not straightforward punk rock, but post-punk and things along the lines of punk rock. And I think had I just allowed myself to continue down that path without rejecting it, maybe I would’ve reached this point sooner.
TYF: For the video for your new single, you collaborated with Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe. How did this collaboration come about?
Doom: They’re artists who I’ve admired for quite some time. I originally saw their work at a Deitch Project in 2009 or ’10, where they basically turned this art gallery into a psychedelic meth lab that was somewhat interactive, where you could just walk through it. And it really stuck with me. And through friends, I eventually got to know them, became friendly with them, collaborated on some of their projects. And they really had a strong reaction to the song, and so I kind of just said, “Do what you want” for the video, and that’s what they came up with, and I couldn’t be happier.
TYF: In addition to creating content for Simon Doom, you play for MGMT. What have been some of your best memories with MGMT?
Doom: Well, I’m the newest guy, in a weird way. I played some shows with them in college, but I had always had my own bands. But I’ve always been on tour with them; they’ve always taken whatever band I was in at the time on tour. So I’ve been on tour with them on and off since the beginning of their touring life. I think I would have to say the best time I’ve had with them was the most recent Paris show, where the set was about 75% new material and the album hadn’t come out yet. It just really clicked and really made sense. And as the new guy, when I played the old songs, these were songs I really had nothing to do with; but the new songs were kind of being debuted onstage for the first time, with me as a part of that group. And seeing that come together and getting a great reaction was really exhilarating.
TYF: Is there a song from Little Dark Age that’s your favorite to play?
Doom: Yeah. I think “Tslamp” is my favorite right now. It’s a cool one. Every part of it is really fun. The bass part I got to play is incredibly fun. You can just see everyone having a great time. It’s something I didn’t pick up as much while listening to it, but when I sat down and started to learn it, I was like, “Oh, man, this is a lot of fun.” So right now, that’s my favorite. I think that that’s probably going to change, but right now, I really enjoy that.
TYF: That is a great one. And if you had any advice for people who want to create their own music, what would that be?
Doom: Don’t worry about rejection. Just power through it. Try to write as many songs as you can at once and then show them to people instead of writing one and then showing it to people. It’s complicated. I’ve always written a song, shown it to people; [then] months later, written another song, shown it to people. But Babyman was the first time I wrote eight or nine songs right in a row, demoed them all, and then showed people this entire body of work. I don’t think it’s the way to do things, but XTC stopped touring after a certain point. And in an interview with Todd Rundgren, who produced the XTC record Skylarking, he was talking about how when they stopped touring, they ended up just going from record to record, so they would start recording the next record before the record they just finished came out. So therefore, they didn’t know what people thought of their previous work. And if you came out with a record and you know people hated it, you’re going to try to make a completely different record next time, right? Or if people loved it, maybe you’ll be more inclined to try to capture that sound. And not only are you going to want to capture that sound; the people you work with, your label, are going to encourage you to repeat that sound. So try to stockpile material before you release anything.
TYF: Finally, what is your favorite movie?
Doom: The movie I’ve probably watched the most in my life is Windy City Heat, which is this weird mockumentary-slash-elaborate prank that Jimmy Kimmel did. It’s really funny. I also love Apocalypse Now, and I also love Taxi Driver. Some classics. I like The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. I’m just listing; it’s hard to choose one. I think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of the best love stories of all time; one of the best depictions of what love is really like. These are kind of basic answers, but I’m a basic dude. That’s just the way it is. (Laughs)
TYF: Is there anything else that you’d like to say to the readers before we wrap things up?
Doom: Just thanks for listening, and stay tuned for more music and shows!