Thanks to The Microphones, the earth is singing

Butcher paper was stretched and taped to cover the wide dining room entrance. A man in a gorilla mask cut three holes in the paper, two for arms and one for a mouth. As the Gorilla-man handed a guitar to the arms, I realized this was not going to be a typical show. Thirty of us were crammed into the living room watching and listening in awe while The Golden Shoulders Tour seemed to be spontaneously performed. The arms and mouth belonged to Karl Blauh, who had us all singing along like a camp counselor. When his set of songs had ended we were graced with a shadow puppet show of men screeching and gurgling with cardboard swords and the random sound of a marching band drum.

The sound and sheer ferociousness had reached a frightening climax when Kyle Field of Little Wings burst through the paper wall, strumming his little guitar in exaggerated motions and singing, “I’ve got a right to live my life.” Behind him, Karl and Phil Elverum of The Microphones played acoustic guitars making Little Wings’ performance much more powerful.

People were laughing in undisguised approval and simple glee. By the time the show bled into The Microphones’ set, Phil was topless and proudly wearing a Special Olympics metal around his neck. While standing on one foot he kicked the marching band drum to the beat his voice and guitar were trying to make. It was solid, beautiful and the best show that ever happened in Humboldt County.

Phil Elverum is the topless man behind The Microphones and Mount Eerie, and even though he was about to leave for a tour of Norway, Sweden and Belgium, he made the time to answer my questions.

What are a few of your favorite things? When the bee stings?

When I was singing that song “My Favorite Things” [on the Live in Japan record] I wasn’t really that into “The Sound of Music.” I hadn’t really paid that much attention to it. I just had that song in my head and I made up some other words, but since then I have watched “The Sound of Music” and literally burst into tears. It’s so beautiful. It’s amazing. The lines “How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?” and “the hills are alive with the sound of music” are somehow lines that I would like to write.

Whose music inspires you?

Lately I’ve gotten the most inspiration from the music of Thanksgiving.

Anacortes, like most small Northwest towns, is home to magical people and natural wonders. Would you say these small towns affect your music?

I am from the “small city” of Anacortes, Washington. I love it. I love some other ones too, but none like this. I suppose it does influence my music. I am not a person from Seattle or Tacoma or Portland or Vancouver, and so I’m me.

How important is touring?

“The tour” is important. It is important to see the world around me. It is important and scary to go places before I make up my mind about the people there. Plus, it’s important to hear my songs being sung by my mouth to people who aren’t me, to hear the songs in new ways.

Mt. Eerie reminds me of your early Tapes tape. Would you say your reaching back for your roots, or has the growth been more complex than that?

The growth of my music has been uncontrollable by me. It’s coincidental that Mt. Eerie sounds like my early tapes.

Death is a pretty common theme in your songs, you even wrote a eulogy-song about yourself. Why?

We’re all going to die.

Many of your songs are sung from natural, unheard voices. A ghost, a glow, even air.

I have seen wind, seen air move, and seen glows. I sing about them because they are in the world singing.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I can’t imagine 2015. I imagine Mad Max. I will be as far north as possible.