If you played in a band for any stretch of time over the last two decades, chances are you dreamt of putting out an album on Kill Rock Stars, the Olympia-bred label that brought us such canonical indie acts as Bikini Kill, Elliott Smith, and Sleater-Kinney. That dream is about to come true for Kurt Braunohler, but don't expect any Unwound-style feedback solos on How Do I Land?, Braunohler's debut album and the label's first comedy release. What you do get is a potent distillation of Braunohler's affable weirdness: a style, combining classic joke-telling with surrealist urges, that on one track has him eating a hardboiled egg while reading off his least popular tweets.
We recently caught up with Braunohler in his adoptive home of Los Angeles. Read on to learn more about the Kill Rock Stars deal, the skywriting caper that gave the album its name and cover, and the unbelievably strange sketch, conceived with Braunohler's comedy partner Kristen Schaal, that inspired the "CD + Personalized & Engraved Glass Double Dong" merch package.
How did the deal with Kill Rock Stars go down?
It was totally crazy, actually: it was just through Twitter. They had retweeted one of my jokes, and I jokingly responded that, if my 14 year-old self knew that Kill Rock Stars retweeted one of my jokes, after a lot of confusion as to what Twitter was, he would then be very excited. And then from there I just, on Twitter, said, did you ever think of doing a comedy album? They immediately got in touch with me and were like, "We've been talking about it for a really long time, and we think that you'd be a great first album." Literally, it was within a day. The afternoon is when I tweeted, and by the evening I was going to make a record with them.
Tell me about the "aha" moment that led to you hiring a skywriter to write "HOW DO I LAND?" over Los Angeles.
I'd been doing this greeting card project for a while, where I sign greeting cards with alternate endings and put them back on the shelves for unsuspecting shoppers to find (see: "Making the World a Better Place" on the new album), and I was just thinking like, there's got to be a bigger venue for giving people a little, weird treat. And then I just sat down to write a bunch of stuff, and skywriting was the first thing that came to mind. And right after skywriting, "HOW DO I LAND?" came into my mind, and then I spent the next three hours trying to figure out other funny things that a skywriter could say in under ten characters. Then I let people vote, and overwhelmingly everyone wanted "HOW DO I LAND?" I should have trusted my first thought; I wouldn't have had to sit there and bang my head against the wall for three hours.
Is ten characters the industry standard for skywriting?
Yeah, it's $4,000 for ten characters.
The Twitter of the skies. So when did you move to LA?
I moved in October.
And how are you liking it so far, compared to New York?
I don't think there's any comparing them. New York City will always be my favorite city. But Los Angeles is like a fun paradise place to live in for a while.
Are you there indefinitely?
Oh, I would like to come back to New York. But right now I'm gonna play the LA game for a bit and see how I like it.
What's it like being immersed in show business all the time?
I mean, what's overwhelmingly shocking is how many comedians are there. When I walk into a bar, or a comedy show, I'm looking at 90% people I knew in New York. Everyone I know in LA, I knew from New York. So in that way it's very similar. Of course, there's all the bad things, like the traffic, and there are a ton of shitty people. But I don't ever interact with shitty people, surprisingly, 'cause I only interact with people I know. The one thing that I don't think people realize about it is, there's some insane number like 56,000 square acres of parkland just in the city, and it's overwhelmingly beautiful. Which I like.
I did not know that.
Also I surf, so that really helped me lock into it. If I'm driving up to Malibu to go surfing, I drive through a giant mountain pass canyon, which is all green and lush and not a house in sight, for like half an hour. It's amazing.
Do you live near the ocean?
No, I don't, I live on the East Side. I would live by the ocean but every single person I know is on the East Side.
What was the logic behind recording your album in the Pacific Northwest?