Aimee Mann readies for Tarrytown return, talks comedy
Aimee Mann is many things: an indie rock darling who reinvented herself after mainstream success with ’Til Tuesday, a self-described “Oscar loser” and a budding actor. But one thing she does not consider herself to be, and doesn’t plan to be anytime soon, is a comedian — despite serious comedy cred.
“I just think that’s too hard,” said Mann, who will headline a Thursday show at Tarrytown Music Hall. “I can see what goes into it. It’s enormously difficult.”
That may be true, but as her fans will tell you, Mann’s wit is not restricted to her lyrics. On Twitter, she’s often engaged in conversation with some of the funniest and most respected names in comedy, including Paul F. Tompkins (“Best Week Ever”) and Patton Oswalt (“Finest Hour”). She’s even brought comics with her on tour, with Tompkins among those who joined her for a Christmas show she previously performed at the Music Hall.
With more than 75,000 followers at @aimeemann, Mann has used the social media platform to muse about her supposed down time (“I love how I say ‘I'll sleep in’ as if that's ever a thing that happens.”), humanity (“Man, it's hard to see people struggle, even when they're awful.”) and discourse (“You can't use logic on crazy.”). And more often than not, her retweets are of comedians.
In her Twitter bio, Mann offers a bit of self-deprecating humor, describing herself as an “Oscar loser” — a reference to her Academy Award-nominated song, “Save Me,” from the 1999 Paul Thomas Anderson movie “Magnolia.”
“I was being glib, and it was the first thing I thought of [when I wrote the Twitter bio],” Mann said. “And I’m literally too lazy to change it. I don’t even know what I would change it to.”
Songwriting, of course, is Mann’s primary objective. She considers her new album, “Charmer,” a “more poppy record” than many of her previous releases as a solo artist. But Mann, who emerged in the ’80s as a new-wave pop star for singing “Voices Carry” with ’Til Tuesday, doesn’t see herself returning to mainstream charts.
“I don’t see my music fitting in with anything,” she said. “Pop music has a really particular sound that’s very, very, very produced, and my stuff is getting less and less produced in that kind of way.”
Lyrically, “Charmer” is a character study, delving into themes of addiction, narcissism and superficial behavior. And while Mann, a Los Angeles resident, is surrounded by charmers due to geography and the nature of her industry, the title track is more universal than one might expect.
“I really think this is just how people are,” she said. “[Charmers] are interesting because those people are usually more magnetic at a party, and the ones you talk to first — and then also the ones you stop talking to first, because you realize that a lot of it is a false front. We all have that [quality] to a certain extent, but it’s just interesting to me to just try to see where you draw the line between a healthy version of that and a version of that that starts to become something that divorces you from a true sense of self.”
Mann says she considers herself “fortunate” to have made a living off music for some 25 years, but is wary of what the future might bring.
“I don’t know how long that’s going to last, because the music business is in flux, and people are buying fewer and fewer records,” she said. “I think a lot of us are going to have to drop out of the race at some point. But you kind of just have to take it one day at a time, and then see what the next day brings, and do what you can do.”
Perhaps more acting might be in store. On the IFC cult comedy hit “Portlandia,” she played a fictionalized version of herself as a cleaning woman, a role that she says got more attention than her most recent album.
“I love that I got to work with Fred Armisen, because I love comedy,” she said. “I think he’s fantastic, and I think he and [“Portlandia” co-star] Carrie [Brownstein] are amazing together. I love being sort of seen as a person who’s being a part of something that’s funny.”
Mann has a more substantial role in the upcoming movie, “Pleased to Meet Me,” which is based on an episode of NPR’s “This American Life.” Slated for release early next year, the Kickstarter-funded film follows a band of strangers who respond to a journalist’s online want-ads to collaborate for a single day and write a song. In the movie, Mann and punk musician John Doe play characters who not only used to date each other, but also had been in the same band.
“The two of us are working with this band, and these random people in the studio, so that day in the studio is what the movie is about,” she added. “I was like, ‘Well, I don’t know how to act,’ but when someone asks you to be in a movie, you say, ‘Yes,’ and figure it out later.”
IF YOU GO
Who: Aimee Mann, with Ted Leo opening
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1
Info: Tarrytown Music Hall, 13 Main St., Tarrytown; 914-631-3390; www.tarrytownmusichall.org; $38-$65