It’s hard to take Tim Heidecker seriously. As one half of the innovative and demented comedy duo Tim And Eric, he has carved out a Vaseline-coated niche in the alternative comedy universe, toeing the line between funny-weird and unsettling-weird through a variety of media ranging from the pair’s Adult Swim sketch show, Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, short films, spin-offs, live tours and commercials. When it was announced that Heidecker would be releasing an album of soft-rock-inspired songs with Awesome Show composer Davin Wood under the self-explanatory moniker Heidecker And Wood, the first question that sprang to any fan’s mind was, “Is he serious?” It turns out he is. Sort of. CMJ spoke to Heidecker on the phone about the group’s debut album, Starting From Nowhere (Little Record Company), comedy in music and the eternal appeal of yacht rock.
Music is so essential to the Tim And Eric sensibility. When you were developing the sound of the show with Davin, what did you guys want it to sound like?
The one thing we were always aware of was that the music itself should always be funny. You look at something like Saturday Night Live, where the band of SNL wasn’t really funny—at least not intentionally. Like, here’s this cool blues-rock band, and that’s a separation from the comedy. Whereas with us, our theme song, musically, is funny, and everything about the music is sort of coming from a lame kind of ’80s electronic angle, or is just funny to us.
You’ve cited bands like the Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan and Chicago as inspiration. What is it about that era that both of you find so appealing?
I think both of us appreciated this part of our childhood; part of growing up was listening to that kind of music. It was always on the radio. And now as adults we can see what’s corny and funny. There’s an appreciation for that time.
Well, Steely Dan can be really funny, intentionally.
Yeah. It’s weird, because each time we talk about this with broad strokes—soft-rock—and everything, of course, has to be labeled. Some of this stuff is legitimately really good. Like, really good. Un-ironically. And that just became a kind of reference for us to make music. And it was just a spark that gave us a sort of intention to write songs that weren’t full Tim And Eric.
Can you describe how the process of making Heidecker And Wood came about?
We were doing a song for the show, and it was just a song I had in mind. I’d establish a really basic arc, and he would help me build it. It was the first time I actually had recording software on my computer, a program called Logic; it’s a Pro Tools-type thing. So it kind of came out of the fun experimentation of recording, and for whatever reason, we were both playing in that style of funky-jazzy-progressive-soft-rock. It just organically developed from there. We had recorded about five songs in the first four months. Over the course of six months I had these files on my computer that were really just downloads of ideas and half-songs. And it just sort of occurred to us, there’s something happening, there’s enough material here that we could easily put a record together or a demo.
Was that the point where you guys brought in Pierre de Reeder and Jason Boesel from Rilo Kiley?
They helped us put together what was in our minds a pretty finished version of the record. All the recording was pretty done. And I played it for a couple friends of mine, people like Michael Penn—I mean, they’re friends of mine but they’re also in the business—and they were like, ‘This is funny and actually pretty good, even with the level of amateurishness. And if you worked with an engineer and had it professionally mixed it would just be so much better.’ And that’s as close as I could get to the real deal. So I looked around and didn’t spend too long trying to find someone who would be interested in doing it… that became the biggest qualification, actually. And we hit it off [with Pierre], and he suggested we bring in Jason, and they just gave a whole professional sheen to it.