MUSIC PREVIEW | Tanlines’ Jesse Cohen on Brendan Fraser, the NBA, and hip-hop heroes

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The indie-dance duo Tanlines, comprising Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm, have recently enjoyed being one of the most buzzed-about bands on the Internet. The duo have managed to keep people talking about them for the better part of three years, having built a reputation on entertaining live performances and amusing people with their award-winning Twitter account. They just released their first full-length album Mixed Emotions, and are playing Minneapolis this Friday, April 20 at the 7th Street Entry. I talked by phone with Cohen.

You’re one of the more entertaining Twitter handles that I follow. Are you naturally funny, or do you workshop material?

Honestly, when I think of something that I think would be funny I just write it immediately without even thinking about it. It’s just sort of things that pop into my head. Occasionally, I save them as drafts instead of publishing them but that’s the thing about Twitter. It’s a direct connection between your brain and 10,000 people, or whatever it is, it’s a sounding board. 9 out of 10 times I just think something and I put it up there and you can tell if no one responds to it just lays there silently.

A week or so ago you tweeted that Brendan Fraser is underrated. What’s your favorite Brendan Fraser movie?

The Mummy. I actually like the whole trilogy. I guess the third one would be the Scorpion King, which I don’t think he was actually in. He’s a huge star, but he seems like the kind of guy that is probably really easy to work with. He’s an unassuming guy that lives in Connecticut and he’s solid—he’s a solid guy. He can carry a huge movie, he can carry a small movie, but I don’t think he’s anyone’s favorite actor. He seems like the kind of guy that people like working wit,h and I think that is an underrated skill.

Who do you wish was on Twitter?

Well for Minneapolis I’d say Prince, but a guy like Prince can’t be on Twitter because he has a mystique to maintain. That’s the same reason Eric doesn’t do the tweeting for Tanlines. Prince is the kind of guy you want to know what he’s thinking. Other than that maybe Michael Jordan? Anyone who is the greatest at what they do.

You seem to be a big NBA fan. Who’s your favorite classic NBA player?

When I was a kid I was a big Tim Hardaway fan. I can’t tell you why. I’ll stick with him, even though he’s sort of a controversial figure now. 

Why did you name the new album Mixed Emotions?

The working title was (winky sad) ;( our emoticon, or our logo—kind of. When it was time to think about the actual release and album as a product we just decided that it is a great symbol for us and symbolic of our personality, but we were trying to make something that might last longer than the way people happen to communicate right now. It seemed gimmicky to name an album an emoticon. We wanted something that would be more classic or more permanent. Hopefully we found a way to describe what the meaning of the emoticon is and that’s what we went with for the album. Also, a softball to a music critic that’s not completely in love with the album, which we didn’t think about at the time, but it occurred to me afterward. It’s like making a musical about the Titanic.

What are your hobbies outside of music?

I’d say basketball. I’m also a photo archivist. It’s not really a hobby but it’s another pursuit of mine. Eric spends most of his time thinking about music. Maybe watching Steelers games?

What’s the ultimate song to walk out to before your performance?

I’m not sure I would ever do that. I remember one time they played “Pony” by Ginuwine right before we played. That sounded very good. The other night they played Portishead and that was less good.

You’re playing here Friday night. Why should people pay to come see your show?

Who else is playing in Minneapolis on Friday? There’s got to be something.

Looks like Ghostface Killah is playing on Friday. As is Miranda Lambert.

Ghostface is playing on Friday night in Minneapolis! Miranda Lambert? I don’t know who that is. So it sounds like we don’t have any direct competition. Listen, it’s the first time we’ve ever played in Minneapolis, so that’s a great reason. We love Minneapolis, so we’re going to be very happy to be there. That’s another reason. Those are main ones. It will be a unique Minneapolis experience; I can tell you that.

How would you describe your fashion style on stage?

That’s a good question. I think Eric definitely has a unique sense of style. Neither one of us puts an incredible sense of thought to it; I just think he has a more natural sense of style. But I’d say American classic: kind of Urban Cowboy mixed with Richard Belzer. So you’re looking at a cowboy Richard Belzer.

Are there any albums that you keep listening while you’ve been on the road?

We have been listening to a bunch of comedy albums. Listened to the Hannibal Burress album, which was really funny. We listen to Mitch Hedberg. Musicwise, we listened to Unrest. We’re traveling with our friend Tony, and he just played us a lot of new rap music that I haven’t had a chance to listen to in a while—like Schoolboy Q, Gunplay, Kendrick Lamar. We did a whole listening session. Now I get to have opinions about each of those rappers. Schoolboy Q was my favorite one of those guys. I thought he really had something. I sound like an old A&R guy when I talk about that. I think he’s already gotten signed but if he hasn’t maybe we should reach out about a development deal.

If you could add one thing, anything, to live performance what would it be?

That’s tough. You know, the other night we accidentally played with a stool behind us with a bottle of water on it. It looked like a standup comedian’s stage. I thought that was pretty funny. It just happened by accident, but we embraced it. 


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