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Baker's Dozen

Escape To The Country: Willy Vlautin Of Richmond Fontaine's Favourite LPs
John Freeman , April 6th, 2016 09:55

Following the release of Richmond Fontaine's tenth and final album, You Can't Go Back If There Is Nothing To Go Back To, the singer and author talks to John Freeman about his favourite albums of storytelling escapism


X - Under The Big Black Sun
You may not know X, as I don't think they were as popular in the UK. In the US, they were really well respected, especially on the West Coast. They were probably one of the all-time coolest bands to come out of the punk rock era of early '80s Los Angeles. They were a husband and wife duo in terms of songwriting, John Doe and Exene Cervenka. I think this is their third record.

John Doe was my biggest hero. I tried to dress like him. Exene looked like an exotic bag lady. Again, they embraced traditional music. At the heart, their songs were really working class-based and story-based. Although they were a punk rock band, they had these amazing songs about being young in Los Angeles and sang about issues in ways that were relatable to me.

Under The Big Black Sun is them at their peak, when they were writing really amazing tunes and the band was playing as good as their songwriting. It is a sadder record because three songs are about when Exene's sister was in a car crash on the way to an X show. There is such a sense of sadness and loneliness inside these great songs, which makes it one of my all-time favourite records.

We opened up for X a couple of times. All you ever ask for when you open up for a band you really like is that you are on the poster. We did these shows and they made these silkscreen posters – really nice posters – and our name was really big. And, it was spelled correctly.

Then, when I met John Doe, we were selling merch side by side. He is a really good looking guy and women love him. And the kind of women that you would want to love you – 35-year-old, super smart women who have gone a little bad through living on the edge. John Doe had a line of about 20 such women who wanted to buy his records.

He thought we were a psychedelic country metal band, because we were crazy back then. He said, "I really like you guys because you make no sense to me at all and I love every bit of it." He became a fan of Richmond Fontaine and I have gotten to know him.

X songs have held up forever. They were always my favourite band. Always.