Interview: Garfunkel and Oates
Sun, 08 Mar 2009 11:48:25
Riki Lindhome Videos
Being funny isn't easy. It takes some serious guts to get up on stage in front of a crowd and try to make them laugh. Playing music is no walk in the park either. Comedy and music both have that "instant response" factor. They're much different than acting in movies or on television. While on stage, performers know immediately whether or not they're a hit or they completely suck. Garfunkel and Oates doesn't have to worry about that. They've got that rare blend of incisively funny lyrics and airtight stage chemistry that make them undeniably hilarious. Move over Lonely Island—the folk duo of actresses Riki Lindhome (The Last House on the Left, Million Dollar Baby, The Changeling) and Kate Micucci (Scrubs) turn any stage into their playground.
Lately, Garfunkel and Oates have been churning out laughs everywhere they've brought their acoustic and ukulele one-two punch. They're in the midst of recording their debut EP, and Riki's got a show-stealing role in Last House. In this exclusive interview, ARTISTdirect.com spoke to Riki about making music, her upcoming turn as Sadie in Last House and why it's best to sometimes go it alone.
What was the genesis of Garfunkel and Oates?
I wrote my short film, Imaginary Larry, and I decided it should be a musical. So I said to Kate, 'We should write the songs together.' We'd never played, but Kate came over, and we wrote two songs in about an hour. We recorded them and posted them on YouTube that day. People started to respond to the songs immediately. That's when the guys from Scrubs bought "Fuck You."
Have you been playing music your whole life?
I've been playing the flute since I was nine or ten, and then I learned piano. I'm perfunctory at piano at best. I'm not good at it, but I learned it. I've been playing guitar since I was 19. I am a mediocre guitar player, but I feel like with our music it doesn't matter. It's not Led Zeppelin [Laughs]. People aren't expecting that. We'll be out of tune, and we'll make mistakes sometimes. It's meant to be fun though!
Given the number of shows you've played lately, do you feel like you've got the live set down?
We're still honing it and finding our groove. We've been performing a lot lately, but we've only really performed maybe a dozen times. I feel like every show gets a little better, and we learn a little something every time. During one recent show, we came out doing a dance routine that I made up in fourth grade by listening to "Every Little Step" by Bobby Brown. People were like, "What are they doing?" That's the reaction I want [Laughs]. I want crowds to say, "What the fuck?"
How do your songs typically come about?
They happen pretty naturally. For "Present Face," we were like, "Let's write a Christmas song." It was over Thanksgiving, and we just texted each other ideas all day. Then my mom got some gift, and when she opened it and she was like, "Ohhh." I just said, 'That's the song!' Now the song is Garfunkel and Oates' Christmas video. That was totally guerilla. It was me with my Final Cut Pro. We made it in like two days!
Do you feel like music and acting are intertwined?
I think they're intertwined because I feel like one thing feeds the other. I feel like any sort of performing on stage is crucial to acting. If you're an actor, you need to get on stage. Especially if you want to do comedy, you need to figure out what you do that's funny. The best way to do it is on stage. You have to get up in front of people and try to be funny. You'll know instantly when you're on stage if the show was good or not. With auditions, you never know. Although it's different in some ways, it's similar in others. It's hard for me to be brave and put myself out there. However, I feel like playing live is making me braver and braver every day, putting new music out and trying new things.
“I want crowds to say, "What the fuck?"”
You grow with each show though, too.
It's been such an amazing experience. Kate is so great. She just puts it out there. We have a great chemistry. We love spending time with each other. We make each other giggle. We like dancing around. It's so silly. We also balance each other out.
What music do you typically listen to?
It's funny. I don't really go to concerts, and I don't listen to a lot of bands. I don't listen to a lot of music unless I'm working out. I listen to books on tape; in my car I'm listening to Madame Boverie. I love David Sedaris; I've read all of his stuff. I love John Irving. To me, he's magical. The World According to Garp is my favorite book. I've read it over and over again.
Are there any movies you watch often?
The movies I watch more than anything are Office Space, Waiting for Guffman and Wet Hot American Summer. I love Alfred Hitchcock. My favorite Hitchcock movie is Strangers On a Train, by far.
Do you think Hitchcock's been particularly inspiring for Last House?
Well, I actually watched Rope before I did Last House because I thought they were really akin to each other. The two guys in Rope kill their friend just because they want to. I feel it's like that in Last House. They could just leave town. In Rope, the guy's just in that box the whole time. They kill him because they feel like it. The one guy feels remorse and starts to go crazy, but the other guy doesn't. In our movie, the son starts to go crazy, even though he didn't do it, but he didn't try to stop it. The three of us are fine with it. If we hadn't stopped at the parents' house, we would've moved on. It's one of the only movies I've seen where it's just 'cause.
There's an intriguing connection between the two films.
The first half focuses on the three killers. They're all evil, but it's not justified. Usually in a horror movie, the killer has a mean mom or kids picking on him. There's no reason why the three killers in Last House are evil. In the second half of the film, the parents become evil, so I think it's about the fact that we're all the same, and it's just the circumstances that are different. Under certain circumstances, anyone can be evil. At the end, Tony's character becomes just as evil as Garret's character.
Were you unbound in the role?
None of us had to be one thing. We could be people. I think that made us scarier.
Do you feel like you really became Sadie?
They dyed my hair black. My costume, hair, makeup and nail polish were all really important to me. They informed the performance and the perception of the character. I think all of that was really conducive to bringing out parts of myself that I don't usually let out. Sadie's animalistic. She's like a predator waiting to pounce at any second. She's always ready to kill.
Plus, you got to construct that different image.
It's off. When you picture the typical thug girlfriend, Sadie's not what you picture. You picture this jailed escapee's woman—not wearing overalls [Laughs]. I think it's cool. It's really different.
What about her mask at the beginning?
I didn't choose the mask. Many people chose that mask. I didn't realize how much goes into something like this, but if a horror movie becomes iconic, that mask is really important. That was a decision made over many months by many people. It was supposed to be featured more prominently in the movie. I don't think it did. It ended up being that one flash.
Did you work with Wes Craven at all directly?
Wes never came to South Africa where we were filming. He was really hands-on in bringing the project to life. He was watching dailies, and he was involved. His opinion was taken into account very seriously because he's the master. I didn't actually get to meet him until three or four months ago. He was great. He was a little intimidating but by no fault of his own, just because of who he is. He was really sweet, and he was very complimentary of the movie and all of us. He seemed very happy with it.
Since you've got the acting thing down, it sounds like Garfunkel and Oates will be like Tenacious D for you.
We wish [Laughs]. I love Tenacious D. If people say that, that's amazing.
Check out Garfunkel and Oates' videos below!