Interview: actor Adam Goldberg’s new band The Goldberg Sisters

We all remember Adam Goldberg for hilarious roles such as Eddie, Chandler’s psychotic flatmate in Friends, the neurotic Nicky Rubenstein in Entourage, or Mike Newhouse in Dazed And Confused. The actor, who’s had a hand at directing too, has been making music for over a decade. After releasing his debut Eros and Omissions under the name LANDy in 2009, he’s back with a new album as The Goldberg Sisters. He performed a very intimate showcase last week at Brussels’ Café Central, where we caught up with him for a chat.

LANDy and The Golberg Sisters are both very feminine sounding names. Is there something you’re trying to tell us?

LANDy, really? To be honest I don’t care because I’m not called that anymore but I really thought it was a joke that everyone would get. You know Eugene Landy? He was Brian Wilson’s shrink who brainwashed him, produced his records and got him to lose a lot of weight, but also sort of took over his life. So I assumed people would get it. When I was doing the recordings with Steven Drozd in Oklahoma, we called my dog – who’s name is The Sheriff – when we were having a problem with something and would just yell “Landyyyy”, doing a Brian Wilson impression. But I am in touch with my feminine side. I’m in touch with somebody’s feminine side for sure. As a matter of fact before we got here tonight, I made a video of myself in a bathtub – well my twin sister Celeste actually made the video – totally naked and you see that she’s a woman for real. Whether or not I’m going to post that on my Facebook fan page still needs to be figured…

So this time you went for a full concept with this fictitious twin Celeste?

I’m too tired to create some sort of artefact about the nomenclature, you know. With the first record it was just an assemblage of recordings I had made over many years so I never really had a band. The Goldberg Sisters was one of 30 names and finally I just thought of it, emailed it to somebody and they laughed at the email and that was that. Like anything unconscious, it’s subject to interpretation. Why didn’t I use my name? I think it’s a dumb name for a rock record, and there’s another Adam Goldberg who’s been making records in Chicago so that would be confusing. I still wanted to have my name in there but little did I know that when you Googled “Goldberg Sisters” you would end up with Sister Act. Cause guess what, apparently there’s Sister Act, the play now… I can’t fucking win!

Are we right to see this philosophy of duality reading as: you’re Adam Goldberg, the actor, and then there’s Celeste, the musician?

Well, see I made the association later on. I looked at that and interpreted it as I’m sure it has something to do with duality and the fact that I’ve always been obsessed by it. There’s a doppelganger movie that I’ve wanted to write for a million years. One of my favourite books is Despair by Nabokov.

Do you feel like having acquired fame as an actor is a double-edged sword?

See, it’s a no win situation… Either I’m a C-list actor making music or I’m a famous person trying to make music,… Somewhere hidden in every great review is some insult about how I made my living. All I know is that I’ve been making recordings privately for 15 years and am really good at it. I don’t give a shit what people say about my voice, I don’t give a fuck what they say about my guitar playing, I’m a horrible piano player, but I’m really good at making recordings and I like to do it. And frankly, I think I’m much better at it than my acting. My acting has been the same thing for nearly 20 years. I like making movies and even though they’re not really commercial, most of the movies I’ve enjoyed weren’t commercial successes. Same thing with music. I keep talking about this woman named Colleen. She makes this incredible music with samples and loops. I listen to her music almost every single day. Nobody knows who she is yet it doesn’t make it any less valuable. She has a horrible website, I want someone to redesign it but you just do what you have to do. Is it embarrassing to not be taken seriously? Yes, I guess on some level…

You haven’t performed live a lot before, have you?

Tonight was the first time we ever did it as The Goldberg Sisters but I don’t like to perform live at all. I hate it, it makes me nervous but I also just don’t like it and it’s not music to me, it feels like one thing has nothing to do with the other.

You imagine, write and compose most of the songs yourself so translating it live must be hard…

Plus you don’t get to stand back. It’s the difference between being a stage actor and being a film actor. I haven’t been in a play since I was 23. It’s not worth the anxiety and it’s also not aesthetic to me. I’ve seen some pretty great shows of artists I love, like Nick Cave, but halfway through I always tend to get bored.

How come you ended up signing to indie Belgian label [PIAS]?

[PIAS] recently opened up a US division and I was their first artist. Francois, who used to run Pias and owned the Café Central had just moved to Los Angeles. The guy who managed the distribution for my previous record gave him one and he liked it so offered to sign me. I didn’t know anything about [PIAS], now I know everything about [PIAS] and found the whole thing very interesting.

So they set up this mini tour/press junket in Brussels and Paris, but do you see yourself touring festivals this summer?

Nah, I mean honestly, I have to get a job and make some money because I invested so much time in the record. Not that I don’t want to, and I would like to put together a bigger band. And ultimately be more comfortable with the whole idea of playing live. We were supposed to play at SXSW but I had to cancel it because I got a job and I’m just not rich enough to be able to do it.

How is life in LA?

I’ve lived in the same house in the hills for five years, it’s really quiet and it’s this weird mid-century shack. It has weird levels, it’s photogenic and I just take pictures constantly using slide film, regular film, 120 film. You can see every inch of my house online.

Is photography something you always had an interest in? The obsession of documenting everything?

I always like to document things and I’m obsessed with images. It’s why I made movies, it was more to capture images, sounds and a mood rather than in a conventional narrative way I guess. Photography is a very small fraction of what that is, as is music. Movie-making is sort of all of that. These days my life is pretty simple. I watch movies a lot, one day a week we have drinks with friends and you know, I used to live in New York but I rarely go over there…

Because it’s too overwhelming?

Everybody thinks I’m from New York and that’s my explanation for why I don’t live there. I’m like New York, so I need to have trees, quiet and all that. But I basically just do shit at my house all day long. I have this blog and I upload films, photos and music and just make recordings and scan shit all day long. A lot of obsessive making things basically.

The Goldberg Sisters‘ eponymous debut is out on [PIAS].