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Intimate Portrait: Alexander Greenwald

Los Angeles’ Phantom Planet are best known for”California,” their catchy theme song to The OCand for their former drummer, Rushmore star Jason Schwartzman. Forthe band’s self-titled third album (recorded before thedeparture of their most famous member), they’ve stripped downtheir lush, guitar-pop sound. Lead singer/guitarist AlexanderGreenwald and I chatted before the band’s January appearanceon the Late Show with David Letterman over a stiff glass ofsoy milk.

Do you host OC parties every week and hum along with the theme? I don’t watch TV. I know the cast are fans of “California” and music in general. They have good taste.

Speaking of good taste, aren’t you dating the show’s star, Mischa Barton?No! We’ve shaken hands. It seems like it would go prettywell-rock’n’roll band singer gives song to show because he finds leadactress attractive, and then love ensues.

So how does your song measure up to the legendary theme from Beverly Hills 90210?I actually liked that theme song. It was one of the first songs Ilearned how to play on guitar. If I covered it, though, it’d be ironic.And irony died in the ’90s.

Along with Jason Priestley’s high hair. So tell us why Jason Schwartzman left.He got offered another movie role and then a sitcom. If the band wasgoing to be successful at this point, it couldn’t be with him, becausehe was going to be busy acting. First, he was going to be in theband-have fun, get drunk on the road-and I think he got it all out ofhis system.

Does your own system ever get clogged with bad dreams? I had a recurring nightmare in college where all my friends would hold me down and trepan me. There was an article in Spin[1998’s “A Hole in the Head”] that described how to drill a hole inyour head, piercing the sac that encases your brain to open up channelsof blood to increase creativity.

So Spin actually gave you nightmares? Sorry!I started dreaming that my friends took a huge motorized drill to myskull. It was my college buddies doing it-bassist Sam Farrar andguitarist Jacques Brautbar, who are in the band. The way I interpretthis now is that my bandmates were holding me down to unlock mycreativity.

I hear watching The OC has the same effect. You should try that some time!