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Altered State

Eve 6’s Max Collins on New Single ‘androgyne friend’ and Wanting to Collaborate With John Hinckley Jr.

The band’s video stars former 'Canada's Drag Race' contestant Eve 6000
Eve 6
(Credit: Asal Shahindous)

Beginning with the release of their new single “androgyne friend” on the eve of December 6, Eve 6 (Max Collins vocals/bass, Jon Siebels/guitar, Ben Hilzinger/drums), will put out a song on the eve of the 6th of every month, leading up to the release of the rock trio’s self-produced fifth studio album, Hyperrelevisation [Velocity Records], late next year.

A catchy, guitar-driven rock tune with baritone saxophone played by Jesse Molloy (Panic! at the Disco/The Midnight), “androgyne friend” melds sweet ‘60s melodies with punk spirit and finds Collins giving unwavering support to a close friend with whom he has a lot in common.

“I will go into the dark to find you / and pull you from a deep dark hole / Your ex tried to suicide you / and I will throttle every hater that tries to approach,” sings Collins. “I wanna be with my kind / but they’re so hard to find.”

Trans, non-binary queen Eve 6000, who was a contestant on the second season of TV show Canada’s Drag Race, stars in the music video (shot and directed by queen Gei Ping Hohl) which features her staring directly into the camera wielding a spiked metallic baseball bat that matches her spiked black outfit while lip-synching “androgyne friend.”

The captivating music video makes such an impactful statement that Eve 6000’s collaboration with Eve 6 seems meant to be. Their similar monikers, however, are purely coincidental: Eve 6 is named after a character that was a clone in an episode of The X-Files, whereas Eve 6000 is a nod to the Bible and E6000, the craft glue queens use to affix rhinestones to their outfits.

Meanwhile, it’s been almost a year since Collins flippantly tweeted that Eve 6 would probably be huge again. At the time, Eve 6 had 19,000 Twitter followers and were preparing to release their EP, grim value, the band’s first new music in almost a decade. Collins’s post proved to be unwittingly prescient when his tweets went viral after he tweeted that he was a virgin when he wrote “the heart in a blender song” (Eve 6’s 1998 breakthrough hit “Inside Out”), asked myriad famous folks, including David Lynch and Axl Rose, if they like it, and relayed hilarious ‘90s rock anecdotes, all of which attracted widespread media coverage and over 81,000 new Twitter followers since last December.

Over the phone from his home in Los Angeles, Collins talked to SPIN about “androgyne friend,” Twitter and his desire to collaborate with John Hinckley Jr.

SPIN: When the Eve 6 Twitter account was initially blowing up last year, you were incredulous. How do you feel about it now?
Max Collins: The initial novelty of it has worn off in the sense that in those first few weeks when tweets started going viral, never having experienced that before, it was jacking up my nervous system a lot. I still post with a similar mania and abandon, but I think it all just feels normal. It feels like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s part of my day’ as opposed to being a strange and novel thing.

Having a high-profile Twitter account must have been helpful when you released grim value.
Yes, there’s no doubt that it’s helped the band. We get metrics from the label and everything’s up. I think we were in the top 10 iTunes for the week or something like that and that definitely would not have happened without this strange online life thing. Someone on Twitter said that whatever relevance Eve 6 had when we had a number one record — however marginal in the landscape of rock and roll history — this 2.0 thing feels more potent which is funny, interesting and flattering.

You seem to be having a great time with Eve 6 2.0.
When you have a hit song or when we did, when we were basically teenagers, you have that young artist narcissism where you’re like, ‘Oh, people are going to understand me.’ Of course they don’t, because you made a song but you’re being packaged and marketed and you also made this song when you were 17, so you’re going to outgrow its sentiment really quickly. Now, we’re making records but in a more DIY way. We’re making records that we really want to make without any expectation of any commercial anything and we’re able to sound off online and cultivate this little world that is smaller than the major label machine world, but we’re building it alone and I feel understood because I’m being myself, probably to a fault, whereas I felt completely misunderstood by the run of the first three Eve 6 records.

You’ve tweeted that the online to in real life (IRL) pipeline is real. Beyond more people listening to your music because of Twitter, how so?
I sort of meant that as a half-joke. But the more I talk about it, the more the online to IRL pipeline is more of a truism than not. There have been collaborations that have come from the Twitter thing — songs, friendships with people, show opportunities, and collaboration opportunities that have yet to be made public as well.

Is the Smash Mouth thing real? You recorded a cover of “Walking on the Sun” and tweeted several times that you want to be their lead singer, replacing Steve Harwell who left the band in October.
I think I might have even tweeted it before he left, but I can’t remember the timeline. The Smash Mouth thing remains to be seen. That bit still occupies the space between real life and a joke. People are always asking me if it’s real. I don’t even know if it’s real. It might be. I was speaking to their manager for a while. I think he wanted to get a read on whether I was just trolling or not. I told him I wasn’t sure, but I thought it would be funny to do a handful of shows as their singer, so he asked me to put my voice on a song and we could go from there. He said that they want to do like 55 shows next year. If those are mainly one-offs, which is probably the type of business that band is doing, with two travel days for each show, that’s 200 days in a year and that’s probably not something I can do. But the thought of doing a tour with them and coming out in a Shrek suit and reading Edgar Allen Poe between songs, that would be my ideal but I don’t know if that’s something that’s actually going to happen. I really hope I get to be the lead singer of Smash Mouth for a minute.

You want to front Smash Mouth while wearing a Shrek suit?
The erstwhile singer of Smash Mouth apparently got really mad when people made Shrek references — Smash Mouth had a song in the film — and I think it would be nice to give people what they want.

How did your almost daily Twitter banter with Patton Oswalt start?
It started when he retweeted a tweet of mine. A radio station tweeted something like, ‘Now playing “Here’s to the Night”‘ and I quote-tweeted that and said, ‘Literally, no one cares.’ He retweeted that. Then I tweeted a screenshot of Patton Oswalt’s retweet saying, ‘Holy shit.’ Then he quote-tweeted that saying, ‘Literally, no one cares.’ I think Patton Oswalt is secretly a massive Eve 6 fan. He acts like he only listens to Pixies imports, but I have a feeling he’s a huge fan of late ’90s radio rock.

Another thing that happened on Twitter is your discovery that John Hinckley Jr. listens to Eve 6. Were you stunned to find that out?
That was really strange. I had responded to a couple of his tweets before so maybe that made him curious, but he did that post saying he was listening to Eve 6 among some other bands.

You tweeted him asking to do a song together. Did he respond?
No, he didn’t.

Are you serious about wanting to do a song with him?
Oh yes, absolutely. I’m curious about him as a figure. He’s a singer/songwriter and he has the history that he has and that’s pretty interesting. Mark Yarm, features editor of Input Magazine, wanted to commission me to interview him and I said, ‘That would be amazing, but John Hinckley Jr. doesn’t follow anyone.’ I tried asking him about it on Twitter and didn’t get a response, but I’d love to do that. I’d be more interested in interviewing John Hinckley Jr. than collaborating with him musically although both would be cool.

His history doesn’t deter you from wanting to collaborate musically?
No, it doesn’t. None of this stuff is excusable, but it’s disingenuous not to factor in his mental illness. This is a guy who believed every deranged fantasy that passed through his mind. I don’t condone violence of any kind, but John Hinckley Jr. attempted an assassination and failed, whereas Ronald Reagan can claim a very real body count if you just take his willful mismanagement of the AIDS crisis alone. His administration treated it as a joke, mockingly calling it “the gay plague.” If you want to measure harms, Ronald Reagan’s were orders of greater magnitude.

In general, it’s safe to say that you separate art from artist?
Yes, absolutely. I can separate art from artist. They’re two different things. I think the lionization of artists is really stupid. They’re people. That’s just a cultural tendency to exalt or enjoy observing a fall from grace, however that may appear. I think it’s stupid to not listen to a thing or look at a thing because the person who made it is an asshole. I still listen to The Smiths. There are tons of examples of that.

eve 6
(Credit: Naz Massaro)

Speaking of separating art from artist, you and your bandmates don’t always appear in your music videos. How did the music video collaboration with Eve 6000 for “androgyne friend” come about?
Initially, I was going to have Mark McGrath (Sugar Ray) do the performance in the video wearing a black t-shirt with white writing on it that says, ‘Nostalgia is poison,’ and have it directed by Lola Blanc, a horror director. We were going to have it not play into any tropes, the expected ones that you’d imagine we would by having Mark McGrath in the video. It was just going to be a strange stand-alone confusing piece, but then my drummer texted me a photo of a contestant called Eve 6000 on Canada’s Drag Race and I was like, ‘Oh shit, her name is Eve 6000. It feels too right to not pursue and see if she’d be interested in being in a video.’ I reached out and she immediately said, ‘Yes,’ so I sent her the song and the lyrics and said, ‘Do whatever you want’ and she shot the video up in Canada with her videographer and sent it back to me. I had no idea what she was going to do, but I had a feeling it would be cool.

What was your reaction when you saw it?
I loved it. No notes. I thought, ‘This is perfect.’ She really is a star and it gives me chills to watch that video. It gives the song a different kind of potency that it doesn’t have by itself. When a video can make a song better, that’s nice because they often do the opposite.

Why did you choose “androgyne friend” to be the first single?
It was one of both Jon’s and my favorites for this new record so we were like, ‘Why not? Let’s put that one out first.’ grim value was an homage to our punk roots. “androgyne friend” has a bit more of a ’60s influence which is more of where my esthetic taste is now when it comes to music, not that I don’t still enjoy listening to and playing fast dumb punk songs. I think it still has that attitude, but the tempo’s a bit slower, it’s got Beach Boys background vocals, it recalls the Byrds a little bit to me and the Stones a little bit in attitude.

Did you and Jon co-write it?
I went over to Jon’s and he played the track for me exactly as it is and I wrote on top of it.

Eve 6
(Credit: Naz Massaro)

“androgyne friend” seems to be about your support for a friend to whom you relate profoundly.
I wanna be with my kind.’ I want to be with someone who understands and is experiencing pretty acutely what I’m experiencing. I know that feeling in your chest. I know what it feels like. You’re not alone in that. Because of that, neither am I. If the song is about something, that’s probably close to what it’s about. But as I do when I’m writing songs, I follow the way words sound. That’s more important to me than exactly what I’m saying or being specific. When I’m in the right place to do that, it ends up being more true to a feeling to do it that way than to be very specific.

In 2003, you released a song called “Friend of Mine” whose theme runs parallel as far as being supportive to a friend who is struggling.
That’s interesting. Yes, there are definitely some similarities there. That song was about a friend of mine who struggled with intrusive suicidal ideation and stuff like that. They’re good now and still a really close friend.

Why is your upcoming record called Hyperrelevisation?
It’s a half-joke. There’s an Adam Curtis documentary called Hypernormalization that’s really good. Hyperrelevisation was briefly what I had named our Twitter in the beginning which is sort of a play on Hypernormalization: We are not just relevant now but hyper-relevant.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.