I wanna podcast with Olly Alexander

I wanna podcast with Olly Alexander

[music]: I wanna marry Olly Alexander, Olly Alexander, Olly Alexander

I wanna marry Olly Alexander, Olly Alexander, Olly Alexander

Adam Cecil: Hello, hello, my name is Adam and you're listening to the Night Water podcast, the official audio off-shoot of the Night Water newsletter.

A few months ago, after I'd moved to the UK, the actor and singer Olly Alexander was announced as this country's competitor for Eurovision 2024, which just wrapped up on Saturday.

I don't really follow Eurovision and I don't know much about Olly Alexander, but it reminded me of a song that my friend Michael wrote back in 2016 about wanting to marry Olly Alexander that I have always thought is incredibly catchy.

So I thought, as long as there's some spotlight on Olly, I might as well use this as a chance to steal a little bit of that light and throw it back on my friend and his wonderful song.

So a few weeks ago, I got Michael on the phone and asked him about his old life as an aspiring pop star performing under the name Johnny Darlin and how this song about Olly Alexander fits into his entire creative arc.

Stay tuned after the discussion and I'll play the whole song for you.

[music]: Olly Alexander! Olly Alexander!

Adam Cecil: Michael, welcome back to Night Water. You've never been on the podcast, but we did do an interview about your movie Throuple a while back. Maybe you can reintroduce yourself to newer readers, not the longtime loyal fans, but can you explain who you are and what is your deal?

Michael Doshier: Of course. Thank you, Adam, very much for having me. It's a pleasure to be here and honored to be here. Okay, so my name is Michael Doshier and I am, I would say, primarily a screenwriter based in Los Angeles.

And I, as you mentioned, I have a feature film that I wrote and star in called Throuple that we've talked about before. That's currently doing the queer film festival circuit, which is very exciting.

But we've known each other for a long time and Adam knows that I have not always just been focused on that. I also have this huge interest in pop music, pop stars, and I was really going for that for most of my 20s.

I spent my 20s in the like underground music scene of New York as a solo act first and then in a band, which also inspired Throuple. You know, Throuple is like about band culture and life in that world. It's like a rom-com set in that world.

So that was my stomping ground for many years in New York before I moved here. So I'd say I'm like a writer, musician, in short.

Adam Cecil: Yeah, in short.

Michael Doshier: In short.

Adam Cecil: So you did music under a pseudonym. Can you tell me a little bit about just like what led to that decision? What that project was about? Like if that was a character for you or kind of just everything that went into how you kind of created that pop persona?

Michael Doshier: Totally. Yes. I remember it so vividly. Like when I think—So, I performed as a solo act under the name Johnny Darlin and I started that project when I was 23 and I—so almost 10 years ago, almost the 10 year anniversary of Johnny Darlin, which I'm just realizing live.

I remember being a scared kid. I was like, and it's like, I'm like a queer, I'm like a radical queer in like ideology. But like I was like raised a Southern Baptist, like, you know, boy next door energy.

And I feel like when I think about creating Johnny Darlin, I remember so many things. I remember like wanting to make like really brash music and like the collaborators I was working with at the time were like experimental. I was pop. And so we've made these like, kind of like brash pop songs.

And I wanted to talk openly about being gay. And I wanted to talk about like anything. I wanted to have artistic freedom, but I felt confined by my own body and self and spirit and that like that bifurcated side of me, like the other side, that's that Southern Baptist side.

And I was nervous and scared and like also scared of how family and friends would react from home. And like, it's funny how little this stuff matters to me now. I was like, this is like, it's great that like you grow out of this ideally, you know, but this is like a young artist's plight.

I've experienced a lot of other people talk about this too, you know, like, this is not abnormal, but it felt so scary. So I was like, I'm going to create this persona. And he will be allowed to say whatever he wants, because he's not me.

You know, he can dress however he wants, he can do whatever he wants, and he has artistic freedom. And that's entirely separate from Michael Doshier. And everyone will know that this is like a project, not me as like a person. And so that is why I did it. And I think that it was really helpful, honestly, like it actually like worked.

Like I still was so nervous. I was so nervous to release anything under that because it is still me, obviously, but it was it definitely helped it like gave me the permission to do so I think.

Adam Cecil: And then you kept that through essentially up even in with your musical group like you were, you were Darlin.

Michael Doshier: Yeah, yeah, I wanted a band because I was like a lot of my friends. So I was doing like solo stuff with like a keytar and tracks and or a piano. So but then I just like, I was a part of band life because a lot of my friends were in bands, including my best friend.

And so I was like in green rooms and seeing those venues which were bigger than the venues I was playing and seeing those audiences which were bigger than the audience I was playing too and also just like loved the like sent the full sound of like a live band as opposed to what I was doing.

So I really wanted a band and then I found a band on Craigslist I was looking for a lead singer and they became they became the band we became a unit and then we started off as like it being them being my backing band for a show that I'd already booked, you know, and then because of that, our foundational songs were like Johnny Darlin songs.

So since we had we just like kind of as we became a real band, not just a band for me, we just kept those songs and kept elements of that identity.

Adam Cecil: I mean, how did that change? I mean, one, how did that change the music? Like, how did that change? You know, I think you were talking about that clash between, you know, more experimental and the pop sides. But then also, how did that change how you viewed your persona, like being part of a larger unit?

Michael Doshier: I feel like with the band, it like became more about the music because we were and it became more collaborative. So it's like when I was doing because you know, like the Johnny Darlin stuff began as almost a theater piece because I like started that I launched that project with the show in the New York Fringe Festival, which was like, kind of this like conceptual meditation on like being queer and like coming out of the closet.

And there was like video art and there was a vague through line and there was backup dancers and there was, you know, it was like kind of storytelling mixed with music. But when you're in a band and you're just booking shows with other bands, it's like just about the music and it's just about the setlist and like how the songs meld together and which song will be hype at this point.

And when is it appropriate to sing the ballad and like all this stuff. So I remember there being a moment where I was like, it was still in that transitional period of like, we're a band or like, they're playing my music with me. And like, you know, there was like that transition between those two. And there was a moment where we didn't have enough material as a band.

So I would like stop and do my own stuff, like do some true solo material at a piano, and then go back to the band. And it just was not working. Like it was just like we just like realized like this is like crazy, like this, this song that I'm doing on the piano has nothing to do with like the overall atmosphere we're creating elsewhere.

Adam Cecil: So let's go back. This is before the band. Going back to your song about Olly Alexander, which I've always I've always loved that song from your material because I just think I think it's funny. And I had no idea who this person was. So I think like, you know, that kind of like this like, obsession, internet kind of obsession with this like niche gay celebrity at the time, which is like and British as well.

It's like, it's so perfect. Right at the time when you were releasing it, it was a time when people were really thinking about the internet and how that's changing relationships and kind of changing the dynamics of fandom as well. So I'm curious, like, from your perspective, who is Olly Alexander to you in this moment that you're writing the song? And why did you write this song about him?

Michael Doshier: Sure. Okay, so the story goes that I've had like, I've admired Olly Alexander, who is a British pop star, who was in this band. He's I guess he's most famous now for being in this band called Years and Years for many years. And then he, it's now his solo project, but it's still the same name.

And before that, he's been like, a celebrity and an artist for a really long time. And like, I knew about him for before the Years and Years stuff. And before he was out as queer, you know, it's like he was in this, I think my first experience, he was in Skins briefly, he was in this movie called the Dish and the Spoon. And he's so beautiful in it. And, and I just really was drawn to him.

And then so I've been following, I was following his career for a long time. And then so but then he became, you know, pretty well known in Years and Years. And then he came out at some point as as gay as queer. And so he felt part of my like world in so many ways. And he had a he had a nose ring, he like famously wore a nose ring a lot.

And I went out with some friends one night and had a fake nose ring and and posted it on Instagram and was like, I'm feeling like Olly Alexander tonight and tagged him. And then he commented on that picture. And so I felt it was something you know, very I don't even remember what he said, but it was like, you know, complimentary or just passing. But it was like, it meant so much to me. I was like, what the fuck is happening?

And so I felt I had a direct line to him, you know, because like, I didn't realize he was that accessible on social media. And so I wrote this song, truly thinking he would hear it. There's been there's been no evidence that he's ever heard it. But it's like, I thought I had a direct line to Olly Alexander.

[music]: You tell me it’s a fantasy, you say he’ll never look at me, but he’s already liked a picture on my Instagram. Not to mention in the middle of the night.

Michael Doshier: Yeah, so the song is like about that night where he like liked a picture on my Instagram and kind of like, the way that the brain kind of takes that and runs with it to like, we're gonna get married, we're gonna have kids, we're gonna do this, this, this, this, this. And it's kind of about exactly what you said, like celebrity culture, like and having crushes on celebrities and the disassociation between like reality and fantasy.

I feel like it was because I feel like a lot of my work now is like about that, like the expectations versus reality of any situation. But that was the first thing that I think started that is like that, like my internal fantasy life wasn't like a thing that is like embarrassing or, or whatever. It's like actually funny, you know, and like worth worth exploring and art form, you know.

So it set me on the right path. But yeah, that's the origin story for it.

Adam Cecil: So I feel like that kind of partially answers this next question. But the chorus is like, you know, I want to marry Olly Alexander. I'm curious, like why, you know, why you chose marriage instead of like, I want to kiss, I want to fuck, like, you know, thinking about like the fantasy, like, I'm curious, like, yeah, like, yeah, why did your mind go to—

Michael Doshier: Marriage, yes. It's like the feelings that I have for him were like, sweet, you know, they were like, I—through his persona and his music and his acting, he was someone that I could see myself like, cherishing, you know, like, if we were to be together, like, like being really, you know, being the he felt sweet to me, and he felt nice and beautiful and like talented.

And so it's like, and I also have always been like, thinking about queer people and marriage like that's like a theme of because I'm just remembering that even before the EP that had Olly Alexander on it, my first EP was called Mr. Monogamy.

And it was like about, or at least what I don't know what the EP itself, I could argue the whole thing was about this. But at least I remember like thinking a lot of the time about like, what it means to find like one true love as like a queer person, which, yeah, has been a part of my work, I guess for the whole time.

Adam Cecil: Yeah, now that you've now that you now went from Mr. Monogamy to Throuple.

Michael Doshier: Throuple, right. These are like dots that are being connected for me live and on this podcast, like I don't think I have not thought about it this hard. But yeah, you're right. You're right.

Adam Cecil: So you just said that, like, Olly has not heard as far as you know, has not heard the song. Did you send it to him? Like, were you messaging?

Michael Doshier: Yeah. I have gone to embarrassing lengths to get this song to him. And so, you know, the song also was like a business lesson in a way because it was like, I was able to get more views and listens on it than anything else I had ever done because of his fan base, because like, it found them.

And they're more easily accessible than he is. And you know, they spread the word about the song and appreciated it. And like related to it. I remember getting like, you know, messages on Instagram from like, Olly Alexander fan accounts being like, this is so cute.

You know, it was just really, it was really adorable, like that relationship. So I really tried to get it. I definitely DMed it to him. I definitely probably emailed it to his manager. I sent it to all of his fan sites. And by the way, those connections felt very exciting and genuine. Like those people were really cool.

And like, and like, so I'm not laughing at this as something just like, that's totally bonkers. Like it actually meant a lot to me. But I also was trying to get to him through them, you know, because I figured he would follow his own fan sites or, or whatever.

And but then the most embarrassing example is that I went to see him at New York Pride. I went to watch him perform. And I brought a, I brought it on like a disc or a hard or like a thumb, a thumb drive with a note. And I tried so hard. I was there alone, like no one was going to do this. And it was expensive. And I didn't even get to do it.

Like I tried to, I tried to follow him backstage. I tried to like be at the exit so that when he left, I would be there. But there was just no getting to Olly Alexander.

Adam Cecil: Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing that because that is embarrassing. And I love it. I will do my small part and trying to get it in front of his, his PR here.

Michael Doshier: Thank you. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like I like know the names of members of his team and stuff because of this. Like I like, you know, like I follow his manager and stuff because of this. So it's like, because I also think the song is like really melodically good, you know, so I also think it like shows songwriting ability. So like in my fantasy, it's also like, do they, do they let me write songs for him or something, you know, but it's.

Adam Cecil: It'd be, yeah, it's like, what's scarier to Olly like, like a random proposal or like, I want to write for Olly Alexander.

Michael Doshier: I would not be I could not imagine that song being like, compelling, like the songwriter expressing who he wants to write music for.

Adam Cecil: Well, Michael, thank you so much for joining the Night Water podcast. If people want to find you and learn more about what you're up to these days, what's the best way for them to do that?

Michael Doshier: It's been an honor, Adam, thank you for having me. And I would say please follow me on Instagram. It's just my name, Michael Doshier. And if you want to follow the Throuple journey because we are finally on an actual journey, since we have premiered and are doing the festival circuit.

That is @throuplethemovie. So either one, it'd be an honor to have you at either Instagram handle.

Adam Cecil: Thank you, Michael, for joining me. Again, if you want to follow him, that's @michaeldoshier on Instagram or @throuplethemovie also on Instagram, links to both of those accounts are in the show notes, along with a link to the interview that I did with Michael a few years ago about Throuple.

It's been a long time since then. So there's been some updates, but you can learn more about Michael through that. Like I said, I don't really follow Eurovision, but it was hard to miss the tensions and drama last week.

Controversy has been building for months since the European Broadcasting Union said that they would not bar Israel from competing. They said that Eurovision should not be political and instead focus on the power of music to unite us.

That obviously did not work out for them. Who could have seen that coming? But you know, there was one thing that united audiences around Europe. They did not like Olly Alexander. He did not receive a single audience vote on Saturday.

The UK was the only country not to receive a single public audience vote. Poor Olly. I'm going to play the song for you, but real quick, thanks so much for listening to Night Water. If you're not already subscribed to the newsletter, head over to www.nightwater.email and sign up.

It's a free late night pop culture newsletter, and if you've enjoyed what you've heard today, I think you'll really like it. You can also optionally support the newsletter with a paid subscription, which goes towards costs like hosting this podcast. And you can check out all your options again at www.nightwater.email.

And now, without further ado, here's Johnny Darlin's Olly Alexander.

[music]: I wanna marry Olly Alexander, Olly Alexander, Olly Alexander.

Nobody better, Olly Alexander, Olly Alexander, Olly Alexander. [x2]

You tell me it's a fantasy. You say he'll never look at me. But he's already liked a picture on my Instagram. Not to mention in the middle of the night.

In the middle of the night

he comes to me in my wildest dreams, reveals to me years and years it seemed. Life was going nowhere are history

'Cause the air it shifts when we're together, Olly Alexander and me.

I wanna marry Olly Alexander, Olly Alexander, Olly Alexander. Nobody better, Olly Alexander, Olly Alexander, Olly Alexander.

Monogamy's a stranger, Olly Alexander, Olly Alexander, Olly Alexander. But not forever, Olly Alexander, Olly Alexander, Olly Alexander.

You tell me that he's awful busy. He's got no time for a guy like me. But he already liked a picture on my Instagram. And don't forget that in the middle of the night.

In the middle of the night.

He comforts me, makes me feel pretty. We speak only complex poetry. And our love surrounds us somehow tangibly

While the earth's core cools when we're together, Olly Alexander.

He comes to me in my wildest dreams, I get on one knee, look up at my King. Propose sweet nothings I've been told may mean,

"Can I be with you, my dear, forever, Olly Alexander?"

In the middle of the night.

In the middle of the night.

We'll drive away. "Don't look back," he'll say. He loves me so, we're never letting go.

Dreams accelerate yet all the time stands still. Cause it's "Clockstoppers" when we're together, Olly Alexander and me.

Episode Video

Creators and Guests

Michael Doshier
Michael Doshier
Writer, filmmaker, and performer based in Los Angeles.