In 2003, Tim Showalter's house burned down, his fiancée left him, and he resorted to writing songs on an acoustic guitar while living on park benches in suburban Philadelphia. Those events informed the entirety of his arresting debut, Leave Ruin, an album about loss and brokenness and lack of faith. But as affecting as it was, Showalter is leery of being stuck in the past. After all, the first word of that record's title is "leave," and one of the first thing he asks when contacted for this interview is, "Can we kind of re-do my bio? I don't want to keep being the sad sack whose house burned down."
These days, Showalter is happily married and comfortably settled in Philadelphia, and he's staring down the release of his second record, Pope Killdragon, an album that's even stranger and more singular. Where Ruin was stark and autobiographical, Killdragon - which features odd, laser-beam synthesizers and one bona fide stoner metal track - is wild and fantastical. Showalter either invents characters' whole cloth, or takes an approach to history so liberal even Tarantino would give pause (John F. Kennedy authors a fable about a knight; Dan Aykroyd carries out a revenge killing for the death of John Belushi). It's a bold, eerie, mighty work - though the man responsible for it couldn't be more affable or good natured.
By J. Edward Keyes