R&B chanteur Thurmon Green is smooth as silk but unafraid of being vulnerable too. His vocals are lush and polished while his lyrics evoke the rougher side of heartbreak. His latest collection of tracks, an EP titled “Tired of Being Funny” released by the New York-based clan Doom Dab, includes this new single “Lay It Down” produced by Flex Lang. It’s a song that gets under your skin, about what goes on between the covers. And with its seductive melodies, it lulls you into same feeling you get when a late night slips into early morning light.
Green and I caught up to talk about Pop, rom-coms, and learning to take yourself seriously. Read our chat below and don’t miss him perform live next Monday September 28 at Le Bain, 444 W 13th Street—the party starts at 8 p.m.
In a few of your new tracks, there’s a vibe that reminds me of really classic R&B. Is that what you were going for?
I’ve been recently thinking about how people don’t like to be labeled in a genre but I think R&B is a great umbrella term for what I do because it’s rhythm and blues. There’s always a rhythm in what I’m making and everything I’m writing has come from sad things that have happened in my life, mostly related to failed romance.
The two songs “You Don’t Really Like Me” produced by Sol Aire and “How I Remember” produced by Beggars in a New Land are the most retro. I’m not one to do the most retro-sounding music, but when I heard those tracks, I was like, OK, I could put lyrics and melodies in here that could give them a modern twist. I worry about this whole alt-R&B thing being a very specific type of sound or a very particular moment. I’m interested in longevity and creating music that’s timeless.
Especially that first song seems to capture this special middle place between nostalgia and celebration, looking back but appreciating the moment.
When I was writing this EP, I was in a really bad place about a failed situationship—I’d be a fool to call it a relationship. It was February and I was like I’m going to make a slow R&B heartbreak EP. But then when you’re actually trudging in the snow to a friend-producer’s house to record, it was really depressing. It was hard to actually focus and make the songs when I was in that mood. So it really just evolved. It’s my nature to be more optimistic. And at the same time, I was starting to get out of that slump. I thought the music needs to reflect that.
The song “How I Remember” is about looking back on a previous romantic situation and not having any ill feelings toward the person but reminiscing in a positive away about the good times. The funny thing is that I wasn’t in that place when I was recording that song. I’m still not in a place where I’m about to do that. Being friends with exes requires a lot of maturity that I don’t have. But I was trying to make myself believe the words I was singing.
It seems like Doom Dab has really grown in the past couple of years and since the time you put out your last EP. What’s that been like?
It’s been a real grassroots effort with a lot of friends just learning as we go along with each project—working with people like Jay Boogie, Kay Rizz, and Striker, our friend in London who does a lot of House beats. It’s been about a lot of mutual respect and a collective approach to making the best possible things. I am very interested, and I think Doom Dab is also, in making classic music that can be for anyone—you don’t have to be a certain type of person to enjoy it. Pop. We are interested in Pop and all that entails.
You used to book a lot of parties in the past too with some of the same people involved in the label too, right?
I was involved with a collective of women in New York, who were also my best friends—HD, Hannah Daly and Amy, A.E.Zimmer, and a bunch of amazing women doing creative stuff in New York. We were just really frustrated with all these white guy line ups that were happening. We started throwing a party called Ultravelvet. And we book everyone who is killing it now. We had Jungle Pussy play the first one. We had Destiny when she was still Wavy Spice. We had Cakes da killa. We had Juliana Huxtable, Dai Burger, Abdul Ali. I also played a few times.
Now the landscape has changed where it’s not that rare to see all-girl lineups. Now we are less interested in these segregated, ghettoized all-girls-baby line-ups, and instead getting to the point where it’s guys and girls and everyone in between and it’s not a big deal. It’s happening more but it’s a slow, slow process.
Did you always feel like a singer?
No, I never made music. I went to film school. In college I started to get very disillusioned with film and a lot of the people involved in it. It’s very white male dominated. I also just needed the immediacy of hitting a key on my computer and hearing a synth sound. I first started just jamming with friends in college. But then I said I want to do this. I decided to take myself seriously. But also I decided to take myself seriously enough to not take myself too seriously, you know?
I’ve talked to other people who moved from the art work to music because of a similar disillusionment. It’s interest to thinking about music being the medium where your surrounded by the people you want to be.
I can’t deal with film people. As a director, you are supposed to walk the walk like you know it all. That’s suited to straight white guys. Their whole lives they’ve been engineered to fake it until they make it. I was not compelled to assert myself beyond what felt reasonable and rational. It didn’t feel like it was my lane at the time.
Maybe there’s something about the ephemeral nature of music, that if it’s good, it speaks for itself more. Or maybe it’s just what I’m supposed to be doing. It just feels right so all the bullshit that comes with it feels worth it. It didn’t feel worth it with film. I’m not interested in making my way up the totem pole behind the scenes. When I perform, it’s fulfilling something. So I can deal with the bullshit.
You said something about deciding to take yourself seriously. Is that what the title of the EP has to do with to, “Tired of Being Funny?”
It comes from this movie Enough Said with Julie Louis Dreyfus and James Gandolfini—it was his last role. I usually try to avoid movies that are all about white people but the director Nicole Holofcener, her films are about upper middle class white people, but it’s about them. It’s not just, this is the world and there’s nothing beyond it. Anyways, there’s this line after Dreyfus and Gandolfini’s characters spend their first night together. Dreyfus is just lying in bed and says, “I’m tired of being funny,” and the scene ends. It was just the realest thing ever.
When you grow up being a nerdy, fat, effeminate boy, you rely on a sense of humor to stick around. You’re not going to be the last one picked, you might instead be the third-last one picked because you’re funny! But it gets to the point where you want to be serious about someone you’re romantically interested in and not be friend-zoned.
I think we all talk about failed romances ad nauseum with our friends, but what’s it been like to have another outlet. Has writing lyrics about it changed how you deal with these feelings?
It’s just so intensely cathartic to make something out of that angst and anguish. It just was a way of feeling less alone. Each song is working through “you’ll be alone forever” to get to “no you won’t.” I’m so naive. I’m just like if I like you and you like me, why can’t it be so simple. It’s like the line from that Lauryn Hill song, It could all be so simple. It’s like at the witching hour and you are pleading with someone to be open and vulnerable which is rare. People have so many walls—Babylonian cities of walls. Everyone but especially men. It’s like I’m going to talk about it because I’m dealing with it. I don’t write songs about anything but love and loss.
Photo by Nick Blumenthal