“Standing in Line” is a rare quiet moment on Goliath, the raucous, punk-informed new record by Steve Taylor & the Perfect Foil. The rest of the record snarls and snaps, but “Standing in Line” is tense and meditative, Jimmy Abegg’s guitars spiraling up in silvery curlicues around Taylor’s parched, whispering vocals. It suits the song’s subject: a deft, delicate portrait of two friends whose lives led them on different paths.
The song is accompanied by footage from Jerzy Skolimowski’s Le Départ, and it’s an apt choice. The visuals depict Jeanne Pierre-Léaud and Catherine-Isabelle Duport as two lovers who connect and disconnect over and over, each reunion and parting more bittersweet than the last. In one of the more moving moments, the two sit on opposite ends of a car that’s been split in two, staring longingly at each other until the two halves of the car begin moving, slowly, closer together.
We spoke to Taylor about “Standing in Line,” as well as his love of cinema. You can read the full transcript below the video.
[Steve Taylor & the Perfect Foil's Goliath will be available on November 18 from Splint Entertainment]
So, to me, this song seems to be about two people whose lives started in the same place, but as time went on, they began taking different paths. What got you thinking along those lines?
I always reserve the right to mix up autobiographical and non-autobiographical stuff in the same song, and that’s probably the case with this one as well. It just started going and grew – there was that line about “inhaling under the bridge of sighs/ it’s not the way it was”; it seems like any relationship goes through peaks and valleys and I’ve found that in my relationship with my wife, our commitment to stay together supersedes all of those valleys. That was the basic idea, that sometimes when those are happening, you feel like you’re in a waiting room, but you’re determined not to leave.
I love the visual of “love spilling out like antifreeze.”
I don’t know exactly where that came from, but I liked it when it showed up on the paper.
I was having trouble placing the movie. I recognized Jeanne-Pierre Léaud, but I couldn’t identify the film. Is it Antoine et Colette?
It’s actually a movie by the Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski. This was the only movie he did in French, it’s called Le Départ. The way it came down is that a fairly new friend of mine in Nashville, which is where I live, works at the art house theater and he makes trailers. Like, right now they’re running a series of Polish films, so he’ll take one of the movies and make his own trailer for it so [the theater] can show it. I think sometimes Zeitgeist Films in New York will hire him if they’re doing a reissue or something. So I literally just sent him the song because I loved his work and said, “Got any ideas?” He came back with like five different ideas, and all of them were pretty good. But this one – all he had to do was show me that clip of the man and the woman in the car looking at each other, and then the car comes together? Oh man, it gives me chills just thinking about it. And I said “That’s the one.” So my friend Zach Hall, this is all his work.
Another thing I love: You know that shot where Jeanne-Pierre Léaud lies down in front of the tracks? I mean, that’s crazy! We have one rule on a set [Taylor is also a director – Ed.], and it’s safety first. Anybody can call “stop” if there’s a safety issue. And just the thought that Jeanne-Pierre Léaud laid down on the tracks — and you can see him kind of pulling his feet in a little right before the train comes around. If he hadn’t pulled in his foot in, he would have had it amputated. That shot never ceases to amaze me. I don’t think you could get away with it now.
Léaud is probably most famous for the Antoine Doinel films he made with Truffaut, who I know you’re a big fan of. What was your first exposure to his work, and what do you like about it?
I think it was The 400 Blows in college. There’s a real humanism to his movies and a thoughtful poetry, but they never get boring. I don’t know how he does it. He’s always surprising. Recently I saw Mississippi Mermaid¸ which I’d never seen before, and same thing – how does he keep doing this? He had a fantastic career.
So, to wrap up, I thought we’d do a little “lightning round.” I know a little bit about your taste from interviews I’ve read with you over the years, so I thought I’d give you an either/or choice, and you tell me which you pick. So first: The Clash Sandanista or Squeeze East Side Story?
[pained] Oh my gosh, that’s like Sophie’s choice! That’s rough! I… You know what? I gotta go with East Side Story.
Violent Femmes “Blister in the Sun,” or Devo “Uncontrollable Urge”?
It’s probably gonna be Devo
Godard or Fellini?
Oh man, that one’s tough, too! I’m not sure I can pull that one off! Honestly, I would not know how to answer that one. I saw an exhibit on Godard maybe 10 years ago in Paris. It was perfectly Godardian – right before the exhibit opened he got mad at them and pulled out. But this exhibit was a revelation. It was fantastic. So if I hadn’t seen that, I probably would go with Fellini. But after seeing that, I have to give it to Godard.
400 Blows or Shoot the Piano Player?
Jean-Paul Belmondo or Jeanne-Pierre Léaud?
Anna Karina or Giulietta Masina?