“The future’s almost now,” I wrote in response. “I’m 34 and change / It’s good say it out loud / If I’m ever going to change / Now is the time.” Begun as a lark, the project was, indeed, turning into a kind of confession. Plus, I managed to rhyme change with change. “So cool!” wrote July in response, her grace now bordering on charity. “This should be your job always.” Eventually, I found it in myself to address head-on the underlying reason for the first song: envy. “I stay in bed with the flu / No one belongs here more / She has a camera crew / She has a Caméra d’Or / And what have I? / Miranda July.” Writing it felt good. Maybe there was something to this honesty thing.
With the lyrics done, I went to work with Friends of the Oval’s producer David Mason in his Brooklyn studio. The first version of “(I Heart) Miranda July” was not a big departure from the original, musically speaking—a dark, squelchy dance track driven by a distorted bass line. It sounded kind of aggressive and very, shall we say, male. July hated it. Working against the clock (she was due to fly to Australia the following morning), we tried the opposite approach: quiet lo-fi pop. Mason picked up a drum pad and tapped out a tinny, Tinkertoy rhythm, to which we added a vaguely bossa nova bass. Next morning, a Vimeo link waited in my in-box.
The video, which I had assumed would just be Miranda July in headphones, is a full-fledged mini performance piece. July starts with her back to the camera, leafing through Tolstoy; as the song goes on, she fiddles with a DVD, drinks water, eats dried pineapple, rolls her eyes at certain lines, and offers deadpan interjections. She’s inside the music and outside of it at the same time, dipping in and out as she pleases, making the fabric of the song look pliable, as if it were interactive and you could do the same. In other words, it is a Miranda July project; I have been erased from it with one blink of her eyelashes. It is the ultimate revenge of an artist on a hack. Her maracas work isn’t bad either.