‘Eastbound & Down’ Co-Creator Jody Hill on Soundtracking a Train Wreck
HBO's Series "Eastbound And Down" Co-Creator Jody Hill

Jody Hill attends the season 3 premiere of HBO's 'Eastbound And Down' in February, 2009. Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Kenny Powers carved a special place in our hearts when we were introduced to him back in February 2009. With his mean intensity, epic entrance songs and famous catchphrase “You’re fucking out,” America’s favorite washed-up relief pitcher made watching fictional baseball games like watching a car crash, impossible to turn away no matter how ugly it got. We knew Eastbound and Down would have a short run when it started, co-creators Jody Hill and Danny McBride made that clear from the start, but with the third season finale coming on April 15th, we’re really starting to wonder what life will be like in a post-Eastbound world.

As we looked back on three seasons of substance-induced highs, career-related lows, deep laughs and the sharp pangs of pity, Hive did so with an eye for music. Who could forget Kenny’s grandiose, delusional return to his high school tracked by the Black Keys, or the hilarious selection of “I am a Real American” for his Mexican debut, or the eulogy tarnished by Candlebox? So we rung up co-creator and executive producer Jody Hill to reminisce together. Hive spoke with Jody about hanging out with Patrick Carney, shooting a video for the Avett Brothers, and picking music on behalf of the most lovable asshole to ever toss a rosin bag.

I wanted to talk to you specifically about the music in the Eastbound. How do you approach music, is that something you and the producers take care of yourselves?

Danny and I are both the producers of the show. So, we definitely sign off on the music. We’re all big music fans, so we always pull from our own music collections and get it in there. This year one of our buddies, who was always just giving us music anyway, we brought him on as kind of a music supervisor. He basically just throws us a bunch of songs. It used to take us so long to sit there and dig through, and this guy’s got an insane music collection. It’s really done just like that, you know, almost like your buddies sitting around in a dorm room picking music for the show.

Do you have any favorite moments musically?

I would say in the pilot episode when he comes in to the Black Keys. That’s one of my favorite moments musically, because that kind of set the tone for how Kenny would go about for the rest of the seasons. Kenny is a man who makes entrances, and that was the first time that was done. So, that might be my favorite.

The Black Keys have gotten really popular as of late.

Yea, dude. They are fucking huge now.

Have you ever caught a show?

I met Patrick one time at dinner, and I think Danny knows him a little bit better than I do. But he was the fucking coolest dude ever. He was really nice about the show and about asking us if we needed any music and stuff. He just could not be a cooler or nicer guy. So, I’m a fucking huge fan of the Black Keys. They are just great; they are everything good about rock and roll.

In Eastbound, I feel you have these montages in episodes where you slow the frames down. You have the scene when they are running away from the mini-golf course, for example. How much is the song considered even before you shoot the scene?

For that scene in particular, my buddy Devoe, who is the guy I was talking about, Devoe Yates, he picked that song. Sometimes it’s considered, but not usually. It’s very rare that we will do a sequence to a certain song. It won’t be written in the script. It usually comes in post later.

Kenny Powers  has the jock-jam kind of thing going on. One of my favorite uses of a song is when you have “I’m A Real American” playing. What would you say is the perfect Kenny Powers entrance song? What other songs were you guys considering for that scene?

It’s weird because we aren’t real jock jam kind of guys really. So whenever we do it, it’s always kind of a joke. If it’s a joke and it kind of works to get you hyped at the same time, that’s when it is always the best. But you know, it’s only on rare occasions that we will go straight-up jock jammy. That is definitely one of the highlights, “I’m a Real American.” That was one that we actually wrote in before we shot the scene; we were planning on using that song. [Laughs.]

You also have some funny Stevie and Maria scenes.

I think [for one of them] it was a cover of “Danny Boy” that we used. [Laughs.] That old Irish song. The kind of inspiration for that scene where they first kiss was from the Godfather, when Michael is first with his wife in Italy. So, it’s kind of weird that we would use an Irish song, but it seemed to grab the tone of what we were doing there. But yeah, that came in post.

I feel people were talking about the Kurt Vile song at the finale of season two a lot.

Yea, man. That was our editor Travis, I think Devoe might have given it to him. Yea, I mean, it just worked so good. The last song we scrutinize a lot, we tested every other song in the room, and nothing really compared once we were watching it with that song. We’re all huge Kurt Vile fans too.

One more thing that comes to mind is the eulogy scene in the fourth episode of the third season, when Kenny shows up with the boom box and plays Candlebox and Pearl Jam. Were those written in before?

Those were both written in before we shot it. You know, nobody really liked Candlebox, but we kind of remember that song growing up in the ’90s. And so, we think that what Kenny likes and what we like is different, so, whenever we are in Kenny’s head and he has to pick a song that he likes we always will pull from the lamest shit we can from the 90’s. We figure that is where his taste comes from, what was cool in high school for him. And then for like, the other songs, whatever it is, that is where we go into our own record collection.

The narration of the show is really funny, you basically have the audio clips from You’re Fucking Out, I’m Fucking In. Have you guys ever considered merchandising or releasing that autobiography on tape for fans?

Yea we’ve been approached by a few publishers to do a book, where we basically write that book. We want to do it, we just haven’t had time or done it yet, but we’ve talked about it. We think it would be fun.

You also directed an Avett Brother’s video.

Yea, they are from my hometown. They are from Concord, NC where I’m from.

How did that happen?

I was a fan of theirs honestly. I didn’t really know those guys growing up. My brother went to high school with Seth Avett, they are kind of legends in Concord. I just was going to their shows and kind of met them. I stalked them a little bit, made friends with them. They just asked me to do their video, and that’s how it went down.

When I think of the Avett Brothers I just think of moody music you listen to by yourself. But the video ended up being somewhat light-hearted.

Yea, that song in particular, “Slight Figure of Speech,” is a little more… you know, they are playing electric instruments and they are kind of rocking. That was also their first record on a major label. So, I really wanted to have a little fun with it, as if the Avett Brothers had sold out. Just in case there were any rumors about that kind of stuff, we wanted to just take the piss about all that, and the Avett Brothers were cool with that, they don’t give a shit what people think.

I never realized that connection. What kind of stuff is on your iPod now?

There is a guy named Dax Riggs who I’m a fan of, and he’s always on rotation. There is a band from North Carolina called Lonnie Walker that I’ve been obsessed with lately. Andrew Jackson Jihad, I like Thee Oh Sees, [and] the Jesus & Mary Chain always stays in my collections. My buddies the Dynamite Brothers always stay in the collection. Waiting for the new Avett Brothers to come out. [Laughs.] You know who I like a lot? Greg Cartwright and all of his bands, Raining sound, Compulsive Gamblers and the Oblivions. Anything by Goner records I’ll check out.

Do you or Danny have any guilty pleasure MP3’s?

Guilty pleasure?

Yea, you know. Embarrassing songs you wouldn’t want your friends to see on your iPod.

[Laughs.] Let’s see. Well, you know, I’m a huge Bob Seger fan.

Okay, and he’s used in the show.

Yea, obviously, Bob Seger is always plays in there. But to be honest with you I don’t really consider him a guilty pleasure.

Yeah, I wouldn’t either.

Maybe, I don’t know… I’m trying to think who’s a guilty pleasure. I love Neil Diamond.

That’s pretty good. What about Danny? What kind of stuff does he listen to?

Danny… [Laughs.] Shit, I don’t know. Danny listens to the craziest stuff. He’s into this thing called Paris DJ’s.

Paris DJ’s?

Yea they make a lot of this kind of just crazy, obscure mixes and stuff with unreleased funk and soul, whatever. He’s into that stuff.

It seems like Maria, on the show, is having a funny time assimilating to American culture. Can you talk about that awkward hip-hop connection she has?

[Laughs.] Uhh….. Well…

The FUBU and stuff… It’s really funny.

You know, I guess it’s just Maria… I’m going to stay away from that question. [Laughs.] It’s a whole thing, I’ve got an answer for it but I’m going to skip it if you don’t’ mind.

Not even a brief summary?

No, sorry, I got to skip that one.

Do you guys get complaint letters in your inbox or mail about the show?

Surprisingly, no. I’m sure that people are offended by it, you know. But I’m actually surprised at how many people like the character and like the show, everyone from the teachers who work at the school with my mom, to like… you know, younger college kids and that kind of stuff. But it’s certainly not all just Southern white dudes who like the show. It runs the full thing. I haven’t seen too much of it to be honest with you. I think it’s either a love it or hate it show, so I think most people probably just take it or leave it.

I don’t know if you know, but Dave Chappelle had this skit after he did the Rick James sketch, people would come up to him at the mall and say “I’m Rick James bitch.” He complained about people always quoting him like that in public. Do you walk around with Danny and people just come up and go “you’re fucking out!”

Yea, Danny gets that, nobody knows who I am. Danny is kind of the face of the operation. He’ll get that a lot, you know what I mean? When people hear that I make the show, they do it. There are two types of fans here… guys who get the joke and know what we’re doing, and then there are the people who think they are Kenny Powers, and when those guys come up to you, that’s fucking scary. You know what I mean? [Laughs.] You wouldn’t believe how many people that is.

Oh God. It’s like permission to be an asshole.

Yeah, exactly.

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