Joe Wong Talks with Mary Timony on the Talkhouse Podcast

"Music is the only thing that makes me feel like a normal person."

Hello and welcome to the Talkhouse Podcast, I’m Josh Modell. On this week’s episode we’ve got a pair of friends who, as you’ll hear, have provided emotional support and advice to each other throughout interesting, winding careers over the past couple of decades; Mary Timony and Joe Wong.

Timony is probably best known as the leader of the ‘90s indie-rock band Helium, but her catalog goes far beyond it. Prior to Helium, Timony came up in the DC punk scene as part of the band Autoclave, and after she’s been part of Wild Flag with members of Sleater-Kinney, fronted a band called Ex Hex, and released records under her own name. That’s mostly why we’re here today, because Timony is about to release her first solo record in 15 years, and it’s fantastic. It’s called Untame the Tiger, and it picks up on some of the psych elements that Timony has wrangled in the past—and even includes a guest appearance by the former drummer of Fairport Convention, Dave Mattacks, as you’ll hear in this chat. Untame the Tiger was also produced in part by today’s other guest, Joe Wong. It comes out February 23, but check out the song “Dominoes” right here.

As I mentioned, today’s other guest is Joe Wong, who grew up in Milwaukee and played in indie-rock bands before finding his creative path in two amazing ways: as a composer for TV and film and as a podcast host. He’s written music for the likes of Russian Doll and Master of None, and he helms the popular podcast The Trap Set, which originated as a way to spotlight his favorite drummers, but has since expanded into deep and incredible conversations with all kinds of creative folks. But a few years back, partly at the urging of his friend Mary Timony, Wong began writing songs for himself rather than for other people’s scores. He just released his second album, Mere Survival, and while it still has late-’60s big-pop vibes, it gets even bigger and weirder than his first. It features not only Timony, but also Pearl Jam’s Matt Cameron, among other guests. Check out the title track from Mere Survival right here.

This conversation took place shortly after two big release shows for Mere Survival for which Wong gathered a 20-piece band, so you’ll hear a bit about that, as well as some thoughts on songwriting itself. Wong and Timony also get deep on how their parents’ illnesses brought them together, about self-sabotage and perfectionism, and much more. Enjoy.

Thanks for listening to the Talkhouse Podcast, and thanks to Mary TImony and Joe Wong for chatting. If you liked what you heard, please follow Talkhouse on your favorite podcasting platform, and check out all the great written pieces at This episode was produced by Myron Kaplan, and the Talkhouse theme is composed and performed by the Range. See you next time!

(Photo Credit: left, Priscilla C. Scott; right, Sorcha Chris Grady; Edited by: Keenan Kush.)

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