An extra special **Monday** q&a for you guys because Phoebe Bridgers released her new album Punisher last week, which meant that YES OF COURSE we had to check in with her No. 1 fan: the mystery @menshealthmag staffer who everyone spotted in full hype-man mode during Phoebe’s Pitchfork livestream in April:
Since then, the staffer (who asked to remain anonymous because duh, it’s more fun that way) has been making appearances in the comments of all your other favorite indie women artists’’ IG Lives, and the internet has been having a lot of fun with this version of Where’s Softboy Waldo. Even Phoebe’s in on it!
Dead Oceans @DeadOceansOkay @MensHealthMag I keep running into you in chats this week. You doing alright over there? https://t.co/DaqNN97aAh
So of course, one has to ask: Was it all an accident? Did this mystery staffer just forget to log out of Main? Or was this some secret social strategy ploy to get us all talking about Men’s Health? In the name of service journalism, Deez Links reached out and got you some answers (and their opinion on Punisher, duh):
So, what is the story behind originally popping up in that Pitchfork livestream from April? Did it all actually start by accident or what?
The beginning of quarantine was an extremely isolating, overwhelming period and I found a lot of solace in these intimate livestream performances. The commenting component of those streams can turn off certain people, but I found that there was this tremendous solidarity and positive energy of people shouting out their favorite songs, sending hearts, etc. Logging into those performances as @menshealthmag was definitely a way to entertain myself.
There were definitely people in those initial shows that were skeptical of my presence, and I didn't want to distract from the performance by being goofy or silly. But I think once I was able to prove that it was coming from a sincere place — I'm legitimately a fan of the artists whose shows I was watching — people started to actually request that @menshealthmag attend shows or tweet that they were concerned when I didn't pop up in the comments. What started as an inside joke for myself evolved into a coping mechanism for the perpetual dread and confusion I was feeling — and I imagine a lot of other people were feeling, too — in those early weeks of quarantine.
What did it feel like when people started tweeting about it? Or when Phoebe herself chimed in (and later tweeted that Men's Health = feminist icon?)?
A majority of the tweets and posts referencing @menshealthmag in the livestreams have fallen somewhere on the spectrum between bemusement and amusement. It felt like a meme on a super niche level, and it's been fun to participate in that.
Seeing Phoebe Bridgers tweet about Men's Health was certainly surreal and hilarious, especially because it seemed to convey that she was in on the joke. From the get-go, I didn't want to be disrespectful, so it felt like maybe that tweet signified "hey what you're doing doesn't totally suck."
Probably the pinnacle of the @menshealthmag-indie-stan experience was getting to guest on Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee's Weekly Rodeo livestream. Both Kevin and Katie seemed to be entertained by the fact that this men's magazine brand account was shouting out their deep cuts and they even teased out the mystery, trying multiple weeks to get me to join the stream. Men's Health weirdly became virtual friends with whoever runs the Dead Oceans account (Bridgers' and Morby's label). I didn't decide to join until the last Weekly Rodeo, and even then I didn't, I didn't show my face. That was a trip — probably the height of its absurdity.
Whether intentional or by accident, I feel like the idea of Men's Health showing up to stan hard for female indie artists has a very wholesome layer to it, especially when the Twitter account seemed to play along here.
Was that your intention, to help subvert tropes about a publication that's synonymous with this conventional idea of male physical fitness?
The fandom has always come from a sincere and honest place. There was no "strategy" or "objective" other than I wanted to watch these artists play music, and why not watch on @menshealthmag rather than my personal?
That being said, I'm intimately aware of the tropes associated with a brand like Men's Health. So it was fun to play with those perceptions. Wait @menshealthmag's favorite Waxahatchee record is Ivy Tripp? @menshealthmag rides for Kevin Drew? "Scorpio Rising" is @menshealthmag's favorite Soccer Mommy song?
All the artists involved in this are progressive, they challenge gender norms, they challenge patriarchy, they challenge heternormativity, they're antiracist, they have welcoming communities for their fans. They're also mostly vulnerable and in-tune with the importance of mental health. Men desperately need outlets to express themselves, to get more in touch with their feelings, and music is such a powerful vehicle for that component of emotional health.
So what do you think of Punisher anyway? Any favorite tracks?
It's a masterpiece. From a pure lyrical perspective, Phoebe Bridgers is in the top class of songwriters today. I think Punisher is an expansion of a lot of the concepts, both musical and thematic, that Phoebe laid out on Stranger on the Alps. It's more ambitious in terms of production and it seems to span a wider range of reference points from a genre perspective (there's country on "Graceland, Too," indie rock on "Kyoto," sparse ballads like "Punisher").
My favorite song is "I Know The End." I've probably listened to it a hundred times since I got sent a stream by her label a few weeks ago, and it hasn't gotten old. It sounds like the apocalypse. And it feels both intensely personal with its specificity and universal at the same time. That's why I love Phoebe Bridgers' music so much: she can make a song sound so small and so big simultaneously, and she makes it seem easy.
Finally, what else is on the unofficial Men's Health sad girl summer playlist lately?
A few new-ish records that I'm really enjoying right now: Laura Marling, Yaya Bey, Nick Hakim, Ethan Gruska, Hayley Williams, Blake Mills, Caroline Rose, Rina Sawayama, Christian Lee Hutson, Charli XCX Diet Cig, and Perfume Genius. Also Mitski, Snail Mail, Hop Along, Vagabon, and Anna Burch are essential additions to any legitimate "sad girl summer" playlist. I'm excited to hear more Ruston Kelly, Bright Eyes, Faye Webster, and Ian Sweet as the summer rolls on.
Deez Links is a dailyish newsletter written by delia cai. You can support this hard-hitting service journalism by sharing it or hitting up our merch store!