In Guest List, Paste’s favorite artists and auteurs reveal the music that’s inspired some of their most seminal works.
Sina Grace is a comic-book rapscallion with an impressively diverse resume: former editorial director for a then-nascent Skybound Comics, biographical cartoonist chronicling hells both retail (Not My Bag) and personal (Self-Obsessed), illustrator of comics ranging from charming (Penny Dora & the Wishing Box) to chilling (Burn The Orphanage) and now star of a five-episode web series based on his own life and work.
Self-Obsessed, adapted from Grace’s 2015 Image graphic novel of the same name and directed by his Burn The Orphanage collaborator Daniel Freedman, follows the cartoonist as he copes with a bad breakup and an even-worse creative stumble that casts doubt on the whole “professional artist” thing.
The first episode (which may or may not involve the line “balls-deep in man meat” and a quest for bear sex) premiered yesterday, with new episodes set to debut on Grace’s YouTube page every Tuesday for the next month. In honor of the comic-based web series, Grace provided Paste with a curated playlist (and custom playlist art, natch) for the show.
Sina Grace on the Music Behind Self-Obsessed
With every project I work on, I usually have a “soundtrack” of various songs that get me in the mood, or remind me of places my head needs to be in when writing/ drawing. Now, I’m in this fantastic and bizarre meta-situation where the soundtrack to my life is literally the soundtrack to my life in the Self-Obsessed web series. I was extremely lucky to get the majority of these artists to let me use their music for Self-Obsessed, and I included some of my music-emotional anchors (Jenny Lewis, Alex Greenwald, Emily Haines) to round out the vibe on this playlist. Enjoy!
Self-Obsessed Playlist Art by Sina Grace
“I Want to Grow Up,” Colleen Green
Colleen is my Taylor Swift. Every word on this song—and the album—feels like it’s a page out of my life. Making Self-Obsessed in a lot of ways feels like recognizing my immature perspective of not wanting to take things more seriously, and accepting that I need to move on and grow up. She let me use two other songs from her library for the web series, but this song… this is my anthem.
“Love is Stranger,” Nick Diamonds
Hopefully he’ll take this as a compliment, but Nick Thorburn’s music reads to me as “casually neurotic.” The tics, the attention to detail, the concerns… They’re there, but they don’t get in the way of the music or the output. I was definitely trying to convey that outlook in my book and in the web series. This song is charming, quirky, dancy… That’s what I want people to think about me, hah!
“Only Human,” Cold Showers
Who isn’t a sucker for a little ‘80s gloom in their punk music? I was a fan of Cold Showers, then my friend Jacob joined up, and then I was a bigger fan of Cold Showers, and now this song plays during a scene where my character goes to a gay bear sex party. Enjoy!
I was super lucky to have heard the songs off Feels’ debut LP a while ago, and so the tracks that made up the album had been playing in the background of making not only the web series, but the book as well. Funny story: I had originally written the web series thinking the entire soundtrack would be Feels songs. Anyway, “Slippin’” definitely captures how things can kind of be falling apart but a rockin’ good time regardless.
“On My Own,” Alex Greenwald
Love Alex Greenwald. Being a native Angeleno, I am a proud Phantom Planet fan (Dave Fridmann-produced S/T ftw). This little “solo” album came out of nowhere, but I found it right when I started embarking on diving into the moods that inspired Self-Obsessed. While the story of moving somewhere cold and lonely for a lover hasn’t been my story, I can easily relate to the feeling of having to take care of yourself in a bad situation.
All of Metric’s album cycles seem to match up with big life changes for me. When 2012’s Synthetica came out, I had left my job editing comics, chanting the “Speed the Collapse” line “Fate don’t fail me now.” Pagans in Vegas has tracks that really match my current outlook about making art for money: sometimes you gotta keep plowing forward, even when everything around you seems fucked and broken. Keep on keeping on, Metric-style.
“I Can Feel Your Love,” Hot As Sun
I’ve adored this band since an ex got me into them a few years ago. I had reached out to their lead singer about a different track (“Stop Talking” from Night Time Sound Desire), and Jamie [Jackson] had sent over advance tracks for the Little Friend EP… I literally listened to this song 100 times. It has such a sexy, dark bar vibe. There’s such an urgency to the way she builds on saying “I Can Feel Your Love” over and over again. Out of respect to the other songs on the EP, I lied and pretended I needed time to pick one, but I knew it was “I Can Feel Your Love” from the start.
“Run Rabbit Run,” Caleb Nichols
This sounds so dumb and trippy, but this song truly gives me spinal tap or something, and I end up being transported to another time and place. My boy Caleb writes such beautifully constructed pop songs, and the whole of Double Mantasy leaves listeners feeling like cute gay boy love is a part of history! (smiley emoji)
“Holding it Down,” Eric Kufs
Slowing things down, but keeping them sexy af… Mister Eric Kufs. We open the web series with the guitar riff in this song. I was bummed that we couldn’t sneak more of Eric’s syrupy soft vocals into the episode, but hey—vibe with him here!
“Every Single Pleasure,” Exray’s
One of the sweetest guys I met, James, introduced me to the band Exray’s. I was so taken by the kind of casual GFY drawl that Jon Bernson brings to the music. It’s like half-Gorillaz, half-Radiohead, with “Netflix and chill” sprinkled on top. I’m so grateful the guys let me use this song. It fits perfectly with a pretty funny scene in the series.
“17,” Youth Lagoon
My friend Morgan put on this album one afternoon when I came into her office to work on some stuff. I had just been dumped so brutally, and was perpetually on the verge of crying. This song is so sad and beautiful, and vulnerable… I hope I make art this evocative. Even when shit’s hard, you gotta remember some very simple truths you’re taught at a young age: art heals.
“The Voyager,”Jenny Lewis
And here we are, the end. The world now looks a bit darker after everything we’ve seen and done, but that invites a more clear-minded perspective of the past behind us and the journey ahead. Life’s a little sad, but life should always be beautiful. That’s what Jenny’s music has meant to me since I was 14.