Back in 2011 Jon Lajoie did not give a fuck. The Canadian comic, actor and musician was enjoying one of The League’s most successful seasons as stoner-bro Taco MacArthur, and his song “Fuck Everything” seemed like a pretty funny—and fairly accurate—depiction of that sentiment.
Lajoie, who had been writing and releasing comedy songs for four years already, successfully parodied rap culture in the song’s accompanying video. With a black beanie, black muscle tank, big bling, and mean mug, Lajoie flailed his arms and rapped about all the shit people care about before the auto-tuned chorus hit: “I don’t give a fuck. Fuck everyone and fuck everything!”
Calling from Los Angeles a few hours before a band rehearsal, Lajoie explains that while “Fuck Everything” was obviously a joke, he was usually able to create an emotional buffer through his comic persona. “I’ve played the ‘I don’t give a shit, I don’t give a fuck, I don’t care. I’m not invested in whatever.’ It’s allowed me to float through life in a really comfortable bubble of numbness,” he says, upturning his intonation like a question.
“Part of it is necessary,” he continues. “And then part of it I realized I’d gone really far to the extreme of completely being detached from the work that I was saying, or at least emotionally detached from it.
“Maybe part of it is just being me,” he muses. “And part of it is being a sensitive human living in L.A. where the idea of actually having your heart on your sleeve is so insane here because of the pain and rejection that comes with living out here.”
Music has been both an interest and a refuge for Lajoie since growing up in a suburb of Montreal. As the third oldest of nine children in a Christian Pentecostal household, he first encountered music in the church. It didn’t really stick—he didn’t enjoy the music lessons he took—but after he graduated from Dawson’s College, he played in a band for about three years.
By the time The League debuted on FX in 2009, Lajoie was already making music out of ridiculous situations. Online, he had already posted songs like “High As F#%k” and “Show Me Your Genitals” with millions of views. He owned the sweet spot between Flight of the Conchords’ silliness and The Lonely Island’s exaggerated douchebaggery.
On the show, he recalls, “They would throw something at me like a fear boner and I could come up with music and something that’s hopefully catchy and enjoyable to listen to. That was always my favorite thing to do, regardless of if it was comedy or not.”
When Lajoie first started to write songs not based on his comic sketches, however, he still relied on old defense mechanisms. One idea for a solo project was to write an entire concept album with songs written from the perspectives of supporting characters of movie sequels, like the pigeon lady from Home Alone 2 and the stepfather in Terminator 2. It was “a great way to make serious music without it being serious,” he begins, “but inevitably, I was just writing about myself and projecting all of myself onto these minor characters in movies.”
A few of those songs actually made it onto Lajoie’s debut serious music album under the moniker Wolfie’s Just Fine (which may or may not be a subtle reference to a scene in Terminator 2) called I Remembered but Then I Forgot. Ultimately, the 10-track album is founded on personal stories. Lajoie writes about his first bout with unrequited love (“Marie-Eve”) and his traumatic experience watching a horror movie for the first time (“A New Beginning”).
Channeling a confessional Nick Drake vibe, Lajoie picks apart moments from his youth that helped create the person he is today. Without navel-gazing, he manages to peer behind the walls he initially constructed to protect himself in order to figure out why he did so in the first place. Exposing that vulnerability, he notes, was both intentional and terrifying.
Working with producer Joe Corcoran and the highly touted Pacific Northwest engineer/mixer Phil Ek (Built to Spill, The Shins, Band of Horses), Lajoie can still hide behind his music a little bit. Recorded in the converted meat locker of Echo Park’s Station House studio, I Remembered but Then I Forgot still sounds sonically raw, but the album also flows easily. Acoustic guitar work provides the bedrock of each song while electric guitars, piano plinking, and vocal harmonies build structures consistent with contemporary folk-rock falling between Rayland Baxter and M. Ward. It makes for an easy, enjoyable listen before realizing the weight of the honest lyrics.
Yet, even while writing, Lajoie tried to escape the inevitable Blood on the Tracks-level emotional weight. “Every step of the way,” he says, “I was like, ‘How do I add a fart sound? How do I make it so that people at the end of the album go, ‘Oh! I get it!’”
Now that I Remembered but Then I Forgot is out in the wild, Lajoie isn’t sure where it will take him. He feared “hate and backlash from trolls,” but hasn’t suffered it. He hopes to tour as Wolfie’s Just Fine, but also doesn’t want to rush it. He considers, “If this is going to be its own thing and it’s going to find its audience, then—from my experience on the internet—it needs some time. And if it’s not, I don’t want to go on tour as Wolfie’s Just Fine and disappoint people because it’s not much Jon Lajoie or Taco stuff.”
It’s a balance for Lajoie, and like his lead single dictates, “It’s a Job.” And as much as he would rather add a fart joke or wear a costume, Wolfie’s Just Fine is probably the most honest persona that Lajoie has shared with us.
“So yes,” he admits. “That was a long-winded answer to tell you that yes. I do give a fuck.”