Confessions of a Dave Matthews Superfan


Samantha Irby is one of the funniest writers on this planet. She’s an essayist and screenwriter whose television credits include And Just Like That…, Work In Progress, and Tuca & Bertie. She is also a huge Dave Matthews Band fan; her new book, Quietly Hostile, includes a thirteen-page exegesis entitled “Dave Matthews’ Greatest Romantic Hits.” It’s some of the best, liveliest rock criticism you’ll read all year—a celebration of Matthews as a writer and singer of love songs that doubles as a passionate defense of Matthews himself. “Why am I forced to petition on this man’s behalf,” Irby asks at one point, “like he’s my son filming himself playing the recorder and I need him to get some likes, and not a person who has won multiple Grammys?” Before writing my profile of Matthews, which you can read here and in GQ’s summer issue, I got on the phone with Irby to discuss the Tao of Dave. The following is an edited and condensed version of that conversation. 

GQ: I’ll start by saying I love this essay you wrote about Dave’s love ballads. It’s a reminder that a song is not finished until it’s heard and in some way used by people in their actual lives. And you ground everything you’re saying about this music in your actual life, which is the only thing that’s really of value to do in music criticism. But you start the essay by emphasizing that your Dave fandom is not a bit. You actually swear to the reader that you’re not doing a bit. 

Samantha Irby: [laughing] Okay…

Why did you feel the need to preface it that way?

SI: Because it’s been my experience that, when I say to someone that I’m really into Dave Matthews, they’re always, like, waiting for the punchline. And I’m like, No, no, no—like, I would commit murder for him. This is real. Part of it is like, I’m a joke-monkey [as a writer], so everyone thinks that everything I say could be a joke, but also it’s because people don’t look at me and think I like music like Dave’s. And it’s true—I would never go to a jam-band, stand-in-the-mud kind of show. I would never fuckin’ do that. But, I will sit alone in my car and, y’know, weep. But yeah. People always think I’m clowning around, so I have to be like, No—here’s a deep cut that I’ve memorized. Do you believe me now? And then they’re like, I can’t believe you, but I will.

Are we talking about proving it to other fans of Dave, here, or just people in general? 

First of all, let me just say that I don’t even feel like I know, personally, any Dave Matthews fans. I feel like I know people who could sing “Ants Marching,” kind of, if it came on the radio, but I don’t know people who listen to his music. So I’m talking regular people—like my friends, like my agent. I told him I wanted to expand on a thing I wrote in my newsletter about Dave Matthews and he was like, For what? For the book? He was like, That’s a thing you would like to tell America? And I was like, Bitch, yes. And then I wrote it. He couldn’t believe that I was going to, like, go public

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