Conversation with Will Hart

Early demo tapes from Neutral Milk Hotel were sprinkled with various non-musical interludes, such as noisy freakouts and bizarre dialogue recordings. This track is of the latter, featuring a curious conversation between two friends. When mp3s of the track first appeared online, it was labeled "Conversation With Robert Schneider". It turns out, however, that the person talking with Jeff isn't Robert but rather Will Cullen Hart.

Robert himself attested to that fact in a 2005 message board post:

hey-- a friend forwarded me this transcript and an mp3 of the conversation-- the mp3 i got is very low quality and jeff, will hart, and i all kind of sound alike so i can see why there is confusion-- i sometimes can't tell who is singing on our old recordings--

the parts of this conversation attributed to me (robert schneider) are actually will hart, and this is definitely the case-- the other half of the conversation does sound like jeff mangum--

i think this conversation probably was around when we were all 19 or 20, like 1989 or 1990-- i didn't live in ruston at this time, and it is possible this took place when will and jeff first moved to athens.

i feel like i might hear myself in the background (perhaps on a visit), but i am not one of the two conversationalists quoted in the transcript.

so the lines attributed to "schneider" should be changed to "hart" in the name of historical accuracy.

-- robert schneider

Beauty demo tape

Also Known As
"Conversation with W. Cullen Hart"


Mangum: But we fucked up that remedial English class because we were smoking pot.
Hart: Not in college.
Mangum: Right
Hart: We can't move onto college can we? Now we are not in college are we?
Mangum: So how do you move on to that new place to shop if you haven't taken that remedial English class and you got a piece to the puzzle that won't fit together and your parents are like... eating blood wafers?
Hart: Grow sideburns.
Mangum: Sideburns?
Hart: They really help.
Mangum: Really?
Hart: Yeah, they give you that distinctive look.
Mangum: Like standing out of the crowd?
Hart: They really do. They really do. And I... that's why I don't think I fit in.
Mangum: Cause you don't have any sideburns?
Hart: I can't grow them. I just... they don't look right, I always cut them off.
Mangum: It's terrible.
Hart: See, the problem is you can't find the puzzle, of the guy watching the Price is Right eating blood wafers.
Mangum: No, I wanted the puzzle to be...
Hart: See, they have one with your family, you just haven't been to the right place, you haven't seen the ones. Makes it easier to put it together when it’s your family members face right there in front of you in puzzle pieces. It's just that you don't know fact, man. But when it's your family... you realize what it's all about.
Mangum: No but see, I bought puzzle with the rat on the treadmill and the farm and the um... um... decapitated goats.
Hart: That’s the problem. You have to get the ones with the wafers, and the bloody trousers, and your family.
Mangum: But I’ve already got all the puzzle pieces stuck together that like are a part of me now that like, I mean, you can’t say… once you like become part of the puzzle piece you can’t really separate yourself from it anymore.
Hart: So that makes you an artist
Mangum: I know but I’ve got to get some more puzzle pieces
Hart: You’re an artist; you make your own pieces. Use wafer. Use pieces of wafer. Use thumbtacks.
Mangum: But what am I going to do with all these weird puzzle pieces that weren’t even supposed to be part of me in the first place. I mean, I try to keep my eyes open. I mean, I tried to, like, I tried to be very aware of what puzzle I was buying. And when I open the box, I tried to be very aware of like the pieces and making sure that all of the pieces were of what was on the box.
Hart: Could I…
Mangum: But then I shoved the pieces together and it was too late. It was like all these disjointed like body figures and stuff and I tried to convince myself that it was a flower, but it was not a flower, man. It was not a flower. And…
Hart: You know why, right? I’m telling you, I know the answer, and it’s this: Do you remember when you were talking about putting the thumb… the push pin..
Mangum: And the blood
Hart: Right, doesn’t it all make sense now?
Mangum: No!
Hart: Did you find… the sideburns? In the puzzle?
Mangum: No.
Hart: They’re in the bottom… they’re taped to the bottom.
Mangum: I’ve got these…
Hart: Can I use them? Can I please staple them on? That is the key!
Mangum: You can do whatever you want. What you don’t understand is… what you don’t understand is that I thought it was a flower, but it wasn’t, okay? It was part of the rat on the treadmill, and it was this dude’s legs watching the Price is Right, okay? It was part of the blender. And I convinced myself for so long that it was a flower. I mean, I spent years and years and years convincing myself that these puzzle pieces added up to a flower, and it wasn’t at all, and then once I woke up I realized… How do I trust other pieces? How do I take new pieces and put them with as much, you know, vigor as I once did, because what if… what if they’re not a flower either? What if they’re just like…
Hart: They've got to be animal pieces. They might be animal pieces. Pieces of goats.
Mangum: That's what I was trying for. There was like a rat and a goat and the whole thing and the goat didn't have any hands.
Hart: And you bought this at Wal-Mart?
Mangum: And that's what I wanted. And that's all I wanted, I mean since I was a kid. Since I was a kid. I mean it just seems...
Hart: And you've never gotten the puzzle together?
Mangum: No.
Hart: Ever?
Mangum: Never. There are all these disjointed pieces that I convinced myself to be flowers.
Hart: You have a serious problem, young man.
Mangum: I know I do, but I don't think I'm much different from anybody else. I bet everybody else has got a bunch of like, pseudo-flowers in their pockets that like are really just pieces of this weird puzzle that aren't supposed to fit together.
Hart: No.
Mangum: I mean I hope I'm not alone in this thing you know?
Hart: You are.
Mangum: Well it sure feels that way. You know when I go to the newsstands and stuff and read the magazines and everybody seems to have their flowers so perfectly put together, you know? Because see what they do is like they can take you in a studio and they can take your photograph and make it look like you've got your pieces puzzled together really well you know? And they can do anything these days. The way you patch it...
Hart: It's all computers; they've got their **** together.
Mangum: Right, they can make it look like you've got your flower together but they really don't. But it makes the people who don't have their flowers together feel really small and insignificant.
Hart: You are, but that's what makes all the difference. You're an artist.
Mangum: But I'm not insignificant because my flower isn't any more pressed together than anybody else’s flower. I mean, and if, I guess if I had a record company or something that could like take my photo and make it look like my flower was together I'd be okay. But I'm not. I don't want to do that because then all these people with no flowers pressed together would be coming to me like, treating me like I was somebody who had my flower put together and I don't and it'd be a big lie. And then I'd be doing Swanson TV dinner ads when I was fifty and I'd be a real schmuck and commit suicide on the Brooklyn Bridge. There wouldn't be much point in that, would it?
Hart: No. You're an artist. I've told you a hundred times. You see, what you, the part that you don't understand... what is there to not understand?
Mangum: I-I...
Hart: It's so hard for me to explain it to you because... see... I see that you… you're a bit off, actually.
Mangum: I'm very off. I didn't realize how off I was until I pulled my pieces of the puzzle out of my pocket and saw it for what it really was.
Hart: Did you try tape?
Mangum: It was stuck together. I wish I could pull them apart. If I could pull them apart they'd be okay but I can't they're stuck together.
Hart: I see.
Mangum: Now I came home and showed it to my folks, really proud of my flower, and that's when I realized...
Hart: You should be in college.
Mangum: I should be in college, yeah, I should be taking...

Back to Neutral Milk Hotel Song Index

The Carrot Flower Kingdom