The second track on the album was inspired by bathroom graffiti. Several years ago I was doing...something at Bar Matchless in Greenpoint. The ellipsis is not intended to indicate nefarious behavior. I sincerely don’t remember why I was there, and if something terrible had happened I’m sure I wouldn’t have allowed myself to forget it. At any rate, someone had Sharpied one of the walls with the sentence “The Revolution Will Be Art Directed”. I thought it was funny, and I wrote it down.
This song is about ambition and desire for change, and the fears that hold us back. In a delightful bit of meta-irony I'm having difficulty expressing the influences and emotions behind the lyrics because I'm scared I won't be able to articulate them properly. I'm an intensely neurotic person who questions her own attitudes and perceptions all the time, and sometimes I wonder how much of my life is genuine and how much is "just for show." If I speak out, if I rebel, is it because I am a revolutionary or because I want to be perceived as such? Does it matter what my motivations are if the end result is the same? And how much good am I really doing anyway, when most of my interactions are within an internet echo chamber?
I don't know the answer to any of these questions. The song ends with a repeated "when I rise up", which could be a promise or a threat depending on what you think of my motives. Either way, given how difficult it was for me to write this blog post I doubt you'll have anything to worry about any time soon.
I’m having a rough year, friends. I don’t think I’ve ever had this many ups and downs in so short a time span. I finished an album back in January, intending to release it in June. Now it’s September. Oops.
I kept delaying this release because I’m really proud of this album. I made it with the crazy talented producer Nate Jasensky, and amazing musicians Max Tholenaar-Maples, Carl Limbacher and Wells Albritton. It’s the most punk thing I’ve ever written while still hearkening back to my roots as a Sondheim-obsessed theater youth. I wanted to give it a proper roll out.
My shit is still decidedly not together, no word yet on when it might be. I’ve decided that if the stars won’t align for the perfect album release I might as well fucking do it now. Or rather, two months from now. The album is called Cinemascope, and it will be released on November 18th, 2016. I’ll put it on the internet, and you can stream or buy it. Please buy it. I’m unemployed.
Here’s the cover art. Look how cool this is! My sister Clara Cavins took the notes “red?” and “I don’t know, like old timey horror movies I guess?” and made this cool thing. Take a moment to bask in its glory:
When I started writing this album, I wanted to do something different than what I had done previously. I took a look at some of my older songs and realized that the lyrics describe feelings rather than scenes. I decided I wanted to write lyrics that created pictures in people’s minds, so the listener can visualize what’s happening throughout the album. This idea eventually morphed into movies, and I decided that every song would have a corresponding film genre (more on that in the weeks to come). The songs tell stories about women who are trying to squeeze themselves into “correct” personalities as laid out by films and tv: Strong Female Character, Romantic Lead, Other Woman, and so on. In each song someone is squeezing into a role that isn’t quite right, because none of these prescribed roles are realistic in the actual world. If this intrigues you, watch this space: in the leadup to the release, I plan to self-indulgently babble about the influences behind each of Cinemascope’s ten tracks. Starting with this one:
“Smoke Is Rising,” the album opener, was my first exercise in writing visually. The lyrics tell the story of a woman who has set herself on fire. After every verse she claims to be “visible for miles”; she’ll be gone at the end of the song but for this brief time she is the star. This song pre-dates the film genre concept, but you can imagine my delight when I realized how nicely the jazzy piano arrangement evokes Film Noir (way to go, past me). This wannabe femme fatale is destroying herself for attention, desperate to set herself apart from “other girls.” She’s doing a terrible job though, as nothing could be more ordinary than a woman ruining parts of herself for the benefit of others (I speak from experience). While this narrative is hardly intended as aspirational, I do think there’s value in (metaphorically) burning shit to the ground every now and then. Not for pity or for the spotlight, but for an opportunity to start again at zero.
If you’ve seen us live in the past year you’ve heard most of the songs on this record, but not this one. I don’t play this one live because I already have to bring a guitar to and from my house and bringing an additional instrument for one song would be, you know, dumb. If you like, here is the first demo of “Smoke Is Rising,” recorded on GarageBand in 2010. I was living in a studio in Brooklyn for less than a grand a month, wearing a wig to work because management hated my scarlet hair, and making peace with the mouse who lived in my stove. I was 27 and still clinging to a life that had already left me behind. I hadn’t started setting fires.