At the beach, the New Zealander asks me, What are your musical influences? I am someone who has just been dropped in a tall well, and coming up for air, finds herself speechless. Influences? I guess I don’t have any. Then I muster a tepid, Bjork? receiving a nod of encouragement. I rack my brain. Kristin Hersch, from Throwing Muses? Her name doesn’t ring a bell for him, nor does the slow trickle of names that take leave of my brain. All those 4AD bands – Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil, all that dreamy and gothic stuff I go nuts for. In an attempt at solidarity he suggests, The Cure? Sure, but I’m on to more obscure bands – The Raincoats, for instance. When I mention their Englishness, he starts listing English bands – Radiohead, David Bowie. Yeah, I guess I’m into female voices. Like PJ Harvey, her ability to continually transform herself. Like Bowie, but more significant to me because of her femaleness. Amy Winehouse. I like female artists that stand on their own, that don’t fit into a category because they are a category onto themselves.
I head to my bicycle, then while I twist the combination lock, it hits me. My favorite album of all time, written by a 16 year old New Zealander, Heroine by Lorde. I rush back to the beach to share this parcel, this newly gleaned insight! He’s never heard the record, I gush over it, her lyricism, the coming-of-age perceptive, which lives in me, how Lorde taps into that specific ageless female experience. He struggles to come up with another famous New Zealander. Crowded House? No, it’s Lorde and Lorde alone. He says he’ll listen to the album when he gets home. I pedal away filled with the pantheon of my influences jostling for stage time in my sun-drenched, grateful brain.
The putting together of this project/ feels so analogue and piecemeal/ not at all peaceful/ her friend says to record it when the feeling hits
It’s strange to listen back.
It’s 1995, I’m living at the Parkside, 19th & Aloha. I’ve taken to writing poems on tiny white pads of paper. In my mind, they’re just frenzied mental notes, slated for the scrap-pile. One day I press record on my Sony Walkman and speak the bits into the room. Later, I listen back. The thing that hit my ears is astounding – polished and confident! I’m ashamed that I had thought so lowly of my scribbles. They’ve morphed into something real, something worthy of existing! Now I have something I have an obligation towards, something to preserve and protect. I stash the cassette in a box and later find the tape has tangled with another tape and must be cut. I keep the damaged tape for some time, but eventually throw it out, tired of seeing it un-mended.
Flash forward to March 27, 2018. I soak in the tub and listen back to a recording on my phone. It’s rough. I’m playing a few coarse chords on the piano and singing words from my journal about the impossibility of capturing the essence of the moment. Body submerged, the sounds coalesce. The content strikes me as raw, yet perfect. Once it’s in my ears, I know it has become a thing that will hold up for me, that I’ll expect. That I’ll defend. If I hadn’t recorded it, I wouldn’t give it the time of day. The recording makes a claim on my memory, fixes it in my brain as something worth saving. What is behind my fascination with first takes? Is it blind obedience, or something higher, something approaching grace?
And now ladies and gentlemen. . . we’ve reached the halfway mark on our Love Ride!
And just to show that it’s not all fun and games, I’m gonna drop it down and play a demo I recorded in Fall of 2013. The later version of this song has all sorts of bells and whistles – but I think the early version possesses its own quiet Beauty. And speaking of Beauty, have you ever noticed how those dark moments of the soul become hinges that let more light into your life than you ever thought possible?
This song takes me to the ocean really. It breezes along, actually I used to think of it as a bit Beach Boy-ish in melody and mood.
So why did I match this song with Disillusion, which my dictionary says, refers to an instance of disenchantment?
Let’s go back to the shore, the waves. It’s magical, right? But the ground isn’t really solid, it’s composed of billions of shifting particles, granules of mountains. And the horizon, your point of reference, what is it but vapor molecules condensing and evaporating? Likewise, anything or anyone you cling to is liable to switch allegiances with the waxing, waning moon.
Still, the beach is a treat, it’s ample balm for the divesting of illusions. As is this song – whose catalyst is just about washed clean from my memory. . .
In every love affair, no matter how lofty or diseased, there comes a time for subterfuge. What does this mean? My dictionary defines subterfuge as: 1. a statement or action resorted to in order to avoid blame or defeat; 2. a place to which a person escapes, a retreat, a refuge; 3. a thing which provides concealment, a cloak.
But isn’t love supposed to be transparent, all-revealing? Aren’t secrets to be avoided at all costs? My experience begs to differ. I’m not talking giant gaping secrets that rupture the foundation on which lovers stand. I’m talking tiny rebellions that sprout at one’s feet like errant dandelions or pop up in dreams as unruly fantasies, too vital to be puffed away into oblivion. These are the gems that one can channel into dance, poetry, music – covert arts in which the obscene serves us, obscurely, without obstructing our ability to coincide.
Of course, subterfuge can also be a call to action. . .
Why does ecstasy fill us up and deplete us in succession? We can never get enough, so we go to our chosen church saying: I’m afraid I’ll come to nothing, is it necessary to be reborn again and again? I just need someone to embrace me in my contradictions and my complications, someone to compliment me, someone to complement the perfection that constantly confounds me.
The sensuality of the word rhododendron first occurred to me when I used it for Vlodoya’s speech in A Warehouse Dream, the way it rolled melodiously off Vlodoya’s tongue. Years later I wrote a love song on my lunch break to this same species. What does it imply to sing, “you are the flower with the almighty power! I don’t mind a spring shower, we’ll spend hour after hour. . .” ? The craving for communion springs eternal.
As a child, I once visited my dad’s friend’s family. I think there were three kids and in the basement the man had carved out a workspace for each child out of wood and chicken wire. That image stayed with me which is perhaps why as an adult warehouse life resonated with me! The notion of being secure in one’s own creative world and yet surrounded and stimulated by other creative humans is an artist’s dream!
This song, written two decades ago, has several layers: it’s about having a surprise crush; it’s also about the joys of collaboration – finding the best friend or soul mate or killer roommate whose box of tricks has a keyhole in which your key, the one you’ve worn around your neck all these years, turns easily. Inside the box are photographs, you take one back to your desk and gazing at it, begin your story, which turns into the story of Us. . .
Here’s an admission: I may be a bit of a wallflower, but my little red journals are chock full of flirtation. I always thank my lucky stars for writing. Something about those scribbly vowels and stretchy consonants, sprinkled through with spry commas and peppery periods, that makes me feel, well, flirtatious. I guess you could call it my guilty pleasure.
Wordplay, unlike much foreplay, is so portable. And who can deny the thrill of saying “now I’m drinkin’ all this lilac wine with an urchin slurpin’ turpentine, you know you’re never gonna be my valentine!” C’mon, you know you wanna. . .