by Rob Scott
It seems that your latest album United Crushers is lyrically your bleakest record, but musically your most uplifting. Was that a conscious decision or did that juxtaposition develop naturally as you were writing and recording? Thinking about this question, the first thing I thought about is the imprint Ryan and I leave on the record. Ryan is the music and I am the lyrics. It is a glimpse into how we are opposites attracted; a musical yin yang and that’s heard most vibrantly on United Crushers. Sometimes the moods meet in the middle and sometimes they need each other for balance in their opposites.
United Crushers has been widely described as a ‘political record’ or a ‘protest album’. What’s more important for you as a musician — the lyrics and the message they deliver, or the sound of the music? Both and the same. Try to make everything true, beautiful and worthy of people’s time. Every song has a message - what type will you write? Everything song is selling something - what will I sell? I write about the human condition; as much as that is about love and love breaking it is also about violence, war and greed.
As an American, what are your thoughts on the upcoming presidential election? Fear is a liar and this election is grounded in fear so we have a couple bunch of liars to choose from. I want to hear one of the candidates talk about the stopping the construction of the Dakota Pipeline, getting American troops out of endless wars and reforming the criminal justice system. Right now it’s all about the circus and the joke is on the people.
You were heavily pregnant whilst working on United Crushers. How did the experience of pregnancy affect your creative process and the content of the album? We made it through and we are all the wiser. Motherhood and pregnancy are overtaking, as they should be when you are making a person who can thrive in this planet—but it’s overtakes! Now I’m finding myself again and excited to be back on the stage.
Although your music with Poliça is primarily synthpop, you started out as a folk musician. Do you think folk has any influence on the music you create now? I still write like a folk singer; songs of heartache and longing. I’m melody driven and lyrically realist and in the tradition of folk music I sing to save my soul and guide the way.
In 2013 you released the song Tiff, a collaboration with Justin Vernon from Bon Iver. What do you think of his new album? Hand claps all the way. Ryan Olson worked on the record with Justin so the songs were playing in our house through the making of the record. I’m inspired by Justin’s lyrical style and his technical inventiveness. He continues to challenge himself and but stays grounded in this who he knows himself to be. I look up to the way he knows how he wants the world to see him; that’s a difficult thing to know.
What artists are you enjoying at the moment? Abra, Helena Hauff, Fog, Task Force, Boys Noize, Kill The Vultures…
You said in an interview with DIY Magazine that you saw this album as your “last chance.” What did you mean by that? I did that interview a couple months after giving birth. I was completely overwhelmed, without sleep and I would say pretty blue. I don’t know what it means besides I felt the world was on my shoulders and I didn’t think I could hold it anymore. Ask me now and I wouldn’t know what in the hell I was talking about.
The album opens with the declaration that “it’s all shit”, and yet the song’s title, Summer Please, has a glimmer of hope. In a world where “it’s all shit” is a fairly universal sentiment, where do you see the hope for the future coming from? It’s a plea to summer… the contradiction of the warm happy sun and bullet holes. The hope is in the kids; hope is in their rebellion.