Hold On Tight, Darling: Amanda Palmer Interviewed

Photo credit: Khan & Selesnick

The voice is everything.

At the heart of every culture war, every lover’s discourse, every dissection of privilege and power, we are irresistibly drawn back to the question of who is heard or not heard, the politics of who shouts the loudest and who is kept silent.

“I’m not gonna match you,” Amanda Palmer once sang on ‘Ampersand’, a paean to the importance of retaining your own identity, “’cause I’ll lose my voice completely.” On the 16th June 2015, the day that Donald Trump announced to the world that he would be running for US president, Palmer was already anticipating a new voice shaping the next chapter of her life. Her son would be born exactly three months later.

It wouldn’t be the last time that a major political event juxtaposed with personal events in the artist’s life; more recently, her new album ‘There Will Be No Intermission’ was recorded as the Kavanaugh trial was playing out across the world. “We were literally glued to our phones in between takes, watching this cosmic battle of the sexes play out in Washington DC,” she tells me over the phone from upstate New York. “I’ll never be able to separate those events, the way I’ll never be able to separate the arrival of my child and the arrival of Donald Trump in my life; they showed up in my life at the same time.”

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In Conversation: Calpurnia

 

“That Calpurnia led a modest double life never dawned on me. The idea that she had a separate existence outside our household was a novel one…”

As the black matriarch in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Calpurnia seems light years away from the four teenage kids from Vancouver who carry her name. They’re young in a modern way, as one would hope: still goofy and wild, still piecing the world together between gym class and Fortnite. Nonetheless, just as Scout becomes fascinated with the scenes beyond her housekeeper’s gaze, the band have had to negotiate the world’s obsession with their own second lives.

After bringing their first singles together with two new tracks for a debut collection titled – what else? – ‘Scout EP’, the quartet are starting to get attention for all the right reasons. They’ve been picked up by Canadian indie label Royal Mountain, with Transgressive covering distribution across the UK and Europe. Their live shows are getting hot reviews across the board. Weezer even tweeted to say how much they loved the band’s cover of ‘Say It Ain’t So’. In other words, they’re proving to be a whole lot more than a casual side-project for their lead singer, Hollywood actor and Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard.

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We Love EU: Any Other

 

The lover’s body is a constant source of fascination, but most of all when it is beyond touch, almost beyond memory. What is it about the physical terrain of the body that demands geographical expression? “I have flown the distance of your body from side to side of your ivory coast,” Jeanette Winterson wrote. “I know the forests where I can rest and feed. I have mapped you with my naked eye and stored you out of sight.” At the end of a relationship, as borderlines smudge and X-marked treasures are erased from sight altogether, we long for the stability of those lines. On Two, Geography, the second album from Italian artist Any Other, they remain painfully unfixed.

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“I’m not afraid to be vulnerable”: DiS Meets Half Waif

 

Sifting through the embers of a year, extinguished across all but a few scattered patches of colour or warmth, we find ourselves longing for either the fire or the ash. To remember the vibrancy of our hurts as brightly as the healing pleasures that allayed them, however briefly; or else to stub it out, to usher in the comfort of a charcoal totality that doesn’t hurt this much. Listening to ‘Lavender Burning’, the heartbreaking introduction to what might be Half Waif’s first masterpiece, neither suffices. It is a record that lives and breathes the ‘strange kind of loving’ that occupies the embers, the infinite split between love and loss.

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“I’m always a little surprised when we make a new record”: DiS Meets Yo La Tengo

 

Drums are fading in. In film soundtracks, the immediate crash of cymbals is never cause for concern, but an arrival of known quantities; the singularity has passed, the explosions are here, chaos reigns. It’s the fade that unsettles, that sweeping sense that war is on the horizon. Yo La Tengo have just made a record called There’s A Riot Going On, and by the time opening number ‘You Are Here’ has swung into full view – by the time the record begins to show its hand – you realise this is, in fact, the most relentlessly serene the band have sounded since Summer Sun. The riot is elsewhere.

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Storming, Thundering, Lightning: The Elemental Properties of Zola Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earlier in the year, Nika Roza Danilova was working on a new piece of music while a thunderstorm raged outside. The artist, who has just released her fifth album as Zola Jesus, has often been described in terms more befitting a mage or sorcerer: critics talk of her exorcising demons, casting spells, illuminating the nighttime that her songs invariably arrive cloaked in. On that night, it appears she channelled the elements in a more literal fashion.

“I don’t know, maybe you know more about physics and electricity than me,” she offers, incorrectly. “But I was in my house, and it was storming, thundering, lightning outside, and I was working on this piece. So I leaned over and I touched my desk, and all of a sudden my whole body got this jolt of electricity. It didn’t even just course through me, it was like my brain got shocked.” After the year she’s had, and the fulminating qualities of new record ‘Okovi’, it feels like a prescient moment.

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This Ain’t A Scene: Clash Meets Diet Cig

 

Let’s get one thing straight: Diet Cig do not care for your bullshit.

Specifically, they have no interest in your studied, angular math-rock poses, your immaculately dishevelled stage presence, your boys’ own preconceptions about what does and does not qualify as punk. They do not have time in the day for anything that reeks of the patriarchy, from the President down to your friend Joel, who’s actually, you assure us, a really nice guy. They bet he is. Most of all – and it may be difficult for them to stress this enough – they do not care about your band. They feel they made this abundantly clear on ‘Scene Sick’, and would politely ask you to refer back to that song for further instruction.

And yet, there’s an awful lot that they do care about. Alex Luciano, human firecracker and Diet Cig frontwoman, cares about making things better. She talks of establishing their live shows as safe spaces, and the positivity that can be conducted on those nights. She tells me that being in a band, or even just going to see one, is a “radical act” in itself today. Noah Bowman, the band’s drummer and “chill” counterweight to Luciano’s nervous energy, cares about how awesome that Pinegrove record was. (We still love it too.) Both of them care about their hometown of New Paltz, New York, but they care about soaking up as much of the world as they can, too.

The duo took some time out to speak to Clash about their forthcoming debut album, ‘Swear I’m Good At This,’ and Alex made some loud karate noises in between. By the end of the call, we cared the shit out of Diet Cig.

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