Musicians tend to spend most of their careers going in circles. For decades, they’ve trod the same tracks that go into making an album: write it, record it, promote it, pull it out, spin it, stop and breathe a little, rehearse. . Really, only something seismic could change it.
Then something did. The monumental and devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the music industry has already been well documented, particularly in relation to the essentially legally mandated shutdown of live music forcing artists to cancel their tours and to cut off an important source of income at source. . Other artists have had to delay their entry into the studio or postpone their albums to better synchronize the release with the eventual return of tours. Yet even now live music is back, release plans are hampered by the current vinyl shortage, meaning artists are forced to choose between delaying the release of the album until vinyl records are released. arrive, or release it digitally and physically at different times.
But if the traditional album cycle is really falling apart, Laura Jane Grace certainly doesn’t mind. “What is the point of adhering to the functioning of the old cycles?” she questions. “Dilatory [the release] music that you are passionate about because there is a year of waiting time for vinyls, it sucks. It’s ridiculous. The immediacy and urgency of the song tends to get lost for me if I have to keep it a secret for that long. It takes away all the fun.
Raising a middle finger at the arbitrary limits of the release cycle, Laura decided that there was no point in putting a wait for new music out when there was no need for it. She then released her latest EP, At war with the silverfish, without warning at the end of September, even abandoning the now standard #NewMusicFriday approach by dropping it mid-week.
This is an appropriate choice for a disc which is arguably the product of the slow destruction of the release cycle. Without the possibility of touring following his solo album Stay alive last year she decided to keep a creative mind and keep writing. “These songs are kind of like misfits,” says Laura. “They didn’t quite match where I saw myself wanting to go for the next album, but at the same time the seven songs together felt cohesive and there were lyrical themes repeating themselves. They just made sense together. I’m not trying to get that huge mission statement off a record right now, I’m just trying to get some music out and keep going mentally because it makes me happy.
At war with the silverfish is, indeed, a product of Lock Life, but never in a particularly obvious way. It wouldn’t be fair to call it a ‘pandemic record’, and it was never Laura’s intention to write one – it was just a distraction from the monotony and gloom. . It became particularly vital during the quarantine periods that she spent completely alone: habit. This program was organized to make sense with the tours, but for six months out of last year I was completely on my own.
Indeed, there is something everlasting about the record’s themes of memory, nostalgia, and illusion, but they all seem particularly relevant to the time it was written. “Even the title At war with the silverfish is an example of how inspiration manifests itself in a pandemic situation, ”says Laura. “I’m an avid collector, I have a ton of books and a ton of vinyls too. Silverfish eat books and cardboard records. If you have massive collections then they are a problem, because you will find them under things, behind things, and it started to become an obsession, staying there the night after the sixth month without leaving your apartment, thinking “I am trapped here with these insects which slowly eat away at my books and my records.”
This train of thought evoked a feeling of the past that was drifting further and further away as the so-called “before the times” became a smaller and smaller point in the distance. “You wonder where life has gone and what happened. »The glossy, richly textured Yesterday pt. II finds Laura almost in disbelief how long it’s been since a lover left her life when it still only looks like a new injury, while the ingenious, brooding title Sufficient face finds her contemplating a similar situation in a more serious state of mind, wondering what she could have done differently. This is a testament to the habit born out of confinement of filling your head with thoughts of the past because the present has come to a standstill and the future is too uncertain to consider.
But that train of thought, of being trapped inside with only insects for company, is reminiscent of the kind of slight madness that accompanies a severe case of cabin fever. It is best captured on Coffee for a day, where the daily ritual of having a cup of coffee to get through the day is transformed into something more morbid: “A day’s coffee in the microwave at a boil, pour it over my eyeballs and boil it.” my stupid brain. Because I never want to hear, think or speak again ”. Indeed, when there is no chance of being able to go out and soak up the inspiration of the world beyond the home, it had to be sought in unexpected places, often more banal. “You look at the day-to-day and you have to find a way to make these things interesting,” says Laura. “It’s more about recognizing that these things are interesting and that they have value and meaning. I guess the artist’s job is to be creative with it.
Of course, given the circumstances, At war with the silverfish was recorded in Laura’s home studio, where, without the constraints of time or money, there was room to move at her own pace and experiment as much as she wanted in a way that working in a conventional studio would not allow. “It’s fantastic, because that’s what creativity wants.” That might not always be the way she will continue to work in the future, is it. Although the “death of the studio” seems to be looming as technology increasingly makes it easier to create music at home, she is no advocate of it and still likes to wander away to hide in a studio in order to experience it. ‘record tracks. At the very least, the option is open, given that both types of studios can offer recordings of similar quality.
Laura is known for playing Rickenbacker guitars throughout her career with Against Me! – “I think these are the coolest guitars ever made.” For her solo music, however, she favored other types of guitars, with their own unique stories. The main electric on At war with the silverfish is a 1964 Jaguar Fender that she dug up from under her bed, where she had stayed, strings unplucked, for nearly two decades. “I picked it up in 2003 from Stan Lynch, [the original drummer from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers]. He had a music store in Gainesville and he sold his personal collection. I’ve never played it, but a few years ago I was like, ‘This is stupid. I’m so precious with this guitar because it’s old but this guitar wants to come out, it wants to rock. It slowly became my favorite guitar in my collection. Her main bass guitar here is a signature Matt Freeman Squier, donated by bassist Rancid himself after playing it while touring with her and Against Me !.
For the acoustic sounds of the album, especially on the opening track Three of hearts, Laura used a Yamaha MT3. “If you’ve ever been to a recording studio, I feel like 95% of them still have that old Yamaha acoustic guitar, and the engineer will be like ‘You should use it to record, no. do not use the acoustics you brought with you. And there is a reason for this! They have very low string noise and record beautifully. This MT3 is a newer model, but it plays like those guitars. There is no string rattle, there is no hair. It’s just a nice guitar.
At war with the silverfish Overall, saw Laura Jane Grace roll with the punches and adapt to the times, turning straw into gold when mainstream group life was temporarily taken away. “I’ve tried, in a lot of ways, to demonstrate to people by continuing to release solo records that I haven’t lost my interest in music,” she says. After all, against me! hasn’t released an album since 2016 Shape change with me, creating a space for hasty conclusions about the future of the group to emerge. Part of that delay is due to the pandemic, with the punks starting work on a new album that had to be put on ice when Covid-19 hit, especially since it was harder to regroup being since they all live in different cities. “That gave us the fuck.” Work has since resumed, however, on new songs.
“The pandemic has taught me the value of momentum,” Laura concludes thoughtfully. Considering the quality and frequency of its release, even without the Against Me! name, it looks like she’s overpowered to continue. And when there’s more music to enjoy, who’s to complain?
Laura jane grace At war with the silverfish is out now.