10. P.O.S., "Fuck Your Stuff" Imagine a bunch of anarchist skate punks…
- Posted on Feb 7th 2012 3:43PM by Cameron Matthews
Coming back to New York, Van Etten had nowhere to go. She couch-surfed around the city before hearing from the National's guitarist Aaron Dessner, who wanted to record the songwriter's newest work. Hunkering down in his backyard studio, the pair began building Van Etten's third full-length, 'Tramp,' a testament to the road-weary singer's past year and a reflection on a love badly spent. With what she calls "a bit of separation and understanding," Van Etten has finally walked away from a mysteriously traumatic past and embraced her bright future.
Spinner spoke with the up-and-coming singer about her Jagjaguar debut, which is out now, her Charlie Chaplin-like sense of humor and whether or not she's all right.
How did you end up working with Aaron on 'Tramp'?
While I was on tour with Megafaun, [guitarist] Brad Cook woke me up to show me a video of [Bon Iver's] Justin Vernon, Aaron and Bryce [Dessner] covering my song 'Love More' at the Cincinnati Music Now festival. I was blown away, because how the hell do they know who I am?
At the end of that tour, I was getting ready to record the album 'Epic' that 'Love More' ended up being on. I decided to write them all, to see if they wanted to be involved on my next record. Everyone was really busy, but Aaron offered up his studio to possibly demo some songs when I had more time and when he was freer. So after touring 'Epic,' I had all these songs in the works. I called Aaron up to see if he was still down for helping me. I brought the demos to the studio and he said, "We don't need to demo this. We can just do the record."
What sort of state were you in before recording 'Tramp'?
I was really displaced. I didn't have anywhere to live. I was crashing with friends. I was really scattered. I was kind of a loon. From touring all the time and coming back home and not having anywhere solid to be, it's really hard to be level headed. I was really sick a lot of the time. I had problems with my throat. I was excited about everything that happened on tour with 'Epic' but it was a very, intense time. That's the short of it.
Now we're going to ask you the long of it.
Go there, man. Let's get heavy.
'Serpents' is a great rocker, really delving into relationship paranoia. Where do those feelings come from?
That song is about trying to be at peace with a relationship in the past. Not everything ends beautifully. Sometimes it takes years to try to find peace and learn from it and be OK with it, to learn how to identify negative feelings without it affecting you, letting yourself be angry at things without taking it out on other people and letting it remain as thoughts and trying to train yourself out of thinking negatively.
The album seems to take an arc from seriously dire straits to recovery. Do you agree with that?
Definitely. I feel like this is the first time that I have had a lot more perspective in my writing. I feel like I've grown as a person. I'm more secure with who I am and my emotions and I'm trying to not be so guarded. I guess I was never super guarded in my lyrics but I was writing from a really broken place on my first record, to getting out of that broken place in my second record. Now, 'Tramp' is looking back. There's a little bit of separation and understanding that I didn't have before.
In 'Give Out' you sing, "You're the reason why I moved to the city and the reason why I'll need to leave." Can you tell us about that?
That was the first time I let myself fall in love again after a really intense five-year relationship. It's OK to have doubts and fears, but you have to let go a little bit if you want to open yourself up again. That song was about moving to New York to try to love again.
Have you been successful?
[Laughs] A few times. I feel like I'm not exactly "a catch" right now. I'm only home two or three months a year with not very much time off. I've met some very wonderful people and nothing has worked out quite yet. Nothing dramatic!
No more drama!
No more drama.
That's good. So you're all right then?
Yeah [laughs]. I write when I'm in a really intense phase and writing it really helps me understand it better. This is the first time a record isn't about one person. It's about a few people and how they've helped me understand myself better. I'm in a really good place.
I'm still figuring out who I am. I'm really not a perfect person. I'm a total nerd and a total klutz. I'm just learning how to figure it out. People say I'll never figure it out, whether it's about who I am or what my music is. But I know I'll always be trying to figure it out.
Who is "the tramp"?
I guess it's me and Aaron. It was mostly me. [Laughs] When you think of it, I'm a total goofball. I'm a Charlie Chaplin tramp. As far as being homeless, I was a tramp. With touring, I was tramping around. I looked up the word when I was considering it for the album title and the original definition is "to be homeless." Either in New Zealand or Australia, it means "to camp" and "to travel." I'm a total physical comic like Charlie Chaplin, and because I write about love and it's about more than one person, I think people would laugh at the word "tramp." It's my own quiet joke. I feel like when a man is called "tramp" it's more endearing than calling a woman a tramp. I decided to kind of own it a little bit.