After putting out a very convincing debut album, touring a lot and appearing on great festival stages, Lucy Dacus is back in the studio to record her next album. This is our chance to get back to when we met this very talented young woman and had a chat on a terrace not far from Bastille.
Maybe we are just getting to know it in Europe, we’ve noticed a new alternative rock scene emerging in the US with Julien Baker, Pinegrove, The Hotelier, Phoebe Bridgers and so many more.
Do you identify with this scene?
All my favorite! Julien Baker and Pinegrove specifically because I’ve met them and they are really great people. So yes, I identify with them because they’ve put out records in the past year and they’re touring a lot and we’re all kind of young. So it’s nice to talk to each other and figure out if all of this is weird, how crazy this life is and how new it is to us. Our record came out in September, we’ve been touring heavily since March (2016) so it’s been hard to adjust. It feels great to be a part of something and all these bands are really hard working. They are the type of band that just don’t stop and I feel like it is what we are doing as well.
There are more and more prominent female artists such as Sharon Von Etten, Courtney Barnett, Agnes Obel, Savages, Angel Olsen and more. Do you think that female artists are getting more empowerment in the music industry?
I think that outlook is very positive. It is weird to get asked about how it’s like to be a female in the music industry. I think that is a stupid question because it creates the separation between men and women, it’s like asking “what is it like to be a lesser member of the music industry?”. But the way you’ve asked is something different, which is happening. I totally see that, I see tons of awesome women making music like Big Thief, which is one of my favorite bands right now. Mitski is incredible, Magaret Glaspy, of course Julien Baker. I’ve made a playlist of the best lady musicians right now in my opinion and I think women are kind of kicking butt right now.
How did your debut album ‘No Burden’ happen
and how do you feel about it?
Basically I was a solo artist and I didn’t intend to make a record but Jacob Blizzard, our guitarist went to a music school and had to make a project, he asked if I had enough songs and I said “sure” so we wrote all the parts in 3 or 4 days before recording. We recorded the whole album in one day and we thought we’d just give it to our family and friends but once it was finished we thought it deserved a better treatment than that. So we asked ourselves “How do people do that? How do people put out records? Should we talk to label? How do you talk to a label?” and googling, asking other people who’ve done it. It wasn’t our original intention to be a band but it has worked out pretty well.
I’m glad this album exists and I’ve learned a lot. I think the next record will be a lot more intentional. I wrote all the songs to play solo and I didn’t think about drums and the instrumentation. Now I write songs and think “oh, strings will be here” and “that should be the bass line” or “we need to all come in or come out”, the whole dynamics are a bigger part of the song writing for the next album.
Do you write while touring?
Yes but it’s harder though because I don’t control most of my writing, which is kind of scary because what if one day it stops? It usually happens when I’m just walking and I don’t get a lot of time to myself on tour. We are all in a little van, I’m within a foot of someone else at all time of life so it’s more difficult to write. Usually I come home and write a lot but while we’re on the road it’s hard.
What were your major influences for ‘No Burden’?
Again, I didn’t intend to become part of a band and to see this as a career so I’ve never been intentionally taking from other people. But I think subconsciously, I’m really influenced by Bruce Springsteen mostly because my dad is the number one fan and he plays it at my house a lot! But also Springsteen’s song writing is really simple and clear, he has such good imagery and he’s not the only person that I listen to but I think he’s one of the best songwriters. I used to hate him just because, you know, my dad likes his band and I thought his voice is not very good. I hated it because I was a little punk but after listening to him a lot, you have to admit that the songs are evocative… so it means a lot.
Are you inspired by literature as well?
Oh my gosh, probably. Again I’m not super conscious of my inspirations but I do read all the time. I can feel myself being inspired by Anna Karenina, which I’m reading, and the conflicts in the way Tolstoy writes. It is kind of tortured and I’ve always liked people who could exist in that realm of indecision and artistically express indecision really well. So I feel really connected to that book.
And how would you describe your music in just a few words?
Oh no! This is hard because I don’t know what to say about the genre: singer-songwriter, you think about Joni Mitchell, someone with an acoustic guitar even though I’m a singer and a songwriter. And when you say rock music, you think like Bon Jovi or something and it is not that either. I guess the closest is indie but what does indie even mean? That’s an alternative, not a really defined genre, so it’s hard to just give it a word. But what I hope my music is honest.
So the question of genre is not important for you to define?
It is not important I think. I’ve met some people who are interested in bending genres and so they work from the inside and want to change and suppress boundaries. And I think it’s cool. But if you don’t even think about the boundaries maybe you land somewhere outside of them. I think more genuine work would be made if people weren’t confined to a genre. Bon Iver is an example of someone who will make work whatever the genre, from him to be the little folk dude to this electronic musician. His new record is crazy and I don’t even know if I get it yet. Some people are angry about that because they want him to be in one genre but he is allowing himself to make the work he cares about. So as long as you care about what you make, it doesn’t matter what genre it is.
So do you think that rock’n’roll is dead?
No! Of course not! Well, I’ve just been on this whole tirade about how genres don’t matter, so maybe I believe that genres should be less important. But I know people who totally embody rock’n’roll. Our driver and tour manager is rock’n’roll. He doesn’t even play music but he is rock’n’roll, he is more rock’n’roll than me. He’s got these two earrings in one ear, bald head, big beard. Rock’n’roll is a persona that you can see in someone and say “yeah they’re rock’n’roll” ; but also there are people who are bending that like for instance Pinegrove. I don’t know if a lot of people think they’re rock’n’roll. I think they are just because they play something that is close to rock music and they’re committed to it. It’s that idea of commitment to the music making and finding value in it. There are a lot of rock’n’rollers who don’t agree with me and think that it doesn’t matter, “music whatever”, that I-don’t-care mentality. But you have to care. So again I don’t know if rock’n’roll is dead but maybe it doesn’t have a unified definition.
And maybe that is why it’s still alive… How is the tour going?
It’s been wild. We found out the first day that we didn’t have any records with us and we sometimes didn’t have the right gear because we left it some place else. It’s really cool though, we’re driving so we actually get to see the countries that we’re going through. Our bassist and our drummer have never been to Europe, I think they’ve only been to Canada and maybe Mexico but it’s easy from the US. It’s a huge experience beyond just the music itself, to see what all these places are like. In the States when you go place to place, everything is mostly the same, you have the same chain restaurants, the same language, the same basic structure of a city, everything was build in the last hundred years or less. And here, in Barcelone, Paris, Gent, in the UK, all the cities are so different so it’s like whiplash to take it in.
What do you think of the European audience,
is it different from the US?
I don’t know if it’s different but there have been crowds bigger than I expected because we played festivals. People are very obviously engaged. Very often in the US you play at a venue that is also a bar and some people are there for the bar and not for your music. And even if it’s only a venue, they come to be social. And that’s not bad because music is incredible in the way it brings people together and you want to talk to your friends you came with. I get it, I’m not offended by it. But in Europe, I’d see people really turning and listening. People still talk sometimes but when I get quiet, everyone else gets quiet and tends to listen to you. It is so respectful. People had warned me and excitedly told me about it: “they’re really going to listen”. So yeah, there is a difference I think. I love it when people listen because our music is more about the words so if you’re talking you won’t fully understand.
You’ve been part of very exciting festivals’ line-ups like SXSW, End Of the Road and Pitchfork Paris.
Was it somehow special to play in Paris?
Well, it’s in Paris so it’s special because of that. The Grande Halle is very big. We played big places opening for other bands in the US, I would have been very intimidated and scared to play in front of a very large crowd a year ago but when you do it every night, you have to stop being scared or else you can’t do you job !
What have you discovered or been listening to recently?
This year, my favorite records are Big Thief‘s Masterpiece and Andy Shauf‘s The Party, I really like Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, Tune-Yards, Pinegrove, Car Seat Headrest, Julia Jacklin and Y La Bamba too.
To finish with, our signature question:
if you were anything to drink, what would you be ?
Ginger tea because it’s calming, restorative and it makes people more thoughtful.
Thank you for your time and for answering our nosey questions!
And thank you dear reader for the time you took, here is more Lucy Dacus’ music: