Music

U.S. Girls: 28 Days

A conversation with Meg Remy, and the premiere of a video celebrating periods!

Meg Remy writes, records and performs her music as U.S. Girls. She has long been a fave of a few of us Rookies, and she just gave us this video for the song “28 Days”—a celebrate-your-period theme song!—to premiere, making us love her even more. On the eve of her European tour to support her new EP, Free Advice Column (out September 24 on Bad Actors), she dished some woman-to-woman real talk about how much her body influences her performances, the inspiration she draws from other women, and the joy of other people’s lotion.

JESSICA: Let’s start with the song. What inspired it?

MEG REMY: This song was inspired by my current battle with my period. I am at a point in my life where I am ready to have a baby, and my body is REALLY ready for me to have a baby. Unfortunately, circumstances are such that it’s not the right time for one right now. But you can’t tell your body that! You can’t say, “Just chill for a bit, I promise you will get to fulfill this biological potential soon.”

What do you hope people take away from it?

I am hoping to strip away the taboo associated with menstruation and the other functions of the female body. We shouldn’t be ashamed of the fact that our bodies are in sync with the moon and are practically magic! We should celebrate it; we should also complain and confide freely with others when we are having problems with our bodies—a more open dialogue about periods, ovulation, and pregnancy would be helpful for the entire world. Also, I am just gonna throw this out there: I think tampons, pads, et cetera, should be free. The government should supply them.

Can you tell me about the making of the video? I caught references to girl groups, synchronized movie-musical numbers; and cool girls walking together always makes me think of the video for Pat Benetar’s “Love Is a Battlefield.”

The video was shot in Montreal with an all-lady cast and crew. The director, Emily Pelstring, and I came up with the concept together based on an old music video for the song “He’s Got the Power” by the Exciters. We sent lots of emails back and forth full of photos of tough girls and YouTube references. Then Emily got to work gathering girls, choreographing moves and scoping locations. She also got the very talented Lesley Marshall on board to assist her. The three of us made the glitter-rama “Jack” video together last year, and it was such a dream to get to work together again. I grabbed my sister-in-law and frequent collaborator, Lulu Turnbull, a suitcase full of clothes, shoes, jewelry, and makeup, and we headed to Montreal. The shoot took one afternoon and it was really one of the most liberating, joyous experiences of my life. We all had so much uninhibited fun from beginning to end. Emily and I edited the video the very next day, and when we sat back to watch it, we both cried. We had succeeded in our goal to make a video that exuded power, sass and female unity. The “back-up singers” were an eclectic bunch of ladies—artists, musicians, actresses, students, dancers—a lot of us had never met before, but everyone seemed to understand our common thread of living as a woman, and we all just went for it. I am proud of us.

The other day when we were emailing, you were getting your roots done before tour. What are your pre-tour routines? You are mainly a one-woman operation, so I imagine it’s a lot to handle.

Before tour it is all about getting merch together and packing. I always like to have at least one handmade thing on the merch table. This last tour I made box sets that included a 7″, collages, and a photo all in a customized box. They take a while to make, so the days before a tour I am often gluing, painting, or stitching merch together.

At the same time, I am obsessing over packing. You have to pack light on tour, but not so light that you have to do laundry every other day. Laundry options are limited, especially in Europe. If you find a washer, you are lucky to find a dryer, and who has the time for their clothes to air-dry? So, I have to find the optimum amount of undies and clothes to bring. Then on to toiletries: Often I go to the pharmacy and salivate over all the travel-size options out there, but in the end I usually just bottle the things I already have at home. Plus, one of my favorite things about tour is using other people’s bathrooms so I can sample all their products. I try the face scrubs, the body butters, the weird herbal toothpastes, the fancy conditioners—it’s like a free-sample store! Packing for the first tour I ever went on, I brought heels, all my makeup, this giant necklace, and way too many outfits and by the last tour I was doing like three shirts, a dress, jeans, and flip-flops and a single lipstick.

Do you think much about how you dress on stage or how you present yourself in performance?

I do think about how I dress, even more so when I am going to be on performing. But that’s what’s nice about touring and bringing minimal clothes. You only have so many options, so there’s not too much to think about. You put on your one dress or your one pair of slacks and you go out there and do your thing. Where it gets tricky is when I am playing a show in town and then I try on ALL of my clothes and ALL of my sister-in-law’s clothes and then ALL of my mother-in-law’s clothes, and then four hours later I am still asking them “What should I wear?” It’s silly to get so overwhelmed by something that in the end really doesn’t matter. A mirror can be a death trap—you can get lost in it, focusing in on the spots you don’t like about yourself physically and fixating on them. It’s enough to make you not even want to leave the house! It’s good to keep in mind what truly matters, and that clothes do not make the person. Dressing should be a fun, expressive activity but I think for many of us it often becomes a depressing game that makes us zero in on what we don’t have and what we don’t like about ourselves.

When I listen to your records, I feel very connected with you—like you put a lot of yourself into the creation and performance. Is that on purpose, or is that just sort of how it comes out naturally? Does that make sense? Like even though your records are produced and not, like, super raw, I don’t feel like there is a big gulf between you and the audience.

It’s purposeful. One thing that drives me to make art is a desire to connect with others on a real, emotional level. I want people to know who I am and how I feel. I don’t want there to be any barrier. I want it to be known that I am a woman who likes to sing and has things to say. I don’t see myself as anything more or less. I am not acting, that’s really me up there or on that record.

What does it feel like when you are onstage?

I often wonder, What does this sound like out there? Is anyone even listening? Sometimes my brain splits in two and half of me is concentrating on the song and the other half is thinking about some bizarre childhood memory. Other times I am so lost in the moment that my emotions almost get the best of me and I have to force the words out over the lump in my throat. It all just depends on the show, my state of mind and often on my monthly cycle. [Laughs] Last time I played in Antwerp, I started my period right before I played and I was in such a foul mood that I basically threw my microphone down after a few songs and walked off. Terrible for me to take it out on the crowd like that, but it’s impossible for me to hide how I am feeling. I am not trying to claim that this is a good trait of mine, but it is here to stay. So, after my set I had lots of confused Belgians asking me, “Were you not happy with the show? Do you not like it here?” and I had to tell them, “No, no—I just started my period, I am bleeding like a stuck pig and I just want to take a bath and go to bed. I don’t really feel like being around people right now.” In those moments I feel like a real American brat! [Laughs] ♦

2 Comments

  • sarahf September 17th, 2013 12:28 AM

    oh my god i love her! i’ve always loved her songs but man i really really love her brain!

  • soso September 17th, 2013 11:38 AM

    I love it
    they look like a 60s band :)