What are your favorite films?
Everyone keeps talking about Star Wars, but I keep thinking about Star Trek: The Next Generation, because I used to watch that with my parents and I really want to revisit it. I grew up on a lot of classics, I watched a lot of ’50s movies with my mom and dad. I keep thinking about 9 to 5, because of all of the feminist woman stuff, but also because Dolly Parton is making a comeback and so is Jane Fonda. Dolly’s out there in her rhinestones again. There’s a scene in that where they all get high together and imagine how they would each kidnap their boss—it’s hilarious. I went back and forth on the French noir, and shit like that, and I liked a lot of that stuff. I don’t always like that, though, I like stuff that’s funny, too. I like Bill Murray. I talk about Agnès Varda a lot, and I just don’t really understand what I like about her, and maybe that’s what I like about her.
The movie Cléo From 5 to 7 is really beautiful, it’s shot-for-shot genius. It’s Paris 1962, and the only color image in there is when she goes to get her tarot read. There are so many longshots that must have been really hard to get. Just the way that that movie works is really cool. It’s relevant to me in some ways, because the woman is like a joke version of me. She has sunglasses on and she goes to a diner and puts a coin in the jukebox and she listens to a song, and later on you realize its her song you’re listening to—you realize she’s famous. It’s the ’60s, so when you’re famous it’s people trying to get into your car kind of famous. She pulls up to a hat shop and she’s with her personal assistant who is this older woman who just sort of takes care of her. She puts on all these different hats and is asking for the assistant’s opinion, and she finally says, “Well, they all just look so good on me I can’t make a decision.” She’s just in her world, and is really obsessed with herself. But in the tarot reading, the psychic says she will have a terrible illness that will kill her. She’s obsessed with herself but is balancing this thing that no one else knows about her. It’s dark and light at the same time. You want to make fun of her ’cause she’s so ridiculously selfish. She’s alone, she’s so isolated. She praises herself because that’s all she has. She finds out this news [from the psychic] and it’s so terrible. She visits a friend who’s a sculptor and they go on an adventure and it’s just her in the city for two hours. Even knowing that she’s this totally self-absorbed character, I forgive her for it.
Have you ever had your tarot read?
I went to get my tarot read with my friend Grace, she really wanted to go. We walked upstairs and she got the woman who had all the jewels on, looked super old, she looked like she’d been doing it for years, you know? She looked sort of refined at being a seer, and then I got this 17-year-old who had just started that week or something. She was like, “You’re gonna live in Florida and you’re going to have three kids.” I was like, “First of all, I don’t know if you know me but I’m not going to live in Florida and I’m not planning on having three children. You’re totally wrong, that’s not gonna happen.” But maybe she’s right! Maybe I am going to live in Florida with three kids someday, and they’ll all be not mine somehow; I’ll move to Florida in the last five years of my life and adopt three grown adults. Maybe it’s a metaphor! Basically, she was wrong and I walked out of there never wanting to go back. If I do, I want to go alone. I don’t want to see my friend get the amazing person and myself get the person who doesn’t know what do with her life.
Yeah! I went with two friends once and two of us were told that we were going to find the love of our lives and one was told that she would settle and it was really upsetting.
I bet it’s so much fun to be a psychic and be in control in that way where you can just ruin someone’s day if you want. It’s so evil, but if you’re a psychic and you had a bad day, you’d be so tempted to tell everyone their love life would suck. I’ve been wondering why you asked me about the tarot, and you know when you think about a friend and then they’ll call you? Well, that stuff keeps happening to me and I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it’s that I feel more connected to my friends than ever—it’s not psychic it’s just intuitiveness. It’s just funny when that stuff happens five or six times in a row and you get really absorbed and start thinking, “Wow, maybe there’s magic in the world.” And then, the next day you wake up and you’re fired from your job and you have some sort of reality check.
Yeah, I was having one of those weeks last week but now my time is up, I think.
If it’s a really beautiful happening, and you don’t have words to share it to other people but it’s very real to you, and you know you’re going to go home after a long beautiful trip, and think about having to go back to your job where you have to use your brain for things you don’t want to use it for, it can be a nice frame for what happened. Maybe you have to go back and be at a cash register all day, or you have to answer phone calls and talk to people you don’t want to talk to, or you’re a journalist and you don’t think you’re a good neutral source for this because you don’t have a lot of knowledge or time to figure it out. But what you’d really like to do is watch Stranger Things on Netflix and maybe write in your diary about how beautiful your trip is and talk to a friend about it over dinner but you can’t do it, because you have to work.
That sort of stuff keeps happening to me, but it’s weird, because for me talking about myself is work, signing posters is work, getting all the gear, and making sure all of the gear is accurate, and practicing, and making sure all of the schedules align is all work. That is something I do, it’s not just writing lyrics. I’m on call 24/7 for questions about my business which accidentally happens to be based on my mind, which happens to be popular right now. That is a weird thing. I want to do other things with myself, I want to make music but my friend and I are designing dresses. I love a certain type of sleeve and fit, and she’s going to help me fit the dress for my specific body. We’re working on getting undergarments together that fit under the dress perfectly. Those types of things are interesting and they’re such a nice break from being a writer and to take a minute that’s fun and not as intellectual. It’s intellectual, but you’re not using the same cells.
I feel that way. I spent the summer in New York and now I have to go home to Canada and get a service job to make money and I’m kind of looking forward to doing that and using a different skill set than what I’ve used for that past little while.
Yeah, and not because you want to abandon it, but because it gives you insight back into it in some ways. When I did the film thing I noticed all of these synchronicities: All of the challenges with film are visual, but they’re not that different from the issues with music. I can apply that to talking to my band and working with my band, because working with those people is important, it’s not just about my face and the title of my record. I want my band to want to be here, because that’s going to affect me and I value their company. Once you have those relationships, the art just becomes the object that you’re communicating to those people about. I’m sitting there really close to a cameraman who is really close to my face and a director who’s looking at my body and making sure I’m moving the right way. It’s really funny when you think about it and separate yourself from that moment. We’re all being really present to make the right picture right now, and I just happen to be the person who’s in the image. It’s all just a way to be there and be present. It’s the same with music: You learn it and perform it, but when you’re a practiced band, you get to that point where you forget you’re performing for others because you’re enjoying it so much with each other—it’s not about making a statement to others. You’re playing with reality with each other. In the moment with that, you’re communicating something to each other. I’m learning about those aspects from taking time away from music. It makes me laugh, thinking, “Oh, same bullshit that happens in music happens over here.” [Laughs]
I think something that’s difficult for young artists, and for me in my own experience, is experimenting privately with creativity and using it as a form of escape, and then deciding to try to do it more publicly and professionally, and having to be so public and adamant about it. Did you struggle with this when you were starting out professionally?
I didn’t imagine that I would ever be this successful or that it would ever be a career. I thought I would be able to go on tour and there would be some people there one day. I never imagined I would be making T-shirts and people would be taking pictures with me. I never thought anyone would give me the time of day to talk about feminism or humanity, or whatever. I never imagined music would give me a means to talk about other things. While I have the attention, rather than to try to be self-obsessed, I also know that I’m my worst critic and I can’t allow myself to be caught up. It is nice to have beautiful things and to look nice and interesting, but you’re not supposed to get absorbed in it. It’s about making the message and making it clear, and if the image is cool enough it’ll show you something you care about. If you’re getting caught up in your image as an artist, instead of becoming a reflector of what you think is real, eventually you’re going to lose track of your ability to see things that are not yourself. It’s really hard, because you want to enjoy it and you do get caught up in it.
I really want to make more music. I don’t want to psychoanalyze it, because when I’m done with the interview I spend three hours thinking about how what I said might go down in writing, because I like writing and I want the writing to be intentional. I want people to see me and I want to have communicated the right things and not the wrong things. It’s the same thing as if I had a friend over for dinner and I want to be perceived in the right way, the only difference is [an interview is] published. I obsess over that, and then I think about how playing music is way more productive. The more I do them, the more I think about them, and it is work, because when I talk I want to talk with intent, and when people misperceive me I’m represented in the wrong way. At a certain point, I just want to go back to saying things through my music. ♦