Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Interview: Julia Holter Is Not Obsessed With the Past

Posted By on Tue, Sep 24, 2013 at 12:46 PM

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Even though it was a studio record, was your idea to make Loud City Song feel like a concert performance?

I think it might feel that way because I wrote the record in my room, but when I made the demos I left room for performances. I had this space for the players to play in. I had in mind that it wasn’t just going to be me at the keyboard. I was able to channel the life of another person’s performance. So, there was improvising by really skilled players on the record. It sounds like a performance in that way.

Loud City Song was much more collaborative in process, but weirdly it might actually sound a little lonelier than your last record, Ekstasis. Even though all the voices on Ekstasis were you, there were a lot of them...

Interesting. Well, the record is sort of about the individual in society. It’s a lonely subject. That would make sense. “World” is a very lonely song. It’s a soliloquy. It’s a person looking out in to the world and everything that they are describing is from their own eyes. Also, there’s not a lot of layers of vocals. There’s a principle voice, usually. A lot of that has to do with the story, but it also has to do with the production.

In all my recordings I like to have a balance between acoustic and electronic sounds, and I think one of the ways that I got acoustic sounds when I was doing everything myself was singing. I don’t play anything besides keyboards, so I couldn’t bring in these other acoustic instruments. The only thing I could do was add more vocals. It seems silly, but I think that’s a very real reason why I layer so many vocals when I record solo.

The record's idea of being alone among a lot of people, is that all just projected into a character? Do you find yourself observing people in a crowd or are you more interested in interacting with them?

Personally, I’m not sure. I think I have elements of both. I can’t really be alone at all for a whole day, I’ve noticed recently. I have to see somebody. I’m not good at being alone. But on the other hand, I like to work alone and have time to myself because I need to write. I’m not really an apartment type of person. I need to see people. But I love the anonymity of the city, and being able to walk around and not see everyone I know. I think one of the things with my music is that it’s hard to see directly in to my own life. There are definitely aspects, emotions, things I’ve experienced in life that come through in my music indirectly, but you wouldn’t notice where, exactly.

Do you think that people sort of confuse the words confessional and personal? Any work you labor to make is going to be personal in a way, but it might not necessarily be about yourself. Do you know what I mean?

I think that it’s not confessional or personal. But maybe you just have a different definition for personal, and maybe you’re right. It’s not confessional.

I think there was a Vogue interview with Taylor Swift where she was talking about how what inspires her is to write about her life, about her relationships and her boyfriends. That’s really interesting to me because I’m kind of the opposite. What’s inspiring to me is to read or see things in life, one little interaction that you witness, or see in a movie, or you read about, how that can inspire a whole story that you make a song about. That’s what’s interesting to me, that’s what inspires me to do stuff versus actual things, things that are really, real-time happening to me.

With music, people often assume that the people singing are directly expressing something true that happened to themselves. But somebody’s interior life, the way that they take things in and put them back out, seems like it might be even more personal than just reporting what’s happening to them on a factual level.

Yeah, exactly. And one thing people don’t necessarily know if they are not performers is that when you perform, you can’t really be...at least for me, it’s not like I feel like I’m being myself. I feel like I’m channeling another character. It just happens naturally, but I can’t do it otherwise. I couldn’t just sing a song where I’m me, the person I always am and I’m singing this song. It’s basically impossible to do that. Sometimes people will ask, “I don’t know how you do that. How do you get on stage and do that?” It’s weird to me that I do this too, but the way you do it is you go to a different place.

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