” Ultraviolence ” gives you the vibe that it could have been written back in the 60’s in Laurel Canyon, this neighbour hood in Los Angeles where an informal community of artists like Frank Zappa and Jim Morrison had been created.
Yes, I really love that era, especially Johnny Mitchell, which was my mothers favorite. When I was living in New York, that’s what I was going for, the feeling of community, something like what Jeff Buckley did back in the 90’s, or Bob Dylan in the 60’s. However, I never found my ” gang “, my family.
When I arrived in Los Angeles, I met people who I could play with, people who I could talk to. All those had somehow rebuilt, Laurel Canyon, like Father John Misty and Jonathan Wilson, who I started writing the album with. Whatever I was seeking in New York, I found it on the West Coast. I used to drive in my old Mercedes from one house to another, I felt like I was back in high school. Every seven years the centre of gravity in the music industry moves from one coast to another. Now everything’s in the ” West Coast “.
Your songs seem to put melancholy in an environment of opulence. Is this your intention or does this happen accidentally?
I feel like I make happy songs, but when others listen to them, they think they’re sad. I can’t escape from my life, which has been wavy. Three years after my debut album, I’m still suffering from self-doubt and depression. Ahead of me there’s uncertainty and a feeling of emptiness. I don’t like it when I don’t know where I’m going. My love life, my family – are so fragile. I’m not sure of anything.
What do your fans maybe not imagine about your life?
Nobody knows it but I really love to dance, While we were recording in Nashville, when we were finished with the tracks, we would listen to everything we had made and dance along like crazy. We invited people we had met in a shop near the area of the studio and our friends like Juliette Lewis or Harmony Korine. I never worked like that before. It was the first time I was with such creative people in the studio. I learned a lot, now I can isolate myself, I can experiment without trying, even if there are many people in the studio. There’s a huge universe in my mind I usually go to find shelter in. I may not be that lucky in my everyday life, but as far as my work is concerned – I’m blessed. In the studio I’m always surrounded by good people. My mood is always good there.
You’ve been through a lot until you released Born To Die, when did you realize that you have to insist on working?
While recording Born To Die, I will never forget when my father visited me. He was so surprised when he saw me so sure, so determined, asking for a beat or a deal with my producer. He had no idea what I had been doing for 6 years, the fact that I was building my own little world with passion. My parents didn’t even know I was singing. However when my father saw me in the studio, he told me it was one of the most beautiful days of his life. He was so shocked, he realized that music was my passion. My family insisted on telling me to not drop out of school for music. I finished my studies in Philosophy because I knew it would help me “nourish” my songs.
Do you believe in talent?
I feel like I have a charisma to make music. However, these last years there were times when I hadn’t written a word I liked and I prayed for my muse to come back to me. And suddenly, last winter, a song like ” Old Money ” came to my mind. What happened with an older song called ” Carmen “, is that I got inspired while walking and wrote it afterwards. That time of my life I used to walk a lot, it was my ritual. Now, I drive and go swimming on the Pacific Ocean. And inspiration comes to me from these everyday actions. I record myself in my car, singing loudly.
Which part of your work is pleasure and which part of your work is torture?
Pleasure starts and ends with recording the album. Then the pain starts, touring, promotion, difficult stuff. Because even if I try to convince myself it’s okay, misunderstandings and twisted ideas regarding who I am, are constantly being spread around, and I feel like I have to stand up for myself, like I have to excuse everything I do and I don’t need that. My music is quite good for me to not need to excuse myself. Deep inside, I’d rather keep silent.
How concentrated are you when you work?
I can make my producer go crazy, because I have a very clear vision for my songs and in the end I want the speakers to play exactly what I had in my head. Same goes for the videos. I have the storyboards ready in my mind. I might have made Auerbach so insane this year, but at the end of the day there will be one name on the cover of the album and that’s my name. I have to protect it.
There’s this track on Ultraviolence called ” Brooklyn Baby ” where you mentioned Lou Reed.
I was dreaming to share it with him, I thought that he would find the lyrics very fun. I wrote them thinking about him. The day I flew to New York in order to meet him, he died.
A lot of your idols have died at such a young age, Elliot Smith, Amy Winehouse, Marilyn Monroe, Jeff Buckley..
I do not love them because they died young, but this seems to be the fate of almost everyone I admire. Luckily, this didn’t happen with Leonard Cohen. I do not romanticize death at a young age, artists are far more useful alive than dead.
You give the impression you don’t enjoy huge concerts, is that true?
I’m on tour in America since the first days of April, it’s the first time I play so many shows and everything goes exceptionally well. These past two years I don’t feel very well physically, I suffer from gastric ulcer, but I can make it through concerts who’s capacity can be over 9,000 people. I smoke, I drink a lot of coffee. I eat chocolate and pizza. My way of living when I’m not on tour isn’t that right. The fact I played Coachella and Glastonbury in the same year is a great honour. When I’m done with my tour, I’d like to occupy myself with cinema and movies. I have received some interesting suggestions and I’m really tempted to say ” Yes! “. When I was little I used to dream about Cannes, the festival, the prestige and the red carpet. I sang there last May for the third year in a row. As a teenager, I dreamt about living in France, an exile poetess. I really loved French culture, especially Serge Gainsbourg.
(Special thanks to @lanadelreyblues for translating this interview.)