Interview with Lauren Denitzio of Worriers - Full Transcript
In episode 2, we spoke with Lauren Denitzio of the band Worriers. For your reading pleasure, here is the full transcript of my call with Lauren.
Your new album is called Survival Pop - whats does "survival pop" mean in Trump’s America?
Most of the record was written before the election and really before I had any sense that he had a flying chance in hell of winning. I think a lot of the record for me, the concept of Survival Pop in terms of the record, was really just baseline surviving in the face of the patriarchy and capitalism. Any sort of structural oppression that already exists. To be a somewhat political band, speaking to those topics from a personal standpoint. How that affects one's life on a day to day basis. How that affects your relationships and to now be in the face of actual growing fascism in the United States. You see parallels that are like, “if this was put in a different way, it would sound really fascist.” It’s like no, that’s far as political theory goes, the things that Trump is doing are laying the foundation for really terrible state control. It already has in the first place. We’re already dealing with how in the world can you stand up against a man that wants to repeal DACA? That has no qualms about banning Muslims and kicking out children. The goal post has just been moved so far. I am having a really hard time wrapping my head around it. The self-preservation that I talk about in the record is, I think, even more useful for me now when I feel like you need all the help you can get to feel like you have a chance of standing up to these people.
As a singer and songwriter, you’ve written songs through Bush to Obama to Trump. How was the political climate affected you over the years? Does it feel any different now being older and going through more stuff?
I think just as anyone with growing up and having more life experiences and putting your own life into political context, I think it’s definitely changed my songwriting in that I have a more personal connection to things. You want to write about politics as a 19-year-old [and] if you haven’t paid any bills yet, how do you fit your life into the realities of capitalism and the realities of income inequality? At least for me anyway, there are certain things now that I am more aware of and more personally affected by as an adult. In that way, I feel like my anger towards things is more substantial or more legitimate because I’ve seen how different administrations have completely changed things for my life. Whether that’s sending people I know to war or giving me health insurance. How certain people empower or respond to police brutality. How they respond to immigration. How they respond to LBGT rights. If it weren’t for the federal government recognizing gay marriage, my partner and our lead guitarist would not be in the country right now. Those things have impacted my life so extremely that it absolutely works its way in my songwriting. I’ve written about our long distance relationship that is now no longer long distance because she was allowed to move here. Being connected to those things has definitely changed my perspective on how that comes through in our songs.
Watching you as a musician over the years [editor note: I’ve known Lauren since 2006], you are somebody who has become very open about LGBTQ rights. Do you feel the desire to be even more open with fans of your music especially now with everything that’s happening in the world? Do you feel pressure or does it just come out naturally in your art?
I think it comes out pretty naturally. I don’t think I’ve personally felt that with everything going in the world right now, I need to make it really clear who I am. I think that if anything I don’t hold back in my songwriting because if I can hold certain identities and still completely related to a lot of music made by straight men then there’s no excuse or reason I can’t write from a queer and feminist and a little bit more radical standpoint and not have it resonate with people on a certain level in different ways. The more that we tour, the more shows that we play, the more that I have an opportunity to be in front of a microphone. I am a political person. I want to use that platform for positive things. I think that just comes naturally. It’s not some long strategy.
Do you ever see anything playing shows around the world and country that makes you think things are getting better, being in the middle, or worse? Meeting people and interacting, how do you feel about the current climate of things?
I think what has been nice about touring so much and meeting so many people is that you really do see how many people are on the same page. The right wing is not the way to go. I think that gives me hope and confidence in whats happening that people want to come together to resist the alt-right or to resist homophobia and sexism. All these things that I feel strongly about. Obviously, things are getting worse for a lot of people. I can’t say that things are getting better but I feel like at the very least being able to travel has made me feel a little less isolated in how I’m feeling or how my bandmates are feeling. I feel like everybody needs to find those spaces whether its a march or a meeting or a show or whatever it is where you can be with other people and you aren’t like inundated with everything from the Internet or from the news that would make you think that there aren’t people that agree with you because there are.
I feel like a lot of people say now that they can’t wait to see what kind of artwork or writing comes from these times, music-aside. Obviously, with you being an artist and writer, does that feeling ever come out in your other creations? Are you more inspired to make art now?
I don’t think I’m more inspired or motivated to make things now. I think that it just puts a different spin on it. My approach to whatever I’m making tends to be, "ok what do I need to see right now?" What would I want to see if I was walking into a room of artwork for a show? The current political climate kind of changes how I feel about that but it doesn’t change that underlying interest in making things and putting things out to the world. I don’t believe in the thought that difficult political times will make great art happen.
You hear like "we went through the Obama years and now punk rock will be good again" and there’s always been bad stuff going on. There’s always something to be mad about.
That’s the thing. If you weren’t mad before, you were not paying attention. In my lifetime, in my parents' lifetime, there has not been a political administration that you could just be like “oh this is cool. We’re good. Nothing to see here.”
Your songwriting style always has a very John K. Samson feel to it, in my opinion. I feel like with the two songs that have been released so far “Future Me” and “The Possibility” - they touch upon longing or nostalgia but seem to be looking forward. How does nostalgia but also optimism influence your songwriting or could you give me a little more context to those songs and the songs on the record?
I think that’s where this sort of self-preservation, those songs that I needed at those times, kind of comes into play. I wanted to talk to myself during those points in time and acknowledging what was going on but also saying like things don’t have to be that way. They are words of encouragement for myself. I try very hard to be optimistic as much as a cynical person as I am [laughing]. In that way, even if I’m talking about things that are depressing that I try so hard to be optimistic about it or putting a positive spin and not have it be that everything is terrible. Even though that’s how I feel a lot of the times [laughing]. The kind of music I want to listen to ends up sounding really positive but it's about being a little miserable. I tend to try and look back at things in a way that I can grow from them.
Coming into this record and doing so much with the band already and working with Laura Jane Grace (of Against Me!) on the last record, do you see any kind development of your songwriting and your music? Do you bring a different approach to every record now?
After our first LP (2015's Imaginary Life) and after working with Laura Jane Grace and Mark Hudson, I knew from the minute that I left the studio I knew that this next record was going to be so much fun. I learned so much from that process. I learned a lot from recording this one as well. From doing a different sort of stripped down set when Mikey [Erg - drummer] with John K. Samson and I did a solo tour with Julien Baker. Really putting myself in different contexts. I feel that over the past couple years both myself and the band have really learned a lot about songwriting and arrangement and things that are really exciting to me. I think that shows itself on this record but it again puts me in the position of I already have ideas and I’m already really excited to start writing more songs. I feel like that’s how it should always be. I’m just excited for that constant feeling of growth.
How has moving from Brooklyn to Philly affected you personally and musically?
Personally, I needed to get the hell of out of New York [laughing]. I love Brooklyn and I loved living there. I go back fairly often and I’m like, "oh man, I miss this." I liked being there but the kind of life I had to live in order to tour all the time [it] was just not sustainable. Personally, I feel like I’m a happier person, living with a little more space and time on my hands. Musically, it’s just given me the time to really work on things and focus on that. To be making more artwork that I like and working on projects with other people that I enjoy. It's just afforded me more time when you are not running a mile a minute all day every day just to make ends meet. It’s not like it fixed everything. In terms of work-life balance, it made it easier and a lot of our friends that play in bands in New York have moved to Philly so it's not like we left a scene for a place that we didn't know people in that way. I feel like the scene here is wonderful and has been really welcoming.