Phoebe Bridgers is telling us about her new favourite Instagram account. “Have you seen @SwipesForDaddy?,” she asks. “It’s this page where this girl my age made her age limit 45+ on Tinder, and then she posts the messages she gets. It sounds exploitative and kind of sad, but it’s so interesting: every now and then, she ends up having this super deep conversation with someone, and they’ll have this really genuine moment. It’s a weirdly beautiful page. Would recommend.”
And if there’s anything about Insta-dating that Phoebe can wholeheartedly relate to, it’s forging connections in unlikely places. Her 2017 debut ‘Stranger In The Alps’ found beauty in the darkest of human emotions, rendering her as something of an emo-folk icon, wise beyond her then-23 years. Fast-forward to 2020, and she’s barely stopped. Supergroups boygenius and Better Oblivion Community Centre have taken her on loops around the world, and place her back in LA on the cusp of her much-awaited second solo record, which, as she puts it, is just about ready to go.
“It’s weird ‘cause with the two bands, we were just like, fuck it, let’s just put this stuff out immediately. But then with this record, I actually get to give a shit about which single is coming out first, artwork, videos…” she explains. “It takes me forever to write records, and I like taking a really long time to make sure everything is great. I’ve often written my favourite songs for a record right at the last minute, so the longer between recording the first and the last one the better because that’s how I get the gold at the end.”
“There’s bits on this record that do feel weirdly like a sequel.”
From what she’s at liberty to tell us, PB2 could be a goldrush. She mentions a little more of an electronic sound this time, but reassures that anybody who fell in love with ‘Stranger...’ can expect a similar lyrical landscape, strengthened by her experience of working with other people. “Doing boygenius especially definitely changed the songwriting process - the whole ethos of the band was to stop second- guessing yourself,” she says. “I always do this thing where I’m like, ‘Here’s this song, this might suck’. And then I play it and my friends suggest changes, and then I’m like, ‘Oh, I wasn’t serious. I was just being humble, but now you don’t like it…fuck!’. So we talked a lot about not doing that. Just being more… not being a dick, but just trying to be as confident as the people around me.
“There’s bits on this record that do feel weirdly like a sequel,” she continues. “I have a song about being locked out of my house, there’s one about the apocalypse, still lots of death. I basically write the same song over and over and then look to my producers and my bandmates to help me make them sound different. None of it is super surprising to anyone who has listened to my music...”
So nothing on the more uplifting side then? “Ha, no! I mean, the music that I find uplifting is maybe not what other people find uplifting. There are songs which if you were to read them off the page, you’d be like, ‘What the fuck, this is so depressing’. But, listening to them, I think it sounds a little bit more victorious,” she nods.
“I’ve made so many friends, and there’s definitely a ton of them on the record.”
Misery loves company, and the singer is certainly not short of a talented friend or two. Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner has been popping in and out of the studio, and word on the Twittersphere is that Phoebe’s also been hard at work with a little-known group by the name of The 1975…
“I’m not sure what I’m at liberty to say about their stuff,” she divulges, “but knowing and working with them in general has been… Maybe it’s growing up in LA, but working with people - especially if they’re handsome rock stars - you expect them to be dicks. But they’re all so nice and they’re all just fucking nerds. We talked about emo deep cut records, like real Midwest emo, for like the first three hours of knowing each other; it was a dream. Even if people aren’t playing on the record it’s been nice to have people’s input and such. I just feel like my community goes so much harder this time. I’ve made so many friends, and there’s definitely a ton of them on there, which feels really good.”
Having packed more records into four years than most acts manage in ten, the key to being Phoebe Bridgers seems to be a willingness to throw herself in, full pelt. “I write about very specific people or things – friends will hear my songs and know exactly who I’m talking about,” she laughs. “It’s really hard to push that back. I wrote a kind of diss track on my first album and I was really worried about it, but then by the time the record came out I was just like, fuck you anyway. I’ve comforted myself with that thought [with the tracks on this new album]...” Uncompromising, self-aware and with the co-sign of a bunch of talented mates? That’s how ‘Strangers…’ become good friends.
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