New Noise: U.S. Girls Gives a Voice to America's 'Everywoman'
Welcome to New Noise, a shout-out to Refused and a new weekly Billboard.com column highlighting up-and-coming alternative and rock artists. When we say "up-and-coming," we don't necessarily mean "brand-new," as both of our past subjects -- Mitski and Turnover -- both had albums to their names already. What we do have in store is a weekly shout-out to an artist who's just beginning to enter a bigger stage and spotlight, and whom we hope you, the reader, hears much more from in the future.
Meg Remy has been making music as U.S. Girls since 2007. What makes her "new" is that since joining the 4AD roster, she has a chance to reach a much wider audience than ever before. With the label, she joins the ranks of another D.I.Y. electronic artist-turned-star (Grimes) and her personal muse, Scott Walker. And what does she have to share with the world? Her Facebook bio promises, "an 'everywoman' perspective in her lyrics forms something of a feminine counterpoint to Bruce Springsteen's work," something that's evident in her dancehall-flavored debut single for 4AD. We spoke with her plans for this next phase of her career.
How did you get in touch with 4AD and what made you want to work with them?
I contacted some people and met with some, but nothing really panned out. I was beginning to think of putting the record out myself, which would have been fine, but I took a chance and wrote someone I knew at 4AD. So I pretty much sent an unsolicited e-mail and it worked out.
There's a huge history of that label being very respected and for not being scared of weird things. The fact they're working with Scott Walker is very appealing to me. I think he's a really interesting vocalist and a total freak, in a good way. Any label that would work with him and let him do his thing vocally, that's where I want to be, with people who believe in voices.
What will your live show be like now?
I have a sound engineer I'm working with now, but she'll behind the boards. It'll just look like one person. The live sound is perfect now. It's something I've been working towards for a while. It's going to sound like you're in the greatest night club of all time -- super heavy bass, vocals mixed in real nice. I'm going to be free now; the engineer's going to be doing all the smoke and mirrors stuff. I'll be free to do some dancing. I'm taking a Zumba class to get ready. Free Zumba at the park -- I'm learning all kinds of moves to try out on the tour coming up.
I'm really into your new single "Damn That Valley" and its video. What inspired it all?
It was really interesting to be at the monuments and acting like tourists. The Washington Monument is so phallic. It's actually ridiculous to stand in front of it. It's actually a giant penis in the sky. (Collaborator) Lulu (Turnbull) was there pumping her fist at it and all these tourists were looking at us like we were crazy. You're in the nation's capital and you think, "Oh shit, I don't want to get arrested. People are going to think I'm a terrorist!" We had a great time doing it and it felt like we were breaking the rules a little bit, even though we weren't.
I read this really amazing book by Sebastian Junger called War. He was embedded with a platoon stationed in the Korangal Valley in Afghanistan and these soldiers would say "Damn the valley," because they were sitting ducks at the bottom of it. They'd get "D.T.V." tattoos. That was so interesting to me -- the camaraderie of the guys, a funny slogan being made up about this very serious thing to reduce this fear of death… I wrote it in my journal, "damn the valley," and couldn't get it out of my mind. I've never been to war, so I wrote about it in the female perspective. She wasn't there, so she's saying, "Damn that valley that took him away." I wanted to write a song that was pure emotion, talking about something political, instead of something fact-based, which I think is important for being taken seriously if you're talking about politics. I think that's bullshit -- I think people need to be more mad and show emotions about what they think is wrong.
Does singing from a war widow's perspective connect to your "everywoman" persona?
Yeah, in every generation there's lots of American women and men who lost their partners, just loss in general from war that can't really be explained. For World War II, there seemed to be a justifiable explanation that everybody could get behind that still seems to stand. But for Vietnam and Iraq there are these huge question marks as to why we were even there. It's definitely in our blood and it's a perspective that doesn't often have a voice. I was trying to draw attention to the fact that war and violence are stupid. I'm completely anti-war and I'm completely anti-gun. Imagine if there were no guns and bombs.
How is the album coming?
It's pretty much done. I'm finishing up some tweaks and things this week. It's collection of long songs. I have one that's seven minutes. It's very diverse in style, but the thing that pulls it all together is my voice.
It sounds like "Damn That Valley" is going to be an outlier, being a shorter pop song.
Yeah, maybe so. It's definitely the only song with a reggae beat. But it's all pop. Everything I do is pop.