by Leci Solis
Schizo-drift is the new genre Caroline Rose invented for herself. Her new music is fresh, stark, and sardonic, yet LONER (2018) does not necessarily indicate a change in Rose as a person. Instead, Rose designed this colorful persona as a more truthful reflection of her multidimensional personality and shift in perspective. Rose harmoniously merges all of the angles that an artist rarely presents on stage to deliver songs as versatile as her genre-shifting skills. It does not, however, stray too far from the alt-country/rockabilly repertoire she previously penned that made her gain attention in the music world. An architect by trade, Rose abandoned all prospects in the career to pursue something far more improvisational, touring the country on a van, which became her home, in support of her debut album I Will Not Be Afraid (2014). Her remarkable stream-of-consciousness songwriting and folk-ish hard-to-forget voice (as indelible as Karen Dalton's) earned her acclaim and praise from NPR, American Songwriter, and Pitchfork. After two years of musical experimentation (she delved into multi-instrumentalism and audio recording), and multiple life attempts at self-realization (trying to put herself out there), Caroline Rose sonically sculptured her style by using different sounds like groovy basslines, neon-like synths, and danceable electric guitar riffs. With a penchant for the color red (from her guitar to her van), an impressible command for sarcasm, and upbeat feel-good pop songs about somber real-life issues, LONER captures the multifaceted musicianship of Caroline Rose.
All the songs are entirely cohesive due to an underlying tone of veritable disillusionment.
In "More Of The Same," Rose sings "In the classroom trying to believe in/ the words on a page of the book that I am reading,"in a serene spaced-out voice, "spread out by a woman who became a teacher/ 'cause she couldn't make ends meet from her writing career" as the gossamer of the red stage light descends on her entire being. To lure us into her universe, Rose introduces the song by explaining how as a youngster she easily believed in all sorts of magic and fantasies until one day the bubble of naivety burst. Next, the neon-drenched psycho-billy song "Money!" drives the Texan audience into an erratic frenzy induced by its psychedelic synths. If you're standing there 5 feet away from the wooden stage, the gentle sound of the depressed pop ballad "To Die Today" sways you afloat; it will offer you comfort in the concept of death only to then make you appreciate the idiosyncrasies of life (like Rose handing you red plastic roses to pose for a photograph). The entire thing is exquisitely delivered and a vibrant care-free Rose pirouettes and prances in the center of the stage at Old No. 2 with her amazing compact-sounding band. She radiates.
Although we are no Pitchfork or Stereogum, Caroline Rose cheerfully agreed to an interview in the patio of the bar while holding a fajita taco in her hand.
I N T E R V I E W:
Indiemuck: Why red?
Caroline Rose: Testing, testing... Can you hear me? Can you hear me? Um, so I wear red because I honestly just like the color. I wish it was more symbolic or something but I literally just like the color. For the longest time I would wear a really basic outfit. It was just a black and white outfit. I was hyper-concerned with being taken seriously as an artist. In my free time and my personal life I wear these bright colors all the time, [I] wear red all the time. Eventually, it just kind of dawned on me that I should merge the two worlds together, you know? I should wear what I wanted and my stage life should blend with my personal life. So that’s what happened and I’ve weeded out all of the other colors of clothing in my wardrobe.
And the tracksuit?
CR: The tracksuit actually is really just because it was on the cover, I wear it a lot. But it just so happened that I had a red track suit and I thought it would be a funny idea to be wearing an athletic uniform and to have a bunch of cigarettes in my mouth. I thought it would be funny, honestly.
You were previously an alt-country/folk-singer, how do you transfer that lyricism into this current project?
CR: Well, it’s funny that you say that, because the lyrics are actually what carries over, I think. I’ve always had a very narrative writing style. If you listen to a few songs and listen to old songs, I don’t think that narrative style has gone away. I still have a very folk-oriented narrative style of writing. Maybe not on every song but the general gist is actually still surprisingly similar.
Are all your songs based on personal experience?
CR: A lot. Almost all of them, yes. But sometimes with certain songs I’ll take more creative liberties with certain things like ‘Jeanie Becomes A Mom’. It’s very very loosely inspired by a friend who got pregnant. But a lot of it it stems into my own life, like my own ideas of my goals and what I want out of life that I just kinda created a loose character; so it’s both.
How did you get the courage to just do whatever the fuck you want?
CR: I don’t know. Probably by failing. Failing a lot and then realizing that life is extremely short, and it doesn’t really matter. So, yeah. I guess for me, caring about things that don’t really matter less has been a really liberating thing.
How are you dealing with all the fame?
CR: I think you’re grossly misinterpreting my life right now.
You’re all over the internet!
CR: I can say that I’m very happy when people show up to shows, and how many people have come up to me like, ‘Wow! we saw you in this city and we saw you here, we saw you here’ and it’s just the very beginning of tour for us. That’s really exciting and promising seeing how well things are doing in this early stage.
Are you going to take a road trip to Mexico?
CR: I fucking want to. It’s like a stone’s throw away. How hard is it to get across the border?
It’s not that hard.
Your birth certificate or your Texas ID, and say, "I’m Caroline Rose!" You cross and there’s a fee. It’s 75 cents to walk, but it’s 3.50 to go [by car]. And then when you come back, it’s a fee of 50 cents, but in pesos, so it’s like the equivalent of 30 cents, or a quarter, or something.
CR: 3 dollars and 50 cents and 75 cents to walk?! Fucking amazing. Woah! I’m so tempted to do this, but I’m scared of what will happen if for some reason I can’t come back. And then it’s just like watching me across the border and I’m like, ‘Oh fuck, I don’t know what to do!’ This is a great interview by the way. Sometimes people ask really great questions, you’ve done your homework.
So, did you write up an evacuation plan?
CR: We’re still kinda working on it, actually. The evacuation plan has come up multiple times, and now when we were just in Austin, and there were 3 bombings or more by the same person in multiple places, we were all like, ‘What should we do?’ What we came up with was it has to be different for every venue, but I think in a time of chaos there’s not that much you can do, other than know where the exits are, know how to get out, and have a rough estimate of how a bunch of people are gonna get out of a room. Unfortunately, that’s a really real thing that we have to think about, but we just started talking about it.
Have you made a genre for yourself?
CR: Yeah, I call it schizo-drift. Because someone called me a schizo once as an insult, and I was like..yeah..I am that. It kind of describes my music in a perfect way. It’s like so many different things blended into one and that’s how my personality feels. It’s accurate.
Any more personal influences? Aside from Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Angel Olsen, and Big Thief. Is there anything else?
CR: Yeah. I mean, there’s too many to name. Too too many that I’m constantly influenced by artists and watching what other people do. I think when you listen to music that is interesting in any way, there are a lot of elements that are born from it. But I can say a heavy influence is the 70’s punk. I’m heavily influenced by and I had a whole phase when that was exclusively what I listened to. Bands like Blondie, Talking Heads, and the Cramps. The whole L.A. punk scene. Oh yeah, all the riot grrrl bands! I fucking love them. Sleater-Kinney, Bikini-Kill. I’m a fan.