claire rousay Made an Emo Record. A Real One.
a.k.a. An in-depth interview with the experimental artist about her upcoming new album, her history with emo (both secular and Christian), embarrassment, vulnerability and life in Los Angeles.
For years now, claire rousay has been playing around with the term “emo ambient.” Though it was born out of an inside joke between her and a small circle of friends, it’s taken on a life of its own, and even wound up in the headline when the Texas-raised experimental artist was profiled by the New York Times. (rousay herself has also fanned the “emo ambient” flames, championing the term on social media and putting it on t-shirts that she sold via Bandcamp.)
That being said, a scan of rousay’s extensive catalog—over the past five years, she’s put out dozens of releases, including efforts for labels like American Dreams, Shelter Press, Longform Editions and Orange Milk—reveals plenty of ambient, but only the loosest of ties to emo of any era. Though she’s spoken often about the genre and the impact it had on her growing up, its manifestations in her work to date have been more subtle, largely detectable only in terms of the music’s occasionally melancholy mood—and its creator’s notably earnest nature.
Many likely assumed that rousay’s talk of emo (and pop-punk, for that matter) was just talk, an example of a boundary-pushing, critically acclaimed artist generating some lolz while proudly owning their geeky musical beginnings, but it seems that she was far more serious than most people realized. On April 19, rousay will be releasing a new album. Entitled sentiment, it’s her first full-length for vaunted Chicago label Thrill Jockey, with whom she signed last year, and as she told me, it’s her “emo record.” Singing, guitars, echoes of Midwestern emo titans like The Promise Ring… it’s all in there—check out first single “head” for proof. The LP is sure to surprise even some of rousay’s biggest fans, especially the ones who previously fell in love with her abstract compositions, extensive use of field recordings and elevation of the mundane.
sentiment was officially announced earlier today, but I had actually reached out to rousay late last year, asking if she’d be interested in doing an interview. At the time, I had no idea that she was planning this significant change in direction, but as someone with my own emo history, I was doubly intrigued when she sent the album my way. We finally connected on a call last week while rousay was at home in Los Angeles. She had some choice words about her adopted hometown, but most of our conversation focused on the new record and emo itself, along with all of the odd stigmas and politics that seem to surround it. As always, rousay was remarkably transparent and honest, sharing her fears, creative aims and personal history as though she was speaking to an old friend, and while our exchange will likely resonate loudest with emo nerds (past and present), it also provides a peek into the mind of a unique artist, one who routinely bucks convention and embraces discomfort in pursuit of furthering her craft.