On 2nd February 2004 at 17:08 Anonymous 1751 wrote...
I really enjoyed this interview, I thought it was really well written and I'll be checking out some of her stuff.
"Don't call me PJ" - Gemma Hinchliffe caught up with Carina Round at Joseph's Well...
It's a busy Monday evening at Joseph's Well - at least it seems that way when you're sat in the pub on your own. I've been waiting for Carina Round for well over two hours before I'm eventually introduced to her and the band, though I swallow my snarl when the poor girl appears all smiles and apologies, obviously completely knackered after having been drilled by The Guardian all afternoon. We find a quiet corner and mull over Kate Bush and the pros and cons of incessant touring, before I casually press 'record' and introduce the subject that every female musician loves to hate...
Is there truth in the idea that good music should be sexless?
Every interview, there's always the question of what it's like to be a female singer-songwriter and it can certainly get annoying, time after time. My take on all that is, without sounding pretentious, every good artist should be sexless in the face of their art. A lot of female singer-songwriters irritate me because, a lot of the time, they might as well just be singing, "I'm a girl". Obviously I write from the point of view of a girl, because I happen to be born with a vagina, but I try not to put that into the songs, I try to write from an ambiguous point of view.
Kate Bush, Patti Smith, Bjork, they're probably my favourite female artists, and they do have this balance with their gender that you don't find in other people. Alanis Morissette, Tori Amos - although Tori is absolutely amazing sometimes - I find just don't have that balance which enables them to sing 'alongside' their gender as opposed to from 'within' it. I guess that's what I'm looking to do. God, Kate Bush was only fifteen or something when she wrote most of the Kick Inside, and who has a balance with their gender then?!
How old were you when you first started writing songs?
I had this little ghetto blaster when I was 8 or 9 years old. It had a little mic on it, and I used to sing a little bit into it and then press pause and see what I sounded like! And my Nan used to have this little organ and we used to play things on it and sing along. I'm sure it must have sounded terrible because at that age I obviously had no concept of chords or anything! But I guess I really started writing proper songs when I was 15 or 16, and then I started gigging when I was 17.
As a solo artist?
Have you ever been part of a band?
Yeah actually, I was a singer in a band when I was about 16, but I didn't write any of the songs, just got told what to sing. I got bored of not being able to sing what I wanted so I left.
So you've been on the road since you were 17? That's a long time...
I know! It's strange, I spoke to Alan McGee the other day and he was saying about how he'd been in the industry now for nearly 20 years, and I thought, wow that's a long time, and then I thought about it and I thought, well I'm half your age and I've already been in it for 8 years! That's not bad is it!
Do you find it wears you down?
In the last four years I've been through a lot, with putting the first record out, that Independent label going under, then signing to another label that went under before I even put a record out, then using that money from that label to record this album and put it out on my own label. It's definitely wearing in that sense, because with the state of the industry at the moment, it's not really alert to this type of music. It's really hard to get a foot in because they're so preoccupied with making quick money, finding quick fix bands. Really the way to break an artist is to start from the bottom and gradually work your way up, but mainly they just don't have the guts to do that.
Luckily, I've worked that hard on this album that Interscope Records picked it up in LA, so after this tour I'm gonna have a couple of weeks off and then go over to the East Coast, New York and so on, and do some gigs over there, and hopefully come back to do the festivals. But it's about fucking time really, that we got a bit of good luck! I just wanna get out there and do music, you know? I've spent so long in front of the computer sorting out serial numbers and artwork and paying people ridiculous amounts of money to do normal jobs!
Your new labelmates on Interscope include people like U2, Nine Inch Nails, No Doubt, some real long-runners in the industry...
I think their main investment at the moment is Eminem, and then 50 Cent! Which is great because I happen to think Eminem is fucking amazing, lyrically. I just think Dr Dre is an incredible producer and I love all that stuff. So I feel pretty proud to be labelmates with them. And I'll hopefully get some rap lessons too...
I noticed the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are also on Interscope. What do you reckon of this new scene that's developing, the New York garage punk mishmash?
At first I thought it was a lot of hype, and my initial reaction was that, you know, Iggy Pop did this years ago, Velvet Underground did this years ago. But sonically, it's just really really good to hear something like that on the radio. I think it might just change the face of music. There's the danger that it'll just become a big product, and people will buy into bands like that too quickly and it'll just die after a few years, like Britpop. But the sound of bands like that, The Hives, The Rapture, we haven't heard a sound like that for many many years.
What are your main influences for The Disconnection?
My integral influences from when I was younger are always gonna be there. Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, early Roxy Music. Then stuff like David Bowie, Velvet Underground. Tom Waits and Kate Bush, Patti Smith.
Have you ever seen Patti in concert?
Yeah I've seen her about five times. It's incredible. It's quite shamanistic. Really special. She means every word, really says every word. At the time of The Disconnection I was also reading this Jeanette Windemenn book which was really influential, and I really love Dorothy Parker and those cutting last lyrics that she had.
How do you feel about the constant comparisons with PJ Harvey?
It does piss me off a bit, but only because it's in every review. I guess I think, for everyone to say it, there must be an element of truth in it, but they don't seem open to realise that, I might sound a bit like her and look a bit like her but... I mean, I have dark hair and dark eye make-up but... I sing quite full-on music but the fact is that if you listen past the first three tracks on the album it really sounds nothing like it, and there's a lot more in there. I'm a lot more into Patti Smith than I am PJ Harvey. It's hard for the female singer-songwriter to get along in this kind of climate, where there are so many big bands like The Strokes or The Hives or whatever. People don't seem to realise that I put everything I have into making this album, so if someone's going to listen to it and review it, I kind of expect a little bit of it back, you know? Something that listens to what I'm saying and doing and finds what my real influences were. Not PJ Harvey. On the other hand, it's better to get PJ Harvey than Alanis Morissette, which is what it used to be! A lot!
What do you think are the main differences between your first and second albums?
I think it was a lot of confused ranting, that first record!! But I think it's endearing, for that reason. It feels like I've matured a lot, but at the same time refining music can sometimes make it seem too controlled, and not quite as edgy. But I'd like to think I'd kept the edge, but learnt how to put more into less. I think I've obsessed over lyrics more on this album than on the last one. I've felt it's important to not cram as many words into a sentence as possible. Maybe instead of just searching for what it is that makes you feel a certain way, I would like to make it tangible in some way, or come to a point. Not 'find the answer', but get a bit closer at least!
I also think there's a lot more hope in this record. When I wrote this record I tried to put a little bit of positivity in every song. This album's really about me moving on, from a place that I was right in the middle of during The First Blood Mystery [Carina's first album], which was a really confused, controlled, and possessed human being, from outside sources. With this album I'm getting hold of myself, as opposed to getting grabbed hold of by someone else. It's a real revelation. There's particular moments in each song where I've felt the most free and happy I've ever felt in my life. For Monument, I was standing on a balcony in Paris just strumming one chord on my guitar, and I wrote the whole song in one go. I felt so free, so alive, but like I could die because I didn't think it could get any better and if it got worse, it would be really bad... that was amazing. It was unlocking something inside, and it was a way to move forward. I realised that something good was going to happen, you know? Whether it was tomorrow or the day after or in a year, whatever it was, I could appreciate it when it came. Sometimes when you're waiting for something to happen, you miss everything that's going on around you. Sometimes the journey is more important than actually getting there. That's what the record's about really. It's my own choices, my own moves, and I've come out the other end a stronger person because I've learnt to stand on my own and be stubborn about what I want out of life. That's why it's called the Disconnection. I was disconnecting myself from that unhappy person that I was, the person that couldn't do what I'm doing now. It was all a process.
What's Motel 74 about?!
[Slightly embarrassed laughter] Uh... ok! It's kind of an elaboration of the story of my friendship with Ryan Adams. Like I was saying before, I was going through this time where I was madly depressed, and I had no confidence in myself. Basically, he came to see one of my gigs, and said to me "you've got to support me... we've gotta write a song together, let's do this, let's do that" and we became friends, and he's so complimentary, he's got such an amazing energy, and he's so talented, he's got this gift that whatever he says you believe him. And he explains things in such a way that your brain suddenly understands it, it clicks into place. I remember one thing he said, and it probably won't mean anything out of context, but he said, "Don't be a statue". It cleared the clouds away. Don't be a statue for anyone. So the song's about him helping me out of that bad place.
Hmm... So nothing happened between you then... ?!
Well! He's a fucking scream, so funny. And there was always this intense sort of sexual tension between us. But it was all kind of playful. And it's kind of a little message to him, because I haven't seen him for such a long time, and because he wrote a song for me on one of the album's he didn't release. So it's just a return gesture.
After this our conversation turned a little more obscure, as it is likely to do when you get two Kate Bush fans in the same room (a rare occurrence). I'll strike off points for tardiness, but Carina won me over, and chances are she'll win you too. Her album 'The Disconnection' is available now, and the new single 'Lacuna' is released February 9th in the UK.