Andrew Darley talks to Glasser about making her second album Interiors, a record that explores the physical and emotional world.
(Click images to enlarge)
Cameron Mesirow opens her spatial-defying sophomore album, Interiors, with the declaration “My home has no shape”. From therein, it explores her vision of interior and exterior space and their boundaries. The album deals with both the external, physical world and love and anxieties of one’s internal world. In describing the album, she cites her own recognition of the comforts she clings to that give her a sense of order and security in the world. Initially inspired by her move from California to Manhattan, the singer-songwriter was bewitched by the city’s striking architecture that surrounded her and how it affected her emotional, inner realm. On ‘Landscape’ Cameron explores the limitations of symbiosis in a romantic relationship, whilst ‘Exposure’ characterises the alienation of life in an ever-changing metropolis as a “modern trouble” that no one feels responsible for but all complacently contribute to.
The change in location also sparked a change in sound. The album was made with her partner and producer Van Rivers (known for his work with Fever Ray and Blonde Redhead), who helped her transition from her percussion-heavy debut, Ring, into a sleeker and and more expansive electronic sound. After the critical success of her first album, Cameron believes making this album was a completely different experience to its predecessor with the most noticeable difference being that she is aware that she has an audience now.
“Even the attitude I started with about it was different. I wrote the first one with no pressure and without an audience. So the whole experience was very different because I had made an album and I wanted to follow it up with something better and more me than the last one.”
She describes the pressure she felt in the beginning stages of making the album, both from herself and listeners. However, these expectations did not stop her from taking the time to develop and perfect the music before putting it out.
“I definitely did feel pressure but I still took a really long time. I actually had a change of heart during the process of making it. In the beginning, I was like “I just want to get it out!”. But then I started thinking that I needed every single thing on the album to be perfect before I put it out. No matter how long it took.”
The deliberate decision to polish each song to its full potential became a consuming experience for her, her producer and others involved in the recording process. She meticulously designed and sculpted each sound to the way she envisioned in her head and would not stop until she got it exactly right.
“Every single decision was deliberated over for a very long time and standards got even higher. Me and Van tore our hair out over it. I think my first album came out wonderfully but sometimes I think about how simple the process was compared to this one. With Interiors, it was a much more complicated process and every single sound felt like a life or death decision. I turned into a crazy person!
This is the fun part now because people are hearing the album and showing their appreciation. But while I was making it, I made these decisions and you don’t know how they’ll be received. Some things I had to tear myself away from even though I felt angry about them. It’s one of those things when you’re pouring over intricacies. Now that it’s finished I’m perfectly happy with the record.”
Her determination and precision becomes even clearer when I ask her about the tracklisting order, particularly the ‘Window’ song series in which ‘Window 3’ comes before ‘Window 2’ on the album.
“That’s what they were called as I was writing the album and when I was ordering the songs I decided to switch them. I felt the integrity of the song was tied up in those titles and it would be lost somehow if I changed their titles. And people begged me to switch them and I was ‘NO!’”
With all the thought and importance she placed on the production, she hopes people will “listen to it by themselves on headphones” to appreciate its subtleties and textures. Nonetheless, she states “I’ve put a couple of dance songs on there” so there is something to make people move, which looking back she laughs, “maybe I’m trying to tell myself something!”.
When it came it came to creating the visual component of the album, Cameron wanted something that would effectively translate the themes of the record. For this she turned to the artist, Jonathan Turner, who art directed the album cover, promotional photos and the music videos. She was drawn to him for his interest in architecture, which was the initial focus of the music but grew more personal over time. All of the album’s imagery is tied together by shape-shifting and reflective matter. The cover of the album captures the singer in a room warped by the mind-bending substance. I ask, curious, how the album cover was created.
“Well I was just at home and the floor just sprung up into this substance so I pulled on it and I could see my reflection in it. I was just lucky enough that Jonathan was there to take the photo. No, that didn’t happen! (Laughs) It’s a CGI effect that me and Jonathan played with and that mercurial substance became the aesthetic theme of the album, which makes it way through the album cover, all the photos and videos.”
Our conversation moves on to the period when she first emerged in the music world. When Ring was released in 2010, she was quickly aligned and compared to other alternative female pop artists such as Björk and Kate Bush. I wanted to know if she finds these comparisons limiting or flattering as a new artist?
“Well both actually. Those are artists that I love but there’s definitely something wrong that I only get compared to female artists. I think there’s something wrong with the world in general in that way. But I’m also torn in a way because I know it’s a human tendency to define. We call the sky blue and so that we can call it a day. All that matters is that you got the colour right. It can be quite offensive to an artist who has a put a lot of work in and has the drive to stand on their own. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter as long as people like it. It doesn’t really mean anything if they compare it to Kate Bush or Phil Collins. “Do you like it?” is always my question.
It’s something that used to bother me more in the beginning but not really anymore. But it’s a good and valid question: Why are women and their art only being compared to other female artists? I think the actual problem that I have with it is that it happens to women way more than it does to men. Not even in music, more in a societal way. There’s always a question put to women: Are you a nun or are you a whore? That is the real problem.”
With the album ready for release early next month, Cameron has thought a lot about how to translate the new songs live, given that they are more electronic-based and how they will fit in with her older songs:
“I’ve already started and I’ve played one show. I played with a lot of electronic backing track which I have no real problem with because it’s kind of like drag! Not literally drag but what’s the difference if the song is live or not if it communicates to the audience. But I’ve also added a female percussionist who will be playing xylophone and a half-drumkit which sounds great with the songs both from Ring and the new album. It’s really awesome with live drums.”
She mentions that she is building an audio-visual show with the album’s art director, Jonathan Turner, “that will be more like a presentation” which she is working with which she believes will be “a full-on experience”. No doubt that the mysterious substance that embodies the visuals and videos will make its way to the live stage.
When succinctly expresses that “the theme of my life so far has been about balance, and lack thereof”, I wondered whether making this album has helped her understand or deal with some of the anxieties that she has battled with and the world around her.
“I’m not sure entirely but I do feel making the album has been very therapeutic. I feel like I’ve taken on some of my issues in more specific way than I did on Ring. I feel this record is a lot more direct in dealing with the anxieties that I have and thinking about them more. So maybe I’ve dealt with them more and then maybe not.”
With an album that she has put every energy into that explores her relationship to herself and the world around her, she optimistically concludes our talk, “or maybe I’ll just have to keep making records until I do!”. Judging by the precise and lustrous world she creates on Interiors, we’re all okay with that.
Interiors will be released on October 8th. For more information about Glasser and future live shows, check out her official website (glassermusic.com)