I’ve been very fortunate in my ~*music journalism career*~ to have conducted mostly amicable and thought-provoking interviews. It’s not, perhaps, a coincidence that most of my interviewees have been women; this is partly because of my previous place of employment, a young feminist-oriented news and culture website, but also because as of late, I’ve sought out female musicians as interview subjects. After a literal lifetime of listening to (generally) men dictate and describe my (the female love interest/object of scorn and/or derision) feelings through songs, it’s only in the past couple of years that I’ve flipped my personal listening POV toward, and for, women.
The interview that really nudged my career into my now kinda-niche was with Kiley Lotz, the mastermind behind the indie rock outfit Petal. Though I did, and do, receive a deluge of music publicity emails every day, something about the language her publicist used struck me. And when I first watched the video for “Heaven,” a song centered around the small performances and rituals folks with anxiety go through to get through the day, I felt seen in a way that made me reach out.
The rest was history. We chatted for well over an hour over the phone, and by the end of it, I was in friend-love. I hung up knowing that I’d see, and speak with, Lotz again, except that the next time we’d meet, we’d both be at new milestones in our lives. And until that meeting happened again, I could listen to her album Shame, with its haunting, hopeful refrains, on repeat, and “heart” her many dog photos on Twitter.
When I finally learned that she was finally heading into LA for a show (while on tour with PWR BTTM and Pity Sex, two bands with great names, fans, and discographies), it was almost too late — I follow so many bands on so many social media platforms that I’d totally missed her touring announcement. But at the last minute, I got myself an in to the show and, surrounded by the Troubadour’s historic hollow, I found myself shifting between modalities, from friend to fan.
Lotz’s voice is surprising, in that most of her songs, at least when recorded, don’t engage her full range. But when she sings live, it’s as though every tear of emotion is ripping through her at once; her Shame tunes, already vibrant with detail, break into cinematic soundscapes, and a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Silver Springs” seemed sacred, a testament to both Lotz’s performing skill and the joyful and socially conscious crowd. (Which was out in force at Lotz’s 8:30pm set time.)
This, though Lotz had been hospitalized for food poisoning all through the day, and had only returned to the venue an hour before she was slated to play. When I met up with her after PWR BTTM’s ebullient, gender-challeging and -celebrating set, she seemed tired in the way that people who work hard, but couldn’t live without that work, do. Against the glow of the Troubadour’s outdoor neon and the sound of Pity Sex’s angst-with-an-edge vibes, we conspired together about our finances, our frustrations, our futures near and far.
Every time a journalist does a good (as in interesting and positive, not necessarily “juicy”) interview, it’s tempting to want to see the resulting convo as a cementing of a true bond between the interviewee and the interviewer. This is, at least from my side, a fraught idea, as the rapport built in interviews is as much of a social-business arrangement as my editor assigning me that interview.
Yet this is a trap that I oftentimes fall into, and I wonder if this is because of how and when I first spoke to Lotz: when we were both feeling out our next escalating steps, and when our working conditions rose to meet us at the next legs of our journeys. I doubt I would’ve been as forward or as personal in my future interviews if it hadn’t been for Lotz’s curiosity and receptiveness to my questions and my intentions; if we hadn’t struggled with and picked apart similar ideas and situations. More importantly, this interview experience gave me a potent taste of the music biz at its best — two folks unpacking the world for themselves, and for those who’d hear them out in full.
Photo Credit: Emily Scooby Dubin