by Victoria King
I Can’t Keep All of Our Secrets is the most recent release from Rae Spoon, and the most electronic album of his discography to date. Before my stupid computer crapped out in the middle of our interview (unbeknownst to me), he was kind enough to chat about the new album, Nirvana, and gendered pronouns.
Stylus: Was it a “conscious” effort to diverge from folk-pop to a more electronic sound?
Rae Spoon: I guess so. It’s like any process, like playing country music or bluegrass. It’s been over the last three albums that I’ve moved out of that. My last two or three albums have been consistently more pop-ish. I wanted to make an electronic album, that’s where I was heading, but it just took me a while to get there.
Stylus: Is there any place you find yourself writing best?
RS: Ummm, not really. I’ve been on tour a lot for the last ten years, so if I need to write I can do it pretty much anywhere. Even when I’m travelling or on the train, I can write stuff on my computer which is really convenient.
Stylus: With writing more songs on the computer (as opposed to with a guitar in hand), has those means by which you facilitate your writing changed the content?
RS: Mmmm, not really. I try to make my content appropriate to the genre. I have to watch how country my electronic songs are (jokes) otherwise it doesn’t make much sense. But there are different places where I wrote things. I wrote most of that last one in Montreal, and then in Germany, and you can kind of hear that. It just sounds more like Montreal and Germany. I guess for the country album I was in, like, Vancouver or Alberta and I think you can probably hear that influence.
Stylus: In one video-blog post, you mention that Lisa Loeb’s “Stay” came out the year you first started songwriting. Growing up, who were artists that you really spoke out to you and inspired you?
RS: I definitely listened to more Christian contemporary music, and then Nirvana cut through that. I mean, even if you were in a pretty religious home it was enough to get through to you. So it was like Jesus, then Nirvana. So it was sort of like a Nirvana video. And then later on in high school, I got really into folk like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.
Stylus: Christian contemporary?
RS: Yeah, like, people who are “born again Christians” tend to only listen to that kind of music, and only let their kids listen to that kind of music. So I was in a house like that where it was like, “Yay, Amy Grant!” [Laughs] So Nirvana pulled me out of there . . . But there are Christian trans-people.
Stylus: Absolutely. Oh! Sorry, real quick – what was your favorite Nirvana song?
RS: I think I really liked “About a Girl” because that was like the first song I learned to play it off of tabs. I actually still really like a lot of their songs.
Stylus: Forgive my ignorance with the Christian-trans question . . . But on that note, do you find that people tiptoe around you because they’re not sure what they can/can’t say, or do they ignore that altogether?
RS: No, not really. I mean, I think people generally really wanna make other people comfortable. I mess up people’s pronouns sometimes. I think that there’s this constant element of people pointing out to me that I’m trans, just by their “not being able to see it.” [Laughs] They’ll be like, “She, he, they,” you know? I think people are genuinely trying, which is all you can really ask. I’ve played in a lot of smaller places, and for some of those people I’m the only trans-person they’d ever met. I’m very understanding of that. I don’t hear people saying a lot of malicious things anymore.
Stylus: So for anyone that’s working out concepts of their own gender, what advice would you give?
RS: I guess just that if you want someone to use a certain pronoun, for example, it’s not my job to convince people of my gender. Anything you do it has to be for yourself. Because no matter what you do, maybe other people wouldn’t do that . . . and it’s not on you to convince people that you’re this gender. People should actually just respect other people. And that’s a shitty thing and it’s taking a long time to change. I think knowing that in yourself makes it a lot easier to deal with. You can’t control the outside, and it’s a basic right to be called by whatever pronoun you want . . . Even for me, if I’m on tour and I don’t see many queer people or trans people for a couple weeks I start feeling a little weird [laughs]. You’re like, “Am I the only one?” You need a community.
You can check out Rae Spoon this Friday, February 24th at Gio’s