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Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner Is On Her Own In New Album, 'Head Of Roses'

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Jenn Wasner has been part of the indie rock duo Wye Oak since 2006. And on the side, she's collaborated with...

JENN WASNER: Sylvan Esso, Deerhoof, Dirty Projectors, Helado Negro, Bon Iver.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's a long list. Wasner is also a solo artist making music under the name Flock of Dimes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "2 HEADS")

WASNER: (Singing) How can I explain myself? I have two heads inside my mouth, four eyes crying as they laugh. And both will waste away by half.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Her latest album is "Head Of Roses," and she joins me now. Welcome to the program.

WASNER: Hi. Thanks so much for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell me about this song.

WASNER: The song "2 Heads" actually is one of the only songs on this record that I didn't write in the brief window of time in March and April 2020, which is where the vast majority of the other material came from. And it still sort of fit in and was this perfect introductory statement. I mean, even that first line, the how can I explain myself? It's sort of like this, like, throat-clearing moment. Duality's obviously, like, a big part of this record, and it's - accountability is a huge theme, too, of sort of like the importance of sitting with your own pain but also sort of reckoning with the painful truth that, as a human being, in relation with others, it's impossible to avoid being the source of pain for others, even as you are being caused pain yourself.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. For context, you had a breakup, right? - right before the pandemic started when you were working on this.

WASNER: I did. Yeah, I actually had two (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh.

WASNER: I had ended a relationship to begin another. And that was then ended. And so it was sort of like being very aware of the fact that I had hurt someone I cared about very deeply but also sort of having to sit with the reality that I, too, was being hurt in the exact same way by someone else.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to ask you about the sound of some of these songs because the album really does feel lovely with a lot of texture, you know, guitars, the fluttering sort of electronic sounds. But it is also bittersweet and - ruminative is the word I would say. I want to listen to "Hard Way."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HARD WAY")

WASNER: (Singing) When I tried to love, it was just a song, something I could not say. Couldn't call it off, couldn't make it last. So I took the hard way.

In my mind as I was writing it, it was a beautiful and pure and earnest love song, which - it can be read that way if you sort of, like, set aside the sort of odd and a little bit unsettled arrangement of it and just look at the words. You know, just because I know doesn't mean I'll go - like, this promise. But as I tried to record it, it just kept coming out in this very strange, dark, unsettled sort of way. And it wasn't how I imagined it. And I wasn't really sure why. And it took some distance and some perspective and, obviously, going, through this experience of intense loss and confusion and pain to sort of realize that there's this power of the subconscious to pick up on things that you're not consciously aware of as they're happening. And I think that that might have been what was happening when I wrote the song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HARD WAY")

WASNER: (Singing) If I only knew only half as much as you, I would be amazing, hazy.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, you were going through this very painful experience during a pandemic.

WASNER: Yeah, no kidding (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, talk to me about that. That must have, I mean, just been horrific.

WASNER: I mean, it was not great.

(LAUGHTER)

WASNER: But I really poured myself into my career. And I love what I do. And so this thing that had become this huge part of who I am had also become a means of distracting myself from the kind of deep self-reflection that I think was necessary to really evolve rather than just being on this sort of emotional autopilot.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLOCK OF DIMES SONG, "TWO")

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How you doing now? I mean, where do you feel you're at at this moment, you know, on the cusp of possibly, you know, the corner being turned on this pandemic and a new phase opening up?

WASNER: There's a lot more joy in my life now. I mean, I'm sort of awake to the beautiful things that surround me at every moment in a different way. And those things may have been present a year ago. But I just wasn't able to see them because I wasn't able to see through my own suffering. I think that's a lesson that I'm trying to carry with me. A lot of what is most beautiful about our lives is really accessible to us as long as we're able to sort of, like, open our eyes and see it for what it is.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That is Jenn Wasner of Flock of Dimes. Her new album is "Head Of Roses." And it's out now. Thank you so much.

WASNER: It's my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TWO")

WASNER: (Singing) Can I be one? Can we be two? Can I be for myself? Still be... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.