„Let’s be gothic!“
Reflektiert, klug und absolut witzig. Durchdacht, beobachtend und doch immer mittendrin, mit beiden Beinen fest im Leben stehend. Phoebe fucking Bridgers ist also back. Mit all ihrer Einzigartigkeit – in Musik wie in Person. Endlich bewirbt sie ihr zweites Soloalbum Punisher. Endlich. Selbst nachdem man unzählige Mal ihr Debüt Stranger in the Alps im Jahr 2017 durchgehört hatte, blieb der Redebedarf. Ein regelrecht fieser Drang nach dem Mehr. Ganz so, als hätte sie einen mit diesen ersten elf Songs angelockt, die jeweils ein Sternchen mit dem Versprechen auf weitere, ebenbürtig aufregende Ausführungen mit sich brachten. Kaum ein Jahr später fütterte Bridgers uns weiter mit Live-Auftritten und einer EP mit boygenius, einer neuen Band bestehend aus Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus und ihr. 2019 dann die Platte mit Conor Oberst unter dem gaggigen Namen Better Oblivion Community Center. Weitere Kollaborationen mit The 1975 und The Nationals Matt Berninger folgten. Das alles machte aber nicht im Geringsten satt. So wie Erdnüsse. Lecker, aber absolut süchtig machend. Keiner will da aufhören. Und nun also Album Nummer 2. Jetzt können wir noch mehr erfahren aus der Perspektive der Phoebe Bridgers. Endlich.
Klar, dass man da auch mal mit der Musikerin sprechen will, die Sätze wie keine andere formuliert und diese intoniert, sodass man innerlich immer wieder für sich skandiert: „So hat das noch nie jemand gesagt!“ Oder: „So habe ich das noch nie gesehen!“ Ja Bridgers wirkt wie ein Urgestein der Musikszene, eine die nicht mehr wegzudenken ist und eine, deren Denkanstöße für ewig im Kopf kleben bleiben. Und doch zeigt sie sich im Telefoninterview mal unsicher, mal gar nicht so klar in ihren Aussagen und dann wieder überraschend locker wie auch ehrlich und unfassbar wortgewandt, poetisch, clever. Sie streut hier und da ein „Dude“ ein, ganz so, als wäre sie unser aller gute Freundin, mit der man einfach herumhängen könnte und von der gleichzeitig auch noch die Klugheit direkt auf einen herüberstrahlen würde. Wir sollten alle mehr im Bridgers-Modus fahren, oder?
What is it like in Los Angeles right now?
It’s so sunny and beautiful outside, but very strange. I’m looking at a bird in front of my house, I’ve never seen one like this. It’s the perfect paradise, but we’re all stuck in it. Every time I drive around, I see a group of idiots standing too close together and just not wearing a mask. That depresses me and feels completely surreal.
People are becoming more suspicious now, aren’t they?
The whole Corona situation makes me definitely judge people faster. I hate that. But it’s also hard not to be like that in Los Angeles when people refuse to even care a little about other people’s lives. The situation brings me on edge like many others. It is difficult to deal with. I even started drinking again. But I’m trying to improve. I do yoga for example, I have to get the pressure off my shoulders somehow.
Is it the right time for self-optimization?
Maybe. I can make almond milk now! And I also call back more often and generally talk a lot on the phone. I told my therapist and he just said: “Of course you do. Because you no longer have to be afraid that they will reject you because they have to have lunch or something.” That’s so true! It’s very important for me to feel connected to other people in the corona crisis. And a phone call is the only intimacy we get at the moment.
What is your daily luxury at the moment?
I think I currently have the time to read more.
People tend to talk more about “hope” these days. Is this really something that can help us right now?
I definitely think that pessimism is unproductive. But on the other hand … A friend of mine shared the saying “We put on what we’re ready for” totally naively on Instagram. I was just like “Dude, what’s wrong with you? A pandemic is going on here!” And it also has a much bigger impact on people from poorer backgrounds. But all this positivity comes from the rich. In that sense, I would say: let’s be gothic! There is a very thin line between over-the-top optimism, where you always say “everything will be fine” and simply help. I want to help people.
How can we help?
I saw people’s bail online – I hope that’s not the case in Germany at all – but people in prison are stuck with a $ 500 bail for non-violent things like drug possession here. That drives me crazy that they may have to sit in there for a year because they can’t afford to get out earlier. And that’s where I’m getting involved. I want to inform other people. I want to help. For me it is better to do something than to do nothing.
How is it for you to promote a new record these days?
I knew if I had nothing to do now I would go crazy. So it’s good to be able to focus on the music. And I can control that at least, unlike everything else. I am so glad that I have it.
Your music always has a nostalgic touch. Where does it come from?
I actually feel like a pretty nostalgic person. A nostalgic author. Sometimes I smell something and get catapulted back to a memory. That’s my absolute favorite feeling! And of course songs are memories that are bound together. So what I do is inherently nostalgic. And I love vintage synthesizers, but also sounds that I’ve heard somewhere before, which also makes me nostalgic.
Do you always start with the melody for a song?
Or at least with just a first draft of the lyrics, which then changes a lot over time. It can make it a completely different song when I record it. Because in the beginning I need a rhyme scheme that works before I can even see how I can express myself in a song. And whether I have anything interesting to say. My first lyrics are always pretty basic. But over time they change, I get a distance to them and can look at them and see what they still need. You have to see which word works exactly and so it happens that my favorite lyrics in the whole song are created in the very last minute.
Do you had to have patience with the songs in general?
It’s very difficult for me to write songs. I usually try to write a song and totally fail. And sometimes something comes together after months. It is very illusory. I mean, I really need ages. I wrote many of the songs before my first album came out.
How can it be that it still sounds so cohesive?
I think if you always work with the same people, it also sounds more coherent. I wasn’t interested in doing something completely different this time.
What was it like working with Mike Mogis again?
He’s so neurotic. I really like the whole Omaha crew, the Bright Eyes people. They are so cute. Mike always said they are the Three Stooges. Nate is very calm, Mike is totally hyper, and Conor is the peacekeeper. It’s fun to hang out with them. Nate also plays horn on the album. When he played “Kyoto”, he didn’t tell anyone that his tooth was chipped. He was in excruciating pain but didn’t tell us. He posted about his tooth when the song came out. I just wrote him: “Dude, what the fuck? You could have just told us that and we could have recorded the song another day!”
You often work together with other musicians. What’s your secret recipe? Are you a real team player or do you just know how to guide others?
I just trust the people I work with. I think that’s the key. If you can take your hands away a bit. If I hadn’t been in Better Oblivion Community Center it would have been weird, but it would still be a good band. If I hadn’t been boygenius it would still be a good band. I don’t feel like when I leave the room it gets bad. It’s really about trust and of course about also liking their music.
Do you have this trust in yourself or did you have to learn it first?
It was definitely a process. I’m always the most scared when I start a project. But after three days I feel absolutely comfortable and at the end of every collaboration I look back and think: Oh man, if we would start again with this dynamic, it would be so easy! But you just have to go through a lot. The last show of a tour is always the best.
What makes you feel confident?
Being on stage makes me feel confident. I’m not a nervous person at all. I think everyone has a bit of body dysmorphism – sometimes I don’t feel so hot, but I’m still confident.
Do you feel like you have achieved a lot?
Sometimes. It will be difficult this year. Because I have this feeling in such unexpected moments. If I am going to play at a festival in Germany that I have never heard of, I don’t know the other bands and then I’ll go on stage and the crowd freaks out. Then I have this moment: Oh my god, that’s great! That’s what I need. And I can’t wait to play live again. The songs change enormously on tour. And I always write a lot of new things on the road.
Do you feel like an adult?
(laughs) No. I look around constantly for adult guidance and then I realize: wait, shit, I’m the adult here! I always think I still need someone, but I have to do stuff on my own now. But why not? I do yoga, almond milk and sometimes bread. Just sometimes I’m like a child.