A month after the release of her new album Loner, the powerful and energetic Caroline Rose sat down with us to discuss a couple tracks off the album, her favorite music of 2018, and the music industry’s failure to provide an inclusive space. Below is the transcription of the conversation, which you can listen to here.
Dawood: With Loner, your new album that came out this year, there’s – and correct me if I’m wrong – there’s a persona built around it, this sort of like tracksuit-clad, cigarette-wielding badass. Why did it make sense for this album particularly to do that specific persona, and is it a caricature that you built from the ground up or is it an exacerbation of your own personality traits?
Caroline: Yeah, I actually wasn’t trying to build a character at all. The tracksuit thing is just because that was the idea for the cover, I just thought it would be funny, and I think a persona has kind of been built around that. What I was trying to do was just make a record that sounded like me, so it really just is my personality in one album.
Dawood: Loner is way different than the album that you released about four years ago, was it exciting or exhausting to stick to this new format, or this new character that you built?
Caroline: Well, I talk about this often, because I think it gets a little bit misconstrued about how different this album sounds as opposed to the last one. There was a significant amount of time between the last album and this one, and I think if I had released all the material that I’d been working on up until this album, the transition would make a lot more sense. I think the biggest thing is that when I put out that last album, I was already in a transition by the time that even came out. No one heard that, so it does seem like a really stark contrast, but it happened a lot more naturally, I promise.
Dawood: Do you have any plans to release the four years in between to kind of fill in the gaps between these two albums?
Caroline: Well my side project is completely different than my solo stuff, so I will eventually release that material, but I think it’s really good so I wouldn’t want to just throw it away or throw it up on the internet and watch it get lost somewhere in a dark cobwebby corner. But it will come out eventually. I think maybe when I get tired of doing my solo stuff, I’ll probably do something different.
Dawood: With Loner, since it is, like you said, kind of a stark contrast from the first album, has the reception been what you hoped it would be?
Caroline: The reception has been by and far way better than I ever expected. The outpouring of support has been so surprising and mind-blowingly cool. So I’m just kind of pinching myself every so often.
Dawood: The next question I have is based off of ”More Of The Same”. Something that really caught my eye is that you said this song in particular was about how you have a faith in anything and everything, like whenever you were young you tried to make objects move with your mind, or you thought Yoda was real, or stuff like that. How did that faith that you discussed shift as you moved into adulthood? I assume you still don’t try to make objects move with your mind, though it’d be cool if you did.
Caroline: No I don’t, and that’s just a specific example of a funnier example of what I’m talking about. When we play this song live, I just give a short spiel about this time I went to a party and it was like a “cool kid” party, and I felt like a total loser. I guess what I’m trying to do is use examples of the feeling of putting your faith in things that don’t really matter that much, ultimately realizing “Oh, that doesn’t really matter.” Like, it doesn’t so much matter about being cool, or scoring the hottest babe at the party or whatever. I think somewhere along the way, a switch flipped for me, and I just kind of opened my eyes to a lot of things that I realized weren’t… that important. I think this is liberating to a lot of people, and also scary at the same time, but the feeling of our own mortality, and that we’re all going to die. I guess it was just the type of thing that sunk in somewhere in the last few years and I was just like, “Oh, all these ridiculous goals that I set for myself, they’re just not that important.”
Dawood: In the “grand scheme of things”, so to say.
Caroline: Yeah, and putting your faith in things like, you know, people that you thought were heroes, they’re just people, and everyone is just kind of just this vulnerable creature, and we all have the same issues. We all have to take our pants off when we go to the bathroom, so I guess this song is really about that feeling, the realization that this faith that you have, it might not be real.
Dawood: Whenever I read about that, I interpreted it as this faith that you have in things, when you lost it, it was a loss. Was it more of an acceptance rather than that, like an acceptance of the way things really are?
Caroline: Yeah, but I think this song in particular is about the moment of disillusionment, when you realize like “Oh, wow, my parents don’t have all the answers, they’re just very flawed humans”, and there’s a bit of disappointment in that, like learning that Santa Claus isn’t real. It’s the growing pains of realization and rationalism that sets in when you become an adult. I think I constantly have moments like that, but now I feel much more liberated, because it’s okay. It’s okay not to think that all these things are sacred. Maybe some things that you thought were sacred aren’t, but maybe some things that you never realized were sacred might be.
Dawood: Speaking to the example you gave about realizing your parents aren’t exactly perfect, and that disillusionment like you said, that everything you grew up to put in such a very particular frame, then that frame kind of like, shatters. Then you realize like, “Oh. Not everything is exactly in this very particular way that I’ve seen it, there are nuances to everything. “ I think a really particular way that I personally dealt with that is, whenever I realized like… you know, you grow up and you hear the phrase “everybody makes mistakes”, like you hear that all the time when you grow up. I remember growing up and being like “Yeah, obviously, people make mistakes.” But I always added a little asterisk, where I was like “..but I don’t make mistakes.” So realizing, whenever I grew up, and I would fuck things up, I was like “Oh, this is what real life is like.” Every single instance or every single situation that I’ve put myself in is way different than what I perceived it to be growing up. There’s that moment of realization, and that’s what you would say “More Of The Same” is about?
Caroline: Yeah, totally, and I think it’s such a twenty-something ideal to think that your life is going to be this big great wonderful thing that you have to live up to, and you have to put in all this work to make sure that your life is the perfect dream that you always imagined for yourself. Then, as you get older, you realize how hard life is. Like it’s hard enough just to make a living, and pay rent, and follow your dreams and all these things. So I think it’s about a multitude of things, for sure.
Dawood: Alright, I’m going to bring it back a little bit, bring us back to Earth. Who’s your favorite artist, or what’s your favorite album of 2018 so far?
Caroline: Well, I’ve been really rocking out to the U.S. Girls album.
Dawood: Oh dude… me too. Did you see them at SXSW?
Caroline: No, and I’m really heartbroken that we didn’t. We had like, no time at SXSW, but we did get to see Natalie Prass, who’s one of our favorites. She’s the best, she’s the nicest human in the whole world. We saw her play on her birthday, she’s a dream.
Dawood: So the new U.S. Girls album, anything else you’ve been rocking?
Caroline: Yeah, Kali Uchis has some new music out, I heard the single that she put out with Tyler, The Creator which is so fucking awesome. I love both of them so much, just visually and musically I think they’re complete geniuses. OH, and Janelle Monae, oh Jesus. I just like… I have a major boner for Janelle Monae and her music and like, everything that is her. And Vundabar put out a great record, they’re our buds, they’re the best. Lucy Dacus is a friend of ours who put out an amazing record, and I’m also obsessed with this band BOYTOY, I think their record is coming out soon.
Dawood: You talk about a lot of serious topics through a relatively comical lens, and “Soul No. 5”, I’ve read that this song is sort of about reversing the tables on catcalling.
Caroline: Yeah, it’s loosely influenced by catcalling, but it’s mostly just like, I just thought it would be funny to just reverse gender roles, and it makes me laugh thinking about me being an aggressive Casanova type. Like, super cocky, puffing out my chest, and calling out people on the street and stuff. The story behind this song though, they were originally completely different lyrics, and it was kind of a different vibe for the song. When we got in the studio my record label at the time, I had a different record label when I was making this album, they were in love with the song. They were like “You need to put this on the album”, but by the time we had gotten in the studio, I was like “It doesn’t really… fit with the vibe of the album.” I felt like I was making a different album. So I was just like, I might not put it on the album, I’m not really gelling with this song. My co-producer, Paul Butler, he was like “Why don’t you just take the piss out of it, just have fun with it?” I was like ”Okay, I’m just going to get in the vocal booth and just freestyle”, and I ended up doing just exactly that. This persona kind of came out and I was just like “I’m just going to roll with this.” It makes me laugh, it makes me smile, and it made me like the song again. I still enjoy playing it, which is a testament because you should really like what you track, don’t put something out if you don’t like it. I think record labels and music industry people would be horrified by that, because they’re like “Oh, it’s not consistent with the YouTube videos that are out there”, but whatever man. Life is short, do what you want.
Dawood: I feel like that’s been a pretty consistent theme with Loner in particular, doing what makes you happy or what you want to do rather than what other people are trying to get you do. Not necessarily the themes of the songs, but the actual way they sound, and the way that you’ve taken them by force. Like you said, you want to do something that makes you happy, and I think that definitely comes through in Loner a lot, making sure that you aren’t compromising for anything or anybody else. You’re just doing what you want to do.
Caroline: Yeah, and that’s a big deal too, because my label at the time, it was like at the end of every single day in the studio they’d be like “Make sure it’s cohesive! Make sure it’s cohesive! Make sure you have a unified sound!”, and at a certain point I was just like “Guys, you have to trust me here.” And they ended up not trusting me, and I moved to a different label. I was like you have to trust the vision here, and trust that look, I’m making an album that’s somewhat ambitious. I don’t want all the songs to sound the same, I want it to sound diverse, and I want it to sound like the way that I listen to music now. If you listen to the playlists that I make, there are elements of so many different styles of music, and I think that’s consistent with the way that millennials and the next generation are listening to music. You get tired if you hear the same thing over and over again. I can’t sit through an album that’s like, and I’m not trying to quote myself here, but more of the same thing. I made it a point to make sure that the album sounded diverse, and sounded funny at times and serious at times.
Dawood: So that there’s something new at every turn.
Caroline: Yeah, it’s diverse enough to hopefully capture people’s attention, and I made it a point to not make it too long. It’s only 35 minutes.
Dawood: Going off of “Soul No. 5”, and the reversing of the gender roles, obviously we live in a predominately male dominated society and, unfortunately, the music industry hasn’t seen its shortage of that. Since you put out I Will Not Be Afraid, so about 4 years now, how would you say that the music industry playing field has been shifted to accommodate female artists?
Caroline: I don’t think it’s accommodated females at all, or non-binary people. Non-binary people aren’t even in the conversation still. I think that women and non-binary people are making really good music, and are kind of banding together. People talk about this all the time, and it’s like a walking eyeroll every time I hear “Oh, women are putting out such great music this year!” It’s like, no you idiot, women have been putting out great music for-fucking-ever, it’s just finally all of us are so fed up with the status quo and a bunch of straight white dudes who are like “ROCK IS DEAD”. It’s like no, rock isn’t dead, it’s just that we’re tired of seeing all straight white males in a rock band making the same type of tired rock music. I think the paradigm has shifted because people are just getting exhausted over it, and I do think that the political climate has really ignited a ferocity behind demanding change. It was, even before this current political climate. The pendulum has been swinging, and I think the pendulum will probably swing back to being more of the status quo again, but each time it swings back I think it pushes us a little bit forward. Unfortunately, I think there’s a hierarchy to change too, and right now women are at the focal point of change, but what about women of color? What about queer women, and non-binary people, and trans women? There’s always a lag, so I try to make a point of showcasing them because when I’m given a microphone, I think people should be reminded of that.
Dawood: As someone who is putting out art to the masses, do you feel that it falls as a responsibility or an obligation to say what you think needs to be heard?
Caroline: I don’t think it’s anyone’s obligation, I think if you feel passionately about something, don’t hold back. I don’t think that there’s any reason to hold back at this point in time, or ever. It’s just something I feel passionately about, but I also… I don’t know, I don’t have a filter?
Dawood: Alright, I got one more for you then I’ll let you head to your performance. What’s next? Your tour’s over for Loner soon, is that correct?
Caroline: I mean, not really. We start our headlining tour in just a couple days in Nashville, which is exciting because it’s our first real headlining tour, then it continues into June, then we go to Europe and the UK in July. Then we’ll be back, we’ll just be continuing to tour. We’ll be putting out a new music video that I’m really excited about for “Bikini”. I directed it and had a bunch of my friends star in it, it’s really funny.
Dawood: You mentioned your side project and you said you’d hopefully be putting some of that stuff out. Is the next step more Caroline Rose, or something else?
Caroline: Oh yeah, it’s definitely going to be more C. Rose stuff for the foreseeable future.