2016 Artist Survey: Lucy Dacus

Dacus on Trump, Scary Movies, First Kisses, Friends, Bowie and Prince, and Memorable Fan Encounters

Feb 17, 2017 Issue # 59 - 15th Anniversary
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For Under the Radar's 14th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2016. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2016 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions. Here are some answers from Lucy Dacus. Dacus' debut album, No Burden, was released in 2016, first in February on EggHunt Records and again in September via Matador (who will be releasing her next album).

For our annual Artist Surveys we emailed the same set of questions to musicians about Trump and the election, 2016's deaths, self-driving cars, Stranger Things, first kisses, scary movies they shouldn't have seen as a child, which Friends character they are most like, and much more.

Pick up or download Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue for Artist Survey interviews with Amber Arcades, Austra, Faris Badwan of Cat's Eyes and The Horrors, Boxed In, Caveman, The Charlatans, Cursive, Lucy Dacus, The Dears, C Duncan, Sadie Dupuis of Sad13 and Speedy Ortiz, Dutch Uncles, Ezra Furman, Robyn Hitchcock, The Invisible, Justin Lockey of Editors and Minor Victories, Lost Under Heaven (LUH), Lush, Midlake, Phantogram, The Range, Springtime Carnivore, Sunflower Bean, Surfer Blood, TEEN, The Thermals, Nick Valensi of CRX and The Strokes, Jenn Wasner of Flock of Dimes and Wye Oak, and Yuck.

A shorter version of Dacus' survey appeared in the print version of Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue, this is the full unedited version.

Top 10 Albums of 2016

I had too many on my list, so I'm just going to list my most listened to of the year. Major omissions include Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, Angel Olsen, Mitski, Chance The Rapper, and Solange.

1. Big Thief: Masterpiece

2. Andy Shauf: The Party

3. Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial

4. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down: A Man Alive

5. Pinegrove: Cardinal

6. Julia Jacklin: Don't Let the Kids Win

7. Y La Bamba: Ojos del Sol

8. Kendrick Lamar: untitled unmastered.

9. The Lemon Twigs: Do Hollywood

10. Blood Orange: Freetown Sound

2016 was regarded by many as a fairly tough and negative year. Was it also a hard year for you personally? If so, how? And also what were the high points for you?

2016 was tough but I wouldn't call it negative in my case. This will always be the year when I started doing music full time and completely changed the structure of my life. I've played 130 shows, been to 48 states, 9 countries, and it never got old. It's also the year when I began to fully understand homesickness. 

What are your thoughts on how the U.S. presidential election played out?

There are tons of structural issues that I'm upset about, like the fact that citizens have to register to vote instead of allowing it as a right granted at the age of 18 and the outdated existence of the Electoral College, but there's no escaping the fact that even if the foundation is cracked, so many people still supported and support Trump and I'm entirely confused, occasionally terrified, and struggling with remaining patient and understanding.

Let's discuss Donald Trump. What does the rise of Trump tell you about America in 2016? What concerns you most about a Trump presidency? How do you think his presidency might personally change your life? What message do you have for those who voted for Trump? What actions will you take over the course of the next four years to either protest a Trump presidency or support it?

Voters on both sides were victims to separate media echo chambers. Technology offers an opportunity for everyone to create and disseminate propaganda and opinions, but algorithms and targeted advertising streamline the single viewpoint that you either already believed or tell you what your demographic is expected to believe. More than ever, I'm aware of how population density affects political stances (urban v. rural). My greatest immediate concern is the deportation of Muslims and my greatest long-term concern is how children are going to be taught about race relations. POC friends of mine and friends of friends have told me that their children are scared. They understand that they are in danger and believe that they are unwanted. Meanwhile, I fear that white children will grow into their entitlement comfortably and we'll have a whole new generation of people prioritizing "economic prosperity" over equality like in this election.

What reality TV star would you have rather been elected president?

I don't watch TV but maybe Ellen DeGeneres?  

If you were president, what would you try to accomplish in your first 100 days in office?

I know none of this would be easy, especially if I had a Republican House and Senate to work with, but I would makes move towards universal health care, decriminalize marijuana and pardon those in jail for related convictions, recall the drone program, fund the establishment of a new plasma waste converter plant, and begin to repurpose the military budget to reforming law enforcement which would include research and development towards accurate and effective non-fatal weaponry.

What are your thoughts on Brexit and the future of the European Union? To what extent do you think the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump were motivated by the same factors?

I recently learned an interesting fact that Glastonbury was the same weekend as the vote. That's a traditionally liberal-leaning group of 200,000 British people who didn't get to the polls. Though people were so certain that it wouldn't pass that they didn't think they needed to. That sounds like a familiar sentiment to many non-voters in the U.S. There are similarities, but remember that Brexit happened first. We had time to learn from that.

We lost three highly influential music icons in 2016. What are your thoughts on the passing of David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen? And what are your favorite albums by each artist?

It's an odd sensation to grieve the loss of people you've never met. But the relationship between maker and taker is strong despite its lack of body and form. I feel lucky to exist after these musicians and not before so that I'm able to learn from their confidence, their innovation, their commitment to remaining honest to their intuitions and their art. Ziggy Stardust from Bowie, Purple Rain from Prince, and maybe Songs of Love and Hate from Cohen.

What do you think Prince and Bowie's afterlife project sounds like?

This question is supposed to be lighthearted, but I'm no fun and can't make up an answer. But I think the albums they made now exist in the afterlife in relation to each of them and those of us remaining are the ghosts they've left to listen to them.

Which Friends character are you most like?

Phoebe. My whole band is Phoebe.

What scary movie did you see way too young as a child, how'd you end up seeing it, and does it still scare you now?

Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds! I watched it at my best friend's house when we were in second or third grade and when I got really scared I would turn away from the screen and look at her horrified, crying face as she screams. That had to be way scarier than the movie itself because I could only imagine what could frighten her that badly.

Are you ready for self-driving cars and a more automated future?

Ready for self-driving cars because I already don't trust human drivers, but I don't know if I can sign up for a fully automated existence yet.

Tell us about the most memorable fan encounter you had this year.

I recently got an email from a guy who was reaching out on behalf of his co-worker. His co-worker is a fan and plays "No Burden" at their work and had been considering emailing me. The first guy said there was no way I would respond, that "stars" such as myself only put their emails on their websites for show. So their office made them take a bet if I didn't respond, the second guy would have to wear drag to their holiday party and donate $300 to the charity of the first guy's choice. If I did respond, the second guy would have to wear drag to my show in Norfolk and hand me a check for $300 to the charity of my choice. Of course I responded, detailing my thoughts about relationship dynamics between artists and audiences, some personal experiences struggling with intimacy and safety, and also that drag should not be ridiculed or made fun of and that it's a childish thing to include in their bet. That show hasn't happened yet so I don't know how the story ends! But hey, free $300 to the ACLU of Virginia isn't a bad outcome.

Tell us about your first kiss.

I made up my first kiss so that my friends would think I was cool. I even typed up a fake story about my family's beach trip where I met a fake boy named Luke that I had a wholesome fake romance with. When I actually had my first kiss, which was outside my bus in the bus loop after a day of eighth grade, I couldn't freak out about it to anyone because they all believed my first kiss lie.

Under the Radar has been around for 15 years now, since December 2001. How do you feel the music industry has most changed in that time, both for the better and the worst?

I've only been involved in the music industry for about a year, so I don't feel super qualified to speak authoritatively on this, but I imagine one of the biggest changes is streaming and dissemination of content through the Internet. I know it raises challenges in terms of fair payment, but I think it's great that music is more accessible than ever.

If you have kids or plan to have kids one day, will you encourage them to be a musician or artist or would you prefer they get a more stable job?

I would encourage them to be satisfied taking bad jobs while they figure out what fulfills them and go for it because no job is stable.

What band, besides your own, has the best name?

Venus Guytrap, a dope band from Richmond, VA.

What VHS tape or DVD did you wear out growing up?

My family's VHS copy of The Brave Little Toaster.

www.lucydacus.com

 

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