Amanda Palmer on “There Will Be No Intermission”

Collaboration and Isolation

May 06, 2019 Issue #65 - Mitski and boygenius
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"Any piece of big artwork is always collaboration," Amanda Palmer readily admits. This would be a far less compelling admission if it weren't in reference to a work that is, by all standards of measurement, surely one of the most deeply personal and cathartically intimate albums to come out in recent memory, as well as being the most singularly anecdotal of any in her own career. The songs on There Will Be No Intermission are relentlessly tenacious explorations of personal traumas that range from the death of a best friend, to miscarriages, to the trials and tribulations of being a new mother, but at their core they are also communally generated and broadly expressive, tapping into collective struggles and the current political climate as much as her own private crucibles.

The sparseness of instrumentation on the album was predetermined because, as Palmer says, she "wanted it to sound like a solo record," but she is quick to express just how important the community's contributions both personal and financial were to the creation of these songs. Using the subscription based membership platform Patreon, Palmer financed the record and kept in direct contact with her audience. "Patreon changed the way I created art and therefore had a huge impact on this record," she says. Referring to the differences between this album's crowd-sourced genesis and previous efforts, Palmer notes that "in the case of this album these patrons have watched me process my life into a record. They've read my blogs, they've held my hand while I went through a miscarriage, they've supplied me stories and comments about their own lives, all of which I've woven into the songs. It feels really revolutionary because it sort of harkens back to what music used to behere we are all tribally gathered around this fire and [thinking], 'What is important to us right now, what are we singing about, what is the collective vibe?'"

While the experiences that inform the album might be harrowing or stark, it is this therapeutic interchange between audience and listener that defines the work more than the traumas themselves. Woven into the very fabric of these songs are the shared struggles of her community that Palmer sees as opportunities for transcendence. "The things that people will really respond to are the honest, vulnerable, fallible moments of your life, not your fucking picture of your martini on a beach," she says.

Although the album itself does take an ardently collectivist stance, Palmer says that for the recording of There Will Be No Intermission she needed to escape her family life and "not flip back into domestic mode every night." So she and her collaborator, John Congleton, spent about roughly three weeks recording and mixing the album in Los Angeles where she said she was "able to escape her life and he was able to keep his."

The songs themselves have few instrumental passages, with the exception of the interludes in between every vocal song, and Palmer says this gives the album an unrelenting "wall of words" feel that can only be sufficiently described as intense. While Ani DiFranco is noted as a significant influence on this work, the less likely candidates of Lorde"I'm a massive Lorde fan. I feel like she's the inheritor of a great lineage of weirdo goth"and Judy Blume also found their way into the DNA of the album. Remarking on the inclusion of the song "Judy Blume," a touching ode to the nurturing and stabilizing presence the Young Adult Fiction author had on her developing self, Palmer says that she felt in the past she had given short change to female artists who had influenced her and that more generally she felt that people erased their female influences as a way "to get a rare seat at the table."

Much of the album's source material derives from personal influences, but several significant political situations also spurred a personal reckoning. For example, it was only after having spent time in Ireland during the abortion referendum that Palmer felt galvanized to approach her own relationship with abortion. This political pressure to take matters into our own hands weighs heavily on the content of the album and is especially pronounced in the stories that were sourced directly from her community of fans, including those who had to evacuate their homes because of Hurricane Harvey. When asked about what one can do to combat a rapidly deteriorating political climate and natural environment Palmer is frank. "I don't think we should be radically optimistic, I think we should be radically compassionate," she says. "Being optimistic is not an action, it almost feels like an avoidance. But [instead we should] actually apply compassion to the people around us, to our relationships, to our everyday interactions with every single fucking human being we meet on the street."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 65 of Under the Radar's print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online.]

www.amandapalmer.net

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