Lucy Dacus on “Historian”

Keeping a Record

Jun 07, 2018 Photography by Dustin Condren Issue #63 - Courtney Barnett
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With over 2,000 handwritten pages, Lucy Dacus is currently on Journal #11. Since her days as a fifth-grader, the Richmond, Virginia-based singer/songwriter has spent countless hours diligently documenting the minutiae of her everyday life. Even when you account for the fact that several years' worth of entries were lost when someone broke into her car and stole her backpack, Dacus' collection of journals make for quite the personal anthology.

"I don't make myself do it," says Dacus. "It doesn't feel like I'm dedicated to it, but it isn't a struggle to convince myself to do it. There are some times where I haven't journaled in a month or two months. And occasionally I miss content and I have to accept that my mind has let go of events that might have been more vibrant if I had written about them in the moment, but I think it's more about the process of writing than the actual writing itself. I've gone back and read some of my earlier journals and notice that I just skipped words sometimes, because my brain had understood what I was trying to say and my hand is just trying to keep up. It's more about turning a thought into a physical thing, just to hold it and to look at it and have it take up a shape and be able to process that way. I'm clearly not trying to make literature. My grammar sucks and there are all these plot holes. I don't think it would make for good reading for other people."

While there may not be much of an audience for Dacus' diaried missives, her music is much better at delivering a shareable experience. Following her 2016 debut, No Burdena record that quickly garnered breakthrough success and the eventual attention of label Matador RecordsDacus has now released  her sophomore album, Historian, a work that showcases the young Virginian artist's ability to give the more personalized, journalappropriate moments of her life a more expansive, conceptual lense. "I don't need everyone to know what I did last Thursday," says Dacus. "But I do want people to know what I realized that Thursday. Those are the types of thoughts that have helped me from other artists, when people share their realizations. They have life and experience and it all kind of culminates into art. I have seen that help me and define me and it feels really worthwhile to be a part of that process of sharing."

Expanding the warm indie rock sonics of No Burden, Historian seamlessly oscillates between amp-filled garage fuzzreplete with expertly arranged horns, strings, and guitar solos-and a tempered, blue-light lounge cool. And whereas No Burden's original, guitar accompanied compositions were hastily arranged for a full band just days before a breakneck, 20-hour recording session, for Historian Dacus was much more conscious about the implementation of individual parts before putting them all together. "I definitely wrote these songs with a band in mind, which wasn't true for No Burden," says Dacus. "Because I knew it was possible, I would think, 'Oh the drums should stay out until here.' I would write a bass line in my head. My scope of the songs was wider this time around." The payoff of this pre-production is a bond in dynamics. Says Dacus, "I think what I'm proud of the most is that all the sonic elements are really mirroring the content of the songs, which I love."

As is ultimately evident with Historian, Dacus plays the title role, constanting accounting for the things that shape her life. "It's me having this impulse to document and capture and create a history of my life and the people that I know," says Dacus. "Because as I'm making this history and capturing these things that I hold dear, those things won't stay."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Spring 2018 Issue (March/April/May 2018), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

www.lucydacus.com

 

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