The End: Psychic Twin (aka Erin Fein) on Endings and Death
"In third grade, my friend Brittni and I promised each other that we would both have the song 'End of the Road' by Boyz II Men played at our funeral."
Dec 09, 2016 Web Exclusive Photography by Sean Waltrous
To end out the week, we ask Psychic Twin (aka Erin Fein) some questions about endings and death. Fein was the frontwoman for the late great Champaign, Illinois dream pop/indie pop band Headlights, who released three excellent underrated albums on Polyvinyl before breaking up in 2012. Fein has stuck with Polyvinyl for Strange Diary, her debut solo album under the name Psychic Twin that finds her going in a shiny and convincing electro-pop direction. Read on Fein talks about how and at what age she'd like to die, which song she'd like played at her funeral, her personal versions of heaven and hell, and what she'd like her last words to be. She also tells a moving story about when he grandmother passed away.
How would you like to die and what age would you like to be?
I would like to die at age 95, at home in my sleep. Isn't this what everyone wants? I would like to be living close to family, to people I love and who love me back. I would like for it to be a warm summer evening. I would like to be able to hear lawn mowers in the distance, and smell fresh cut grass the day leading up to it, I'd like to be able feel peace inside about having accomplished some of the things I had really hoped to accomplish, to feel some peace about having contributed some things to this strange world I feel are worthwhile. I would like to know inside that I have loved and have been loved in return. I would like to be able to have forgiven those who have hurt me and to have been forgiven by those who I hurt. I would like to have my dog snuggled next to me when it finally goes down.
What song would you like to be playing at your deathbed?
Right now, I would choose "See Birds (Sun)" by Balam Acab. It is subtle, and sweet, nostalgic and a little sorrowful. The song carries you while you listen to it. I don't know if it's even possible to feel this while you're dying, but I hope to feel a sense of being carried away gently when it happens.
What song would you like to be performed at your funeral and who would you like to sing it?
In third grade, my friend Brittni and I promised each other that we would both have the song "End of the Road" by Boyz II Men played at our funeral and that whoever was still alive, would sing it at the other person's funeral. So, I think I would satisfy my third grade self and I would have my friend Brittni sing that song. I remember we talked about how we wanted to make sure people to laughed at our funerals and remembered how much we liked to laugh in our lives. Now that I think about it, this is a very dark conversation for two 9 year olds to be having right? I gotta call Brittni and see if she remembers all of this.
What's your favorite ending to a movie?
There are so very many, but the first ending that came in to my mind is the ending of The Nightmare Before Christmas. I re-watch the movie every year on October 1st and I always cry when Sally and Jack walk up the hill singing to each other and professing their strange love in front of the big moon. It's very romantic, a little dark, and beautiful, the scene looks the way I think true love should feel.
Whose passing has most affected you?
Some years ago now, my grandmother Fern Young passed away. I lived with her for years while I was a competitive figure skater and we became very, very close. She was absolutely a second mother to me and she was my best friend too. She used to call me her best pal. She taught me about strength, she taught me about how to be tough, how to get things done on your own, and what it meant to be an independent woman. I was with her when she was dying and watched as her body slowly stop working, which was very difficult to watch, but my mother and I were taking care of her while she was dying and so this was how it was going to be.
The hardest moment, is that after days and days of her slowly dying had passed, my mother decided to leave for just a short while to take a shower at her own house which was very near by. I woke up and my mom was gone, I had slept next to my grandmother in a chair all night holding her hand. I got up and went to the couch. Not very long after, I watched her take her last breath. It was scary, it was very hard to see someone you loved so deeply, just stop breathing. It was a relief, because she was in discomfort, but it was truly a tidal wave of loss as I had to call my mother and tell her she had died while she wasn't there. My mother screamed on the phone, and yelled out, "not without me! not without me!" and hung up the phone and came racing back over in hysterics. It was very sad and ultimately very traumatic to see my mother react this way. When she came back into the house, she just screamed and wept. She was so very close to her mother, and her pain was extremely deep, as was mine. In the end, I told my mom that I thought it was very interesting that grammy finally left us when she wasn't there and when I was no longer holding her hand. It was like my grammy needed the space to let finally let go and the hospice nurse told us that this is often the case. It seems we can sense love even while our senses are shutting down.
If you were on death row, what would you like your last meal to be?
I feel like this makes me out to be the old man Midwesterner I will always be at heart, but my last meal would be steak and potatoes and a super cold dirty vodka martini.
What's your concept of the afterlife?
At this point in my life, I'm not sure that there is an afterlife. But I know what I would like the afterlife to be like. I'd like it to be just like I imagined it would be when I was little. A place that is beautiful and peaceful and all of the your family, dogs, cats, friends, everyone you loved is there. Reunited and together, with lots of grapes and palm fronds of course. Baseball and mountains and oceans and forests and nature just surrounding you. No more sweating or being cold, no need to shower, because you're always clean, flowers in bloom all year round, and always snow on Christmas. Oh, and you can fly.
What would be the worst punishment the devil could devise for you in hell, if he exists?
It would be a Dante's Inferno style punishment. Perhaps it would be having to talk to dissatisfied and inconsiderate customers at the restaurant I work at on a loop forever, and the air conditioning is broken so I'm sweating, oh and of course you're not allowed to stand up for yourself, because it would be considered bad customer service, so you just have to take it. Over and over and over and over. (Hahaha...it is very telling that this is the first punishment that came to my mind, I've been working in the service industry for way too long.)
What role or achievement would you most like to be remembered for?
I truly hope to be remembered in some way for contributing beautiful music to this world.
What would you like your last words to be?
I imagine talking to my granddaughter or daughter and saying a few last pieces of advice while they hold my hand and stroke my hair. I'd like to tell them to love deeply, apologize, try very hard to see each day as a gift, keep working on and trying to grow, have many adventures, it's alright to be sad, don't be afraid to be vulnerable, follow your heart, be bold, be brave, life is fucking scary, it's okay to be scared, but don't every stop doing the things that scare you. Go to therapy! Learn how to meditate, read a lot of books, watch film and listen to music that heals you.
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