U.S. Girls

Soaking It All In

Feb 04, 2016 Photography by Drew Reynolds Issue #55 - November/December 2015 - EL VY
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Meg Remy doesn't make a habit of taking interviews while bathing, but she insists this instance calls for such quirky multitasking.

"Bathtubs are very rare when you're touring. There's always showers, but the place we're staying at has a nice tub, so I'm trying to sneak in a bath real quick. You can probably hear the water running. Wait, let me shut it off," Remywho is currently touring under her stage name, U.S. Girlssays during a phone interview.

The sound of her turning off a squeaky tap is audible, and then she's back on the line, discussing U.S. Girls with the same sort of candor and good-natured humor as her earlier offhand remarks about bathing.

Her music, however, is far less lighthearted. Remy's latest LP, Half Free (her debut for the iconic label 4AD), features her 1950s Golden Oldies style vocal delivery contrasted with lyrics about suicide and other bleak themes, all laced with abrasive lo-fi instrumentation. Together those disparate elements make for a jarring, compelling listen, which is best exemplified in her music video for "Sororal Feelings." The grainy black and white clip shows Remy sitting as an older woman chops off her hair, while her chilling lyrics about being hung from the "family tree" play in the background.

"The lyrics are about suicide, the unfairness of family. And, in my mind, that's connected to the terrible haircuts you get as a child from your parents," Remy says of the clip. "I shot that video with my mother-in-law and sister. I set up a Super 8 camera.... I kind of wanted it to look like a snuff film, where it looks like I might get executed."

Remy then clarifies that she and her relatives are now on good termsthey understand that she'll allude to personal matters in her lyrics, but she has assured them she'll keep the intimate details private. Remy hopes that anyone struggling with depression or alienation can listen to a song like "Sororal Feelings" and find some solace, adding: "I found a lot of comfort through musicians when I was a teenager."

And while Remy doesn't shy away from singing about strained family ties, she's also quick to credit one relative with kickstarting her career.

"When I was 13 I asked my mom to buy me a microphone I'd seen that plugged into a small amp," she recalls. "When she got it for me, I went into our garage and sang over CDs. It was karaoke, basically, and it was very liberating. My mom always wished I would've done something more secure, but she never squashed what I wanted to do and I'm very grateful."

With her mother's support, and an amateur performance space set up in the garage, Remy embarked on the musical journey that would eventually help her become U.S. Girls. At the time she honed her singing, took up bass and guitar, and continued melding the 1950s AM radio hits that she grew up listening to at home with elements of punk and avant-garde that her classmates exposed her to.

And that experimentation won't cease for Remy anytime soon. "I wanna learn how to play piano and make a singer/songwriter record," she says. "But I don't want to do it in a normal way, I want to try to fuck it up somehow. That's what made me love music and art even back when I was 13I loved that there were no rules, the freedom it provided. That was very therapeutic, it ended up saving my life."

[Note: This article first appeared in Under the Radar's November/December Issue. This is its debut online.]

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