Georgia Anne Muldrow on Her New Album “Vweto III” | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, March 23rd, 2023  

Georgia Anne Muldrow on Her New Album “Vweto III”

Soundtracking Real World Superheroes and Aspiring Abolitionists

May 21, 2021 Web Exclusive
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Black Lives Matter isn’t merely a worthy cause for Georgia Anne Muldrow. It’s instead the bare minimum, says the socially conscious alt-R&B Grammy nominee. “We can begin to not only advocate for Black people, but to adore them. Not just Black Lives Mattering,” Muldrow tells Under the Radar over Zoom ahead of the release of her new album, Vweto III (which is out today). With this conclusion to an instrumental trilogy, the multi-instrumentalist Angeleno offers her audience much needed catharsis, speaking volumes sans her famously astute lyricism.

During the sprawling hour and a half interview, which coincidentally took place days after former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted for the murder of George Floyd, Muldrow didn’t so much answer our questions as speak in soliloquies. Sometimes off the cuff, sometimes carefully considered, she was never less than eloquently poetic, boldly vulnerable, and wryly humored. Her muses? The “real world superheroes” and “aspiring abolitionists” taking to the streets against police brutality, the fans seeking a soundtrack to their own superherodom, the challenge in evoking grand musical ideas without lyrics, and more. She dressed the part, wearing a blood orange shirt that matched the feather dangling from her left earring, an apron for the everyday chores that balance the self-described homebody’s entertainer duties, and a whisp thin yet dazzling gold crown that evoked both Wonder Woman and Wakandan royalty Shuri.

Read more about Georgia Anne Muldrow and her superpowers below.

Georgia Anne Muldrow during our Zoom interview.
Georgia Anne Muldrow during our Zoom interview.

Larry Mullin (Under the Radar): Hello Ms. Muldrow!

Georgia Anne Muldrow: Hi. Your Zoom background looks like you got a low-key café going there. I’m learning about you already!

I’m a bit shy of my IRL ugly walls.

I haven’t even taken off my apron yet, so I understand.

It must be surreal for you to do interviews and put out an album while in quarantine. Speaking of which: VWETO III is meant to “be played when you birth yourself back outside after a long introspective period… It intends for you to be your own superhero and wants to be your theme for power.” What’s it like to make that kind of soundtrack?

Superheroes are righteous vigilantes. And we should all be vigilant in saving what’s real and pure in ourselves. We should unify, and whoop the un-real’s ass. When I became my own superhero my life improved 1000 percent. I found a way to free myself and live my dreams. And be more creative and artistic. Every superhero deserves their own theme music. And if you’re inspired to be your own superhero, then I’d love to be your theme music.

What was it like to become your own superhero?

[Looks away. Pauses. Resumes eye contact]. I walked away from a situation that wasn’t healthy. And got my family to safety. And yeah, that’s when I knew I was my own superhero. Before that, I was like a pro-wrestler. Superhero-adjacent. [Grins and giggles]. I upgraded to superhero status when I felt like I could save myself from that which wasn’t going to improve. And lean on everything I have within me to shape a new life. Hence the headband. [Brushes hair back and points to golden crown] Some people remain pro-wrestler and superhero at the same time. Like Mr. T. I take a lot of inspiration from him.

Oh really?

Yeah! He used to refer to himself as the people’s bodyguard. I think he was on Letterman in the ’80s, and he said: “If you see me, I might not be able to stop and sign autographs. Because I got my eyes out and I’m keeping everyone safe.” He was just that kind of person: “I’ll strengthen myself, to stand up for Black women and people in need.” He’s one of the proto-superheroes.

That’s the closest solution we’re going to have to what we are facing right now with the police. If we can make a culture of protecting one another, loving one another, then we’ll be on our way to something different. And having a more colorful culture, where creativity can rub elbows with practicality. Where people can understand that it’s not practical to be a jerk, or to murder people in broad daylight. That goes for the animal communities too— you’re not supposed to kill no cow. Unless it’s charging you, and you gonna die. Then the cow might have to go [smiles]. But you ain’t supposed to be killing stuff and making a lifestyle out of it.

At the same time, it happens in, degrees, because I’m still quite intolerant of spiders. I forget what the question was. It’s been a long life, okay? What else you wanna know, man?

It’s okay, you’re doing great. And let me take down this fake Zoom background. So you can see my ugly kitchen walls.

[Laughs] I like this better!

Thanks! When you mentioned balancing practicality and love— do you feel hopeful that society can move in that direction? Or is it hard to be optimistic?

Optimism lies in not giving up. It lies within the superhero’s mind. Because a superhero or a revolutionary is, by default, optimistic. Even if they look disgruntled. Wolverine is an optimist, as browbeaten as he may seem. Their resolve to get up, to keep on thinking of ways things can take a different shape, and getting with other people and making art happen or movement happen—that’s all optimistic energy.

I pray that things get better. At the same time, I’m just observing at this point. Because in order for things to get better, there’s going to have to be a lot that goes down. A lot of detachment in the minds of people. Detachment from the comforts at other people’s expenses. Detachment from the empire. A way of seeing your life being made fuller without it. That’s going to be a better thing. Having people who we would view as “unlikely” be the voices of the places they are excluded from. It’d be great to have a black woman leading in the tech field. I remember the lady stepping down from the FCC because she was pushing so hard about net neutrality, talking about how rural areas get impacted. It’d be great to have a Black woman from a rural area talking about the internet.

We’re going to have to start shifting things upside down so that people can learn to see each other as multiverses of possibility. We can make people authorities of things they are directly affected by. Finding more ways to think, a whole grain world that puts merit on people who are creative, and those who are thinking and feeling at the same time. Where the needs of the people can be the president, instead of whoever’s running to get an ego boost. Because honestly, whoever wants to be president, you already know they have psychopathic tendencies. If you seek to get mixed up in the establishment, with all the knowledge we have access to these days, that makes me judge.

So, I don’t think the changes that are to take place are going to happen politically. The hall of politics has just been flooded in blood. Bloodshed and theatrics. And indifference for the people that built this place. There’s just so much that’s due to the people who are routinely killed here. For things to get better, things will have to get a lot realer. And I look forward to that, to taking away our virtual backdrops on our Zoom calls. [Laughs] Then we can begin to not only advocate for Black people, but to adore them. Not just Black Lives Mattering. The sentiment has to grow exponentially, in order to see just a hairline fracture of an improvement.

It’s a long ways to go. ‘Cause don’t nobody wanna be seen as ugly. Don’t nobody wanna be seen as inadequate. Don’t nobody wanna be unprivileged. Don’t nobody wanna give up their head start advantage, to some people who are “bad.” It’s all of those things. But also: don’t nobody wanna see people killed for the color of their skin. Anybody who does, needs serious help. It’s going to take more than people advocating for the life mattering. That’s easy. That’s why they [BLM] chose it, because it was the most accessible. But accessibility ain’t the distant cousin of mediocrity—they’re first cousins. Hence the crazy music I be making.

We gotta go deeper, and be bolder, and get wilder, and start accessing our humanity. We’re mammals, we have primal tendencies, and we need to start accessing those to affect change and love. Jane Goodall talked about love being a primal urge, in the brain stem. Back here [briefly touches the back of her neck] you have love there, the urge to procreate, and the urge to worship. That’s why religion is so huge, and people fall in love all the time. We need to use these primal urges in productive manners, and acknowledge that we are mammals, and we’re not removed from those urges because we got these [gives a “thumbs up”]. Our little opposable thumbs are blowing up our egos, until we think we’re above and beyond any fixing. You see other animal families evolve over time, and stop doing shit that won’t work. We’re lagging in that sense, with the guise of technology. We have this artificial artifice, but what is the purpose of that? When our tools define us, they’re no longer tools. All those things need to be looked at, before I can say things will get better.

Because we’re in 2021 on a call, and I can see your face and you can see mine, and I’m holding the device that makes that possible in my hand. And still, we’re getting lynched in the street. I’m thankful for technology, because as a Black woman, if it wasn’t for a computer it would be hard for me to get my musical ideas realized fully. Because most everyone—except very few musicians who I hold close to my heart to this day, for the fact that they could actually listen to what I was doing and play it—there was so much pushback from me making my sound with live instruments, from the musicians themselves because they weren’t used to it. And that’s what turned me to the computer. Because it listened. So, technology provides a lot of beautiful things, but we have to make sure that we are conscious in our curation of it. If I could see that happening on a wide scale, then I’d be able to say things are going to get better. For now, it’s only a vision, and all I can keep doing is have a vision for the future.

I don’t know if it’s going to get better. It could very well get worse.

I hope not.

Right. But it’s possible. Those are the stakes, and that’s why we have to do what we do like our lives depend on it. So at least there’s something devoted to the human record, of us thinking and feeling, and feeling different ways about what’s going on. Even if it’s just that, at least that’s there, so that it’s not some monolithic… [pauses]. Not some monolithic elimination of African people off the face of the planet. That modern society didn’t just get better at what it’s been doing since antiquity. Since Alexander the Great. Since the Crusades. All that. It’s really deep, what we’re dealing with. People who are taking it upon themselves to carry out Alexander the Great’s work. They feelin’ that they can’t see the error in that story, and how unsustainable that ended up being. There’s people like that. Supervillains are walking free and unchecked. And I think it’s time for superheroes to arise. In all forms and fashions. That people, even in their own little ways, need to feel their force and vitality in a world that deems them neutral to having any impact.

And your contribution in that regard doesn’t stop with the music. You’re raising money—through an NFT that will be on auction until your new album’s release date—for an organization called Critical Resistance. Its mission statement includes mobilizing “communities impacted by the violence of policing” and to “develop alternatives to punishment.” How does it feel to support them with your art?

Critical Resistance invited me to open up for Angela Davis at an event at my mom’s old spiritual community. I thought: “If Angela Davis is adjacent to this organization, then this is the right organization, because she’s a superhero for sure!” She inspired me in so many ways.

And that organization had just successfully shut down a jail in the Bay Area. So, I wanted to work with them, because they’re real-world abolitionists. I’m an aspiring abolitionist myself. Once I get enough capital to throw around, I’m definitely going to free enslaved people. My mom was an abolitionist. Engaging in this kind of work will help me get closer to my goal of helping to set the captives free.

Because this case with Derek Chauvin, all this type of shit, man, where people say “arrest these cops.” Do you hear what you’re saying when you say that? I don’t have enough faith, and I have too much intelligence, to not see the incarceration system and policing as bedfellows. “Take the massa to the plantation!” Massa gonna be fine, massa has benefits, massa has the Foundation of Former Massas That Kill People. Blue Lives Matter. It’s a whole thing. I’m sure you’ve seen the bumper sticker. It means they down for each other. How many times have people been lynched, with a jury right there? Not just an angry mob. And the prisons are segregated, and white supremacists get special treatment inside. There’s an obvious thread between that and the white supremacy in the system.

So, I can understand where the relief may come from, in terms of those cops getting arrested. But instead we should, I don’t know… [pauses] Fuck it, I’ll say it: We need to give this dude [Chauvin] a first-class ticket to Singapore, so he can get whooped with a cane. If people are getting arrested, then the prisons should only be for cops. Maybe that would be better. They can have that system for themselves.

People should be nurtured. If someone is having difficulty surviving and they’re stealing, that should be remedied. Because there’s enough money in this world. Seeing the amount of tents on the sidewalks in LA, how that is spreading into the valley, there not gonna be no place to walk. It’s real out here.

Only the strong survive? Apparently that’s not correct. Or should they just have their gated communities, where they don’t have to see no one in no tent? You can move to the suburbs and not see anyone whose hair stands up naturally. People with these brown pelts. You won’t have to experience Blackness and the guilt of that, because there are places you can run and hide, because “only the strong survive.” And the bootstrap conversation? When you’re talking about an economic system that depends on the suffering of a group of people to ensure the wealth for another group, the sheer acceptance of that reality [closes her eyes and shakes her head] makes for all types of trespasses on humanity dignity. On the human right to live, on the human right to have shelter, be fed, walk where you need to. That gets in the way of everything. It’s reptilian, that back of your neck we were talking about. Forget conspiracy theories about lizard people— it’s bad enough that we can’t get to our frontal lobes. That’s why you have fundamentalist Christians out here praising Jesus, but ready to kill a Black person. That’s the reptilian brain at work. When we can become more contemplative and feel our connection to the essence of life itself, things will become clearer. And I just seek to make music that gives a moment of pause for that.

I was definitely pushing my musical agenda along, before. But I think I’ve said everything I need to say, as far as where things are, regarding my people, regarding the way things need to grow. The cool thing about an instrumental record is I can forget about lyrics and provide spaces for people to think. When I talked about wanting this album to be a soundtrack for when people go back outside, in the promo, I wasn’t referring to the pandemic being over. When you’ve been isolated a long time, your home becomes a womb. So when you go back outside, it’s a lot to take in. I just wanted to be positive reinforcement for that. When you’re looking out, and need support, I’m there. Because we’re going to have to get outside on a lot of different levels. I want to be aiding in that. I don’t seek to become a conventional star, I just want people to believe in themselves. That’s been my motivation this whole time.

This is the most long-winded answer I’ve ever given in my life. But it’s real out here!

It’s okay. You’re doing great! Tell us more about getting some of these ideas and feelings across with instrumental music, without lyrics. And what particular instruments did you pick to convey particular notions or moods?

A lot of it happens with my intent. Though when I perform I’m very in it, my lifestyle otherwise is very introverted. I’m a real homebody. So, music allows me to travel through space and time, and imagine different landscapes through the soundscapes, and name unnamable feelings.

I’ll get a sonic environment together sometimes, even before I make the music. And it’ll just be sounds, like birds chirping. Little alien birds. Or fireflies buzzing by. And I’ll work on that, for my own imagination. It’s like what Sun Ra called an altered destiny or a different planet, imagining somewhere else. But then, when I start adding more music, it’s me bringing all that back to earth. That’s the most consistent thing that happens when I’m making music, that’s vocal or otherwise. There’s always this imaginary component, that is very alive, and I can almost touch it or see it when I close my eyes. In my brain I have a very active imagination—I mean, where else would you have an imagination, of course it’s in my brain! Oh my God.

But anyway. My imagination has its own streets and roads. I’m a lucid dreamer—when I wake up, I know where I went. Dreaming is my superpower. When I wake up, I can hear my dream. Not see it anymore, but hear it, and remember it. Sometimes it’s being dictated to me, and I pay attention to my ancestors as far as what they need. So, there are all types of things going on at the same time that enable me to make structures of sound. Before, I was ashamed of my imagination, because I could live in my own world, quite well. And be quite the recluse. A lot of feelings, just unspoken. But because of the music, I’ve learned to open up, reach a point in my motivation where [pauses]… Where I can share my feelings through my music.

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