Ramona Lisa – Charilift’s Caroline Polachek on Her Solo Album | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Ramona Lisa – Charilift’s Caroline Polachek on Her Solo Album

Seeing Herself With New Eyes

Jul 28, 2014 Issue #50 - June/July 2014 - Future Islands Bookmark and Share

When it came time for Caroline Polachek to embark on her first solo record, she opted to follow a non-traditional route. Rather than emblazoning her own nameor that of Chairlift, her well-known bandacross the front of the LP, she released Arcadia under the alias Ramona Lisa.

“To me, Ramona Lisa is not a pseudonym, but a format,” Polachek explains. “It’s not that I’m becoming someone else. I see it more like a director directing a film. With a lot of directors, you see their personality in their main characters. You see allegories of their lives in their films, but ultimately the films are not straight-up portrayals of the director’s life.”

Polachek makes it clear that Ramona Lisa isn’t her assuming a Ziggy Stardust-like character, but a method of exploring a set of themes and symbols that carry from one song to another. (Clocks are a recurring image within Arcadia, as are the numbers two and eight.) The lo-fi electronic compositions sound far more intimate than the music she makes with Chairlift.

“I was just ready to try something different, especially to get into the idea of something virtual, or more cinematic. Not just songcraft, but also world-crafting,” she says. “In a way, even though it’s less confessional, it’s just as personal. It’s a subconscious personal world, instead of an everyday, outer one.”

The concept Polachek built for Ramona Lisa extends beyond the music and into the project’s visual design. On the album cover and in many of the promotional images, Polachek is seen wearing a second set of eyes painted on just beneath her real ones.

“It’s a thing you see in nature,” she says, explaining the recurring imagery. “[Many] fish and insects have that second eye that is used as a decoy, but is also very beautiful. Even though I approached it on a very gut level, the more I’ve been doing it, the more it’s been tying into the music.”

Nature was a frequent inspiration during the album’s creation. (She explains how she wanted the individual instruments “to feel like wind blowing through the leaves” or “clouds moving out from in front of the sun.”) The result is an album that has a very organic, pastoral feel, despite being recorded entirely on her laptop while she was touring with Chairlift. Some of the songs from these sessionswhich Polachek felt would be better suited for live instrumentationwere pulled from Arcadia, and have been repurposed for the next Chairlift record, which she and songwriting partner Patrick Wimberly are now working on.

“I think having done Arcadia was a really great experiment not just for me, but for Patrick,” she says. (Wimberly helped mix the Ramona Lisa album.) “I think with a lot of the impulseswith compositions, and also with soundwe went in the exact opposite direction than with the Chairlift record, just because it felt new and exciting to us. What I will say is that it’s my favorite Chairlift record so far.”

[Note: This article first appeared in Under the Radar’s June/July print issue (Issue 50).]


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