The End: Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak and Flock of Dimes | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, July 15th, 2024  

The End: Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak and Flock of Dimes

The Big Stuff

Apr 02, 2021 Issue #67 - Phoebe Bridgers and Moses Sumney Bookmark and Share

To end the week, we ask Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak and her solo project Flock of Dimes some questions about endings and death.

Wasner has a lot on her plate right now. Last summer Wye Oak, her famed indie rock project with Andy Stack, released a new EP, No Horizon, that was made in collaboration with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. And, last year she also recently released a new solo EP, Like So Much Desire, under her moniker Flock of Dimes—her first release with Sub Pop. Plus, she sang guest vocals on a new Future Islands song, “For Sure,” and with Stack she produced Madeline Kenney’s 2020 album, Sucker’s Lunch. And today she releases Head of Roses, her sophomore Flock of Dimes album and first full-length for Sub Pop. Wasner produced the album with Nick Sanborn (Sylvan Esso). But while she’s busy living her dreams, she can’t help but wonder what a world without Jenn Wasner would be like. Our answer: tragic.

Read on as Wasner discusses how she’d like to die, what song she’d like played at her deathbed, her concepts of heaven and hell, and how death has understandably been on her mind a lot lately.

How would you like to die and what age would you like to be?

Well, hello again, Under the Radar. It seems this time you’d like to talk to me about death! Getting right to the big stuff, huh? Well, this is perfect timing for me, as I have been thinking about death an awful lot lately.

There’s been a funny shift in my brain these days, and I don’t really know how to talk to most people about it. You see, I’ve been terribly afraid of dying for my whole life. But I’ve also lived a relatively easy, privileged life and things, for the most part, have generally seemed to Work Out Okay for me. I’ve rarely had to deal with death as a present reality—an actual, realistic possibility for myself and the people I love.

So, I’ve been looking harder at my fear of death, and I’m starting to realize that I’m far more afraid of the experience of losing the people I love than I am of dying myself. Over the course of the last few months, I’ve actually started fantasizing about my own death quite a bit. Not that I’m suicidal, not at all! I love life and I love being alive, and I hope to continue as such for a while longer. But there’s a real heaviness to my heart when I start to imagine what a future on this planet might look like for us, human beings, wrecks that we are. And sometimes, in the face of all of that, death just kinda sounds like…a relief.

Anyway, that’s when this funny thing happened—everything was just feeling SO awful, SO overwhelming, SO hopeless—that it kinda broke my brain, and I just gave up thinking about the future at all! And it’s been pretty great, honestly. And now, when I think about the possibility of death, I don’t feel as anxious as I used to. It’s more like: “Ah, okay, whatever, fuck it.”

Of course we’ve all been told countless times about the power of “living in the now,” or whatever, and I must admit that the most luck I’ve ever had with that particular practice has not come from meditation or inner peace, but instead from good, old-fashioned hopelessness. And yet, it still feels kinda good? And I’m much happier than I was on a day-to-day level. So I’m rolling with it.

The thing is, even if I’m wrong, even if the future improves, and the world gets better, and things work out wildly better than anyone could have predicted—death is still coming for us! It’s still a certainty! And I’m weirdly glad for this opportunity to try to make peace with it, as much as one can.

So to answer your question, I would like to die as painlessly as possible and I would like that to happen the second the balance tips over into life itself being more painful than the possibility of death seems to be. And I sure hope that takes a while longer, but who really knows these days.

What song would you like to be performed at your funeral and who would you like to sing it?

My dying wish is to have Bill Callahan cover the song “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks, ideally performed for all interested parties at my virtual funeral over Instagram Live. (More like “Instagram NOT Alive” amirite? Sorry.) Actually my wish is to have him cover that song before I die, because it has been a strange dream of mine for some years now, and I would like to actually hear it, and dead people (as far as I know) can’t hear things.

What’s your favorite last line in a book?

Maybe it’s just because I re-read this recently, but let’s bask in the glory of the last page of Bluets by Maggie Nelson:

“238. I want you to know, if you ever read this, there was a time when I would rather have had you by my side than any one of these words; I would rather have had you by my side than all the blue in the world. 239. But now you are talking as if love were a consolation. Simone Weil warned otherwise. “Love is not consolation,” she wrote. “It is light.” 240. All right then, let me try to rephrase. When I was alive, I aimed to be a student not of longing but of light.”

I mean. Come ON.

What’s your favorite last song on an album?

Kinda hard to beat “This Woman’s Work” from my personal favorite Kate Bush record, The Sensual World.

Whose passing has most affected you?

Of people I know, so far, my grandma. Of people I don’t know, so far, probably David Berman. I hope they are not hanging out in the afterlife. I don’t think they’d get along too well.

If you were on death row, what would you like your last meal to be?

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to say that the death penalty is absolutely barbaric, the carceral state is modern day slavery and the police are a racist institution that exist (and have always existed) to protect property and maintain the status quo, not to protect or enrich people’s lives. With that said, probably pizza.

What’s your concept of the afterlife?

Gosh, I hope there isn’t one. The idea of eternity scares me WAY more than just not existing at all.

What would be your own personal version of heaven if it exists?

You’re looking at it, baby.

What would be the worst punishment the devil could devise for you in hell, if he exists?

I’m permanently lol’ing at the concept of “the devil” as being something people think is real. So I guess the worst punishment would be there actually being a hell and a frickin’ goofy lil’ red devil guy with a pitchfork,

like, poking me while I’m on fire or something? Because that would suck, and I would be constantly reminded that I was wrong and that the truth of the universe is actually unspeakably dumb. And he would be really mean to me, and probably I would develop a crush on him anyway, but it would turn out that he was totally emotionally unavailable. Y’know. That kind of thing.

What role or achievement would you most like to be remembered for?

I would like my friends and family to remember me for how much I loved them, and how hard I tried to get better, even though I am deeply human and, as such, irredeemably flawed. I guess it’s also nice to think of the music I make living on longer than I do. All jokes aside, that does really mean something to me. I don’t have any kids and don’t plan to, so that’s the best bet I have to make an impact beyond my earthly reality.

What would you like your last words to be?

This is fine.

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 67 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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