Track Premiere + Interview: Erica Freas – “True Blue”
Posted: by The Editor
Erica Freas is a longtime pillar of independent music from her solo releases to her mark as a member of RVIVR, and in her upcoming release, Young, we can experience her at her most vulnerable and intimate. Her latest single, “True Blue,” shares a glimpse at some of her most powerful relationships, while allowing us to get cozy in what she calls her quilt of a record.
Listen to the latest track “True Blue”, with a conversation that follows below:
Hi Erica, could you tell us how you’ve been and what you’ve been up to, musically?
I have actually been going through a pretty long period of writer’s block. I’m not panicking about it, and I think it fits with where my life is at, because I moved away from the United States about a year and a half ago to move to Berlin, then again March of last year, so I’ve been living in the U.K. I’ve been going through a lot of transition that was kind of unimaginable, what it would actually feel like. I’m not being hard myself for any writer’s block.
This album that I’m about to release [Young] was my little boat I sailed out into that transition. I did write some of the songs during the moving process. But I poured hundreds of hours into the writing and editing process instead of writing new stuff.
The result has been this awesome new record. What was some of your motivation and inspiration in writing Young?
All of the songs on it are love songs that I wrote for specific situations and people during their moments of transition. The first single I released in December, I wrote that in 2007. Some of the songs I’ve written over the last 15 years, but most of them are more recent.
I guess the way albums have worked in my life is that the songs kind of gather together like they’re all floating down a river, they gather together in like an eddy on the side. These ones were all kind of gathering together, and I was like, “Oh, I see a theme here in this collection of songs that were love notes and important moments in my life with my friends and my family and my community. I was like, this would be a nice collection.
I have never produced a record before – I’ve always recorded usually like with Belly and Patient Ones in two days with a recording engineer. Go in. Play them. Go out. With this one, when I started gathering them into an album, I wasn’t thinking this was something I was going to put out into the world, I just thought that I would gather these into this collection and see about maybe making them for a gift for people or something.
As I was making it, I was running it through my friends who I normally run my music with, and they were like, “What are you doing? Why wouldn’t you share your music with the world?” I was like, this feels extra personal and extra vulnerable and it is also tender. There’s not really an overt political edge to it. It’s just beautiful love songs. I do believe all of the personal is poltical, and it’s not irrelevant because it isn’t directly so.
Just by existing, sometimes art is political.
Totally. And also it’s okay, I have had political labels attached to my work for most of the majority of my music exposure. It’s okay that this one doesn’t have that. This one is just beautiful songs about really beautiful people.
The fact that you’re writing about other people’s transitions, the fact that this is a collection of songs about people who mean something to you – do you think that’s a part of what makes Young special as a record?
I do. I asked everybody that I wrote songs for, for permission to put them in the record because I wrote them but I also felt like they were their songs. I think that makes this different as a record – they’re all little gifts.
Now it’s a gift to us as listeners because you’re sharing with us something that you’ve gifted to them intimately.
That’s really true. Those songs are really intimate, and they all have stories woven into it. Some of those stories will make it into public knowing, while probably most of them will be buried in songs and belong to those people, you know?
I like that you use the word woven. You’ve described Young as a quilt you’ve weaved, and “True Blue” fits in as one of the first colorful patchwork pieces. What was it like for you to put together this song?
I wrote “True Blue” when I was in Berlin and my sister, Kendra, was pregnant with her first kid, who is now a year and a half. I was far away but wanting to be a part of the process. I was a part of the process – we’re really close, my sister and I. I was just thinking about her and loving her.
I was thinking of imagery that was comfortable and beautiful, and the idea of how I imagine her and what kind of strong but tender vessel she would be in creating family in that way. She’s really so kind and gentle, but also fierce as fuck in the moment where she needs to be. She has an enviable discernment where bullshit falls on this side and truth falls on this side.
When I’m feeling doubt and muddled-ness about stuff like what’s up and what’s down, if I’m doing right in the world… she’s like “here’s where you’re being hard on yourself and you’re bringing in unnecessary societal empathic bullshit, and here’s the truth.” Then I’m just like “YES! Give it to me! Why do you have this discernment?” That’s where the “she’s stormy when she needs to be” lyric comes from.
She’s just so kind and loving and joyous and friendly and laughing and then *slaps*.
I loved “stormy when she needs to be,” and it felt like when you were describing the garden, she was the garden at one point, too. You were painting a gorgeous portrait of a person and her experiences, too.
I love that! That’s cool. I haven’t heard any feedback on that song outside of my family. That’s so cool to hear from you who would have no context about that.
Yeah, I could picture her so clearly as a sibling, that this was a person you cared so much for, who is giving so much. I love the whole concept of “stormy when she needs to be” as a way to convey strong women who have strength but not with sacrificing who you are. Instead of the idea of a woman or non-man being strong, you focused on her being strong and self.
Exactly. That’s it. It’s not confusing a laughing, gentle, sunshine-y person for weakness. I think that is such a common sexist trope. It’s a thing I’ve had to unlearn. In my early 20s, I thought in order to be punk I had to be so masculine. It made friendships with women feel friction-y because we were all in away competing for machoness.
I feel like as I got older and found more of a queer community, a nonbinary community, and that I had the ability to choose to shave my legs if I want, wear makeup every day if I want, wear pink if I want and I’m still tough as fuck. But what a funny roundabout way to come into strength when it seemed like it was so strong to wear all of the boy clothes and do all of the boy things, carry all of the amps to where all of my shoulders are fucked up.
Yeah, you really did capture a well-rounded identity that goes beyond misconception and stereotype. It felt like you got experimental with sound here too, like birds singing in the background that added some sonic storytelling here.
That’s cool. I just had so much space to play in because I was doing the recording and mixing myself.
At the beginning, I wasn’t sure if I was going to share this. When I was 24 or 25, I was in a punk band called Glue. I was like “Oh, I’ll record our record! I can do anything!” I had help from other people in the band and friends and stuff. I got to the mixing phase and then crrrr. I knew where to put a microphone and I knew how to play my guitar, but then I was dealing with a wall of sound and I didn’t know what to turn for it to make it take shape and be what you might want to listen to instead of nasty.
I had that little experience in the back of my head but then I’ve had all of the years since then of sitting in rooms with my different bands being mixed. I was like I’m less eager but more knowledgeable now. I don’t need to be scared anymore so I need to see what it’s like to try.
“True Blue” I think it’s just acoustic guitar, electric guitar leads in the background, and then these sweet boys I met from Berlin singing these “ooo”s in the background. They were the gentlest. I think that it sounds so pretty.
I recorded the finger-picked guitar and I’ve got all of the time in the world to play like 100 loops of electric guitar to see if I write something that I like. Usually it come around 20 or 30 times of loop just jamming on something. With the sweet boys singing, I had all of the time in the world to put them in and chop them up to fit into where I wanted them to fit. I just had all of the time to play, which I just hadn’t taken the time to do before.
It’s making a collage or a sketch that isn’t coming from a place of knowing I’m going in to do this right now. I’m instead taking the time to be just like what if I put in a cello or what if I just put a synth-keyboard sound without it sounding tacky.
So much of this song and this record feel like a love letter to intimate moments of your life and the people in it. It also feels so tender compared to your other solo work and RVIVR. With that, what is something you really want your listeners to get out of Young and especially “True Blue?”
I thought about this a lot when I was coming out to myself that I could let it out to the world and not just save it for my friends. I was thinking about what place does a record that is a lot. It’s not a kids record because it’s songs for adults. But there’s no swears, it doesn’t have hard edges.
Kind of back to the whole thing about try to be macho, I’ve tried to keep a hard edge because I like to be tough. I think that it’s good challenge for me to do something that is purely not tough and I’m still me and going to make what I make next.
For the listener, my last single “Fantastic Future,” I wrote that song for two friends who are queer people who couldn’t conceive with each other. They had to choose to conceive and figure that how they were going to do that. They succeeded and brought this kid into the world. Some of us are choosing to have kids (I’m not) but like is this going to be relevant to people who aren’t choosing to be caring for children. The thing that I was thinking was that these songs weren’t written for children, they were written for adults who are engaging in those life transitions.
All of us are walking around with our entire lives inside of us from when we were little kids until we are whatever age we are now. We’re all carrying those experiences. All of us need to hear, especially as the world gets scarier or more chaotic or it’s harder to stay grounded or deal with the decisions under a political canopy that affect us so much. We all need to know that you’re welcome here. You are loved, as you move through life we’re going to be loving you. You have power. You will be listened to. You’re part of a history that is alive and exists but also is still existing, and you’re a part of the history thats at the forefront for us.
I was thinking that it doesn’t have to do whether people are giving a shit about kids right now in their life but it’s the message of belonging and being a part of this moment that we are alive here on earth, together.
Young is available everywhere on February 28, 2020 through Specialist Subject Records. Keep an eye out for special events, including:
Amanda Starling | @starlingaj
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