Larkin Grimm On Her Latest Album 'Soul Retrieval' (Catch Her at UCI This Weekend!)
De Dionyso's tour partner is the powerful Larkin Grimm, whose third album Parplar we reviewed a few years back. Her latest, the self-released Soul Retrieval, is another lovely effort -- featuring among other guests legendary producer Tony Visconti -- and we caught up with her on the road by phone, with background interjections from her young son Otis:
Compared to Parplar's dizzying spin through styles, it seems there's a central elegance and gentility throughout Soul Retrieval, and the liner notes indicate as much. Does this grow out of a combination of things in your creative and personal life? Was this album something of a surprise?
I really did conceive of it as a whole and all the songs came to me in the same sort of time frame -- a little more of a song cycle than usual. When I was working on Parplar, I would send (Young God label head/Swans mainman) Michael Gira a song at a time and he decided what was on the album and what order they were in. I approved of it in the end, but this record...well, I'm not nearly as schizophrenic as Young God wanted me to appear to be! I do go through phases and cycles, not every three minutes but every six months.
There is still a variety evident, obviously -- the whistles and fiddles on "Without a Body or a Numb and Useless Mind" shifting to the tearjerker mood of "The Road is Paved with Leaves." Do the songs take shape over time in their arrangements or are they conceived fully?
A lot of them come to me totally fully formed. They're written in my subconscious mind and I really trust the subconscious, the genius that exists in all of us. It can take in and interpret so many more bits of information. When the songs emerged fully formed from my unconscious, I was working on finding the musicians that can play them the way they are in my head. The people that I work with are very magical people -- they already knew what the sound was and what they were like. It was a very easy process.
"Dirty Heart Dirty Mind" is a great title and sounds like something perfectly pitched between Patsy Cline and something both 21st century and really murky and mysterious.
We recorded the whole album as a live band, playing all together at the same time. It was harp, drums, bass and me on guitar, and I would sing while we were playing, which was different from how a lot of musicians will do one track at a time. Some of them needed a little extra, but this song was perfect the first time we played it, we didn't need to change it all. I really love Patsy, old Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, but it's not really a love song, it's more of a "I love you but who cares?" There are more important things in my life than loving this person right now.
While your albums are solo efforts, at the same time there's always been a sense of collaboration and communality both live and in studio, like you never really go it alone. How do the balances play out in both areas? Do some songs and performances turn into something else than a "Larkin Grimm" song?
I tend to work with people who really get me -- if somebody wants to play in my band, I have to feel totally comfortable with them, like they can read my mind. I really believe in opsychic power and music is one of the best way to be psychic. They're all still Larkin Grimm songs because I'm very bossy, I do like to boss people around! I have to say that Jesse Sparhawk, who did the harp, and Otto Hauser, the drummer, both brought so much to the picture. They did change some of the rhythms of the songs that were totally unexpected, like on "Paradise and So Many Colors" they really transformed that song. "Lying in a Pool of Milk" they brought that to another level, almost jazz. Otto actually studied jazz singing in music school but decided to play the drums. I think that's why he gets so much work, he's such a good listener!
Is there an ultimate boundary between the creative face to the world and the private soul? It's not that you've put all your life on display per se, but it seems that everything can always be an act of creation, whatever it might be.
I really believe in self-realization as an art form -- self-creation as the ultimate scultpure. I did go to art school and I decided to stop making art externally and make it all internal. In a way, my whole life is performance. But now that I have a son and a husband, I think I do protect them a little bit. I should say nothing on the record is representing my husband! It's more something in my sense of the collective unconscious.