Caroline Rose

An obsession with money, an unfaithful lover, a friend’s accidental pregnancy, misogyny, loneliness, death… This is just some of the lighthearted subject matter that make up LONER––the darkly comedic second album from songwriter/producer Caroline Rose. Armed with an arsenal of new instruments and equipment, an ever-growing sense of “ahhh fuck it,” two years of exploration, and a wicked sense of humor, Rose delivers a set of serious songs wrapped in a sprightly, angsty pop burrito. Because, as Rose puts it, “Sometimes sad songs just need a cocktail.”

LONER captures the cheeky satire, comical musings, and often jarring mood swings––sometimes goofy, sometimes emotional––that make up much of Rose’s personality. “I call it Schizodrift,” she says sipping on a martini with her pinky out. “I want to make music that sounds as manic as I feel.” Filled with catchy synth hooks, Ray Manzarek-esque Farfisa, surf guitar, depth of thought and a punk attitude, LONER captures the energy of bands like Le Tigre and The Cramps, and nods to the styles of Blondie and DEVO, the pop hooks of icons like Justin Timberlake, all the while being inspired by the artistry of Kate Bush. “I’d say this album was as much inspired by Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears as it was late 70s punk.” How did she get here? According to Rose, the transition was natural.

LONER began about three years ago. “I was 24, lonely, and realizing life might actually be as hard as people said it was. Gandalf had yet to raise his staff and part the seas for me,” she says with a straight face. “I felt a bit disillusioned with my music; it didn’t sound like my personality. I hadn’t dated in years, I was going to lose health care. I felt detached from the modern world.” So what did she do about it? “I joined Tinder. I turned 25 and rented my first real apartment and painted it bright colors. I started socializing more and little by little, weeded out all my clothes that weren’t red. I embraced my queerdom. I had a girlfriend, we traveled the country, we broke up. I discussed politics, capitalism and Rihanna. For better or worse, I became a member of the modern world. Turns out the modern world is terrifying,” she says attempting to pluck an olive out of her glass.

When it came to writing about all of it, what followed marked the beginning of a fully formed Caroline Rose. “I needed to get more personal, more aggressive. more humorous and more sonically diverse than my older material,” referring to 2014’s slinky indie-folk-rockabilly-tinged album I Will Not Be Afraid. The record was penned over four years ago while Rose was living in a van traveling the country, and received critical acclaim from national press outlets like NPR and Rolling Stone. LONER, however, marks a significant leap forward both sonically and emotionally, unleashing a burgeoning confidence teeming with character. Asked how she’d describe the transition, Rose responds, “It just felt like a bubble inside me that had been growing and was about to pop.” In a burst of creative energy, she penned and produced a slew of songs that began circulating among labels and press, resulting in a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR Music.

Over the next year and a half, Rose “got super into production and mixing––I was working 10-hour days creating new sounds, finessing EQ, blending tones, sampling basically everything. Having an apartment [rather than living in a van] gave me the space to have more instruments than just a guitar. I started collecting synths and recording equipment and tracking my material. I signed with a label that gave me a lot of creative control and resources.” After sessions and meetings with over a dozen producers, Rose chose to co-produce alongside Paul Butler (Devendra Banhart, Michael Kiwanuka, Hurray For The Riff Raff) at Panoramic Studio in Stinson Beach, California and the studios of Butler and Rose. A multi-instrumentalist and producer herself, Rose brought to the sessions pre-recorded work the two used as a foundation off which to build, having written and arranged strings, played and recorded keys, guitar and bass, sampled layers of found and recorded sounds, and programmed synths and drums. “The rest was a lot of experimentation in the studio, trying out different sounds and getting weird,” She adds. “Paul added a lot in that way. Neither of us are afraid to try things and throw a bunch of sounds at the wall.”

Another thing that drove Rose to pursue production more seriously was the blatant lack of gender diversity in the music industry. “I noticed over the course of all these meetings there was not a single female or nonbinary producer. Then the more I read up on why, the more I realized there actually are a lot of us, we just aren’t taken as seriously and either don’t receive or don’t demand the credit that we deserve.” In response, Rose stepped up across the board, having a hand in mixing as well as directing creative control over all aesthetics regarding the album. “I wanted to make sure everything was as me as it could possibly be.”

According to Rose, the visuals and aesthetics of LONER are an important vehicle in bringing out her personality, as well as a lot of the more sarcastic elements within the music. “I’ve gotten really interested in the visuals over the years, from producing videos and creatively crafting the images to how I express myself via what I wear.” The video for “Money,” for example, written and directed by Rose and Horatio Baltz, depicts Rose playing all of the parts––a sort of maniacal, Coen Brothers-meets-David Lynch two-minute story involving three people (perhaps the same person?) that leaves viewers asking…What just happened? Not too different a feeling after listening to LONER, in fact. And this, is precisely how Caroline Rose wants you to feel.

Since their earliest days as a band, And The Kids have embodied the wayward freedom that inspired their name. “When Rebecca and I were teenagers we just lived on the streets and played music, and people in town would always call us kids—not as in children, but as in punks,” says Mohan. On their third full-length When This Life Is Over, the Northampton, Massachusetts-based four-piece embrace that untamable spirit more fully than ever before, dreaming up their most sublimely defiant album yet.

The self-produced follow-up to Friends Share Lovers—a 2016 release acclaimed by NPR, who noted that “Mohan’s striking vocals rival the vibrato and boldness of Siouxsie Sioux…[And
The Kids] make music that’s both fearless and entertaining”—When This Life Is Over unfolds in buzzing guitar tones and brightly crashing rhythms, howled melodies and oceanic harmonies.
Although And The Kids recorded much of When This Life Is Over at Breakglass Studios in Montreal (mainly to accommodate the fact that Miller was deported to her homeland of Canada in 2014), a number of tracks come directly from bedroom demos created by
Lasaponaro and Mohan. “The sound quality on those songs is so shittily good; it’s just us being so raw and so alone in the bedroom, writing without really even thinking we were going
to use it,” says Mohan. “We recorded them right away, and there was a really strong feeling of ‘Don’t touch them again.’”

Even in its more heavily produced moments, When This Life Is Over proves entirely untethered to any uptight and airless pop-song structure. Songs often wander into new moods and tempos, shining with a stormy energy that merges perfectly with the band’s musings on depression and friendship and mortality and love. On opening track “No Way Sit Back,” And The Kids bring that dynamic to a sharp-eyed look at the lack of representation of marginalized people in the media. “If you’re not seeing yourself portrayed on TV, whether you’re a person of color or trans or queer, that can be really damaging to your mental health—it can even be
fatal,” says Mohan. With its transcendent intensity, “No Way Sit Back” takes one of its key lyrical refrains (“The world was never made for us”) and spins it into something like a glorious
mantra. That willful vitality also infuses tracks like “Champagne Ladies,” on which And The Kids match a bouncy melody to their matter-of-fact chorus (“Life is a bastard/Life wants to kill
you/Don’t get old”), driving home what Mohan identifies as the main message of the song: “Don’t die before you’re dead.”

The origins of And The Kids trace back to when Mohan and Lasaponaro first met in seventh grade. After playing in a series of bands throughout junior high and high school (sometimes
with Averill on bass), the duo crossed paths with Miller in 2012 when the three interned at the Institute for the Musical Arts in the nearby town of Goshen. Once they’d brought Miller into the fold, And The Kids made their debut with 2015’s Turn to Each Other and soon headed out on their first tour. “At one of the shows on that tour, a burlesque act opened for us at a place in Arkansas,” Mohan recalls. “And then another time on tour, we crashed at a friend of a friend’s house, and there was a pot-bellied pig sleeping on the couch. That’s what nice about staying at people’s houses on the road: you never know what you’re gonna see.”

In creating the cover art for When Life Is Over, And The Kids chose to include a picture of their mascot: a black chihuahua named Little Dog, an ideal symbol for the scrappy ingenuity at the heart of the band. “Some of the most memorable moments we’ve been through with the band are like, ‘Hey, remember that tour when Megan had just gotten deported and we didn’t have any money, and we had to drive all these hours to play for like two people?’” says Mohan. “That was a real bonding experience for us. And even when it’s hard, there’s always something good that comes out of it. There’s always a meaning for everything.”

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