Julia Holter's new album Loud City Song prods and draws inspiration from the celebrity culture mecca that is Los Angeles. So when I find myself in a small queue of music journalists waiting to harvest and publish her thoughts before she's hurried off to perform for a devoted fanbase and sympathetic critics, ironic thoughts begin to orbit my brain like shit-covered horseflies.
But those thoughts are quickly deflected by my experiences with Loud City Song. The record beautifully but surgically analyzes parallels between cultures separated by time and space, using an array of strange and wonderful tools. A mix of polished harpsichord pop and bubbling jazz, catalyzed by Holter's soaring voice, Loud City Song settles in the rarefied air of wise and self-conscious art. It's some of the most easily accessible experimental music being made today.
Our conversation was brief but revealing. She pushed back against the prevailing media narrative that chains her link to the past, and touched on her connections to folk music and the creative process
Loud City Fall is partly inspired by Gigi, a musical and novella from the ‘40s. Does drawing from different creative disciplines help keep you creatively vitalized?
If you look at the history of folk music, people borrow all the time from other things. Every project is different, but I tend to find that I’m inspired by different time periods or other places where there are sentiments expressed that are relatable to our time period as well. There’s something beautiful about sentiments expressed in multiple contexts.
Your new album explores celebrity culture in Los Angeles. Has the process of writing and recording a new album taught you anything about that culture?
No, because recording the record did not expose me to culture at all. A lot of celebrity culture that I talk about is just a general idea of celebrity culture, [like] from the internet. The L.A. I know, my experience of it is very calm. It’s very different from the celebrity world I see when I turn on my television or internet. Anyone who’s seen it on TV has confronted it.
You’ve storyboarded some of your older albums. Did you repeat that process with this one?
I didn’t have drawings that I made for this one. My visual inspiration came from moments from the musical-film. I did Google image search them sometimes or watch them on YouTube, but I had them very much ingrained in me since I’ve been watching this film [Gigi] since I was a child.
How did that process compare to having drawings that you’ve made on the wall vs your own brain?
I don’t think it was that different. It’s just like when you watch something, instantly you come up with what you’re going to do poetically. And then it’s just a matter of sitting in front of the computer or piano and coming up with the song. It happens, at first, quickly, and then it takes time to work out the song in a deeper way.
Watch the video for "World" below. Loud City Fall is out August 20th via Domino.