Throughout her six albums, Meg Remy aka U.S. Girls has undergone many sonic transformations as an artist.
However, on new LP ‘In A Poem Unlimited’ she reinvents herself as a fiery purveyor of mutant disco. Furious guitar licks, luscious beats and one of the most singular voices in music makes this one of the most exciting albums of the year so far.
Clash caught up with Meg about ‘In A Poem Unlimited’, and where better place to start than the very first track of it?
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Hiya Meg, could you tell me a bit about the song ‘Velvet 4 Sale’?
It’s a song that is a dialogue between two women. One woman’s talking to another woman to try and convince her to buy a gun for protection… against men. So the premise is a song in dialogue form, which is something I was interested in due to being interested in theatre and how dialogue works, just trying to see if you can sing a conversation.
Could you tell me a bit about its composition?
Well, the music was written by my husband Maximillion Turnbull, who took a sample from this old song called ‘Witch Hunt’ by The Frog, a kind of old psychedelic band. He sampled that band and wrote things around the sample.
We had the demo charted and we got the band we worked with to rerecord it. So it has a good old feel because the source was old, and then we were replicating that. The whole album revolves around it trying to sound like samples, but it’s actually playing.
Elsewhere on the record, the music sounds a lot more disco inspired than your previous output. Was that a big influence?
Yeah, but I think I’ve always liked kinda disco-ey, funky stuff, and I think as well trying to use forms that induce dancing as well. That’s one of them.
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The whole record’s very set, and deliberate, and then I like dissolving into this free mess at the end...
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An album track from the new record I really loved was ‘Incidental Boogie’. Could you tell me a bit about that?
That’s an older song, the music for that song was written by an old collaborator of mine named Lewis Percival and it goes way back. He made a beat, and gave it to me, and I’ve been playing that song for years. This time we had the band rerecord it in that way, and were able to make it much more dramatic and cinematic than it ever was as a programmed piece.
The influence for that song is a kind of Southern gothic housewife type situation, where you’re just kind of exploring the idea that people keep themselves in dangerous or abusive situations because that’s all they know.
What’s your personal favourite off the record?
‘Lover’. I just really like it melodically, and that kind of gang, sing-along vocal, as well as a chorus that reminds me of T-Rex, which I really love. It’s a little bit sexy, a little bit creepy, I really love that song.
Another favourite was the album’s closer ‘Time’, could you tell me about the narrative of it?
That song is actually a cover by a singer-songwriter called Micah Blue Smaldone from Maine in the States, and I’ve been a fan of his for years. This is a song he put out in 2013, and it’s much different to the version we’ve done. I always loved that song and I wanted to hip it up and speed it up.
We wanted to have a song on the album that went from being structured to being improvised. So that shows off the kinds of players we’re using on the record. The whole record’s very set, and deliberate, and then I like dissolving into this free mess at the end that references a lot of experimental jazz music we all like. It’s fun because we do that in a live setting, different every night.
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Is this the same band that you normally work with or is it a whole new line up?
This is the first time that I’ve worked with this band, recording. They’re called The Cosmic Range and they’re an instrumental group from Toronto that my husband’s a part of. It’s the first time I’d ever worked with them, which is very exciting.
It was great to work with them, everyone looked kind of eagre towards the future, with a nice family vibe going on. But the live band is some people from the Cosmic Range, and then some of my other favourite musicians from America.
When I first caught wind of the album, the cover art stood out to me. A striking image that caught my eye even before I knew what it was. Could you tell me a bit about the image?
Well the photo was taken by a Toronto photographer called Colin Medley, and he took some photos of me that I then took and manipulated on the Xerox machine. Then I hand painted them and scanned them in, so it was a collaborative process on the artwork.
We gave the photo and information to Robert Beatty who’s a well known graphic designer and visual artist, and he did the layout. I wanted to make something that stood out on a record store wall, and I just happen to be born with blue eyes, which I doctored a bit but not too much, and y’know, a large set of eyes draws a lot of attention, like The Rolling Stones’ lips.
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We are all affected by the top 1% of the world who are deciding our fate.
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There’s lots of personal political themes on the album, but is your work informed by the global political climate?
Yeah, but I think everything I do is, and everything you do is informed by that. All of us, whether we are conscious of it or not. It’s impossible to get away from. We are all affected by the top 1% of the world who are deciding our fate.
Tell me about the use of field recordings, particularly on the interlude ‘Traviata’.
So I had broken my toe, and I was having to take cabs around for a short period of time. And I was in a cab with a guy that I really got along with, a really nice conversation and I recorded it.
He was super funny and he knew everything about classical music and opera. He thought it was really absurd that I was a singer and I didn’t sing classical or opera, it was a very funny and revealing moment for me, like I never should think that I’m somebody.
You’re going to bring this album to the UK as a live show in May, what can people expect?
A hell of a show. This band is hot, and I think we really give you your money’s worth. People should bring their dancing shoes.
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'In A Poem Unlimited' is out on February 16th.
Words: Cal Cashin
Photo Credit: Colin Medley
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