underscores | High Voltage, Old Money

underscores talks new album, ‘Wallsocket’, coming out September 22nd

Written by

Annie Bush

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Since the advent of modern electricity, people have likened listening to music to plugging in. Listening to music– to good music– is like connecting a cable to a divine circuit and running a hot current through your body, allowing yourself to be shocked, putting yourself at the mercy of the artist over and over and over. Listening to underscores feels like pulling that divine musical cord taut. It feels like winding it around a sharp object and letting it fray, like sending dangerously high voltage currents through it and setting those entrapped objects aflame, making the familiar uncanny, making the foreign intimate. underscores’ music is hot and buzzy and interesting. 

And, lucky for those willing to be shock victims, underscores has released a new single, “Old money bitch," off of forthcoming record dubbed Wallsocket, coming September 22nd. Wallsocket is a small town in Michigan. underscores– burgeoning electronic artist and acclaimed producer who has collaborated with the likes of Dylan Brady, Cashmere Cat, and Benny Blanco– spent a significant amount of time there in the past year. Wallsocket (the album) has been informed by the provincial occurrences in Wallsocket, Michigan, and the ways people behave as a reaction to such occurrences.  “Old money bitch,” follows other singles from the album,  "Locals (Girls like us) [with gabby start]" ,“Cops and robbers'' and "You don't even know who I am." The eerie video, directed by Ayodeji, is act III of the music video trilogy ("Cops and robbers" (act I), "You don't even know who I am" (act II), all of which serve as a strange, exciting visual exploration of the Wallsocket residents with whom underscores interacted in the time she spent in the town.  

Hailing from San Francisco, underscores released her first track, “mild season” on Soundcloud in 2015, and quickly rose to national prominence in the hyperpop canon. Albums skin purifying treatment, and fishmonger, along with collection boneyard aka fearmonger explore textures of fear, euphoria, and existential dread, and have attracted the attention of music fanatics across the country for their refreshing sonic landscapes and engaging narrative styles. underscores is unequivocally one of those genre-defining artists that will leave a thumbprint in the music scene for years to come. Plug in now. 

Why spend time in Wallsocket?

I spend a lot of time on Google Maps, and when I found Wallsocket, it just seemed to encapsulate a lot of the themes I wanted to touch on with the album. It’s this kind of upper-middle-class utopia a couple hours out from Detroit. They’re retained some of the touchstones of a remote American small town, but they’ve mashed it with this modern, kinda tech-y sensibility. And it’s kind of an ugly mashup, like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole or whatever. I love it.

I also just fell in love with this one specific type of house. It’s like a McFarmhouse or something. Porches, vestibules, string lights, barn doors, solar panels probably. Wood, stone, white paint. Essentially taking a classic American farmhouse and trying to imbue it with like Scandinavian architectural sensibilities. Obsessed. Wallsocket has them everywhere.

You have a knack for nurturing the production of/samples within a song to give each individual track a distinct, unique character– this seems to be even more the case with the singles from the coming album. How did your spell in Wallsocket influence your sound?

I appreciate that! The hardest thing about making an album to me is making something that can be engaged with both as a whole and as separate pieces. That’s not to say that albums need to have songs that work out-of-context; I just think it’s inevitable that that’s how some people are gonna consume it. And I don’t wanna be bummed out if someone decides to only take one song from the album, haha. 

For this album, I really wanted to use sounds I hadn’t really used before. I realized a lot of the sonics of blues/country made me feel super good when I heard them: steel, harmonica, slide, brushed snare, etc. I think being in Wallsocket helped me refine the sonic thesis statement of the record — taking something natural and trying to sterilize it with something manmade.

Speaking of sonic character, you posted these little blurbs on your Soundcloud that serve as character descriptions/scenarios for each track. The entire record thus far seems to be a series of character studies. How do you go about creating these characters? Are they based in truth?

OMG, good eye. The characters are definitely based in truth! The process of making the album was essentially figuring out what I wanted to write about within or adjacent to my own experiences, and then funneling that through different characters after the fact. The storylines get kinda convoluted for that reason, haha.

I also like writing from the perspective of someone I’m not, especially when it gets kinda slapstick. “Cops and robbers” was super fun to write for that reason. Saturday morning cartoon vibe.

Your music videos are remarkable. Walk us through how you conceive of them.

Thank you! That’s all Ayodeji. We’ve been working together for a few years now. 

Usually, it starts with some super convoluted idea I have, and then Ayodeji and I distill it down into a treatment. Ayodeji is incredible at translating ideas that are simple on paper into something tasteful and understated. I think his style complements the themes I tend to explore super well — it’s this cool mixture of spirituality and violence. 

Say I were to throw a listening party. Where and how do you want this album to be consumed?

I mean, ideally the listening party would be in Wallsocket, like that would be sooooo cool. It would be awesome to watch the album, like via a visualiser or something. Listening parties scare me though — like playing the album for a bunch of people in a room and then being like, “Soooo, what did you think?” I don’t think I’d show up. Virtual listening parties are really great though; definitely planning on doing some kind of premiere for the album.

People should go about consuming the album however they want though! Once I put something out, I feel like it’s not mine anymore. Take whatever you want from it, go nuts, rip it apart. 

There is this eerie, ostensibly American grotesque theme that you seem to flirt with in your work. What got you interested in Americana?

My grandparents spent a lot of time in this tiny town in Idaho. We’d visit them every year; it’s where I drove a car for the first time, where we spread the family dog’s ashes, there’s a lot of memories there. They had to sell the house a couple years ago and I guess I was feeling a bit nostalgic. I associate country and blues rock sonics with Idaho because that’s what I was hearing in the car.

Romanticizing America can’t really be done properly without critiquing it, though. I think that’s why the specific type of Americana I’m trying to explore is horror-flavored. I feel like the upper-middle-class and their fears are usually best represented and critiqued in horror films. Michael Myers only really goes after people that live in McMansions. 

Wallsocket was first. Where to next?

The outskirts. And then maybe it’s time to go back to the city.

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underscores, music, annie bush