Do you ever come to terms with loss when you have spent your whole life feeling as though it was just around the corner? How do you prove to someone how much they truly mean to you? Do salt lamps and essential oils actually have healing properties? Doris Club explores the aforementioned qualms and more within ‘Side A’ of her new album, ‘There’s Still Time,’ a project whose epicenter pieces through what it truly means to comfortably live with grief as a constant companion.
Stream: ‘There’s Still Time (Side A)’ – Doris Club
I find melancholy so inescapable; it colors every experience I have. When the days are light it reminds me that nothing lasts forever. When the days are heavy it makes me yearn for when they were light. That duality is everywhere for me.
Doris Club is an enigma; a mysterious figure shrouded behind a three-syllabled pseudonym and a mini-discography.
But her enigmatic nature is not the point. The person behind Doris Club is, in fact, quite irrelevant when it comes to the body of work that is There’s Still Time (Side A). It was never truly about the artist behind the project, but rather, the Doris that exists sans the club.
You might be wondering: Just who is this Doris character?
Well, within the context of this project, Doris is a mother; a wisecracking optimist; a storyteller whose words can transport someone to an alternate reality. But she is also a woman whose waking hours are riddled with searing pain; whose sleepless nights languidly melt into the next day’s sunrise.
Doris has prepared her loved ones for her own death for years upon years.
Diagnosed with the incurable disease, trigeminal neuralgia, at age 30, Doris has lived a large portion of her life in excruciating pain. But this has not stopped her from holding the ones she loves as close to her as possible.
There’s Still Time (Side A), is a testament to the fierce bonds Doris has cultivated throughout her lifetime. Procured by her daughter who, careful not to eclipse the overarching purpose of the project, has briefly taken a step back into anonymity away from her preexisting artist project and assumed the alias of Doris Club.
“The project is partly a love letter to my mother, the half of me that is intuitive, irrational, melancholic… everything that makes me an artist I’ve inherited from her,” Doris Club confides. “It was also a way for me to play across genres, to give myself and the people I worked with fewer restrictions, to use my mother as my north, think less and just make a song she would like. That was my only criteria.”
Having become well acquainted with the idea of her mother’s death at the young age of 10, Doris Club grew up preempting loss; twiddling her thumbs in terror and quickly wiping away the tears that had welled up in the corner of her eyes.
“I was sensitive to the passage of time from a young age. The gentle, candid nature with which my mother talked to me about death and impermanence made a zealous disciple of the moment, obsessive hoarder of memories out of me — this was the conclusion I came to while making this record. I’ve feared time as much as I’ve worshiped it. Side A looks back, and is an offering to the source of my sentimentalism.”
One would think that with the inspiration at hand, the project would be anchored in angst — yet each track introduces an element of tongue-in-cheek nuance to the overarching sense of loss that Doris Club expresses.
Grief, after all, is seldom black and white. Thus, you will find no gloomy dirges on this record (at least not on Side A). Doris Club does not sonically dwell in minor chords or in slow-as-molasses ballads, but instead within skittering guitar licks and dreamy synth arrangements.
Side A of the project is intentionally light and airy — not as to ignore or dismiss the gravity of the situation at hand, but to alternatively alleviate some of the pain it has wrought the psyche of Doris and those around her. With each song being hand picked by Doris herself, the project allows listeners to embrace the joy of the present without being haunted by the future. It is an act of surrendering to whatever may come to pass; the ultimate acceptance of things we never want to come to fruition.
“I was thinking how so much of what makes me an artist comes from my mom and learning from how instinctive, intuitive… and honestly, irrational she is,” Doris Club shares. “Every time I play her something, she immediately has a feeling about it, and she decides if it stays or goes,” she says, adding modestly, “This album is really just a bunch of songs that my mom loves.”
Opening track, “Wake Up (If I Was God),” eloquently combats these soul-crushing feelings of dread with steadily thrumming basslines and snappy percussion, welcoming listeners into this atmosphere of unknowing with spunk and ample effervescence.
Doris Club unleashes the confusion and frustration she feels at not being able to control both her life and her mother’s condition, singing, “But if I was god / You’d be home in my arms and it’d be over / I’d say the word / And it wouldn’t hurt any longer, oh / But I’m not / So wake up.”
And, as if that brutal wake up call wasn’t enough, she follows it up with this series of heart shattering lines: “You half-joke when I come in your room / Say you’re jealous of all of the people who are dying soon / And you wish it was you / Oh, it breaks my heart to see you’re capable of thinking thoughts like these / ‘Cause I love you.”
Unafraid to steep within her own emotions, Doris Club embraces the fact that these perplexing feelings are simply staples of her everyday existence.
“I find melancholy so inescapable; it colors every experience I have,” she exclaims. “When the days are light it reminds me that nothing lasts forever. When the days are heavy it makes me yearn for when they were light. That duality is everywhere for me.”
Channeling the emotional dichotomies and off-kilter ambiguities that come in tandem with grief, Doris Club dives into the track “Oh No.” Within the melody, the songwriter recognizes the weight of her own befuddling feelings, yet keeps them tethered on a tight leash, attempting to put on a brave face as to not burden others.
“I know my worth in theory, still I crack a smile / Walk the self-help aisle just in case you show,” she croons in an attempt to convince herself that her sunny façade is not a front, just before conceding, “I should probably be alone with my thoughts.”
Unafraid to take grief in an arm wrestle and not come out as the triumphant victor, Doris Club bears all within six tracks overflowing with empathy and catharsis.
Walking listeners through the landscape of her mind, she holds their hands tightly along the way.
Doris Club might not have all of the answers — but she does have one solid record. People will always have doubts and feel angry at the world for the cards we have been dealt, but as far as Doris Club goes, the singer asserts: “I’ve made my peace with the idea of death for a long time now, but I’ve also accepted that accepting it as a concept only takes you so far, and the rest will just have to be experienced. I’m alright with never having answers. I’ve found that sometimes, it’s enough to let time pass until you’re no longer asking the questions.”
It’s as the saying goes: Only time will tell. Doris Club as a project might be temporary — the enigmatic artist will return to performing under her old moniker, and life will continue on as it did before. But these songs and all of the love that Doris inspired throughout her lifetime will forever stand the test of time.
Continue reading below to learn more about There’s Still Time (Side A) from Doris Club herself in a personal essay she wrote to accompany the project.
“Doris Club Is A Daughter, Trying To Keep Her Mother Alive Forever“
an essay by Doris Club
Whatever it is that makes me an artist, I’ve inherited from her.
My mother prepared me early on for her death.
At age 10, when it first dawned on me that she was one day going to die, I crawled into her bed every night for weeks and cried. She never once denied it or told me that I was silly to be thinking it; she would only hug me tight and assure me that I would be okay when it happened.
Doris grew up in Singapore in the 1960s, in a lively fishing community by the river that she described being filled with music all the time. She talked often about how teenagers would gather at the one house that had a record player and listen to everything from paranormal radio shows to the latest Carpenters records. The culture was infectious: a few houses down from hers, a guitar-obsessed kid fell in love with country music, started a band and flew to Nashville in hopes of becoming a star. My mother’s life followed a vastly different trajectory, although the lulling melodies and melancholic storytelling so characteristic of country music remained her greatest comfort, so defining many of my earliest musical sensibilities as a child.
At age 30, she was diagnosed with a rare and incurable nerve condition that would render her weak and sleepless. Living with trigeminal neuralgia meant jolts of extreme pain shooting to her face in unpredictable intervals, torturous nights kept awake by attacks, drastic weight loss from being unable to chew… and, when she became pregnant with me, a choice between staying on the painkillers or giving birth to me.
As a result, home became the place where the children’s toys shared cabinet space with an armory of alternative health gadgets and exotic herbs. My father became an expert at third-party shipping solutions from obscure health sites, while my brother and I became regular lurkers on online support forums.
My carefree childhood had been painfully procured, its price the days she would walk through the door, dejected that the acupuncture hadn’t worked this time, even though it was working so well last week. Miraculously, she was never truly deterred, and this remains the case even now: resolute through each wordless morning she wakes up to, each meal at the table she doesn’t eat enough of, my mother somehow manages to find some new physician, diet, supplement, balm or machine to pin every single one of her hopes on, and, in the meantime, make the most of the days that simply have to pass.
Her relentless faith awes one half of me and angers the other, but it is the awed half — the one I’m convinced I owe to her, that isn’t afraid to embarrass myself by trying, would rather hope and be let down again and again than be bitterly right about a bad feeling, that feels warmth and a sense of return when she sits at my desk with headphones on, crying happy tears to a draft of a song I’ve made — that I know I must devote myself to preserving. With this realization, I’ve walked into every studio session in the past year saying, “I don’t care what kind of song we make today, it’s just got to be something my mum would like.”
Maybe it’s knowing that her greatest sacrifice was written into my existence long before I was born.
Part of me believes that if I honor what it is that makes me capable of making songs she loves listening to, I can never really lose her. Every lens I’ve looked through seems to show me the same truth: Whatever it is that makes me an artist, I’ve inherited from her.
Doris Club is where she lives in me… and the joy it has been to keep us both alive this way.
Stream: ‘There’s Still Time (Side A)’ – Doris Club
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© Jasmine Rutledge
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