Come into a world of frogs, changes, and desires – Atwood Magazine spoke with Rosie Tucker on latest album ‘Sucker Supreme,’ gaining fresh insight on how to album came to be.
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Amphibians are fascinating animals, to say the least. The etymology of the term itself suggests it. It comes from the fusion of two ancient Greek words and means “double life,” hinting both at their metamorphosis and their ability to move between the land and water worlds. Creatures not confined by any kind of limitation, free to live as they please. It is no coincidence that amphibians – frogs in particular – have been a great source of inspiration for Rosie Tucker and their latest album Sucker Supreme (released April 30 on Epitaph Records).
Sucker Supreme could be described as an orderly stream of consciousness; a collection of very different memories, thoughts, and emotions, represented through a series of visual images so sharp and well described that it is not difficult to enter immediately into the atmosphere of the pieces.
If coming-of-age novels were a musical album, the record we are presenting would be the most representative of the genre. It is a journey through childhood places, reflections on those who put profit before people’s safety, desire, and slime creatures with destructive tendencies. Concepts that might seem completely opposed to each other, but which are collected and arranged in an orderly way, like a Joyce novel written by Hemingway.
Sucker Supreme could therefore be defined as a real rollercoaster of experiences that goes deep into the human psyche, its innermost desires, its impulses, and its most touching memories.
“I’ve spent a lot of time refusing to come to terms with the fact that I am stuck with myself, being the person I am all the time,” Tucker says. “Yes, I’ve gotten better at using a calendar, and exercising, and telling people about my stupid feelings when it’s relevant to do so. Sure, I floss sometimes. I read nonfiction and take out the trash. I’m a paragon of decency. All this to say I have gotten adequate at living while impatiently waiting for the smarter, kinder, better looking version of myself to come along, lead me out back, and put me out of my misery.”
The maturity and care behind this record are hardly surprising, considering the fact that this is the first record made by Tucker’s touring band. The brilliant minds of Jessy Reed, Jess Kallen, and Wolfy have come together to share their experiences and musical knowledge, creating a record of self-discovery that makes you appreciate all the immense work that went into it.
Atwood Magazine spoke with Rosie Tucker about songs to be a sucker for, frogs, and changes that don’t happen.
Listen: ‘Sucker Supreme’ – Rosie Tucker
A CONVERSATION WITH ROSIE TUCKER
Atwood Magazine: YOU HAVE SOME VERY SPECIFIC CONCEPTS IN YOUR SONGS. FOR EXAMPLE, 'CREATURE OF SLIME' TALKS ABOUT A GIANT REPTILIAN MONSTER’S DESTRUCTIVE TENDENCIES. HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THEM? HOW WERE THE PIECES ON SUCKER SUPREME BORN?
Rosie Tucker: There are definitely a lot of reptiles running through the record. I feel like I just throw everything at the wall, I don’t know (laughs). I just come up with whatever random shit flies through my brain! Sometimes it’s a swamp monster and I want to make room for that, you know.
YOU SAID 'HABANERO' IS ABOUT A CHANGE THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN. WHAT DOES IT MEAN? WHAT'S INSTEAD THE BIGGEST CHANGE YOU'VE EXPERIENCED, MUSICALLY SPEAKING?
Tucker: I think that what I’m trying to say with “Habanero” is how personal growth never happens the way that we desire it to, how it tends to be a really slow process, and when we build or break habits or learn about ourselves things move very slowly. So, I guess I’m speaking about a kind of impatience with personal growth, thinking “oh, life would be so much easier if I was just like less insecure or funnier!” or whatever. Wishing that you were kind of a different person, fantasizing about having your life be easier because of that – when the truth is that it doesn’t work like that.
I’ve changed a lot musically, I feel like the biggest change on this album is that I had a lot more fun playing around with synthesizers and little instruments like that. I got really excited about making a lot of ambient noise, screeches, and nonsensical sounds, which are totally absent from my first record.
THE CONCEPT FOR ITS MUSIC VIDEO IS PRETTY MINIMALIST. WHAT MESSAGE ARE YOU SENDING WITH IT?
Tucker: The video concept belongs entirely to the director Katharine White. I think that what she was trying to do was take these concepts of the self and self-growth and personify them with a diopter – a lens we used for distorting images. What I appreciate about her work is that she preferred doing something very simple and doing it well rather than being really ambitious and having it not work as well. So, we tried to personify that self distortion (literally), that’s what we’re going for.
Watch: “Barbara Ann” – Rosie Tucker
THERE ARE THESE FASCINATING VISUALS IN THE LYRICS OF YOUR SONGS (THE DROPPING CHERRIES IN 'BARBARA ANN', THE AFTERNOON SUN IN 'TRIM' ETC); WHAT DO THESE SYMBOLS MEAN TO YOU?
YOU ALSO OFTEN MENTION AND REFERENCE AMPHIBIANS IN YOUR SONGS. FOR EXAMPLE, IN 'HABANERO' YOU SING ''I CAN’T BELIEVE I’LL DIE / BEFORE BECOMING A FROG.'' WHY IS THAT?
Tucker: First of all, I think frogs are totally back. I look at Instagram now there’s all this frog art, which is very exciting! It’s a fun trend, I definitely was really into amphibians as a little kid, looking for frogs in the streams, in the swamps. Every time I was in a new place or new terrain, the objective was going to find out if there were frogs there or not. Lizards are like a second-best, with newts and other reptiles and amphibians. I had a couple of pet frogs for a while, too! Frogs are very interesting animals, they are very diverse; they can absorb through their skin oxygen and stuff, and they are also an indicator species. So, if they start dying off you know something is up with the environment.
They’re great little creatures for that reason, but then I also think that there is this element of the amphibious that is very interesting in a queer way. The ability to move back and forth between worlds to exist in multiple places, the uniqueness of that experience definitely relates for me to feelings of gender queerness and bisexuality – and just feeling transient in general and how I relate to those things.
IF YOU COULD MASTER ANY INSTRUMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Tucker: I feel like if you can express yourself in keys and in the computer you can play anything that you want ever. For recording purposes, selfishly, I’d like to be really good at keys. Any instrument, though? I don’t know, you’re making the band geek inside me nervous (laughs). I grew up being so greedy to touch every single instrument I could, and to make noise in as many ways as I could.
Okay, I don’t play these instruments at all but I think that the saxophone or the clarinet (or the bass clarinet, the reedy ones) have a kind of otherworldly potential that not enough people access. You can get them really squeaky and shrieking, they can sound otherworldly and freaky. There’s also something very human sometimes about the intonation of those instruments, so probably saxophone and clarinet are what I’m going to say.
Watch: “Habenero” – Rosie Tucker
WHERE DO YOU DRAW INSPIRATION FROM, BE IT OTHER MUSICIANS OR SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY?
Tucker: I think that inspiration is a really tricky thing. When it comes to being inspired by the music, I think it has to be really different than the music I play. Over the course of quarantine, I was really into a record by a 70s girl group in Brazil called Quarteto em Cy with these wild vocal arrangements – really beautiful. I listened to a ton of Doja Cat too!
When it comes to making music, these days I don’t listen to very many other straightforward guitar songwriters. I’m looking for different sounds, I’m looking to expand my mind about what I might access someday sonically – so, lots of old music and sometimes pop music too.
Otherwise, taking long walks is a really good source of inspiration, as well as print magazines. I love small independent print magazines, I like how short-form they are – I love to read but I find that if the reading is happening on my phone then it can lead to me working or being on social media. This past year I’ve gotten really into a few different magazines. It’s exciting getting them in the mail, the art and design are also inspiring.
WHAT ORDER SHOULD SUCKER SUPREME BE LISTENED TO?
Tucker: Listen to it from top to bottom. I think the order is very deliberate, of course. The first song is “Barbara Ann” and the closing piece is basically a remix of “Barbara Ann” that I made. I’m mostly interested in maintaining those bookends, but if people want to mix things up in between them be my guest!
WHICH SONG(S) YOU’RE MOST EXCITED TO SHARE AND PLAY LIVE?
Tucker: I am super excited to play the song “Airport” with the band because it’s got some weird parts out there. We’re going to have a lot of fun learning it, I’m also excited to do some of the shorter songs to figure out what they are going to sound like live. This is because some of them were completely born and recorded at home. “Creature of Slime” too, should we do it as a punk song? What would it sound like that? I’m really excited, I don’t know what will be my favorite because stuff always changes when you start to arrange with the band, but those are two I’m excited for.
Watch: “Ambrosia” – Rosie Tucker
WHAT ABOUT THE ONE(S) YOU HOPE WILL BE THE MOST LISTENED TO?
''NOTHING IS SIMPLE JUST CAUSE YOU WISH THAT IT IS'' ('AMBROSIA'); WHEN YOU’RE CREATING, WHAT DO YOU FIND ACTUALLY SIMPLE AND WHAT’S CHALLENGING?
Tucker: I think something amazing, enthralling, and always frustrating about making music is I never know which parts are going to be easy and which parts are going to be hard. I never know what part of the song is going to arrive first and then I don’t know how I’m going to finish it, when it gets there. “Ambrosia” had a couple of different pieces of a song that were kicking around in my head for like a year or more before I just put them together and the song was done.
There is this constant game of hide-and-go seek when you think something is going to be easy and then it’s not and you get stuck in the writing process. Or, you think that it’s gonna be easy to sing, come up with the melody but nothing is sticking. There’s so much about putting together a song that is about the feeling that it gives me as a creator – and you simply cannot predict for feelings! It’s impossible, you can try but you’ll fail. I think I’m constantly oscillating between the two at every step, between feeling like “oh my God, this is so freaking easy! Songwriting is the easiest thing in the world!” and “I don’t know if I’ll write a song ever again”.
SPEAKING OF BEING A SUCKER, A SONG YOU’RE CURRENTLY A SUCKER FOR?
WHAT DO YOU HOPE PEOPLE TAKE AWAY FROM THIS RECORD?
Tucker: I hope that people have a good time listening to it, that they know I had a really good time making it, and that it comes through when you listen.
© May Daniels
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