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Interview: Phoebe Bridgers Talks Meltdowns, Nazis & 100 Gecs With Roy Irwin

Interview: Phoebe Bridgers Talks Meltdowns, Nazis & 100 Gecs With Roy Irwin

Roy Irwin / Photo credit: Frank Ockenfels / Wednesday 10th June, 2020 12:22PM

On the second week of lockdown in New Zealand we spoke with Phoebe Bridgers about having a meltdown, fantasising about killing nazis and hating Eric Clapton. Phoebe celebrates the release of her sophomore album Punisher via Dead Oceans / Rhythmethod on 19th June – a reflective and melancholic collection of songs about intimacy and just trying to make sense of life in what is literally a terrifying and confusing world. We spoke more in depth about some of the lyrical content and got some answers behind some of her iconic tweets.

Roy Irwin: Hi, Phoebe.

Phoebe Bridgers: Hello!

My names Roy, I’m from Auckland, New Zealand. I am a solo artist and sometimes I get asked to talk to people. How are you doing today?

I’m alright… you know. How are you? 

Yeah, I’m okay. It’s Monday around midday here and it is a Sunday evening where you are?

Yeah. It’s 4:20.

420. Are you in isolation at the moment?

I am. I’ve been fluctuating between having meltdown’s and creating stuff. Hopefully I’m bouncing back into the 'creating stuff' zone because it definitely feels better than the other way.

Last night I had a meltdown and then today I’m doing better. I just had a video chat with Julian Baker and Lucy Dacus and that was much needed and good and kinda reset me mentally. How about you?

I had the same reaction and I freaked out and had a meltdown in lockdown. It kinda makes me feel more nihilistic than usual but I’ve been slowly trying to be more creative as well, doing some recording and stuff and making sure I’m actually talking to my friends.


Shit's pretty bad where you are from what I can tell?

Yeah it’s really bad. It’s crazy. California is definitely a hot spot but the hospitals are not actually literally overwhelmed but it’s just a matter of time and they definitely are in New York. Yeah it’s a literal fucking nightmare. So that’s a nice tone to set.

It’s pretty fucking horrifying. How do you feel about the amount of people that are feeling personally victimised from this? I think it’s really fucked up but funny.

[laughs] Yeah, it is really funny. I’ve talked to a couple of people who have been like “I can’t believe this is happening to me!” Which is just unreal.

I was able to listen to your new album Punisher. I love it.

Oh, thanks.

I read what you said about being a punisher and it’s when you are having the wrong reaction to what somebody is saying and they expect something else. I thought it was funny because I personally feel like the punisher would be the other person. The one that is trying to have a painful conversation at you because I know that I hate that. I like how that unites everyone in a way because basically everyone is a punisher.

Yeah exactly, I think everybody has been on both sides.

Was that your idea when you came up with that as the title of the album?

I think it’s just the thing that we are the most self conscious of doing to other people, so it’s kind of the theme.

You recorded that with Tony Berg and Ethan Gruska who also did Stranger In The Alps. You mentioned with meeting them and making two records was like dodging a bullet. Do you feel that way because you have such a good relationship with them but it also about dodging all the predators in the music industry?

Sort of. I’m from LA so it’s full of that stuff too but I think mostly creatively. I was playing a pretty horrible guitar when I met those guys, like, horrible sound. I think I learned how to sing and I learned way more about music. I don’t think my music would be nearly what it is if I hadn’t met them. I think it would be more 'folky' and maybe not as fully realised, so I guess I dodged a bullet by not making a bunch of records and having to learn what I like. I basically got to take a master class in my own music by meeting those guys, I feel like we are all on the same page.

That’s super lucky. I’ve recorded myself for the last 10 years and I feel like I’ve done so much garbage up until pretty much this point.

Haha, totally. I think everybody feels like that to a certain degree.

You must have some recordings that you can’t listen to anymore?

Oh. My. God. There is shit on YouTube and even some stuff on Spotify where I’m like, “Oh my fucking god.” My friend Harrison texted me a picture of an EP I put out on Bandcamp that was literally bold drums and autotune and shit because I didn’t know what I was doing and I trusted an 18 year old producer to help me make a record. Then right after that I met Tony and Ethan. Jeez. I’m so glad I met those guys.

Yeah, that’s cool. 'The Garden' song. You said your brother got you stoned for the filming of that video?


And you don’t usually smoke pot, right?


Did that idea work for you? To get stoned and not know what’s gonna happen and feel scared?

It definitely worked for the product. I’m really proud of that video. I think it’s hilarious.

That dude dancing in the background cracked me up.

Exactly. I didn’t know what was gonna happen. I’ve had that idea forever and then finally I did it and I’m so glad I did. But it was a terrifying night. I think I was up til 5am watching Peaky Blinders.

Ah. Jesus. And that song ('The Garden') to me was alluding to killing a Nazi?

Oh yeah. I had a crush on someone that lived next to a Nazi and I fantasised about killing the Nazi so its pretty literal. [laughs]

That must have sucked. Staying next to a Nazi…

I wonder what he’s doing right now in isolation?

He might be dead, you never know.

Hahaha, yeah. Hahaha.

And the song 'Kyoto'. That was about your first trip to Japan. You felt dissociated and you really wanted to go there but kinda felt weird about it, is that right?

I didn’t feel weird about it. It was weird because it’s such a beautiful place and I’m dying to go back but I was in such a weird part of my life, because I had also been on tour for about 2 years straight. It's hard to enjoy anything at that point. You dissociate from the best stuff of your life, like people singing your lyrics back to you or whatever. When that stuff starts to not feel like anything you know you’re in trouble. I was trying to reframe my brain. Right now I’d literally kill to be on tour so I guess it works. That meditation works and I wanna be back on tour.

I mean, I played shows but the Better Oblivion (Better Oblivion Community Center) tour was the last actual tour I did and that ended last summer. This is the longest I’ve been off tour since I started playing music.

Far out. A line I really like is from 'Moon Song' where you sing, “We hate Tears In Heaven but it’s sad that his baby died.” It cracked me up and I thought it was really funny. I’m not sure it was intended to be funny because it’s still horrible what happened.

Kind of. It was me trying to show what intimacy is. Telling things to people you would never say out loud to anybody else y’ know?

But I think it’s funny because I fucking hate Eric Clapton but I don’t mind 'Tears In Heaven'. The original lyric was “I hate Eric Clapton” but Tears In Heaven sounds cooler. But I hate Eric Clapton.

But 'Tears In Heaven' is fine. Out of all the songs it's “the song” at least.

You’ve found proof of being a “tween-age indie rock witch,” who would you choose to work with next if you could?

I feel like my dreams are just becoming about different stuff. I just wanna go on an endless tour and go to Japan. I just think I’ve done so many collaborations too. Honestly though I think I’d like to do a collaboration album with Grouper.

That would be so sick. Grouper played here last year doing a noise set with the dude from the Dead C. That was cool.

So cool. She is the only noise music I can tolerate.

Do you have a favourite 100 Gecs song?

Hahaha, Oh my god. I’m wearing a 100 Gecs hoodie right now. Thats so funny. Um, I like the one where they say "Piss Baby" ('Money Machine').

It’s fun calling people Piss Babies!

Yeah, I like that.

Can Matt (Berninger) from The National have a little saké as a treat?

Saké? Haha! definitely. He can have a lot of saké as a treat.

Wheatus - 'Teenage Dirtbag' or Len - 'Steal My Sunshine'?


I’m so torn between those two songs but Wheatus is a good choice.

Totally. There is a time and place.

Is Marshall Vore (Drums) the Kevin Jonas of the Phoebe Bridgers band?

Haha, oh my god, I don’t think so but I don’t even know who I am in the Jonas Brothers. Who are any of us? Who is Marshall to me?

Maybe you are all of the Jonas Brothers but Marshall can be Kevin too. What’s your favourite Elliott Smith song? That’s a really hard question.

Oh, It changes everyday. It is a really hard question. I’ve been really into New Moon and I really like the first version of 'Miss Misery'. It’s make me so sad. It’s brutal. It makes me SO sad.

'Angel In The Snow' is also really good.

Totally. I just really like that record because there is so much stuff. I also really love 'Bye' which is the last song on Figure 8 which is a piano song. I’m making this ambient playlist and I was looking for my favourite artists instrumental tracks. I love 'Kiwi Maddog' too. It’s amazing.

Will you ever make a line of 'soft' seltzer waters?

Oh my god. Absolutely. Actually, my friends and I have this joke about Connor (Oberst). Like if somebody stops drinking they 'quit fun'. So I make this drink which is like Topo Chico and orange juice. So we started calling it a fun quitter because it doesn’t have any alcohol in it. So my soft seltzer is 'Fun Quitter'.

Sounds uh… good?

Haha, yeah it’s pretty good.

Thanks so much for talking with me today and I hope to see you play live in Auckland once the world returns to some normalcy.

Me too.

Phoebe Bridgers' new album 'Punisher' is out on Friday 19th June via Dead Oceans / Rhythmethod.

Roy Irwin's self-titled new album is out now via Bandcamp.

Note: This interview earlier featured a statement by Roy Irwin about the death of Eric Clapton's son, which has been retracted from publication in agreement with the artist and UTR editorial team.


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