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Interview: Kristin Hersh New Album 'Clear Pond Road' + NZ Tour

Interview: Kristin Hersh New Album 'Clear Pond Road' + NZ Tour

Interview by Lucia Taylor / S.C. / C.C. / Photo credit: Pete Mellekas / Friday 8th September, 2023 3:23PM

Touring Aotearoa nationwide in November, Kristin Hersh makes a thunderous return with her latest solo album Clear Pond Road via Fire Records. Co-founder of Newport, Rhode Island alt-rock icons Throwing Muses, she's made consistent tidal waves with over ten studio long players from that group alone, twelve solo albums (including 1994’s acoustically brilliant debut Hips and Makers) and collaborative works with noise rock power trio 50 Foot Wave. Also an acclaimed author, Hersh caught up this week with 95bFM Morning Glory presenter Lucia Taylor for a chat about Hersh’s expansive career, her upcoming long-awaited Aotearoa shows and the artist's estranged relationship with the music industry. Read on and don't miss Hersh performing solo this spring, including a newly announced Wellington headline date…

UnderTheRadar proudly presents...

Kristin Hersh

Wednesday 15th November - Meow, Wellington* [new show]
Thursday 16th November - Meow, Wellington* [sold out]
Friday 17th November - The Piano, Christchurch
Saturday 18th November - Tuning Fork, Auckland*
Sunday 19th November - Artworks, Waiheke Island, Auckland [sold out]

General public tickets on sale HERE via UTR
*General public tickets on sale via

Lucia Taylor: The opening track of the new album is called ‘Bewitched Reruns’. Who is your favourite fictional witch, is it Samantha?

Kristin Hersh: Oh, of course! I’m a big believer in not needing metaphors. When people ask me what my songs are about, I always disappoint them by telling them it’s just all literally true. I’m so sorry, I’m not a poet, I’m not making anything up. What I mean by that is that there’s always another layer of depth and meaning and magic. Every time you look at the specifics of your life you can back up its impact with the double meaning that is always there, the dream that is always concurrent. Literally just watching Bewitched reruns on my tour bus going 24 hours a day, we were on this Bewitched kick. They were dealing with almost feminist and egoistic issues and socio-cultural stuff.

It’s a good unintentional metaphor!

Exactly! And I’ve always been called a witch so I have a soft spot for Samantha. Even the kids in school would say, 'Oh Kris is a witch.' The Bewitched reruns produced memories that were so pumped full of magic they were infused with a timeless quality, the memories just kept replaying and replaying and they needed to. It was important for me to set a storyline in place for what I called my 'Bewitched Reruns'. I had a spell cast on me and that's when this series of memories began and I had to relive each of these memories because of the magic, because they have a bewitched quality.

You have so many records out, almost fifty through all of your projects! I’ve been listening to Clear Pond Road and I love it, it is so uniquely yours while still bringing something new to the table, how do you keep your music so engaging?

What a nice thing to say! My bands and I are so not oriented for the recording industry, mostly what we do is play. We’re hyper aware of music as a river flowing by — you just jump into it and this is how we stay in shape. We’ve been jumping into this river and we play and occasionally record those pieces and release some of those. What we release is a tiny fraction of the jumping into the river we actually do.

It sounds like you have a whole ocean of music to jump into!

Yeah in fact, right before I made this record I had already made a whole album. I had fifteen songs and I trashed them. I thought 'No, it’s not time for this.' I don’t know if it's the elaborate scaffolding I used to construct the record that isn’t for right now, or if it was just a record that was supposed to stay in the river not for publication. I hope there would be a quality of idiosyncratic universality when we publish something because that would be everyone — no snowflakes but fingerprints. You bring your idiosyncratic take to something that would speak to others. I think, sometimes, I bring only the idiosyncratic take and it might not speak to others. It may be more like a page from my diary or a dream of mine that maybe I shouldn’t tell at the water-cooler. I just kind of wait and see.

Well that’s something that’s so amazing about not just music but art in general. We put a piece of ourselves in it with or without intending to and people will take what they want from it. Like what you’ve said about not intentionally writing metaphors, people see them as metaphors because that's what they need to see them as.

Absolutely. Sometimes I’ll write a song and not get it, I’ll just think its beautiful and alive and therefore publishable, but it’s not really my job to absolutely understand why it had to live. And then I will meet a person who needed it and I’ll go, 'Okay, if it was only for you then. Right on, I did the right thing releasing it.'

A lot of your work has been described as 'emotionally raw' but it sounds like that that isn’t a conscious decision for you. It’s just a part of a process, does it just come out that way?

I don’t do anything intentionally because... I’m me. If I did something intentionally it’d probably be stupid, I just watch the music and listen to the music. I think if I made something up it would be dead, not so alive. But 'emotionally raw' is a good place to be if you want to respect sound, because a lot of what I do is kind of embarrassing, I have to do something shameful.

When Bikini Kill played recently, Kathleen Hanna was talking about how important it is to let yourself be cringe.

Exactly, what else are you offering then? I would like for there to be a bigger audience for the cringe, because you do need to not just bare your soul, but bare other souls and be cool with that. Know that we all have bones in common and we all have pain in common, wear those out.

It was 13 years after the formation of Throwing Muses that you started to release your solo music, were you always creating your own music alongside that? What was the process of going out on your own like?

Throwing Muses was me, essentially. They loved me, they would let me do anything. If I didn’t like one of the parts they played, or they didn’t show up for a track, I would play on it and I slept in the studio. Imagine you’re Brian Wilson but you’re a dumpy little girl and nobody likes your songs [laughs]. My band mates were very patient with the fact that Throwing Muses was all me, and I relied on them in many ways, but I had no desire for extracurricular creativity. This is because I was signed with a corporate label in America and I found their energy damaging. They wanted not music but sexist product. I’d smile at the camera and they would say, 'No, you have to look at the camera like you want it, like you’re in love with it.' So I’m supposed to be coming on to all men right now and you call that music? But I said, 'I’m not going to do that, I think that's really bad for everybody.' The other face that was allowed was the 'deal with it' face.

So you have to either look sexy or defiant, but defiant and within the direction of the label?

Yes! And it wasn’t anyone's fault, I didn’t dislike any individual but I felt strongly that it was not honest for me. When vanity enters the room, soul leaves and when soul enters the room, vanity leaves. I chose soul and I left the industry. But of course I was under contract and could not leave. They said, 'We’re gonna keep you and we’re gonna bury you,' so they didn’t release our records — they were sitting in warehouses. We would take them ourselves and bring them to record stores so that we could exist, and I thought this is proof. I was right. I have to get out of here. I traded them my first solo record for my freedom and they accepted it, Hips And Makers was my first solo project and it was always theirs, they were always going to own it but that wasn’t a big loss for me. I haven’t made a penny from any of my records. That's not how it work when you’re held accountable for the debt we recouped because we were never promoted. I just thought, 'This is why we do this! This is why real musicians and songwriters won’t participate.' There were people participating but they were selling sexist products.

I told them I’m losing my listeners when they release silly singles with sexist music videos. It insults my audience. You can’t use my band’s name for this and they would say, 'This is how it works.' I lost my real listeners for a while, I had an audience that was never going to truly care, they were just fooled into listening through marketing so I had no choice. Morally, I felt I had no choice and musically I felt I had no choice. That first solo record is what got me out of that ugly business. I left the music industry to make music.

This show coming up is your first time here since 2014. What are you excited about coming back to New Zealand and what can people expect from the show?

Well this is one of my favourite places on earth, if not my favourite place on earth. I tried to move to New Zealand ten years ago and other life things happened and got in the way. But my memory of every interview and every show and every friend I’ve met there is one of an astute humanity, that allows for purity of thought and you can’t hear music without that. You can’t hear music without humour, meaning a lot of pretence, you can’t hear music if you take yourself too seriously. You can’t hear music if you don’t have an id, it is very difficult to find musically literate populaces around this world, and your country is reliable.

I’m really looking forward to the show, is it going to be mainly from Clear Pond Road or will you be heading into the archive as well?

I don’t actually use setlists, I just play whatever I feel like. It’ll be maybe like half a dozen songs from the new record and then whatever occurs to me. Setlists don’t know how to read the room but I do. Exactly, who knows how you’re gonna feel when you get up there! Yes!

Well it was so lovely to talk to you Kristin thank you, I’ll see you at the show!

'Clear Pond Road' is out today via Fire Records — vinyl and compact disc orders available HERE.


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Kristin Hersh
Wed 15th Nov 8:00pm
Meow, Wellington
Kristin Hersh
Thu 16th Nov 8:00pm
Meow, Wellington
Kristin Hersh
Fri 17th Nov 7:30pm
The Piano, Christchurch
Kristin Hersh
Sat 18th Nov 8:00pm
The Tuning Fork, Auckland
Kristin Hersh
Sun 19th Nov 6:00pm
Artworks Theatre, Auckland