INTERVIEW: Chris Garneau

Hi Chris, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hi ! Totally fucking crazy but you know!

This has been a Time. While there has been so much tragedy these last few weeks, months, (centuries), this reckoning and this massigve global movement is really exciting and perhaps the first glimmer of hope I’ve felt, maybe ever.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Now On”?

Yeah “Now On” — well on the surface, it is a song about leaving a relationship, but more deeply it is about uncovering and revealing truths. It’s about searching for something within, and alone, rather than connecting to another person, or something external. Looking beneath shame or guilt can reveal extreme pain and grief, but this find can truly liberate. That freedom, though, is a neutral one, it is something that should belong to all of us- freedom is a human right. Once you have freedom you can go ahead and figure out your other shit. It’s like getting sober. It by no means describes the joy or the gold that might come with freedom— that comes later, if ever.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

I get into this more deeply in the question about the recording and writing process !

Any plans to release any sort of video for the track?

I am probably putting out the video sometime in the next few weeks it seems. I didn’t want to put out the video right now, I didn’t want to ask anyone to have to listen to and then WATCH my white ass sing, but then I am really thinking about the suffering here, and those of us who fight with and for ALL BIPOC, those of us who are interested in taking collective care of each other, our communites — well I certainly would never pretend that as a cis gender white male I could ever understand the Black experience. But I do understand trauma, I understand being silenced, as a queer person who was sexually abused my whole childhood I understand the pyschological warfare and what kind of ruins that abuse can leave a person in. I see what happens to people who don’t use their pain, I don’t want to bottle anything up but I think it’s nice to release things at a gentle pace. So I decided I’ll put the video out too in soon time. I’ll put out music and art as long as I’m continuning to have an intention. If I became deeply uncomfortable with releasing work, or it seemed like it was hurting and taking up the wrong kind of space, I would rethink that.

How was the recording and writing process?

For “Now On”, I actually wrote it on my bike around sunet on a swampy August night (2019) upstate. I had eaten some mushrooms that day and had been thinking about my twenties and that even if I had wanted to love someone I didn’t really have the capacity or space to show up. I couldn’t really show up for myself ever. So then anyway I was riding in circles in this parking lot for a while and I just kept thinking about how much I loved my partner (we had split the summer before, 2018) but how I couldn’t really be there for, or with, him, even after all these years together, I had to leave. And anyway all of these things came together about my family and my life…and I realized for the first time that not everything was my fault but that I was getting pulled into other people’s darkness for so long. I always felt like everything was my fault even though I knew I wasn’t supposed to feel that way. I couldn’t let that go until about a year ago. That’s the demon part in the lyric- getting unchained from the demon. And then that brings me to the freedom, which as I mentioned before, only feels like a human right, it doesn’t feel like something that should be requested but demanded.

It’s like when people say congratulations to a LGBTQI person when we get the right to get married or Not get fired from our job for being queer – and we’re like, thanks? it’s like, “Congratulations on your basic human right!” Do you think men congratulated women when women were granted the right to vote? Can you imagine how demeaning that is? Why are white people always deciding who gets to have what. Why can’t people be free as a basic human right? There’s enough other shit to deal with after that.

What role does NYC play in your music?

I haven’t lived in NYC for ten years actually. I live 100 miles north of the city along the Hudson River, in a sleepy town with a lot of nature surrounding. I find it really difficult to stay creative in cities, I tried to live in LA for a couple years too and it just doesn’t work – it’s over for me. I really have a difficult time being around a lot of people so it’s just truly not conducive to creating or even living my daily life. The way I figure stuff out usually is by being alone, in the quiet, I actually figure out a lot of shit on my bike that thing is like therapy for me. I’ll go bike around the countryside and rolling hills for 20 miles or so, talking, crying, laughing, screaming it’s amazing!

Does the new single mean we can expect a new material – how’s that coming along?

Yes! I’ve been in the studio on and off since January working on the new record. It’s coming along very well. I’m working with friend and producer Patrick Higgins (solo self titled project, Zs, Nicolas Jaar) in his studio called Future-Past. It’s in an 18th century German-Lutheran church, the hall where we track is magnificent. We’ve taken an approach that is quite rooted in organic and minimal production – much like my first album (Music for Tourists). I am doing a lot of live takes, piano + vocal, and we are adding sparse, ethereal production, blended vocal arrangements, percussion, synthesizers, wurlitzer, also some bigger tracks with string arrangements, but generally – it is pared down, we are making efforts to respect the work and give it space to breathe, rather than overflow it with production.

Any tentative release date or title in mind?

It will be out early 2021, I think I know what it’s called but I’ve thought this before and gotten myself into trouble so I’m gonna hold off on the title until further notice:)

What other aspect of your personal life and love will you get to explore on this record?

It’s really a lot about surrender, acknolwdgement, acceptance, growing into an older man, it’s super fucking honest, no holding back, no abstract language anymore no hidden agenda. It’s really a lot about recovering from trauma. It’s dark for sure but I would say it’s hopeful. I think of that word not in an optimistic way but as Rebecca Solnit has said, hope as something that makes sense. Hope is helping your neighbor in a hurricane, hope is *less* suffering, reaching out, commiting to the present. I really began to tap into the creature that I knew when I first started writing – a lot of those early songs may have come off as very trite to many folks, and in many ways they were, but I also remember not giving a fuck back then. I didn’t start giving a fuck until I got bad reviews from straight white men, with all their aggression and homophobia, their competitions on Pitchfork about who could write the most scathing review. One of them even wrote me an apology over a decade later. Anyway I just recently stopped giving a fuck again and it feels so great !

Any plans to hit the road?

Well, considering we’re all still here in 2021 and planes still exist, I will probably tour a bit in Europe, maybe a bit in North America as well. But I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, since the breakout of COVID-19, and what it means for a lot of us to keep playing into this system of travel, musicians who don’t make much money or just break even or go into the red promoting their albums on tour, while their labels sell records, booking agents win, airlines win, hotel chains win…. this is kind of fucking me up lately – I’m not sure how I’ll approach touring in the future – I think I will keep it really light though, do one round of touring in places that are really important for me to play, where I can do special shows, where I am invited in that context, also. I think that’s really important. I hate the idea of machine touring.

What else is happening next in Chris Garneau’ world?

Well speaking of touring – I was supposed to be in Spain and France a bit this spring, and of course everything was canceled everwhere – so I filmed and recorded a live solo show from the church where I’m making the new album. I think that will be streaming on all services sometime at the end of June. Other than that I’m just finishing up the album, looking to be done in studio by September, so that will be the majority of my summer.

I want to say that it’s really important to me that we keep the conversation around the Black Lives Matter movement going strong as it starts to fade from the media. Obviously we have a profoundly important election coming up in November, one that will deeply change the course of history for nearly every person on this planet. I plan to keep using social media for music of course, but I want to encourage all of us who have a platform to use it to spread the message of solidarity, and our continued fight, for all Black lives, all Black Trans lives, and that we are not going back to any kind of normal. We must remember there was no normal, there was deep oppression and murder of Black people in this country for over 400 years. I am never going to stop making music because that’s a healing power within me, but I am  also going to continue turning my love into action. We have to continue staying as present as we can on and off our phones- I will continue listening to and amplifying Black voices, specifically Black trans voices where I can, when I can. We all have to keep fighting right now and always.


About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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