In the process of building her third album under the name Torres, Mackenzie Scott found herself drawn to hypnotic music — music that physically affected the body. Tellingly, traces of kosmische musik run throughout the largely electronic framework of Three Futures, recently released by 4AD, but the album’s connection to physical form runs deeper than just its motorik heartbeat rhythms. It’s an album informed by all senses, art rock as body music, and beyond being Scott’s finest record yet, it’s one of the most physically-minded albums of 2017, a document of pleasure, self-knowledge, and spiritual release via a carnal vehicle. “To be given a body/Is the greatest gift,” she sings on the album’s closing track, “Though the jar lifts and the jar descends/Though the morning glory withers/Before it begins/Though all creation groans.”

We caught up with Scott to dive into the qualities of the record, discuss the writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates, and unpack the sexual bravado of cock rock.

Aquarium Drunkard: In the notes that accompanied Three Futures, you discuss being interested in approaching music from extrasensory angles. What led you to approach things that way?

Mackenzie Scott: As a whole, I’ve been thinking about life as being “celebratory.” I wanted to find a way to not only impart that thematically into the lyrics, but I also to infuse the sonic world I was creating too. To me, each of the senses — when used to their maximum potential— are acts of celebration.

For example, in one of the songs, I thought of colors: forest green and off-white. I thought of taste — instead of just using a guitar, I’d use a guitar pushed through a polyphonic octave generator so as to eventually, you sort of follow the trail in your head, it makes you feel like you’re eating peach cobbler. [Laughs] I don’t know how much of that actually comes through when people are listening to it. Those elements aren’t really registered on the conscious level, but I think that the intention behind it lends itself, hopefully, to having those elements imparted perhaps on some subconscious level.

AD: One lyric that grabbed me and has really held my attention is from “Skim.” You sing, “There’s no unlit corner of the room I’m in.” Your songs are not typically afraid of dark ideas, but that’s a profound line that seems to concern light. Does that lyric feel celebratory to you?

Mackenzie Scott: Yeah, it can but in that instance, I think that there’s something to be confronted before one can truly and fully celebrate: the fear of the unknown that lies in one’s own mind. I think that in my own life, I’ve observed it. I’ve observed it in the lives of loved ones. People almost withholding life from themselves, because they’re afraid of what might happen or what might not happen.

That reference was partially inspired by Edward Hopper paintings and the surrealist movement in general. I think that there’s something about an Edward Hopper painting that is so disquieting. 90% of a painting might be bathed in this really beautiful light, but then there’s this shadow over at the far end of the painting, like at the edge of the woods or some room in a house…and that can make [the painting] so dark. You’re like, “Why don’t I like that? That makes me uncomfortable.” [Laughs] I wanted to write a song about illuminating that one dark corner…that’s not the whole of it, but that was the springboard.

AD: On “Righteous Woman,” you sing about being an “ass man.” How does it feel to sing that lyric on-stage?

Mackenzie Scott: It makes me feel like I’ve taken back control of my own sexuality, which is not necessarily something that I ever felt was not within my control. I mean maybe a bit, but it’s mostly just nice to feel like I’m speaking for myself.

AD: I think it’s a funny line to a degree. Maybe it’s not a humorous line, but it’s a surprising line. You mentioned wanting to engage all five senses with this record. I think there has been probably a tendency among listeners to focus in on the sensuality of the record, which is a big part of it, obviously. But those other senses, taste and sight, they are in there as much as anything else. But still, it’s easy to focus on that frank sexual language, and I think it’s because indie rock can be so un-sensual. It remains surprising to hear a line like “I’m more of an ass man” in an indie rock song. It makes me think of AC/DC or something.

Mackenzie Scott: Cock rock. [Laughs]

AD: Is that part of what you’re aiming for?

Mackenzie Scott: …Sexuality is merely one facet of the record, you’re right. But yes, there’s half of me that un-ironically loves that cock rock element of lyricism. Really in earnest — I love music like that and I’ve wanted to be one of those rock stars. But then the other half of me is totally prodding, poking fun at this largely male tradition in rock music of not just taking ownership of sex, but kind of doing so in a way that’s really flippant. Like, “This doesn’t mean much to me and also it belongs to me.” [Laughs] I’d really like to reclaim that for myself and say not only is this mine, but it also means a lot to me.

AD: I know that among a lot of books that inspired this one, you noted that Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me as a specific touchstone. That’s a complicated book. What was your take away from it?

Mackenzie Scott: It was not an easy read. I teeter on feeling unequipped to speak about the book, not only because it is so complex, but also because, what gives me the right? [Laughs] There was this particular section that I zeroed in on…in [one passage] he’s specifically talking about being given a black body and what it means to live in a black body and to know that at any point that body can be taken from you against your will without asking, without question.

That body can be taken away from you and that’s the only one that you’ve got. When the body is gone, you’re gone. It’s horrific. It’s a horrific passage that made me feel very stunned, actually. I’ve never been confronted with that reality or that fear. I didn’t grow up with that kind of fear. But it resonated with me on a larger scale. I think we are dodging these near-death experiences — probably every day and usually not even being aware of it — because we are in these fragile bodies. They’re also extraordinary; they work in the tiniest, most microscopic ways to keep our heart pumping, our blood moving. But even when everything is functioning, there are things that are bigger than us that are out of our control. A scaffolding could fall and hit us on a very particular part of the head walking down the street and knock us dead. Or we could be crossing the street and get hit by a car. Or one of those organs could fail, you know? A sudden brain aneurysm at lunch could occur. [Laugh] Or I could choke on my sandwich at lunch. How fucking horrific.

These are all overwhelming realities. None of us are immune to them. We, and when I say we, I mean I too, tend to take the reality and our being alive for granted. We don’t know what lies beyond. Even if the soul and/or the spirit goes on, we don’t know that we’ll have a physical form in which to live after these bodies pass. This could be it. This could be the first and last time that I have a body to feel and to taste and to move in. That was largely connected to that passage in Between the World and Me.

AD: I think that one of the more common criticisms that I read of Coates’ work is that there’s an unfortunate need some readers and critics have for his work to “inspire hope.” Often, people will say he’s not hopeful enough. I think maybe it’s tied to his atheism and the idea that he does believe that this is it. This is our one moment. I think even for people who aren’t religious or spiritual in a traditional way, that’s a deeply upsetting notion. It certainly is to me. I can’t speak for anybody else, but I’m afraid of what happens when I die.

Mackenzie Scott: As am I.

AD: But there’s something also in that drama that Coates talks about, and I think it’s what you’re talking about as well with this album: this might be our only moment and it’s terrible to imagine being trapped by that don’t let us fully experience this moment or don’t let us enjoy what we have. Because this is maybe all we have. This should be great, mostly.

Mackenzie Scott: That’s the tagline: “This should be great mostly.” words/j woodbury photo/Ashley Connor

One Response to “Torres :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview”

  1. […] Posted by Tuneboxes Team on December 4, 2017 […]

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