words by hannah boyle
photograph by shervin lainez
“I should be fine on my own, I was born bare,” sings Pearla with a wistful lilt.
This is the voice of Brooklyn’s Nicole Rodriguez, whose debut extended-play bursts and glows with a distinctly textural splendour. The six-track Quilting & Other Activities is not just comely folk music, but presents a sound so enriched with the human experience that it is hard to believe her musical career is just beginning.
Intertwining lavish instrumentation with visceral vocals and electronic soundscapes, this is an exploration of independence and a woman growing into her own; each track an epic blend of beauty and light mixed with tonal discord and sharp, stuttering turns that are completely transfixing. Borrowed found-sounds grace the melodies: birds chirping, the creaking of a door, curating a sonic intimacy to be lost within.
Ahead of its release tomorrow (September 6th) via Egghunt Records, Nicole Rodriguez shared some intimate photographs and words with Gold Flake Paint. These are snippets that informed the process of Quilting & Other Activities, a visual representation of the record in its entirety that shine a light on her work.
Gold Flake Paint: Can you talk about the roots of this record, how the process began and flowed to a definitive end throughout the time you spent creating it?
Nicole Rodriguez: Where it began is unclear to me, but I know I wrote most of these songs right after I moved to New York. I had an ongoing collection of songs that I’d been playing out and looking for ways to record. When I met my producer Tyler Postiglione everything kind of fell into place. We had kind of an instant connection and started recording the songs together. He really understood what I was trying to create and helped to bring this little world I was imagining to life.
Backyard: I found lots of inspiration from this backyard which was overgrown and riddled with secret creatures. ‘Forgive Yourself’ was written here.
These songs all surround a similar series of events and they capture the mindset I was in at the time. I think after writing and recording this collection, something changed in me. My approach to writing music shifted and felt so dramatically different than before. That’s when I knew this collection was done and a new one was ready to begin.
GFP: Do you have any memorable moments of the recording process?
NR: All of it was so memorable. It was all so personal because we recorded it almost entirely in our apartments. For every song, Tyler and I would have these long conversations that lasted for hours about the emotions within the songs and what they mean and why we are this way as human beings. Every conversation kind of left us with these new discoveries that we could bring to the music.
So the entire process was really emotional. My good friend and guitar player Jack Sasner was a big part of this record too. He would come over and we would drink a ton of whiskey and just talk about the songs and experiment with different sounds and feelings. It was such a fun exploration for all of us and the whole experience was just really tender and full of love.
Monkey clinging to a body: This is from my few weeks spent taking care of monkeys. ‘Daydream’ and ‘Quilting’ were both written right after this time.
GFP: How does the place you are from affect your music? Does it inspire you to create?
NR: I grew up in a suburban town in New Jersey where I wasn’t really surrounded by a ton of art or culture. I had to really go digging to find music that I connected to, and when I found it, it felt like my own little secret. When I wrote songs there, it would look more like me running around my backyard and singing nonsense just because it felt good.
Since there’s so much empty space, songs felt like little worlds I could create and escape to. It felt like there were no rules; just pure expression. In the city, I’m more aware of what’s going on in the world around me and how my music fits into it. I’m also surrounded by musicians and songwriters here, so I became more aware of my influences and a bit more intentional.
Moving to New York gave my music (and me!) a little reality check. When I return to where I’m from, I usually get a burst of inspiration from watching birds, sitting by a lake, and having glimpses of childhood memories. In New York, I feel inspired by the people and artists around me questioning the way things are and working to make the world better. I like having a little bit of both in my life!
Butterfly/Rocks: A rock from Mount Everest and a rock from the Dead Sea – some of the highest/lowest points on Earth – with a butterfly sticker in the middle. Supposed to remind me to stay balanced, and that both extremes have purpose and beauty.
GFP: What’s your favourite lyric on the record? Why?
NR: “There’s a change that cannot be undone/like pulling a string from a sweater/until it’s a pile of yarn/God knows you won’t put it back together/you can’t put it back/but maybe one day you can find some other use for it.”
I love this lyric because it is my way of remembering that no matter how many times things fall apart or seem hopeless, there is always some sort of value in the experience; something to be learned from it that could lead to a deeper understanding and a greater capacity for joy.
Solar Halo: A rainbow wrapped around the sun during a picnic in Tibet. The rainbow is mentioned in ‘Washing Machine’.
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