Learning to Sing
How To Dress Well: “When I changed high schools, I never listened to any rock music at all. It just didn’t touch me at all. But I got to this new high school and the dudes that I was always cool with were into rock and punk and stuff. They were all in bands together. ‘Shit, ok. If I am going to be friends with the guys I want to be friends with, I have to learn to play guitar.
“One of them taught me how to do three power chords. I just took over their bands. My older brother was into a lot of black metal so I knew some of the names, then I did a crash course for myself and different kinds of heavy music that I was a little bit attracted to. Black metal and some emo stuff. Rites of Spring. This great Denver band called Planes Mistaken For Stars. So that was kind of the zone for my last two years of high school was playing in like hardcore and like emo. Doomy, metal-y bands. Then I got into experimental music when I was in college. That’s when it started being about experimental music.
When I was singing in hardcore bands and sh*t, we’d record demos and send it in to labels, and they’d be like ‘This is cool, we don’t get a lot of demos from bands with girl singers.’ F**k y’all!
“I never took lessons. My mom was a self-proclaimed great singer—she’s good but she’s not that good. She was always like ‘You’re a great singer you should sing. As much as you want, as much as you can.’ In high school I had a really high-pitched voice until way late, like 19 or something. So when I was singing in hardcore bands and shit, we’d record demos and send it in to labels, and they’d be like ‘This is cool, we don’t get a lot of demos from bands with girl singers.’ Fuck y’all! I’d be screaming—I’d be screaming really high-pitched. And then I just wanted to keep pushing the voice.
“There’s something special about singing where it literally comes from within you. For me, when I sing I can tell when I’m impersonating and when I’m singing with my own voice, and it’s super daunting when you start singing with your own voice. It’s like you want to constantly shape it to show your influences or whatever, and I just kept paring those down, and being like I’m not going to sing like Singer X or Singer Y. I’m just going to try and sing with my own voice.
“One of the real breakthrough moments for me was actually when I was recording in this flat in Germany, because my roommate had to get up early all the time, and so I would sing really quiet. I just started doing these super-wistful recordings of harmonies—of vocal harmonies—where I was singing in just like[sings high pitched Ooo’s] in that volume, doing all these parts and stuff. I just really started to feel like that voice was coming out of me, and not getting cut off by like, sing more like X, sing more like Y.”