Jordan Reyne EP trilogy: one for the women
Kiwi musician Jordan Reyne grew up in a place where the meeting of the bleak and the beautiful was intense.
"It was an hours drive from the nearest town on a peninsula where the mountains plunged straight down into surf and the sea seemed to tear itself to pieces on the rocks," she says. "We ran wild there. School was this massive contrast that confused the hell out of me. Both the teachers and the other kids would say confounding things like 'that's just for the boys' or 'girls dont do that' or 'where did you learn that word' (I swore from a very early age).
"It was an small town, so I put some of it down to that but TV seemed to echo the same stuff. So I spent most of my time outside, building bivouacs and fighting imaginary enemies instead of the real ones."
Fast forward a lifetime, and Reyne is now living in England and fighting real enemies and winning fans over with her latest project a trilogy of EPs - Crone, Mother and Maiden.
Did you always intend to release Crone, Mother and Maiden as a trilogy because it actually sounds as if the musical ideas and lyric themes were birthed around the same time?
It was always intended as a trilogy, and yes, I started work on all three EPs at the same time. The songs were centred around contemporary experiences of women in three pre-prescribed life stages - the maiden, the mother, and the crone - as well as how they see themselves as being viewed and judged in those stages. The crones songs are outsider songs. We marginalise the elderly terribly in western culture, and they are often rendered invisible. For that, the women I spoke to also noted that they were outside the confines of the gender construct and could, for once, "act out" and say what they wanted. Those songs are often political as a result. The mother is about the idea of nurturing and family and how we often consider transgressions from those narrative as total failure - the marriage that breaks up, the mother who is not loving. The maiden is about how our views on gender roles are shaped by societal forces - in our day and age, by advertising and the American imperative to "be a success" - using the tools prescribed by your gender.
Performing at the Whitby Goth Weekend in the UK.
The natural order of progression would be Maiden, Mother, Crone or is that being too literal?
I wanted to start with the Crone for logistical reasons actually. I began touring the EPs last year when they first came out and there was no way I wanted to play the role of the mother or the maiden on stage because they just aren't roles I relate to. The crone - or hag - was a lot more fun. She is the angry person on the fringes who rants and rages - mostly being ignored but not always. It's a lot like my experience with the music industry.
How difficult has it been for you to find yourself or find who you want to be and become?
Finding who I am was actually not hard. I've had a strong sense of it since I was a child. The hard part is finding acceptance or coping with the invisibility that occurs as a result of the sort of "blue screen" reaction you get when the way you are doesn't compute in terms of what people have decided to expect. Assuming things about people based on gender, looks, race, religion, sexuality, age etc is very much entrenched in human interactions. When you act outside of those existing sets of narratives that people have become accustomed to viewing the world by - the nurturing mother, the seductress, the femme fatale, the nascent sexual virgin as the examples in the trilogy - then people tend not to see you at all. It is much easier to ignore data / behaviour that falls outside what we have already decided is the way the world works than it is to change our whole theory.
Women are still judged first on appearances - after that, and only if they measure up or fit into an existing narrative, are they are treated as people with competencies and ideas. I don't consider myself "a woman" as a matter of fact, any more than I consider myself "a biped" though both of those things are truths about my physicality. Women and physicality have been inextricably tied together even since the enlightenment. It means we have to check that box [of being physically acceptable] first before we get to be people. It frustrates me terribly when I see people filling in the blanks of what they don't know about me with preconceptions. Identity doesn't always come down to wearing the roles we are used to being assigned. Those roles always limit and defining yourself in terms of them – along with defining others in terms with them – prevents them from fully being who they are.
Where do you get your earth and fire from?
The fire is a mix of anger and determination – I've had it since I was a teenager. It's funny to me that people do still equate caring enough about stuff to be angry as being "like a teenager". Indifference and apathy are, of course, the necessary conditions for the easy manipulation of the populace, so I don't admire those qualities in anyone. Indifference certainly has been marketed as "cool" for many years but, again, adopting it is not something I have any respect for.
The anger is about how people treat each other. The determination is to do as much as I can about it. I was bullied at school along with other kids and remember well how we were treated and the things that got said. It doesn't change much in adulthood. Sexism, homophobia, looks-ism and racism are all flavours of marginalisation and work along similar lines. Increasingly, those in positions of privilege invoke the narratives that pit us all against each other. They individuate us all by teaching us to put each other in boxes that render us either a threat (in the case of racism) or invisible (genderism). That intelligent people still do this alarms me. I don't think being indifferent to it as a problem is an option.
How much of an influence did your own mother's experiences have on you?
A great deal on many levels. She isn't actually elderly but she is older and told me a few stories of how people didn't so much as remember her face in places she had been only a moment before. Also, having left my father, who was a terribly abusive man, she hasn't been interested in playing the role of wife or mother again. She started to say what she thought instead of what she thought she should say to appease and make people at ease [a role many of us find ourselves adopting as women]. She would get angry – something I rarely saw her do in front of dad as she was too terrified. I really admired her for her ability to do something I know had become hard for her. And I saw it made her feel good to do so, even at the same time as the invisibility made her sad. It was like she had finally become who she was but, being an older person, few people registered how admirable it was. A young woman with that kind of fire is often admired (if she meets the criteria of "attractive" first) but, when you are older, less so.
I've always loved your use of electronics, loops and industrial sounds. Do you tend to have a lyric in mind first and then create the backdrop for it or is it the other way or a mixture of both.
Sometimes it's one and sometimes the other. I don't really have a formula for songwriting. In fact formulas for song-writing scare me. I once read a book which said we should all put our hooks in the first 10 seconds of a song because people don't have the patience to listen to more than that. I remember thinking: "There goes post-rock and prog in one fell swoop". Pandering to trends is an option if you are chasing cash through hits but there are plenty of musicians who don't consider money as the ultimate indices of the good.
- Sunday Star Times