Carla Bozulich speaks an animal language
Carla Bozulich has crooned, screamed and keened her way across the musical spectrum, right to its noisiest end. Her name might ring a bell to fans of the vintage-inspired alt.country band The Geraldine Fibbers. Or perhaps she pops into mind for remaking Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger in its entirety. Way back in the early ’90s she was part of the cheeky, sexualized rock group Ethyl Meatplow. Today she’s the linchpin of Evangelista, a group that braids strange, moody threads of sound. Bozulich’s voice floats and wails above deep drones and echoic and repetitive strings. The band’s new album, In Animal Tongue, is just as experimental as the previous three. Evangelista, particularly due to Bozulich’s vocals, leaks raw emotion but has enough lighter notes and whimsy to imply that its members are having a good time. The Alibi called Bozulich at home to talk about the creation process, emotional yin and yang, and positivity within the noise.
How fun was it to make In Animal Tongue?
It was great. I recorded all over the place and recorded all different people. I brought my little studio with me. I’m very mobile that way.
Does Evangelista have a lighthearted side?
Definitely. The music’s pretty dark, there’s a lot of tangled twists and turns, and it gets kind of deep sometimes. One time we were playing in Berlin and it was the end of a really long tour. I think it was like a three-month tour or something, and by that time you get kind of squirrelly, you know? So we were on stage and there was just stuff going wrong. I think I fell down, and we broke things. Not on purpose, but a cable broke or a switch, and it made the show messed up. We all just started laughing a lot, because it was just so absurd.
This guy wrote to me the next day and he said, “I am one of your biggest fans and I have been a fan of your music for years because it makes me feel all the deepest feelings I have. And I was so disappointed to see you yesterday because I realize you don’t take your music seriously and it’s not real at all ... now I will not be your fan anymore.” There has to be two sides to every coin. Even though I’m communicating stuff that really matters to me, and a lot of it’s very central core stuff that is very important to me, we laugh through a lot of what we’re doing.
So there’s a lot of fooling around and being silly in the process?
It’s not exactly like that. It’s more vibe-driven. Mostly when I perform, I try really hard to go out of myself and get out of the way. When I record, too. I feel like if I’m thinking too much or am too much aware of my own presence, it’s really hard to let the stream of stuff flow through and come out and organize itself properly. ...
A lot of the stuff, I don’t really understand when I’m doing it. Then it starts to make sense when I’m halfway through. In In Animal Tongue I really didn’t know what I was doing. I was just putting those layers on there ... and just seeing where it would go.
Your music is noisy and melancholy. Is that an indication of what’s going on in your emotional life?
It’s funny. I mean it’s definitely dangerous territory for people that think that they’re going to get a deep, dark, tortured payoff, which a lot of people do. They listen to the music and they plug into that side of it—and it is very real—but everybody has to be ready for a balance.
So, the short answer is, “Sometimes”?
Yeah. When I was recording this album, things had been better for me than most of the previous times I was recording albums. The first Evangelista album I was in major, major emotional upheaval—you know, ending a relationship kind of stuff that everybody goes through.
It was very dark times—also feeling this side of me blooming in a painful way that was to become Evangelista. Which has to do with trying to draw people together—to use all my strengths and all my excessive energy that I have, and try to send it out and bring people together. Just see what would happen with that.
And what happened?
I really got obsessed with this concept of noise and sound and love, which usually people don’t lump together so much, because it’s like you have to be a real badass to be into noise. You have to be impervious to emotion, pretty much. I’m talking about some of my best friends, so I’m not bagging on it or anything like that. But I went for a different approach, which is bringing together these disparate elements, which are what drive me.
I’m really into the drone. I kind of worship the drone. But then I’m not one of these emotionally detached people. So I just decided to be real about it and see what would happen. It was sort of a painful hatching process. And the second album, I was kind of messed up too. And then the third album, I got pneumonia while we were recording.
This album, I was pretty peaceful. I was living in the forest while I was making most of it, and then I moved to the desert. I was in totally secluded areas the whole time. ... I just had all this time to clear my head, and I found love and it was a great time.