Jenn Wasner's career - and after a decade, we feel confident in using that term - has been one of refinement.
A songwriter whose powerful work has a literary sweep, she matches an innate lust for indie rock crunch to some phenomenal word play.
As a member of Wye Oak she released some tremendous projects, before sharing a debut solo LP through Sub Pop under the name Flock Of Dimes.
Follow up 'Head Of Roses' is out now, a powerful, sweeping song cycle, one that finds Jenn Wasner enhancing her potent elixir.
A wonderful, enriching listen, 'Head Of Roses' lingers on her lyrical flair, wrapped around some of Jenn's most luxurious melodies yet.
Clash caught up with Flock Of Dimes for Their Library - exploring the contents of her bookshelf, and examining how this intertwines with her work.
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What is your favourite book and why?
Honestly, I’m not sure that I believe in the concept of favorites. I think I connect with different things for different reasons, and I’m just generally not into hierarchy in general (especially between the various parts of myself!).
But if I had to choose, I think I might go with Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels. I’m not sure I’ve ever lost myself in a series so deeply and emerged so profoundly changed by the description of someone’s inner world. There’s this magical thing that happens when you see something you recognize in print - like someone’s finally given voice to something inside you that you haven’t yet found the words to express yourself. That happened over and over with these books.
What other authors do you like?
I love George Saunders. I adore his essays and short stories, and Lincoln in the Bardo is unforgettable. I love Murakami. I’ve really enjoyed the short stories of Lucia Berlin and Clarice Lispector. Maggie Nelson! I’ve read Bluets over and over. Octavia Butler! Parable of the Sower is the best. Ursula Le Guin.
More recently - I adored The Overstory by Richard Powers. Also Sally Rooney, Jenny Offill, Ocean Vuong, Rachel Cusk’s outline trilogy, and - man, I was floored by Motherhood by Sheila Heti. Like, curled up in a ball on the floor crying, straight-up leveled.
What draws you to certain books? The opportunity to understand myself better, and see myself reflected back to me, or to find that same understanding of someone who has lived a very different life from myself as a means of tracing a path to our shared humanity.
Have you ever discovered a real lost classic? What is it and why?
I’m not sure what classifies as a lost classic. I can’t think of any time when this happened to me!
Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your songwriting?
Absolutely. I read a lot when I’m trying to write lyrics - both prose and poetry. Lyrics and poetry are quite different, but poems can conjure a sense of deep feeling through language that often makes me want to try to describe a similar feeling through sound. And I’ll often lift passages from books I love and alter them slightly to act as an antidote to the blank slate feeling you can have before the words start flowing more easily.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading two books at once, depending on my mood - Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard and Emergent Strategies by Adrienne Maree Brown.
What is the first book you remember reading as a child?
Hm! I’m not sure! I know I TORE through some Boxcar Children mysteries, that’s for sure.
Have you ever found a book that you simply couldn't finish?
I’m not sure that I ever finished Roberto Bolano’s 2666. Which I’m a little ashamed about, because there are so many remarkable things about it, but - I don’t know. I got to that chunk in the middle where it was just descriptions of the grisly murders of one woman after another - and I wanted to finish it, and I understand the purpose, I think, but - I don’t know. It was just hard to take. I do think it’s important to acknowledge these atrocities and not look away. But it overwhelmed me. Maybe I’ll try again now that I’m feeling a bit more emotionally resourced.
Would you ever re-read the same book?
Absolutely! I do it all the time! I honestly think there’s so much more to be gained through investing in a deep, thoughtful relationship with the things you consume (rather than just focusing on checking as many things as possible off of an imaginary checklist). The best works of art absolutely reward that type of focused attention, and I love the feeling of understanding something in a new way after having gained a different perspective.
Have you ever identified with a character in a book? Which one and why?
Oh, often. Going back to my first answer - as a child who felt the need to overachieve and perform in order to escape somewhat dire circumstances, I’ve often felt like I have some real Elena Greco energy.
Is there an author / poet you would like to collaborate with?
I’m very anxious about collaboration, because in many ways I’m very insecure. I’m still working through a lot of my internalised shame at having dropped out of college to start touring in a band. It’d have to be the right person - I’d have to be comfortable enough in their presence to be vulnerable enough to be creative.
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'Hand Of Roses' is out now.
Photo Credit: Graham Tolbert
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