Joan As Police Woman
Tuesday 14th August 2018
The Black Box, Belfast
Tickets £17.50 + bf on sale Friday April 13th @ 10am – buy yours here
‘This record is darker and more pensive,’ says Joan Wasser of her new Joan As Police Woman album, Damned Devotion (released February 9, 2018). ‘The title is undeniably dramatic but it’s a subject I’ve been tangling with all my life: how does one live a devoted life without becoming obsessed or losing one’s mind?’
Already acknowledged as a thrilling live performer and starkly honest lyricist, Damned Devotion finds Wasser at her rawest yet. While her 2014 album The Classic was a soulful celebration of life and her 2011 album The Deep Field, a lush moody expansion, this new release sees her stripping her compositions back to the core, the bare-all lyricism and timeless melodies harking back to her accolade-winning album To Survive (2008) and the universally acclaimed debut album Real Life (2006). But not just lyrically.
‘I’m always searching for new ways to create wilder, freer songs,’ she says. ‘One of the things I did differently for this record was to experiment more with drum programming: editing and manipulating Parker Kindred’s live beats as templates for new songs.’
Essentially, she explains, these new compositions were written in three distinct ways. A few were recorded as Wasser has done in the past, which is to bring the song to the band, rehearse it and then take it to the studio and record live. Others were crafted using grooves that Parker Kindred, on drums, and Wasser, on bass, had created in the studio. ‘I’d go back to my home studio with hours of material, chop up the improv and create songs from them.’ And, finally, several songs employed her programmed drum tracks as the foundation, with Kindred and her good friend and brilliant keys player, Thomas Bartlett, recording over them.
Of What Was It Like, she adds: ‘It’s clear I can’t make an album without involving the subject of death. Both my fathers died since I made the last record. What Was It Like is about the dad I grew up with, about feeling grateful for his calm, sensible presence and at the same time acknowledging that, even though we were very close, I’ll never really know who he was. I have had four parents [Wasser was given up for adoption in infancy] and now three of them have gone. The questions I wished I’d asked but never thought to will always swirl around in my mind.’
Born in 1970, Wasser grew up with her adoptive family in Connecticut before decamping to Brooklyn to join the music scene. Having studied the violin at university and played in orchestra, favouring new classical compositions written for smaller ensembles, by the time she reached New York in 1994 she’d already been performing with art/punk bands, experimenting with how far she could stretch the parameters of the violin. She began working as a session musician, collaborating with indie, jazz, pop, Haitian, soul & R&B musicians and working with Anohni (Antony and the Johnsons) and Rufus Wainwright. Along the way, in 2002, Joan As Police Woman was born, named in homage to the 1970s TV cop show starring Angie Dickinson.
There are, of course, the well-documented dark times that have informed the melancholy; the death of her boyfriend Jeff Buckley in 1997; the suicide of her friend Elliot Smith in 2003; her mother’s death four years later. Music, it has been suggested, is the medicine that has carried her through difficult times.
Within her peer group, she’s universally admired. And it’s that, along with her enormous musical vocabulary, melodic beauty and the fact she continues to surprise, which cements Joan As Police Woman as an important artist, collaborator and muse.
“Today”, she discloses, “I can comfortably say that music has saved my life and continues to save my life. I am a devotee. It’s not something I can even choose or not choose, it’s just what is.” …Damned Devotion
Tickets priced £17.50 + bf on sale Friday April 13th @ 10am- buy yours here