Wendy Eisenberg (guitar/vocals), Josh Daniel (drums), and Steve Cameron (bass) formed Editrix in Western Massachusetts in early 2018. The “avant butt-rock” band’s debut album Tell Me I’m Bad is out now on Exploding In Sound Records.
(Photo Credit: Ellery Berenger)
A note: the lyrics are often written long after the music has been deeply rehearsed. Wendy tends to write lyrics for scansion and sound before meaning, yet somehow the political things that grabbed their ear (and heart) seemed to often relate to certain musical things happening. While that might seem obvious or like the way songs “should” be written, it was mostly incidental for us. Musically we are a very political band, but people are often under the assumption that they are too unqualified to talk about the sounds they’re hearing and tend to talk about lyrics. When Wendy was writing these words, they were figuring that if anyone cared to look deeper into their meaning, they would hear some of the formal experimental/political stuff going on alongside them a little differently.
Our earlier songs, like “Taste,” “Instant,” “The Sound,” and “Bad Breath,” were written really quickly, organically in the room — which all of our stuff is, but later material felt more sourced from things one or more of us brought in. Interestingly, those songs are somehow more explicitly “‘90s” than what we have come to write, and so it’s kind of appropriate that that’s when we coined the phrase “avant butt-rock” to describe what we do. It’s amazing, as those of you who play music with other people well know, what people can come with, out of seemingly nothing, in the room.
“Tell Me I’m Bad”
“Tell Me I’m Bad” is our favorite song on the record. In the original thing we sent in to the person who wrote us our press release (thank you, Lior Phillips, you’re amazing), we said it was about expressing interest in someone or flirting with someone, and caring so much about your imagined response that you can’t hear what they’re actually saying about you. It is about those things, but mostly the song feels like it’s about destabilization in general, shifting parts, which aspects of (narrative, music, rhythm) remain consistent and which change.
The form of the song is kind of a cone, or a conveyor belt. Each section carries something from the previous section within it, like a breadcrumb trail. The drum beat in the first two sections is the same part but it inverts. We are all kind of proud of the metric modulation in the middle. The “Something About It” part of the first melody is a direct rip off of an early Joni Mitchell record, or perhaps Wendy’s botched memory of one.
Both this song and “Torture” were some of the last songs we came up with for this record, and point to the stuff we’ve been writing since.
“Torture” is about the Iraq War, and particularly the ways that images of torture (the Abu Ghraib pictures in particular) were widely circulated during the early 2000s in general. Those persistent images made us, then pre-teens, feel so sad and angry and outraged.
Recently, Wendy read a book called George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time by Peter Dimock. That book is written as a letter to a fictionalized version of Daniel Levin, the former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, who ordered the Special Forces trainers to waterboard him so he could understand whether or not it was actually torture. Levin saw immediately that it was, but still, in a footnote in one of the Torture Memos, declared that it was legal. It’s baffling and terrible.
What’s even more terrible and baffling is that while some of the soldiers who participated in this torture, the beatings, hangings, and rapes at Abu Ghraib were charged, the lawyers who allowed this to persist remain unscathed and wealthy, and in some cases even celebrated. It is very upsetting that these people who so routinely fail to see the humanity of foreigners (and the American soldiers who do their bidding, who are often conscripted for reasons related to their poverty — a result of other ruling-class self-preservationist laws that exploit the poor) have never been adequately taken to task.
Incidentally, it’s Steve’s “Dead Goon” moment.
Sinner is about how the capitalists in positions of power have consistently allowed for the destruction of our planet, have valued capital and these transparent, violent, almost unreal bastions of power over life and the world. Though the musical contexts change (a little Primus nod never hurt anyone), the melody stays the same for the whole song. Maybe this implies that no matter the distracting or fun or worthwhile pleasures we can experience, the outrage at such relentless exploitation remains consistent.
Wendy sat next to some guy on a flight who tried to convert them to Christianity. Not only did this guy interrupt their reading, (unforgivable!), he had terrible breath. Aside from Wendy’s parts, the breakdown of Bad Breath is mostly improvised, whereas most of the record is very tightly composed. Another note on that breakdown: Steve and Wendy were trying to start a New Wave band before they ended up teaming with Josh to create Editrix, and this is kind of a vestige of one of the sketches they wrote together.
This is one of the rare songs whose lyrics were written slowly over the course of each rehearsal. It ended up talking about the ways that people fail at communicating towards the end of a relationship, in archetypal ways. The title refers less to any lyrical thing than just Steve’s cool bass line. The contrapuntal guitar melody kind of foreshadows the work in “Instant,” but the more important thing is that we all loosen the groove so much around Steve’s Sound in the second verse.
This was written around the Brett Kavanaugh trial. The lyrics are deliberately ambiguous, so you can’t tell whether they are being voiced by the victim or the perpetrator.
“Chelsea,” our first single, explores the idea of “voting with your wallet,” and in general, conspicuous consumption as some kind of political stance. While the power of consumers to avoid certain retailers (Amazon and Whole Foods are a very good places to stop shopping at, for example) can sometimes actually change things, merely exercising consumer power both limits the power to actually change things to the micro or personal levels, and fails to hold upper level instigators responsible. It is also more or less about leftist infighting in general.
There is no real “Chelsea” who we’re trying to implicate, for what it’s worth — we’re pretty sure Josh suggested the name “Chelsea” to sing. Sing along though, if you’d like — it really is a fun buncha syllables to yell in this melody. Feels like running down a hallway.
Wendy wrote the guitar part to this in 2015 when they had a brief flirtation with “power-pop.” When the band formed in 2018, they brought this in and Josh and Steve massively improved the form and concept of it; it’s incredible that that part remained pretty much unscathed considering how much cooler Josh and Steve’s contributions to it are. The original lyrics had something to do with the way people thought about Anna Karina, the actress, so that’s where the title comes from (Not Anna Karenina or Anna Khachiyan or Anna Kournikova or Anna Kavan or Anna Kendrick, sorry!). The newer lyrics had a lot to do with how feeble you can feel, or how unfinished things can feel, when you’re trying to gauge your impact on the world.
“She Wants To Go And Party”
It’s a delicious fact of the English language that “party” has become a verb. This track is the first part of our three-part “Thirst Trio,” which includes “History of Dance” and “Chillwave,” wherein we take a step back from the leftist harangues and enjoy dancing and kissing. A reminder: Partying and good politics are not mutually exclusive! You already know this, but it’s important to restate when things get too sanctimonious or too Dionysian (is that possible?). Who doesn’t like to get ready for a party? Who doesn’t like gang vocals encouraging you to party? Who doesn’t like hamfisted references to noted partyer Robert Plant?
“History of Dance”
Thinking a little bit about “All Blues,” but also Six-Flags commercials. This is not, as you could’ve guessed, a comprehensive history of dance styles, though we believe it grooves. When doing the vocal take for this, Wendy imagined what it would be like if Geddy Lee was singing over it; ‘tis a pity that that only exists in the subjunctive. Riff salad, party collage. Anyone else miss that band The Darkness?
We copped the middle lick from an early song we called, “Date Night” that we later stripped for parts.
Too many guitar tracks on this one! The last part with the harmonics references the bass playing on the bridge to Chairlift’s “I Belong in Your Arms” and the ending section of The Blue Nile’s “Over the Hillside”; the first part references Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend” — which references Toni Basil’s “Mickey” and “I Want To Be Your Boyfriend” by The Rubinoos. Pop music, Genealogy, History. When Wendy plays the secondary guitar riff, they imagine it’s being played on a Saxophone. Doesn’t God sound great on the synth on this one?
We won’t go into the full sun/moon/rising situation, but for those interested, Josh and Wendy are Sagittarians and Steve is an Aquarius (2/1!). Thus concludes the Thirst Trio.
Aye, the diss track. An early one. There’s a weird erotic element that can occur when someone you used to really like disappoints you. A subby feeling, maybe; or like that sad sexuality you can pick up on in, say, the way it feels to listen to Portishead. Or the disappointment you felt in 2014 when it became blindingly clear that St. Vincent would not continue the weird “Krokadil” vibe she evidently felt in 2012.
A mystery how that chord progression got written. In a review of the EP, writer Joe Guitierrez said that Wendy’s little spoken monologue in the middle was “of a brazen dirtbag.” What do you think? They think about that a lot. A note as well: It’s not bad to use autotune, or act! Honestly, if (when?) we get to the stature of Everclear or the Foo Fighters or Twenty One Pilots or Imagine Dragons, Wendy’s voice might benefit from some of that increasingly undetectable studio magic. Josh and Steve need no studio magic. Wizards, they are.