Claire Rousay and Haley Dahl Got Comfort Spoiled in Quarantine

The experimental artist and the Sloppy Jane mastermind catch up.

Claire Rousay is an experimental artist based in San Antonio, Texas; Haley Dahl is the mastermind behind the Brooklyn-based avant-rock band Sloppy Jane. To celebrate the release of Rousay’s album a softer focus — out now via American Dreams Records — the two hopped on Zoom to catch up.
— Annie Fell, Editor-in-chief, Talkhouse Music 

Claire Rousay: What have you been up to the past couple of weeks — or months, or years?

Haley Dahl: I’ve been up to a mix of things. I feel like the workflow in pandemic is so weird, because the only way to really do anything is to be kind of taking very small nibbles of activity at a time with a lot of space in between. So I feel like I haven’t done anything in a really long time. But that’s not true. [Laughs.]

I guess now almost two years ago, we recorded our last record, which [we made] in a cave. I’ve been kind of continuing that work in small ways during the pandemic, because it’s something that is still possible to do, because nature is still open and I’m mostly by myself. So I’ve been going and doing small recordings, mostly re-amping or very small instrumentation stuff in caves. I’ve been writing alone and stuff — I usually work with such a big band. It’s been a weird shift to constantly be like, OK, well, now I’m alone working only, and trying to really change my whole process to not include anyone. What about you? How have you been feeling since your record came out?

Claire: It’s been weird, I guess. Records are weird. Like, you make it and then it comes out years later. 

Haley: Yeah. [Laughs.]

Claire: I feel normal. I feel kind of connected to it because it’s the first time I ever made something like that with somebody else, so that’s been cool. Whenever something big happens, like press or it sells out or something, it’s fun to have somebody to text and be like, “We did it!” But outside of that, it kind of feels old and like I’m just doing a bunch of different shit now. 

Haley: Cool. What are you doing now?

Claire: Like, not making records. Just, like, hanging out — and learning how to cook and doing gardening stuff, which is cool, and learning how to edit video. I got really into like filming stuff.

Haley: That’s really nice. I feel like the pandemic has been a good opportunity for like those of us who, like, skipped learning how to just be a person to finally catch up. I feel like I was raised super feral — like my parents didn’t cook or clean or do anything normal, and I was taught to, like, bathe once a week. And, you know, then as soon as you’re an adult it’s like, everything’s crazy and I’m trying to do all these crazy art projects and stuff, and I don’t have any money, so I’m still not prioritizing all the normal stuff that I never learned. I feel like in the last year I finally have been like, OK, this is how I clean the bathtub.

Claire: That, though — I’ve been touring since I was, like, 15, so I never really learned how to grow up and do normal stuff like that. I’ve never really been in a house where I’m like, Oh, this is my home. This is where I can have a nice space. It’s usually just somewhere that I’m at for like a week between doing crazy projects or something — not in a successful way either, usually.

Haley: [Laughs.] It’s just somewhere to throw your stuff down and fall asleep at the end of the night.

Claire: Right, yeah. And somewhere to come back to when your project fails or the tour ends or whatever, and you’re out of money and you’re just like, Well, at least I have this room.

Haley: You kind of come from also — like I’m assuming you’ve lived in weird punk houses and stuff too. I feel like that’s where I was mostly in in my early adulthood, so always by the time I got to the house it was already fucked. It’s like, I’m not going to do the dishes, there is a pile of dishes. [There’s] no room to grow respect for the space because it’s just like, This is a space that’s just horrible.

Claire: No, that’s exactly how it was. I was 16, I guess, when I moved out of my parents’ house and I moved into a place with four other people — and it’s like, you know, a tiny ass spot. I had a bedroom, but it was a big bedroom with a curtain in the middle of it, like that kind of style punk house shit. It was rough. So I’m learning to be an adult. I clean the house and I do the dishes and I’m hanging shit on the wall in frames — just shit that I would never have done before.

Haley: Yes! I framed all my wall stuff, too. I got all new hangers that match each other. 

Claire: Oh, fuck yeah.

Haley: I had clothes hangers that were just chaotic and from everything, but I got all new hangers that match. It just felt insane, like a real character shift for me.

Claire: [Laughs.] Yeah. I’m not really used to — I guess I don’t really have more money now, but I’m not living in a way where the easiest way to do stuff is just to spend money, like going out to eat or buying food at a grocery store and stocking up on tour or something like that. Like I’m using money that I have for my house, like all the lightbulb fixtures have bulbs — shit like that that I would never have done. It feels fucking great though.

Haley: Yeah. I’ve been worried about when things open up more. I’ve kind of become a little bit more financially stable during the pandemic, because it’s given me some time just to also sort that out for myself a little bit — I didn’t really ever have time to consider how to make money sustainable before, for all the same hectic reasons where it’s like I’m just like running around with my head cut off trying to do everything. And then I’m like, Oh, no, wait, it’s rent again! So I’ve had some time to think about it. 

But even so, I feel like I’m really comfort spoiled now in a way that I didn’t used to be. I’m like, Oh, no, I need my sleep and my hand lotion, and to eat the right things. I’m worried about when the world comes back and it’s like, “Now you’re touring again, and actually you still have to sleep on the floor.”

Claire: Right. I got new pillows, because my neck had always been fucked up.

Haley: That is big.

Claire: I spent, like, 60 bucks on pillows, which is more than I’ve ever spent on a pillow in my whole life — like combined, every pillow. And it feels fucking great! 

Haley: It’s just true. You sleep better with nice stuff. They weren’t lying.

Claire: I just never believed it. I’m like, Well, if I have a sleeping bag that is like the thermal sleeping bag on the floor on tour, I feel that’s a luxury. Like, Oh, I have a nice sleeping bag. Now I’m like, Oh, I need my special pillows, I need to moisturize before I go to bed. I got one of those essential oil diffusers for free from some internet thing and I’m like, Fuck yeah, let’s do it!  I don’t know if that shit works, but it feels fucking great.  

Haley: It works if you feel like it works.

Claire: Right. I think that’s how anything works though.

I don’t know, I am really worried about the everything opening back up again though, and figuring out a way to… I guess the sustainability thing is like, I figured it out how to do it now, but I don’t think that all the tools I’ve learned will translate to going back to the way my life was.

Haley: It’s taken me some time to try to promise myself that life will be better — because I think that’s something a lot of people realized during the pandemic, that they were really miserable right before it. Once everything shut off, like, I felt definitely a big — obviously horrified for everything and everyone, but also relief that I got to not be in my life anymore. And I was like, Oh, I hated my life, oh, no! I think that I tried taking time to assess and unpack that, and be like, OK, well, it’s going to be slow getting back into things, how do I make sure that my ways of working and ways of living are not things that I like just feel trapped in next time.

Claire: That makes sense. In what way did you feel trapped in your old way of doing things?

Haley: Well, I just had really zero regard for my own comfort as a human being. Like, I lived in a storage closet in New York. I had gotten I had gotten mugged at knifepoint a couple months before the pandemic, and I was really not taking any time to heal whatsoever, or deal with that trauma. I just wouldn’t ever, ever let myself stop working for any reason, and it was kind of causing my life to completely fall apart, and was making me have a really bad relationship with my work too. And so having to stop everything, I really kind of felt like god was putting me in a timeout chair — it was like, “Nah, your benched.”

Claire: Yeah, totally. It’s like you’re not performing at your full potential because you’re fucking up.You gotta take a break if you wanna get back in the game. I totally agree. 

I feel like whenever I get really stoked on a project, everything else falls away and I don’t know how to how to do anything else besides what I’m fixated on. I’m also like a total absolutist, so when I’m obsessed with something that’s all I do. That could go anywhere from like, I only wanna eat fruit for breakfast for a year and I’ll never eat anything else before noon that’s not fruit — like just absurd things that have no real reason — all the way to recording for 20 hours a day for months at a time and not sleeping, not eating, not doing anything besides recording and getting fucking jacked off of coffee or getting drunk all night. All the bad things that could happen at the same time always happen at the same time. It’s never one or the other.

Haley: Yeah, I completely feel that. “Absolutist” is a good way to put it — I feel the same way, or have been. I’m trying very hard to learn to fight that pattern a little bit. I guess I’m just trying to find the balance where I separate projects from, like, human being time — because I do want to be able to turn on the switch and stay awake for weeks to do some insane projects and let everything else fall away. But I also want to be able to, at all other times, not have those kinds of extreme mindsets, because I feel like being that way all the time is what can cause burnout. I want to be able to have a really sustainable life so that when I go really hard, I don’t burn out. It’s a hard balance to strike, because I feel like I just have a really obsessive personality in general, and that’s good for my art but bad for me as a human being.

Claire: Yeah, I totally understand. I was talking to my friend Jordan [Reyes] who runs the label that put out the last record I did [American Dreams Records], and he was like, “Yeah, you’re one of those people” — and he describes himself the same way, where it’s like, you’re never not on. Like, you’re always thinking about whatever project you’re doing and you’re always pushing yourself one hundred and ten percent and you never feel like you’re doing enough. Maybe not like measuring yourself against something else, but it’s just like, as much as you put into it, it still feels like, I have to do this much, If I’m not pushing myself to this extreme level of working on this, then I’m not going to do it the way that I want to do it and it won’t end up being the same thing if I don’t put myself into it this much. Which can be healthy and unhealthy. But I work the same way. It just sucks when it ruins your relationships with other people, or you just run out of money.

Haley: [Laughs.] What relationships with other people?!

Claire: Before the pandemic, I fucking lost everything — I was in a really long term relationship, and it eventually had to end. 

Haley: I don’t know. I feel so conflicted about it. I have had that conversation with so many people. I speak, of course, as somebody who has been one hundred percent not with anyone since like — the last time I was in a serious relationship I was 19, and I’m 26. So when I say, “No, but I think it can work!” That’s coming from someone who has not made it work. But I do feel like there’s a way. I feel like there just must be a way. [Laughs.]

Claire: I think it’s if you get together with another insane person, that’s the way, for me I think, that it would really work.

Haley: There’s two ways, I feel like — one is a kind of good, symbiotic detachment with somebody else who is insane, and you do your thing and they do their thing. Or, somebody who like, if you’re insane and you’re with somebody who is just like a true domestic person who likes to just be — which is not the kind of person that I’ve ever been attracted to, but I recognize that that would be the most sustainable choice. Like somebody who likes to be who someone comes home to, and likes to be the stable person in a situation.

Claire: Yeah. I mean, I would never be able to be that person because I’m so not that chick. I can’t remember who it is, there’s this one director who has a house, and then a second house on the same property and her and her husband live in separate houses. I can’t remember who the fuck this is, but they have kids and everything.

Haley: That’s what I want!

Claire: That would be sick.

Haley: I feel like the answer to these problems is to just, like, be really rich.

Claire: I was going to say, we were talking about all these issues, and I think all of it would be solved if we just had money.

Haley: Yeah. Like if I was really rich, then me and my partner could have two houses. Because the thing that is so attractive to people about partnership is that you’re sharing your assets, like you’re sharing a world. So usually when two people come together, they can afford to live in one house, and that’s too small.

Claire: Yeah, if you were just both rich then you could combine your assets and have a complex, basically, of homes. 

God, my dream is to own a house and then have a separate studio space on the same property where I could work. That’s the fucking dream. And I would even give them give the more domestic person the house if they wanted it, I could just live in the studio. [Laughs.]

Haley: That’s perfect. It’s my dream to be one of those people who buys a ghost town. That’s what I want

Claire: Shit, that would be sick.

Haley: Yeah, they cost the same as expensive houses  — obviously they’re really insane to run and build out, but I really want to buy a town and have the town be only for making records, like different spaces that are for making different kinds of sounds, and have it just be like this really crazy, out-of-the-box recording town in the middle of nowhere. 

Claire: Make it so it’s like you have a road that you drive through in the town, and the first building that you stop at is where you track drums. And then you go, it’s like more and more shit, and then by the end, you’re in the final mixing space. It’s just like you’ve toured through the record. 

Haley: That’s amazing. I just love the idea of people coming and staying there for a month or two months, and there’s no phone service or anything. Like just having it be super intensive, like you’re there and you’re just kind of like a weird hostage to your project. 

I want to build a big insane manmade cave underground that is like a reverb cistern, and just have all of these different weird sounding rooms. It could even be something where people can pitch their own ideas for stuff to build and shit and they could come there and do it — I just want to build an environment that’s for facilitating insane ideas, because I feel like when you have a really crazy idea, the most difficult thing is that there’s just, like, no answers, and nowhere to try stuff out. And I feel like it would be really cool to just be an insane rich person and to be like, “Oh, you want to experiment with underwater sound or whatever? We’ll build you a crazy swimming pool that has speakers in it.”

Claire: It would be super cool [if] you could do almost like a bartering system, where you can have a group of people that lives on the property that knows how to build all these crazy places, but they can live for free. But they have to, like, build all your ideas.

Haley: Yeah, a cult. [Laughs.] I’ll get a compound and just have people that believe in my ideas.

I’m really into all of these ghost towns and roadside attractions, and there’s — have you been to Hell, Michigan?

Claire: No, but I wanna go so fucking bad.

Haley: There’s a town called Hell, Michigan, and — this is something I really want to do for a live stream or something — you can pay a hundred dollars and be Mayor of Hell for the day.

Claire: Wow.

Haley: I think it’s for sale, actually, the town. I would love to buy it, but I’m not there yet.

Claire: Yeah, that makes sense. There are also job opportunities — have you looked into being employed in Hell? 

Haley: Yeah, I have looked at it. I could work at the ice cream store. I’ve thought about it.

Claire: I’m reading the application and definitely downloading the PDF right now. 

Haley: There was definitely a point in the pandemic when I was looking into weird stuff like that, because I was like, I should just like shadow in having a different, weird life that isn’t mine while I have this break. I should go work at an ice cream parlor in a ghost town or something. Like, when else am I going to do that? I was staying in Viroqua, Wisconsin for the first three months and there was a headstone store, and I was like, I should work at the headstone shop. I should do some weird job while I’m here. But all of that, I just didn’t want to mess with unemployment. [Laughs.]

Claire: Yeah, I was really down to get my unemployment and just kind of do the same shit I was always doing, but I just didn’t have to go to work as much. It was great. But what I really want to do is go be the Mayor of Hell, and then apply to work at the ice cream shop, and then for my references, I could put myself as the past Mayor of Hell. Really good reference. 

Do you know anybody who’s gone?

Haley: No, I just found out about it, because I’m literally always just looking at what ghost town properties are for sale, just so that I know them and someday it’ll all align. A couple YouTubers or something have done it — there was one guy who changed the name of it for one day to be Gay Hell, which I thought was kind of funny. But not that many people have done it. 

There’s so many sick things like that, like the American roadside attraction world is so sick. And it’s really underutilized, because everything’s in the middle of nowhere — like everyone likes the idea of the stuff, but it’s in the middle of nowhere, no one wants to go and do any of it, so it stays secret.

Claire: Right, it’s just inaccessible due to the actual time and money it takes to get there.

Haley: Yeah. But doing that kind of stuff is like my whole shit. Just because of all the cave stuff, everything that I did was like in middle-of-nowhere America, and now I’m just addicted to doing things that are like that. It just feels like a normal part of the process for me, where I’m like, Oh, I’m doing a project? So that means I’m driving 13 hours into the middle of the woods? OK!

Claire: I always have these crazy ideas that don’t usually get actualized because, like we were talking about earlier, I don’t really know where to find the thing I’m looking for, because it’s so underground most of the time. But it probably does fucking exist, but you can’t just find it really quickly. You have to have some sort of prior knowledge or additional information to even find the thing you’re looking for.

Haley: Yeah, there’s just so much stuff where it’s like, for a truly interesting idea, usually the answer is that you have to actually physically go looking for it. Which is hard. Like that takes resources and time and energy, and it’s difficult. I’d be interested to hear about what some of those are for you, things that you’re looking for.

Claire: It’s so funny, my friend Andrew Weathers lives in Littlefield, Texas, which is a town of I think 3,000 people, 5,000 people maybe. On the downtown main strip, there’s like three businesses and [he and his partner, Gretchen] just bought one of the buildings for, like, nothing — super, super cheap. It’s like a double storefront with a warehouse back. They made the warehouse area into a loft kind of situation, like a really beautiful house, but within the confines of this stupid storefront space. And then the storefront places that have the doors to the street are both of their studios that they work in. It’s so sick. 

They spent like years and years building the house — like when they first moved in, they were living in a tent in the building, just paying a couple hundred dollars a month to start doing renovations. I’ve been there a couple of times throughout the process and every time it gets better and better. It’s this gorgeous fucking space, but it was totally like a five-year art project that they just did for every day for five years. 

That’s the shit I’m really into. I really want to buy a building somewhere and fix it and maintain it. I’m looking at buying houses in San Antonio, because they have a program — if you’re under 30 and don’t have a lot of debt, the city will give you a loan for your mortgage and it’s zero percent interest. And if you don’t pay off the house in 10 years, they forgive the loan. You just have to buy a house in San Antonio that’s under $150,000, and houses here cost, like, $70 grand, so.

Haley: Do you think that San Antonio is where you want to stay forever? 

Claire: Yeah.

Haley: Cool.

Claire: Either that or move into the middle of nowhere. But I love Texas. Maybe New Mexico or something like that would be cool, but the only two places I know really in New Mexico that would have all the things I need in a place would be Santa Fe or Albuquerque. And I don’t really like Albuquerque very much. It’s cool, but it’s not really my vibe. And then Santa Fe blows — it just feels like Marfa where it’s like, you have the young hipsters that are just pieces of shit and then old rich art people who are even bigger pieces of shit. 

But San Antonio rules. I fucking love it. It’s my favorite place in the world. Everything’s so cheap. I have so much flexibility — if I want to build something, I just go to the store and buy wood and shit and build it in my yard. And then the next day I’m like, Oh, I want to go get tacos and a beer. And I’m like, Fuck, that’s what I’m doing today. Yesterday I went to the river. 

It’s awesome being a single person living alone in a city that’s super affordable. You can just do anything you want. That usually is what sparks ideas, having so much free time just to do shit that’s not music-related, or other projects aren’t related. It’s so much easier to think of insane ideas because you’re just experiencing totally external stuff. That’s what I get the most out of. I’m not going to get inspired listening to a record or going to a show or something. Like, fuck that.

Haley: Yeah, no, that’s horrible. [Laughs.] I talk to people about this a lot, about how, because of capitalism, it’s very hard to remember that the most important part about making anything is having an interesting life. I feel like it’s both things: I do interesting things to get inspired, but I also pick projects that will make my life cooler and more fun to live. Like the reason that I choose to do art as what I do rather than something else is because it makes my life more cool. I think that people forget that part of it all the time, and get caught up in being like, “Well, how did you think of a cool idea?” And I’m like, “I was somewhere.”

Claire: Yeah! 

Haley: [Laughs.] Like, “How do you do all the stuff that you do?” And I’m like, “It’s fun!”

Claire: Yeah, I think especially in music, where everything is so centric on The Record or The Tour or whatever — people get so wrapped up and nobody really celebrates anything until the record is done and it’s out and you’re touring it or something. Yeah,it’s so fun touring the record and doing all this cool stuff, but it’s like, did you not have the best time of your life making it? Because if it took you two years to make the record, if it wasn’t a good experience then like, what the fuck are you doing? I don’t like making records that are so just, like, dreadful to make. Like, I don’t like doing projects that I’m like, It’ll be worth it in the end. I want it to be nice now, because I could fucking die driving to wherever I’m supposed to go today.

Haley: That’s the good part. Like, of course it’s cool when you put something out to have people clap for what you do, but that’s not what you’re doing [it for]. The thing that’s fun is making it, and putting it out is less fun, significantly, than making it. If that’s not the headspace you’re in — it’s not even that I want to be like, “Oh, if that’s the headspace you’re in, you won’t succeed,” because again, that’s not the point. I just don’t think that you’ll be happy.

Claire: Yeah. And then you have this really kind of depressing relationship to all your work if you’re not enjoying it before it’s finished.

Haley: It’s not like it’s this amazing time financially to decide to be a musician — like, what are you doing it for if you don’t like to do it?

Claire: When people are talking about records and making sure they’re like, “Oh, yeah, I do it for me, the music’s for me,” it’s like, Well it doesn’t seem like it because everything you do looks fucking terrible — like you’re having an awful time, and you’re bummed out about everything you’re doing. 

That’s like another thing I learned. I have such a better time making a record when I’m engineer and doing all the shit myself because that’s way more fun. You’re actually doing everything. You’re not just going in and being a session player for your record, and then some dude who you met, like, six hours ago is like, “No, you should really do this.” I’m like, “I don’t think you understand, this is like a run of 300 records that nobody is gonna buy. We don’t need to act like this is some sort of calculated thing.”

Haley: Yeah. And just recognizing how fun it is for the process to like change too — I feel like because the internet and press and everything is so polarizing, people get really freaked out to change or try different things. Just do what you want. I feel like the artists that actually sound the most singular and who actually have the most cohesive discographie are people who aren’t scared of change and just trust that their own voice is singular, or their own just way of being is singular. You can hear it in whatever style of music they play, or whatever way they recorded it, whether that’s doing stuff alone at home or in a studio. 

Claire: Calculating aesthetic shifts within your work is really gross feeling.

Haley: I think that’s weird to do.

Claire: Yeah. You change so much as a person anyways, it would suck so much to put yourself in this box and work really hard to achieve a certain style or sound or aesthetic or whatever, and then you change as a person and you’re like, Oh, shit, no, maybe I’m not this person anymore.

Haley: Well, that’s just how you make sure that your shit sounds dated, if you are trying to make it sound like something. You can achieve that, and then it’s going to be dated. I think stuff that’s timeless is just stuff that is good and trusts its own instincts. I’ve struggled so much with people working on my stuff — even just mixers and stuff, where they’re like “What are [your] references, like what do you want it to sound like?” And I’m like, “I just want it to sound like itself good.” I want the songs to live their best lives, I don’t have things that I want it to be sounding like. Y

Claire: That’s a really good point. Every time I work with people in studios, they’re like, “Do you have album references or song mixes that you like, that we can kind of basically just copy?” And I’m like, “Yeah, but it’s not going to sound the same as those, no matter how well or how much you change the mix.” Because I didn’t record it that way. I recorded it some fucked up way that I decided to do it. I’m also not the best at engineering shit, or recording or mixing.

Haley: I just started getting [into it], like that’s a during-quarantine thing for me. I’ve always worked with engineers. Now I’m like, Now it’s gonna be me! And I’m fucking up, but it’s fine.

Claire: Are you into it though? Do you like it?

Haley: I do like it, but I still have a lot of insecurity. I feel like it’s one of those things that for the longest time I saw as “not for me.” It’s weird because it’s like, you find out you do just plug in the microphone and press record. No matter what, you’ll get something. Even if it’s not the perfect thing, you know, but it’s not fucking magic.

Claire: Oh, yeah.

Haley: You do just need to learn the things. I learned that about, I guess, composing and arranging and doing stuff for non-rock instruments — I saw that as something where I was like, That’s not for me because I’m not classically trained and I don’t know how to do any of that stuff. And then I was like, Oh, but you can. Anyone can just do it. You don’t have to have gone into debt to learn how to do it. 

Claire: There’s so many ways to do it.

Haley: Yeah, definitely. But even doing it the “right way,” of having everything be notated — you can learn to do that.

Claire: Yeah. Fucking YouTube.

Haley: Yeah. [Laughs.] I still do it this way, because it’s faster than for me to rely on my own memory — just having open a bunch of different Google tabs of the ranges of every instrument that I’m working with. Stuff where I’m just like, Oh, I don’t need to have this memorized. I don’t need to know this.

Claire: I love that so much. I’ve done it a couple times where I write something for some instrument, and make them go too high and it’s not in the range. And then they’re like, “Do you know how to do this?” And I was like, “I know enough to where the rest of it looks good, except for that thing.” But now I do know, and now I’m learning. That experience right there, it shakes your ego a tiny bit, but you’re not claiming to know how to do it. And it’s also like, you’re not $200,000 dollars in debt.

Haley: Yeah. And no one’s mad, too. I think that’s the most important thing to learn, like generally if you’re collaborating with people, they’re not mad at you for not knowing something. I think there’s always this horrible fantasy scenario in my head where — and it comes from, like, Guitar Boys in middle school or something who are like, “You don’t know this? You’re fucking stupid!” But no one’s like that in real life. Like if I give somebody something, and they’re like, “Oh, this part doesn’t really make sense on the instrument, and this is why.” Then I’m like, “Oh, OK. Change it to what makes sense.” And then that’s the exchange. [Laughs.]

Claire: They’re not walking out on you or some shit like.

Haley: Yeah. They’re not like, “Wait, you’re claiming to be a fucking genius composer, and actually you are stupid and I’m gonna leave you and I’m gonna tell everyone that you’re a fraud.”

Claire: That is worst case scenario.

Haley: But I’m at a point now where if I did have that happen, I would be like, Woah, that’s on them, for sure

Claire: It’s a weird thing to think about, but I love when people don’t like me.

Haley: [Laughs.] Yeah.

Claire: Like, people that just get really bent out of shape about stuff — that’s happened to me a lot recently. Like people just being like, “Claire sucks. Her shit’s so boring and stupid and so easy to play.” I dealt with that in person for some absurd—

Haley: That’s ridiculous. “Easy to play” as an insult is the most annoying thing in the whole world.

Claire: Yeah, what are we, 14? Like, I’m sorry it doesn’t match up to your fucking Metallica riffs or some shit like that.

Haley: Like, sorry, it’s not prog. [Laughs.]

Claire: Oh, god.

Haley: Like if it was, people would hate it.

Claire: I should just start driving around with, like, a Tool sticker on my car or something. Like, “That’s her. She’s the fucking genius that loves Tool.”

Haley: [Laughs.] I feel like I signal the wrong things to bad people by having had a giant band and being down with, like, the general concept of Frank Zappa. I feel like that says the wrong thing about me. I get, like, “real music”-ed at — like weird bearded dudes after shows being like, “Frank Zappa, real music.” And I’m like, “I don’t like most of his music and I don’t agree with you.” I’m very inspired by people who have pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable in music, and I think Frank Zappa has done that. But like, I don’t agree with you that “Dinah-Moe Humm” is a good song.

Claire: Because it’s like, they don’t even really want to talk about Frank Zappa, and they don’t even really want to talk to you. They just wanna talk.

Haley: Yeah. And they’re just like, “Woah, so sick to see a girl who doesn’t like pop music.” And I’m like, “I do like pop music.” You can actually like more than one thing at the same time.

Claire: I don’t like those kind of people that are just so singular about what they’re into. Like people that love free jazz and shit — they don’t listen to composed music because they don’t think it’s for them. I know people who play free improv music, and they will never play something if it’s arranged or composed. And I’m like, are you a fucking moron? Like, you committed yourself to this tiny world, and no matter like how big-dick-boss-guy you feel in this tiny fucking world, there’s still people everywhere else doing basically any other kind of music, and are probably way happier than you.

Haley: I’ve gotten into so many arguments with this, but it’s like these really pretentious dude music snobs who are trying to be the person who is the most into music — I’m like, You don’t love music if you hate most music. You’re actually a hater and you’re not a music lover. 

(Photo Credit: left, Dani Toral; right, Casey Doran)

Claire Rousay is based in San Antonio, Texas. Her music zeroes in on personal emotions and the minutiae of everyday life — voicemails, haptics, environmental recordings, stopwatches, whispers and conversations — exploding their significance.

(Photo Credit: Dani Toral)