Addie Warncke is a New York City-based musician who performs as Computerwife. Her self-titled debut LP is out now on Danger Collective.
(Photo Credit: Lizzie Klein)
Addie Warncke is a New York City-based musician who performs as Computerwife; Lydia Slocum is a visual artist and the bassist and vocalist for the Pittsburgh-based rock band feeble little horse. Both of them put out records this past summer — Computerwife’s self-titled debut LP is out on Danger Collective, and feeble little horse’s Girl with Fish is out on Saddle Creek — and to celebrate, Addie and Lydia got on the phone to catch up about it all.
— Annie Fell, Editor-in-chief, Talkhouse Music
Addie Warncke: I’m just going to ask some questions, because I don’t know what else to talk about. Firstly: where are you in school?
Lydia Slocum: So, I just transferred to Chatham, which is a very small school in Pittsburgh, which is where I live. Right now, I’m in my childhood bedroom and commuting from my parents’ house, because it’s 10 minutes away from my school. I’m happy to be here and not at my other school — that was kind of a weird place for me to be.
Addie: Why was it weird?
Lydia: It was Messiah University, so it was very religious. Which is something I’m used to — I’ve only ever had Christian education and my dad’s a pastor. But it was just a lot, and it kind of freaked me out that I’d been in that bubble. And obviously with being in the band, having lots of different friends in different groups, and with the internet, I wasn’t completely stuck in the bubble, but it did freak me out. I was like, I can’t stay like this.
Addie: Are you a lot happier now?
Lydia: I’m very happy. [Laughs.] Everything is in harmony now. Because it was also really weird being at Messiah, which is three hours away from Pittsburgh and this bubble of sporty people, preppy people, country — basically anyone except [people] who would be into my music. I was there while I was also getting notifications like, Oh, I’m in a New York Times article. Oh, I’m on Wikipedia. Oh, this really cool band likes my band. And it didn’t feel real. So it’s really nice to just live life with the people that know me, and with some of my bandmates. It’s a lot more grounding than being so far away.
Addie: Are you religious? Do you believe in spirituality in any way, shape, or form?
Lydia: Yeah. I mean, it’s complex, but it’s also simple. I think growing up Christian, there’s so much sentimentality and preciousness to it, because I do connect it with family, and there’s a safe space there. But then also, it has been damaging to my mental health, just because I have OCD — like the cognitive kind, so I get invasive thoughts. Religion and OCD don’t mix well. I was a very fundamentalist child… Basically, all of that is to say I’ve stepped away. I don’t hate Christian people, but I don’t go to church. I wouldn’t say I’m a Christian because I think other Christians would be like, “Girl, no, you’re not.” So, [out of] respect for Christians, I do not say that I am a Christian, if that makes sense.
Addie: Do you believe in God though?
Lydia: Yeah. I wouldn’t say it’s a hard fact that there is a god, but I definitely have a sense of spirituality or that there are things that are holy or sacred. But it is all kind of designed by man, so I don’t know; I don’t trust most things designed by men. But I think that God’s in nature. I think that there’s a lot of different ways to know God. And still, if I’m in a pinch or stressed out, I’ll say a prayer.
Addie: Yeah, I pray. I’m not Christian, but I pray.
Lydia: Yeah. I think people get really close-minded about Christianity. I mean, obviously a lot of it’s valid. But also, I feel like you can’t judge people. I never want to put Christians down just because I’ve seen a lot of ugliness in that area. I still think there’s a lot of different kinds of people that can be Christian, and a lot of them are good people.
Addie: For sure. Like Breaking Amish, that show.
Addie: You see the full spectrum of it, you know? OK, to switch over from that: do you ever feel insecure about feeble little horse?
Lydia: My initial thought is no, because we’re all — or maybe not we’re all, but mainly me and Seb [Kinsler] are kind of delusional. We’re so excited about what we’ve made, and we just really encourage each other a lot musically. I will say, I think I feel insecure when I worry if I’ve made too much of my identity being in this band. Because then I’m like, Do I overly identify with this? And then it’ll go away and then I have nothing…
It’s an interesting question, because I used to make music by myself a lot. Then the band started picking up, and I still make some music by myself, but now after, like, fucking Anthony Fantano has listened to me saying all this stuff… I have this new standard that makes me feel really insecure about anything I make alone. Like, This isn’t as good as when there’s a real guitarist playing or when it’s being mixed on Ableton. I mean, I have instruments, but I don’t know how to play any of them. I just taught myself our songs on bass, and then I can just do stuff by ear. And I only have GarageBand. So the fun of making stuff alone has kind of been taken away by how popular feeble little horse got in my mind. It definitely makes me feel insecure trying to do anything that could get compared to our project that we have altogether.
Addie: If Anthony Fantano ever heard my music, I would instantly already be insecure. Like, no matter what he said about it, I would probably just like be like, Why did this happen to me? [Laughs.] Anyway, that’s shocking to hear, because I never thought about the fact that [finding success as a band] might distract from individualism. But that brings me to thinking about you as an overall artist, and someone who isn’t confined to just the label of musician. [Can] you elaborate more on your visual art, and whether or not that corresponds with feeble little horse?
Lydia: I’ve never thought about this, but the validation I’ve gotten from working with my band — putting it out in the world, it being received positively — [the music] came from the same place that my visual art comes from. So the band and performing live made me more confident in my visual art, [and feel] more safe to put things on the line that I wouldn’t have felt comfortable talking about, especially at my Christian school. I made stuff in my assemblage class that’s pretty anti-Christian — but only from my own perspective. It wasn’t, you know, saying every Christian is stupid, but it had something to do with homosexual guilt… But because I could talk about that stuff in the band, when I’m making art now, I feel safer to make it about things that are actually from a real place instead of just drawing, like, a pretty girl or something. As I opened up more creatively with other people, it helped me to want to actually explore stuff that I have a hard time communicating through visual art.
Addie: So how did you come up with the Ashley persona?
Lydia: Oh, Ashley! Ashley is this doll that I found in a thrift store, but she was in a factory plastic bag in pieces — she hadn’t been put together yet. I was in an assemblage class at the time and I was like, Oh, I can use this as parts for one of my art pieces. I did not think I was going to keep this doll. But then I opened the bag and I saw she was from 1993 and her name was Ashley, and I was like, “Her name is Ashley…” I don’t know why I got so fixated on it. She had this cloth middle of body that was empty, and I had this pillow so I took the stuffing and I stuffed her. Then I tied her little arms and legs on, assembled her entirely. I was like, Wait, I’m literally giving birth to a child right now. Then I put her in this little shirt that I had that was a kid’s shirt — it said “buck charmer” on it — and then I tied her hair into little red bow pigtails.
The creepy thing was that if you weren’t nice to Ashley, something bad would happen to you. My friend Ava was like, “Ew, what the fuck? Why do you have this doll?” And her ears started bleeding.
Lydia: And then my other friend Kate was like, “Ew, I don’t like this” — her nose started bleeding. She’s haunted, and you have to please her to not be haunted. So if I attribute things to her, I will not be haunted by Ashley. So it’s like a curse and a blessing.
Addie: That kind of reminds me of this doll that me and my friends made when we were in middle school named Bethany. Someone’s mom was a nurse or something and they had one of those, like, humans that’s cut in half. We put makeup on it and we started carrying it around with us, and then every time that somebody was mean, we would run up to them with Bethany.
Lydia: Why do we have to give that up? As a 22 year old, I’m like, Why don’t I just have at least one special friend?
Addie: Yeah. This goes back to earlier — you were talking about making music with Seb and the way that you guys encourage each other. I was wondering, when you meet up together, do you know that you’re going to start making music when you hang out? And is there a formula that you guys usually follow?
Lydia: I don’t know if we ever even try to hang out no music. And it’s not because we have nothing to talk about — we are friends — but the peak of our friendship is to make music. So it’s like, why would we be in the same place and not make music? Because before, I was at Messiah, he was at Pitt; he lived in Rochester, I lived in Pittsburgh. We weren’t in the same place, so when we were together, it was like, “OK, music time.”
I’d say the formula started off as him sending me the skeleton of a song, with the guitar part and Ableton drums, and he’d be like, “I don’t know where to go with this, do you have anything you could add to it?” Because he’d heard the stuff I would do on my own and he thought that we’d be compatible. We made “Dog Song (Wet Jeans)” together, and that went really well, so we just kept doing it like that over iMessage.
I would put it into GarageBand and listen to it over and over again and then sing over it. I would often use stuff I’d been writing, because I like writing a lot depending on the season. If I’m very sad, I’ll be writing a lot. So I was kind of just reformatting it to make it poppy and in some way in digestible, and then I would send it to him. Then when we met in person, we would rerecord it and reshape it, because I don’t have a good sense of structure, song-wise. Or at least I didn’t when I started off.
Addie: That makes me really, really, really wish that I had a good collaborator, but I just can’t find anybody. If I find somebody who I’m like, “Your music makes me fucking feel something,” then usually they already have their people together. And then I always feel like I’m copying, because I’m only taking my own influences and no one’s adding.
Lydia: I’ve made music socially a lot with different people, and I think the best case is when they’re kind of my opposite creatively, or we just have really different strengths. If I’m trying to make something with someone who has my same strengths, we’re not going to get anywhere. We’re just going to fight about it the whole time. So that’s what’s been great about Seb and Ryan [Walchonski] — I think it’s mainly Seb who is very different from me, who I weirdly work well with. Because obviously chemistry brain [Seb is studying chemistry]; I have dyscalculia, I can’t even do basic math. We have super opposite ways of thinking, and that’s what’s made it work. And both of our stuff alone isn’t as strong as when it’s combined because we’re so different.
Addie: What would you say that his strengths are versus your strengths?
Lydia: His strengths are structure, decisiveness. Sometimes it’s annoying — he’ll just be like, “Absolutely not. Nope.” Or he’ll be like, “Oh, my gosh, yes, that’s perfect. Love it.” He’s never like, “Um, I don’t want to hurt your feelings…” He will hurt your feelings. But then you make something awesome, so it’s, OK, my feelings are hurt, but we made a good song. And I think he’s also maybe overly confident, but it helps a lot when we’re making stuff, because it’s like, “Yeah, we are the best! No one’s making music like this!” It’s just fun. I think confidence helps.
Addie: Yeah, I cannot imagine feeling that way, but I think that you’re right. I think that it really fucking does help you make shit. That brings me to another question: do you listen to your own music? Can you listen to it, or do you just shut it off immediately?
Lydia: It’s so funny, at the beginning, even when I made SoundCloud songs, I would listen to it all the time. And I’d be embarrassed — I’d be like, I should not be listening to my song. I’m so self-indulged. But my fun game was, Let me pretend I’m someone else listening… Like a specific person — like, Oh, what would this enemy of mine think of this song?
Addie: Oh, my god, yeah, the enemies thing… I’m like, I know exactly what they’re thinking. It’s just really funny to imagine them, like, fucking salty over whatever the fuck I’m doing, posting on Instagram or whatever.
Lydia: It’s so fun. I’ll be like, What’s this perspective think of it? So that’s what I would do starting off. But then the algorithm really started loving Hayday and it would come on all the time. I’d just be listening to Wednesday or an adjacent-ish band, and then “Worth It” would come on and I’m like, I cannot listen to this. I’ve listened to this too many times, I’m sick of this. And now with Girl with Fish, even though I’m proud of it and love it, I don’t think I’ve ever listened to it all the way through after it being put out. I don’t touch it, because it took so long to get that album out. We had listened to it so many times. I think with Hayday, we made it and then sat on it for five, six months, and then put it out. I was excited still to listen to that because I think there was also a level of insecurity. The more insecure you are, the more you want to listen to it. And I just felt so sure of Girl with Fish that I was like, Yeah, I don’t really feel the need to pretend I’m my ex listening to this. Like, I don’t really care.
Addie: Damn, that’s good though. Did you like being signed?
Lydia: Literally, I don’t know what the fuck was wrong with me, because when all that was happening, I did not care at all. I remember we had a meeting with some big label — I don’t even remember who they were, but I was in my cafeteria at my school and I did not even mute myself, I was talking to people… Because I didn’t think it was going to happen. I wanted us to be independent, but then I was also like, “Whatever the band wants, I don’t care.” I didn’t really think it was going to make a big difference.
Addie: It doesn’t! That’s what I’ve learned, it really doesn’t.
Lydia: It doesn’t make the biggest difference. And it wasn’t a status thing for me. I don’t think I ever even knew much about what a label was. If I liked a band, like, three years ago, I wouldn’t be like, They’re on this label, and that’s really cool, because also this band is on this label! I don’t think like that, so I was just like, I’m not sure what this label will do for us, but I don’t really care.
Addie: Well, you guys did get a label with a lot of really good bands on it though. You are in the line up now, so that is good.
Lydia: Now I really like Saddle Creek, because I said to them, “I don’t want our band to be a business.” Because we’d been told by other guys, “You gotta think of your band like a business! Post TikToks, people want to know about you.” And I was like, “Girl, that’s how you end up making bad music.” Whenever you’re trying to make economic choices, “who is this marketable to?” — I just don’t think that I’ve ever seen that go well. So I was like, as long as our label’s priority is us making good music and they want to help us do that, then I’m happy. And they literally said, “All you guys have to do is just make good music.” And I was like, “Boom, love it.”
Addie: One more question that I have: when you’re making art, are you trying to incorporate your environment, or do you kind of create a dream world instead?
Lydia: That’s a good question. I think I’ve always kind of been in my own little world that I am speaking from. I’m taking from the little world that I’ve made. I think of myself as a sponge — if you hate being copied, and I like what you do and we’re friends, you’re going to hate me, because I’m probably going to sponge things off of you. But I think that’s just part of being a creative; you take from things and you adapt them.
Being in my little Christian school growing up and going to Messiah — those spaces were not prioritizing what I prioritized. Our classrooms looked like prisons at Messiah. It was cinderblocks, all the buildings were brown, everything was ugly. I remember saying that to my parents and they were like, “That’s a bad reason to not go to a school.” But I’m saying that because I think I’ve built a tough shell in terms of letting my environment leak onto me. I really found my way to be like, I have these blinders on and I’m going to still make what I think is the best thing I could make in terms of who I am inspired by and not who’s in my class, not what I’m seeing day to day, but what I think the ideal is. And I think that’s thanks to the internet. I don’t think I would have almost any of the exposure that I have right now if I had never been on the internet. In a weird way, I was kind of raised by it; I think we all kind of were. Like, I’ve been on Instagram since I was in sixth grade, so I don’t even know who I would be if I hadn’t been on Instagram, as much as we can say we hate it.
Addie: What was your Instagram like in sixth grade? Like, what did you post in sixth grade?
Lydia: I would really edit my pictures. I love the rain, and it would be like, me holding an umbrella, kicking my leg up, and it was black and white. I had a tortoise named Winky; I would post pictures of Winky. I would post pictures of my friends. It was not trendy. It was just like picture book.
Addie: Mine was so much worse, I promise you that. Mine was like a fandom Instagram.
Lydia: Yes! [Laughs.] I was obsessed with the Dolan twins.
Addie: It was Hunger Games Instagram, I also had a Taylor Swift Instagram…
Lydia: I love that. I feel like I’ve had, like, 40 Instagram accounts. But it can be harmful, just creatively, because there are so many examples. It can be overwhelming — even in dressing, because I’ll see someone like, Oh, I love their style, it’s so awesome. And when I’m shopping, I’m like, Oh, she would wear this, I’m buying this. Would this friend buy this? Yes, I’m buying it. But then there’s 10 other different aesthetics that I also like, and then I end up having this massive wardrobe of things that just cannot go together, and I do not know how to get dressed.
But that can also happen creatively — if you have too many different competing examples, it can be really hard to combine them. But I think it actually can be really rewarding when you do figure out how to combine everything in a way that makes sense.
Addie: That’s probably the biggest challenge that is actually kind of destroying me right now, as far as making music. Pretty much every time I make a song, I feel like I’m never going to make another song again. I’m glad that you guys feel the way that you do, because that’s not how I feel. But I’m wondering if I need to do that thing where I make it really constrained, and I just pick what the vibes are. And I’ve found a way to narrow it down a little bit, but I’m like, Maybe I should really just try to make electronic music for a little while, or something like that. But I mean, what you’re saying is always the case, where you don’t think it’s ever going to work and then it just fucking happens, the song just appears out of thin air.
Lydia: It’s kind of like gambling. It can be really frustrating when you lose perspective. I’d say when I’m trying to make a song about nothing — like if I realize that I’m just making a song because I want attention, or I want to make something really cool — it goes nowhere. I don’t finish those songs. No one hears those songs. But the times when it was the easiest to make music was when there was so much that I needed to say to a specific person but I couldn’t, because we weren’t on speaking terms, and it was so huge to me that the only thing I could do was just write to myself and make stuff. That’s when so much art and music came.
Right now, life is easy. I don’t have much to say that I can’t say out loud, so it’s kind of a slow point. I feel like I haven’t made a song on my own in so long because nothing bad is happening. But you don’t have to force it. It’s really hard to be a creative and put things on the line and share it and make something from it. And people think, “Oh, lucky you, you get to do what you like,” but it can be really taxing. So you have to sometimes have a sponge era where you’re just taking things in and you’re not even trying to make anything. You’re just studying other people’s work. And maybe even that limitation of saying, No, I’m not allowed to make anything, I have to just take things in — that can make you excited to make something, because you’re like, Oh, I can’t because I’m not allowed. I’d say limitations are really helpful when you’re making things on your own.
Addie: That’s kind of moving to think about. But also, that does make me think about the difference between electronic music and [other music that I’ve made]. When I was making them, it was like a life-or-death scenario usually, and when I listen back, I can still feel that. But that makes me think that maybe when I’m feeling less inspired, I should just make more electronic music, because that’s when you’re thinking more about the textures.
Lydia: Yeah. Not everything has to be heavy.
Addie: I’m very impressed when I hear music that’s like, Yeah, that’s about how beautiful the world is. And that is the thing too: some people are just inspired by beauty and joy, and that impresses me a lot.
Lydia: But I still think it comes from the same place. You’re trying to articulate something that you can’t just plainly say. It doesn’t even have to be about feelings; it can just be a time capsule of a space or something very emotionless like that. I think songs function as time capsules, definitely, so that’s why you can’t listen to certain songs that remind you of a certain person, because you’re like, I can’t go there. It’s almost like you’re putting a piece of human being into a thing, and it becomes alive because you gave a little piece of yourself to it. But to do that, you have to be vulnerable and maybe make something super cringe.
Addie: The last question that I have is if there’s a piece of advice that you would want to give somebody who is… Actually, it could be a piece of advice about anything!
Lydia: It’s funny, because I had this weird wise man thought when I was watering my plant — it literally sounds like something that would be in a fortune cookie, and I don’t know if someone’s already said this, but I was thinking how you water the soil, not the plant. So invest in the space around you to grow upwards.
Addie: You water the soil, not the plant. That’s actually crazy, I’m not gonna lie.
Lydia: [Laughs.] I’m sure literally one billion people have said that, but I was watering my plant and I was like, Wait, this is so true. If you just invest in the area around you, the people around you, you’ll be happy. You yourself will grow, but you can’t make it all about you.
(Photo Credit: left, Lizzie Klein)