Katie Harkin (Sleater-Kinney, Sky Larkin) on Songs About People the Protagonist Hasn’t Met Yet – [Updated]

An exploration of the form, including responses from Shamir, Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak), Tom Fleming (Wild Beasts), Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney) and more.

Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak, Flock of Dimes) had this to say about Songs About People the Artist Hasn’t Met Yet—start with Katie Harkin and Shamir’s thoughts, and check back for more throughout this week.

This brings to mind a Neil Young SAPTPHMY: “Lookin’ for a Love” from Zuma. I’ve always both loved and been a bit unsettled by this one. Upon first listen, it’s simple and, if you don’t think too hard about it, seems openhearted and sweet. But after repeat listens, the certainty and specificity our boy Neil has about his newfound paramour starts to feel a bit creepy. They’re going to meet on a beach, and she’ll be “nothing like [he] pictured her to be,” and things will be really great! Until probably he starts acting like an asshole, because he’s a moody artist, etc. I’m all for self-awareness and recognition of patterns, but let’s take some responsibility here: If this scenario is going to play out (and likely it will), it won’t be the result of some universal omnipotent narrator pulling the strings. It’ll be because of his own purposeful actions.

We build our lives for ourselves—they are founded upon a series of choices that, if we are successful enough at self-deception, we can avoid ever having to reckon with. And I get it—it’s very tempting to believe that the narrative we’re spinning doesn’t exist, that instead we owe our lives to the magical unspooling of fate.

A good SAPTPHMY speaks nothing of real love—the kind that is unburdened by the needs and desires we project onto flesh-and-blood human beings, with inner lives and purposes of their own to fulfill. But the romantic type—those particularly prone to having heartstrings pulled by this particular mix of loneliness and certainty—is especially vulnerable to this fallacy. Or at least that’s what I’ve heard. Definitely not speaking from personal experience!

Having toured since her teens, Katie Harkin‘s reputation as an in-demand multi-instrumentalist has seen her pass through thirty countries whilst writing and releasing three critically acclaimed records with her own band Sky Larkin. Her work garnered the attention of friends and fellow former Leeds dwellers Wild Beasts, with whom she worked across their Smother tour, and reverberated across the pond to urgent cult trio Sleater-Kinney, who recruited her as a touring member upon their triumphant return to the live stage. Most recently, Harkin has performed across North America with Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak‘s solo project, Flock of Dimes and across the UK with Low. Now, (as she unveils her debut solo project) the collaborator steps out as the singular, her new setup giving further platform to her idiosyncratic, muscular guitar-playing and revealing a body of work that is equally propelled by a life on the move and anchored by her romance for the North of England.