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.

Tom Fleming of Wild Beasts had this to say about Songs About People the Artist Hasn’t Met Yet—start with Katie Harkin, Jenn Wasner, Shamir’s thoughts, and check back for more throughout this week.

This makes me wonder about who the “I” and the “you” in love songs are. There’s this push/pull of speaking to EVERYONE WHO HAS EVER BEEN IN LOVE and giving just enough particulars to be believable in putting over the song.

There’s an old trope of the man-admiring-a-woman-from-afar-who-if-she-only-came-to-her-senses-silly-thing-they-could-be-so-happy-together, which is kind of an extension of the SAPTPHMY thing: a one-way imagining of what things might be like, or could be like. You think you know what you want, but, really, that person isn’t real yet; they’re only really an idea in the singer’s head.

To reverse that, I always remember a very young Taylor Swift’s “Love Story,” with all the Romeo and Juliet/star-crossed lovers/fate stuff that we’re all told we’re supposed to experience once (and only once, thank you very much). That there’s a Prince Charming who will pluck you from the dirt like a little daisy and your problems will simply melt and you will have completed your life’s story. It’s very pervasive, and of course very cynical, but it does tap into that idea that your life is a series of decisions, forks in the road that could have been different. Taylor’s naiveté is charming, and we’re supposed to identify with her optimism, but it’s really an awfully pessimistic idea: that life will always be a grind until something magical one day happens out of the blue. What a rip-off.

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.