Harmony Tividad is a song writer from Los Angeles, CA. She plays in the band Girlpool and finds her spare time spent deconstructing God through the lens of a person who loves stuffed animals and crystals, but from a “practical” standpoint. When not writing in third person, she finds herself usually talking in first person about the myth and the lie. Much of her life has been spent deifying her acquaintances.
Jilian Medford Of IAN SWEET just put out Crush Crusher, a captivating, emotional exploration of what it’s like when our hopes and our reality fail to align. A dear friend of mine, full of hilarious mantras and energetic freedom, Jilian and I have lived together, shared many a tattoo session (some of my favorites, including her “does this look like a couch to you?” one that I tattooed on her leg in February of 2016). Our shared love of Bright Eyes as teenagers made us immediately close, and I’m so excited for you to all read about her wonderful stories about her life between lives; meandering with more than a handful of dogs; and soaring to new heights to exacerbate the true lows.
Harmony Tividad: So, Jilian, you have a record coming out. What is it called?
Jilian: It’s called Crush Crusher.
Harmony: What’s that all about?
Jilian: People have been talking to me about it, and they think that the title is about having a crush—an actual, physical crush—on somebody.
Harmony: Like a romantic one?
Jilian: Right, the romantic kind. But the word “crush” to me is like a floating, little, tiny bit of optimism or something. Something that’s sweet and on the horizon. I guess the world crush isn’t romantic in this sense. It’s more like hope. And then “crusher”—the act of crushing something.
Harmony: Right, crushing whatever brings you hope.
Jilian: Right. So it’s mostly what I do to myself. I usually end up crushing. This record is really pessimistic. And bleak.
Harmony: What do you think steered you that direction?
Jilian: I think I went through a lot of strange changes in the last year, especially right before we went on that Europe tour. [Ed. note: IAN SWEET toured Europe with Girlpool in September 2017.] I was just developing new ideas about myself. The record is mostly about not letting myself get far into things—like stopping myself before I get hurt, or halting before shit explodes.
Harmony: So you feel like you have been damaged in a way? And this record is an expression of that damage?
Jilian: Yeah. It’s like a weird manifesto that I can look back on and be like, Don’t do that again!
Harmony: Interesting. So, let’s start at the beginning. I met you in New York. No—I met you in LA!
Jilian: We played our first LA show with you guys.
Harmony: We had a residency at The Echo and you played, and it was a few days before Christmas. And you had blonde hair. It was long. I remember you were wearing a lot of oversized shirts with platform sandals, as you are wearing now.
Jilian: Similar to this. Cozy. It’s all about comfort, that’s why I wear Crocs.
Harmony: Yeah, you love Crocs. And what about Crocs pushes you forward? Propels you?
Jilian: The stability. The consistency. You know, you just know you’re always going to get the same product.
Harmony: Wow! Have they sponsored you yet?
Jilian: They make platform Crocs now!
Harmony: I thought those were Balenciaga, though.
Jilian: No, Croc itself now makes them. They’re not the Balenciaga ones.
Harmony: If you’re wondering where I’m going later, I will probably be going to the Crocs store, because I did not know that.
Jilian: They’re really cute. I tried them on a couple weeks ago.
Harmony: Were they expensive?
Jilian: They’re, like, fifty bucks.
Jilian: I know. But they last you a lifetime!
Harmony: That’s expensive for rubber. They’re rubber shoes, and they’re 50 dollars.
Jilian: Dude, they last you a lifetime. Then you can boil them and eat them if you’re stranded in the desert or something.
Harmony: I’m reading this Philip K. Dick book, and it was saying that this guy died in the desert, but he could have drank the water out of his car. But it might have had antifreeze in it.
Jilian: Either way he was going to die.
Harmony: You should just take the risk, I would guess.
Jilian: Which book is it?
Harmony: VALIS. It’s apparently his best book, according to a lot of people I don’t know. But it’s really amazing. But I want to start with your life now. We’re going to redirect back to the gel pen lifestyle. When did you start writing this lit record? I feel like I’ve been seeing you play the songs since Europe.
Jilian: Yeah, a couple of the songs I was playing in Europe. I think I was playing “Hiding,” and “Holographic Jesus,” maybe. But then after Europe, I moved to LA from New York and immediately started finishing.
Harmony: Do you think it was inspiring to be more productive here?
Jilian: So much more.
Harmony: Really? I think I’m experiencing that, too.
Jilian: I get really shy. I get shy about people hearing my music before it’s, like…
Jilian: Finito, and even when it’s finito. But I think when I was living in New York, I would try to write a song, but I would be whispering in my room, [because] everybody could hear me and judge me. I didn’t have this space to fully execute the—
Harmony: Thing you needed to do.
Jilian: Cuz I was too nervous or too shy, or too preoccupied thinking about what other people were going to think about it. Then when I moved here, I had all this space, and just set up shop and was dating. It was all inspired by knowing that that was going to be a doomed relationship. [Laughs.] Like, a lot of the songs are just premonitions. They’re like Well, this—
Harmony: Already is fucked up. I love writing songs like that. You see the bad shit coming out, and you’re like, I’m just going to write about this now instead of later.
Jilian: Yeah. I’m just going to write about it now so it’s easier for me to process later.
Harmony: Yeah. Music is kind of a way to express your psychic powers, I feel like.
Jilian: Dude, I feel like that too. I think about it as you’re casting a spell, and you’re like, We’ll see if this happens.
Harmony: Yeah. I feel like so many songs I’ve written have materialized on accident, or become more relevant.
Jilian: It becomes more relevant in your life, for sure. I think that’s so cool. That’s the best part about music—you listen to a song you wrote two years ago, and it’s way more relevant in your life now.
Harmony: I know. It makes you think about what your reality is really made from when it works like that.
Jilian: Your reality is made from the future.
Harmony: So I want to know more about your life through this record process—writing it, what you really discovered about yourself. Did you discover anything? Did you find inner strength?
Jilian: Yes! Specifically yes to that. You know how you have Cleo [Tucker, of Girlpool]?
Harmony: I know you’re a lone wolf.
Jilian: I became a lone wolf, which is really freaky. It was the most exciting thing, but also the most terrifying thing because I didn’t have anybody to run anything past, and I’m weird about showing people my music that aren’t necessarily directly involved. So I was really just having to trust myself more, and I think it helped me to trust myself in other aspects. Like, if something didn’t feel good in a relationship, knowing it right then and there. Same with if a guitar chord didn’t sound right—I’m the only person who could make that final decision.
Harmony: That’s so sick. So you feel like you came into your knowingness?
Jilian: Yeah, which overflowed into the knowingness of everything relating to emotional stability, or something.
Harmony: So now you feel grounded in a new way, maybe?
Jilian: Yeah, I do! I also feel crazy. I feel really excited and weird—I’m really excited to tour. I think that playing the songs are the best way to experience them. What do you think about that? I mean, do you like to play, or are you more the process person, or more the playing person?
Harmony: I like everything. Everything benefits different aspects. I feel like it’s a workout routine—you work out different parts.
Jilian: Like, the stretching first.
Harmony: Yeah, you have to write the songs, do the workout, and then, I don’t know, there’s the elliptical, which is like the tour. There’s just different effects of everything, and they’re all benefiting the whole. Hit the showers—I love the hitting the showers part.
Jilian: Hitting the showers is the comedown.
Harmony: That is the comedown. You know, I was driving here and I was listening to “On the Way Down” by Ryan Cabrera, and I thought of you.
Jilian: Dude, I was listening to [Ashlee Simpson’s] “Pieces of Me!”
Harmony: [Laughs.] I love that song. I love screaming that song. It’s the most offensive song to sing in public, for sure, cuz it’s so loud when you sing. At least, I scream when I do it.
Jilian: That’s, like, a note.
Harmony: A held-ass note, and where it hits everyone’s voice is right at the loudest part. So, I wanna know more about your process, your growth. Is Hardly Art putting this out?
Harmony: You appeared with Young Jesus. Your dear friends. Your lovely beloveds.
Jilian: I love them.
Harmony: You’re very close. You love Eric, Kern—
Jilian: John and Marcel.
Harmony: I worked at KXLU with Marcel. He’s great.
Jilian: I have a KXLU work gig tonight.
Jilian: [Aside] Oh, look at this dog. This record is a lot about dogs, because during the time that I was writing the record, I had a dog-walking job. Very fucking intense. I would walk six dogs at once. It would kill me.
Harmony: I don’t mean to throw you under any type of bus—
Jilian: Throw me some shade.
Harmony: But you’re quite a small person. Walking six dogs seems like it would be annoying.
Jilian: It was extremely difficult. They were the worst behaved shits on earth. Any time they’d see another dog, they would viciously try to attack.
Harmony: I can’t believe you would walk six dogs at once. That sounds completely unreasonable. Would they make you do that?
Jilian: I really hurt my wrist. I had to get a minor surgery on my wrist because of it—they dislocated my wrist without me knowing really, and then it got worse and worse. So I recorded my record with a dislocated wrist also because of these fucking dogs.
Harmony: It’s crazy because the hope of the dogs was crushed by the dogs.
Jilian: Exactly, honey. Like, I love dogs.
Harmony: Yeah, who doesn’t?
Jilian: A lot of the IAN SWEET merch is dog-oriented. I wanted to quit the job, cuz I was like, I don’t want my whole dog experience to be crushed. So the record harps on small things like that, that I was doing at the time.
Harmony: I’m excited to listen to the whole thing. When is it out?
Jilian: October 26.
Harmony: Oh, great! Scorpio record.
Jilian: Oh, wow. I should be more of a bitch about it, I guess.
Harmony: What does that mean? You think Scorpios are bitches? What’s your opinion?
Jilian: I was cheated on by a Scorpio once, in college.
Harmony: That’s brutal. Calling it out today on Talkhouse! Just letting it all hang out.
Jilian: But God bless him. Glad he cheated on me.
Harmony: Yeah, now we get to play the Scorpio record. So who are you touring with for this?
Jilian: Young Jesus.
Harmony: And in your band?
Jilian: In my band I’ve got a friend, Miles.
Harmony: Sweet Miles.
Jilian: Sweet honey. And this new friend, Hudson, who you know.
Harmony: I do know. I’ve known him a long time.
Jilian: Very good at bass. Talented all around. Yeah, [it’s] pretty low key. Low key vibes. Wanna be strong.
Harmony: [Laughs] “Wanna be strong.” You seem strong! You are strong. You got strength.
Jilian: I honestly have been doing a lot of activities. I’ve been playing tennis a lot.
Harmony: I want to play tennis. Who do you play tennis with?
Jilian: You know the band the Courtneys?
Harmony: Oh, yeah.
Jilian: Courtney is really good at tennis. She’s mad good. The physical activity feels good. I think while I was making the record, I wasn’t doing a lot of physical activity, so I was feeling very doom and gloom.
Harmony: You were in a relationship, you weren’t moving around too much, you were walking the 27 dogs.
Jilian: Right. Then the record’s, like, me speaking openly about whatever experiences I was having at the time, then trying to process them through songwriting.
Harmony: So you feel like you show yourself in your music? What do you feel like you’re trying to reveal about yourself, or communicate? Or get to know more?
Jilian: I think a lot of the reason why I write songs is just to really help myself fully realize…
Harmony: To look at them more clearly?
Jilian: Yeah, or approach them less literally.
Harmony: Right. In that relationship, what do you think it is to the listener? Your relationship to the music?
Jilian: I think that because the songs are so specific to me, it is a very specific listening experience for somebody else. I feel like with Girlpool, you guys use people’s names a lot—it’s very, very specific descriptors, and I think to the listener, that’s pretty special. I think people need specific things to latch onto in music, rather than broad cliches and statements—which does do it for some people, but if they can get a more personal insight into your experience, the more likely they are to connect.
Harmony: Do you think you desire connection because you feel isolated sometimes?
Jilian: Big time.
Harmony: I have that for sure with music. I feel like I have childhood issues around feeling alone.
Jilian: From being an only child?
Harmony: Yeah, only child, feeling very alone, and an outsider, or whatever. I feel like music is my attempt to reconcile that trauma.
Jilian: You feel when people connect with it, it brings you—
Harmony: A special joy, because of that. I’m just am interested in how common that experience is, of feeling isolated and using that as a way to find connection.
Jilian: I’m not an only child, but I do really, really thrive on my relationship with people. Dude, in my last relationship, my boyfriend—we’d go out, and I would just make friends. I just want to talk to people. That is what interests me, if it feels right. But he would call me a friend collector, and that always really made me so disturbed. The more I think about that, it just is hurtful because there’s something so special about—
Harmony: Because it’s your light.
Jilian: Yeah, that’s a light about me and about you. It’s like, you want to know more about people, not for the sake of them even benefiting you. It’s just…
Harmony: Interest in the world. And in connecting.
Jilian: Right, just connecting feels so good.
Harmony: Yeah, totally. I feel that way. I’ve been told something similar about myself. It was like, “You just do that thing where you just try to get to know people really intensely or randomly.” It was not as brutally judgemental, but it was definitely a passing judgment being made. But that’s really shitty. I’m sorry. I think that’s beautiful.
Jilian: It’s OK.
Harmony: It sucks when people demonize the things that make you light and bring joy to other people, because they’re envious of that light, or feel intimidated by it.
Jilian: Right. I think that’s something that I pride myself on. Even when people contact me about the music who I’ve never met before, I can’t imagine not saying thank you or something. If they’re going to take the time to be that personal with me.
Harmony: Yeah, totally. I try to do the same thing.
Jilian: Yeah. I try as much as I can.
(Photo Credit: Left, Jack Johnstone; Right, Kelsey Hart)