Interviews Music

The Unwilling Muso

Meghan Remy is the founding member and “head curator” of U.S. Girls – a collaborative music project in which Meghan sings from the point of view of fractured heroines over hypnotic loops and experimental recordings. But the Toronto-based lass, who started playing in bands in Illinois at 15, doesn’t consider herself a musician. “I feel like I’m more of an artist who’s experimenting with their voice and with emotions,” she says. “And plus, musicians are often a bunch of ars2hole men. That word just conjures up a male, entitled image, in my mind. And I don’t really want to be a part of any club or any group. I definitely don’t want to be in the company of most musicians. I think it’s more freeing just to live an artful life where there are no rules.”

Raised on “dad rock” and Motown by her parents, Meghan’s life changed at 12, when her first boyfriend introduced her to punk. “It was so inviting,” she says. “And then when my boyfriend gave me a Bikini Kill CD, it was like, Holy shit, and women do this? Everything just changed. It was like my brain started functioning in a different way. It thought, ‘You can do anything you want; you can especially do anything you want if you’re a woman, and you can probably do it better than men can.’ It blew my mind. Oh, and you want a band shirt? Just write the band on your shirt with permanent marker and you have a band shirt.”

Her earliest recordings as U.S. Girls in 2007 were produced in her bedroom, featured a popcorn tin as a drum and were recorded on cassette tapes or “whatever was around”. Today, she’s signed to esteemed indie label 4AD. But Meghan still doesn’t record in a studio. “It doesn’t matter how you make it,” she says. “It’s the end product that matters. And things that are made in a more DIY or experimental or more kind of open way, I think end up being better. I find it really limiting to do anything in any set way. There are no rules; that’s why you make music and art.”

On her latest album, Half Free, Remy adopts characters including a war widow and Nora Bass, wife of the schizophrenic protagonist in Michael Ondaatje’s novel Coming Through Slaughter. For Meghan, using characters connects music to film, theatre and poetry. It also continues the storytelling song tradition of Bruce Springsteen, whose E Street Band she commemorated with a drunken ‘E’ tattoo on her arm. “The world is just literally full of characters that you can pick and choose if you want,” she says. “It’s a game. And it’s fun. That’s why I love taking public transportation. I love eavesdropping on people’s conversations and watching people have a fight or a sweet conversation. You can kind of take the little knowledge that you’ve witnessed and then you can build this whole life for these people that you’ll never see again.”

Toronto is Meghan’s adopted home, where she has lived with husband – Canadian songwriter, musician and actor, Slim Twig – for the past five years. “Things make sense up here in a way that they just don’t down there,” she says. “There’s less people and less stuff and less guns and less drugs. And there’s healthcare. I mean, I love the States and it’s where I’m from and I can never get it out of me and it totally shaped me; there’s so no other place like it. But I had to get the hell out of there, because I felt that even living there was supporting the way that the States have been operating. And I just can’t stand behind it any more. Everything revolves around business and money there. It’s disgusting.”

This article first appeared in frankie magazine issue 71 (May/June 2016).

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