I interviewed U.S. Girls, AKA Meg Remy, during a time most New Yorkers now think of as a bad dream—CMJ 2012, a festival during which she actively elected not to participate. "I played SXSW once and that soured me on the whole kind of commercial festival where the point is to come and get popular or be seen and you're basically paying to play," she says. "I don't know. It's not something I'm interested in… being one in a huge sea trying to stick out, and everyone's racing out like a school of fish trying to get a nip of the food."
U.S. Girls manipulates a zombified '60s-girl-pop group aesthetic and douses the whole thing in reverbed-out kerosene. As the CMJ shitshow raged just south of her local Toronto, she was in the process of a few things—readying a new release for her and creative/romantic partner Slim Twig's newish label Calico Corp. and packing for an upcoming European tour.
I caught her during an afternoon at home, a space she shares with Slim, his filmmaking parents, and his sister. The latter appears both in the official video for "North On 45" and the GEM cover. "I use her a lot because she is—I don't know—she is amazing," Remy says of Lulu Hazel Turnbull, her [essentially] sister-in-law. "She is amazing. You give her an idea and she knows exactly what you're talking about." In the "North" video, Lulu is featured running away and to the camera in her nightwear, not unlike American Apparel's new, slightly modest commercial campaign, maybe.
"North On 45" is essentially a family affair. Slim recorded the song's instrumental part before, unable to string together appropriate lyrics or vocal melody to go with it. Remy tried out something she'd written years earlier and it all gelled. "It feels like our child. There's a little bit of both of us in there," she says. "It's a really powerful song." It really is. The track illuminates the close of GEM, a warbling, heel-kicking runaway cut. Remy's voice sashays across the gravel jangle Slim laid out.
I ask her why, on my GEM press advance, the track is labeled as "Borth On 45"—if it was a trick or joke or something. "I don't know about any of the stuff [publicists] send out," she starts. "I don't give a fuck about it. I'm interested in people hearing my music. And, of course, selling records in hope of making a little something for myself."
That's fair. She—like pretty much me, my friends, and possibly you—exists within the "romantic" reality of lower class living. "I listened to [the first two U.S. presidential] debates and all you hear about is upper and middle class and you don't hear about the lower class at all," she says. "And no one seems to give a fuck about us. We can't make them any money, so they don't care about us." Continuing, "I hope Obama wins, and I'm not an Obama fan… [He] is definitely a million times better than Romney, but he's no prince."
Earlier, she mentioned that one time she caught Bruce Springsteen in Portland, Oregon in 2005. I thought it an apt time to ask her about his recent public Obama endorsement—marking the first time Springsteen has done so for a presidential candidate. "Obama needs the help from The Boss. [Springsteen] has a lot of power in America."
Since Springsteen looks better in jeans than either of the presidential candidates, we shift from political brouhaha to gushing about Him. "His career has been about just really connecting with people that need it—a class of people that maybe don't get too much joy in life or don't feel like people are on their side or thinking about them. He's gone out of his way to speak with the blue collar people—the housewives, the homeless people… I just think he's made it very clear that he cares about people. That theory aside, he's a helluva showman."
So that explains why Remy's cover of "Down In The Boondocks" sounds much more like a demented Jersey-bred alley cat than the Febreezy Billy Joe Royal original. And for that, we can all be thankful.
Last week, U.S. Girls dropped GEM, a new full-length for "anyone who is open and isn't too judgmental and anyone who doesn't read too many music websites." So. "People who read a lot of [music blogs] are sort of discipled—very judgmental," Remy says. "It's an emotional record. I'm not hiding anything and it might make some people uncomfortable, but I think anyone who has an open mind will enjoy it."