Interview with Often

Scrunchie jumped on zoom with Atlanta-bred lo-fi indie pop artist Often, who Wussy Magazine described as “otherworldly!”. In this interview, we discuss her relationship with her religion and her newfound spirituality, her Sagittarian qualities, and the many places shes lived throughout her life. Additionally, we touch on her past achievements, upcoming goals, and how her minimalistic fashion sense reflects her stripped-down, lo-fi sound.

Often has been spending her time connecting with her fans and fine-tuning her sound, but she has more in the works. Often is dropping her debut LP, “Dirty Saint,” on October 8th!

What’s your star sign, and do you feel it reflects you and your artistic style? Why or why not?

I’m a Sagittarius, but I feel like the big three are important. So I have to had that I’m a Pisces rising and a Libra moon. And I definitely do feel that being a Pisces rising affects my music, for sure. I’m a combination of all three, but I feel like Sagittarians are labeled as people who are outgoing and not very emotional, but I feel like that is kind of a misdirection about Sagittarians. We’re actually very emotional, we just cover it up with all of this loud boisterousness. My Pisces definitely keeps me really in my emotions, and I feel like a lot of my music comes off that way. I always say music is my best outlet, mainly because that Sagittarius persona comes off really intensely, but my Pisces is what keeps me down in the deep waters and able to create music that feels a little more connected, maybe. Also very glittery.

Your latest release “Deep Sleep” plays on the idea that you should “stop sleeping on yourself”. How has writing become a transformative experience for you as you continue to grow and learn about yourself?

It’s actually funny because “Deep Sleep,” I wrote that at a time where I feel like I needed it for myself. Sometimes I find myself going back to things I’ve written in the past and being like, “Wow, I really needed that now.” Right now, I feel like I’m definitely experiencing a “sleeping on myself” again, and just not trusting myself. I experience a lot of doubt. It’s funny this song is out now, because it’s definitely the moment I’m having for myself personally.

Whenever I’m not writing, and right now I feel so focused on getting stuff out and trying to get people to hear it, that the writing part has… I don’t wanna say taken a backseat, but when I’m not writing I’m not at my best self. And whenever I’m feeling really intensely anxious or going through it, the first thing that happens is this need to sing or write. Having to realize that that disconnection that I experience with myself is a disconnection from what I need to be doing, I think it’s constantly transformative, there’s not an end to transformation. It’s definitely a process, it’s something that I can see that I’m doing and it’s hard to keep myself present to keep myself from doing it. It’s like I’m hovering above myself going, “Why are you doing this to you, to us?”. It’s constant work.

By Kate Carson

So an article in The Flood mentioned cities like Atlanta, LA, and New York all being a part of your history. What do you miss most about where you used to live, and what do you like best about where you are now?

The last year was really difficult, my girlfriend and I were on the road the whole time. I thought that I was a person that really wanted stability, after the year that I had, but as my therapist uncovered for me, I’m actually really not good with stability. It creates, I feel a need to create inner chaos when I’m physically stable. Living in Atlanta, I really miss… I didn’t really get to do a normal college experience, so when I got to Atlanta, I got to experience all of these dreams that I didn’t get to have that you probably would have done during your undergrad. I went to a really religious school, and I had a curfew and you had to go to church on the weekends, there were just these things that you had to do. Kind of the wild fun of it all I didn’t get to experience, and Atlanta was a perfect opportunity for me to get that in before entering the next phase of my life. But I definitely miss the community and I feel like Atlanta really grew me up in ways other cities didn’t.

As far as New York, I really loved New York during that time of my life as well. I feel like I got to live in cities when I needed them, and I feel like New York was just this really fun exploration of what’s possible, even if I didn’t always sink my teeth into it when I probably should have. I miss the transportation system, I miss things being open all the time, I miss being able to get around really easily. My girlfriend and I share a car here in LA, so when she needs to do something, I’m confined to home, for the most part.

Both those cities are really phenomenal, and I loved them both for where I was at the time.

As for LA, I’m loving the weather. I think everyone probably says that first. I’ve only been here for a few months now, which is kind of wild. I didn’t really have any expectations of LA at all, I came here blurry-eyed from the year I had on the road. There is a really interesting energy here that I’m enjoying that I hadn’t experienced yet. Moving from Atlanta to New York, I wasn’t prepared for like, the pace. I know people always talk about New York as being really fast, but when you’re living there you don’t really think about it as much. Atlanta was like, this is slow. It’s interesting because I thought LA would be a really fast-paced city too, but it’s kind of not. It is, but people are very much moving at their own pace, which I didn’t anticipate. It’s still a metropolis, but people are laid back and like, “Yeah, man, whatever, we’re doing it when we’ll get to it.” It’s nice to be in a big city that’s taking its time. I’m still getting accustomed to living here, I have a few friends but I’m very brand new. I do love being in a house again, that part’s really nice. It feels cozy in a way I didn’t expect. I think that might have to do with specifically where I live as well, but it surprised me. I’m liking LA more than I thought I would. Going to the beach whenever you want is really nice to, being near water, it’s not hot enough to swim, but it’s nice to be near water.

Also in The Flood, you shared a bit about your recent release, “Palm Trees,” and how this song was written about the abrupt end of your “longest relationship” with a best friend that you liked to party and cry with in lesbian dance clubs. Would you like to share a bit more about the meaning behind the song?

I had a best friend for awhile, and I think that in some ways we… it was kind of interesting to reach this point in the road where you can sense that you’re heading in different directions, and not that one is bad or better than the other, but that they’re truly just different. When I left New York, I had some time to form myself a little better, moving from a really religious upbringing and going into really religious schooling and having all of my focus be on this one thing, I was so excited to move to New York and be gay. I didn’t have the experience, I wasn’t able to do that. When I found my people I just stayed there, and I didn’t continue growing. I kind of traded God for this new found freedom of being queer and being gay. I didn’t realize there was so much to be done, mentally. Defining yourself is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t mean you stop progressing.

When I got some more space from what I had known, I realize how many doors and windows I needed to open up to let light into myself. For a lot of that, it was finding and rooting myself in me, outside of any outside source, because I got really good at attaching myself to other people who needed support or energy, because religion teaches you to give yourself to God, so I kept looking for something else to give myself to. It was never me, it was never giving myself back to me. In creating a space in that friendship, I was able to learn how to feed back into myself and the parts of myself that just never got fed. Palm Trees then just developed, I wrote it really quickly, it happened in the middle of the night. You know how sometimes there are things that could be said but there isn’t much of a reason? You get closure for yourself, right? No one else can give you closure. I needed to find that closure on my own, and Palm Trees is closure on my own terms for me, and giving myself the grace to move through a situation in a way that felt best for myself.

We’re fast approaching the debut of your upcoming LP “Dirty Saint” out October 8th. What do you hope listeners take away from this body of work?

I hope that listeners feel seen and understood. Prior to this I made a lot of love songs. I think that when you first start making music, love is the thing you want to talk about. Or just relationships is kind of the first thing that comes to mind. There aren’t really any love songs on the LP. I hope people can really experience themselves more. I wanted to, this initially started out as a work about God and about that relationship, but the further I went into it the more I realized that, “You got to do some more inner self.” I needed to detach from everything outside of me. I hope when people listen to it they get to know me better, but also feel really understood and feel their piece in the puzzle. I don’t think that anyone is an island, I do believe that we are pieces, and there is a way to work together and you can’t really formulate or understand your piece until you carve it out. I hope people can feel that carving and feel kind of mirrored.

The tracks we’ve been able to hear so far from the album evaluate both the relationships you hold with others in addition to the relationship you have with yourself. How has the process of writing your record offered you clarity in these relationships?

Clarity is a weird thing, because you get it but there’s still more to do. There’s never an ending to self or improvement, there’s never a finish line. In some ways, it’s created more to work through, which is exhausting. It’s really exciting to unpack things and see where things went wrong or went well, or to understand more of yourself, but it’s also like, “Oh my god, we just gotta keep going.” If anything, it just made me more aware, which then added on more things to work through on a regular basis. My brain is always doing a lot, my brain does a lot, I’m in my head a lot. I’m working on getting out of my head and being more present, but the more you unpack, the more it’s like, “Oh, I gotta hold that with me while I’m doing this other thing.” I have gained a lot of clarity, but it’s also created a lot of work.

I’m sure people draw lines, like “I give up.” It’s certainly been transformational and caused clarity, but it’s also created a lot of pathways where I’ve realized I needed to keep moving.

You’ve spoken about your recent journey regarding spirituality and how you view religion as you move through your adult life. How does your spirituality weave into your music, but also other facets of your life?

I feel for me, particularly with the next song that’s coming out, Trace. That song feels like a contemporary Christian song, which I grew up listening to a decent bit of. I think that in the past, spirituality and religion confined me, it created a lot of lines to be drawn, it created a box for me. I couldn’t be gay, I was like, “I will be celibate for the rest of my life.” I knew I was gay, but I was told I couldn’t act on it. So I was immediately like, “Oh, here’s this thing I’m not gonna do.” People do that, and it’s strange, because in some way, having been enmeshed in religious culture, it’s interesting to me how people manage that for so long. It’s impressive in it’s own way, and yet I could not imagine holding myself back that much for life. While understanding that for some people and their mind it’s not holding themselves back, it’s putting them in a direction, but for me, with the religion I grew up in and my personal experience, it was really confining. I knew that my life could be more full.

The irony of that is that it’s also spirituality which has created more open doors for me, and navigating what spirituality means to me. Moving away from religion but being more spiritual, while also adding that I think it’s important to have a religious process, outside of what you believe in, but in terms of being religious about your behavior and your habits. For me, that meant having a close relationship with my ancestors and actually talking to them and being close to them and allowing them to speak to me and to be in conversation with them. I don’t have any more grandparents on this side, they’ve all passed, I was really close with my grandmothers. To be in communication and contact with them and have them comfort me and also direct me is really beautiful. I think spirituality is an important thing, I can’t imagine living without it, outside of being raised in it, I just… it does give me context of knowing that it’s not just me. Which is kind of a double edged sword, because it’s finding meaning in life, if you try to detach yourself from that, for me that has been strange.

I feel like I’m rambling, but it’s extremely important to me. I’m trying to keep myself on track, because I could go in a million places right now. I do think that it’s really important to have, and I think it can be defined in whatever way makes sense for you. But it deeply impacts my music making, especially in what I was working on, and what got me to this, to Dirty Saint. Prior to that, it was just all spiritual focused, I was working on deconstructing God for myself. I don’t even know if I’m still on the path of the question anymore, but the point is that it’s important and it means a lot to me.

You’ve attained many of your goals in recent months—finishing an album, getting played on the radio, claiming a spot on Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist—to name a few. What do you hope to accomplish by this time next year?

It’s funny that you say that, because it’s bizarre to have attained some things that I’ve wanted, and it feels really strange and also limiting. You need to picture more for yourself and your life, speaking about me to myself, obviously. Goals are really strange, because you can meet them. I’ve met some big goals. I never thought I’d be on the radio, for me that’s a really big deal. I’ve always wanted to be on the radio, ever since I was a little kid. I definitely wept when it happened, it was great. It’s also, I guess it’s the Sagittarian thing, you’re always looking further and that arrow is always pointing elsewhere. Who knows what we’re gonna hit, and it’s almost like you never want to hit anything.

I guess my goals, my dreams for what happens next, I’ll say them to you, and I appreciate you even saying I reached my goals, because it’s good for other people to remind you, I guess. Because it’s just your life experience, you know, you appreciate reaching your thing, but it’s like, “Okay, great, I got it.” I’m trying to work on sitting and reaching a goal. Anyway, the point is, I guess, next goals for me, I would really love to go on tour, after the year that I had and thinking I really wanted a house and stability, and my therapist going, “You’re unhappy already,” and being like, “Yeah, I need to be back on the road.” I love being on the road, I’m very Sagittarian that way, I need to be traveling all of the time. I’d love to go on tour, I don’t know, I’d really love the album to do well. I would love to work with someone else. I made this LP all on my own, which I needed to do for this, but I’m starting to feel limited by my own brain and I need some outside thought. I would really like to work with people I respect and admire, I would really love to go on tour, I would love for people to love the LP, that would be great. I want people to listen to it and be like, “Oh that was good.” I want to go to the grocery store, and not worry about anything, and have fresh flowers in my home. Just like the basics, you know?

To end on a fun note, what’s your favorite accessory or makeup look and why? Do you feel like it reflects any aspects of your style as an artist?

I wear these two necklaces every day, this one was my grandmothers, and this one my girlfriend got for me. I saw it and I was like, “I have to have it.” I also got my ears pierced last year. I couldn’t do that because of my religion, so I finally got my ears pierced and that was truly thrilling. So I’m really loving earrings right now and wanting to obtain as many as I possibly can.

As far as makeup goes, I’m usually really simple with makeup. I do love a good inner corner, just quick glitter vibe. I need simplicity, because the problem is you have to take makeup off. Like I’m really, at the end of the night, the last thing I want to think about is taking my makeup off. It’s not washing my face, but taking my makeup off. You need something other than what you use to wash your face, and that part is really aggravating to me. I try to keep my makeup really simple. I don’t wear it very often. I have a friend who does makeup, and will do my makeup for me, and I’ll come home and be like, “Wow, I’ve never looked so good!”. And then it’s like, four sheets of makeup remover, and it’s like, “Ugh, this is the part I don’t enjoy.” I still have glitter in my hairline from the last time my friend did my makeup. Simple, but shiny.

Do you feel that reflects your stripped down, lo-fi music style?

Oh right! Totally! I definitely feel, wow actually, well done. I do think those two things go hand in hand. I really do love simply done music that you feel, and that’s my ultimate aspiration, keeping it really simple but really feeling it in your heart. So yeah, that’s also where the sad disco queen came from. I really want that pop of glitter, but also “what you did made me really emotional.” Wow, that was good, I never thought about it, but thanks!

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