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Artist Highlight: Jackie Cohen – Our Tradition


Los Angeles singer-songwriter Jackie Cohen has been making data for half a decade, releasing her first solo EP, Tacoma Night time Terror, Pt. 1: I’ve Obtained the Blues, in 2018. A local of the San Fernando Valley, Cohen moved to New York to check literature and inventive writing at Marymount Manhattan School, utilizing the poetry she had been writing in lessons to experiment with songwriting. Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado and the Lemon Twigs’ Brian and Michael D’Addario co-produced her debut EP, which was then paired with the Tacoma Night time Terror Half 2: Self​-​Fulfilling Elegy EP a couple of months later. One other full-length, the playful and vibrant Zagg, arrived the next yr on Spacebomb Information.

After finishing her tour in assist of Zagg, like many people at the beginning of the pandemic, Cohen discovered herself in a precarious scenario. She was going by what she describes as a “horrible private disaster,” and with no technique to combat the ache, noticed no selection however to disguise and crawl into it. With out the backing of a label, she began engaged on a batch of songs with no expectation that they’d ever see the sunshine of day. She ended up recording her third report, titled Pratfall and launched right this moment through Earth Libraries, with simply two collaborators, her husband Rado and engineer Rias Reed, between October 2020 and January 2021 at Sonora Recorders. The result’s an album directly haunted and bewitching, stuffed with lush instrumentation and violent imagery that Cohen dives proper into, permitting herself to be spiteful and irreverent and longing and harm. “If I take advantage of my eyes/ I’d acknowledge a bridge that’s been burnt,” she sings on ‘Some Days’, however in that second, all she will be able to do is stare on the flames.

We caught up with Jackie Cohen for this version of our Artist Highlight interview collection to speak about rising up within the San Fernando Valley, the method of creating Pratfall, the title of the album, and extra.

How are you feeling with the discharge of the album arising?

I’m actually nervous, actually. I’m nervous otherwise than I’ve ever been earlier than, placing music out. It’s been three years, and it feels actually unusual coming again. I believe lots of people have been feeling that manner, like there’s this big hole, and also you don’t actually know what occurred. Earlier than the pandemic began, I used to be kind of in excessive gear, issues had simply began rolling for me. And I used to be type of deciding, “What’s subsequent? I’ve been touring my ass off for a yr and a half, the place will we go from right here?” After which the whole lot simply stopped. And attempting to select again up a pair years later, and far more mentally ailing [laughs], feels actually bizarre and I don’t actually know what to anticipate or the best way to really feel about it. However I’m excited to lastly be getting this report out, as a result of once I was making it, I used to be like, “Hell yeah, that is one of the best report I’ve made.” And so it’s this actually bizarre feeling of, I’m very excited to share these songs, however I’m additionally actually petrified of placing it out.

The studio the place you recorded Pratfall was only a 30-minute drive from the San Fernando Valley, the place you grew up. Across the time you had been making the album, and particularly while you wrote ‘The Valley’, had you already been reflecting in your upbringing?

I believe the explanation why I felt compelled to put in writing that music at the moment was as a result of I used to be instantly caught at residence for the primary time in a few years. I grew up within the Valley, I went to highschool straight away in New York, and earlier than I used to be achieved graduating, I’d already began touring. After I left New York, I did technically transfer again to the Valley, however it was extra of a crash pad than a house expertise. I used to be touring a lot for thus a few years, and there have been at all times like 9 dudes sleeping on the ground, and there was a studio within the yard. And so we’d go for a pair months after which come again for a month, possibly I might get a vacation job or one thing, after which we’d be gone once more. And it wasn’t actually till the pandemic began that I needed to sit round and be at residence, in my hometown, for an prolonged time period, and contemplate the likelihood that I could also be there for some time.

Proper earlier than it had began, I took a job at a bakery proper across the nook from the place my dad and mom stay, and I labored there for a few months. And I used to be attempting to determine what my subsequent strikes had been. I had these delusions of turning into a baker, I believed I used to be going to go study to be a baker at this bakery. However actually, all they let me do was make espresso and work the money register. My dad and mom would present up and fake to be nameless clients, simply once they had been bored. [laughs] So I went from by no means stopping, being in fixed movement on a regular basis, we had been forwards and backwards internationally so many instances in simply a few years, after which instantly I needed to cease and be very nonetheless for a very long time. It was kind of the primary time I finished and considered the place I got here from.

You utilize the phrase “residence expertise.” Would you say you’re nearer to understanding what which means for you?

I positively perceive much more about myself than I believe I believed I did. Not everybody feels this manner, in all probability, however I believe lots of people suppose that they did job of, like, not turning into their dad and mom, or one way or the other you escaped the generational curse or no matter, the tradition that you just’re attempting to get away from while you’re actually younger. A bunch of issues occurred over the previous couple of years in my life, and I began remedy, like many have. And you discover out that you just’re like 99% made up of all of the stuff you thought you’d averted. You didn’t escape it, you didn’t keep away from it. You’ve made all your selections all through your complete life from a mindset that developed in your childhood residence. So this yr has been a extremely large yr for me coming to phrases with the truth that all of my selections didn’t come from the place I believed they had been coming from. [laughs] I didn’t outsmart my genes. I didn’t outsmart my childhood.

Given the fictional nature of a whole lot of your lyrics, was it daunting to talk so instantly out of your expertise on ‘The Valley’?

All of my songs are somewhat bit fictional and somewhat bit nonfictional. Not the whole lot that I write is totally confessional, however it’s all based mostly in actual emotions and actual experiences, typically an amalgamated expertise of many issues that kind of add as much as an emotion that’s true. For this music, it’s not veiled in any respect, and I used to be legitimately scared to put in writing a few of it. I kind of requested my sister permission to make use of among the verbiage that I used, as a result of a few of it’s direct quotes. And I felt actually petrified of placing it out or displaying my dad and mom – my dad and mom at all times have one thing to say about no matter it’s I’m doing, they at all times provide me their opinion. And I used to be actually afraid of offending the household, although it’s a young music. I don’t suppose that I’m being imply, however I nonetheless felt bizarre about instantly addressing my sister and my dad and mom. However everybody actually preferred it. My sister thought it was actually humorous to speak about, , the household nostril job tradition. And my dad despatched me a protracted textual content after the music got here out – my dad’s actually humorous, he texts in lengthy paragraphs, and he wrote this good message about how he thought it was good poetry or one thing. And I used to be like, “Okay, phew. I’m not exiled. Every part is gonna be tremendous.” [laughs]

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The road that I really feel like sums up all of it’s, “The entire thing makes me dizzy.” At that time, it feels such as you’re undecided if that complete factor is the previous coming again to hang-out you or the uncertainty of the longer term, or if it’s the current.

It’s actually stunning generally while you notice the way you’ve obtained a physique half in so many alternative closing dates in your life. Individuals are at all times speaking about being current, it’s such as you discover your peace by centering and turning into current within the current second. However I don’t know, I really feel like I’ve obtained my foot caught in an elevator previously, after which I’m additionally simply hooked up to some years in the past. That’s how folks really feel issues and take into consideration issues. It’s not linear. And it may be actually annoying, to really feel your complete life abruptly. Nevertheless it’s additionally type of necessary to do it in some unspecified time in the future.

It’s not stunning to me that that’s one of many extra collaborative songs on the album. All of the totally different artists that you just introduced in – Natalie Mering of Weyes Blood, Shaun Fleming, and Marly Ludwig, who directed the video – are additionally from the Valley. I’m curious when you spent any time speaking about your expertise collectively.

The factor about folks from the Valley is that we by no means shut up concerning the Valley. [laughs] We’re all utterly obsessive about speaking concerning the Valley and being from the Valley. It’s such a bizarre little city, it’s an odd space. And it’s proper beneath Los Angeles, so we’re additionally actually defensive of the Valley, as a result of youngsters who’re from LA correct hate the valley, just like the Valley’s uncool or no matter. Valley youngsters are like, “Completely not, LA is horrible. We love the Valley.” And we spend all of our time speaking about, like, little eating places and frozen yoghurt retailers that we’re undecided in the event that they existed or not, however like, “No, we each do not forget that, that was actual.” And, “There’s a little restaurant that additionally had open mics, did you ever go?” “Yeah, completely, I keep in mind occurring the weekends after soccer apply” or no matter. We love our landmarks. We love the expertise of rising up in that bizarre little bubble. It appears virtually old-fashioned. Every part within the Valley feels fairly unchanged. And so, getting all of these Valley youngsters in a room collectively to only discuss, like, a park that all of us went to and doubtless ran into one another in some unspecified time in the future earlier than we knew one another. It’s very nice to know some individuals who keep in mind these issues.

I believe that the one motive why I’m even in music to start with is as a result of I like having neighborhood round me. I’ve been advised a couple of instances, like, “Possibly it is best to simply work at a summer time camp if that’s actually all you’re after, you simply need to be surrounded by your mates.” [laughs] However I believe that as a result of the whole lot has kind of been like a summer time camp expertise for me, I believe it’s made my data actually enjoyable.

Talking of collaboration, I like that Peanut is credited with “rhythmic bark barks” on the title monitor.

[laughs] It’s so cute. We had been at this studio – Peanut’s really proper right here – and she or he was only a pet, just a bit child woman. She was so small once we obtained her, I might carry her round in a tote bag. And he or she got here to the studio on daily basis. She’s within the background of so many indie rock data that got here out of that studio, it’s loopy. And there was this large parking zone exterior, gated off, and it was proper off of a significant Boulevard in Los Feliz, so there’s at all times folks strolling by and vehicles and a whole lot of commotion. And he or she’d go on the market and bark, she’d simply be dropping her thoughts. And we couldn’t catch her, she was going by her rebellious pet section. We spent hours and hours over the course of this report simply the three of us triangulating her within the parking zone, attempting to catch her as a result of she would simply be on the market barking her head off. And I believe it’s so humorous that on that music, we didn’t have to control the barking in any respect. She was barking completely in time. And I really feel like like once I inform folks that, there’s somewhat little bit of eyebrow-raising, like, “Actually, you didn’t shift it in any respect?” No, she was singing alongside. [laughs] She’s gifted.

I imply, she’s been within the background of so many indie rock data.

I do know. She would stand on the board and journey the faders, ? She’s an indie rock canine.

I imagine you, I’m not going to query that additional. What obtained you interested by the title of the album, Pratfall?

I believe I made a decision on the title after I wrote the music ‘Pratfall’. I take advantage of that time period in a lyric. And once I wrote that music, I type of realized that that had been the theme of my life throughout that point, was simply attempting to discover ways to fall down gracefully, or in a manner that will not utterly break my physique. I went by a few years the place I did take a reasonably gnarly fall in my life, and I didn’t really need anybody to know. I didn’t need to be perceived as being injured or tousled or of getting made a mistake. Pratfall means a whole lot of various things, however for me, at that second, it type of simply meant attempting to make a foul fall look intentional, so that folks don’t panic. As a result of folks get actually upset and nervous once they see somebody get harm. And it’s at all times kind of been my position in my life, to be an individual that retains it collectively for everyone. And once I couldn’t do this anymore, I spent a whole lot of time simply kind of limping round, attempting to behave like nothing had occurred.

I additionally wished to make one thing good out of it. I used to be attempting to work by it by making the report. And so, I had this concept of like, “Yeah, I fell down on my ass actually onerous, however I’m gonna make it look good.” And that was kind of the thesis of the report, like, “Ow, however ta-dah!” So it labored in some methods, and in different methods it didn’t work. In different methods, I simply didn’t are likely to a extremely large boo-boo for some time. [laughs]

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There’s a comedic facet to the pratfall, and within the context of this metaphor, it makes me take into consideration how a whole lot of instances, when while you’re going by that fall, there’s an urge to type of snigger it off. To make it seem to be a joke, which isn’t wholesome. However the reduction from the precise rise may also really feel humorous in , cathartic manner.

Yeah, generally one thing is simply so tousled that it turns into hilarious. There’s typically comedy and tragedy. I’ve at all times achieved my greatest to be foolish or humorous concerning the issues which can be annoying in my my life. I at all times attempt to snigger it off. And it’s humorous as a result of the pratfall is sort of a slapstick time period, and what was occurring in my life, it did really feel like slapstick. [laughs] It felt ridiculous. It’s like the complete world had simply changed into a farce. And I believe that these are additionally my least humorous lyrics. For a very long time, in my different data, I really feel like I’ve at all times been kind of jokey, foolish about it, and I believe that I did conceal behind humour a whole lot of the time. And it’s humorous as a result of on this one, I used to be simply laughing on the ridiculousness of it the complete time, however the lyrics aren’t very humorous. There’s, like, one humorous lyric.

However there’s something about the way in which you type of ship the lyrics vocally that always brings a type of playfulness, virtually a wickedness to it. Since you’ve mentioned that a whole lot of your songwriting is lyric-focused by way of the method, I’m curious the way you went about mapping out among the extra animated vocal performances on the album, particularly on a music like ‘Two Days’.

‘Two Days’ particularly is a humorous instance, as a result of that’s a scratch vocal. It’s the one scratch vocal on the report, and it’s the primary music that we recorded. I had spent probably the most time plunking that one out on piano, and I performed it probably the most quantity of instances, as a result of I had written it fairly early on within the course of. That one particularly has an attention-grabbing power, as a result of I wasn’t anticipating it to be a remaining vocal. I used to be simply laying down a layer in order that we might construct round it. I keep in mind I used to be sitting on the sofa, and Peanut had simply had simply been spayed. She’s a delicate little pet and she or he was sore, and I used to be sitting on the sofa and type of icing her tummy. Rado got here and arrange a mic so I might sit down on the sofa and maintain her and be icing her, and we simply laid it down actually fast. I believe as a result of I wasn’t actually interested by all of it that a lot, I used to be simply singing the music, we by no means obtained a greater take of it. We tried a few instances, and once I began interested by it an excessive amount of, I couldn’t ship it once more.

What I used to be attempting to do for a lot of the report was sing the songs true to coronary heart, how I imagined saying them. So I believe that they’re animated in kind of the identical manner that I speak, and the way in which that I speak is like, I speak with my palms and I speak with a whole lot of have an effect on. After I would go into the studio, I might heat up in my automotive on the drive there, and I often had like a 15 or 20-minute drive. And I might hearken to Judy Garland or Barbra Streisand and sing alongside. I like Humorous Lady. I believe that Barbra Streisand in Humorous Lady in all probability has probably the most musical affect on me of something. [laughs] She’s so foolish and goofy, and I like that phrase you used, depraved. And I used to be additionally listening to a whole lot of Kate Bush and Tori Amos.

I believe that each one the songs on this report, I’m very a lot speaking to somebody. And so my vocal performances aren’t tremendous vibey, it’s not vibey music. In a manner it’s very conversational, and it’s additionally somewhat bit – I don’t just like the phrase theatrical, however I like singers who’re attempting to speak a sense and a narrative by the efficiency. I had a whole lot of emotions occurring once I was making this sucker, and I used to be indignant. There’s a whole lot of anger on this report, and the anger comes paired with somewhat little bit of comedy.

It feels conversational, however it’s additionally confrontational at instances.

It’s a extremely confrontational report. [laughs]

‘Ghost Story’ involves thoughts, particularly the road, “He tells me I’m a instructor, I inform him he’s a fraud.” Are you able to discuss how that music took place?

[dog barks] Hey, Peach, no barking. That’s my different canine – she’s confrontational. So, ‘Ghost Story’ is the primary music I wrote for the report. I wrote it in December of 2019, and I wasn’t even actually writing for a report but. The report is all about this time interval that started in 2019, the place my life began breaking down somewhat bit – nicely, not somewhat bit, rather a lot, in a whole lot of other ways. And I virtually really feel like I wrote that music type of subconsciously, as a result of it makes much more sense to me now than it did once I wrote it. I used to be going by one thing the place I type of knew that I used to be in a foul scenario, however wasn’t actually able to admit it. Nevertheless it’s a bizarre second the place one thing dangerous occurs, I do know that that occurred, however I’m nonetheless in shock and disbelief and I’m simply going to put in writing that off as as a mistake. It doesn’t match the remainder of the story, so I’m simply going to set it apart.

Over time, it’s turn into actually clear to me that I understood extra about what was occurring in my life than I used to be able to admit once I was writing the songs. A few of these lyrics, it virtually appears like me screaming at me to hearken to the content material of these lyrics, and to take observe and react. As a result of I used to be writing these songs which can be deeply confrontational, and there’s a whole lot of grief and sorrow and shock and harm. The report is actually a report about betrayal and grief and mourning, and I didn’t actually know that till manner after the report was achieved.

Was there a selected second the place you felt that, the burden of the autumn and all these feelings?

I believe that it felt the heaviest when it was completed, and I didn’t really feel higher. There’s additionally a whole lot of pleading or bargaining occurring within the report. I really feel like a whole lot of the lyrics, I’m attempting to make somebody perceive. And I believe that I had all these excessive hopes for this report, like, That is how I turn into understood. And as soon as I’ve defined myself, as soon as I’ve mentioned what I must say, and I’m gonna say it fantastically, and in an attention-grabbing manner, and with probably the most attention-grabbing preparations I’ve ever made – like, look, I’m going to develop as an artist, and I’m going to develop as an individual, and it’s going to be such a strong assertion, the whole lot goes to really feel higher and the whole lot will likely be healed and again on monitor, and it’s gonna proper the ship.

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And it didn’t. I made this report to repair my life in a whole lot of methods, and it didn’t repair my life. I prefer it. [laughs] I believe it’s report. However I completed it in January of 2021, the whole lot was mentioned and achieved, and I used to be proud of it. I listened to it 1,000,000 instances, I shared it with lots of people and all people preferred it. And my life didn’t – nothing occurred. And that’s when it felt the heaviest. I had been driving on this concept that ending this report was going to place the whole lot again in place. And I noticed it was going to take much more work and introspection than that to get there.

Music can’t do this, irrespective of how passionate you’re about it.

Nicely, I believe my intentions had been simply type of deluded. You possibly can positively do a whole lot of therapeutic in your self by music. It’s top-of-the-line therapeutic instruments we have now, making music and expressing your self. However you’ll be able to’t change issues that occurred. You possibly can’t change the previous. You possibly can’t make another person perceive you. In case you’re gonna heal, it needs to be between you and also you. You possibly can’t depend on any person understanding what you’re saying and that’s going to repair the whole lot. And I believe that I actually didn’t perceive that. So, now all I do all day is get sq. with me. It’s so significantly better than attempting to get sq. with the universe.

Trying again on the method of creating the album, what are you most pleased with your self for?

I’m actually pleased with making this report although I used to be pretty satisfied I used to be by no means going to launch music once more. After I completed all that touring, my marketing campaign for my final report was positively wrapped up. I didn’t know what was going to occur subsequent. My life was kind of falling aside in a bizarre manner and it was actually complicated. And I used to be working at that bakery and my dad and mom had been coming in to say, “Hi there, miss!” [laughs] And I needed to make a whole lot of selections about my life actually shortly. After which the pandemic began, I’d made all these selections and instantly the world froze. After which a few months later, I obtained dropped my by my label. There’s like an entire different report of demos that I made early pandemic that I don’t know if I’ll ever do something with them – I don’t even know in the event that they’re any good. I had made all of those selections that had been fairly onerous to take a seat with in frozen time.

I used to be dropped by label, nobody was going to ask me to make music once more. I believed that my profession was over, however I stored writing all of the songs as a result of I didn’t know what else to do. I used to be trapped in my home with my piano and nothing else. I spent a whole lot of the pandemic utterly alone, and I wrote all these songs by fall 2020, once I determined, “Hey, I believe I need to make this report.” And Rado mentioned, “Yeah, let’s report it.” I believe that the explanation why I preferred this report a lot is as a result of I made it for no one. I didn’t suppose it was going to come back out. I didn’t suppose anyone was going to listen to it. I made it utterly to style. I like this report as a result of I made it with out the strain of wanting another person to love it. And I’m actually glad that I did that, as a result of it’s the primary time I’ve ever felt like that is precisely how I wished it to sound.

Rado performs virtually each instrument on the report, however a whole lot of the preparations, I might sit on the ground by his ft with headphones on and he’d have headphones and we’d speak by it. And I’d inform him, like, “Bear in mind this reference? Can we play it once more, however with that in thoughts?” And we’d simply work out each little piece of it till it made me like snigger or smile. Each single a part of the report is one thing that I like. So, I believe I’m pleased with myself for pouring a lot love into one thing that I didn’t suppose was ever going to come back out. It was simply to make it.

Are you able to share one factor that evokes you about Rado, and in addition one thing that you just suppose he finds inspiring about you?

I’ve been working with Rado and in addition watching him make data for different folks for 1,000,000 years now, and I believe that he legitimately works from a spot of desirous to make folks’s goals come true. There are a whole lot of producers on the market who folks go to as a result of they do a sure factor, they’ve a sure sound, they’ve sure gear or methods that they do, and also you go there since you need them to try this factor to your music. Rado is likely one of the solely producers that I do know who desires to see your concept right through. Which is basically particular for somebody like me, who got here in utterly untrained, virtually no expertise. I didn’t choose up a guitar till I used to be 20. However I preferred writing, I used to be an English main and I’ve been a poetry main. And Rado is the one particular person I’ve ever labored with who didn’t have this power of like, “You don’t know what you’re doing, however I do. So I’m going to provide you with all these concepts and I’m going to show your lyrics into music.” He’s at all times had this manner of respecting and carving out the imaginative and prescient with me, as a substitute of imposing his personal imaginative and prescient upon it. And likewise, I like his visions. I believe he’s one of the crucial playful musicians and writers that I’ve ever met.

I believe that what he likes about working with me is that I’m not primarily a musician. And so, the whole lot is type of new and thrilling and enjoyable for me. And. I don’t know what I’m doing. [laughs] I imply, I say that now, I’ve been saying that for like 5 years, and I’ve been making my very own data for 5 years. So, yeah, I do know somewhat bit extra about what I’m doing now. However, like, I didn’t go to music college. And I believe it’s enjoyable for him to work with somebody who has concepts that don’t essentially conform to songwriting kind on a regular basis. I believe that once we collaborate, it does have a singular factor.

This interview has been edited and condensed for readability and size.

Jackie Cohen’s Pratfall is out now through Earth Libraries.



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