UNLOCKED: A conversation with Abi Reimold about creativity, context and ambition

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Abi Reimold | photo by Haley Richter | haleyrichterphoto.com | courtesy of the artist
Abi Reimold | photo by Haley Richter | haleyrichterphoto.com | courtesy of the artist

When I first talked with Abi Reimold back in the fall about her forthcoming debut LP, she wasn’t quite sure how it was going to make its way into the world. She was talking shopping it around, she was talking self-release. She just knew that, since writing and recording on it began in 2014, she wanted to get it in people’s ears sooner rather than later.

What came as a surprise was the reception: being named an Artist to Watch by Stereogum, being featured in The Fader, being picked up by an emerging Hudson Valley record label, Sad Cactus.

“I’m just so blown away and so hashtag-blessed to have these people pay attention to me,” Reimold says with a laugh. “I feel like James [Rettig] from Stereogum and Leah [Mandel] from The Fader, we connected personally and they were very sincere and encouraging. I’m just blown away by everything.”

With the fantastic new album Wriggling out now (get your copy here) and some serious activity planned for the winter and spring – including a headlining album release party at Johnny Brenda’s – I sat down with Reimold to have a conversation about her background, her process and her goals.

The Key: I remember hearing late last year that you were going to self-release this album. Now it’s coming out on Sad Cactus. How did that come together?

Abi Reimold: I was preparing to self release it and in January I came up with a whole plan. I wanted to put out the different elements – the songs, the video – spaced out. And then I decided to piggyback off of Mumblr and some of the attention they got, since they were highly involved in my project.

One of the guys that I emailed used to be a staff writer at Impose and had written about Mumblr before. Everyone I emailed I researched, like stalked them a little bit on the internet to see if there’s different types of things I should say to them or to see if we had a mutual friend I could reference or something. And then it happened that this guy, Nicolo Porcello, had this cool record label. I was like, “Oh, you have this label, maybe you will like my record.” And he really loved it and was really supportive so it was very serendipitous.

I was so ready to release the record in January, I had pitched it to a couple labels…but it would have taken another six months at the very least. I’m just very thankful that Sad Cactus was at a level that they were able to work with my release dates and keep up the rate that I’m trying to go right now.

TK: So is it a tape label? Or do they do CD and vinyl and everything?

AR: They are a tape label in the sense that they have a whole setup in wherever they live, I guess they live in a house. I haven’t met them yet, I’m meeting one of them on Friday, I’m really excited. [laughs]. They do all the tapes themselves, they like burn the tapes, is that what you call it?

TK: I actually don’t know what it’s called for tapes. [laughs]

AR: They print out all the labels themselves and that might make them a tape label, but they also put out vinyl and CDs. We’re just doing tapes and CDs for this release for right now. … I feel like Wriggling is a weird album to have on vinyl. It would definitely make sense, but it’s so dynamic that I feel like it’s a record that you would listen to alone in the car or something like that. Not like, “Oh, I’m hanging out with my friends, let me put on this crazy weird-ass record”. [laughs] I don’t know how most people listen to vinyl, it’s hard to say.

TK: What came first for you: photography or music?

AR: Probably music. My parents bought me a guitar when I was 12 because I wanted to be Avril Lavigne when I grew up. [laughs] And then I got my first camera when I was in high school. So music probably came first.

TK: You grew up in Havertown?

AR: Yeah.I think there’s some weird thing in the water, in Havertown. Yeah, and my friends Alex (Giannascoli) and Emily (Yacina) went there, and they are both incredible, talented, amazing, mind-blowing songwriters. I don’t know what is going on in Havertown, but all my favorite artists are from there.

TK: When did you transition to writing your own songs?

AR: I forget when it happened, but I might have been writing songs before I got that guitar. I was supposed to take piano lessons but I didn’t feel like reading music, so I would just write other shit. And then one winter, my mom’s best friend’s daughter was in a car accident. She was like five years old. I was really impacted by that, and I wrote a song for her. That was the first song I remember writing.

TK: But you didn’t start releasing your music until a few years ago, correct?

AR: It wasn’t until I started working with Scott [Stitzer] that I was like, “Wow, this person can handle me.” He understands what I’m trying to say and working with him is easy. Especially when I started recording, I didn’t know much about music. I worked with producers that were like, “How do you not know about music? If you’re not suggesting something it must not mean that you don’t want it.” But I think working with Scott, he really understands me and helps me make this shit actually happen. And also being in school, that really hurt trying to play music. Now that I’m done school, I have more time to focus on it.

TK: Which is guess is also true of performing. And I’ve seen you perform several different ways: just you and an electric guitar, you and a band configuration, and you with the looper. Is there one of those that you prefer over the other?

AR: I definitely love the looping and the band. Dynamics are really important to me as a musician and a consumer of music. I try to not let my audience get bored. I go to so many rock shows, I know what it’s like. Whether I play with a band or solo and whether or not it’s successful is dependent on the audience and what venue it is. The band will go over better at a bar, solo will go over better in a living room situation. I just want to try to be contextual with whatever area I need to play in.

TK: Tell me about the different people who play in your band: the guys from Mumblr, Kevin from Roof Doctor, Dan from Friendship. How did you get connected with them and what’s it like working with them?

AR: When I met Mumblr, we just got close instantly. They are really honest, beautiful people that encourage each other to be themselves and be true to themselves, which was really inspiring to me. And they’re really fun. [laugs] Scott did my record and while he’s still getting his chops as far as figuring out how to record music, mentally his game is so far above everyone else. When a lot of producers record, it’s like “This is your band, I think it should sound like this. Let’s do this, I know what guitar tone to use. I’m gonna create this product.” When Scott produces an artist he’s like, “Who are you, what are your songs about, what are you trying to say? Let me help you express yourself.” Not like, “Let me sound like hot shit on your record because I produced it.” I think that humble approach is really beautiful and blends well with all the artists that he records.

TK: And the Friendship guys?

AR: I’m super honored that they’re in to me as a person, their group is some of the most honest and kind humans I’ve ever met with so much beautiful and thoughtful character and I’m so flattered that they think I’m nice enough to hang out with sometimes. Tour with them was great.

TK: In a way, I think this is a really good time of year to put a record out. You really have the whole year to figure out what you are going to do with the record. What are your plans moving forward?

AR: Well, I’m starting to record my next record next week that I’m really excited about.

TK: Damn.

AR: And hopefully that will be ready to go in the fall. I don’t know when I’ll ever put it out but we’ll figure that out later. [laughs] And I’m planning a couple tours. I have two DIY tours, one next month and one in March which are shorter ones, and then I’m trying to do something longer in July, like a solo tour, and then I’m trying to do a full band college tour in September with Kevin and probably a different lineup. We’ll see what happens.

Wriggling is the featured album in this edition of Unlocked; listen to the track “Machine” in Monday’s post, read Tuesday’s album review, watch a video documentary in yesterday’s post and check back tomorrow for a playlist from Reimold. 

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