Catching Up With Caroline Polachek

The singer-songwriter returns to L.A. tonight at the Shrine Auditorium

Caroline Polachek has established herself as one of the most intriguing artists of the moment, even if that moment includes fans declaring that she is “this generation’s Kate Bush.” To which the honored but annoyed singer-songwriter retorted on Twitter: “SHE is our generation’s Kate Bush…I, meanwhile, am this generation’s Caroline Polachek.”

Two months ago, the veteran of the buzzy synth-pop outfit Chairlift released her sophomore album Desire, I Want To Turn Into You. Now, Polachek bringing those fresh tunes to Shrine Auditorium tonight, to a venue that has also hosted the likes of Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, and, more recently, Maggie Rogers.

As for being able to add her own name on that list, Polachek tells LAMag “It’s one of those things that doesn’t really feel real until after it happens.”

LAMag: Welcome back to L.A. Your new record has been out for about two months. How do you feel about it now that it has been in the public’s hands for a bit?

We started touring this album a couple of days before it came out and it’s been so amazing to watch the change that happens within the crowds that come to the shows as people get to know the nuances of the album. It’s such a thrill to feel this deep link with the audience and that we’ve all spent time in these places at the songs.

I always envision an album launch as a moment of mass anxiety before pressing a big red button at 12 a.m. and releasing it to the world. How was it for you?

It was so incredibly stressful. Mostly because I worked on this album up until the last minute. The process of putting together this tour and designing the stage show was also coupled with me running off into a studio for half the day to actually finish the album at the same time. I was doing 16-hour days this one week and was so anxious, but everything came together so well.

Are there any songs on the record that took an amount of perfectionism to write?

First of all, I don’t know what the difference is between perfectionism and making good work. Right? I think perfectionism is sort of a pejorative term used by people who don’t make music but ultimately, yes, some things just require more time—some cakes have to sit down longer.

But the song that probably took the longest on this album to come together was probably “Billions,” which ironically, was released quite early in the process. Formally, it is really unconventional; there are two choruses and eight verses and my voice completely disappears by the end of the song to be replaced by a children’s choir.

I think when you’re operating so far outside the boundaries of typical structures, there really is no roadmap. It requires so much experimentation and also listening to your gut on things.

The last time I saw you live was at This Ain’t No Picnic in Pasadena. How does it feel to be back performing in Los Angeles? 

That was such a special festival—I’ll never forget that day. Shout out to everyone who was there at This Ain’t No Picnic last year. I am so excited to go be back in L.A. not only because so many of my teammates on both the production and the visuals of this album are there but also because my last actual headline performance in the city was so life-changing.

It was my first show back after the pandemic at the Greek Theatre and I was fucking terrified because I’ve never played a show that big or anywhere close to it. It was such an emotional explosion of a night and I’ll never forget it.

I have a lot of anticipation for this being my next and actually, only L.A. headline show that I will do on this album. Yeah, a lot of giddy fluttery butterflies around it.

You performed in 2020 at Amoeba Music in Hollywood. Would you ever consider doing an intimate pop-up show like that again? 

God Bless Amoeba Music—that was a really special show. It was packed all the way to the back; I did a bunch of songs on the piano and it was very touching. I would love to do it again.

Are there any guilty pleasure spots in L.A. that you just have to hit when you’re in the city?

I love Clark Street Diner—formerly Café 101—I’m always there and the only thing that makes it guilty is that I do order the Huevos at any hour of the day. I also Love Wi Spa even though there’s nothing guilty about that!

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