meg elsier Conveys Existentialism On Ethereal Debut Album ‘spittake’

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Today, Nashville-based indie-rock songstress meg elsier has released her debut album spittake. Along with the album’s release, elsier has announced that she will support Finom on their upcoming North American tour this fall.

As she brings together dreamy vocals with grunge-infused, spacey guitars, elsier is proving in her debut record that she is an unprecedented force within the independent rock world. Having created an ethereal shoegaze sound within her work, elsier’s artistry is grounded by relatable lyrics and a heavy-weight musicality. On spittake, listeners will find elsier toying with dark humor as she searches for her identity while adamantly stating that none of us are real anyway. We never have been and we never will be. Through this nihilistic positivity, elsier has made a powerful statement for modern music, despite this being her first time releasing music. As she has overcome these struggles of entering the music industry, elsier has risen above the challenge and delivered an album that is hard-hitting, charming and wickedly intelligent.

Thank you for taking the time today! I was reading a bit about your musical influences and you’ve mentioned The Beatles, Broadway tunes and Queen as very big ones, but who are your favorite artists or who are your biggest influences for your music?
For my music, I don’t know! It shifts a lot. People will ask what type of music will influence the album, and what type of music will influence me. And they’re so different for me. What influenced the album is what I listened to, but it wasn’t a big factor. I don’t really know. As of right now I’ve been really digging Hole. I’ve been digging really pretty voices that are learning to yell. That’s what I’m attempting. That’s just inspiring, and the vibe for me right now is just showing your emotions vocally and not having it be pretty.

Going off of musical influences, I also wanted to ask about visual influences. Because you do have a very unique aesthetic. Who or what inspires your visuals or aesthetics?
So much of it is Jacqueline Justice, who essentially made every photo we’ve done and the majority of the videos. She’s my best friend. We collaborate so incredibly well and we have similar tastes. Aesthetics and styling are just really important to us. For artists though, it’s the girlie pops making their own visuals, like Caroline Polachek, Sophie, women who also produce and who are just in charge of fucking everything. Because it’s just another aspect I get to control and that I like to control. I think it’s easier to feel more confident if you’re a character, and I feel like I just dress up and then I get a little boost.

You mentioned being a character or dressing up and almost becoming your artist persona. Your Spotify bio also says “meg elsier is not real, was never real, will never be real.” It’s very existential, but does the concept of meg elsier being a character tie into that?
The reason why I did that is because I wrote “iznotreal” and I was like, I’m not real. It just was that feeling of when you spiral and you’re like, I’m not real. I’ll never be real. None of this is. That song specifically was really rooted in such a disassociated episode of life. So I think it was more bitter than sad, but it was just like, none of this matters, and I’m going to be pouty about it and not space any of my song titles out and that’s what it’s going to be. But it hits for me still. This meg elsier isn’t real and they’ll never be real.

It’s kind of existential, but you seem to add a positive note to it.
It flips on and off. It’s not faking it till you make it, but I’m like, it’s so depressing that it’s hilarious that will then turn into being like actually, it’s beautiful. So it is that weird cyclical ‘I don’t know how I feel about it, but right it’s true.’

For sure! I did of course want to ask about additional music as well, especially your debut album spittake coming out soon. Congratulations on that! What was generally on your mind as you were making the album?
I would say the writing of the album, besides a few songs and the making of the album, was two different mentalities. Something happens and then I either write about it or I can’t. I don’t have too much control over it. I just remember being scared the whole time until it got really easy suddenly. I brought the majority of these songs to my producer Ryan McFadden, who was a good friend to begin with. I had lightly worked with other people but got turned off by it. It’s not everyone’s fault, but a lot of producers want to produce, and I needed someone to hear me a little bit more, I think. So Ryan was such a good match because his goal was to make it sound like me and that’s it. You don’t realize the help you need to make it sound like yourself. I couldn’t do it by myself. I did need to add people into the playing field. But it was nice having a safe space to bring the music to someone who had really good ideas and wanted to keep it open. And then our sonic references were all over the place. I wasn’t listening to any music with lyrics at the time because I was being bitter and annoying. Any voice made me jealous. I listened to a lot of film scores and sci-fi shit, and Ryan has never seen one God damn movie in his life. So sonic references didn’t really match but our intention was really good going in.

That’s a sign of a really great producer, someone who will find your sound instead of turning it into something else.
I think that was the main goal. Because I liked some music that I made before, like the demos I made. But I just knew it wasn’t me in a way that I’m like, I can play this in 10 years and feel good about it. But as of right now, it just really reflects me and it was nice to have someone who was on the same page.

Earlier you said you felt very nervous throughout the entire process of making the album. Was it because of the production side or was it because of what you were writing about?
It was more recording and learning to work with people. Because even before recording I had barely played with a band. I was very comfortable with me and a guitar and I would have my friends sing background. That felt safe, and I knew I sounded pretty in that, and I knew that nobody could judge it because it was so basic and I wasn’t so vulnerable. When you bring people in, that in and of itself was scary. I was just super nervous to work with people who know their instruments better than me and I need to tell them what part to play. With subject matter I would say the only song that I really felt nervous about was “spittake.” I was nervous because we didn’t know what was going to end up with that, and I already wanted it to be called spittake. And that was a song that may not have been there. I was like, I don’t know what we do there. And then “saturdaymorning,” because it’s the most vulnerable. That’s the song that means the most to me and that I would be the most afraid if anyone listened to. And to be honest, no one else was on it but me. But it still was letting people in that realm that was scary. But it’s not so scary anymore. Well, it is, but it’s fun now.

That leads into my next question — now that you’re done with the album, how are you feeling about it?
I have no fucking clue! I think I’m really excited. This whole experience was my first time releasing music in general, so it was a lot of big steps and adrenaline rushes where I was like, this is it. This is the first time anyone’s going to see. And then I kept releasing singles and just felt more confident. The more I did it, the less I cared about the reception and the more I was just really happy for people to be able to hear it. Because I think if people are going to like it, they’re going to like it. And if people don’t, I can’t do anything about that. So I think now I’m just excited for it to be off my chest and to actually be able to play some of the songs that we haven’t really played live. That’ll be exciting. I’m stoked for that.

You mentioned “spittake,” the title track, earlier. You really wanted the album title to be “spittake,” so what was the story behind that song? What came first – the song or the album title?
It’s kind of both. If I can remember my timeline correctly, the “spittake” that we hear on the album is like a minute long, and that is the demo that I made by myself with the shower running and my cat meowing. I just came up with this idea that was a minute long and I couldn’t write more than that. Normally, if I’m going to finish it, I’ll finish it. And I just couldn’t. Then I brought it to Ryan and he was like, maybe we should try to write out the rest of the song and record it. So we did, and it was great. But it didn’t feel right. So, I guess spittake just made sense to be the name because a lot of it is kind of like a bad joke. The album is that dark humor, and I love that concept. I thought it was so fun. We almost scrapped it completely until we were like, what if we just put the one-minute demo and introduced it? Because the first line is, “It’s all my lies but I’m telling the truth.” So you already have no idea what’s going on. So we ended up going through a whole thing about it and ending up right where we started. And that being the right move was like, maybe there was a reason I couldn’t write more than a minute of it. Because it didn’t need to be.

Even just that one line you said, “It’s all my lies, but I’m telling the truth.” That kind of ties into what we were talking about at the beginning and that back and forth between positive and negative. Without giving too much away, what does this mean for the overall album? Are all the songs lies? Are they all truth?
It’s a really great introduction. It’s kind of like meeting people, you know? When you’re meeting someone and you give little white lies, you’re acting more confident than you normally would, you’re being more bubbly with certain people and you’re not knowing what your identity is so you’re kind of trying on all these things. And doing that for years gets really tiring and you start to lose any form of sense of self. These songs aren’t necessarily about that, but they did happen during that period of time where I was experiencing that. So it bleeds into it, whether you’re thinking about it or not. And the timeline is not super linear on the album, too. So you’re just bopping around. You don’t know what’s going on.

How did you feel so strongly about that concept that you knew you had to write an album focused on it?
It probably was more for me to digest it than anything, specifically through songwriting. When I talk to anybody else, my thoughts to my words don’t translate super well. But with music or with writing, sometimes it does. So I’m pretty sure I would have had way worse of a panic attack if I didn’t write those songs. It was more digesting it and trying to deal with it. Because that feeling is so mundane, of just trying to be someone that you’re not. Because that pops up literally all the time, whether it’s impostor syndrome or you’re going to a party and you don’t feel like yourself. So it’s hard to really sit down and be like, was I actually thinking about that, or was I just bodying it and then it came out?

I know we’ve talked about “spittake” off the album, but what other songs off the album are you excited for people to listen to?
I’m excited for “LA” to come out, which is the last song. It’s funny because we have “spittake,” which is a minute long, and we have “LA,” which is a very long, dramatic and theatrical song. It’s also not like anything on the album and not like anything that I thought I could make by myself. That feels really cool to be like, I did do that. It feels like a part of me, but doesn’t sound like what I think people see me as or what they’ve heard from the rest of the music. And then, I say this a lot, but “forlyleinsanfrancisco” is so fucking fun to play live. I went to music school and I took voice lessons. When you breathe, there’s a certain way to do things right. And that song taught me that it’s very okay and gorgeous and so fun to not do any of that shit.

You mentioned songs that you enjoy playing live. You have your upcoming tour in November where you’ll be supporting Finom. For those who haven’t seen you live, what can people expect to see from a live show?
I play with Hayden Cotcher and Jashaun Smith. We’ve known each other for years and we have worked so hard to make the songs different and make the songs be how they’re supposed to be when they’re live. I think the energy translates really well and we just connect super well. The songs are pretty intimate, even if they’re jumpy or a little more high energy. So I think just because we play together and love each other so much that you just get three goofballs bouncing around. My stage presence and my talking — I don’t know what’s going to happen there, but it’ll be fine. I would say it’s super fun. It goes from rage to really intimate moments to shoegaze. It hits a little different than the record, but it’s just as much.

In your music you’ve released so far, you convey a lot of different themes and imagery. What do you ultimately hope to express or convey in your music?
To be honest, the songs that I’ve written for this album and up to this point were created selfishly. It was created to make me feel better and help me understand what I’m feeling. It connects with me when maybe I was disassociating so much that I couldn’t really feel too much or connect. I’ve had people come up and explain what songs mean to them where it’s like, I just think it’s very okay to feel absolutely everything you feel as long as you’re not hurting anyone through it. I feel like my album will show songs where I feel super confident or where I’m being shitty to someone else or where I’m feeling so fucking low. But all those manic little moments are totally 100% okay to feel and can be felt within one person. I’m hoping maybe what it did for me to get it out, maybe it people can latch on to it in that way. Any way that those songs make anyone feel, that feels like a win to me. 

meg elsier tour dates:
November 6 – Detroit, MI @ Lager House
November 7 – Toronto, ON @ The Baby G
November 8 – Montreal, QC @ Cabaret Foufounes
November 9 – Burlington, VT @ Radio Bean
November 11 – Somerville, MA @ The Rockwell
November 13 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
November 14 – Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right
November 15 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Cafe

Keep up with meg elsier: Instagram // TikTok // Spotify // YouTube

Justice Petersen
Justice Petersen
Justice Petersen is a Chicago-based music journalist and freelance writer. She is a recent graduate from Columbia College Chicago, having earned a journalism major with a concentration in magazine writing and a minor in music business. Justice regularly contributes artist interviews, On Your Radar features and various other articles for Melodic Magazine, serving as an interviewer, writer and editor. She also writes for several other online magazine publications, including Ghost Cult Magazine, Chicago Music Guide and That Eric Alper, and her work has been featured in Sunstroke Magazine, Fever Dream Zine, ChicagoTalks and the Chicago Reader. Her favorite band is Metallica and her go-to coffee order is an iced vanilla oat milk latte with strawberry cold foam on top.

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