That Meghan Remy’s retro solo project is called U.S. Girls is perhaps the first indication of the duality lurking in her music. “I knew I was going to be only one person making music, but I thought the plural was funny,” she explains over the phone from her Toronto home. Her playfulness might seem unexpected given the gravity of topics she writes about – abortion, depression, suicide, lost love and loneliness – but there’s a tug-of-war that takes place throughout her four-year career. That especially comes across on her most recent full-length, GEM. On it, Remy graphically catalogues a variety of women’s issues while remaining squarely within the realm of pop, pairing devastating lyrics with light-hearted melodies.
eMusic’s Marissa G. Muller spoke with Remy about marrying feminism with pop, her riot grrrl beginnings, and working with her husband and co-producer Slim Twig.
On starting a riot grrrl club in Joliet, Illinois:
My first ever boyfriend, in junior high, was really into punk and hardcore music so he gave me Bikini Kill’s Pussy Whipped and I got into that scene. I tried to start a riot grrrl chapter in my town and put up flyers for the first meeting but only one person came, and she became my friend. As I entered high school, I met a few more people through shows, but I didn’t have many friends who shared my interest. When you’re forced to be alone, you get really good at entertaining yourself. Music was my outlet throughout school and got me excited about life.
On making pop music from a distinctly female perspective:
Everyone’s experiences are unique, but I would like to live in a place where, if I had to be a teenager again, I could read and listen to things that somewhat prepared me for the future – like women openly speaking about their bodies and periods and not attempting to present a facade that’s so put together and beautiful all of the time. It’s not my goal to be a spokesperson or anything like that – I’m making music for myself – but I’m hoping to reach other women in an attempt to get them to express themselves as well or to let them know that they’re not alone in their feelings.
I’m attempting to meld together emotional realism with pop music – which are two things that I really love – but pop can be so plastic and uniform, so it’s a tough thing to blend. It can be hard when someone is talking about something real and it can kind of make you cringe, but it takes more work than putting together some words that rhyme well. “Slim Baby” was such an over-the-top pop song that I was nervous about doing it, because I had never done something so poppy. I felt very exposed, so I needed to double-track my vocals.
The informative works of literature that she encountered early on:
I read The Diary of Anne Frank when I was in school and remember reading about when she got her period and her inner thoughts about being a girl. She was talking about real stuff and what she knows while being in a really stressful situation. That had a big influence on me. Then, when I got older, I started looking to ‘zines and riot grrrl literature and Lisa Carver’s writings.
On her sonic influences:
Patti Smith was a huge influence on me. I saw a movie with the song “Horses” in it when I was in high school and I went to buy the album at Reckless in Chicago. I got into her the moment I heard her voice. What I always missed from Bob Dylan – and I love Bob Dylan – is that I wished he was a woman. That’s what you get with Patti Smith.
On working with Slim Twig, aka Max Turnbull:
I write a lot about love and being in a partnership and the ups and downs of that, and deciding to meld your life into someone else’s and get through it together. I think because what I’m talking about a lot of the time is so personal, it’s good to bring other people into it and help the idea grow. Max and I wanted to make the best record that we could and that meant bouncing ideas off him and seeing how he interpreted topics and melodies. It forced me to learn how to take criticism and not give up. I learned so much and I don’t know if I’ll go back to working alone anytime soon.
On sharing a house with Slim’s family:
We live in an artist space that’s rent-geared-to-income which is really nice because Toronto is expensive. It saved my life. We all collaborate. Max’s parents are filmmakers and his sister lives here as well and she’s an artist and actress. They help out with the videos I make and the cover of GEM is a picture I took of Max’s sister Lulu. It’s difficult in terms of space – sometimes you need your own space and there’s not very muchâ€” but we all have a goal in life which is to be creative people and good human beings. It’s a nice setup.