Kansas-born, New York-based Katie Buchanan isn’t afraid to play her guitar from a place of cynicism. Her sonically sparse new EP Go officially comes out Tuesday, August 5th, and she’s celebrating it with a pre-release party this Sunday, August 3rd, at the Rockwood Music Hall and a new video for the title track, directed by Nicolas Pesce. We spoke to Katie about how this new EP, sparked from the falling out of a longtime friendship, finds the light a midst the darkness of a toxic relationship.
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You’ve referred to Go as “a dark record in a peaceful place.” What made the project so dark?
It started after I had a big falling out with a childhood friend and it spiraled into this record. The more I listen to it, it sounds bright and cheery, but it’s all rooted in a very dark place for me. It was probably the first time I let music be cathartic in a way. I don’t believe in music just being cathartic, there has to be a reason for making music other than making yourself feel good. But, [I] embraced writing to get things out and wind up figuring out situations, in a peaceful place.
What was the falling out over?
It was one of those childhood relationships that became toxic. When you’re in a friendship and start seeing it from the outside, you have a tiny fight over something and it spirals out into everything that was wrong with how we treated each other after all these years. It just all fell apart. It was very much a parasitic thing.
When deals with something that personal, is it a challenge to do songs inspired by such an event live?
It hasn’t been too much because I’ve been playing them a while now. Like I said, it’s a dark thing but it ends in a peaceful place. Except for “Go,” they’re all rationalization of what’s going on, at least in my mind. While there’s definitely an emotional chord in that dark place, I find it peaceful to play them because they lead me out of it.
You mentioned that the opener “Shakedown” explores the “Me and You Against the World” concept, but from a cynical place. Does your writing often come from a place of cynicism?
My writing is probably more rooted in cynicism than it should be sometimes. I’m pretty cynical and I’m not really interested in happy songs, but I don’t want to write depressing songs all the time, so that results in writing songs from a cynical point of view. Maybe cynical in’t the right word, but I always try to approach songs with a critical eye. I think that’s something I’ve always done, but I’ve finally just found a way to capture that without being off-putting to people in a song.
You’re from just outside of Kansas City, but you’ve been living in New York for about seven years. Do you think your music better reflects your Kansas-roots or your past few years living in NYC?
I think more than ever the stuff I’ve been writing is oriented in my Kansas roots. I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that it’s not a bad thing to have grown up in Kansas. I hated it when I was there and I don’t think I could live there now, but those country roots are coming out more in my music. That said, I think the cynicism and the intensity that I bring to the music, especially live, is rooted in New York.
Do you notice much of a difference between Kansas audiences and New York audiences?
Oh yeah. Kansas audiences are usually less drunk because they have to drive home and they tend to be, I don’t want to say nicer, but everyone in New York is vying for attention so you really have to urn it. I only play a handful of shows in Kansas, but they’re always a lot of fun. They’re a homecoming type thing. I definitely think it’s easier to cultivate a fanbase there, but I think the crowds are nicer and it doesn’t bring out the best in everyone. They say “have two hours,” and it’s almost like they give you too much time. You’re used to these small spots, it’s a bit of a mindfuck to go back and play there.
You happen to share the name of a prominent television producer. Has that ever resulted in you being contacted with people expecting the other Katie Buchanan?
Thus far, no. I’ve gotten plenty of strange requests in my own right, but not right.
A handful of people who are vaguely stalking me on Facebook. One wanted to fly me to Minnesota somewhere for his birthday, and this is a guy who doesn’t even have his real picture on Facebook and who I don’t know at all and would have probably murdered me. I think that’s the weirdest one, and coming from that specific individual was really terrifying.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 1, 2014