Singer-songwriter Emilyn Brodsky isn’t afraid to show her guts. On the cover of the NYC-native’s third record, Emilyn Brodsky’s Digestion, she wears a Slim Goodbody-esque leotard printed with a neon digestive tract, a visual theme carries over to three stop-motion videos she’s made to accompany the album’s singles, all of which touch on something body-related. The first, for “You Read Me Wrong,” features entrails made out of clay; the second, “Yes, Children,” stars braided snakes of hair come to life. And in her latest, “Hands Off the Stove”, which the Voice is excited to premiere, twenty pounds of raw, animated meat hammer home Brodsky’s obsession with musculature, bodily processes, food, and our culture of consumption.
Though she grew up in the city, Brodsky spent summers in Montana on her mother’s family cattle farm. After touring for three months behind her second LP, 2014’s Emilyn Brodsky Eats Her Feelings, Brodsky returned to Montana — this time working at a family-owned meat processing plant. “I did do some actual disemboweling, which is super emotionally intense,” she tells the Voice. “It’s the things you don’t think about. Body heat — these animals are super hot and you’re cutting them open, so it gets incredibly steamy. And you don’t think about how long muscles twitch after the animal is dead. It’s beautiful and important and also fucking nuts.”
That confrontation of reality is a central theme in “Hands Off the Stove,” and Digestion as a whole. Amid quirky orchestral pop production and resplendent horns, Brodsky bleats the line “If you’re willing to kill, is it really a good intention?” She says it’s about a newfound willingness to be judged on her actions, rather than her intentions. “It’s always cathartic to ask that question in a loud voice,” says Brodsky. “If your action is murder, is death, that all ripples out. With meat specifically, it’s very obvious how much compartmentalization is necessary for people to eat the way they do.”
All of the beef used in the video came from her family’s farm, but sat in a freezer for nearly a decade. Brodsky and her team — video director Hailey Wojcik and photographer Brian Galderisi — had to spread it out on the lawn prior to shooting so that it would thaw more quickly.
Though the video reads literally, Digestion is a double-entendre; Brodsky uses the physical conversion of sustenance to energy as a metaphor for processing relationships and experiences throughout her lifetime. “Hands Off the Stove” sees her serenading her inner child, the attention-seeking progeny of a politician and a showgirl. “I refer to this song as the self-help anthem,” she says. “Part of it is learning to trust that your voice matters, and to use it; to write something that can be read as personal, but can also be felt more globally.” But Brodsky admits she’s always front-and-center in her art, winking. “I don’t want you to think that I don’t know that this is just an extension of my beautiful, beautiful narcissism.”