Anna Calvi has been embracing her feelings about feminism and queerness, even before that two words arrived into the mainstream debate (H&M feminist shirts, anyone?). Her third album Hunter is her most grown-up work to date, being produced by Nick Launey (who worked with INXS and Nick Cave).
The artist is quite a pop phenomenon herself, is one of the most respected solo artists in the British music scene, with Mercury Award nominations for both albums Anna Calvi and One Breath. She’s been called ‘the best thing since Patti Smith’ by Brian Eno has himself and toured with artists such as Nick Cave or Morrissey.
With her long relationship to topics as feminism and gender and Hunter being about female empowerment, sexual taboos and gender conformism, we met up with Calvi to discuss these issues while listening to some of Pop’s young female mainstream and newcomer artists.
Charli XCX – ‘Boys’
Its cute. I like it. Its good to sort of see the other way round. I feel like gender is a spectrum. And obviously there are people who feel very identified with the idea of male or female but there’s also a lot of people who could comfortably exist more in a spectrum. I personally feel quite restricted by these things that i meant to the characteristics because i have the anatomy that i have. I just find it weird that a person would have to behave a certain way because of the anatomy of their bodies. My album is kinda about breaking free of that restraints, just find an energy that feels freer and not restricted.
I dont have a word that I know. If i put a word on me I’d feel restricted to that word. I like the word queer, because its vague enough. Its about being different to the mainstream. I feel like that word is a good word to describe roughly how I feel.
I like the idea of playing with androgony and I was thrown a lot around by this older woman, a really amazing dancer in my latest video, i like the combination of being brutal and also intimate. These energies feel like they’re part of my record.
SOPHIE – ‘Faceshopping’
I love that song. The video is great. She is like a modern day Andy Warhol. I like the play of those words and all the different ways, when she changes them around how they mean different things. Just this play on identity and how with Instagram and Stuff our faces become advertisements for our life as we’re all companies. Capitalism gone completely mad. Identity becomes capitalist persuit. Which I guess thats always how we were sold things. But I think it became even more extreme. And I think the production on it is really interesting and really brave. When I heard the record, I didn’t think that I like it as much as I did because I didn’t really get PC Music. It can feel a bit cold but I guess the bravery of it trencendens the coldness and then it feels more human.
Clairo – ‘Pretty Girl’
I think that isn’t for me. I’m sure that it touches other people, good for her for doing it. But musically it isn’t something for me. I’m too stuck in my ways to change, it is something that women feel that they have to accommodate themselves for other people and you’re rude if you don’t. Thats definitely a problem. And I’m aware of it myself, to try and not be myself like that.
Art School Girlfriend – ‘Moon’
I really like it. Musically its haunting and mysterious. She seemed very cool, I really like her way of being an artist. My girlfriend played me her music and I found it really cool. I tried to think of people that feel like their ethos as musicians or artists somehow fit into the way of production they create. We only met really briefly, but I did feel that the music and the stuff that she says is really great. It was good to have a part of that.
Taylor Swift – ‘Out Of The Woods’
I was thinking how I was listening to the music and thinking ‚Where is this going?‘ and then she was ‚Are we out of the woods?‘ And then I was ‚Ah, thats pop music for you‘. You don’t need to question for too long what the motivation is, you’ll find it, it’ll be waiting for you. I just think, she seems like a power woman, she knows what she wants. I’d like to meet her, shake her hand.
What do you think about her being the most successful woman in Pop and still working with a male producer?
You know, maybe she listen to all of Jack Antonoffs work and said ‚thats exactly the stuff i want to work with‘. Thats the reason why she should do it and I’m sure thats what happened. And I mean, if a woman happened to happen to right sound, she would have chosen her, not because she is a woman.
I’ve never come across a female producer. When I was looking for producers, I didn’t even come across a female producer. I’d like to work with a female producer, but its a very male environment, all the tech people in the studio are male. Its a bit like being on tour, usually when you’re on tour, you’re surrounded by guys. But I have a multi instrumentalist who is a woman, my tour manager is female. Id like to get it even. But its hard, because most jobs are taken my men and not women.
It bothers me that women see woman as a genre, not a gender. There’s one women, so thats woman done. Its so insane, it doesn’t make sense. Its not artists and then female artists.
Yaeji – ‘Raingurl’
I like it. I think maybe I’ve heard it. I just like that she looks kind of really geeky, yet what she sings sounds really cool, she should be a gangster. It makes it seem weirdly filmic. The way she looks, I guess its just a position of things that you wouldn’t expect, that makes it original. I like the lyric that ‚her glasses are fogging up‘, its cute.