Sometimes things coincide unintentionally to come together in a way that ultimately makes the most sense. Such serendipity is at play with Anna Fox Rochinski’s upcoming solo debut Cherry (out March 26 on Don Giovanni Records), of which she shared the title track and video last week. Rochinski is perhaps best known as a vocalist and guitarist for psych rock four-piece Quilt. Few sonic elements of that band remain on this latest offering, which is a product entirely of Rochinski’s own mind: plucky 70’s art funk shone through the lens of some very specific contemporary pop influences, among them Madonna, Midnite Vultures-era Beck, and Robyn’s 1995 debut.
Although Rochinski acknowledges that “lyrically my record is rather sad,” it doesn’t feel or sound that way. As evidenced by “Cherry,” it’s fun and funky, an amalgamation of futuristic sound effects, wiry guitar riffs, and the fizziness of pop music. “Honestly, pop music is something that I’ve always loved my whole life, and I kind of need it now more than ever, if that makes sense?” she says of this shift. “Pop music is almost medicinal in a way. Maybe not medicinal, but what I need. It’s an effervescence that I have to have right now. And it’s extremely fun. And I just recommitted myself to the pursuit of fun.”
Shooting the video itself became part of the pursuit. Shot in Arizona by director Alex LaLiberte (OTIUM) and styled by Dani Bennett, we’re presented with three different characters. One floats around her house wearing a flowing silk robe (designed and sewn by Bennett herself) and drinking a green juice, perhaps the idyllic version we all wish to embody during this time at home. Another is a business woman presiding over an empty conference room, her turquoise pants, scrunchie, and the furniture all mirroring each other by accident (there’s that serendipity again). The third dances around a semi-abandoned shopping mall in the sun, light and carefree in her yellow pants.
Rochinski acknowledges the difficulty of breaking out of her shell to embody these characters, recounting a dispute with the director over a black blouse she insisted on wearing. “I was like c’mon man! I’m so used to wearing black in New York City. It’s kind of a habit we fall into here,” she says. “He pushed me out of that comfort zone but I’m glad he did. He was like, ‘These are outfits that you aren’t going to wear in your normal life because we are making a music video. Like these are characters.’”
The production itself was the first time Rochinski experienced socializing in any capacity during the pandemic; the crew all got tested upon arrival. Despite the particular accommodations that had to be made in the interest of safety, Rochinski is quick to acknowledge the joy of “collaborating on a creative project in such a normal and free way with people. I had been missing that too. It was just great! But it’s ironic because in the video all you see is me. And like a shadow at times too.”
But who are these characters, and who is that shadow? She leaves the characters themselves up to interpretation, keeping them abstract if only to say that she’s not really sure if they’re all her or not, or just different versions of the same person. It conveys a certain kind of isolation, the fragments of ourselves we present in different settings and social situations that mask the complete picture of who we are. “It’s kind of like this person at home, and then another version at work, and then another version out in a public space being more carefree, conveying different emotions and different atmospheres of emotion rather than conveying specific people,” she says. All of whom, it’s worth noting, don’t cross paths with a single living person throughout the whole video.
They’re chased only by a faceless shadow, which follows the characters throughout all the settings and portrays the distinct feeling of being watched. But not necessarily by another person, Rochinksi explains, as much as by yourself, the person we often hide from the most. While she says the shadow too is up for interpretation, she does offer some insight. “Maybe it’s something from the past that’s haunting you, but maybe it’s also an opportunity from the future that I’m resisting,” she says. “The song is about this push-and-pull feeling of knowing that you’re emotionally unavailable but being presented with chances to connect, and kind of wanting it but knowing it’s impossible. So you’re haunted by past trouble while trying to move forward into the future, but being stuck in the middle, just preserving yourself, out of the need to protect your heart.”
In other words, there’s a sense of choosing isolation because the possibility of anything else feels too vulnerable – a sentiment that shows itself in the first lines of the track itself: “I’ll never let him in/Because my guard is up for stormy weather.” The shadow, in a way, is that guard.
Rochinski penned Cherry, her first solo effort, after transplanting herself from the Hudson Valley to New York City following a tough break-up of a six-year relationship, starting a new life on her own without a partner or her band. Although she had written and recorded this album pre-COVID, isolation is already a major theme at play, starkly evident in the video itself. But in another example of bittersweet serendipity, our current circumstances offer the album a whole new emotional entry-point for listeners. We’re all alone right now, in some capacity or another. For many, the isolation on display in this video will resonate with the experiences of this past year, the slivers of our identities shaved off once we no longer saw coworkers in person, or that friend you have lunch with maybe once a month, or the barista from the coffeeshop. And for musicians, that extends to the part of their identities lost with the continued cessation of live shows and touring, something they must all contend with.
Rochinski remains optimistic. “I have high hopes for late 2021, but I’m not expecting anything,” she says. “I’m just keeping my ears perked up and planning on rehearsing a band and just basically being ready to play in whatever capacity we can play in, so there can at least be some documentation of live performances of these songs. I feel very excited about that actually. I’m keeping an open mind on how to show the world the performances.”
In the same way the fun, funky instrumentals of “Cherry” add nuance to the song’s sad lyrics, the point here is to try to make peace with the difficulty of our present circumstances, to bask in the version of yourself living right now, and, lest we forget, to recommit to the pursuit of fun. As Rochinski has shown us with “Cherry,” it’s when you do this that things finally come together in the way that makes the most sense.