Laura Fisher was planning a trip to Europe when everything fell apart. As a touring musician (and someone who travels for work generally) Fisher had been monitoring the oncoming pandemic since the beginning of 2020, and though it happened a bit earlier for her than for most other Americans, a panic set in that prompted her to check a few things off her creative bucket list before it was too late.
First, she compiled a bunch of her early work, spanning approximately 2008 to 2018 and recorded across New Jersey, Philly, New York, and her current hometown, New Orleans, and released them via Bandcamp as a retrospective entitled Tracing Our Veins in Spherical Time. Then, she set her sights on recording an album of short piano works inspired her rigorous neoclassical training with celebrated childhood mentor Meral Guneyman. The studio where close friend and collaborator Adam Keil worked was closing, and the beloved piano that many of the songs were written on was going back to its owner, so in the fall of last year, Keil and Fisher recorded most of what would become APOPHENIA (referring to humans’ tendency to see patterns and meaning in random information); it was released (also via Bandcamp) in February 2021.
Somewhere along the way, Fisher found time to revisit two songs she’d written some twelve years ago, and let Keil (also her bandmate in New Orleans math rock outfit Matron) give them the production she’d often imagined would bring them to life, though neither had collaborated in this way before. “He’s somebody who’s definitely influenced my taste in music – we’re just super close friends. For the last few years it’s really sort of shifted my listening habits, among other things, to more electronic pop and dreampop and a very particular sound that I’ve always loved, but it’s sort of taken over my scope,” Fisher explains. “For the most part he just kind of rolled with it. I was there for all the steps but I really just wanted somebody else to take the lead on it and I feel like the sounds of bands that we really love, like Broadcast and Warpaint and Blonde Redhead, just sort of naturally infused into these tracks in particular.” The songs will be released on 7″ via New Orleans imprint Strange Daisy Records on September 10th, with the a-side, “Fiction,” premiering today via Audiofemme. The physical 7″ will come in a variety of randomized colors; it’s the first time Fisher has ever had her music pressed to vinyl.
Those who have followed Fisher’s previous work – like Matron, or her now-dissolved grunge quartet Tranche – might be surprised by Fisher’s new approach to singing. “I’m historically more of a belter, and leaning into the power of singing,” she admits, “but I’m more interested now in a softer and dreamier approach.” That style lends itself well to the lyrical themes of “Fiction,” in which Fisher sings, “Stick around for long enough/Maybe I’ll become someone you want to love.” Imagining herself as a variety of inanimate objects, she flickers in and out of focus, all in the service of somehow making herself more desirable for a romantic partner who doesn’t seem quite as interested. Fisher calls it a “classic pining-for-somebody song,” and even her delicate vocal delivery can’t conceal her frustration that the feelings aren’t mutual.
“I don’t actually ever want to change who I am so that I can be something somebody would want, but I think we all go through that ‘What if?’ in our heads,” Fisher says (and she’s spot-on). The song is built around exploring a fantasy created in her mind, asking, “How do I make this thing that I want so badly real, and if I can’t, can it be real in a song?” Of course, when the song was written in her early twenties, she wasn’t as ambivalent about making her desires a reality.
“I’m still a very emotional person, but emotionally, I was very dramatic [then],” she remembers. “I feel things really intensely, so it’s easier for me to channel those things by turning them into visuals… just imagining all of the ways that you can sort of read through your emotional experience as a story or poem. It helps to create these places so that there’s somewhere where you can feel safe feeling them.”
Revisiting the song written so long ago, at the height of a now-fizzled infatuation, was “funny at first,” she says, adding that she did eventually get together with the person the song was written about, and though the relationship was “brutal,” they’re now friends again. “It’s been plenty of time so it didn’t really ignite any sort of emotional turmoil again or anything,” Fisher says. “It’s amazing how we can feel so intensely that we write a song about it or write in our journals about it or talk to our friends about it and then like a decade later just not feel that at all.”
“I think it’s part of human nature to want things so badly,” she adds. “So often it’s just in our heads. You know, I’m older now and I look back and I’ve sort of come around to the idea that sometimes the fantasy is enough. We can avoid not-great situations by not letting it play out and letting it live in a song.”
Keil’s sparse but urgent production gives the track a beguiling mix of sensuality and sadness, like all the best trip-hop songs of the mid-90s, from Massive Attack to Portishead to Radiohead’s more electronic-leaning cuts. Fans of Fisher’s new style will be pleased to learn that she’s working with Keil on a new solo EP in a similar vein, with a “local super group” that includes members of People Museum and Julie Odell as her backing band, built around a synth pop sound with drums. She’s hoping to re-record some of her own parts to reflect her new singing style. And Matron devotees needn’t worry, either; Fisher is halfway through recording the band’s debut (also slated for release via Strange Daisy) in a collaborative writing process put on pause during the pandemic.
“More recently is the first time I’ve kind of come full circle around to that, even though a lot of the solo stuff I’m doing is collaborative to some degree. It’s been an amazing experience just meeting people who I connect with in some way; we have different tastes but they overlap in some places,” Fisher says of working with Matron. “I feel like it’s just pushed me to be a better writer. I’ve gotten clearer on what I want, how writing as a process functions, and it’s just become more natural over time. And it’s retained its fun in that way – [songwriting is] this playground that sort of never really runs out of allure.”