It's been just about a year and a half since the last all-new studio release from Buffalo native Ani DiFranco
. That isn't a long hiatus by today's standards, but for the prolific DiFranco, who releases albums at the brisk pace of yesterday's rock stars, that's an eternity. So you just knew there had to be a wealth of material brewing in the busy mind of the Righteous Babe Records founder. Sure enough, DiFranco returns this month with the ambitious and expansive Revelling
albums; a twenty-nine-song double set.
Though the two come in one box, DiFranco hesitates to sum up the two albums simply as a double set. But the records, which were intended to capture the moods of their reflective titles, definitely share similar themes. Expressing some of the most personal lyrics yet from the always-forthcoming DiFranco, the albums offer a deep look into relationship highs and lows.
The maturation found in the albums is not limited to the lyrics though. Musically, DiFranco, who says she wrote with her band in mind for the first time on this project, explores a wealth of styles, the most surprising of which is jazz. Fans of DiFranco's traditional guitar-banging will find plenty to satisfy them, but the intricacy of the powerful one-two punch of "That Was My Love" and "Revelling," for example, marks an evolution for DiFranco as a songwriter and musician.
You just got back from a tour of Europe. Anything exciting happen over there?
Well, we had ourselves a bus crash -- that was exciting. But we all came out unscathed. And now we're hoping that lighting doesn't strike twice on one folk family -- that that's our bus crash for this lifetime.
Where was the bus crash?
It was on the autobahn in Germany. Where else? It was crazy. Our bus going whatever miles per hour down the autobahn rear-ended a stopped semi, so we stopped awful hard and awful fast, but that was exciting. Then we had other bus breakdowns. It was like a three-bus tour, but it was a good tour nonetheless. Lots of new cheeses -- you know Europe.
You've been referring to these albums as the Revelling and the Reckoning CDs. Do you see them as two different albums that just happened to come together?
They're definitely two different albums. As I pursued them on my journey of the last year I wanted to make them both stand alone as distinct works, but they're related. And there is very much a journey, a thematic journey and also a sonic one from disc one, track one to disc two, track sixteen. So, yeah they're meant to be their own piece and also to work together, so it's kind of both. I remember the first conversation I had about the record when I was still making it. I was down in the studio and the person I was talking to hadn't heard it and was like, "So you're working on your new record?" And I said, "Yeah, it's two records actually." "Oh two records?" "Well yeah, but one box." They were like, "A double album?" I was like, "Oh yeah, that's it, a double album, but not really a double." So yes they're distinct records but one story being told.
Now that it's done, do you see it as a double album?
Yeah, I guess that's probably a good working term although it's not really because the process of making them was really more like making two records. It didn't even really occur to me until I was deep in it. I was like, "Why is this album killing me?" I've never felt so pregnant, like I was two weeks over with colossal twins. I was like, "Wow this really is two records." It's not like one long record. And the amount of conceptual work that went in to realizing both of the records so that they both have an identity, a flow and they both have a journey that feels complete in and of themselves yet relate to each other was kind of my big quandary for this past year.
Since you make the pregnant analogy, do you view your records or your songs in particular as children?
Yeah, it certainly felt that way. By the time I was in the mastering studio with these two discs I was like, "Get it out." Yeah, that analogy works for me. And I spent the better part of a year growing this creature that forms an identity beyond yourself and you help steer it but you don't control it.
Well taking that analogy one step further then, now that the record is a few weeks or a month from coming out, do you feel ready for it to go into the world?
Oh, way past ready. I have a handful of new songs already. Like I was saying earlier, I look at the package and I think oh I wish that color was different and that color. If I listen to the songs at all, all I can hear is what I do differently so it's this endless process for me that by the time a record is out I'm somewhere else.
Obviously we're in an interesting political climate right now. Are there any issues that you're working for on a personal level that you're very passionate about right now?
All kinds of things. I continue my specific political work, but, in terms of the climate, one of the things that I just feel so strongly about is the need for progressive people in this country to consolidate power and to really focus on solidarity. I don't know if we should call ourselves greens or what but I think that we need to form a strong third party in this country and there's so much room left to Democrats. You basically have from middle of the road left, which is not represented in our political system in any powerful way. I think that the people in the labor movement and the people in the women's rights and the people fighting racism and the environmentalists, all of us need to get together if we're going to stop this spiral of corporate control and reactionary conservatism controlling our county, our culture, our government, our lives. I think that we need to get together and this kind of lulling of power between the Democrens and Republicrats, it's just not cutting it in terms of representing the wishes of the needs of the people. I'm sure that there's a lot of other people out there working around this. There is a lot of connecting that needs to be done as an important prerequisite before any significant political change at this point.
Have you ever thought about running for anything?
People bring that up now and then, like my friend John Hassell. We were hanging out in LA, and he said you should run for office and I was like, "John, I'm a fucking musician . . . I'm a songwriter. Come on. Please let me do what I love to do." I don't think I'd do very well as a politician -- from what little I know of politics, even just on a local Buffalo level, the amount of calculation and corruption on every level. I won't even work with a record company let along something as fundamentally fucked as the government. I'm not really one to work within systems very comfortably.
From what you do, certainly you can help bring attention to things and at least somewhat orchestrate change or try to.
Yeah, absolutely. I think political work comes in all sorts of forms and one of the least impressive is that of the politician.
Written by STEVE BALTIN
for RollingStone.com News