CrowJane will be known to lovers of contemporary L.A. punk as a member of Egrets on Ergot and Prissy Whip, as well as a recent addition to the Deadbeats. All incorporate elements of her dark persona, as the woman otherwise known as Heather Galipo blends the influence of the likes of Siouxsie Sioux, Nina Hagen, Lydia Lunch, Dinah Cancer and more into a wonderfully raw ball of deathrock fury.
So it was incredibly exciting to learn that CrowJane was unleashing a solo project — something that offered the opportunity to put herself out there in all her unrestrained glory. All of her bands are still ongoing, so she’s super busy. But this project is all her — songs that she wrote on her own four or five years ago and then sat on as they bubbled away.
“This particular time in my life when I started to write these songs for this album, it was a period when I was going through a hard time,” she says. “I was battling addiction and I just got out of an abusive relationship and shit like that — TMI but it’s the truth. Paul Roessler, my music producer, was like, ‘This is going to be therapy. I’m going to lock you in the studio and you’re gonna write about it.’ So that’s what we did. He put the pressure on me to just write about it. I did and we recorded all these songs with him. He’s a keyboard player and stuff. That’s how it came to be. Then I got busy with all my other projects after we wrote a lot of this album, and it just took the back-burner. When COVID hit, it felt like a good time to put this out.”
That in itself is fascinating — she wrote about her most painful experiences and then put the songs to one side for four years. A lot of life has been lived since then, so how does she feel about those songs now?
“It’s interesting because, to listen to the words that I wrote, at the time I was writing them it would be primarily whomever I was writing about, outside of myself,” she says. “When I’m listening to them back now, I’m realizing how much I’m writing about myself and my experiences, even though at the time I was upset over someone. I was experiencing this stuff within me. It has nothing to do with the other person actually. A lot of it is pretty heavy.”
She’s not kidding. An incendiary cover of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s World,” for example, sees CrowJane screaming the song with undiluted fury. As it turns out, that’s perfectly understandable.
“It was supposed to be a scratch track, but I recorded that track a couple of days after a sexual assault,” she says. “I was just on fire. Paul was like, ‘I know this is supposed to be a scratch track but I think we should just use this.’ I was going to sing it, actually have it be more singy, but it didn’t turn out that way. I like the way it turned out, and having that come out at a time like right now is going to be pretty cool.”
The recording experience was, she says, very therapeutic — the act of artistic expression helping her to deal with the trauma. And all the while she was aided by the aforementioned Roessler, who was a member of mythical L.A. punks the Screamers.
“I’m a fan of all Paul’s projects — I’m a punk nerd,” she says. “The drummer from Egrets knew Paul, and we’re all Screamers nerds. I’m a Nina Hagen nerd too [Roessler also played with Hagen], so we were all like, ‘Yeah, let’s go get Paul. Let’s go get the guy from the Screamers and record in his studio.’ We had barely any money. The classic punk band story. Paul was down to help us and record us with the funds that we did have. We got close to him when we recorded that album, and I did particularly.”
The two of them clearly work well together; magic happens in the studio. The new album, which is called Mater Dolorosa, is clear proof of that. The sound, CrowJane says, is hard to categorize but that’s by design.
“I can’t do anything that’s easy to categorize,” she says. “But it is experimental. It does have avant-garde qualities, and it’s experimental in the sense that a lot of the rhythms and percussion tracks that I did were with homemade objects. Me banging on bed railings or tin cans, or these jugs with cat litter in. The door to the vocal booth — the swish sound when it opens and closes. We also used some real drums too. And we also used some electronic tracks and stuff. So that gives it an experimental element.”
The album title, Mater Dolorosa, is a love letter of sorts to Roessler and the Screamers, who had a song with the same name. Specifically, it’s the Latin translation of “Our Lady of Sorrows,” referring to the Virgin Mary.
“I thought it was the perfect title for this album,” says CrowJane with an ironic but deep laugh. “Lady of sorrows.”
Ultimately, CrowJane is excited to get these songs out to the public after four years of gestation, and she’s very happy that it’s getting a lot of deserved attention.
“I was just going to put it out online, but Paul wanted me to shop it around to labels and do it more officially,” she says. “So it’s taking off and I’m very appreciative and excited. It’s more personal than anything I’ve ever done because it’s just me and it’s really raw, putting myself out there. It’s emotional to me, so that comes with its own anxieties when releasing it to the public, but I’m also excited about that because I think it’s vulnerable and maybe other people that have had the same sort of experiences that I’ve had can connect to it.”
During a time when connecting to people is difficult, an album that offers that sort of experience on an artistic level is priceless.
CrowJane’s Mater Dolorosa is released on September 15 via Kitten Robot Records.