In marked contrast to the rambunctious garage rock of her band The Coathangers, the debut solo record from Julia Kugel as Julia, Julia is shaping up to be a meditative—if not downright peaceful—capsule of the songwriter’s more introspective side. After sharing the densely psychedelic lead single to Derealization “Fever in My Heart,” today she’s unveiling a wispier cut titled “No Hard Feelings,” a no-worries-if-not anthem about “smiling at disappointment,” as she describes it.
Pairing minimal acoustic guitar with heavily reverberating vocal effects, the song weaves an eerie sonic tapestry upon which Kugel calmly vents her feelings of disappointment. Matching that energy, the video sees her patiently standing, sitting, laying, and walking around different scenic outdoor spaces in Long Beach largely devoid of other people. “This may be the most authentic I have ever been in a video,” she shares. “There was no acting.”
Check out the clip below, and read on for a brief Q&A with Kugel about her solo venture.
You talk about “waiting” as a theme on the album, while the “No Hard Feelings” video literalizes that. Do you feel like this solo record is the result of patience, as opposed to The Coathangers records possessing a sense of immediacy?
I guess “waiting” has been the theme of my life, not just this particular album. I noticed that I write songs on the subject quite often. But this is true in Coathangers’ lyrics as well. I think this record is the result of actually having the time and space to see myself and think about what I might want as an individual. There was a rapid pace and momentum behind the way The Coathangers existed before the pandemic. I think the resulting feeling of urgency translated into the music we made. The Coathangers music has always been a snapshot in time, and Julia, Julia is the snapshot of me at this moment. The authenticity with which I approach both projects is equal. I’m really grateful to David at Suicide Squeeze for giving me the opportunity to explore.
With the record also being inspired by a sense of disillusionment with touring I can imagine that’s not something you’re eager to jump back into. When you write songs now, though, do you contemplate their live arrangements?
I’ve learned not to consider live performance when writing songs. I let my imagination go wherever it wants to go. When I am obsessing about the recording, I don’t think about the reality of live performances. So I don’t put so much pressure on the recordings to be “playable.” For me, the album and the live shows are allowed to be different.
I recently played some shows in Italy with Soft Palms and fell back in love with traveling and playing live. I think I’ll probably try to set up some live shows and small tours for Julia, Julia too. I have this dream of playing with different people in every city, to capture something special in each performance. I’m super excited by the idea of collaborating with musicians of all kinds of musical backgrounds! I think it would make every show a special experience.
There’s a strong psychedelic aesthetic to these songs, even if they sound fairly minimal—did you have any visual inspirations in mind when writing the album?
I guess my visual inspiration was a pencil drawing from 1922 that hangs in our living room. The drawing is a sketch of a woman…drawn and then redrawn with a different face. Looking at it, one cannot tell which face the artist intended. I think maybe both faces belong. I’ve looked at it quite a bit and wondered about the story behind the woman and the artist. I actually considered putting it on the cover of the record at one point. The psychedelic part is that just paper and pencil can make something so enchanting.
At what point did you realize the song ideas you were having felt like a better fit for a solo release than for a Coathangers record?
The idea of the solo record was conceptualized before the songs were fully written, so I was always writing with the intention of having a singular vision. Coathangers songs tend to be collaborative. I like being alone and having total control sometimes. The process of writing “Derealization” was quite therapeutic, but I was definitely ready to collaborate after it was done. I got sick of my own mind after a while.
Seems like there’s a trend right now of artists releasing music under a common first name—what made you decide to release solo music under a variation of that?
I chose Julia, Julia because it felt like the closest thing to who I am. First name, last name—both Julia. Like looking at myself in the mirror—both faces showing. It gave me nothing to hide behind.