Katie Dey Breaks Down Her Woozy New LP “Solipsisters” Track by Track
The hypnagogic pop experimentalist unpacks themes of life, death, and bodiless existence on her third solo album.
A Katie Dey record isn’t quite like anything else. Somewhere buried in countless loops of warped-beyond-recognition effects lies the songwriter’s voice, manipulated to sound inhumanly tiny—though by no means peripheral. It seems that at some point before lavish post-production, these recordings were ordinary pop songs, but rather than undergoing meticulous remixing they were instead the result of some sort of happy accident, like, say, playing your Alvin and the Chipmunks LP on 16 speed.
On her much-anticipated follow up to 2016’s Flood Network, Dey reaches a new level of opulent, near-Björkish production, while her vocals sound more subdued than ever. This polarization doesn’t feel accidental: “This album is about feeling that you’re made up of a bunch of disparate parts that are at odds with each other, and making it hard for you to live,” Dey explains. “I wrote it when I was very isolated and feeling very alone, and so I would do a lot of arguing with myself and getting caught in loops—yelling at myself and myself yelling back, my body causing pain to my brain and my brain causing pain to my body…stuff like that.”
Despite such dissociative thoughts—or perhaps inspired by them—Solipsisters covers a wide range of sounds, neatly packing them into a cohesive, tranquil forty minutes. “I wanted to try to reconcile these things because I don’t want to be at war with myself,” she continues. “I have to live here in this body and I want it to be peaceful. There is so much horror and violence in this world, it would be nice if at least my own body was not fighting with itself.” “Solipsisters,” then, sounds idyllic: two biologically connected individuals amiably cohabiting a single mind.
“Anyway,” she concludes, “I am a little less lonely these days, so you don’t have to worry too much.”
With her new album officially out today via Run for Cover, Dey gives us a behind-the-scenes look at all ten of Solipsister’s unique tracks.
**Please note, this post contains discussion of suicidal ideation.**
I don’t exactly love prescribing meanings to songs. I like to let people interpret stuff for themselves and have their own ideas of what it means to them. So if you don’t want me messing with that, you can just close the tab now and do something else [Editor’s note: Don’t!]. But if you’re curious, then here you go. Also, I wrote these songs years ago, and I hardly remember what I was thinking at the time, so take everything with a grain of salt.
This was the last song I wrote for the album. It’s about being confused and in pain, but trying not to be angry at yourself for it; seeing your flaws and your mistakes and not giving yourself a hard time, just knowing that they’re there and staying alive in spite of how horrible it can be; not trying to know the things you can’t know or change the things you can’t change. Thematically this song should be at the end of the album, but I put it at the start because it felt better that way. It gives it a sorta cyclical feel or something. Oh, the sound effects in this are just me going like, “Wooooosh” into a microphone with some effects.
This was the first song I wrote for the album, and it’s about feeling stuck in a body with all the horror that involves and saying, “Fuck this, I want out, I want to be free of all this pain.” Being so frustrated by life and thinking how wonderful it would be to just escape and be a being of pure light, free of the constrictions, dissolving into infinity. How nice that would be! A very appealing prospect.
A lot of these songs are grappling with the fact that I have this body that I can’t bear to live in. But also there are these other people in the world that I love, and they know me as this body and love me as this person, even though I can’t stand to be that person anymore. And being like, “Oh, if I change or if I escape, what about these people that love me? Will they still love me?”
Sometimes you just hate yourself and wanna die, you know? But also, you don’t wanna die at the same time. That’s a constant tension in my life. All these songs are sorta about that tension. Different shades of suicidality.
5. “(at least for now)”
But, like, sometimes I feel really good. Like, one day you’re feeling like you have no other options but to die, and then another day you’re like, “How could I have ever felt that way? I love being alive!” It’s hard to make decisions when your brain decides to flip-flop unpredictably between those two states.
I feel a disconnect between my body and my soul that I can’t really explain. It’s like, “philosophically wrong” to think this way, and yet that’s still how I feel. I think most people feel like this? It’s just really hard to think, “I am only a body” when you feel so constantly at odds with your body. It’s hard to think you’re just this horrible object that is hurting you every day. So I find it helpful for my life to think, “I am separate from this thing that I carry around.” Even though that’s wrong. I don’t know. It’s complicated. This is also about the desire to change your body to better align with how you feel inside, and wondering whether that will even help. What could it all mean? Is this…transgenderism? Who could say.
This is just some trippy nonsense. It’s about how you’re the product of, like, basically everything that’s ever happened, and feeling insignificant in the face of that. Like looking at the stars and thinking about how they’re a billion years old or whatever. Sometimes I feel a billion years old… Anyway it’s like trying to hold that knowledge in your head and letting it inform your actions. I’m not sure it’s productive to think this way, but it is a pretty tune. Also I wasn’t sure if the lyric should be “I’ll find a place to become,” or “I’ll find a place to be calm,” so you can decide which one you like better. It can be either or both.
At the point I was writing this song I was pretty resigned to just dying. But if you’re gonna die, you want your life to be a nice memory for the people around you, which is a thought that keeps me alive. I don’t want to die and live on in their minds as an asshole. They’re the ones that really know what I am. I have some ideas of who I am, but it doesn’t matter what I think in the grand scheme of things. It also doesn’t matter what I think of these songs—like, you’re the ones that know what they really are. I hardly know what they mean to me, just like how I hardly know who I am to myself. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything. Maaaaan. Brooooo.
Another song about wanting to be dead…a self-hatey song. Being frustrated with yourself for failing over and over. Feeling like you’re better off not being in the world because you just cause all this destruction, and that it doesn’t really matter anyway because the mechanisms of the universe are just gonna play out how they’re gonna play out. Very fatalistic, nihilistic, ill-advised thinking in this song. The “she won’t get better if you don’t let her” thing is saying that if I want to recover from this hopeless spiral I need to allow myself to.
I like when things have hopeful endings. I think this is an acknowledgement that life is really very horrible but that there are some things that are nice and maybe we can cultivate those things and make the future nicer for us to live in. And that a lot of moving forward involves letting certain things flow through you, trying not to let unhelpful thoughts get caught in your mind. That is hard though. I think it’s a futile wish that things will be better. Not saying they will but…maybe.