Interview: Carlisle Evans Peck / Tour Kick Off Show
Carlisle Evans Peck is a local Twin Cities artist who recently released a brand new album, Electric Porcelain. Evans Peck will be heading out on the road to support it this Spring and will perform at a tour kick off show on June 2nd at Moon Palace Books (info / tix).
We caught up with Evans Peck recently to ask a few questions about his new album and artistic process:
Reviler: Can you tell us a bit about your new album Electric Porcelain in your own words? How did it come about?
CEP: Electric Porcelain is my attempt to convey the beauty, fragility, tenderness, and also pain of love as a queer person.
I wrote all of the songs on the album in 2016 – I fell in love a couple of times, my heart was broken a couple of times, and that’s where a lot of these songs came from. But it’s not simply a heartbreak or break-up album (though there is plenty of that in there). I started thinking, and overthinking these experiences and seeing patterns in my own behavior and emotions that were sort of setting me up for being hurt. Like internalized homophobia and the shame, fear, etc. that goes along with it. And there was this deep feeling of grief over how our culture is fucked up around love, especially non-hetero love. Which is larger, broader, more ancient and pervasive and subtle than being broken up with. And I started writing these love songs about the transportive, powerful, bowl-you-over quality of love, and also the delicacy, fragility, pain, and vulnerability involved in doing so in a culture still fundamentally heteronormative. I kept returning to the paradox of feeling power and life like electricity and exposed fragility like porcelain.
Beyond the thematic content though, I think Electric Porcelain is a very much a chronicle of my first two years living in Minneapolis. New community, new loves, lots of growth. The band on the album, for the most part, formed back in 2016 – we played a few shows as “Carlisle Evans Peck and His Orchestra” and practiced in my neighbor’s garage when it was 90 degrees and we were all melting. These songs really grew and evolved with them and are intimately connected to their presence and contributions. And now they’re still with me as the Lady’s Slippers.
Reviler: You mention that you “strive for the heart of human connection through [your] compositions and musical performance.” Can you expand on that? How do you feel like music and performance is a conduit for communication for you personally?
CEP: For me, music is an important way I communicate feelings and experiences that I would not be able to, or would be resistant to, put into normal words. It’s a way of being intimately vulnerable but also couching things in poetry and metaphor so to not feel uncomfortably exposed. And it’s a way of processing and making sense of the world and my emotional makeup. I think that in general art is how people communicate individual experiences in a way that connects them within a broader, fundamentally human context. I want to tell my own story, yes, but I also strive to create a space in which empathy lives – where we can all feel something together. I feel that’s why I’m drawn to mythic and archetypal language in my songwriting – it communicates something universal.
Reviler: Your music can be quite sad and your descriptions of it often involve words like “pain,” “rawness,” and “heartbreak.” How does hurt inform your music and does it reflect your own experiences?
CEP: I tend to be a very introspective songwriter – and I find it’s the more painful emotions like melancholy and heartbreak and trauma that want expression in my songwriting process. For me, songwriting is an important way I come to know and understand what I am feeling. Often I’ll write a song that surprises or confuses me at first blush, and later (sometimes months or years) I’ll have this “AHA!” moment when I realize what it’s about and what it is telling me about myself. Painful emotions are really private for me, and writing songs is the way I know how to process and express them (which is vital – don’t bottle that shit up). People who’ve listened (like my mom – haha) to Electric Porcelain have said to me things like “These are intense. Are you okay? You usually seem so happy!” And I’m like, yeah I’m fine, but shit is hard sometimes and I’ve got baggage to work out just like everyone else. I’m also a very joyful person, but for me joy and happiness are such outward emotions that they don’t need a vessel to carry them. And besides I’m not into Pollyanna ideals that feeling pain and hurt are bad things – they are inevitable and natural experiences of being human, not signs of personal defect. What fucks people up is living in a culture that inflicts trauma but holds no space for people to express, process, and grieve. Art can and should be that space.
Reviler: What element does queer identity play in your art?
CEP: Aside from Electric Porcelain being entirely composed of gay love songs? Haha. Well, queerness is about upending categories and norms, exploding out of boxes and walls, toppling hierarchies. It’s about living and creating boldly in a way that cannot be classified. I feel my music, at a compositional and poetic level, is “extra” in all the best ways – it is extravagant, gaudy, melodramatic. To paraphrase serpentwithfeet it makes a “pageant of my grief”. This ostentatiousness, almost campiness, is super emblematic of how queerness refuses to be boxed in.
I think queerness works its way into my compositional process, as I also seek to really upend what is typical of a singer-songwriter’s album. While my songs are deeply narrative, I’m not really interested in telling straightforward stories, just as I’m not terribly interested in writing songs in a straightforward song structure. I prefer writing songs that expand to grand, mythic scales, dripping with symbolism and impressionistic imagery, ever meandering harmonically and lyrically. And for me, that is to queer the act of storytelling.
Reviler: You also seem to have a strong connection to the natural world – does that play a part in your creative process?
CEP: Often when I write a song, I start by imagining the world in which the song will live. The scenery, the environment, the habitat. What plants grow there? Is there a river? My undergraduate degree is in Biology and Environmental Studies, and I’ve always felt a profound connection with natural places, both wild and pastoral. I use natural imagery as both symbolism and backdrop to my songs. I also feel a strong connection to magic, and unequivocally nature is where magic resides.
Reviler: What are you hoping that listeners come away with?
CEP: I hope that anyone listening to my music feels transported.