Emily Wells and Her Post-Apocalyptic Nursery Rhymes

“I’ve taken up running, which has completely changed my perception of music,” Emily Wells tells me during a recent convo…

Emily Well’s aesthetic has been a pastiche of playful contradictions that, somehow, always seem to work almost perfectly. Her sound generally falls into the realm and demographic of postmodern folk, however it also owes itself to the classical (She is, after all, a violinist, and has released an album of symphonies.) and has a swagger heavily indebted to Hip-Hop (In 2009 she recorded a cover of the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy,” with her violin, that was just about the furthest thing on the planet from a “novelty.”) However, she admits “I can’t listen to anything slow when I run. I listen to a lot of rap and dark electronic music.”

Emily is currently in the middle of touring behind her latest LP, Mama, which was released on April 10th, courtesy of Partisan Records: “It’s a new experience. I’ve never been on a label before. It’s nice to have people with you.” The sounds found on Mama are actually far less postmodern in composition than most of her previous work. Certain songs were recorded in one take, abandoning punch-ins and loops completely. However, they still maintain their postmodern aesthetic, along the lines of a lo-fi brand of trip-hop that could pass for post-apocalyptic nursery rhymes. The album’s best track is “Passenger,” which desperately needs to score the most prolific scene in the most prolific Mumblecore film of all-time.

Wells has gained quite a reputation for her live performances, which have been described as a ”one-woman orchestra,” which have her, along with her violin and loop pedal, “playing live drums, guitars, analog synthesizers and beat machines.”  However, the comparisons that are regularly drawn are not necessarily those which she finds to be most accurate: “A lot of people do loops and all that kind of stuff. People are automatically going to compare me to Andrew Bird and tUnE-yArDs, and I don’t feel like I’m necessarily anything like those artists.”  She does, however, find certain contemporary peers to be quite inspiring, citing Twin Shadow and “The way they moved,” working as a fluid and cohesive unit onstage, as something larger than the individual band members: “I love when people are honest onstage, but also so dialed into their craft.”

In addition to being a songwriter and producer, Emily Wells recently added filmmaker to her repertoire when she directed her own video for the aforementioned “Passenger.” Although the video demonstrates an impressive grasp on the whole high-art-composition-of-home-videos thing that is present in today’s best music videos, art installations, and avant-garde cinema, she admits to me “I’m in no way a film buff, not that I don’t like a good movie. I like dark realism… I like cheesy movies too, I’m not gonna lie.” She does, however, admit to having a number of significant non-musical influences from other realms of the arts: “I was heavily influenced by Raymond Carver and John Updike. I got really into like drunk, middle-aged men, which is weird because I was in my early 20s at the time.” She also tells me that Geek Love by Katherine Dunn was a huge influence.

As far as what’s next for Emily, that will likely be Pillowfight, her long-in-production project with producer Dan the Automator: “This record has actually been done since before Mama was done.” And in terms of what fans can expect of the project, she tells me “The production’s super hot. The beats are super hot. The content’s really dark and honest.” However, it’s in her description of her workings with DTA that strike me as the project’s biggest selling-point: “I just got to be a singer and a lyricist. Dan has his thing that he does, so when you come in as a collaborator, you can focus on anything other than that. He gave more value to my voice than I’ve ever given value to my voice.”