When listening to the lyrics of Locate S,1’s song “Personalia,” you feel a sense of miracle that the song was ever written in the first place. This is because the tune offers a creative and intimate look at a true story in which Christina Schneider — the brain behind Locate S,1 — nearly quits the music industry altogether.
“Almost killed myself so I went home/ I just cannot take these local shows,” the lyrics frankly state, addressing Schneider’s experience and the struggles faced by many musicians.
“It’s hard to be a musician because you can never know if other people are going to care about what you’re doing… and it can hurt when they don’t,” Schneider told American Songwriter. “There’s this weird economy of criticism,” she continued, pointing out the absurdity of living in a society that has websites set up to rate and review every element of our lives, including music.
“That world can kind of get me down because I want people to like what I’m doing, you know? But I also have to remember that not everyone’s going to like what you’re doing but you just have to keep going,” Schneider said. “Music can be a source of pain, but it can be a source of therapy too.”
That therapy blooms in vivid color on Schneider’s sophomore LP Personalia, which debuted April 3 via Captured Tracks. Produced by Schneider’s partner Kevin Barnes (of Of Montreal fame), the record is an ingenious exploration of what pop music can be, incorporating elements of surrealism, humor, politics and intimacy all under psychedelic layers of sound.
“I feel like I can trick people into thinking it’s like other music,” Schneider said. “I really wanted to be more ambitious with Personalia, especially with production. Kevin is an amazing producer and he was encouraging me to take more of the reins in producing. We spent a lot longer recording Personalia — a lot of the recordings even got thrown away and we would completely re-approach stuff. It was kind of a ‘however long this takes, I want it’ thing. I feel like I’m investing in something like a new kind of music, instead of trying to make an album that fits into the world.”
If the desired effect is to create something that feels both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, then Schneider nailed it. That is to say, Schneider writes in a way that puts traditional pop elements in nontraditional environments. The hooks on some songs, like “Whisper 2000,” are as strong as anything in the Top 40, but whereas a standard pop tune would repeat that hook for three minutes and call it a day, Schneider jumps around from idea to idea in a tasteful, seamless way. In fact, the structure of many of the songs feels more akin to classical music from the Romantic era than your run-of-the-mill pop number, even if the instrumentation is more reminiscent of the Elephant 6 collective than Beethoven or Borodin… which is an amazing feat considering Schneider’s musical background.
“I’m not very musically educated,” she said, “I’ve taken guitar lessons and stuff, but theory wise I’m in the weeds. I really like listening to chords and finding different ways to those chords. Sometimes I’ll write gibberish lyrics along with a chord progression so that I can fill in the blanks later when the song has more of a structure. When I’m done with the whole song I’ll bring it to Kevin. Usually, the recording process starts with us talking about what we want the song to sound like — often we’ll both pull certain things from different songs that we like. We usually lay down a percussion track first and then I’ll play the guitar for the basic chord progression and structure. Then we just layer over that, figuring it out as we go.”
Additionally, Personalia is as creative lyrically as it is musically. With a biting edge and a sense of humor, Schneider makes observations throughout the album that touch on everything from self-image to corporate feminism to The Bachelor.
“I got really into The Bachelor,” Schneider said. “I don’t know why, but it’s just fascinating to see these people completely divorced from reality and the conversations that take place between them. It’s surreal. I wrote ‘After The Final Rose’ about it. I wasn’t crazy about the original lyrics I had, so I was trying to think of how to make it more interesting. It really naturally became this song about eating the rich, showing off my distaste for the worship of money and power.”
“I feel very strongly about things like politics and money,” she continued, “but I do try to avoid talking about it in a way that’s not creative. I feel like it’s not my job to make people think about all the things that suck unless I’m making it fun or sublimating it in some way. So, I love to talk about political things, but in a sort of new language so that it’s a little bit sneakier.”
All in all, Personalia is a fantastic oddity and odyssey which bounces around the auditory cortex in a way that feels like an old friend from outer space. In the midst of today’s uncertain world, it offers both fodder for thought and a delightful escape.
Personalia is available on all streaming services. Listen to the single “Whisper 2000” from Locate S,1 below: