Rosie Tucker knows when to wait.
The LA singer-songwriter had wanted to cover “Arrow” by Jeffrey Lewis for approximately five years before they finally decided to give it a shot–last fall–ahead of their first headlining tour.
“I thought it would be fun to have a cover in the set and the band really liked the song,” Tucker tells American Songwriter. Previously, Tucker explains, “[I] never really had the musical infrastructure around me to make a cover that was worthy. I think the original recording is so good.”
That musical infrastructure is Tucker’s band, which consists of bassist / producer Madison Scheckel (who goes by Wolfy), drummer Jessy Reed, and guitarist Jess Kallen. The four musicians were tweaking their rendition of “Arrow” right up until they started performing it.
“We were having a really hard time arranging it because it’s an unusually structured song,” says Tucker. “It’s just kind of a deluge of words and then it ends. So eventually I said, ‘Hey Jess’–our guitar player–‘maybe you could just sit down at your pedalboard and make a ton of noise?’ She’s very brilliant. She re-tuned her guitar and did a whole bunch of stuff and then it came together right before we had to leave for a six week tour all across the country.”
Tucker’s version of the track is a swirling, electric update to the original, which appeared on Lewis’ 2003 album It’s the Ones Who’ve Cracked That the Light Shines Through. In Tucker’s hands “Arrow” opens with an eerie, almost-trancelike recitation of that “deluge of words,” but eventually transforms into a heady rock number with a nervy, psychedelic edge. The song spirals into another dimension after Tucker howls their last line around the 3:00 mark. This ferocity has made “Arrow” a highlight of the band’s live show.
“I think it pretty quickly became everybody’s favorite part of the set because it’s a moment of creativity and intensity and I get to be away from the mic for a lot of it,” explains Tucker. “And Jessie, our drummer, is doing some unusual stuff.”
The studio version of the track–released last week and featured below–perfectly captures that intensity. Tucker shot the accompanying lyric video around their neighborhood in Los Angeles.
“That portrayal of LA is very intimate to me because it is just videos that I took on a walk around my apartment, since we can’t go anywhere due to the global pandemic,” says Tucker of the footage in the video. “I think there is some imagery in there that feels particularly Los Angeles–the freeway, the cacti, the chain link fence, and the spaciousness. I think that Los Angeles has an element of emptiness that not everybody expects to confront if they move here.”
For Tucker–who has previously called LA “a surreal urban cornucopia much maligned in popular culture when portrayed through the eyes of transplants from wealthy suburbs”–the “Arrow” video doubles as a personal snapshot of their beloved hometown. “That’s just my Los Angeles,” Tucker says of the footage. “[LA’s] hard to talk about because I’ve only ever lived here, and I’m very, very fond of it–it’s all that I know.”
From a production standpoint, “Arrow” came together the same way most Rosie Tucker songs come together. “Usually we will record drums in the studio–and maybe guitars–and then everything else is mostly me and Wolfy,” Tucker says. “It’s just us going at it on a whole variety of instruments and talking through it and bringing in our bandmates and asking what they think.”
Asked what songwriters they’ve been turning to while on lockdown, Tucker says they’ve been primarily listening to instrumental and pop artists. “I don’t think that pop music needs to mean bad writing,” says Tucker. “I’m really a fan of this up-and-coming artist Remi Wolf. She has this song called “Shawty” which I think is a perfect pop song.”
“I’ve been listening to a fair amount of music in Spanish,” adds the singer-songwriter, who describes their Spanish comprehension skills as “middle school-level” at best. “I think that allowing myself to enjoy music in an abstract way is an important part of writing. There is a time for taking in the talent of other people and allowing yourself to be immersed in it and to understand them from their perspective, and that’s very beautiful. I also think it’s a very important part of the writing process to experience music as a space that is sort of ambiguous and accessible and infinitely ready to be pillaged for ideas.”
Tucker is eager to start working on new material, having just wrapped the recording of their next record. “I have not been writing very much recently,” they explain. “I’ve kind of been humming with the anxiety of needing to do that. I think that all of the late-night-oh-my-god-it’s-too-hot-to-sleep energy has been going toward the process of recording, which is its own creative process which I have become much more accustomed to and comfortable with over the course of this record. But I’m dying to write songs again.”
Tucker’s third record will follow their stunning sophomore effort–2019’s Never Not Never Not Never Not–and their 2015 debut, Lowlight. “Arrow” comes after Tucker’s latest singles–“Brand New Beast” and “Ambrosia.”
Next on Tucker’s to-do list is to finish their forthcoming album, though Tucker doesn’t exactly know when–or how–it will be released.
“At this point I think that there is so much uncertainty as to what elements of the music and entertainment industries are going to exist in six months,” says Tucker. “We’re going to see if there is anybody who wants to put it out and focus on getting it done and having it be mixed and mastered in a way that everybody is excited about.”
“Arrow” is out now via New Professor Music.