Storm-ing stages: Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield on friends, family and festivals like Et Cultura

The band plays the State Theatre stage with Ought and DieAlps! on Nov. 17

click to enlarge AFTER THE RAIN: Katie Crutchfield is the songwriting force of nature behind Waxahatchee. - Jesse Riggins
Jesse Riggins
AFTER THE RAIN: Katie Crutchfield is the songwriting force of nature behind Waxahatchee.

Four months after its release, Waxahatchee’s new album — Out in the Storm — stands as one of the most gorgeous releases of 2017 (hear it at the bottom of this post).

It pairs the vulnerability of past albums like American Weekend (2012) and Ivy Tripp (2015) with the most robust production songwriter Katie Crutchfield has put on record. Themes circle around the end of a relationship, but the 10 tracks are driven by a lush, rocking sound thanks to Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. collaborator John Agnello, who co-produced the record.

CL caught up with Crutchfield, 28, during a lull on the tour supporting Storm, and for 20 minutes she sipped on a coffee and shared stories about new music, family, her road crew of women and non-binary friends, plus what makes a memorable music festival.

Read excerpts our chat — and get details on Waxahatchee’s set at St. Pete’s Et Cultura festival — below. 


Waxahatchee at Et Cultura w/Ought/DieAlps!
Fri., Nov. 17. Doors at 7 p.m.
Festival passes $50-$250.
Single venue tickets subject to availability on day of show.
State Theatre, 687 Central Ave., St. Petersburg.
More info: local.cltampa.com

Hello?

Good morning, Katie. This is Ray.

Hi, how's it going?

Not too bad, how are you?

Mmm. I'm good, thanks.

Coffee?

Yup.

Yeah, you get up early.

Yeah, I actually didn't get up early enough for this, naturally, I kind of had to wake myself up, but I like to do interviews first thing in the morning. Otherwise you're in the middle of stuff, in the middle of your day, and you have to kind of stop, so I like to just do them first thing.

Awesome, do the things you say in them kind of haunt you as the day goes on, or are you able to kind of move on. I always feel like I regret everything that comes out of my mouth.

Ha, no. I think I would never get anything done if I, like kind of mulled over it too much — I kind of just have to let it go.

Right on, and you just got off that European tour where you got to play the Deaf Institute, and you took some days off to kind of recuperate from that. What does that down time for you look like, and where are you right now, are you up in New York?

I'm actually out on far east Long Island right now, kind of taking a little vacation, but yeah, I have had a lot of downtime. I've been trying to relax. I was upstate in New York for a few days kinda just hanging' out, and then I went to a wedding of a good friend of mine, she got married, and then I've been working a little recording project that will reveal itself to the world soon enough. I was doing that upstate, and now I'm kind of out here on Long Island and I'm gonna go down to the city in a couple days, and then I'm probably gonna go down to Alabama and spend a few weeks in Alabama. So I'm just kind of, well, home is Philadelphia for me right now, so I still really haven't spent much time at home, but I have been kind of, like, on a relaxation tour, sort of.


Yeah, thanks for talking to me. I got my dates mixed up and I didn't realize that you were still on tour, and your PR wanted to give you a rest, so I hope this isn't too soon for you. In September you talked about having a full song written in and some ideas. In September you talked about having a full song written in and some ideas down — is this thing you're working on from that?

No, it's  Waxahatchee, but it's sort of like a side thing. The next record I haven't started recording yet, but I have been kind of, the next Waxahatchee record has kind of moved itself into the forefront of my attention, you know what I mean? It's sort of like what I'm focused on at the moment creatively.

Okay, so this thing you're working on is a side thing to just exercise a few other ideas that are floating around?

Yeah, something like that.

Does it pick up some of the hopeful themes on Out in the Storm? I think everybody latched onto this idea that it was kind of a breakout record, which you never quite said, but there is a lot of hope on Storm, so I was wondering how much of that was coming out in the stuff that you're writing now.

Yeah, you know, I think that that record, Out In the Storm, is such a weird, capsule, you know? It's sort of like, every song is kind of about the same thing, and every, you know, moment of working on it was sort of like cathartic for me, and, you know, kind of like — it's like a snapshot of this sort of process that I went through, so it's hard to say if the next one will kind of pick up where that left off.

I mean, I think in a lot of ways it will as far as, you know, I kind of went through all that and, you know, came out on the other side and the finished product was Out In the Storm. So I think it'll pick up where it left off certainly, but I don't know that it will be in any way related. Like I kind of feel like I said what I needed to say about that, and I'm kind of ready to focus on other things in my life and write about other things in my life because so much has happened. I mean, that record that ended years ago at this point, and a lot has gone on in my life since then. And a lot of things that I, you know, that have taken up so much more of my you know, energy and time, and now I am more, sort of eager, to touch on now then this relationship that has ended and that I don't even spend that much of my time thinking about anymore, you know?

It comes up sometimes, but I feel like I kind of covered it now.

Yeah, it's that weird thing about the everlasting aspect of music and the everlasting need to have to talk to music journalists who ask you about a document of emotions from so long ago. I think you started writing that record when Allison put out Tourist. So the Times called you and Allison punk and DIY elders, I know you talk to Girlpool and bands like Cayetana, but but you’re only 28-years-old, right?

Yeah, totally. I mean, we didn't write the headline, haha.

Haha, right, right. I was like, "Man, that is...28? Elders? Come on."

Yeah, totally. I think the idea that they wanted, because Jon Caramanica, who wrote the article, and it was actually kind of a really cool situation. Like definitely made me feel, it was just very flattering for Allison and I, the whole situation, because Jon Caramanica wrote this article about is in the The New York Times, in, like 2011, or 2012, I guess it would've been 2012. It was the first big piece of national press to ever come out about us, it was in The New York Times, and it was kind of a huge deal for us.I guess it's a big deal to be in The New York Times anyway, so that was was kind of a thing, and he interviewed us, and he asked us a lot of questions, and I think we ended up kind of touching on, you know, more, you know, more that creative and music stuff — and we did talk about that, too — but more than he expected we talked about politics within the music biz and within the music scenes and stuff like that.

I think that interested him, and we talked about that a lot, and that showed up a a lot in that interview, so then fast forward five years later, and they are pitching this thing about women in rock music right now, and I think he wanted to come back around five years later and also, you know, when he did interview us we had not seen any sort of real success. And now we kind of have, you know, broken out more, and I think that he wanted to kind of come back around and talk to us about it again and see how we have, how our opinions had grown and progressed and whatever, so anyways that was kind of the idea, and I loved the interview it was one of my favorite interviews that I've ever done. But yeah, the headline is funny, and I feel like people are like, "This interview is good, but what's up with that?" Elders, we're not even 30.


Yeah, he probably didn't even write that headline, so I do like a lot of the things you've said about how D.I.Y. has had to come around and be more accepting, and it has, but I wanted to get something down really quick. Could you talk about the lineup that you’re bringing to St. Petersburg in mid-November? Will it be Katherine Simonetti on bass, Ashley Arnwine on drums, Allison Crutchfield on keyboards and guitar, and Katie Harkin (of Sleater-Kinney's touring band)?

Yeah, so it's not Katie, Katie Harkin. She played on my record, but she's currently playing with Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett right now. She's, uh, she's a busy lady.

Yeah, rough life.

She was working on this great solo record when we first started this touring cycle, or whatever, and she plays with Sleater-Kinney, she played with everybody, and I knew she was gonna be busy, so I was like kind of, you know, "Play on the record, and then you're off the hook," you know? Something like that, kind of. My friend Allie Donohue is kind of taking her place in the band, and so that's the band that's been with me all year so far. It's cool. I kind of see myself, in the future kind of scaling everything back a little bit, and not, and you know kind of making everything a little more stripped down like it used to be. That's kind of been the kind of music that I've been craving to make, but right now, you know, at the end of the Out In the Storm cycle — it's a rock band. It's a loud rock band, and it's really cool, yeah, I'm excited.

And your crew is all-women or non-binary people still?

Yeah, totally. This time it will be. You know, it's hard to say in the future, I really like, I like talking about it. I like that people are noticing it, and like I said, next year who knows, and down the line who knows, but it was important to me, especially for this record because it's sort of about — I mean, even like stuff that people are talking about in the news right now, like all these people coming forward about sexual harassment and, you know, just abuse of power. And I think my record, even though it's on a small scale, it kind of touches on stuff like that a lot.

Yeah, it's important for me to not only have, like, all, you know women and non-binary folks up on stage with me, but also in your crew and tuning our guitars, and mixing our set, stuff like that. I think that it's cool to have that visibility right now. Like, if there is anyone out in the audience and sees that, and goes home and thinks, "Maybe I can do that." That's huge for us.

You have a four-year-niece, who is also comfortable on stage. With this last election cycle, a lot of talk about trans rights, the use of proper pronouns, and then this whole Harvey Weinstein thing that you hit on a little — is that something you talk to her about? It seems like you're pretty close.

Yeah, we're really close. And I am actually kind of about to kind of move back to Alabama, and I feel like, you know she lives in Alabama, but I feel like she'll be an even bigger part of my life. She already is, I have a really close family, but yeah, totally, I try. You know, it's hard, but it's important to try and have those conversations, to know how to like normalize that for kids. She's such a sweet, open, open-hearted person already, so it's really sweet to kind of talk to her about things like that. She does her best to understand.


I wanted to ask you about Ought, who you are touring with.

Totally, yeah.

It's funny to hear you talk about, when you show up at venues and stuff and, like, men say crazy stuff, from the sound guy to the people in the audience, um, obviously you have a crew that's non-binary, a powerful record, so I'm guessing the Ought guys are cool, and that the tour is gonna go well? [Editor's note: Men talking down to women musicians and crew at venues is not funny at all, bad word choice, and I need to do a better job when I open my mouth, but I hope you know what I meant.]

The Ought guys are like the coolest all-dude band that I can think of. You know what I mean? They're the coolest, I wouldn't tour with anybody who wasn't, you know? I've known those guys for a long time — they're so sweet, they're so, they're just really down, they're really cool. I love their music. It's the kind of thing where we were talking about ideas of people to tour with on this little run, you know, we have the same booking agent, but we're also, like, buddies. And when it got kind of back to me, that they were, we were talking about ideas that was less crazy about then I would be if I was touring with Ought, and when my booking agent tossed it out there kind of like, "Well Ought kind of wants to go," I was like, "Yes," just so excited. That's it — we have to do that. They've toured with other friends bands of mine, and I have gotten to kind of hang with them in that context before, a little bit, but never to this extent, so I am very excited.

Yeah it's pretty cool that your tour is dropping you off here in St. Pete for kind of a down-home, homegrown festival, and people are pretty just as stoked to see Ought on the bill as they are to see Waxahatchee and Slowdive.

Yeah, that's what we want — that's great.

Do you guys have plans to go to the beach, eat some good food or nachos while you're down here?

Dude, absolutely. I love Florida. My dad's from Florida.

Oh yeah? Where's he from?

He's from the Kissimmee area, so outside of Orlando, but I have a lot of family down there and I grew up spending a lot of time down there. Also once I got old enough to play shows through kind of punk and D.I.Y., I always would tour down there a lot, which I feel is kind of rare. I feel like a lot of people I know don't play Florida that often.

A lot of gas.

Yeah, and you kind of have to commit. You kind of have to spend like four or five days there, you know? But when I saw that we were talking about it I was thrilled because I love going down there, it's such a good time of the year. It'll be warm, we can go down to the beach and swim, and, yeah, I'm psyched. We're gonna do all of the Florida things we're gonna do.


And you've been rad about answering the questions, and I wanted to get this one in there. You had that Under the Radar interview where you talked about ideally wanting to die around the century mark and peacefully in your sleep. It was weird because there was a guy I play soccer with die in his sleep this week, but he was just 36. We’re all so young still and you had your friend Tripp who you named Ivy Tripp for — and the idea of going in your sleep peacefully has stuck around with me since then. How often do you get to go to sleep at night in peace? I feel like you would have a lot of ideas and things you want to do. I mean do you trust that, like in Rushmore, all the loose ends of your life will get tied up in a way tidy enough to make you happy?

Um, I don't know. I feel. Yeah, like if I was go go tonight, you know, I mean, I, you just kind of have to conceptualize the loose ends and be like, "Well I guess I could consider them tied up if I had to." It's kind of like a weird thing to think about. I guess if you're asking if I live my life to the fullest extent, and like, if I were to go at any time would I be satisfied with that, then I think for the most part the answer is "Yes," you know there are probably a couple debts that I should settle first, things like that.

But yeah, I guess so. There's always something, every day, something that needs to get accomplished. Even creatively there's a new endeavour that I would like to kind of see through, but yeah, as far as what I've done with my life, my body of work and the relationships I have, I feel pretty good about all of it.

Right on, and you mentioned settling some debts, and it make me think of the joint interviews that you do with Allison sometimes, and I was wondering if you are really as particular, introverted, tactful and fairy godmother-ish as Allison makes you out to be? Like Allison is a good character reference for you, right? We can take what she says about you as truth?

Totally. I mean Allison, interviews, she sort of highlights the good and just leaves out the bad because, you know, were siblings, and we fight, but yeah, I'd say the way that she portrays me if very much her perspective of me, and our dynamic, but I think it's accurate. I'd like to think so.

You play a lot of festivals, some put together by corporate entities and some others that are more homegrown like the whimsical End of the Road, Pitchfork and Et Cultura in St. Pete. I can imagine they start to blur together, but do some of the smaller, less-corporate ones feel different on your end? What makes a good festival?

Totally. It's weird. They all feel the same and different because you also have to think about, there are all these smaller ones, not even small ones, but all these ones in Europe that we play that we've never heard of and we have no context for, but then we go over there and play them, and they kind of just seem, like, Pitchfork or whatever. There's that many people at them, and they're that big, and that big of artists, but it's in, like, you know, Belgium, and it's not something that I have ever heard of. They all do kind of blend together a lot, but the ones that we really remember are the ones that just have really cool, good lineups, like End of the Road. Preferably, like, you know, inclusive lineups and then also, ones that treat the artists really well. Obviously as the artist, those are the ones you remember.

Like, "Oh, that one had the really good food," you know, they took really good care of us, and whatever. Those are the ones we usually end up remembering because as artists, like, festivals are massive. They're insane, awesome times, and they're so crowded and like the elements are kind of against you, and you end up just kind of — as fun as it can be, and as great it is to see a lot of your peers, and to kind of like see a lot of bands, you often have your own kind of quiet, small space to go back to, like a dressing room or something, and I feel like at festivals you end up kind of just seeking shelter because you have it. And so, you know what I mean, if you play 20 festivals in a season often times you kind of just want to have some nice quiet place to go back to and just meditate on what's happening around you. Those are the ones that we end up remembering.

The ones that treat the artists really well, but I will say there are a handful of them that are kind of less, kind of gross corporate type situations, I mean End of the Road is definitely one of the best ones I've ever done, and another, like British one, Welsh, one called Green Man that is really cool. That's another one that is super-memorable. Like, not only was it really accommodating, but I don't think they have any corporate sponsors — it's a lot of local sponsors, it's very cool and a very cool lineup. And I always love playing Pitchfork, that's one of my favorite ones to play in America.


For sure, I think you guys kind of epitomize the whole, like, that whole generation, and that magazine, the way it came up and did what it did, you guys doing what you do, so basically just put a bunch of Sparks tall boys in the cooler and you're good?

Yeah, totally. You know what, I think I said the other day, for a case of Sparks, we were going around in circles, like, "How much would you pay for a case of classic Sparks." I definitely was willing to pay the most, but I can't remember how much.

Ugh, don't do it.

I feel like the moment has passed. Sparks came out at a time when I was, like, 18 years old, which is like how old you need to be to enjoy something like that. I think I'm passed it.

I'd drink it on ice still.

Yeah, maybe.

Like mix it with some wine or something.

Yeah, make it kind of look like an Aperol spritz or something — just kind of trick myself, yeah I think I would do that.

Haha, well thank you for taking the time out of your morning. I hope you have a really productive and relaxing day today, and a safe tour.

Thank you so much. Yeah. Take care.

Sweet. Bye.

Bye.

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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