Waxahatchee: Tripp The Light Fantastic
Emerging from the realm of lo-fi indie-punk, Katie Crutchfield has made a considerable name for herself both as part of the dearly-missed P.S. Eliot and as the figurehead of the heart-on-sleeve bedroom-emo project Waxahatchee. Her most recent LP under the Waxahatchee name, Ivy Tripp, has seen some of the best critical responses of her career – and rightfully so. Ahead of a whirlwind Australian visit, Crutchfield talked about the evolution of the project and how sisters are doing it for themselves.
Where does a song begin? It’s a simple question, but for the songwriters of the world it elicits a myriad of varied, detailed responses. When it comes to Katie Crutchfield – better known these days as Waxahatchee – she has learned to adapt and progress her approach to writing over the years. As she begins to formulate album number four for the Waxahatchee project, Crutchfield notes the bare necessities of her songwriting needs.
“In some ways, the writing process hasn’t changed for me in 10 years,” she says. “Then again, in other ways, it’s changed and evolved a lot. It all depends on what aspect you choose to focus on. I take down fragments of ideas – melodies, lyric ideas – wherever I may be, and collate it over a period of time. I hone in on it when I’ve got some time free – which, coincidentally enough, happens to be at the moment. I was supposed to be doing a European tour right now, but it got cancelled and I’ve been left with all of this spare time at home. I’m going to be spending a lot of this year writing. I just need the time and the privacy to be able to do as such.”
After the split of P.S. Eliot and a relocation to New York, Crutchfield began making music as Waxahatchee nearly four years ago. It was a considerable departure from what she had been doing previously: slower, more world-weary, breathily-intimate, open-book honest. It resulted in her debut album under the name American Weekend, which Crutchfield still perceives to be her favourite album she’s made – if only for purely sentimental reasons. “It was my first-ever solo record in the true sense,” she says. “Every record I’d made before that had been entirely planned out, with specific roles assigned to different people and all the writing, production and arrangements sorted. I wrote and recorded American Weekend entirely within a week. I wasn’t even planning on having a record. I was working a day job. I was still living in Birmingham. I didn’t know what to do with it. I felt really great about it, but it was so personal. I’m grateful that people saw something in it and felt responsive to it.”
“When you do solo shows, you have nothing to hide behind. They’re a lot more vulnerable.”
It’s been said that behind every great man is a great woman. In Crutchfield’s case, next to this great woman is a strikingly-similar looking, equally great woman: her twin sister, Allison. The Crutchfield sisters co-fronted the aforementioned P.S. Eliot, while Allison went on to form the delightfully-named Swearin’ following their split. The two still sing on one another’s records, and Allison still plays guitar in the full-band version of Waxahatchee. The sisters know each other better than anyone else, which is why they also turn to one another when new songs are brewing.
“For as long as I’ve been writing songs, Allison has been the first person that I’ve shown any songs that I’ve been working on,” says Katie of her twin sister. “She never said much – she still doesn’t – but her reaction would always be the right gauge for me as to whether a song was finished or whether it needed work. I shifted over to showing my partner at the time, who I’d also been collaborating with, but our creative dynamic never quite worked for me. We broke up in both cases, and now I’m back to Allison. She’s working on her solo record right now, and everything she’s writing is so amazing. I showed her a song the other day, but I almost felt silly doing it after all the amazing stuff she’s been showing me. She insisted that she liked it, but I’m comparing everything I’m writing to what she’s doing – it’s making me up my game a lot.”
The Crutchfield sisters, along with the rest of the Waxahatchee live band, will be in Australia this week for two headlining shows; joined at both by the exceptional Melbourne post-punk outfit Infinite Void. It follows on from the success of Katie’s solo dates in the second half of last year in support of her Ivy Tripp record – and both the record itself and the shows in question had a great response from Australian audiences.
“I’m really excited that my whole band gets to come this time – especially Allison, of course,” she says. “The last time that I came out to Australia, my mum came with us and she was doing merch. I was so jetlagged – when I had to leave for Australia, I’d been home for less than a week after doing Europe. I was completely exhausted, but the shows were so lovely. These shows are going to be a lot of fun – it’s a very different kind of Waxahatchee show than just me on my own. When you do solo shows, you have nothing to hide behind. They’re a lot more vulnerable. I feel a lot more confident with a band.”