At one point Lana Del Rey was supposed to release her new album Chemtrails Over The Country Club this past Friday. Well, it’s not out yet, but the promo machine has kicked into gear. Last week Del Rey shared an update from a video shoot for the title track, teasing lead single “Let Me Love You Like A Woman.” Now, in an Interview conversation with producer Jack Antonoff — who helmed the new project, as well as last year’s Norman Fucking Rockwell! and Del Rey’s recent poetry collection and spoken-word album Violet Bent Over Backwards In The Grass — she says the album is close to finished, and she shares some background on several of its songs. They also veer off into other subjects, like mental health and clubbing with Joan Baez.
The interview was conducted by phone while Del Rey drove from Oklahoma to LA, presumably after visiting Sgt. Sean “Sticks” Larkin, the Tulsa cop and reality TV star who she recently dated. (As of March he said they were broken up, but who knows.) It is, of course, an extremely chummy chat. Many compliments are exchanged between the collaborators. But the back-and-forth contains several nuggets about the new album.
For instance, we learn that on “Dealer,” a new song Del Rey is thinking of adding to the album, she screams her head off: “People don’t know what it sounds like when I yell. And I do yell.” She says she’s been distracted by her poetry and personal life this year, but now that she’s in the homestretch of recording, “Dealer” could be the finishing touch that perfects the album. She calls it a very “Midwestern-sounding” album, as opposed to her mourning for LA in the poetry collection and her ongoing fixation with the West Coast. Chemtrails is largely about “my stunning girlfriends” and “my beautiful siblings,” all of whom are supposedly mentioned on the title track.
“I’ve been really stressed about this album,” Del Rey says at one point. “From the top, we knew what Norman was. But with Chemtrails, it was like, ‘Is this new folk? Oh, god, are we going country?’ Now that it’s done I feel really good about it, and I think a defining moment for this album will be ‘White Dress/Waitress.'” Regarding “White Dress/Waitress,” which they recorded at Jim Henson’s studio, “being watched over by a giant Kermit,” Del Rey notes:
What I like about that song is that for all of its weirdness, when you get to the end of it, you understand exactly what it’s about. I hate when I hear a song that has a great melody, but I have no idea what they’re talking about. In the grunge movement, a lot of the lyrics were super abstract, but the melodies and the tonality were such a vibe that you felt like you knew exactly what the singer was thinking. Nowadays, you get a beautiful melody but you don’t really know what the person is talking about, or if it’s even important to them.
Del Rey also talks about how her performance with Joan Baez in Berkeley last fall came about:
On the last tour, we went to Berkeley and I really wanted to do “Diamonds and Rust” with Joan, and she was kind enough to accommodate me. Nobody necessarily wants to show up to do a giant show for 15,000 kids at Berkeley, but she told me that if I’d drive out 80 miles from Berkeley, then we could practice at her kitchen table, and if it was good, she would do it. So that’s what I did. She corrected me on all my harmonies, and by the end, it was great. Then we went out clubbing to this Afro-Caribbean two-step place and danced all night. She fucking outlasted me.
And she shares some extremely optimistic thoughts about the state of humanity:
There’s no way we’re going to get it wrong. We’re really on the right path. The #MeToo movement was not just a passing movement. Black Lives Matter, no way in hell that’s going away. People talking out about mental health, there’s no way they’re not going to seek even more genetic testing to find out what they’re predisposed to. All the scariness and worriedness and disappointment at the same time is like being in a big rocket that is shooting us into a new emotional place, and we’re going to come out of it and be like, “I don’t want to go shopping. I need to go talk to somebody about something.”
The full interview is available here.