Progress Report: Garbage
Progress Report: Butch Vig and Shirley Manson open up about reuniting to record the first new Garbage album in over six years.
Just a few years after Butch Vig would help change the landscape of popular music (and culture) forever with his part in the production of Nirvana’s Nevermind, he would also play an even larger role in a band that would help define the sound of the mid-’90s in a totally different way. Releasing their self-titled debut album in 1995, Garbage (featuring Vig on drums and behind the mixing desk) was a perfect marriage of pristine pop production, endlessly hooky tunes, and just the right amount of Alternative Nation-ish swagger. It also didn’t hurt that the band had fiery Scottish redhead Shirley Manson fronting the band. Unlike so many of her pop peers, Manson paired sex-appeal with equal parts intelligence and toughness, and Garbage made songs that, while generally super-catchy, also harbored the requisite amount of ’90s-approprirate melancholy (you gotta love a top 40 single with “Pour your misery down on me” as a chorus). The band went on to sell over 17 million records, largely due to Manson’s endless charisma and the band’s forward-thinking amalgam of rock music and synthy electronics. Over the next decade Garbage released three more studio albums — Version 2.0, Beautiful Garbage, and Bleed Like Me — before seemingly running out of steam while on tour in 2005.
Now, nearly six years since they last played together, Garbage are putting the finishing touches on a brand new studio album. With all the original members back on board (including Duke Erikson and Steve Marker), the resurrection of Garbage seems to have nothing to do with cashing in on any 90’s nostalgia (or even simply just cashing in). According to both Vig and Manson, getting the band back together was, more than anything, the pleasant end result of a bunch of friends hanging out together and remembering how much fun it was to make music in the first place.
STEREOGUM: I was just looking through the list of records you have produced, which is very long, and noticed that you produced Flipped Out In Singapore by the Chainsaw Kittens. I don’t know how I never knew that, since I loved that record and I grew up in Oklahoma. They were my hometown heroes.
BUTCH BUTCH: Oh yeah, they were such a great band … and totally underrated. They had this crazy glam-rock thing happening. They were going in a very Jane’s Addiction kind of direction at the time and the frontman, Tyson, was a very flamboyant character. I guess it’s not easy being that over-the-top and coming from the Midwest. They never really got their due.
STEREOGUM: Obviously, you’ve been very busy lately. There’s been a lot of talk about the Nevermind 20th anniversary stuff, but you’ve also been busy wrapping up a new Garbage record. What made you guys decide it was time to make another record? Who started the ball rolling again?
BUTCH: We kind of just fell back into it. After the last tour for Bleed Like Me we had just done four long tours and four albums all basically just stacked on top of each other, so we were pretty burnt out just from being in each other’s face 24/7 for so long. We decided it was time to take a break for a while with no real indication of how long that might be. I thought it might be a year or two, but it turned out to be over 5 years. I think it was really necessary though. About a year ago everyone came out to LA for a get together — I think it was a birthday party or something — but we were all in the same place and just decided it might be fun to go into my studio and just fuck around for a little while. No agenda or anything. We went to a studio in Hollywood and just spent four or five days hanging out, basically just talking and drinking a lot of wine, but out of that came three or four song ideas, a couple of which eventually made it onto the record. There were all these loose jams, where we would play a song for an hour or so with the lights turned down really low and all of us having consumed way too much wine and it was so fun. I think we realized that we had no agenda and there was really no pressure either. We were out of our deals with our former record companies and our previous management — we didn’t owe anything to anyone anymore. So, it was just like “Fuck it, we can do whatever we want.” It was really Shirley who initially got the most excited and really rallied everyone to get back into the studio for real. We would go into the studio for three or four days at a time and play around, then take about a week off to think about it. Then, about six months ago, we decided to really buckle down and we went into a studio over on the Sunset Strip, a small little place, and that’s basically where we made the record.
STEREOGUM: So is the record totally finished now?
BUTCH: We are mixing right now. We recorded about 24 songs and we’re gonna narrow it down to about 11 or 12 of them. We’ve already mixed about seven of them and I think Shirley still has a few little vocal overdubs and things she wants to do for a couple of them. We’ve sort of been trying to come up with a sequence and possible titles and artwork and all that. So we’re in the home stretch of finishing the album now.
STEREOGUM: That’s really exciting.
BUTCH: It really is exciting. you know, the songs all sound pretty diverse but they all kind of hang together nicely and it really sounds like us, like Garbage, for better or worse. There is a sensibility that we have when the four of us come together, even if we are trying to make ourselves sound differently, that still comes through. I think old school fans of the band are really going to dig it. My fingers are crossed.
STEREOGUM: Some people might assume, given your reputation as a producer, that the bulk of Garbage’s music was written directly by you. How do you guys typically work? Did you always write music in a jam session sort of way?
BUTCH: Songs usually happen for us one of two ways: either it comes out of a jam where we just pick out a snippet or two that sounds cool and try to form it into something. Other times Duke or Steve or I will come in with a chord progression or a beat and we’ll all just jam on top of that. Our process has always been truly collaborative and everyone has input to every aspect of the music. Given that everything is always filtered through the collective of our four brains, I think that’s why we’ve always had a very consistent sound. It’s hard to describe. if you sat in the studio with us for a couple of days you’d probably be able to figure it out, but we are pretty much a dysfunctional democracy.
STEREOGUM: Was there ever a point over the last five or six years when you thought that Garbage was probably over and done? Or did you always assume that eventually you guys would make another record?
BUTCH: In the back of my mind I think I always thought that we’d make another record, but at the time we stopped it seemed like we needed to really turn the valve off completely. I think we all really needed to reclaim our own lives again. I myself really wanted to get back into producing and my wife and I had a daughter, so I really wanted to be able to spend time at home and just be a dad. I’m sure there were lots of people who assumed that the band was done, but I think the four of us always knew on some level that we’d eventually get back together and make music, even if it wasn’t necessarily for an album. There was, I think, always the feeling that we’d at least get back together to play shows. Who knows what will happen after this record and tour. Maybe we’ll jump back into the cycle of recording again, maybe we won’t, but I can’t imagine a day when we’d all choose to close the door completely on working and playing together.
STEREOGUM: Do you anticipate touring a lot in 2012?
BUTCH: We’re talking about it right now. We’ll probably start doing rehearsals in January of next year and then play a few small shows in March of April. Then maybe we’ll play some festivals both here and in Europe. In fact, yesterday we were talking about what songs we should start rehearsing and suddenly I was like, “Argh! I can’t even think about this until we get this new record finished!” And then we started talking about what it would be like if we played a series of shows where each night we played the new record and one of our old records and our B-side, which meant we’d need to rehearse about 200 songs or something. Which means we would lose our fucking minds!
STEREOGUM: Technology has changed pretty radically since 1995, which is when Garbage was released. Do you think it will make it easier, or somehow different, to play these songs now?
BUTCH: Oh definitely. We are a band that has always embraced technology. There is a part of us that loves lo-fi, kind of trashy sounds, but this other part that has always been about technology. I think that’s one of the things that we’re most excited about with touring next year. There are so many new things you can use to produce cool sounds and interesting visuals now. We’ll definitely embrace that with our next tour.
STEREOGUM: How do you feel about touring? As someone who currently spends most of his time in a studio helping other bands make records, it must also be tremendously satisfying to have the opportunity to be on the other side, to be on stage in front of a crowd.
BUTCH: There is something about being on stage that really is like a drug. It’s an adrenaline rush that you just can’t really get from being in a studio. You know, when I come up with a cool sound or a cool part for a song in the studio, nobody jumps up and claps. At best you might get a “that’s cool” from someone in the band, except for Shirley, who is very vocal and gets very excited in the studio. But you know, the communal buzz you experience when you walk out on stage in front of thousands of people, you just can’t create that in a studio. I am looking forward to that. I am NOT looking forward to the trains, planes, and automobiles involved with touring, the part that takes up the bulk of your time. We’re all really excited though, especially Shirley. She’s done a lot of interesting stuff in the past five years — acting in films and on TV and stuff, which is cool — but I think she’s really excited to be back on stage again. She’s such a great performer; I think she’s really missed that.
STEREOGUM: I’m always interested in the role that a producer plays in making a record and how exactly a producer interacts with the band he or she is producing. You get to be everything from the drill sergeant to the therapist to the cheerleader to the person who has to coax out good performances and convince people to stray from their comfort zones and try new things. It’s a really complicated role to play. How do you juggle the dual roles of being both producer and band member when it comes to Garbage?
BUTCH: Well, you kind of hit the nail on the head with the mention of all the things you have to be as a producer. You often have to be all of those things at the same time on the same day. You have to be a task-master, but you also have to be understanding and gentle, you have to be a psychologist, and that role can change from hour to hour depending on who in the band you are dealing with and what the scenario happens to be. When I first started producing I thought it was simply about making sure it sounded good and the performances were good and the arrangements were good, but that’s really only about half of it. The other half is all about psychology. It’s about understanding a band and figuring out what their vision is how you can push them in ways to help them realize that vision, whatever it happens to be. With other bands I always have to remind myself that it’s their vision, not mine. I have to try to get into the headspace to help them get where they need to go. Sometimes artists just really get in their own way, you know? They get really closed-minded. That’s the tricky thing, figuring out how to help them expand their horizons without causing them to forget who they are. It’s a weird thing and something that’s almost impossible to explain. You have to gain their trust when you are the producer, and sometimes you have to be willing to say OK when you put forth what you think is a cool idea and the band says no. With Garbage I have to take a step back and remember that I’m a member in this band and there are all these other opinions that are important. It’s a collective vision, not just my own. It’s liberating, actually, because I was a musician before I was a producer. It’s nice to just be the musician sometimes. The four of us are all very opinionated, so there are things that we have to work through which isn’t always easy. One thing though, you can’t just say something like, “That guitar sound sucks!” You have to then say why it sucks and how it might be improved, that way things keep moving forward. Usually when I get stumped by something or I’m trying to give something a very honest listen, I go drive around and listen to it in my car. That’s the best way to hear it.
STEREOGUM: Yes! The car stereo is the great arbiter of whether something is good or not. That’s the one thing I hate about living in New York. I don’t get to drive around and listen to music at peak volume.
BUTCH: Yeah, my car’s stereo system isn’t even that great, but I know how everything should sound on that stereo. So much creative thinking happens when you are in the car, especially when you live in L.A.
STEREOGUM: The big Nevermind reissue has certainly sparked a lot of interesting discussion this year, particularly regarding the cultural impact of Nirvana and the enduring importance of that particular album. Obviously it must be an amazing thing to have been a part of, but is it also a little bittersweet to reflect back on Nevermind?
BUTCH: It is bittersweet that Kurt isn’t here. I miss him dearly and I’ve been thinking about him so much, especially since Krist and Dave and I got together last month to do press for it. It was really sad, and especially sad that Kurt couldn’t be here to celebrate having made such an amazing record and to see the impact of that. I still think it sounds as fresh and as vital as it did back when we made it. Something about that record just tapped into people’s psyche somehow. It spoke to people in the same way that Bob Dylan’s records spoke to people in the ’60s. It just connected with an entire generation of people. Kurt was really not trying to be a spokesperson of any sort, but his angst and confusion and passion, the sound of his voice, it just spoke to people. Plus, the performances on that record are really powerful and, maybe most importantly, those are just really hooky songs. They just sound timeless. You know, the record changed my life. Dave and Krist will say the same thing, obviously. I probably wouldn’t still be producing records now were it not for Nevermind. I was working as an obscure producer in Madison at the time and Nevermind opened up all these doors for me. It’s bittersweet though, man, and so sad that Kurt is not here with us now. He really was so amazing.
STEREOGUM: One last thing. I’m looking at this list of albums you’ve worked on over the years,everything from Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream to Sonic Youth’s Dirty, and I’m wondering if there are certain albums on this list that feel like forgotten gems? Or any sentimental favorites you’d like to mention?
BUTCH: Oh God, yeah. So many. You know, the band that really opened doors for me initially was Killdozer back when they were signed to Touch and Go. I made a record with them called Twelve Point Buck that was sort of considered their White Album. It was so much fun making that record and it sounds totally insane when you listen to it now. It was just a week in the studio but it was one of those crazy, magical times where we just felt like we could do whatever the fuck we wanted and we were trying to get the sludgiest, dirtiest sounds from hell for the record and it was so much fun. I also worked on Freedy Johnston’s This Perfect World, which is amazing. Freedy came to me and my wife’s wedding and played that song, “This Perfect World,” which isn’t exactly the most upbeat song, but still. Everyone cried, including Freedy!
STEREOGUM: Hey Shirley! So, how does it feel to be working on a new Garbage record? Butch already told me his version of events, but why did you think it was time to make a new record?
SHIRLEY: To be glib, I think we were just in the mood. You know, a lot of things had happened and we finally came to a really great new place as a band. We were free of all our old contractual obligations, all of our master recordings finally reverted back to us, and we found ourselves in this really lovely spot in terms of having no obligations to anyone but ourselves. We could record and structure everything our own way rather than being indebted to some giant corporate monster and we’d had enough time off that all of us really genuinely wanted to start making music again. It sounds very trite, but it’s true.
STEREOGUM: During the past five or six years was there any point that you thought perhaps Garbage would never make another record?
SHIRLEY: Not once. You know, we’ll be done when we say we are done. That’s how I see it. I mean, will we ever regain the dizzy heights of fame that we had in the ’90s? I doubt it. I don’t know and I don’t care, but I think why I make music now is for very different reasons now than it was back then. The whole thing has changed for me.
STEREOGUM: In what way?
SHIRLEY: Well, when I was young I just wanted to be heard. I didn’t necessarily care in what regard I was heard, I just wanted to make a noise and be listened to. I was young and I loved the attention. I didn’t really understand what it was I was getting into. Now I’m an adult and I have a much different perspective on it. I don’t give a shit if I’m in the charts or if I’m played on the radio, I’d just like to make music with people that I really enjoy being around and that’s what I get to do. Beyond that, anything that happens is really just an added luxury. I realized over the course of six years that, you know, I’d never really thought of myself as a musician. I’d just thought of myself as this exhibitionist, this showoff. Looking back, I realize that I’ve been making music since I was a kid. I’ve been in bands since I was 15, I can play lots of different instruments and I love singing and I love writing and making music, but only recently did I start to think of myself as a real musician. It’s very liberating. It really cuts the ties from being someone who is looked at as a person who doesn’t want to be creative and make music but simply wants to be famous. That’s not me. It took me a long time to realize that, though. It took me a long time to realize that all that other stuff didn’t make me happy. In fact, it made me really uncomfortable. Actually, it made me really embarrassed. I didn’t like that kind of attention. I thought I wanted it, but it turned out that I didn’t.
STEREOGUM: For a certain number of years you experienced a kind of fame that most people will never know and that can be like living under a very powerful magnifying glass. I’m sure it can be very difficult in a lot of ways.
SHIRLEY: Well, I wouldn’t say it was very difficult. I mean, fuck, we have the best jobs in the world. Honestly, what the fuck do we do? We get out of our beds and play some music. So, I would never want to say it was actually hard, but it was difficult at times. But you know, we emerged at a very different time. Now I really look in horror at what people are subjected to all the time, being followed constantly by photographers and all that. Prying camera lenses filming their children. If someone filmed my child I think I would literally rip their throats out. I really would! I would find that intolerable. I’m very grateful that we emerged at a time when that wasn’t going on.
STEREOGUM: It’s really crazy to think about how much the landscape of popular music, and culture, for that matter, has changed since 1995.
SHIRLEY: It’s incredible, isn’t it?
STEREOGUM: For a lot of people, Garbage really is the penultimate ’90s band. You represented this fusion of pop music and alternative rock and electronic music. I suppose if you think about that too much it can become a stumbling block in regards to making new music.
SHIRLEY: Absolutely. We’ve made our peace with it. We were so lucky in the beginning that we managed to make a record that really captured people’s imagination and summed up the mood and cultural climate of the time. It felt like a zeitgeist thing for sure. By the time we were doing our last tour I think we all were aware that the world had changed so much and we had no grasp on it. We had done nothing but tour and tour, which is this weird bubble in which you become totally unaware of what’s happening in the culture. You have no concept of what’s happening on the street, it’s just like being in suspended animation. We had no understanding of where we even fit anymore or how our music should even best be heard. It took a long time to wrap our heads around that. I think we also realize that it’s not necessarily our domain to be groundbreakers anymore because we’re not innocent enough. I think you can’t always remain a pioneer because sooner or later you just get caught up in the way that you think. Young people look at things so differently now and it’s really their job — it’s always the job of young people, really — to be cutting a new path and breaking new ground. I think if you are over the age of 25 or maybe 30, you just don’t understand the climate that young people today have grown up in. We don’t have a fucking clue what that feels like.
STEREOGUM: So much of my time is spent interviewing new bands, often young kids in their early 20s, and on more then one occasion your name has come up when I’ve asked young women in bands who they looked up to or who inspired them to make music. I’m not trying to make you feel old by saying that, I just think it’s a cool thing.
SHIRLEY: It’s funny, I talked to the band a lot about this. I think we were all a little surprised when we came back to make this record that there weren’t more … it’s like, we’re looking back at our spot, our seat, and thinking, “My God, nobody sat in our seat! What the fuck? Our seat is still empty!” I expected that there would be a glut of women who kind of thought about things and operated the same way that I did, who would just sort of storm in and swarm the music industry and I was shocked when there were very few who did. I really was taken aback by that. I think every female artist out there is chasing this idea that they have to be beautiful and sexy and perfect and adored by everyone or else they have no worth. I think it’s a very insidious and still very prevalent notion that still has a grip on so many women. It’s just bizarre. I don’t understand why there aren’t just a few more women who want to flaunt their brains instead of their tits. I’m so sick of the tired old tits. Put them away girls, we all know you’ve got them. You can buy them in Beverly Hills and who gives a flying fuck about your great tits? It’s so common now, after the first initial glance and Wow, you’ve got great tits! It’s really not such a big deal anymore, is it? Move on. I also feel like women get in these situations in the industry where, say, they are giving an interview and they are afraid of losing someone’s attention so they fall back on that whole “I need to be sexy” thing. People are afraid of boring people with their brains, which is such a scary thing about our culture. It reminds me of the fallout from the Bush years wherein Bush would berate these politicians for having gone to Harvard, as if it were a bad thing to be well educated or as if it were something filthy to be an intellectual. At a time like this, a time when people are really struggling, now is the time when we need some brainpower. We’re not seeing it anywhere in our culture and that is truly terrifying. Don’t get me wrong, I love youth culture and I love young people and their ideas and their fearlessness, but I also want to hear from someone who is experienced and who is wise and who has lived through some dark shit.
STEREOGUM: You’ve done a lot of stuff in the last five years while Garbage was on hiatus, including acting in movies and on television. Still, I’m kind of surprised you never made a solo record. Weren’t you tempted to do so?
SHIRLEY: I was tempted. You know, at the end of our last tour we all found ourselves really burned out and really frustrated. We were frustrated with the corporate structure in which we found ourselves. The record companies we found ourselves on, places we did not choose but had simply been sold to. We found ourselves surrounded be people who didn’t really care about us and didn’t believe in us … and I think we turned that frustration on ourselves. We became frustrated with each other, which of course is natural, but still. When we came off the road I just felt like I didn’t want to deal with anyone else’s opinions or resentments. I just want to be free and make music and have fun! Unfortunately, I was still signed at the time to Geffen Records and the process was A) Not fun. And B) mind-bogglingly nutso. And C) I would just end up really missing my band, because I’d meet people and not feel that kind of immediate connection I felt when I first met my band. I just felt like, why am I doing this? So I went and played a Terminator for a year on television, which was absolutely amazing. To be a powerful robot was such an amazingly fun and liberating feeling. My mom was very ill and actually dying at that time and it was so difficult, so to also be playing this powerful robot creature that was very strong and not affected by anything was a really great escape. I was just pleasuring myself at the time.
STEREOGUM: Pleasuring yourself in life is a good thing.
SHIRLEY: It certainly is.
STEREOGUM: Are you eager to get back on the road?
SHIRLEY: Well, I was really eager and then I started thinking about how much physicality it took to do the things on stage that I used to do, so then I started thinking about how much training I would need to be able to do that again. I just suddenly thought, I’ve sat on my fat ass for the past six years and this is going to be really hard. I’m a little worried.
STEREOGUM: How do you prepare for that?
SHIRLEY: I don’t know! I never had to think about it before because pretty much since the age of 15 I had never stopped touring and performing. Oh god, let’s change the subject. This is starting to make me sweat!
STEREOGUM: Butch kind of explained to me how the songs on this record came together. In comparison to the earlier Garbage records, did this feel easier to make?
SHIRLEY: Yeah, I think it did. We didn’t have any douchebag A&R person walking into the room to offer any opinions or put us to a schedule, so it was very relaxed. We tried a lot more things this time around. You know, in the past we might have been guilty of shooting down ideas too quickly. For example, this time Butch wanted to try playing a saw on one of the songs. In the past we’d have been “Why? No. But this time everyone is “OK, that sounds weird but let’s try it.” It was really fun. We tried out a lot of stupid shit this time around that we might have never done before. We also just got reconnected to the process of playing. You know, we let go of that need for everything to be perfect all the time. It was really more about getting the right feeling for a song.
STEREOGUM: That is exciting. So the collapse of the music industry, and freedom from a major label, has been a good thing for you guys then?
SHIRLEY: People who talk about the collapse of the music industry often make the mistake of tying the music industry to music, when the two things are very different things. Dare I say, I’m very happy to see the music industry as an “industry” take a kick. It was about time. The greed and the corruption, from an insider’s perspective, were astounding. A lot of lazy-ass, spoiled motherfuckers. I’m happy to see it rot. I am. The only problem is that I think it makes it very difficult for young bands to have a career now. They may get a one-single splash, or a few minutes of attention, but it’s harder to turn that into a longer career. There’s so much noise out there.
STEREOGUM: It makes it harder to build up a fanbase. Plus, now that everybody is essentially doing things their own way and trying to make a living from touring, there’s a lot more competition.
SHIRLEY: And it’s harder to things in a subtle way. I think Lady Gaga has done so well because she’s currently the biggest peacock in the stable. I love her and I admire her and enjoy her because I think she comes from a very pure place, but now we’re seeing a lot of other women — and men, for that matter — trying to dress like peacocks but without really having it come from their hearts, so they are just wearing these costumes like they are starring in The Lion King on Broadway or something.
STEREOGUM: I know the record is just barely done and it might still be too soon to say, but do you have a sense yet of what this record is really about? Are there certain themes or feelings or ideas that seem to have come through really strongly in these songs?
SHIRLEY: Wow, that’s a really good question! I’m kind of shocked, I’ve finally been asked a proper question!
STEREOGUM: Ha! And it only took me half and hour to work up to it.
SHIRLEY: I don’t mean in the past 35 minutes, Cole, I mean in life! Hmmm. I lot of people seem to think these new songs have the same spirit as the first Garbage record. I don’t think it sounds like that record at all. It certainly has an energy to it. The themes are very broad. It’s about facing your own mortality and about feeling, still, like an outsider. I mean, we’re really a bunch of freaks and geeks and have remained that way. We’re not beautiful and young and hip and lovely anymore, not that we ever were. The boys are these nerdy Midwesterners and I come from a tiny little island of scrappy underdogs.
STEREOGUM: I just went back and watched a ton of your old music videos, many of which I hadn’t seen in a long time. I had forgotten how great a lot of them were, and how iconic, actually. How do you feel when you look back on the early stuff. Not that you sit around and watch your old music videos all the time or anything.
SHIRLEY: Only when I’m pleasuring myself! God, I look amazing in these videos! Actually, I’m really happy with those videos. We took making videos really seriously and I loved the process of making them. I found it very exciting. I love making beautiful things and telling stories. I think we did a good job, but god did we spend a lot of money on them! I would be living in a big giant house were it not for the dough that we tossed at making videos back then. I don’t regret it though. I’m very proud of them. Particularly with the last album, to be honest. I think “Bleed Like Me” is an amazing video. I was stunned that people pretty much ignored it.
STEREOGUM: So you’re now getting back on the treadmill of doing press stuff and being photographed. After having stepped away for a while, does it feel weird to now be back to doing all this talking about yourself?
SHIRLEY: Ha! Well, the talking about myself bit isn’t so hard. As you can see, I’m a big, loud, opinionated mess of a person who loves to blabber. I also realize that it’s a necessary evil I’m not under any illusions about our position these days. We can’t just put a record out and expect everyone to suddenly know that we’ve done something new. I’m willing and able to do what it takes in order to have our record heard. The photographic side of things I have, and have always had, a very unhealthy relationship with. I understand that you can go into a studio and create an illusion, which is fun, and everyone loves the results if it’s done well. Unfortunately, you don’t always get to pick the photographer and you don’t get to edit the photos and it can be very painful when a photo of yourself is put out into the public domain and it happens to be hideous. I’m not a 20-year-old girl. I was uncomfortable with having my photo taken even when I was a 20-year-old girl. I’ve always had an uncomfortable relationship with myself. I had issues with body dysmorphia and I’m very hard on myself. You know, I can be a very unhealthy, boring girl in that respect. I admit it. I can’t say that I’m relishing the prospect of having lots of photos taken, but what can I say. It’s got to be done, otherwise nobody knows your record is out and then all of that work and excitement and passion is wasted if no one ever hears it.
STEREOGUM: What is it about this process — the process of stepping back into the public eye — that you are the most excited about?
SHIRLEY: Traveling. That was what I realized when I came off the road last time. It was like, If I want to go anywhere cool now it’s gonna cost me a fortune! Luckily I have a job where I can play and it also pays for the trip. Seeing the world has definitely been the greatest experience of my life. I mean, yeah sometimes you only get to be in a city for two days, or less, sometimes. But it’s better than not seeing it at all. To go to Israel and Iceland and Istanbul — I mean, fuck! — it’s changed the way I view everything. It’s made me a more informed person. You know, go spend some time in India. They look at shit very differently than we do. It’s important to experience stuff like that. I find it so comforting. It also makes you appreciate everything in a totally new and different way.
STEREOGUM: So Butch tells me you are now in the home stretch of mixing the record.
SHIRLEY: It’s actually called the dull stretch.
STEREOGUM: Well, do you have a sense of when the record will be out?
SHIRLEY: I’m sensing sometime in the spring of next year, but that’s just a sense. The record will be finished in a week allegedly and then we’ll be sorting out the who and when and where. Like I said, we have no real timetable this time, so we’re still figuring it all out.