Nicole Dollanganger's debut studio album 'Natural Born Losers' is filled with stories of sexual violence, lust, and violence - themes that take her beautiful soprano voice to a darker lyrical place than once would perhaps expect.
Her album was released last year through Eerie Organisation, an organisation formed by Claire Boucher and James Brooks. In a statement released to media about the creation of the organisation, Boucher said, “It blew up my brain so hard that I literally started Eerie to fucking put it out because it's a crime against humanity for this music not to be heard.”
Since the release of the album, she's been on tour with Grimes as part of the Rhinestone Cowgirls Tour, with more touring on the way apparently.
We spoke to Nicole recently to discuss her songwriting, anxiety over performing, and more…
COUP DE MAIN: On songs like 'Mean', you explore S&M metaphors in your lyrics. You sing, "I like it when it hurts like hell / There's nothing you could do to me / I wouldn't do to myself." It's sort of like you are extremely vulnerable but also almost impossible to affect because of things you've been through. When you write songs along these lines, are you thinking about power dynamics and dominance?
NICOLE DOLLANGANGER: Yes, that's exactly right! It's tough but you also want to be able to express your ideas creatively. In that situation, you spin it around in a way where you feel like yourself again. But yeah, at the end of the day it's harder to express yourself. You know it can be interpreted by others as, "Oh, well she's submissive,” and this, that and the other. It's unfortunate, you know.
CDM: It doesn't really give you room to be a person, which is kind of the point of feminism. Like you're not allowed to have nuance or complexity to your personal life.
NICOLE: The critical gaze is a lot harder, you know.
CDM: In an interview with Nylon, you discussed your personal visual aesthetic - how you do your hair, how you do your eyebrows. Do you feel like you get sort of pigeonholed by stuff like that?
NICOLE: That's a really hard topic for me. Before playing a show, I think about how to dress myself to be as not visible as possible. It's a hard thing for me, and I know that unfortunately people care almost as much visually as they do about the music. That's hard because I don't necessarily think my appearance is a good visual representation of my music. Even fashion is a tricky thing for me, I have a hard time with it. It's an area I struggle with and I know it's a very important thing for some people so it's a stressful thing.
CDM: You've said before that you struggle with anxiety and stage fright, and I can only imagine how hard that must be as you travel from show to show. What has been helpful for you as you deal with that issue?
NICOLE: Well this isn't a coping mechanism I would suggest for everyone, but I usually get pretty drunk before shows! That usually helps. Three shots of gin before I go in. Also being able to do the performance alongside people that I love so much makes a world of difference. I don't feel alone, I feel like part of a unit where I know if something goes wrong instrumentally that's on all of us. You feel part of something bigger and that's very comforting. You have someone there in case something goes wrong. Claire [Boucher] used to go up and do her set entirely alone and she's such a powerhouse. I don't know how she did it - that's just completely beyond my comprehension. With anxiety in everyday situations, I think if you can find a few people who you actually feel comfortable around, even if it's just one person, someone you aren't worried about seeing on a bad day, that makes a world of difference for me and my anxiety. That has made a world of difference with my anxiety. I have those people who do care and they do understand. It's sort of like if you're in a bad moment, there's no questions asked. I take after their traits and then feel stronger because of it.
CDM: It's great to have that person who understands anxiety as just a thing - not a facet of your personality.
NICOLE: Yeah! And just understanding it enough to know it's important enough to care about.
CDM: What's coming up next for you?
NICOLE: We just finished that tour with Grimes and now I'm kinda amping up to do more live stuff. Maybe tour again and also just writing. It was kind of a hectic period when we got back from tour. You get a little shellshocked, so we're just getting our groove back.
CDM: And lastly, will you ever come to New Zealand to play a show for us?
NICOLE: I would love to come! No plans yet, but I'm working on it.
Nicole Dollanganger's album 'Natural Born Losers' is out now - click HERE to purchase it via iTunes.
Watch the 'Angels of Porn II' music video below...