PLAYLIST: Tour Tunes With Julia Shapiro
You’ve likely heard the name Julia Shapiro before, lead singer of Seattle’s ever-charming Chastity Belt, she’s about to bless us all with her solo debut. Inspired by more recent challenging times, the album is a beautifully raw endeavour. Shapiro is currently touring our Australian shores, playing shows with the likes of Kurt Vile, Darren Hanlon and These New South Whales. We had a mini catch up to get a little bit more of an insight into her debut album Perfect Version, and hijack her impeccable music taste with all the best track she’s been listening to whilst on tour.
Your single ‘Natural’ is a real beauty. Can you tell us a bit about what that song is about?
Thanks. It's about wondering what I should do with my life. At the time I wrote it (and honestly, still now) I was questioning if I should keep making music and touring, bartending on the side, or if there was something else I would be good at. I also always like to fantasize about living outside the city, getting a dog and hiding away from the world for a bit.
How do you enjoy making music solo as compared to making music in the Chastity Belt. Do you have a preference?
It's a lot different. It was nice to have total freedom in recording this record, but could also be a bit daunting. It's easy to get in your own head about things when you don't have other people to bounce ideas off of or to encourage you. A song that I bring to Chastity Belt might not feel that exciting to me at first, but then the rest of the band will bring it to life and I'll be stoked about it. With my solo record, I was more excited about the recording process and being able to write parts and add to songs as I was recording.
What does your solo creative process normally look like?
A lot of these songs kind of came about in a pretty loose way, more like a stream of consciousness. A lot of them don't have choruses and are just kind of a more linear song structure. The lyrics were definitely more stream of consciousness than most of the lyrics I write for Chastity Belt. I think because I was recording them myself, nothing felt super final, so I just went with my first instinct and then usually I would just end up keeping that. It's natural for me to write the guitar/vocal melody first, and then I would build upon that with bass, drums, etc.
Your debut solo album is set for release in June. Can you tell us a bit about the recording process for the album?
Four of the songs on the record I demoed in my apartment and then recorded in my friend Ian LeSage's studio in Seattle. For the rest of the record, I started recording demos in my apartment with the intention to record them in a studio, but I just became really attached to the demos and I was having a lot of fun learning how to mix and record, so I decided to produce them on my own with the help of my friend David Hrivnak who taught me a lot about Ableton. It was nice having as much time as I wanted to work on the songs. Recording in a studio can sometimes feel really rushed.
What was one of the weirdest instruments or recording techniques you used on the album?
There are a lot of weird ones on the title track ‘Perfect Version’. Recording stuff myself definitely gave me a chance to mess around in ways that I wouldn't ordinarily. First of all, I had my friend Darren Hanlon play mouth trumpet on that song, and then added a bunch of reverb and some kind of metallic sounding plug-in that came with Ableton. I think it sounds pretty spot on. There's another sound on that song that I got by playing a bass up really high on the neck and using a pretty dumb Ableton plugin that was maybe called Tube something? I can't remember the name, but now it's impossible to tell it's a bass.
Lyrically your new music is quite personal. Do you ever feel vulnerable when writing lyrics, or do you more find it to act as a means of therapy?
I don't necessarily feel vulnerable when writing the lyrics, but releasing this album has definitely made me feel a little *exposed*. I try not to think too much about how my lyrics will be perceived when I'm writing them though, cause I think that can really take away from the magic. It's definitely cathartic to be able to write a song about whatever I'm feeling at the time.
How has the tour in Australia been so far?
So far so good! Most of the shows are in the outback in places most Australian’s haven't even been to. My friend Darren (the mouth trumpeter) set the outback tour up and I'm really excited for it. I can't even really imagine what they're going to be like.
Can you give us the hot top on some local US artists you’ve been listening to at the moment?
Some Seattle bands/musicians I like are Hoop, Versing, Red Ribbon, Joe Waine, Sun Breaks. Other Pacific Northwest bands: Duster, Strange Ranger.
What's your ultimate pre-show song to listen to?
For Chastity Belt, for the past few years, it's been ‘Go Big or Go Home’ by American Authors. We heard it on the radio at a gas station in North Carolina once and it's been stuck in our head ever since. It's so bad, in the best possible way.
What's your ultimate post-show/wind down song?
Silence. Love some good silence after a night of music.
Chastity Belt, to me, are a real representation of authentic, talented, powerful women. Do you have any advice to women who are currently trying to pursue their passion for music?
Wow thanks, I'm honoured. I would say just keep trying. If you're passionate about it, it should come naturally. And don't let "music biz" men tell you what to do. A lot of them act like they know what they're talking about, and it can be hard not to fall for it, but most of the time they don't have a clue. No one really has a clue... just follow your women's intuition and it'll work out great.
Finally, you obviously have an ear for music, how do you go on the dance floor?
I will either stand there and bob my head casually, or I really get down and go wild.
Perfect Version is set for release June 14th via Hardly Art Records. Until then, you can dig in below.