U.S. Girls’ mastermind Meghan Remy shows us her camera roll
U.S. Girls is not, in fact, a band of American women but rather the moniker of one person: Meghan Remy. The Chicago native has been writing and recording her wildly inventive, genre-blending noise-pop music for over ten years, most recently from Toronto, where she now considers herself a permanent resident. So the name is a double misnomer.
Much of her music is fictional, too. On her fifth album, 2015’s Half Free, Remy inhabited the lives of different women. Each song sought to explore “a different female character that was expressing some sort of inner narrative,” she told Impose magazine that same year. One song, “Window Shades,” is sung from the perspective of a woman confronting her cheating lover; on “Damn That Valley,” she is a war widow.
U.S. Girls’ most recent album, In a Poem Unlimited, was released in February. While much of Remy’s earlier work centered around women, many of the songs here take aim at men, from President Obama to St. Peter. Although thematically it is Remy’s darkest record—about anger and revenge—her songs still offer a glittering mix of disco, glam rock, R&B, and pop, all blended to psychedelic effect.
Ahead of her upcoming east coast and European tour (which kicks off tomorrow, in Montréal) Remy offered us a collection of photos from her iPhone camera roll. Many were taken on her recent travels across the west coast: airports, public bathrooms, green rooms, photo-booths, the open road, redwood forests. Something like a portrait of America.
MEGHAN REMY: Chris, our guitarist, took this. This is me at Toronto Pearson Airport, waiting to fly out to L.A. for tour. It was the first time traveling with the full eight people, and all our stuff. We had finally gotten through security. These are all the bags we were attempting to carry on. Which we were successful at.
MATT MULLEN: Is this your normal plane outfit?
REMY: Oh, yeah. That’s my sweatshirt, I pretty much wear it everyday. When I’m on tour I mostly just wear the same thing everyday. And then have stage clothes. There’s no one to impress during the day and you’re just sitting in a van. You want to be comfortable. I don’t go for style, I outgrew that.
REMY: This was in some bathroom. I feel like one person did all of these. They just happened to have them in their bag. I hadn’t seen Lisa Frank in a while. It really brought me back to how much I loved her stuff. It was huge for me. That’s what I always wanted for school. I’d only ever get maybe a folder or something. But it was always the most psychedelic environments. You see that little chocolate strawberry, on the bottom right hand corner? That is initially why I took the photo. I zeroed in on it because when I was in 6th grade, I changed schools. I went to his public school in my town. There was this girl named Janelle. She was a bad girl and she was super beautiful. I thought she was amazing. She, in sixth grade, got a tattoo of a chocolate covered strawberry with a bite taken out of it on her shoulder. I remember showing up to school and I thought it was so cool.
REMY: This is Kassia. We had just played Amoeba in LA. They were cool and they gave us all these stickers. She turned her Chanel compact into a music compact. It really suits it, I think. Chanel and Amoeba should team up.
MULLEN: Is this happening in a car?
REMY: Yeah, the band was doing makeup and doing vocal warmups in the van. There was no green room at the venue. Sometimes you have to find your space to try to get ready and go on stage. Sometimes it’s like, the keg room at the bar and you’re in there with a bunch of fucking kegs. And holding up the mirror, trying to see your whole body.
REMY: It’s called a hat nap. It’s a really good technique for tour: when you want to have a nap, you put your hat over your face and then people don’t bug you and you get darkness. That’s Dennis in Portland at Mississippi Venue. He’s taking a nap before we go on. It really looks like he doesn’t have a face.
MULLEN: So how soon before would have to wake someone up before a set? Like, could it be five minutes before you go on?
REMY: Oh no! I mean people usually wake up on their own. I would be waking someone up at least 20 minutes before. People need to get their stuff together. Some people need to warm up. You have to get their drinks. I’ve never really had to wake anybody up.
REMY: This was in New Mexico. We stopped at some roadside gift-stand kind of thing. I thought this was pretty hilarious. I myself am a huge hater of Mt. Rushmore. I think it should be blown up. So I liked these indigenous men kind of haunting over the mountain, telling the truth. I would never buy something like this, but it was worth the photo.
REMY: There’s a mirror on the wall. So our photo is being taken into the wall. But then there’s that other circular mirror that’s the bubble mirror. So we’re also in that reflection. I don’t know who took the photo. Someone in the band. We were trying to have a really fabulous photo and I think we look really good. But then Joe, the bass player, snuck in sipping a beer in the back. I was really disappointed, but it’s really funny if you zoom in on it. We still look good.
MULLEN: Where is this? Do you remember?
REMY: This is in New Mexico at Sister Bar, in the green room.
MULLEN: Is that your stage outfit?
REMY: Yeah. Georgie, the keyboardist on the right, he happened to bring a polka dot shirt. And then the two outfits that Kassia and I have on, my sister-in-law made. I got a pattern and she made me four of the same outfit. But with different fabrics. One of them happened to be polka dots and Georgie had the polka dot shirt. Kassia and him were doing a lot of polka dot stuff. And then I had the pink one and it was all lined up. We didn’t even plan it.
REMY: This is this guy Sam’s house, Uncle Sam’s house. This was in Dallas and we got hooked up with a friend of a friend’s uncle who likes to host bands and is like a big music fan. He came to the show and then we had to drive 40 minutes to his house. We got there and he had set up this little sign for us. Really cute. And then the next day he made a huge breakfast and three dozen chocolate chip cookies to take on the road.
MULLEN: What more could you ask for?
REMY: I know. He was really sweet.
REMY: This is in the Redwoods, in Northern California. I was super happy going in the ferns. We only had maybe 20 minutes to stop, to go run to the Redwoods. The air was so clean and cool and moist and sweet smelling. Everybody was running around like kids. Feeling so happy and so amazed. It just recharged us. I’m not like a camper or one of these people that wants to go on hikes or something. But I do like being outside. I like walking outside. Breathing air.
REMY: So this is at my manager Laurel’s house. She’s a crazy collector of all things old and strange and beautiful. I really liked how she hung this kimono up as a drape. But I was also thinking it would be terrifying to live with.
MULLEN: It looks like a ghost.
REMY: Yes, I would constantly think it was a person. I liked it as an idea, and I thought, “Well maybe I’ll use that some day.” But the more time I spent in that house and kept seeing it, the more I thought, “No, I definitely won’t do that because I’ll be scared.” But I do think it’s an ingenious way to display a kimono.
REMY: Okay, this. So that’s a very small sign on Wall Street. Maybe you do or don’t know this, but Wall Street was named after a wall that was built by slaves. The wall was initially built to keep out native people, the people whose land was stolen from them by the Dutch. Then it became a wall to keep slaves in. Right on Wall Street was a slave market. And this is the only sign left of it. It’s not really known, people don’t really know this. And this is a tiny little sign and next to it is a sign about picking up your dog’s poop. It’s like almost the same size. I think it’s really important for people to know this, because there’s such a romanticism about New York. Especially through culture and things. I think it’s really important to understand what Wall Street is now and what it was before, and how it’s pretty much the same thing.
REMY: This is from the Sunset Tavern in Seattle. It was the first real film photo-booth that we came across on tour. And I’m always looking out for them because I love them. I’ve really perfected my photo-boothing skills over the years. As you can see from my strip, I plan them out before I go in.
MULLEN: Because you have to be quick, is the thing.
REMY: This is one of the best ones I’ve ever done, I think.
MULLEN: Is it a scarf you’re holding up in the first photo?
REMY: It’s my scarf, yeah. And then I put it around my head and then I pulled it down. And it’s funny because in the second one, in my hand I have my credit card.
U.S. GIRLS’ LATEST ALBUM IN A POEM UNLIMITED IS OUT NOW ON 4AD.