Since its release in 2017, Phoebe Bridgers‘ debut album ‘Stranger In The Alps’ has become one of the most adored indie records of recent times. Taking cues from the likes of Elliott Smith and Conor Oberst – the latter of who she went on to form new band Better Oblivion Community Center with at the start of 2019 – Bridgers’ brand of soaring, highly emotive folk rock has made her one of the most in-demand singer-songwriters around.
Along with the Better Oblivion Community Center album, Bridgers last year also formed boygenius, a supergroup of indie dreams alongside Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, and the raucous tours around both albums saw her blossom into as much a rockstar as a folk singer.
“I feel like both of those projects have made me feel like the boss of my own music in the best way,” she tells NME during a break in recording ahead of debuting new music from the record for the first time at this weekend’s Mirrors Festival in London. “I’m not afraid to have a really weird idea or, you know, take a really bad guitar solo.”
After her plans for a second album were “derailed” by the other projects, she’s spent the second half of this year crafting what’s already one of the most anticipated albums of 2020. Ahead of her London comeback, she tells us of a second record that’s “unafraid”, sees her “apologising for myself less” and features “a little bit of screaming”, as well as an upcoming collaboration with The 1975, and whether David Duchovny will actually feature on LP2.
Are you excited to be back in the UK?
“Absolutely! I went over to the UK to play solo shows around this same time two years ago – before I played any in the US. It was kind of magical. Mirrors (in 2017) was one of the first times I was like, ‘Oh shit people know my music, and are here on purpose!’”
Does playing the Mirrors festival again make you realise how far you’ve come?
“Yeah, totally. It’s gonna be very nostalgic! I’m a sucker for that shit – coming back and doing stuff again.”
And you’re going to be playing some new songs for the first time?
“Yeah! This is the first time, which is terrifying. I’ve played, like, one or two new things solo in the last year-and-a-half. I feel like the model of workshopping new stuff by going on tour and playing some new songs was thrown out the window, because I decided to have three different bands! Basically, the point of this festival is trying out new stuff.”
Have some of the songs been around for a while, or are they all brand new?
“That’s the weirdest part of making a second record. There were songs on my first record that had started eight years before, but with this record they can only be as old as the time between when I made my first record and now.”
Were you working a lot on the record before you took time out for the boygenius and Better Oblivion Community Center album?
“Truly. My plans got derailed by those two projects, in the best way. I was planning to go into the studio in the summer of 2018, and then I started two bands! And it was awesome and I’m so glad I did it like that, but we really started [on the new album] after I got off those tours.”
Did being in those bands change how you write songs?
“Yeah, totally. Not even just in recording, but I feel so much more comfortable live. I think the main thing which boygenius and I talk about ad nauseum, is that I feel like I just apologise for myself less. I’m not afraid to have a really weird idea or, you know, take a really bad guitar solo. I’m unafraid of getting made fun of anymore. I feel like both of those projects have made me feel like the boss of my own music in the best way.”
“I feel like I just apologise for myself less. I’m not afraid to have a really weird idea or, you know, take a really bad guitar solo”
– Phoebe Bridgers
Does that make you feel like a very different person and songwriter to that which wrote ‘Stranger In The Alps’?
“I could talk a big game about how I’m not that person or I’m getting far away from those topics, and then I end up with 10 songs that are about depression. I have no idea. I’ve never really been afraid of how people were going to define me, as long as I didn’t write some cheaper song because people like that I’m depressed.”
How far along is the album? Is it finished?
“I don’t know! Honestly… The last record, I wrote the last two songs literally in the final hour. I don’t like to put time limits on myself as much as possible. I think that’s the worst thing that I could do right now.”
And what makes the new album different from your debut?
“The production is totally different to my first record. People still kind of think of me as like a folk artist, but on the first record, I truly was deferring to other people to produce me. I basically had these country folk songs. [On the new record] I do a little bit of screaming on what we’ve recorded so far.”
And Nick Zinner has been working with you again on the album after being a part of the Better Oblivion Community Center record, right?
“Yeah! The people that I’ve met through these other collaborations have totally expanded my world of music. I love Nick, he played a couple of songs on the Better Oblivion record and then he played live a few times and it’s a joy.”
Is David Duchovny also on the record, as per a photo you posted to Instagram?
“Oh my god, no! That’s the only thing that isn’t serious from that post! It was kind of like a Twitter meme. [Duchovny] posted it and said ‘In the studio!’ with his hands in his pockets. It’s the funniest photo I’ve ever seen, with sunglasses on inside. I thought ‘I have to use this!’ and my drummer Marshall said, ‘That’s stupid, everybody’s seen that photo everywhere. You would have to make such a good joke because it’s so obvious that it’s a meme’.
So I decided to just throw it in those photos, and then at least three different people have been like, ‘Oh my god I can’t believe you’re recording with David Duchovny!’ Marshall literally had me convinced that everybody on earth had seen this photo. I know for a fact that he’s getting tagged in stuff with people being like, ‘Oh my god I can’t wait to see what David Duchovny is doing in the studio’, and I’m here like, ‘I’m so sorry!’ But I wish he was on it! There is kind of a song about aliens on this record, so…”
Have you got any other plans for when you’re over in the UK for Mirrors?
“I’m just going to hang there for a minute and have a bit of a rest. I think Matty from The 1975 already kind of already blew up our spot, but I’m going to sing some harmonies with him. We haven’t met before, we have only internet-ted. I know him a little bit and I’m excited. I love their turnaround time (on albums), it’s fucking great. That’s, like, true punk rock.”