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By Katherine Flynn of Consequence of Sound

Katie Crutchfield’s dog has spring fever. Franny, a terrier-shepherd mix, has, in Crutchfield’s words, been “wilin’ out” lately, chasing squirrels and enjoying the above-freezing temperatures that have only recently started to thaw out Philadelphia, where Crutchfield has been making her home, off and on, for the past three years. It seems appropriate enough: spring fever is, after all, really just excitement about all the possibilities that warmer weather will bring. As Crutchfield prepares to release her third LP as Waxahatchee, Ivy Tripp, and embark on an international tour to support it, all of the potential encapsulated within the next few months is nothing short of heady.

Crutchfield’s 2013 release, Cerulean Salt, gained widespread praise and acclaim on a scale she had never experienced before. Her deceptively simple lyrics contained multitudes: They were personal and specific, easy to connect to without being overly simplistic. Although she moved to the East Coast in 2011, her home state of Alabama is present in everything she does: Her solo project takes its name from a creek near her parents’ house.

During a conversation punctuated by gusts of wind as Crutchfield took Franny for a walk around the neighborhood, the 26-year-old artist discussed the Birmingham punk scene that fostered her love of music, being labeled a 90’s revivalist, and the ongoing process of adjusting to notoriety.

Waxahatchee plays DC’s Black Cat this Tuesday and Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg Thursday. Ivy Tripp is out tomorrow on Merge Records.


How do you feel about touring? Some musicians really love it, and some hate it and wish they were home all the time.

You know, right now, I’m really excited about it because I haven’t really done a lot of it in the last year. I did like a week in Europe and I did two weeks in the U.S., and this other two weeks, and that’s really all I’ve done since last spring. I kind of have, like, the itch. I’m really ready to be on tour, but I’m sure at the end of this long tour I’m going to be so ready to be home. So, it really depends on where I am on the tour, typically. By the end of the tour I’m so burnt out, usually.

What’s your working relationship with your sister like? You’ve been in bands together and collaborated before, and she’s playing in your band on this tour.

Yeah, it changes. It depends on the band. This band is my thing, my project, and she’s doing backup vocals and playing guitar. We don’t really creatively collaborate a ton, or at least not anymore. We’re in bands together and stuff like that, but we don’t really make records together or anything like that. I don’t know. It’s generally pretty ample and fun for both us. We like singing together a lot.

Do you influence each other’s work at all, or have you in the past?

Yeah, I’d say so. I wrote songs for a really long time before she did, so I think that, in a way she kind of, like, maybe learned to write songs by watching me play songs, and watching me write songs and watching me play guitar and things like that, and she got to see that sort of close up, she probably – I don’t know, I feel like I certainly influenced her, and I’m sort of currently influenced by her songs. I feel like she – as soon as she started writing songs, she was really good at it. I feel like we’re sort of peripherally influenced by one another.

Your hallmark is kind of this very personal, confessional brand of songwriting, but is there any material that you wouldn’t touch in the context of a song?

Yeah, probably. I mean, I guess I wouldn’t talk about it in an interview if I wouldn’t write about it. [Laughs] But, yes, if it was a yes or no, yeah, sure, probably.

I mean, I try to, when I write songs – someone in an earlier interview was like “You’re a confessional songwriter,” and I don’t know, I think that kind of cheapens it. I’m not really trying to confess anything, you know; I’m just sort of writing about my experiences, and I think calling it confessional sounds like I’m exploiting my personal life, which isn’t true. I feel like I just like to write honestly, I live my life pretty honestly. And, honestly, maybe I would write about just about anything.

I try to keep things vague enough that they don’t blow up the spot of the person that I’m writing about. But I like to write really honestly because that’s what feels good for me – it feels sort of like I get the most out of it that way. It’s more about what I get out of it than it is writing any confessional songs.

What was it like being a female artist and coming out of this very male-centric punk scene in Birmingham?

It was weird. I feel like – when you’re young, and when I was young, I was first sort of starting to get into music, and play music, and getting into like the punk scene – I didn’t really realize that it was so male-centric, or so male-dominated. Wait, sorry, my dog is freaking the fuck out – she’s driving me crazy.

So, it’s funny, you don’t even realize that things are weird or fucked up or sexist when you’re that young, because you’re so excited. For me, I was so excited. I was one of two women in my friend group that were playing music, and the other one was my sister. I just felt, like, happy to be there, you know? And as I started to tour more and travel more and I met a lot of feminists, really, in the punk scene, it just opened my eyes and made me realize that things were kind of, you know, fucked up.

At that age – we were sort of 18, 19, 20 – the way that those men, or boys, really, sort of react to their own insecurities regarding gender and things like that, they just sort of make you the butt of a joke. And I just remember that feeling; it’s just a terrible feeling. There was just a lot of that. There was a lot of not being taken seriously, despite the fact that my sister and I were making really cool music, and were trying to do really cool things.

I hate to shit all over Birmingham because it’s really great right now, there’s a lot of really great kids, and the scene is totally different than it was. And also there were a lot of really great people there at the time, too. There’s just some things about it that were hard. So, I have mixed feelings about it.


The first band that you were in with your sister played Warped Tour in 2006 – what was that like?

We toured a little bit before then, but we played one date of the Warped Tour. It’s funny, because it was 2006, so what was I – I was 17 when we played. I remember even then, at the time, thinking, “Oh, this is so silly.” It was just a funny thing. We have a friend who was a promoter in Birmingham, and someone asked him, “Hey, do you know any bands who could play this thing,” and he just sort of recommended us. It was just a one-off sort of thing. But yeah, it was silly, and fun. I saw Paramore.

Sweet. The dream.

Yeah. [Laughs.]

Is releasing this new album with Merge a measure of success for you?

I mean, I feel like because of my punk background – money doesn’t really enter into it, and fame and stuff like that. I think the reason that I really wanted to sign with Merge is they’re from the south, they started out super punk DIY, and that was my experience too. They have a reputation of being really cool in the context of the music business in a way I can kind of relate to. And so, that’s really why I wanted to be a part of it. And so, for me, it felt like a small victory, or kind of a big victory – they’re a label I’ve always wanted to be on. So yeah, that’s definitely a success.

What are some changes in your life since Cerulean Salt that impacted this new record? Anything that’s a milestone or a big life change, and how that’s impacted you creatively.

Yeah, “milestone” makes it sound all positive. A lot of it was positive, and I’m very grateful for all the things that I’ve gotten to do. I feel like I’ve had to do a lot of adjusting. When Cerulean Salt came out, I wasn’t really expecting anybody to care, or to know, or to notice. I expected it to be just like any record that I’ve done, where my people like it and that’s that, which is cool too. It ended up getting a lot of attention and it was a lot of adjusting to that, and I just wasn’t used to it.  So, I don’t know. I kind of think that some of that looms over the songs on Ivy Tripp. You can kind of pick out parts that are sort of about that, in a way. It’s strange to kind of come from the scene that I come from,  to come from DIY, where the mainstream music press is taboo. So, kind of starting to do that, live in that world and experience that, it’s just strange. It kind of requires some adjusting.

How do you respond to people who say that a song like “Under A Rock” – big chorus, lots of distortion – is “90’s rock” or say that it’s kind of a throwback?

I mean, it’s just happened to me since the dawn of the 90’s indie rock revival, so I guess I’m pretty used to it at this point. I think it pigeonholes people and it’s just sort of, like, lazy journalism – really lazy music journalism shorthand for indie rock at this point. So, I guess I don’t really care, one way or another. I listen to a lot of stuff, not just that. I wasn’t really listening to anything from that era, late 80’s, early 90’s, while I was making that record. But, if people hear that, they hear that, I guess.

What was some of the stuff you were listening to?

I was listening to a lot of Cat Stevens – I think that he was a pretty big influence. Bill Fay, he’s a songwriter from that era who only did a couple records and he just recently started to make records again. He was another one that we were listening to a lot. Kind of more music from the ‘70s – folk and pop from the ‘70s, I think, was something I was really into at the time.

Which Rilo Kiley album cover do you have a tattoo of on your arm?

The Execution Of All Things – I just love that record.

That’s the best one, really.

I know. It’s so good.