Echoes ring through the speakers of a childlike lullaby. Later, high notes linger with such length they barely feel human. An anonymous force with foreboding power stands center stage facing towards the ground, dressed in royal blue gym clothes. “Take after me,” the figure commands like a modern day Pied Piper easing the crowd into a sense of security, asking the audience to heed its call with a sickening sweetness. It looks up, and it has no face. The Freak slinks across the stage before lurching forward into your space. Another song slams in, serving as a dance track and turning the experience up on its feet. The dazed calm moves into a fervid sweat and you follow along. You get sucked into its world, keeping a loose grip on the uneasy paranoia in the back of your head. In the end, it feels like it was all a dream, a journey through another world led by a fantasy creation. Controlled by The Freak.
Elizabeth Bernholz, the artist behind Gazelle Twin and creator of the persona above, speaks with the sophistication of an Ivy League scholar – though that may be the British accent fooling my American ears. Her latest album, Unflesh, has garnered her critical praise. While brooding songs have taken over the blogosphere, Bernholz comes in with a punch to the jugular, providing a fresh dose of reality to the dreary melancholy that has been rampant over the last few years. Her music and references are loaded with a powerhouse of complexities and, while most artists hide under the veil of leaving interpretation up to the reader, she has no qualms talking about the inspirations behind her work. She recounts personal experiences with body dysmorphia and coming out of the other side of a failed suicide attempt. Her work muses on euthanasia, the human need to dominate ingrained in our DNA, and modern excess. “Things are usually not just about one thing,” she explains as we discuss her influences. “They’re multi-layered. They can be cryptic and they can mean lots of things to people. I think that’s fine but I think the way that I interpret the music I’ve written is very distinct. It is usually about something that I’ve experienced. I don’t have any problem with talking about any of that, the source of my inspiration, because it’s a very strong thing. It’s usually a very real thing.”
However, honesty can serve as a double-edged sword: while the release relieves emotional burdens, it invites others in. Her music is heavy and aggressive. It pulls in listeners who can relate to the graphic content. “It can be overwhelming to get messages from people that I guess feel that you’ve articulated something that they’re not able to express themselves and they seem very grateful and quite intense,” she shares. “I didn’t expect that because it’s all self-indulgent. It’s all about my own very specific experience. You don’t intend for somebody else to necessarily relate.”
Read more in Issue #10, available online and at Barnes & Noble.