LADYGUNN #15 COVER STORY: MITSKI
Styling/SHANDI ALEXANDER @ THE BROOKS AGENCY
Hair/YASUTAKÉ @ THE BROOKS AGENCY
Makeup/RAISA THOMAS @ KREATIVE KOMMUNE
Interns/MADISON PARKER + ALINA KRISCHANOVICH
“I used to rebel by destroying myself, but realized that’s awfully convenient to the world. For some of us, our best revolt is self-preservation.” This is a recent tweet from Mitski, singer-songwriter and low-key poet laureate of modern indie-rock listeners who stare at their sneakers, and use a musician’s set as a self-meditation on whether they’ve ever, truly, had happiness. “Happy came to visit me, he bought cookies on the way/ I poured him tea and he told me it’ll all be okay/ Well I told him I’d do, anything to have him stay with me/ So he laid me down, and I felt Happy come inside of me…” are the opening lyrics of Mitski’s fourth and highly acclaimed album, Puberty 2. On the album, Mitski side-steps our era’s marketplace sadness (#sadgirlculture), and inflates the breadth and depth of our emotions into something that’s allowed to take up mental space beyond what any witty GIF, comical string of emojis, and finger-pointing think piece would allow us. Our internet culture of dopamine jolts, filters, and scapegoats is one endless scroll of distraction, but, refreshingly, Mitski grants her sadness all of its glory.
Dress by Manfredonia, Bracelet by Susan Alexandra, Necklace + Horsehair Bracelet by Syd & Pia NYC
Since her 2012 debut, Mitski has granted herself full permission to record a well-composed meltdown, but Puberty 2 depicts sadness as an inevitable presence that can’t just be strummed away. I asked Mitski what emotions came up for her with this release, and she told me “I’m deluded enough to believe that writing music is what I’m meant to do and the reason I’m here, so I don’t have any anxiety around presenting my music and its emotions to the world. I just think of it as my duty, what I’m supposed to do, so I just feel contented.” This conviction doesn’t come from any aerial view from a raised pedestal, a quick Google search, or stamp of approval from that one site that everyone loves to hate (you know what it is). However, I inquired if the validation has put unwanted pressure on her writing or future endeavors. “I think any pressure that I experience now hasn’t come from validation or praise, but from the fact that this has become my real job. It’s not just my ego on the line, but my and my team’s livelihood. I feel I have a responsibility to keep doing well, because I’ve past the point of no return, and I’ve put too much into this career to start over on another one. I could care less about critical acclaim in and of itself, because that’s just talk and what people subjectively think about my music. But the effects of critical acclaim (or lack thereof) on my career and my real life can be scary to think about.”
In a recent interview with Pitchfork, Mitski disclosed her anxiety about becoming indie rock’s Anne Hathaway – one minute you’re cherished and the next it’s trendy to hate you. Most music fanatics are guilty of it. Once the single plays in Starbucks the eyes roll, but in their hearts there’s a Helga G. Pataki-like shrine of gum made of the artist they once openly adored. What does Mitski have to say about the growing pains of music fans who discovered Lush through tags on Bandcamp and now hear their out-of-scene friends discovering “Best American Girl” on some poorly researched “women in indie” Spotify playlist? “What growing pains? I’m still here, just the same! I would tell them thank you so much for listening to my work and being supportive for so long, and that I hope we keep growing together, that we can grow old together.”
Dress by Elie Youssef
It’s an interesting time for Mitski’s visibility in the indie rock space. Internet zines curated and written by young college kids laying flat-stomached on the edge of their beds and online uploads putting to bed the necessity of distribution has shuffled in a more diverse space so long overdue. Women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community are keeping indie rock off of life support and giving it a whole second chance at life. Mitski is very much at the forefront of this. As a female bi-racial artist, her viewpoints, however subtle her delivery, have started conversations online and off. The accolades for her lead single “Best American Girl,” written about the inability of a relationship to maintain itself due to cultural differences, only reaffirms the need for more works of the like. Mitski is clear, though, that the widespread empathy from fans has not changed much for her personally. “I don’t think my feelings about belonging have changed due to my career or the reception of my music. It doesn’t matter how many strangers tell me they relate to my story, because I’ve always mentally understood that I’m not the only bi-racial person in the world, and that there are other people who have lead similar lives to mine. These are things that I have to figure out in my own personal life and mind, and my sense of belonging or lack thereof can’t be changed by anything other than my own self.”
Chain Mail Jacket by Laurel Dewitt, Bodysuit by Topshop, Jeans Mitski’s Own, Shoes by Lanvin, Ring by Syd & Pia NYC
Mitski’s music is a necessity right now, and with her talent, approachability, insight, and growing reach, it’s easy to see how she might be an icon for a next gen of women. When asked how the term role model sits with her, she tells me, “If I ever become someone’s role model, I hope it’s because they see that I’m not perfect, that I can be ugly, yet still be here trying to live right and do what I love. I don’t want to be a role model if it means that I always have to make the right choice. I hope if anyone looks up to me, it’s for my ability to make mistakes, then learn from them, and keep living the best I can.”
Bodysuit by Xuly Bet, Shoes by Lanvin, Ring by Syd & Pia NYC
In the midst of a career on the rise, what’s one of Mitski’s personal goals? “I often lack discipline – I tend to make excuses for myself. But I’m always the one who suffers the consequences of this, and it always ends up hurting me. So I’m trying to be better at being my own mom.” Meanwhile, professionally, she’s probably written some teenager’s Jagged Little Pill.
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