Upper East Side resident Marnie Stern has been paid much attention in recent weeks, owing in part to her strong opinions on the current state of music. But today she hopes to change the conversation a little with today’s release of her third album, Marnie Stern, which marries her usual frenetic guitar work with some of her most personal lyrics so far. She’ll play a record-release party tonight at the Rock Shop, and we sat down with her recently to discuss beefs, her album, and her favorite musical era.
Any beefs you want to start? If not, let’s clear up what happened.
I think the feeling right now with criticism and reviews is that it’s rare that someone is actually critical. It seems more about discovering it, and you judge for yourself whether you like it or not. Before, you used to have to spend seventeen bucks on a CD so you wanted someone to tell you if it was good or not. Now, you don’t need a review, you just download it and throw it away. [My] quote was kind of taken out of context. I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone’s feelings, or insult anyone at all. Music is entirely subjective. I was thinking that for myself, for songwriting and what I like to listen to, to help motivate me as a songwriter, as a musician, there are certain things I lean towards and certain things I don’t. I can’t imagine that every single person feels the same way about every single thing that they do.
I think most people just appreciated your honesty.
Yeah, but I think that the angle that some people were taking was that a woman shouldn’t be saying something about another woman — doesn’t that set us back however many years? Like what you like. Period.
Marnie Stern is your most personal album so far. The first song is “For Ash,” about an ex-boyfriend who committed suicide. Are you scared to play songs like that live?
No, the more that I’m stealing from all the personal things that were going on with me, you know … Part of me is surprised that it’s really all on there. Like wow, I really let it all out. So it feels a little funny. But no, it’s the kind of thing where I’m proud of what I put down and it came from such a crazy period of time that I’m a little surprised it wasn’t more.
It’s a release.
Yes, because also I have a difficult time getting angry. The songs aren’t really angry at all, but when you sit and go furious with a guitar, it’s just getting out a lot of stuff.
What are you angry at?
Just disappointments that I feel in life. I don’t want to become cynical, but you know, shitty things happen with everybody all the time. I felt myself going there, but my whole life is based around hope and belief, so I’m very much coming back around.
You don’t really listen to current music, so if you had to pick a musical era to live in, which one would you choose?
That’s a tough one. God, I’d want bits of all of them. I’d want bits of punk, I’d want bits off the crazy-guitar seventies. I think the riot grrrl thing would have been great. I would say late sixties, early seventies, because of any time just to live — how exciting would it be to be part of a revolution?
You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you might be ready to settle down, would you do it here?
Well, there’s no one to settle down with. But finance-wise, I don’t think it could be here, and if I was a single mom … But I probably would stay here because they say once you grow up here it’s very hard to leave. There’s certain things that I’ve become accustomed to. And no matter what, I don’t really utilize the city at all. I don’t really do much, but when I’m gone for a long time, like I’m visiting my mom in Florida and I’m not doing very much, I start to get that feeling like in high school where everyone’s going out on Friday night and you’re staying home. It doesn’t even matter if I’m a part of it or not, I just don’t want to miss out.