Rosie Tucker’s songs are worlds unto themselves. They start in conversation with an immediate environment: small, detailed, characters and landscapes drawn vividly, with life and wit. Only as they progress do they reveal bigger themes.
“For example the song ‘Gay Bar’ is about having a good time at a cowboy gay bar in the Valley,”says the Los Angeles-based Tucker, 24, who uses they/them pronouns. “But the sample I used to create the sound at the end was a quote from an old interview Dusty Springfield gave to Gay News in 1970. Her refusal to label her own sexuality just about destroyed her career, though nothing she said would strike anyone as particularly edgy by today's terms, I think."
Starting with the first track “Gay Bar” and then throughout their new album Never Not Never Not Never Not out today on the New Professor label, Tucker’s songs talk with and echo the queer, blacklisted, and forgotten female songwriters of the 1960s: Springfield, Buffy St. Marie, Sibylle Baier, Norma Tanega, Karen Dalton. Like them, Tucker uses emotionally rich images of the world, and while the lyrics have political implications, politics are not the first concern of the songs.
Made with close collaborators Anna Arboles, Wolfy, and Jessica Reed, who form a muscular, guitar-driven quartet, “Never Not” unites songs and sketches written over several years: there’s the New York character study “Pablo Neruda,” written on an inflatable mattress in Red Hook, the majestic “Fault Lines,” about the California desert, and the anthemic “Lauren,” cheering on an L.A. roommate struggling with bipolar disorder.
And there’s the cover art, a spaghetti pile of yarn, which had its origin in literal obscurity in the Oregon woods.
“I was working a job at an artist residency,” Tucker recalls. “I was near music all day and I wasn’t playing any music, which was frustrating. I was around people all the time, and I’m not a person who can handle that. One day on a run to the grocery store I grabbed a couple skeins of yarn. To get away, I started sneaking off to the woods. I would find two trees that stood an appropriate distance apart, I would string the yarn between them and I would make yarn sculptures. I became attached to yarn as a material. We made yarn films with yarn coming out of my mouth. I started wrapping it around things in my apartment. Thinking about album art, yarn made sense: pliable, but binding. Soft rope!”
Tucker’s songs call to mind a few contemporaries: Hop Along, Frankie Cosmos, Mitski. But they’re set apart in their specificity, self-awareness, and obvious care for the craft of songwriting and the practice of making art.
“I’m a big fan of musical eccentrics,” Tucker says. “I really appreciate creativity and zaniness. The spontaneous approach to music that Erik Satie took: he was very eccentric. He only ate eggs for a long time. He bought seven velvet suits and tried to start a religion. He composed music toiling in obscurity.
"I like art that happens when people toil in obscurity, although I guess that's not my goal right now.”