We’re proud when we say that Caroline Rose got her start in Burlington, Vermont. Caroline released her first two albums, America Religious, and I Will Not be Afraid with Burly as her home base. A quick search will pull up a slew of Seven Days articles documenting her rise from self-releasing her first project all the way to playing NPR’s Tiny Desk with her next one. If you browse through those articles or any of her other interviews, you’ll notice a common thread: Caroline is always pushing for the next thing. In 2014, while riding the success of what many were trying to coin an “Americana” album, she told one interviewer, “I’m never going to consider myself an Americana artist, because eventually I’m going to branch out and do other stuff.” And while talking to Burlington’s own Dan Bolles that same year, he quotes her with "I just wanna burn my acoustic guitar."
Caroline’s new album, Loner, is as she predicted, a total departure. The 11-track project lives in a genre she’s branded “schizodrift”. It’s high energy, off-the-rails, driving, dark, and joyful. The writing can be theatrical, sarcastic, in your face, and emotional, often all at once. She self-produced the album along with Paul Butler, warping, distorting, and synthing her way to a brand new sound. She’s touring the country right now in an all red van in an all red adidas tracksuit, accompanied by her tracksuit-donning band, comprised of Josh Speers (bass), and friends-of-Burlington, Abbie Morin (synth/guitar), and Willoughby Morse (drums).
From self-producing her album to directing her own music videos, we suspected that Caroline might have a few more ideas up her sleeve. So we gave her a call to hear more about those ideas -- just as the tour van cruised past Dayton, Ohio.
CR: I had never planned on directing any of my own videos. But I’d write these fully formed treatments and have exactly what I was envisioning written down on the paper, and so for the “Money” video -- my good friend Horatio Baltz directed that, but it was off of my treatment. So he [added] some twists and turns, but ultimately, I kind of gave him a platform to start with. And I didn’t realize that when you have a fully formed idea like that, you can essentially [just] do it yourself. It’s just [about] following the steps to get there. So I ended up directing the next two. The “Bikini” video isn’t out yet but should be sometime in May.
It’s really exciting to have a vision for something, [then to] get to see it in real life, coming together, it’s really cool. But that’s the same thing I was talking about -- you don’t really know that you are something until it’s given a name. And that’s essentially what I was doing, I was being a creative director for my own visuals and all I really needed to do was organize everything and then bam! You’re directing a video. It’s really cool to process that fact too, cause when you look at the day list and the shot schedule, you realize it’s kind of a microcosm of how big major motion pictures are made, on like a tiny scale. It’s like one day of a big shoot. And you can kind of see how it all breaks down. It’s kind of exciting to see that ‘cause it’s like “Oh! I can do this!”. Anyone can do this. If you have a vision and are organized, and have a good crew to help.
Try to push some boundary each time that you make something. Then it gets fun because its a real challenge to see what you can make and how far your brain can be stretched. Sometimes things just aren’t very good, but you tried. I find that exciting.
I’m excited to get to a place in my career where I can be really experimental and be weird and try things -- and some things might not work but like, look at Radiohead, they try something new with every record and it must be so exciting having a career like that, where you’re just constantly trying to reinvent.
NO: When you’re going into a video, have you had visuals for the song all along? In your mind, does audio always go hand in hand with visuals?
CR: I think that’s an interesting point. Most of the time I would say I do have visuals in mind. And the way that I write [songs] is pretty visual too. I like being able to put yourself in the narrator's shoes -- whether I’m talking about myself, or talking about someone around me, or a fictional character, I do like being able to visualize the song. What is that called when you visualize sounds? Synesthesia. It’s not quite like that for me. [Instead,] I see the narrative of how a movie would play out, rather than seeing colors swirling around and stuff. I was even trying to make the album cover [for Loner] look cinematic. In the first rendition, it looks like an old movie poster. Like an Italian Neo-Realist thing or something.
NO: Okay. We’ve got a few, quick-answer sort of questions for you. First, if you could make any sort of movie, what movie would you make?
CR: It could be any movie? Like if I were to make a movie, what would it be about? Oh let me think about this… man, I feel like I have a hundred thousand ideas. Okay I gotta think of a good one.
You know, something that’s been on my mind -- cause my grandma's really old. She’s ninety-seven... and it’s been on my mind lately how we kind of just forget about old people when they hit a certain age. I always thought it would be interesting if there were a movie about a kooky old lady, and all of her friends and family died, but she’s just like no-fucks-given, you know? [She’s a] weird eccentric old lady, and...maybe a baby arrives or something. Or... she gets pregnant. [laughs]. Or maybe she gets into some sort of trouble. She’s a bank robber or something. Yeah.
NO: Okay, what if you were to make a children's book?
CR: Um... It has to be a children's book for children?
NO: Not necessarily. An illustrated book of some sort.
CR: What if somebody had, like, noodle hair [laughs]. Oh, like, maybe the noodles... there’s like kids with different types of noodles. Some kids have ramen hair. Some of them have, like, angel hair. Maybe you shower with pasta sauce, or with ramen broth. I think it would be a hit in some countries.
Maybe there could be some sort of spongy noodle. Just, different types of noodles. I’m not really sure what the plotline would be. I didn’t really get past the ramen hair. But, everybody’s hair is different. Maybe there’s like, a noodle dictator and... it takes place on a big table and they have to dodge the forks and knives and the vats of scalding hot water to get the big man. The noodle king. Then… something else happens.
NO: What about an idea for a restaurant?
CR: I feel like I’ve had a whole list of [ideas] that I’ve written down that should be restaurants. Ugh, man I know I have a skrillion of these. [Off phone, to driver of van] Are we going in a circle? [Laughs at a band member's reminder] I had an idea the other day that my band thought was so dumb. It’s a yoga and yogurt studio called “Yogart”. Like Yogurt with Yoga. Well, Willy said that that would probably result in a lot of farts.
NO: Is yogurt a farty thing?
CR: No, I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a farty thing unless you had some sort of lactose intolerance, but I guess, like most people don’t eat before yoga, but maybe you eat the yogurt after yoga? [Listening to back of van] Willy said that a lot of people who do yoga probably don’t eat dairy. Maybe it’ll be dairy free yogurt.
NO: Perfect. Okay, what about a coffee table book?
CR: I can tell you right away. I’ve got this answer for you. So I have a business that I actually want to start -- it’s a taxidermy business, but it focuses on piecing together roadkill. So say there’s like a squirrel and a hawk -- so you take the wings of the hawk, and put them on the squirrel. And then you taxidermy that, and then you create a new creature. So, I would make a coffee table book of my taxidermy business.
NO: I’m so glad we’re asking these questions. That’s huge.
CR: Thank you.
NO: What would be your favorite creature?
CR: I feel like the possibilities are endless. I think a raccoon head on a cat body would be really interesting, or maybe a raccoon head on a rat body. It would have to be a really big rat. And then the feet...of another creature…with wings. You know no one’s ever seen that before. I think that would be very interesting to peruse that on a coffee table.
NO: And do you have a name for the book?
CR: Let’s think… Maybe it could be a scrapbook. Yeah. You would call it road scrap. [Listens to van, laughs] Or roadkill by Caroline Rose. We should call it RoseKill! [Speaking to Willy:] Great job Willy. You’re getting a raise.
NO: If you had a very specific specialty store, what would it carry?
CR: [answers immediately] Oh, it would carry my inventions. I have a whole line of inventions designed for lazy people. I just call it “Lazy Person’s Product Line”. Because really, I’m lazy and I can’t come up with a better name. But my first invention… is Bed Rope. And that’s when you’re in bed, and you just can’t for the life of you get up, and you wish that a rope would fall from the sky and hoist you up into your day. So! That’s Bed Rope. A whole lever system. You just install it into the ceiling, then you press a button and it releases this rope. You hold on, you press the button again, and it just hoists you up. Such a fresh one.
And then I have another one… I have all sorts of products.
NO: Could I hear one or two more?
CR: So another one is Snack Drone. I invented it actually, when I was in Burlington at Texaco Beach. And the nearest convenience store was, like, really far away. And I was like, do you know what would be a great invention? If you had an app on your phone that you can open up, and you scroll through, and it’s got a list of snacks. And you click on the snack, and there’s one employee that works in this factory filled with snacks. Big warehouse, filled with snacks. And they clip the snack to the drone. And they fly the drone to your location, and then the drone drops the snack into your lap and flies away. Snack Drone. That’s the second one.
NO: That’s huge.
CR: Isn’t that fuckin’ genuis?
CR: Fuckin’ genius. And then I have another one… let’s see… I have Beer Straw, AKA Bed Straw. And this was invented when I was drinking a beer in bed, which is why it has two separate names. I haven’t chosen. You’re lying in bed and you’re trying to drink your beer, but you don’t want to lift your head. It’s really just an extra long bendable straw that goes into your drink. The other end goes into your mouth. So there’s that.
NO: That’s great.
Okay, I have some wrap up questions. Obviously, you have a ton of things to make, but what’s actually up next?
CR: We’re on tour for the next handful of months. But next, we’re releasing the video for Bikini. And then we actually tracked a couple of songs in the studio that we’re gonna add three or four more [to] and put out a short album towards the end of this album cycle. And I’m already thinking about the next full length record, so I’m collecting demos and writing in my free time for that. But right now, it’s really just seeing what opportunities open up from this album. You know, you never know who listens to it and who likes it and, I’m just really overwhelmed by all of the support we’ve gotten for it. It’s been really amazing, so I’m just kind of gonna keep on going and see what happens.
NO: Totally. And then my final, sort-of closer here, is per the discussion of needing to realize that you’re allowed to do something in order to do something… What do you think is the best avenue to realizing your own power to create whatever you want?
CR: Well, honestly I think Nike should sponsor me because I think “Just Do It” is, like, the greatest statement ever made. And, I think that really is the way that you should do it. Because the hardest thing is starting, and the second hardest thing is finishing. So, if you have an idea for something -- that’s the most important part -- the idea. And if you have a fully formed idea, then just start piecing together what you need to both start and finish your project. And, it really doesn’t matter how long it takes, so long as it’s done the right way, because once it’s done, and it’s done the way that you want it, within your vision -- then, no one ever thinks about how long it took. They think about the product. And if you make something really great, it’ll outlive you. So I think my best advice would be... just put away all of the inhibitions, ‘cause there are many of them. And just start something. Whether it’s a book, or a screenplay, or a song, or you want to make a movie… just start with the idea [and] write it down. ‘Cause all of these great works of art, they start from one little idea and then that idea grows into a bigger one, and then it grows branches and it becomes this, like, fully formed beautiful tree.
And the second thing I would say is that [you] probably already have a lot of the skills that are needed to realize [your] vision. And if you don’t have the skills... find people to help. People can be so amazing in that way. I’m always amazed by how many people want to be involved in a project if it’s a good idea. And a lot of people are pretty forgiving, like, especially if you’re new at something. You’re not gonna have this angry mob with pitchforks coming after you if something isn’t quite good enough. Just have an idea, write it down on a napkin, then little-by-little, see if you can make it. It’s not that hard.
Watch three studio sessions off of her new album below.