By Kate Helmore
Vancouver has escaped the clutches of a viciously dreary winter as streaks of unadulterated sunlight and warm springtime breeze titillate residents with the promise of life, clear horizons and freedom from gore tex.
Emily Rowed sits in Turks coffee shop on Commercial Drive, perched on a wooden chair, clad in pastels, ‘Budapest’ printed on a light, pink T-shirt. As the sunlight sneaks through the window and casts a halo around her bleached blonde hair, Rowed talks about waking up.
“If nothing else, I’ve become intrigued to be alive,” she says. “I’m here and adventure awaits on my finger tips.”
Yes. Emily Rowed makes electro-pop music but she ain’t no basic bitch. Her music trades drugs, clubs and chandeliers for lyrics tracing those familiar scars that mark the psyche of our human experience.
“If you want to change you’ve got to let your heartbreak,” says Rowed.
April, a 10-track album set to release on April 12, is raw, emotional voyeurism that talks about just this; heartbreak.
“I think this is a delicate, cinematic and intimate album,” she says. “It has a documentary quality with a vinyl, watery texture. It is unpolished journal entries.”
The album begins on the corner of Frances Street and Commercial Drive in Vancouver where Rowed finished a pivotal phone call and cut ties with the past to embark on a new journey. In the following days, she would give up her car, her apartment, a plethora of relationships and take a trip to Maui. Two and a half years later, Rowed remains comfortably uncomfortable, fliting across North America equipped with just a bag of clothes, a computer, a cell phone and mini keyboard. No car keys and no permanent address.
“The first of April 2017 marked the first day of freedom,” says Rowed. “I traded things for experiences. For movement, exploration, stories and feeling. It was temporary destruction for a rebuild. It felt like I was asleep before. There is something magical about actually observing life.”
But ‘April’ is not some ‘Minimalism for Idiots’ textbook in auditory form. It’s impossible to paint Rowed as a self righteous hippie chick demanding you chug the kool-aid. The album is not a sermon. It is not a parable. It is just a personal story from a naked, vulnerable, honest artist.
“The album is the story of my return to being human. I choose deep feelings rather than attempts to ‘get ahead’ or ‘gather things’. If nothing else, it is a bare record. It’s all there. Every struggle. It’s all true. And yes, telling strictly the truth is one of the most terrifying things I could do. But if it’s not scary, you’re not telling the whole truth.”
For the most part, the album is chronological. The first track talks about a phone call on the corner and winds through the experience of saying goodbye to everything.
“It’s bliss in the front, grief in the back,” says Rowed. “It expresses a 360 degree view of myself.”
Such a rollercoaster story fits well into the album’s release date. April is, afterall, a month of extremes: pure joy, envy, gooey dreamy love, suffocation, destruction and rebuilding.
The album’s story promises to meld into the genre of electronic with poignant harmony.
“After I said goodbye to everything there was no relief,” she says. “There was just a feeling of ‘here we go’. A WHOOSH. Like an elevator. Like the rise to a beat drop. There was a sense of ‘this is happening weather I like it or not. I did not resist.”
The album was co-produced with La+ch,a Toronto-based artist, across 21 days spent in his 9×9 apartment.
“La+ch was a chameleon,” Rowed says. “He stepped in and listened to what I was trying to do and made it a little cooler. He is intensely creative, he used vocal mistakes for beats. The intention was not to write an album. When we started we just wrote about the weather. But the story came out. In some sense, we were really diarying.”
After strolling down to Frances Street, Rowed dons her plastic pink sunglasses and takes a Car2Go back to her Airbnb, leaving an empty street corner. The March pavement is remarkably dry with concrete warmed by sunshine and a warm spring breeze. Sunshine, suffocating rain showers, and breathtaking sunsets are on the horizon.
April is coming.
Emily Rowed performs Thursday, April 25 at The Fox Cabaret.604 Records, emily rowed