February 2020 will mark the eight-year anniversary of a life-altering moment for Rena Kozak: her boyfriend, Chris Reimer (guitarist for seminal Calgary post-punk/no-wave band, Women), passed away unexpectedly in his sleep and she woke up to a world tinged black with grief and loss. That trauma split her life into two distinct phases, before and after, and in the years following, she had to figure out who she was as a person and an artist again.
Kozak dove deep into writing music, in part, as a way of working through the trauma of losing a loved one. A long-time fixture in the Calgary music scene (though she now lives in Montréal), most notably playing in The Shematomas and Gold, she went solo, writing under the Child Actress name. Cutting, punky riffs were rounded out to more synth-forward, New Wave-inspired post-punk and goth, a sound that had defined her tastes since childhood.
“I’m a huge Cocteau Twins fan,” she says over lunch at the Ship & Anchor in Calgary. “I’ve been a fan of this sound since I was a child. My sisters are ten years older than me and would always listen to New Order all the time and that really influenced my own love of music. I like things that are dark and beautiful. I like it when people can dance and cry at the same time.”
As Child Actress, she has a single out this month, “Vague Seasons” b/w “Twins,” anticipating a full-length out later next year and marking a turning point in how she’s learned to deal with the shattering grief of her boyfriend’s death: namely embracing the feelings as part of her and learning to grow from them.
“I think that I feel pretty confident in the singles I’m putting out that are saying what I need to say. Especially [on ‘Twins,’] I’m applying the state of loss and grief towards continuing to exist. A lot of the songs I’ve written ended up being about attempting to have new relationships with living men, as opposed to a dead man, which is, I suppose, my primary relationship still.
“For a couple of years there, I was trying to kind of forget about it, in a way. But now, I’m more focused on having it be a part of me, enjoying it, revelling in it a bit more for as long as I want to. So I think, artistically, that’s where I’m going to stay for a while: I’m going to sit here in this continued state of loss and death, and live with that in as positive way as I can.”
Child Actress’ “Vague Seasons” b/w “Twins” is available now via Bandcamp. A 7-inch release party will take place on January 10 at the Palomino (Calgary).