Quinn Christopherson speaks about his new EP ‘I Am Bubblegum’

Quinn Christopherson got a lot of attention in the indie-music world a few years ago via NPR’s Tiny Desk segment. Since then he has toured the US with Courtney Barnett, Lucy Dacus, Shura, Portugal The Man and more and is now readying his highly anticipated debut album.

Having signed on to major label PIAS, first-up he has a new EP to share. I Am Bubblegum was released this week and it’s filled with songs which are document his thoughts on identity, masculinity and his life as a transgender man.

Graeme Watson chatted to Quinn from his home in Alaska, and  explained that he’d just been sharing Quinn’s tune with Perth’s queer community at Pride’s Fairday.

I’ve just been listening Good Boy, the most recent song you put out and I’ve loved Bubblegum. We were playing it on the weekend, we had an event called Fairday here in Perth, which is the biggest queer day of the year, we have a massive party in the park.

It’s the day of the year we see everyone you haven’t seen since last year’s party in the park, and we had hundreds of stalls and we were broadcasting the radio live from the Fairday, and we were playing your tune to everybody.

What’s the journey been for you? In creating this new EP, where did it start?

With this EP, surprisingly, these songs are some of the older ones. I actually wrote all the songs on this EP, like, over two years ago.

So there’s been there’s been a lot of writing and creating since then, but to me these songs have aged well, so I’m excited to have finally recorded them and, and I feel good about putting them out. You know, I don’t know what the normal like timeline is for, you know, you write a song and then it goes out. I don’t know how long that is, but feels like a while for these ones. So I’m excited.

I think that’s pretty normal, by the time they’re gonna get to the world, you’re over them now, I’ve got better one.

Yeah, I feel like that sometimes like about old songs. So I’m just glad that, you know, these ones have kind of made their way through to the end.

You worked with Bullion on this. He’s an artist, I’ve always really loved, what was it like working with him as a producer?

It was a dream, it was so amazing. We just totally clicked from the start, and it was my first time going to London. So I had just a just an amazing experience in that city, and then going to the studio every day, and sitting in the room with him was just really cool. It was like felt like magic really.

There are really direct lyrics in these songs. You can tell what you’re thinking about this straightaway. I think they’re very relatable, there’s no ‘Oh, I wonder what that lyric means?’. They’re quite straightforward. Is that the normal way that your your approach songwriting?

I think it is. I don’t know, those are older songs, so if I think about how I’m writing now, I do try to say less.  Not to lose any of the vulnerability or honesty, but it is interesting. I wrote those songs when nobody was listening, or I should say – I didn’t know if anybody was going to play them.

Now when I’m writing music, and I know that I may be playing it for people, I guess that could impact, I don’t know – how dense they are sometimes. I’m never going to lose that with my writing, but I do think it is good to let a listener be able to kind of choose what the song is about. Some of my songs, they are about this one thing – and that’s it. But I do want people to be able to make it about whatever it is for them at the end of the day.

Good Boy is very satirical. I really loved the way it kind of tapped into those ideas of gender expectations. I was just wondering, how do you feel about that question, what is manliness? What makes you manly? What are those expectations? Is it about opening doors and being respectful, what is the essence of that?

I don’t know what manliness is. But the song is, yeah, it’s sarcastic. I don’t know, really, at the time of writing it, it was more about, you know, holding the men in your life accountable. You know, for like, these little things.

Often, I had guy friends that would just have other men in their life that weren’t the most respectful or something like that. They would just let it breeze by not saying anything.

So, to me, it was like, let’s hold each other accountable. You know, even if it is my best friend, even if they’re really a good guy, they can say something bad, you have to challenge that, and disagree. Like, we can disagree with the people we care about, and have a discussion about it. And, it’s okay, it doesn’t make somebody like an evil person.

You’ve grown up in Alaska, I grew up in a very remote part of Western Australia, the nearest city to where I grew up was 2,000 kilometers away. It’s desert, it’s red dirt. I think we couldn’t have two people from more extreme conditions. What was it like growing up in Alaska?

I love it here as an adult. I think, as a younger person, we are really landlocked, there isn’t like a big city with lights to run to, and it’s expensive to get out. I had felt stuck for a while and like a lot of musicians or artists, end up leaving this place. It’s hard to, I guess, sustain a creative path here. But as I’ve gotten older, I’m able to travel for work and music is all about like touring or writing the songs.

So I’ve just kind of realized I don’t have to leave to do it. It’s just more about who I’m around, basically, all my family’s here and all the people I love are here. I don’t I don’t feel stuck anymore.

I talk to artists who live in the city and they they go off to remote villages in Iceland to make their records, to get away from everything to have that isolation. So you know, it’s kind of 50/50 isn’t it? It’s how do you have the career, but also how do you have the solace?

I love creating in this place. We just got a couple feet of snow the other day, our first real like the snow is here and it’s staying here. It’s dark, the sun is going down around 4:30-ish.

Usually when this happens, I started to get like anxiety or feeling like that darkness really coming through for the winter. This season, it just felt like I welcomed it, like the snow came and it felt like a warm blanket. The darkness is here. But, you know, it’s not as scary as before. And I think, yeah, it just feels good to be able to wake up and create, in this cold place. It does feel warm, though, even though it’s cold.

I was reading that the Ahtna Athabaskan and Iñupiaq languages have very few speakers remaining now.  

Yes, there are few speakers Ahtna I’m not not the best. There are a lot of different native languages a lot of different dialects. And, yeah, this one where I’m from, and I guess a lot of dialects are obviously dying out. Have you heard of that before?

I have friends who are Indigenous here in Perth, who have had to go learn Noongar at night school. We’ve kind of reached a point where people now refer to the city as by it’s Indigenous name, Boorloo. The streets are being changed to indigenous names and increasingly people greet each other saying Kaya. 

Our indigenous language now coming into the mainstream, we’re seeing them on television and hearing them on radio, I guess is sort of happened over the last 30 years. I was just kind of intrigued by someone who’s from another First Nations people, what that’s like, where it’s at, how language is in your society?

I would say it’s a heavy subject, because the colonization of my people is so current and it is not a thing of the past. And the whole reason that, we don’t have our language is because it was taken away from us. In the boarding schools and in this was just so, so, recent, that that happened. So yes, it’s really screwed up. Yeah and, you know, my language in specific isn’t taught in schools. So that’s not an option for us.

Whether you’re, you’re in Australia, or you’re in Alaska, there’s so many countries around the world, and it’s the same story. It’s the same story of colonization and effect on people.

What do you have planned for the future? We’ve got this EP coming out next, you’ve said you’ve written a lot more songs, what’s what’s next on the the future?

I’m really excited to put this EP out. Like, I’m really proud of it and yeah, more songs for the future, I guess. I have a record coming after that, and I don’t have too much details on that. So we’ll just focus on the EP for now.

What’s the emotional feeling at this point what it’s about to be released out into the world?

I am so excited. I mean there’s bits and pieces out there, and it’s not like a huge EP. So to me, there’s two songs now, it kind of feels like a lot. The last piece of the puzzle will be next month and you know, I just haven’t released any music since my independent releases a couple years ago.

So I just feel like people have been really patient, and now I’m able to feel like I can give something, another part of myself, to all the people that have been patient. People can hopefully be excited about what’s to come, and as excited as I am. There’s a lot of art ideas in store, we’re working on a stop motion animation right now for Good Boy, and yeah, I’m just excited.

Making the videos, I get the sense that you don’t like to be front and center in the promotion?

I don’t mind being in the videos, but I like them to be artistic and have a concept. Something I’ve always wanted to stay away from would be like, lip synching into a camera. I never understood that about music videos.

My partner makes all of my videos in my art and stuff, and she’s really artistic. It’s been really nice. I think each video has made the song better. That’s a rule for me. So if it doesn’t make the song better, it’s not a good music video.

I Am Bubblegum is out now on PIAS

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