Interview: Carina Round
Originally from England, Carina Round dropped out of college about 10 years ago to pursue music. Since then, she’s had a roller coaster ride of a career, one that brought her Stateside in 2005, leading her to settle permanently in Los Angeles.
After her album Slow Motion Addict was released in 2007, Round parted ways with Interscope and was left disenchanted with the music business as a result. The music kept coming, though, especially after she paired up with Grammy-nominated writer Dan Burns in the studio. This inspiring collaboration led her to create an EP, and then a whole new album, Tigermending, which she self-released last month on her own label, Dehisce. “Dehisce,” a word usually used in reference to plants, means “to burst open spontaneously releasing seeds/content,” and on Tigermending, she certainly has.
I caught up with Carina backstage at her show in Seattle, and she opened up about her work as a member of Puscifer, her collaborations with Dan Burns and Billy Corgan, and her plans to release a video for every single song on her latest album.
So, are you permanently relocated to LA now?
Do you like it there?
I do now. I didn’t when I first moved there, but it got under my skin.
It grew on you.
Here’s one question I wanted to clear up, do you identify as goth?
No, I don’t.
Everybody refers to you as goth, and I don’t see it.
Not at all. I feel that I’m the opposite of the stereotypical goth. I can’t get enough joy in my life! I don’t always wear black…or purple.
You’re not wearing any black right now.
I don’t know, maybe there are goth parts of me. Who knows.
I think there are goth parts in everybody.
My arm pits are pretty goth-y. (laughter)
So, I heard that you almost dropped out of school when you were young just to start a band. I read an old interview where you said that your mom had to kick you out of bed every morning.
Yeah, she did. That was just because I was lazy, but I actually did drop out of college to pursue my career as a musician. I met someone who I fell in love with, and he happened to be a promoter around the city that I was brought up in. He was a lot older than me, and he had a lot to do with actually getting me onto the stage. I always knew [performing is] what I wanted to do. And yeah, I dropped out of college, so, I’m stupid.
Oh, I wouldn’t say you’re stupid. You’ve created some pretty fantastic music. Like, the last minute of “Weird Dream” is just…an amazing musical moment, you know?
I first heard it live and it was really, really good, and I didn’t know what song it was. I was wondering, do you notice that about that specific part of the song?
I really like playing that part live. I really enjoy it because I get to just hack at the guitar. When it came together in the studio, [that] was a good moment, so I get a good feeling when I play that.
There’s an energy that bleeds out [when you’re playing the song], you know what I mean?
Yeah, totally, it’s kind of a dark song, so it’s really fun to just get into it while playing it live. I also really enjoy playing “You Will Be Loved.” At the moment it’s my favorite.
Why is it your favorite?
I just feel like it’s a really good journey. I spent a long time writing it, and I was really proud of it when it was done. I feel like it was a difficult one to bring all the parts together and make it sound cohesive. It makes me feel joyous to sing it.
You said that it took you a long time to write that song, and you’ve said that you take a really long time in general to write songs.
Is it because you never feel like it’s finished? Do you think you’re a perfectionist?
I don’t think so. I know when something’s finished, I think. Something wouldn’t let me finish ["You Will Be Loved"]. I wasn’t sure what it was about…it wasn’t connecting with me for the longest time. I had to take it apart and come at it from a different place, and then it was easy.
I’ve been into your music for quite some time. Your sound has changed so much. You’ve got this dense production style nowadays — there’s just layer upon layer of sounds. It’s not that you’re overproduced, but it seems that your production skills have grown a lot.
Yeah…when I met Dan Burns, I was going through a period of wondering whether I wanted to put another record out ever again. A mutual friend of ours sneakily got us in the studio together somehow, and the very first day that we met we wrote “For Everything a Reason.” I was blown away by how it sounded, how he made things sound, how he made me feel in the studio, how open he was to my suggestions, and how good he was at translating that into the sound. I just felt so comfortable that I wanted to make the EP with him. Just as a natural progression, I wanted to work with him on the record because of how open he was to me actually producing it with him — not just saying we co-produced it, but me actually getting in there and rolling up my sleeves and doing the work.
I think that having us coming from the places that we come from and being so open and trusting of each others’ work just made the production kind of…I don’t know, to me it just sounds like it’s just right for every song. And the production’s not really the same on every song. They’re really different songs.
Yeah, they are. They’re very different, but they all sound multi-layered.
Right. Yeah, that’s what I really love that about working with him. He’s not afraid [to say], “Oh, this needs more,” or, “We need to take some stuff away from this one.” You know, it’s not like, “Oh god, it’s going to sound really produced.” It’s about “It’s going to sound right, it’s going to sound really good.”
Did you really have a moment where you just wanted to quit music prior to making Tigermending?
I knew I would never quit music, but I didn’t know if I wanted it to be a business for me anymore. I was just really confused after the whole Slow Motion Addict era. You know, age-old boring story of a major record label. I just didn’t know if it was the industry I wanted to be in, and I still fucking hate it — the industry side of it — but now I get to assume all the responsibility for everything that goes wrong.
That seems to be the way things are going, you know what I mean? Artists are really taking control. Did you see what Amanda Palmer just did on Kickstarter?
Well, she’s a genius.
She is. She’s a fucking genius.
She’s great at it. She was born to do it
And she was born to teach other people how to do it, I think.
Yeah, no privacy ever. I couldn’t deal with that life but I absolutely respect what she’s done.
You had mentioned that on a lot of the tracks, inspiration is very “accidental” — like, you’ll just be chilling with a documentary on in the background, and something will pop into your head.
Do you have any stories about accidental inspiration [regarding] the songs on Tigermending? Like, that “eureka!” moment?
There were a few moments. I mean, it’s not always like I’m washing up with a documentary on in the background. For instance, when I wrote “Set Fire,” I pressed record and I just jammed around those chords and kind of made sounds and noises with my mouth — a little stream of consciousness. I stopped the recording, and I went back to try and finish what I had done and write the song. And then when I listened to the recording again, it was kind of better in that freer moment as it was, undefined. So I took more elements from that undefined stream of consciousness. The melodies I was singing stream of consciousness were better than the ones I thought that I was refining.
Sometimes less revision is more.
Yeah, totally. That thing was 11 minutes and the song…it had written itself already, which was a really good moment. I really like that song.
Yes, “Set Fire” is a really good song. By the way, are you working on any additional videos off the album?
Yeah, I want to make one for every song. I don’t have any in the making at the moment, but I really want to make one for “Set Fire” with my friend Seth Dalton, who made the “Backseat” video.
Do you have any preliminary ideas for it, [or any] visions in your head?
Nope, I don’t want to — if he’s directing it, I want him to have the ideas. I’m not one of those people who has to control everything and everyone. I used to be. I used to be, but then I stopped and I made a better record, so I guess it doesn’t work.
At the Seattle Puscifer show, as he set the instruments and props out on the stage, Maynard was saying that a lot of the songs on Conditions of My Parole came together by the fire. I was wondering if you’ve ever been there at a fire with him when those songs were coming together. “Tumbleweed” is a song I could picture coming about that way.
I think, more than talking about the literalness of how those songs came about, he… I don’t know, I never spoke to him about it, but I think it’s more of that sense of togetherness and unity, you know? Coming together as people around a central fire and creating…
I see what you’re saying. The age-old fire, prehistoric.
In an old interview, you said that one of the high points in your life thus far had been Lou Reed complimenting you after a show, saying you’re fantastic. Have there been any moments that have just topped that?
That’s a pretty good moment, but you know, right now I just feel really high about working with all my close, dear friends. The people that I’m working with are all so talented and amazing at what they do, and just so full of life and joy. They’re all doing it for the correct reasons…and [on tour] the people in the audience know the songs and love it. We’re selling tickets, and it’s not like a bummer when you get off stage and you just played to five people. You know, a lot of this is thanks to Puscifer and that tour, I just feel like right now I’m working with the best people and I’m making the best art that I’ve made in my life. It’s just — that’s like a consistent high.
There have been a lot of good moments lately. Working with Billy [Corgan] was thrilling. Watching him put down two guitar parts in two takes, and then he pressed the un-mute button, and it just sounds like him, and it’s like…[happy girly squeaky sound].
That’s amazing. Yeah, you got to work with some of the most amazing people this time around. You work with such great musicians, and such skilled photographers!
Yeah, Kristin Burns [photographer], we’ve known each other forever, and she introduced me to Dan. [I've been] working with Sara Swan who’s also a friend, and Claire [Acey], who has one of the best voices I’ve ever heard in my life. Just to be close like that, and to be able to experience that everyday — it’s just awesome. Obviously there are more high profile, more famous people that I’ve worked with, and that is really thrilling in itself, but the people that aren’t famous that I work with, like Sam Stewart , on guitar, he is a genius. Having that feeling of community — especially in a place like LA, where there is none — is really, really special.
You’ve collaborated with so many great people, and you seem to thrive on it. Is there any dream collaborations you could cite?
I’d like to work with Dr. Dre. That’d be fuckin’ rad.
Yeah, yeah! I think I might’ve written this down the other day, because someone else asked me that question and I was like, “Uhh…I don’t know, Radiohead?” (laughter)
[Flips through her iPhone, finds the list] Morrissey, Neil Young, Quentin Tarantino, Darren Aronofsky, Jack White, and Liz Frazer are on my list.