D//E Interviews June Swoon // Video Premiere: Play Something I Know

Two weeks ago LA songwriter, June Swoon, followed her 2019 debut album, This Town Could Be Big Enough for the Both of Us, with a new single which extended her music's lo-fi rock and Americana attributes to more power pop and alternative territories.

The socially and politically conscious, and overall terrific Play Something I Know now comes attached to a completely DIY video created by the artist herself while in quarantine. The video streams for the first time ever in this post, followed by an interview with the bright musician in which she discusses the new clip, her recent full length, and more.

What are some of the themes usually found in your songwriting?

I write about the relationship between the self, the imagination, and the world. In This Town Could Be Big Enough for the Both of Us, I was interested in projections in romantic relationships, and the sides of ourselves that come out when we get close or want to get close to somebody. We take on roles, even unconsciously, to get validation or intimacy, even if we know we’re making a trade-off we shouldn’t be making. But all that was only clear to me after the songs were written. Songwriting tends to be a way I find out things I don’t know that I know.

Regarding the album's title, This Town Could Be Big Enough for the Both of Us, does it at all refer to Sparks, or maybe western movies and their tropes?

The West. Tropes. My inner landscape. The record was a long time in the making. Several years back, I drove out to Austin, Texas to get lost for a while. Ever since then, the desert has been a personal metaphor for self-actualization. It just absorbed my imagination and comingled with everything I was going through. This dark desert haze. I learned about 1960s spaghetti westerns while I was living in San Diego a few years later. Spaghetti westerns were this Italian imagining of the American West, that we then sort of adopted into our own public consciousness. I thought that was really fascinating, how an interpretation can replace the original in our imagination. Kind of like how fortune cookies originated in California and not in China.

Play Something I Know feels a little more alternative rock-bent in comparison to the album. Is this going to be the new direction for June Swoon's next endeavors?

There is a certain electricity to this single that is intentional, and felt appropriate for this moment. If not for COVID-19, June Swoon would have been on tour this month. Play Something I Know was actually originally written when I was living in San Diego, right after Trump won the 2016 election. The Democratic debates of 2019 stirred it up in my imagination again. I didn’t have concrete plans to put this song out until I realized we would be under quarantine. I will say that live shows with my band, we do tend to go pretty hard. I wanted to release this song to sort of compensate for that show energy folks would be missing out on.

How would you describe your live act, and how important to you is the live aspect of being a musician?

I don’t take life too seriously, although I tend to think very seriously about things. The songs themselves have a similar quality, in that there are whimsical moments, and also heavy sentiments. The live performances are similar. Emotionally honest highs and lows and a playful spirit. With that said, June Swoon shows are a good time, and I hope every person leaves feeling better than when they came in. DIY ethics are a big part of that.

I see live performance as a non-hierarchical exchange. For the audience, they get to be entertained, and challenged, and the performer’s perception and creative interpretation of emotional reality gets to be felt and validated. I’ve been playing and performing music my whole life, from childhood piano recitals, to playing keyboard at church in my teens, to being a multi-instrumentalist in different bands in my late teens and early twenties, but in retrospect, I was always a bit held back before. I was working through so much at that age, and being onstage felt inextricably linked to telling people what to believe or how to feel. It confused me. I took a couple years off, and when I came back to music in 2018 and started June Swoon, it felt brand new to me. Since performing as June Swoon, I’ve become fascinated with the live aspect. Every performance, even if the material is the same, the iteration is different. The people there are different, your mood is different. It’s completely unique. There is no ideology to it except being in the moment together.

Which are some of the main influences behind June Swoon?

I’ve been writing songs for a potential solo project for 7 or 8 years, and it took a while for them to get good. That process requires synthesizing a lot of influences and a lot of pop culture, and then self-searching to find your own authentic response to the conversation. I see different influences coming into play with each release. When This Town was starting to take form and get arms and legs, I did have this moment where I realized sixties pop and Midwest emo had a lot in common lyrically, which I thought was funny and interesting.

What do you listen and watch mostly during quarantine?

Unfortunately, I did not have the foresight to NOT have already seen every season of Love Island before quarantine. I finally got around to watching Boyhood, which was incredible. I stream new episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race religiously every Saturday.

Lo-fi sound pairs well with a completely DIY video like the one you did for Play Something I Know. What was the creative process for the video? Have you ever done any other film work in the past?

Thank you! Well, I had gotten that doll a couple years ago on a day when I was thrifting for props. I was checking out and she was a few feet away at the bottom of an abandoned shopping cart. I was struck by that little expression on her face. She’s been sitting next to my record player ever since. I actually thrifted the white crown I’m wearing on the cover of This Town that same day. I feel like I’ve spent most of quarantine watching reality TV and playing video games, but one day, a creative fire just lit under my ass. I made a short shot list and went around filming myself hanging out with this doll in matching flannel, and making myself laugh. No tripod. I was running alongside of the doll, filming her riding the skateboard down my long driveway, and didn’t realize my neighbor and his 4-year-old daughter were on their front lawn watching me. They probably thought I had lost my mind in quarantine. My AirDrop doesn’t work that well so I texted all the iPhone videos to myself and edited them together that night. My liberal arts education included a film studies class and a couple short videos here and there.

What comes next for June Swoon?

More music. Continuing to do whatever I want. The wheels are already turning in my head about the songs I’m writing now and the story they're gonna come together to tell.

Artist photo by Nicolae Bernal

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