A Rose is a rose

Caroline Rose, opening for Rainbow Kitten Surprise at Port Chester’s Capitol Theatre Sept. 28, talks with WAG’s Gregg Shapiro about her superb new album, “Loner,” and being a funny feminist in a political age.

Almost everything you need to know about singer-songwriter Caroline Rose can be heard on “More of the Same,” the extraordinary opening track on “Loner” (New West), Rose’s new album. There is humor, sensitivity, insight and an Op-1 keyboard synthesizer.

The combo is intoxicating. It’s an honest indication of what follows on songs that incorporate updated retro New Wave sensibilities (“Cry!”); outrageous funk (“Jeannie Becomes A Mom,” “Talk”); 21st-century ’60s revival (“Bikini,” “Money,” “Soul No. 5,” “Animal”); and perfect pop (“Getting To Me”). Without a doubt, Rose’s “Loner “ is one of the best albums of 2018 thus far. During September and October, Rose is touring as the opening act for Rainbow Kitten Surprise on a multicity concert tour that includes a date at Port Chester’s Capitol Theatre Sept. 28. WAG had the pleasure of speaking with Rose about her music and the new album in late July:

Caroline, your new album is titled “Loner.” Is that a fair description of the way you see yourself or is it a character you created?

“I think it’s a little bit of both. I don’t think it would be the first adjective I’d use to describe myself now. But at the time I was writing and recording the album, I was pretty much all-consumed by it and didn’t have much of a life outside of music and I desperately wanted to. It’s a tongue-in-cheek way of approaching my coming of age and into adulthood (laughs) in modern society, I guess.”

One of the most appealing things about the songs on “Loner” is your sense of humor, which is on display throughout the album — from the album cover and artwork to songs such as “Soul No. 5,” “More Of The Same” and “Jeannie Becomes A Mom.” How important is it for you, as a songwriter, to include humor in your work?

“That’s such a good question, because I approached this album wanting it to reflect me as a person, a personality. Humor is such a big part of my life. I remember when my first album came out, I had a very serious stage persona. I wanted to be taken seriously. I was borderline obsessed with being taken seriously as a songwriter and a musician. I would meet people, like new friends, or even when I met my management in person, and they would be like, ‘Wow! You’re so different from your stage persona.’

“That really got to me for a while. I really needed to find a way to bridge the gap between my personal life and the way people see me onstage. It’s become a personal goal for the last handful of years to be more like myself in my personal life onstage. I make a point of injecting weirdness into songs and making sure the weirdness of my personality and the humor really come out. At the same time, I know that if it’s too jokey and too goofy then you stop taking yourself seriously. There’s a line to be drawn, but I’m happy with the balance of the seriousness and the humor.”

Do you also think humor is an effective way of making commentaries on the present-day culture?

“Absolutely. I use satire a lot in some of the songs. I think it’s an effective tool to talk about stuff that makes people kind of cringe or uncomfortable. It takes the edge off. Artists have been using satire for a really long time. The first time I read (Voltaire’s) ‘Candide,’ my mind was blown. It’s a powerful tool to take something serious and difficult to talk about and what may bring someone pain and flip it on its head. To make a joke about it and laugh at something that would normally bring you pain is a powerful weapon to use.”

Another notable aspect of the album is the use of the synthesizer that sounds like a Farfisa organ on songs such as “Talk,” “Bikini,” “Jeannie Becomes A Mom” and “More Of The Same.” Can you please say something about the use of these particular keyboards?

“I just love the sound of a Farfisa. Originally, there wasn’t as much on the album. I was trying to find a way to make everything sound a little more cohesive to brand the sonic element. I think the Farfisa is really good at bringing out the whimsy in songs. I think the association (is) with The Doors and (that) retro ‘60s, surf-rock kind of feel with electric piano…When I was creating the palette for the album, I wanted to inject something that brought out a bit of goofiness. In approaching the next record, I’m going to do something similar in terms of bringing out the humorous elements. I definitely will find other instruments now. (The Farfisa synthesizer) is a very difficult instrument to blend into a mix.”

It sounds effortless.

“Good! That’s great. That makes me happy.”

Would it be fair to say that you are employing a subversive, but empowering, feminist approach on songs such as “Cry!” and “Bikini”?

“Yes, totally. A lot of people bring that up, whether I would consider my music to be subversive or political. My most honest answer is that because I’m a female and I identify as female, it just happens to be part of my life. I sing about parts of my life that make me frustrated or (are) comical to me, (and) they will come out as feminist songs. I’m a female and I’m a feminist. And I don’t know how to shut my mouth. I think all those things combined end up becoming political because it’s a political time.”

On the lyric sheet photo, I noticed that you have ink on left inner forearm. What does the tattoo say?

“In French, it says, ‘Be drunk all the time.’”

What are you most looking forward to about your autumn tour with Rainbow Kitten Surprise?

“That’s going to be a great tour. I’m looking forward to having a bigger touring group. We have a new bass player that’s coming on. That’s really exciting. We’re going to have a new front of house and a new crew. I’m excited to have a bigger team. Everything’s going to be bigger. We’ll be fleshing out some new songs. The audiences will be bigger and Rainbow Kitten Surprise is an amazing band. I’m looking forward to playing for new audiences. It’s interesting playing opening sets because you never know who’s going to turn out and if people will like you or not.”

I always make a point of being in my seat to hear the opening act.

“That’s very nice of you.”

Singer/songwriter Caroline Rose performs at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester on Sept. 28. For more, visit thecapitoltheatre.com.

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