New Zealand musician Jordan Reyne interviewed


This is a music video series by Jordan Reyne.

By Len Phelan in Britain:

Jordan Reyne: Strong enough to be different

Tuesday 7th April 2015

In her other life, JORDAN REYNE produces excellent podcasts for the People’s Assembly. But, as she tells Len Phelan, when she isn’t engaged in that vital work she’s busy carving out a career as an innovative musician with a radical, feminist edge to her work

CURRENTLY touring Europe with Slovenian legends Laibach, Jordan Reyne is about to release a new EP entitled Maiden, which follows on from her previous records Mother and Crone.

Described as a goth-folk artist, and with a growing legion of fans in Britain and on the continent, Reyne grew up in an isolated spot on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

Cape Foulwind is a wild place,” she says, “where the nearest city is three hours’ drive and the sea never tires of hurling itself on the jagged roots of mountains. Almost no-one lives there and what little space there is between mountains and waves is often filled with rain.”

It’s a place where you can’t help but fall in love with folklore, the stories of men and women from England, Ireland and Wales who came and lost their lives there, she explains.

As a child, she found “odd ways” to amuse herself: “My habit of hollering back at the sea while banging bits of old iron was not what my parents called musical,” she says. “They made me learn to sing and play, to spare themselves the torment.”

Such early experiences shaped the music she makes today. “It’s a blend of fact and folklore — found tales and found sound from the cast-offs of coal mines and factories to homemade drums and farm implements. It’s a coming together of stories told in Celtic-style melody and hypnotic tribal beats.”

But the trilogy of EPs she’s produced tell stories which are not simply fable. “I wanted to do a project that spoke of the experiences of women at different life stages or the tales of how others see them,” she says. “Growing up in such an unusual environment made me very aware of how people’s expectation of my behaviour seemed to come from somewhere I hadn’t been.”

The EP project began after talking to her mother about her experience of old age.

She told her of what it’s like to feel the same self she’s been for her entire life but, looking incredulously in the mirror, thinks: “Who the hell is this old woman? Is that seriously me?”

How certain “kinds of people” are or should act — assumptions based on age, race, gender or religion — is an issue that exercises Reyne. “Old age invokes certain ideas on how and who one is meant to be,” she stresses. “If we have wrinkles, we are expected to be a different kind of character than if we don’t.

“If we don’t feel old — and my mother is certainly one of the most alive people I know — then our inner ideas of who we are come into conflict with what we are led to believe the facts of our physical age imply. We feel that in being ourselves, people get confused and walk away.”

Alluded to in advertising, film, popular culture and fiction, the images of the maiden, the mother and the crone have been passed down through time with certain character attributes pre-assigned and, says Reyne, “they limit our understanding of a person — we don’t let them just be.”

To counter those assumptions the songs on the EPs, reflecting three life stages, are real stories set into folkoric form, “where women battle with, or conform to, expectation. Or where others comment on how they think those women should behave.”

Her mother’s experience of being deemed invisible has a positive side, she feels. “It gives you a certain amount of leeway. As an inherently shy person, my mother often bottled what she felt, for fear of being told it was not acceptable to disagree.

“Nowadays, she has a new-found confidence to say whatever the hell she thinks. Loudly. Being outside ‘the gaze’ in everyday encounters, she can voice opinions she didn’t dare utter before.

She’ll tell the local politician on the election hustings that he’s failed to address the issues, or the pompous ex-lecturer in her book club group that he should stop imagining he is the only one in the room that knows anything. All things she would never have done before.”

The Crone EP coincides with Reyne’s adoption of “the hag” character on stage, a horned horror backed by pagan rhythms built up live with loop machines.

“The hag not only sings but screams when she feels slighted. She is political, irascible and passionate — because, for once, she gets to say what she thinks. Despite the fact that she may not be listened to.”

The maiden on the final EP of the trilogy is the innocent whose nascent sexuality is as alluring as it is corruptible.

“When I left the place I grew up, living in the city was as exciting as it was scary,” Reyne says.

“There were so many eyes and so many pictures, slogans and broadcasts that seemed to want to help you be these things that fit what was wanted from young women.”

But, she points out, the real seducer is capitalism itself, with its overwhelming messages of polarised gender, narcissism, consumption and trappings of glamour which are often pushed their way. “It is dedicated to the quirky girls — those who are strong enough to be different,” Reyne says.

And that pretty well sums up this intriguing and adventurous artist who dares to challenge the stereotyping of women so persuasively.

The music from all three EPs is being toured throughout Europe, including Britain, until November this year and the Crone EP is released on April 27, details: jordanreyne.com.

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