Q&A: EMA's Erika M. Anderson On How To Shock People Using Stolen Classic-Rock Lyrics And Firing A Gun At Age 14
With her excellent debut Past Life Martyred Saints, former Gown Erika M. Anderson (a.k.a. EMA) has been causing quite a stir for dense sonics and harshly comic narratives that haven't been this critically acclaimed since the heyday of certain Seattlites. Or, if you let her tell it, Lou Reed. In advance of her two New York City shows, we asked her about weapons and breakfast.
How are you?
Good! I'm in the back of a tour van.
I wanted to ask you about guns.
Oh no, guns. Do your family and friends back in South Dakota own as many as "California" makes it seem?
Yeah, there are... there are a few... yeah, lots of people have guns there. But they have different guns than the ones we have on the West Coast here.
Have you had any shooting practice?
I did have to go through "gun safety" at 14. It was very strange. [laughs] I was in there with a woman who was talking about the mark of the beast, and you know, how the government's gonna come and put bar codes on all of us and all this stuff. And I was like, that's cool, you're getting your gun license right now. [laughs]
You prescribe an age to "California": "I'm 22 and I don't mind dying." Is the rest of the album supposed to be viewed from the perspective of a 22-year-old?
Well, that's a line from the classic "Who Do You Love" song...
Oh dammit, right.
So it's this big classic rock line, which you know is from this kind of innocuous song, but I mean that's a really strong lyric. So I just kind of... stole that. But there are some songs that were definitely written when I was about 22. I mean, yeah, "Butterfly Knife" is written as a melodramatic teenager or something.
You've described Past Life Martyred Saints as your first attempt at a "poppy" record. What pop do you listen to?
I've been totally just in this past year listening to pop radio again. It's just crazy, the production. I just dove straight back into mainstream pop after being completely immersed in kind of an experimental noise scene for years. Lil Wayne, Rihanna, Kanye, all that sort of stuff. Just whatever's on the radio... you get Jason Derulo and just shit like that, I'm like, wooooow. It's just mind-blowing, actually. For someone who's been away.