Early last week, the internet’s folk music-loving communities were ablaze with talk of a new artist called Robin Bacior, whose song Ohio (and its beautifully choreographed music video) made the rounds of music blogs and Tumblr feeds before landing on the home page of Vimeo’s Staff Picks.
In the time since, Robin—a California native who now calls Brooklyn home—premiered her new single I Hate the States on Nylon Magazine’s blog and has made the video’s directors Ellis Bahl and Alex Fischer two of New York’s most in-demand new creatives.
We spoke with Robin just a day after her debut LP ‘Rest Our Wings’ was released to ask about the early praise she’s received, find out what made her start her own record label and talk about all things Brooklyn.
PORTABLE: You moved from California to Brooklyn, where you’ve now found considerable success. What was that transition like?
That’s a really hard question. I’d say it was very full. I went from a really tight-knit loving community in a small town in California where it never snows, to a beastly sized city in New York where I had few friends and the winter was purely white. It was a much-needed time that allowed me to explore my own brain a little bit, which was both very lonely and very exciting. I’m really glad I did it.
What was it about Brooklyn that drew you here? How has the creative community that exists there inspired you?
I’ve wanted to live in New York since I was 11. I came with my mom to visit her family, and I was immediately enamored with Brooklyn. I can still vividly picture walking around for the first time, feeling this new part of my brain open up. When I returned back to California, I felt I had left one foot in New York, and for years I’d talk about it and think about it like some reoccurring dream, kind of fantasize about living in New York, and then one day I decided to actually do it. Having spent a majority of my life with this idea in the back of my head and then watching it turn into a reality, I sometimes feel like I’m living in a dream. It’s definitely been rough at times, but I’ve been lucky to find an incredible community in South Brooklyn, full of very talented, bright people that have taught me a ton about creativity and drive, and provided a home for me on the east coast. I didn’t move here with the intention of pursuing any musical path, but through meeting and collaborating with so many artists in my own neighborhood, it just kind of happened.
Both the titles title of the first single from your new record are related to the United States. To what extent does the country play a role in the record?
Well, it’s not so much about the country itself, it’s mostly about space and physical distance being an issue. Friends of mine have joked that I can be a little nomadic, and to an extent it can be true. I really love movement; the versatility of land and just how much there is to see, but suddenly all the people I care about are spread hours in every direction, and somehow I end up a little isolated. The whole album is about the idea of being in a transient part of my life, picking up very permanent pieces along the way, and questioning that conflict.
Buzzine compared your sound to Joni Mitchell and Morrissey. How did that feel? What artists are you most inspired by or obsessed with?
That’s a huge compliment. It just so happens I have a huge obsession with Joni Mitchell. Her songs are pure observations, confessions, and so, so truthful. She never compromised the honesty of her songs. Her music has allowed me to feel comfortable saying how I truly feel and allowing people to hear that. It can be really frightening to say what’s exactly in your head, but Joni Mitchell really does that in these breath-taking poetic ways that are still straightforward. Confusion and vulnerability are universal, and Joni Mitchell isn’t afraid to admit that in song, which I admire. So yeah, I’m pretty flattered with the Joni references.
Tell us the story behind Consonants & Vowels. Why start your own label? What did that process involve?
Last fall while my label partner (Jillian Putnam-Smith) was visiting me in New York we were sitting on the train and she brought up the idea. We’re really old friends and balance each other’s work ethic pretty well. We’d toyed with the idea before and finally decided to take the leap. We named it Consonants & Vowels because we want the label to focus on artists with lyrically potent music, and also because we both love the Regina Spektor album ‘Songs’, and it’s a reference to the song, “Consequence of Sounds”. I spent my summer reading up on the start of a lot of my favorite labels, and the story is almost always the same; a small community of friends start a label to release their music to a larger audience. I’ve met so many insanely talented people who I’d love to help be heard by ears outside the South BK community, and I’d love to have Consonants & Vowels be the medium for that. The label is still in its infancy, but we’re working on it, and people have been really supportive so far, which makes it really fun.
We first saw the video for Ohio when it was picked up as a Vimeo Staff Pick. How did it feel to know one of the web’s largest creative communities was listening to your song?
It felt really crazy. It’s strange to think that about 40,000 people have heard a song I wrote sitting on the floor of my bedroom. I’m really excited for Alex and Ellis, they made a really beautiful video and I’m glad people can see how talented those two are.
What was the process like working with Alex and Ellis?
Ellis and Alex are both really great guys and I’m very lucky they took the time to work with me. I met Ellis around my neighborhood a year or so ago, and Alex not long after, and was really impressed with both of their work. I wanted them to make something that was completely their vision, that wasn’t about the song itself, but was a separate creation inspired by the song. One of the most exciting things about working with other artists is having a conversation through your art. The video is a dialogue between my song, the dance choreography and the camera work of Ellis and Alex. I saw the filming, and saw the final product while I was on tour in California and was blown away by what they had made.
Your new record’s been out for less than 24 hours so far. How have people reacted to it? What do you want people to think or feel when they listen to it?
So far people have been very complimentary, which is nice. I worked really hard on this LP to make it a really direct reflection of how I hear the songs in my head, so I feel really pleased with how it turned out. I want people to feel whatever is natural to them while they listen to it, that’s really all I can ask for.