Binging on Netflix may seem unhealthy, but sometimes it leads to a whole new world.
After sitting through 200+ episodes of The X-Files, Reina del Cid (just Reina for short) couldn’t shake the image of a woman sitting in front of a snowy television, so she named her Beverly and incorporated her into what would become her band’s new album, Rerun City.
Set to release this Friday at the Turf Club, the record moves back and forth between different characters, centering around dark storylines of drugs and hopelessness and housed in beautifully arranged songs.
The lead singer shares the story behind Beverly and her obsession with The X-Files.
City Pages: You started to transition with your last album, but this new one is a little bit more rock and less folksy than your older work. What do you think changed?
Reina del Cid: I think any time you are a solo artist with an acoustic guitar, the music you make gets labeled as “folk.” As I’ve drawn in more collaborators and instrumentalists, I’ve learned more and more what sort of sound actually complements my music, especially the type of songs I’m writing now versus when I was younger. The songs on Rerun City were begging for a more plugged in treatment, so for many of the songs we put aside the acoustic guitars and picked up the Jazzmasters and ES-335s.
CP: The band recorded at Pachyderm again. What is it about that place that draws you there so often?
RDC: I’d bet that anyone who has recorded at Pachyderm would say that there is a certain magic at that place. It’s nestled deep in the woods and has these giant floor-to-ceiling windows in the main recording room, so in the winter it truly feels like you’re singing into a snowy wonderland.
The week that we went out there to lay down the basic tracks for the album, a blizzard came through and snowed us in, so we couldn’t have left even if we had wanted to. It was the perfect setting to record these songs, since many of them have a lonely quality to them -- especially Beverly, with its imagery of isolation and unreality. Few places in the world feel as lonely as a snowed-in Minnesota woods in winter, so it was perfect.
CP: When did you begin writing for this album? What's your writing process like when you decide to make a record?
RDC: For me, the process is a mixture of both hoarding songs and writing new ones based on the direction and sound of the album as soon as I can sense it developing. A few of these songs I’ve had for quite a long time, but then about 3 or 4 of them I wrote in just the couple weeks leading up to the studio dates. In fact, we were still arranging the song “Suffer," substituting chords and rewriting lyrics, in the studio as we were recording. I actually love that way of doing things because it gives the song a chance to breathe, and it ends up guiding you to its final form rather than the other way around. I like when a song doesn’t sound like you’ve played it a thousand times, but that you’re just discovering it now, in that moment. If I had endless amounts of money to spend any way I wanted, I would just go into the studio any time I had a new song idea and get it recorded right away before it becomes familiar; but, as an indie artist, there’s a certain amount of song hoarding that’s necessary because budgets don’t allow for frequent, sporadic studio sessions.
CP: What were you watching when you were on your Netflix binge?
RDC: Oh, god. Is this the time and place to confess to my dark and everlasting obsession with The X-Files? Well, over the period of a couple months this past winter, I watched all ten seasons. That’s 201 episodes. Thinking back on all those hours I spent, I can confidently say it was all worth it, haha.
CP: Where do you think the image of Beverly came from? Did she shape a lot of the pieces on this album?
RDC: Beverly was partly inspired by that Netflix binge. I remember finishing the television show and this image of a woman popped into my head; she was sitting alone with the blue of the television screen on her face, transfixed by a stream of never-ending reruns of tv shows from her youth. The image wouldn’t leave my mind, so I gave her a name: Beverly.
In the song, she’s stuck living her life through the fictional worlds of her shows, and she doesn’t realize that all her friends are just characters, and all of her experiences aren’t real. Beverly looms over much of the album, which does a lot of worrying about what is happening to people as we live in this age of digital consumption, subscription programming, and online lifestyles. There are songs on this album about heroin addiction and data-mining, and other discontentments from our modern moment. Beverly represents the seductive promise of escape.
CP: What are your thoughts on how we live our lives in this digital age?
RDC: The digital age has afforded us unimaginable comforts and tools -- in fact, I don’t think I’d have a career in music at all if we weren’t living in a digital age, so I’m grateful for it. But every time a virtual “like” replaces an in-person hello, it feels like a little bit more of the human spirit is fading away. I can personally feel it in body if I’ve spent too long looking at my computer screen or phone. I feel lost, frustrated. It takes going out for a walk and talking to people to get me out of it. The Beverly character in Rerun City is sort of a cautionary figure in that respect. She’s the future version of all of us digital-addicts, a few decades in, pumping on-demand tv and Facebook into our veins like it’s a drug.
CP: You seem to write about heroin addiction and heavy subjects a lot. Why do you think it's important to incorporate such dark themes in your pieces?
RDC: Dark subjects wrapped in pleasant packages are my specialty! Even my happy songs usually have some dark undercurrent to them. I’m not sure that it’s necessarily important to me to incorporate heavy themes in my music, but I do know that as an English major I was always drawn to the tragedies over the comedies. I tend to use art as a means for working through something difficult rather than as a fun diversion—but I’m glad not everyone does! Otherwise we wouldn’t have Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah” song going into the holidays.
CP: Can you tell me the story behind the song "Woolf?" I enjoyed that particular one the most.
RDC: I’m glad you liked that one! It was probably my favorite one to record. I have loved Virginia Woolf since I first read A Room of One’s Own when I was 15. She has inspired me more than almost any other writer, and I’ve always wanted to write a song about her. To prep for writing that song, I actually checked out her entire unabridged journal collection from the library and read it all. It was fascinating. Afterward, I still didn’t totally feel I had the authority to write about this brilliant woman, but I took a stab at it anyway.
CP: What can we expect to see at the album release show?
RDC: For this release show, we’re just throwing a big ol’ party. We’ve got some of our favorites joining us [Dusty Heart and Al Church] and we’ll have guests sitting in for our set. We decided to have it at the Turf because we want everyone to just get down and have a great time with us. We’ll play all the songs off the album, a couple from our last record, and maybe surprise cover. It’s gonna be a hoot.
Reina del Cid
With: Dusty Heart and Al Church
Where: Turf Club
When: 7:30 p.m. Fri. Dec. 8
Tickets: 21+; $10/$15;more info here