Published Apr 10, 2014On the cover of EMA's new album, The Future's Void, artist Erika M. Anderson is wearing an Oculus Rift, a futuristic headset that simulates virtual reality — a "funny thing for nerds," as she points out at the time the photo was shot.
Futuristic themes, of course, tie into the ominous synths, quivering rhythms and overall distortion musically dispersed on her record. A cultural critique as well as a personal struggle with the vastness of the internet and self-representation in the digital era, The Future's Void is Anderson's cyberpunk analysis of the society we live in today, and how this governs and shapes one's identity. Little did she know, though, that in the span of a year between writing and releasing this record that all these correlations would tie even closer together into what Anderson admits is a full circle of meanings.
Since completing the songs on The Future's Void, news of Edward Snowden and the NSA broke about government surveillance, and even more recently, Facebook announced its purchase of the Oculus. "It's insane," Anderson tells Exclaim! "It's like things keep happening daily that kind of complete the meaning of this album and it's kind of eerie."
Anderson is not psychic, though, and the topicality of her songs has even made her think that she's a "weird warlock that's casting spells," when all she swore she was doing was "addressing a former time and trying to apply it to modern day stuff," similar to what George Orwell once did with Nineteen Eighty-Four.
A sense of control has always been crucial to Anderson's sense of integrity, be it the authenticity of her sound, which grounds itself in West Coast punk and noise even in her music's quieter moments, or in her overall image. But following the success and attention that her 2011 album Past Life Martyr Saints garnered, Anderson was faced with a newfound recognition that became discomforting.
"I found myself going from someone who was not represented on the internet to someone who was, and it was a weird experience," she says. "I didn't like seeing an image unless I took it in some way. It was ingrained in my mind, though, that I'm supposed to want viral whatever, world domination of photos or something, so I didn't know how to express this feeling of not liking it. I would look at photos of myself and be like, 'What is wrong with me?'"
The Future's Void mostly deals with these mixed emotions, calling attention to our immersion in this cyber universe as highlighted on the album's crux, "3Jane," where Anderson softly decries, "Feel like I blew my soul out across the interwebs and streams."
"I'm still trying to figure it out," Anderson summarizes. "We just talked about all the stuff that's coming true on this record — am I paranoid? I don't know. It sounds paranoid to even use the word paranoid, but I'm just trying to find out what makes me comfortable and plug into the authenticity of how I'm feeling and be like, 'How much do I want to interact?'
"I don't want to feel like I'm somehow not leading a fulfilling life because I'm not posting a million times a day."
As previously reported, EMA is about to head out on a North American tour that will touch down in a few Canadian cities. You can see all the dates here.
The Future's Void, meanwhile, is out now on Matador.
Read an interview with EMA here.