Published Apr 07, 2015Katie Crutchfield's lo-fi indie project Waxahatchee may have taken its name from a creek in Alabama, but thanks to the slow-building success of the numerous DIY punk bands she's been in, and her first two records as Waxahatchee, the singer-songwriter has spent the better part of a decade living and touring in cities far from home.
Crutchfield recorded Waxhatchee's third LP Ivy Tripp in a house on Long Island last year — continuing the tradition of the minimalist, and at times ramshackle, home-recorded sound heard on her 2011 debut American Weekend and 2013 breakthrough Cerulean Salt.
"I like making records at home because I like being underprepared and trying a lot of different things," she tells Exclaim! from her current home in Philadelphia. "For a studio, you need to over-prepare. You need to practise with your band, and be airtight by the time you go in, and then just go in there and make the record."
Using their own living space allowed Crutchfield and her primary Waxahatchee collaborator Keith Spencer the time and freedom to experiment. Other than pre-organizing some of the drum parts (played by Spencer), the songs on Ivy Tripp were constantly evolving and finalized during the recording process. "It's just not really conducive to a studio because you would be there forever and it's expensive," she points out. "The way we like to record, it's just not practical."
Despite maintaining the home-recorded vibes, Crutchfield's writing process has changed significantly over the last few years. After a one-week binge of writing and recording for American Weekend, Cerulean Salt saw Crutchfield slow things down. For the latest record, she spent time collecting ideas throughout a year of touring — her busiest one yet — and then took eight months off to piece together parts into a new album. After some much needed rest, that is.
"Sometimes the last thing I wanted to do was even think about the fact that I was a musician," she says. "I just wanted to not spend every second thinking about that as my identity. I feel like I closed down a little bit. And sometimes that's good — I feel like that gives you time to really process and edit things more and make your songs a little bit better."
Crutchfield's songwriting style is often described as a "confessional" due to the extremely personal, experience-based lyrics (which once again permeate Ivy Tripp), but she doesn't necessarily attach that label to herself.
"Everything that I write about pretty much is something that has happened to me," she says. "But confessional is kind of a weird word because it sounds like I'm saying things that I wouldn't say in real life, and I don't necessarily think that's true."
And it's not like she's particularly concerned with what people have to say anyway. Although Ivy Tripp is by far her most anticipated release to date (and her first with Merge), Crutchfield found it surprisingly easy to shake off any outside pressure and just focus on making the album she wanted to put out.
"I moved out to Long Island to make Ivy Tripp and I isolated myself a little bit and I was in between labels, so I made the record and I didn't have anyone peeking over my shoulder or asking me about stuff. I got to isolate myself and just get back to the bare bones of the whole thing. Just me, my guitar, writing songs, making demos. I was able to forget about the fact that, yeah, people were gonna anticipate this record and were gonna want to hear it and have an opinion about it, but it was a lot easier than I thought it would be to just not think about that stuff."
Ivy Tripp arrives today (April 7) via Merge.