All Work and No Play Makes Waxahatchee's 'Out in the Storm' a Triumph

All Work and No Play Makes Waxahatchee's 'Out in the Storm' a Triumph
Photo: Jesse Riggins
Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield has come a long way since the lo-fi bedroom recordings of American Weekend. Initially a solo outlet after years in DIY punk scenes, Waxahatchee have come full circle on Out in the Storm (out July 14 on Merge), with Crutchfield turning the new LP into a full-band rock'n'roll affair. It's also the first record that finds her moving out of her home and into the studio.
"I knew that I did want to work at a studio and I wanted to work with a producer and see what happened with that," Crutchfield tells Exclaim! "And I wanted to record with my live band, which is also something I've never done."
Giving up the comfortable, relaxed atmosphere of working at home that she enjoyed up until her last LP (2015's Ivy Tripp), Crutchfield "flipped that on its ear" for Out in the Storm.
"Having deadlines and business hours and having to show up and work within a timeframe actually made everything a little bit more focused, and for that reason I really liked it," she explains. Dismantling her previous mentality of "Oh, I'm at my house and I'm super distracted and I only worked for four hours today and that's okay because we have as much time as we need," Crutchfield instead zeroed in on her latest batch of songs with newfound precision.
It's an approach that works particularly well given that the ten new songs are "all sort of about the same thing at different moments." More specifically, they present "phases and snapshots" from the end of a particular relationship — but don't call it a breakup album.
"I wouldn't really want to stick a label on it at all," Crutchfield insists, though the songs certainly hear her working through the aftermath of said breakup.
"[My music has] always been a safe space for me to do some heavy self-reflection and look at my own behaviour and finally be honest about that," she says. But in addition to acknowledging her own flaws and mistakes, Out in the Storm also hears her embracing self-acceptance and self-love.
"It's definitely part of this record because it's about a relationship where there wasn't really room for that," she elaborates. "So I think that coming back around at the end of it and finally feeling good about yourself and feeling like you can make mistakes and not walk on eggshells all the time, that sense of 'I know I can fuck up and it's not the end of the world' — I wanted that sense of relief to come through a little bit."
That sentiment especially shines through on "Sparks Fly," which Crutchfield has been consistently deeming her favourite track on the record. It's one of the gentler numbers on an album that's more rock-forward than Waxahatchee's previous efforts, and it captures coming out of a depression following a bad relationship; the bright side of a breakup, if you will. It's about the feeling when "the cloud starts to clear away and you finally feel alive and like a version of yourself that you haven't felt like in a really long time, and just being excited about that."
Crutchfield describes it as a unique song for Waxahatchee, but longtime listeners will recognize the same emotional complexity that's endeared them to the project for years now. "It's sad because it's like saying goodbye and it's highlighting all these dark things about the way that I was feeling," she adds. "But it's hopeful, and just that idea of finally feeling alive after a long time is powerful."
It sounds like she's weathering the storm just fine.