Indigo De Souza Navigates Humanity's Beautiful Wreckage: "We Just Were Meant to Destroy"
Ahead of her May 20 show at Toronto's Opera House, Exclaim! chatted with the North Carolina songwriter about tour, community and parking lots
Published May 19, 2023When I call Indigo De Souza, she's in a parking lot. "A random gas station in Iowa," to be somewhat more specific, pulled over for a brief stop to grab fuel, snacks and a few minutes with a journalist some 1,200-odd kilometres away.
De Souza and her band are headed to Madison, WI, to kick off the headlining portion of their tour in support of her third album, the searing and sneakily joyous All of This Will End. Parking lots are a recurring motif on the record, so it seems fitting that I catch De Souza on some hot Iowa asphalt — she'll likely be spending quite a bit of time on these hardened monuments to human destruction in the coming weeks.
If that sounds a little dramatic, so be it; such is the power of De Souza's bruising, pop-minded songwriting, where mundane spaces take on larger-than-life significance; where there are always reminders of our seemingly inherent penchant for self-immolation.
"Realizing that everything was different at one point, and that humans did all of this — not only parking lots, but just all of the stuff that we make and leave around — I think it's just really sad and heavy," says De Souza. "But also in some way, it's kind of beautiful, because it probably couldn't have happened any other way. We just were meant to destroy."
On All of This Will End's chugging "Parking Lot," that penchant for destruction is turned inward, the flattop a space for De Souza to wrestle with the maelstrom of anxieties and fears that warp her self-perception.
On the life-affirming "The Water," however, the parking lot becomes a point of potential reclamation, a space devoid of life that De Souza can infuse with movement and meaning, taking back what once was. "I float down to that parking lot / I sit right in the centre," she sings, embodying the spatially dominating force of water. "I think about what it was like / That summer when we were young and / You did it with that guy in his car." Past and present, great rebirth and small destruction — in De Souza's world, they exist on simultaneous tracks.
"We'll just destroy ourselves, and then the Earth will just take itself back over, I'm sure," she says. "Because the Earth is definitely more powerful than we are."
The Earth's power reverberates throughout All of This Will End, a reflection of the North Carolina native's reconnection with the world outside following years spent adrift without its gravitational pull.
"When I was a child, I had a really deep relationship with nature and I was very lonely and didn't have friends; I was just kind of a weirdo," she says. "And so I really found a lot of solace in nature and music. And then, when I was a later teenager, I got involved in a lot of really intense dysfunction."
That dysfunction included an unhealthy relationship — "I was kind of attached to him at the hip" — that kept De Souza in a cycle of darkness, both figurative and literal. "I was so deep in whatever it was that I was buried in. And then eventually I came out of that relationship and that part of my life," she says.
"It's like I time traveled. I feel like now in my life, I'm playing catch up, because I think developmentally I lost a lot of the years to that moment in which I was kind of hidden away from the outdoors," she continues. "So now I feel like I have a very deep connection to nature. And now that kind of inspires all things. Because I have a community around me that really loves nature and really teaches me a lot of things that they know about nature. It's really opened me up in a new way."
That confluence of community and nature brings to mind a conversation I had with Weyes Blood's Natalie Mering last year, about the nagging pipe-dream to abandon the world as we know it and escape into the woods for good, to leave community behind in order to potentially reconnect with something beyond yourself. Has she ever been pulled in that direction?
"No, I've never felt that way. I'm a very community-oriented person," De Souza says. "I feel like I have always had a dream of having space for community in nature, where people can connect to nature and to each other."
De Souza goes on to say that she's recently bought a plot of land — "raw land, it doesn't have anything on it but it has so much potential for community" — that she dreams of developing into a space where nature and community and art and life can collide and create new ways of existing.
"My music career is how I'm able to get closer and closer to my dreams of community," she explains. "It took me a while but eventually I made something of myself. And now I just want to give back to other people who go through that same thing within my community. And I just want to give resources to my friends who want to make albums and make artwork and dance and have space to freely express themselves."
For now, the journey toward that horizon continues, with these headlining shows acting as reminders of the communal potential of life on the road, as strained as it sometimes becomes.
"When we're on stage, it's probably the only time I feel creative [on tour]. It's just a lot of moving and getting places and lifting things," she says, laughing. "[Being on stage] is kind of the only physical way to know if people like the song or not. I guess you could see online if people like them, but that doesn't really feel as real as being in a room."
Still, tour can weigh heavily on De Souza, a struggle that she's spoken openly about with fans via her social media in the past couple years.
"When I'm on tour, I am really homesick pretty much the whole time," she says. "I love to play shows, but I wish I didn't have to leave my home to do it. Because I really love digging in and really committing to a community and space, and spending time with the people that I love. So it definitely feels like a strange sort of sacrifice."
The dream, in De Souza's eyes, lives somewhere on that plot of land, a living space, asphalt-free, that holds the potential for a better way of creating and living.
"Right now, I'm still in a grind period. But I definitely would like to eventually spend most of my time working on albums and doing, you know, two intentional tours a year that are in really beautiful spaces, most likely outdoors," she says. "That would be my ideal place to get to. I just don't know how long it will take me to get there."
With that, it's time for De Souza to escape the parking lot and get moving again — Wisconsin is calling.