Published Aug 15, 2018Mitski's upcoming album Be the Cowboy finds her experimenting with narrative, telling stories from the perspective of a protagonist described as "a very controlled, icy, repressed woman who is starting to unravel" — not unlike the women of Alfred Hitchcock's films.
"I was thinking about a lot of Hitchcock films and how the protagonists are portrayed as cold and mysterious and very tightly wound," Mitski tells Exclaim!
But she wrote Be the Cowboy in a way that gives that kind of character —be it Psycho's Marion Crane or the second Mrs. de Winter from Rebecca — agency and depth.
"I found that all of Hitchcock's heroines are viewed through Hitchcock's somewhat misogynistic lens," Mitski adds. "And I was thinking, 'Who are these women when Hitchcock's not watching?'"
To Mitski, the answer to that question partially lies within herself.
"It's not completely fiction," she explains. "It's me finding a certain personality within myself and pursuing it and expanding it."
That element of her own personality is present in the album's protagonist, and while the songs are not replicas of her own literal experiences, the sentiment behind them still rings authentic to Mitski.
"This person — this woman, rather — is very obsessed with control and power, specifically control over herself," she elaborates. "She's an incredibly controlled, repressed person, and this obsession with power and control comes from the reality of not having control or power in her real life. This album is the process of someone trying to maintain control, but finding that they're unable to do so."
She later switches to first person.
"There's just that person inside me," she says. "I feel powerless, and so I obsess over power."
Be the Cowboy comes out August 17 on Dead Oceans.