August 28th, 2020
Words by Anna White, Artwork by Luna Rey Cano
"Because I can’t play live right now, releasing music is the only thing I can do that feels like a step forward"
Though currently based in the U.S., Apolojeesus (aka Pia Parisi-Marcoux) makes music that is the culmination of international influences. Almost exactly a year ago, Pia embarked on a self-guided exploration of independent organizing in the arts around the world through the Watson foundation, but returned to her parents’ Brooklyn home when her travels were cut short by COVID. Instead of sitting still and mourning changed plans, she finished her first full-length album.
Pia’s songwriting sews together pieces of lived experience from her travels, starting a riff on one continent and finishing on the other side of the world. Her songs meld electronic influences with the melodic pop that comes naturally to her—though instrumentally complex, her lyrics generally take the forefront, written in a way that is poetic but still decipherable, vulnerable in her transparency.
Today, we’re premiering “Servant to None,” the second single from Apolojeesus’ upcoming album, "Long Difference". With organic, winding guitar loops reminiscent of Juana Molina and grounded by a heavy synth bass, “Servant to None” settles into a groove that feels like sinking into a warm, dark pool or walking into deep woods at night. I spoke with Pia about movement, guilt, and the importance of live performance.
Tell me a little about “Servant to None”—what was your headspace like when you were writing the song?
It feels very much like an artifact, like an encapsulation of one moment in time that was very distinct and specific to me. When I was like 19, maybe freshly 20. The song is about not being able to proceed with a relationship—as great as it may seem, there’s just one essential thing missing, and feeling guilty about sort of drawing it out for attention, and to stay in someone’s good graces or affection. Feeling complicated and guilty, which is something I think I did a lot around the time that I wrote it.
The idea of this song as an artifact is interesting, especially in relation to the fact that you’ve been working on this album at your childhood home—does it feel strange, or different, or apt working on these in a space where it might feel like you’re surrounded by artifacts?
COVID has put me at home indefinitely, and I find it really difficult to be creative at home. Home is a space of rest, I think, not working, being a child and not having to worry about forward motion. I have this sense that I’m stuck, that i’m trapped, and that’s sort of how i feel with this record—especially because I can’t play live right now, releasing music is the only thing I can do that feels like a step forward, and I feel like I can’t do that yet, I have to wait until all the finishing touches are done. It’s this very anxious feeling.
On both “Servant to None” and the whole upcoming Long Difference, is there something you want listeners to take away, something you want people to feel when they hear it?
These songs are so introspective, but even if you’re listening to a song that’s about a highly specific event in the artist’s life, you’re going to relate to it in your own terms. That’s the byproduct—you’re going to have your own private emotional moment that’s catalyzed by someone else’s specific emotional moment. I would like people to have that experience with my music. I spend a lot of time writing lyrics, and if people read lyrics, I hope they read them.
These are specific songs from the period of time when I was 17 to the time I was 21, which is a weird time. For a while, my Bandcamp profile said, “These songs were written over three continents over three years, they’re about people places and things." It’s ridiculous, but it’s true—these songs respond to movement. Something about movement feels emotionally open, poetic, moody, so I write better.
You’ve mentioned that your songwriting process has to do a lot with movement and travel, and right now that’s something that’s going to be less possible—have you written anything since you’ve been home? How do you think this new forced stasis is going to affect your songwriting?
This is a really tough time we’re in—universally it’s been pretty awful, to varying extents. I’ve been stuck at home, and I’m lucky enough that my dad has a studio, some toys to play with. I’ve actually been super prolific since I’ve been home. A lot the songs I’ve written have to do with anger and anxiety about being inside, and also civil unrest—this prevailing sense of hopelessness, and pushing against that. It is a fertile time because I have nothing else to do—I can’t work and I can’t socialize, so all I can do is work on art. It’s a blessing and a curse.
Your upcoming album was written within such specific parameters—between the ages of 17 and 21. What does that specific time feel like to you? Is there a sound in mind, a sort of mood board?
I was listening to a lot of singer-songwriter music, and I thought that was what I was going to do. When I sat down and arranged the work, I was listening to a lot of Aldous Harding, Helena Deland, Crumb, Meat Puppets, Radiohead...I’m not going to talk about Radiohead in this interview. Also, a lot of music that was really psychedelic. I was interested in creating these groovy, immersive psychedelic song experiences. It was being produced at a time that was full of immense hope; I felt really good about the songs.
In the midst of the current global situation, what are your hopes for this album going out? How do you see yourself and live music moving forward?
In terms of the industry, I’ve been feeling hopeless about it, because it’s so much about live performance—it hinges on being able to share space. I think the way you build an audience is through live performance. It’s hard to convince people who don’t know who you are to listen to music—they have no reason to think you’re a good use of your listening time, but at a show, the audience is already there, they’re in a captive environment. Live performance is fantastic.
For me, moving forward, I just want to see what I can do to create opportunities to play live that are safe. Working in sub-legal anarchist arts subcultures, there is this instinct to say “fuck you” to authority, but the only people that suffer in this case are us, because we get sick, and that’s not something you can ignore. You have to follow the rules. Moving forward, I want to try to recover as much of that space as I can, though.
Luna Rey Cano is a 22-year-old living in Argentina. She takes photos, makes collages, draws, and loves anything visual.
Anna White is a writer and illustrator currently based in Bellingham, WA and a Nearness co-founder. You can find her on Instagram @annaclairewhite