Because I didn’t have any queer, lesbian, female role models I hated my own femininity and had to look deep within myself to create an identity that worked for me. Pop culture just doesn’t hand us enough variety to choose from.
Who am I? The bothersome question that underpins every aspect of our being. The struggle to be oneself and to be happy in ones own skin is as old as skin itself, since their have been people their have been people who don’t feel like they belong in society as it exists.
Society seems to be built around the theory that people are a box ticking exercise, you’re gay or you’re straight or you’re bi-sexual, you’re black or you’re white or you’re mixed race, you’re male or female, you’re a goth or you’re a trendy and you’re cool or you’re not cool, you’re European, you’re British, you’re English and you’re Southern all at once, unless you move house, or change job, or dye your hair then you’re something else entirely. Anyone who has ever filled in a market research survey knows that as far as society is concerned you’re just a tick in a box. Reality is of course considerably more complicated than that, it’s made up of sliding scales, and whilst on one day you fit neatly into one box, the next you might not feel like you belong in any box. How often are we presented with an option we can say is truly us – eye colour: blue, brown, green or grey? Well no, actually they’re a bluey-grey sludge with green bits. It’s just never quite as simple as they make it seem.
Today we are White, Male, European, British, Scottish, English, European, Straight and a whole lot of other boxes, and a whole lot of sliding scales where we don’t fit into any box – and all of these things go into making up our identity, but at the same time we can honestly say none of those boxes define our identity. You can ask us all the questions you can think of and we still probably wouldn’t see ourselves in the answers we give, because humans are complex and humans are fickle, and humans are free to be whatever the heck they want to be – and isn’t that marvellous?!
Tica Douglas is a solo artist, however both of the albums to date have been recorded with producers Andrew Lappin and Ryan Dieringer, who make music as Double King and run Swell Records. Tica does not identify as either male or female, and the search for identity and acceptance are key influences on Tica’s recorded output.
Raw and emotional sketches of an autobiographical nature, the open honesty of the lyrics are certainly one of the albums highlights. Vocally Tica carries weighty emotions with ease, recalling the likes of Sharon Van Etten or Kimya Dawson, whilst the music that plays out behind her brings to mind Waxahatchee or even Elliot Smith, with often just vocals and the picking of a lone electric guitar carrying the tune.
Tica was raised in Portland, but via a stint in Edinburgh now lives in Brooklyn. Three cities that have rather impressive musical history we’re sure you’ll agree. Tica’s most recent album was recorded in Maine, but the influence of a nomadic life plays out across the record.
Tica first shared musical ideas back in 2013, and they arrived in the public domain via a nine song debut record, Summer Valentine, ironically recorded in the depth of winter, with the band putting it’s dense arrangements down to playing to stay warm! Both Summer Valentine and it’s follow up, Joey were released on Swell Records, with Joey arriving digitally in February with the vinyl on its way at the end of March.
“If I were born a boy, they were going to call me Joey, once they got to know me they all called me Joey”. Tica’s emotive, heartbreaking vocal chimes in at the start of new album Joey, introducing the albums main themes of identity, and the feeling of insecurity that comes with not fitting into any of societies traditional gender definitions. This battling for a sense of belonging is at the heart of album that plays out with a sense of taking comfort in it’s own melancholy.
What is most remarkable is just how relatable the feelings Tica lays out are to people who haven’t had the same life experience Tica has; on Flash Flood (So Slow) Tica speaks of the same insecurities we all experience noting “I’m not perfect I know, that is why I move so slow.” On I Didn’t it’s social anxiety to the fore as Tica sings “there was a party last night where you used to live, and I wanted to go but I didn’t.” Whilst probably the albums best lyrical track Know More is an emotional gold mine from doubting you can impress your other halves parents “I wanted them to like me, to see my aim is true, though I know I’m not quite what they had in mind for you” to the difficulties in coping with your own parents divorce “my brother called to talk about my parents split. I thought it never got to me but now I think it did” and the omnipresent search for love and acceptance “I spent a long time looking for a love I can’t see through, but now that I see you I see that I could loose you too.” Tica has a way with an expression and comes across as a vital songwriter, like Conor Oberst of Waxahatchee prior, these are songs about life that have an intrinsic ability to feel like they were written just for you.
Musically too there’s plenty of fine moments, Black & White has a rockier sound, even sounding a bit like The Beatles classic Let It Be; Ease recalls Blur at their most heroin-soaked and downbeat, whilst some of the acoustic numbers are a match for Jeffrey Lewis as examples of the best of anti-folk. Best of all might just be All Meanness Be Gone; it’s the track where the sunlight just breaks through the clouds, a gentle acoustic ditty that’s part Kimya Dawson, part Conor Oberst and as good as either, it see’s Tica reflecting on the passing of time, “it’s hard to see your friends change, you see it happen in the smallest way, and only then do you realise the small things are all the things you miss these days.” It’s the song where Tica casts off the shadows cast upon life by the cruelty of others and finally accepting “it’s ok not to suffer, you don’t have be broken to make heartbreaking art.” In this exquisite half hour of music, it’s hard to argue Tica hasn’t come close to perfecting heartbreaking art!
The weighty honesty of it all can become uncomfortably downbeat. They’re raw snapshots, littered with real emotion, and, like reality sometimes it can all get a bit too much. Not recommended for those of a tearful disposition or those without a heart – though it has to be said those are both your problem not Tica’s!
Joey is available to download now via Swell Records, with the vinyl following on March 31st.