It’s been a while since we’ve gotten a significant amount of music or art to consume from Amanda Palmer. Now she’s back in action with a new album, “There Will Be No Intermission,” and an international tour and book release.
The bisexual singer-songwriter, author and performance artist made a name for herself as half of the gothic/punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls before pursuing a solo career.
She released her debut record, “Who Killed Amanda Palmer,” in 2007, and a follow-up, “Theater is Evil Album,” in 2012. Palmer then pulled back from recording and touring, appearing occasionally on collaborative studio albums and brief reunion performances with the Dresden Dolls.
It was a noticeable absence for such a prolific artist and performer. As we prepared to ask her about the seven-year gap between solo albums, perusing “There Will Be No Intermission” answered a lot of our questions in great detail.
“That was not my intention,” Palmer said. “Now I think I should put out a giant book primer for every record I release. Then we can get to the good stuff and skip over the bullshit questions.”
The new album and book cover deeply emotional ground for Palmer, who spent the last seven years adjusting to motherhood, settling into married life with fiction novelist Neil Gaiman, getting used to rural home living, and dealing with death and a miscarriage along the way. She admits this is a melancholy album. But, with the polarization of 2019’s America, there are also songs that delve into the state of the world today.
Would the album have turned out differently if the 2016 election had gone in a different direction?
“These songs stretch back in origin as far as 2012 in a pre-Trump world,” she said, “but I don’t think that ‘Drowning in the Sound’ and ‘The Ride’ and ‘Voicemail for Jill’ would have necessarily appeared. They may have. But there’s been a very frightening feeling in the air and the album captures that.
“The album is a really weird combination of hyper-personal and generally universal, sometimes within the same song. I find that Trump has galvanized me in the same strange, unexpected way that having a miscarriage galvanized me. I feel like he has made me and many female artists and contemporaries very brave and very strong because of their sense of urgency, and we just don’t have any time to waste at the moment. If you’re a minority or a woman or anyone who does not belong to the class of Trump-approved beings, there’s a fire lit beneath you to stand up and grab back the narrative because you don’t really have a choice.”
Given how much the music industry has changed over the last decade, with people consuming their music digitally in small doses, you don’t see many established artists putting 20 tracks on an album, especially with an optional book filled with exposition, lyrics, stories and art to accompany and augment the experience.
Palmer said that while she was content to release individual songs when inspiration would hit her over the last few years, she realized something was missing by not giving fans an entire album to digest.
“As a busy new mother, I was only engaging with my favorite artists when they put out an album and it reached me through the tangle of the media jungle,” she said. “I think there’s something more relevant to the conversation about an album and the size and the length of it. There’s something important about sitting down with an artist for a span of time, which is also why novelists don’t just publish 10-page short stories and The New York Times doesn’t just give news via Twitter. There’s something to be said for having a hefty conversation with an artist and, if the metaphor is modern communication instead of just occasionally texting with your artist, actually having dinner and a bottle of wine with them, which is what this album feels like to me. I think that that exists outside of the technological conversation.”
In 2012-13, Palmer got a lot of criticism in the press for crowd-funding her albums, books and tours — a necessity for an artist who had creative and business-oriented disputes with her then-record label. These days everyone from independent to established artists use crowd-funding for various creative pursuits.
So it turns out Palmer was just an artist ahead of her time.
“I don’t really feel vindicated as much as I feel proud to have kicked the door down for other artists. I still deal with a fair amount of criticism for the way I practice my business, and I’ve had to just get used to the fact that it is part and parcel of working and crowd-funding. The longer I work at this job of being a songwriter and exploring art and emotions and connecting with human beings, the less I care about what is and isn’t approved. It just doesn’t matter anymore to me.
“What matters is that the material connects with people. And if the material connects with people, the criticisms about my delivery system are absolutely ignorable and inane. The wonderful thing about Patreon [a website that allows artists to crowd-fun d their artistic pursuits] is that I’m now in a committed relationship with 15,000 people who believe that what I have to say may be worthwhile. I’ve got 15,000 people betting on me, that my voice may be relevant. As a woman in 2019 who has been told by various factions on the Internet, in the media and music journalism that my voice is annoying and irrelevant and no one wants to hear about my feelings, that is vindicating.”
A potential perk of crowd-funding Palmer is that, at a certain donation level, she will come to your home and perform a house party concert for you. Palmer said that performing in a fan’s living room is mutually beneficial.
“When I play a small house party, I feel incredibly connected and supported. It barely feels like I have to work or perform,” Palmer said. “And of course I’m working and performing. When I’m at a house party, I’m in an incredibly safe open space. I can fuck up as much as I want. I can say whatever I want. There are no curfews. There’s no security outside the door. There are no outside X-factors. If someone breaks down crying in the middle of one of my songs and I want to stop what I’m doing and talk to them about what’s going on, I’m at liberty to do that. Those moments of community and feeling like I’m amongst my tribe and amongst a bunch of friends are still really important to me.
“And as proud as I am to be going out on this North American tour and playing 2,000- and 3,000-seat venues, which I’ve never done before and is a real jump up for me, that’s not the only way to do it. It’s the difference between having an intimate one-on-one dinner with a friend and going to a giant disco party. They’re both really fun, but a diet of only one would leave you anemic in the other department.”
“There Will Be No Intermission” is available now. Amanda Palmer performs 7:30 p.m. April 6 at Temple Performing Arts Center, 1837 N. Broad St. For more information or tickets, call 215-204-9860 or visit http://amandapalmer.net.