There are many kinds of fear, but few as fathomless as the one that can sneak up on you when you’re lying in bed at night, thinking about nothing in particular. Suddenly it dawns on you: you are just a collection of atoms, puttering around on a larger mass of atoms that people call Earth, floating around inside a dark expanse of atoms and dead air that just goes on and on forever. Hopefully—for the sake of a good night’s sleep—you’re able to blot out the terror that comes from the recognition of your own smallness, but it’ll probably completely overpower you the next time Pharmakon, aka Margaret Chardiet, walks up to you at a show and screams in your face.
You don’t really need to understand the lyrics to catch her drift, but in the below interview, our medium was words, and the Brooklyn-based power electronics artist had a lot of them when describing the theories of humanity and community underpinning her bracing new album, Contact. The one caveat being that, as Margaret reminded me repeatedly during our chat, an interview was unlikely to do her ideas justice: “I really want people to read the freaking lyrics for this record,” she said. “I laid them out like really blatantly in the liner notes, because they’re the most important thing about it.”
AdHoc: What was on your mind when you went in to record the new album?
Margaret Chardiet: I guess what was on my mind was the fact that the project was 10 years old—feeling like I needed to grow and move in a new direction, and thinking about what that was going to be. The last two records—[2013’s Abandon and 2014’s Bestial Burden]—were immediate, short-term responses to specific events [in my life], whereas with this one, I had a couple years to think about what I wanted to say and do.
What are some ways you’d say the project has changed over the years?
I think I’ve found myself focusing more on experimental thinking and philosophical ideas, as opposed to personal ones. I’m still exploring the concepts of duality and human nature, but I think I’ve allowed myself to get broader, which is a really scary thing to do. If something is very acute and small, it’s easier to explain and converse about with other people.
AdHoc Issue 19 is here! Download a PDF of the zine at this link, and look out for physical copies both at our shows and at record stores, bookstores, coffee shops, and community centers throughout the city. (Those of you outside New York City can order a copy as well.)
In this issue, we explore music as a social act. Speaking to Emilie Friedlander, Pharmakon’s Margaret Chardiet explains the importance of audience engagement in her live shows, and how that sensibility informed her new record, Contact. Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad of Girlpool—who also have a new record, Powerplant, in the works—unpack the role of person-to-person connectivity in their music. In conversation with Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy, they discuss their closeness as an artistic and social unit, and how introducing new people into the Girlpool live band was almost as tricky as opening up a romantic relationship. Both Pharmakon and Girlpool articulate reasons for making art that move beyond personal expression or gratification, and into something more inclusive.
AdHoc Issue 19's contributors:
Girlpool is a Los Angeles-based band whose founding members, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad, made the collage that appears on this issue’s cover.
Meg Duffy is a Los Angeles-based musician who performs under the name Hand Habits; her album, Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void), is out now via Woodsist. Meg interviewed Cleo and Harmony for this issue.
Leesh Adamerovich is a Brooklyn-based illustrator who enjoys collaborating with musicians. Her work is influenced by ’70s music, animation, and quiet moments, and she made the illustrations for this issue.
About two years ago I was eating a meal inside a festival’s hospitality tent somewhere in the Netherlands. I remember being very psychedelically tired from a drive with the Kevin Morby crew—it was around two weeks deep into a tour. I have no recollection of playing a set that day.
While eating bread soaked in some sort of chicken juice and noticing the conversations around me, I spied a tall redhead bopping around the cutlery zone with a blue-haired accomplice. I admired their fashion. I recognized them both but couldn't remember from where.
To my surprise, the two sat down at my table! Soon I learned that they were Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad, aka Girlpool. We had many mutual friends back on the East Coast. I didn't catch their set at the festival, but during our time there, our crews merged. We climbed a jungle gym, ate delicious Belgian waffles and ice cream, and talked about jet lag and how strange it was to be at a festival very far from home with so many friends of friends.
Since that day, Cleo and Harm moved back to Los Angeles (where I also live), made a new record called Power Plant (that I love), and expanded their live band to include two new collaborators. They also each have one new pair of pants, which I know, because recently we all went shopping together. This winter—while I was in a van on tour with my band Hand Habits, and while Cleo and Harm were in their respective homes in LA—we spoke on the phone about friends, feedback, and collaboration. —Meg Duffy
Meg Duffy: So you guys live in Los Angeles now. What are you doing out there?
Cleo Tucker: We’ve been rehearsing with the new band; we’re gonna go to SxSW and then hopefully have some time to record a ton of music. And then we’re gonna hit the road at the end of May for like a month, and then we’re gonna go to Europe.
Who is in the new band?
Cleo Tucker: It’s Miles Wintner from Traps PS on drums, and Stephen Steinbrink on synth and guitar. And then… us.