Waxahatchee Turns Her Songwriting Focus Outward on New Album

Lady Crutchfield of Waxahatchee
Lady Crutchfield of Waxahatchee
Michael Rubenstein

After two records of inward-looking DIY folk-punk, Katie Crutchfield took a more observational route to her third Waxahatchee album.

For her debut on Merge Records, Crutchfield shifted her songwriting toward the people around her and the world she saw touring the country.

"Even the fact that the songs are observational takes a snapshot of where I am in my life," Crutchfield says. "My first record was centered on my own experience, a little world that I'd created around myself. This record takes a step back and looks at the world and other people's experiences and patterns of behavior."

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The album title Ivy Tripp (a line from the song "Poison") represents a kind of soul search that Crutchfield saw again and again.

"It's a term to describe the directionless wander of some people," she says. "One of the big things on the record, especially in that song, is the juxtaposition of the more conventional life trajectory, where you get married and have kids and do the same thing every day, versus people who wander and try to find ways to make themselves happy, no matter how irresponsible they seem and how neither one of those things is better than the other."

Ivy Tripp is also a breakthrough in terms of sound for Waxahatchee, with fuller arrangements more of a dynamic range across the songs, the result of taking time to make the record at Crutchfield's Long Island home instead of a formal studio.

"I had skeletal versions of the songs finished. The melodies were there, the lyrics were there, but the instrumentation wasn't entirely set when we went into the recording process," she says. "We built the songs up around the skeletons and it was easier to do that at my house because we had all the time in the world. We could screw around and experiment. In the studio it's expensive and you're working with a professional recording engineer who's used to turning records around pretty fast. That's sort of a clinical environment in my opinion. I like to make records at a slow pace and at all hours of the night.

"Some things we went in thinking we're definitely going to do things this way, once we recorded it didn't sound right," she says. "Other stuff that we were just screwing around with ended up being really important aspects of certain songs, things we hadn't planned out at all."

Joining Crutchfield in recording were engineer Kyle Gilbride, who also worked on the first two Waxahatchee albums, and Keith Spencer. The trio added more guitar parts and piano and experimented with drum machines along with recording drums in an elementary school gymnasium.

"The record has a lot of different kinds of songs on it. It's so different than Cerulean Salt. I try to make every record a little bit different. The whole time I've been making records, even before Waxahatchee, I tried to go in different directions all the time," she says. "It was a conscious idea, but I went into the recording process not really knowing how I wanted it to be different. I had I had a ton of ideas I felt good about, lyrical ideas and conceptual ideas, but not a cohesive big picture."

After two records on New Jersey label Don Giovanni, the Alabama-native was looking for a change in that area as well.

"I'm generally sort of wary of industry. I came from punk DIY background and those are still the kinds of shows I go to and the bands I love and the friends I have," she says. "Merge was always on the top of my list of record labels. They're from the South. I'm from the South. They started everything super DIY, and I really related to the story of Merge."

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