Neko Case, it’s fair to say, has had a couple of godawful years. The loss of family members, including both her parents, helped kickstart a battle with crippling depression which laid her out for a good long while. Yet the album that it inspired – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You – is both gloriously dynamic and also often laugh-out-loud funny (current favourite line: “If I puked up some sonnets, would you call me a miracle?” from ‘Night Still Comes’).
“Well, if you’re gonna express that kind of bummed-outness, it doesn’t really work coming from my mouth unless I admit to the embarrassing parts,” a gleeful Case declares. “Depression isn’t like some Russian novel. It’s not this grand, sleek beast ruining your life. It’s a poop-in-you-pants-while-sitting-in-jail sort of a thing.”
That’s probably the best description of depression I’ve ever heard. “Well, you’ve got to admit to the funny parts. And there are some parts that are pretty funny. Like they’re not, but theyare,” she laughs.
“They’re human parts – those are the things that are good to laugh at. Like, ‘that’s right! I’m an animal! I’m not a Victorian Englishperson – and neither were they!’” she declares, laughing even as she tangles herself in her metaphor. “It’s never worked!”
The occasionally grim subject matter doesn’t make for a depressing listen, mind. In fact, the jubilant ‘City Swans’ sounds tailor-made for Neko’s other major gig, as member of genius Canadian power-pop collective the New Pornographers.
“Well, that is definitely a true observation. Just before I made this record the New Pornographers toured for our last record, and those big choruses just feel so good to sing all together, and I’m like ‘god, I can do that on my recording too – why not? Hell yeah!’ And definitely going to A major in one spot: it’s like ‘yeah, that’s a total pop song thing that would happen’.”
In fact, if there’s a theme running through the album it’s that being human is a messy business, and that the messiness is actually a feature rather than a bug.
“I mean, if you look at something excellent and gorgeous like a tiger, they go off and poop and pee too. They get ticks! They get lice! Sometimes they’ve gotta eat rotten meat out of a sluice! And that doesn’t mean you can’t still be an awesome tiger.”
Last time around Case’s band was pretty goddamn killer. This time around, it’s even more so.
“Eric Bachman from Crooked Fingers and Archers of Loaf is with us now, singing in hisdisgustingly beautiful voice and playing his disgustingly beautiful guitar,” she mock-spits. “You’re having a fanboy moment? It happens a lot.
“I tell him ‘Eric, look: I got in a band to be cool, and boys never talk to me but two thirds of the audience are indie rock dudes salivating over you. And he’s like ‘yep! I got that special sumthin’ that guys like.’” She sighs. “He’s adorable. And amazing. And talented.”
Thankfully it’s not all new: her vocal and onstage-banter foil Kelly Hogan will be by her side.
“It isn’t right to do it without Kelly. Sometimes I have to do it without Kelly, because – and this is the only reason I can live with it – because Kelly Hogan makes her own music also, which has inspired me for so many years, and it would be so lame to deny the rest of the world of Kelly Hogan doing Kelly Hogan music live or making a Kelly Hogan record, because it doesn’t happen often.”
This is true. It took her eleven years to release I Like To Keep Myself In Pain.
“Exactly! But: that’s up to her, she has to do at her own pace. And you know, I think she just likes to tease us. She’s power hungry, and she knows she has this over us. It’s pretty fucking mean really, if you think about it. But that’s her game.”
You should slap her next you see her.
There’s a long pause.
“I might,” she finally responds. “You know, I might just do that.”