Spirituals

Santigold

Spirituals

Santi White did a lot of the work on what would become her fourth album, Spirituals, at a quiet cabin about an hour outside Vancouver. “It was like me and a woodpecker and some chickens,” she tells Apple Music. But after a long, pandemic-induced stretch stuck inside, tending house and caring for three young children, White felt adrift from herself and her art in ways only isolation could resolve. “It was like the only opportunity to find my way back to myself was through art,” she says. “So, it was really more of a lifeline I was weaving.” Like all White’s work, Spirituals is bright and punky and eclectic, bridging gaps between collaborators like Rostam Batmanglij and The Weeknd affiliate Illangelo, dance producer SBTRKT and Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner. But there’s also a heaviness to it that feels new, if redemptive. The title came in a flash. “I realized that these songs were doing the same things for me that traditional spirituals had done for slaves,” she says, “allowing me to experience freedom and transcendence and moving toward evolution through music.” The bird was both a welcome visitor and a kind of guiding spirit. “What’s interesting about the woodpecker is that it burrows beneath the surface like it’s going for something deeper,” she says. “Sometimes they’re not even pecking for food. Sometimes they’re just sending out sound as a signal for mates. And I was so much thinking about being in my own rhythm. That’s what this period was really about: redefining my rhythm during this crazy, tumultuous time.” Here, she provides a track-by-track glimpse into the mood and making of Spirituals. “My Horror” “It was about being stuck in that role that was just too small to fit my whole self. Like, during lockdown, just being mother all the time—washing dishes and changing diapers and cooking and cleaning. And that’s it. No time to think, no time to shower, no time to sleep. So, it’s the redundancy of this task-oriented thing and not getting a chance to be the me that I am. But it’s also the climate of a world where everything’s so heavy that people have just chosen to disconnect, whether it’s living in the metaverse or doing drugs or just being deep in social media world rather than the real world. Like, what’s it like when everybody around you is just walking dead or sleepwalking—where you’re living an existence where nobody’s actually turned on? I actually did a series of photos that I called my Mom series. There’s one of me standing in front of the refrigerator in a veil with my kids. But there’s another one where I’m standing by the pool, and my kids are swimming, and I’m on fire with a drink in my hands.” “Nothing” “If you’re a Black woman, if you’re a woman, if you’re anyone who ever feels unseen, well, what’s the effect of living with that daily? How does that affect who you turn into? From being a child to a grown-up even—what are the things you didn’t even know you were carrying? I think ‘Nothing’ touched on all that for me in a way that was very personal but really connected me to [Black Lives Matter] and the struggle outside. And I cried. I was really able to emote finally. It felt really good.” “High Priestess” “I wanted to make a song that felt punk in a futuristic way. And I tried so many different things to just get the energy right, including some really bad moves with guitars and stuff that I immediately took out. A big thing I always set out to do in Santigold music is take things that you would never expect to go together and find a way for them to exist together. And I think that’s what’s exciting—for me making the music and for the listener too.” “Ushers of the New World” “It’s about us taking responsibility for the future. And instead of trying to tear people down for being uncomfortable, figuring out if we could just look at ourselves and be, like, ‘Hey, I’m uncomfortable. Where is this coming from? What’s my trauma? How can I move through this?’ I think that’s the way to create the future that we want. I’ve been reading a lot. More books than I’ve read in a long time—I don’t usually read ’cause I have so many children! We’ve been focusing on policy and legislation for hundreds of years, and we haven’t really gotten nearly where we need to. It’s really that we need to start focusing on our trauma and what we’re bringing to the table and being able to work through that—to work together.” “Witness” “I wanted there to be an ethereal quality in many of the songs. ‘Witness’ has it. It’s almost like you’re going through dimensions, or like you’re stuck in the webbing between dimensions.” “Shake” “That was just a surprise. I never would’ve thought I would’ve picked a beat like that. And I literally just started singing, ‘Shake/Ooh, shake.’ It was not a voice that I think I’ve used on a song before. And it doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever written. That energy—it’s almost like being enraptured.” “The Lasty” “It was a fictional story based on George Floyd. In my mind, I created a character who was a regular, nondescript type of person—you know, that nobody was paying attention to. And all these other people had gone ahead and surpassed him and gone beyond him, and he hadn’t stepped into his power yet. And then, all of a sudden, there’s an opportunity where he could be the one to save everybody. ‘Lasty’ is just a word I made up. It has a dual meaning. It’s the person who’s last and also the person who lasts.” “No Paradise” “Yes, we’ve been struggling, and things are hard, and we’ve been struggling for generations, honestly. But it’s not for nothing. Like, there’s power in that struggle. There’s resilience that has been shown over and over again. I love the bridge of that song because it sounded like a protest to me—a celebration of the fight. And, of course, it’s referring to that old religious idea of an afterlife where you’re finally rewarded with your peace and your riches. But it’s also about making the changes you need to make in the present.” “Ain’t Ready” “As a kid, I did go to church some with my mom mostly, and I did not like it. I thought her church was really boring and stale. It wasn’t me. But my dad’s family was from Baltimore, and his grandma was a pastor, and my great aunt was the organist, and that church was awesome. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a church where it’s got all the ushers dressed in white, and the music is going, and the people are catching the Spirit and falling out. Some people speak in tongues, some people are fainting, and the usher’s job is just to hold them up and fan them as they’re enraptured, you know? So, I pictured these ushers holding this woman. And the woman is in the process of this ascension, and she’s falling out. And that woman is me, but the ushers are me too. So, it’s like my song to myself. Like, ‘You’ve got what you need to do everything you need to do here.’” “Fall First” “‘Fall First’ was a song that I started with Doc McKinney, who’s one of my oldest writing buddies. He and I are both like old punkers at heart. And so, we started ‘Fall First’ and just decided to do whatever we wanted. And later, I handed it over to Rostam. He has such good taste and is always excited to mess around. And he just took it everywhere.”

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