Phoebe Bridgers: The Blackbird Spyplane Interview
Talkin’ RARE TREASURES & COWBOY FITS + RARE VIDEO of her HIDDEN RODEO PAST
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Phoebe Bridgers — 2 solo albums in, she’s established herself as a Mach 3+ melodic savant and lyrical ASSASSIN who is 100% unfadeable when it comes to getting off these CATHARTIC CRESCENDOS and SLOW-BURN SLAPPERS alike, doggy !!
We’ve had her track “Garden Song” in heavy rotation here at HQ for a minute, but Phoebe’s 2020 LP Punisher was a chune-trove top to bottom, and now she’s up for several of the PHATTEST Grammy nominations possible including Best New Artist, Best Alternative Album, and Best Rock Song…
Also ?? Phoebe knows her way around a SPICY JAWN, as the ‘90s-a** haute-riot-grrl Gucci dress above left and the FIRE Insane Clown Posse tee above right demonstrate…
Or: Peep young Phoebe FLEXING with braces & a DEADSTOCK iPod Mini while cocooned in that ARCHIVAL NORTH FACE SLEEPING GORP…?? This is an early contender for hardest fit-pic of 2021 and it’s from when she was like 12 — visionary s**t … !!
Since Blackbird Spyplane is the No. 1 source across all media for “unbeatable recon” on dope under-the-radar joints, & since we r in the habit of checking the f**k in with ppl at the FOREFRONT of CULTURE, we asked Phoebe to tell us about a rare possession she cherishes…
She sent shots of a trophy and belt buckle she won in 2003 for being the “1st PLACE MUTTON BUSTER” at a county fair up in Mendocino, CA … We did a search for “Mutton Busting” and learned that it’s like bull-riding except with sheep and children?? She called us up to supply more intel…
Blackbird Spyplane: I didn’t know anything about mutton busting till today — how & why did you BUST MUTTONS ?
Phoebe Bridgers: “So my grandpa, Rich Gandola, was a rodeo cowboy — he did it until I was 10 years old, and there was always a degree of rodeo pressure on me, like, ‘Do you want to?’ My parents never forced me to be a roper or do crazy shit, but I did do the fun stuff, like the one when they make kids run after greased farm animals and there are always shithead teenagers pushing the smaller kids aside.
“So this one year I rode a sheep. They shear them right before you get on, so there’s nothing to grab on to, and it’s pretty terrifying. But I stayed on longer than anyone else and came in 1st place — I won this belt buckle, but it took a long time for them to engrave it, so my grandpa had the trophy made for me, too.”
Blackbird Spyplane: What’s POP-POP’s deal?
Phoebe Bridgers: “He’s from Ukiah, this little California town that has no real calling cards for me other than the fact that AFI and, weirdly, Casey Frey are from there. I grew up in L.A. but I would spend every summer in Ukiah, and he was a rodeo cowboy my mom’s whole life. He rode bulls, and he has this story of how one time he went to a doctor and the doctor said, ‘When did you break your collarbone?’ My grandpa was like, ‘I didn’t,’ and the doctor showed him an x-ray of where he’d broken it in 3 places.”
Blackbird Spyplane: That is true hard-body s**t. So you’ve held on to this trophy for 17 years — why?
Phoebe Bridgers: “Being from L.A., I think this is a pretty unique part of my identity — my connection to Ukiah and to the rodeo, through my grandpa. I think I take pride in the trophy and the belt buckle specifically because they’re just the most ridiculous things …”
Blackbird Spyplane: If u Google “mutton busting” there are all these photos of kids flying off sheep. This is not a sport for cowardly children. What does it say about you that you were good at it ?
Phoebe Bridgers: “Well, I definitely freaked out — I didn’t know how scary it was going to be until I was on the sheep, and I cried when I fell, but when I found out I won I literally stopped crying immediately.
“I think what it says about me is that I need to be immediately good at something or I just don’t do it. Or I at least have to delude myself into thinking I’m good, because, like, the music I used to make in high school was horrible — I was writing these fake songs and belting everything with this bad vocal affectation, but I thought I was the next Bob Dylan. I remember being the loudest girl in choir, always, and one time this girl next to me said, ‘Can you sing quieter?’ I thought I was the star of the show. So yeah my delusion led me to mutton-bust and into music.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Apparently there’s animal-rights controversy around mutton-busting to the point that a few cities have banned it…
Phoebe Bridgers: “Oh dude, rodeos are fucked. I’ve been a vegan since I turned 20, so now I’m horrified at the entire idea of the rodeo. When you’re a kid you have to put it out of your mind, like, ‘These animals aren’t in pain, otherwise they wouldn’t tie these crazy ropes around the bulls, right?’ That’s why the bulls kick — they’re trying to get free of this super tight rope someone tied onto them. So having a 60-pound child ride a sheep is by far not the worst part of the rodeo.”
Blackbird Spyplane: You wore that fantastic peach Nudie suit for yr cameo in the Between Two Ferns movie… What’s yr take on WESTERN DRIP circa 2021?
Phoebe Bridgers: “There’s obviously some iconic shit going on there, but it’s so popular I’ve avoided it. Also, that culture just has a such a deep racist history. Like, country music has never had any problem stealing music that black people invented and not rewarding them for it the way they should be, so I think it’s sick that now people like Lil Nas X are being openly queer and rocking nudie suits — country-western style needed that reckoning long ago. It’s always been interesting, though, these bedazzled fancy outfits in this super-toxic straight culture…”
Blackbird Spyplane: Since this is a newsletter about under-the-radar gems, R there any small designers & musicians u wanna shine a light on ?
Phoebe Bridgers: “I really love Big Bud Press, this unisex L.A. line. They’re great, I wear their s**t all the time. I have a power suit of theirs — they have crazy patterns, but I get everything in black.
“And as far as music, I produced Christian Lee Hutson’s Beginners, which I love, and Joanna Sternberg (embedded above) is one of my favorite songwriters. Anyone who f**ks with my music will like them.”
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