Pushing the Outer Limits of Pop Music: The Never-Ending Growth of Locate S, 1
Ahead of joining Of Montreal for a North American tour next spring, we caught up with Christina Schneider, the mastermind behind Locate S,1, who takes us through the explorative nature and charm of her latest musical project.
Amongst the millions of artists who are willing to lay their heart on the table and dissect each emotional valve for the world to hear, it is uncommon to find someone who can turn this into fun alt-pop content without making a fool of themselves. Christina Schneider is one of the rare few who have the intellect and talent to do so, with her compelling charm that filters through her music. Based in Athens, Georgia, Schneider released her second LP Personalia and a delightful EP of cover songs in 2020 through Captured Tracks under the moniker Locate S,1. We sat down with her one evening to dive head first into her childhood musical aspirations, the meaning behind her latest album, and her desire to learn more about the construction of music.
In order to understand her thoughts and feelings towards the themes presented within her recent catalogue of music, we must travel back in time to when she was a budding singer with dreams as big as the moon. With a quick scroll through her Instagram feed, we can see multiple videos of her as a young girl expressing herself through various art forms and pretending to be a famous pop star. One video in particular which sparked exceptional adoration was a video of her on stage singing "Everyday Is A Winding Road" by Sheryl Crow. Pictured in the snippet is Schneider nervously standing in front of a deep red curtain, singing to a backing track — as the song progresses we then see two junior backing singers emerge from the curtain which truly makes this video all the more endearing and cute. She reminisced, "It was one of the first times I had performed for people… it was monumental, but it felt monumentally bad in my mind, like the memory of it without the video." Having learned guitar from her mother in elementary school, the dream of becoming a popstar was ever present and she began absorbing music from a very young age.
Fast forward a couple of years and this talent has flourished through an array of personas that Schneider has associated with. In the last decade, she's performed with various collaborators including: Jib Kidder, Jepeto Solutions, CE Schneider Topical, Christina Schneider's Genius Grant, Eyes of Love and of course released music under her own name, particularly with the lightly distorted Violence Etcetera LP. While venturing between minimal avant-pop and Syd Barrett-style psychedelia in an emotionally open environment, Schneider settled on the moniker Locate S,1. Two years following Healing Contest, her first release as Locate S, 1, she released Personalia, an album where she indulges in the feelings of growing up and learning to move on from one's youth or early immature desires. Named after a poem by Mary Ruefle, Schneider twists the poem's narrative into a personal explanation of her own life experiences.
"It's hard to see now what I was thinking when I made that album. It just feels so far away at this point, but that poem was specifically about getting older as a woman. It's interesting that you brought up the talent show video, because it's this image I had in my mind of being a pop star and conquering the world, which is very unrealistic. Not because I necessarily think lowly of myself in any way but what I'm interested in doing doesn't really fit in with what in this world would be a pop star. So kind of like, getting older and actually being happy with these things that as a young person you thought would hurt or feel like a loss. Like losing that youthful delusion is actually nice. And that's what I was going through a bit when I made the album," she said.
Although the album was predominantly assembled by Schneider, she did initiate the help of her boyfriend Kevin Barnes, the frontman of the beloved psych pop project Of Montreal. Aside from releasing Personalia, she also contributed significantly to Of Montreal's UR FUN in 2020, which offered a deeper look into her and Barnes' relationship through an arena-ready slice of electro-pop. She described that with Personalia, she wrote a majority of the songs alone as she despises having others around when she is in her creative zone — and only once she is content with her ideas, she will bring them forward to share with Barnes to build upon. The pair worked together harmoniously as she let him take the lead with trust and confidence that he would be able to make the tracks glimmer and shine. Clearly this worked in their favor, as the album is rich in charisma with a palette of driving rhythms and Schneider's magnetic vocal tone. Songs like "Whisper 2000," "Even the Good Boys Are Bad," and the title track are notable singles that grab you by the hand and encourage you to jump around like nobody's watching. At its core, Personalia is about evolving and moving forward despite knowing the world is falling apart around you.
Describing her relationship when working with Barnes, she expressed that the process wasn't exactly all peachy, as at times there were emotional obstacles. She elaborated, "I've only ever collaborated with people that I've been romantically involved with — I don't know what that says about me, it's just such an intimate thing. I think it got to this point where it was sort of unhealthy, because I was letting the lines get blurred a little bit… Working with someone who you really love and trust can be great on one hand, but it can also open up the floodgates in a way that's not healthy if that makes sense."
With the comfort of operating with her intimate partner, she was able to truly let her feelings free and create a record that was authentic and real. Even if it meant that she was crying in the studio, the informality of the space allowed her to create without the constraints of working with a stranger. This can be seen as she opens up within her lyrics and pours out her inner dialogue in the form of delicate lyrical motives — like in the title track where she sings, "Almost killed myself so I went home, I just cannot take these local shows."
Following the release of Personalia, Schneider released another exceptional body of work during the COVID-19 lockdowns; an EP titled Stay Away From Music: Covers Under Quarantine. With an abundance of free time on her hands, she decided that she would choose four cover songs and turn it into an exercise of mixing and producing music. She wanted to take control of her sound, and be able to fully immerse herself in the production elements of her next album, which is why this mini-project was so important to her.
"For Personalia, it was tough because Kevin was mixing it but I was like the boss. So Kevin would make a mix, and I would be like, 'This is too loud and this sounds weird.' I was this annoying Queen about it… I had only ever really recorded myself analogue to tape before so I found the computer really intimidating," she recounted.
Communicating when working on music is not always easy, especially when you don't have the technical skills. Knowing the terminology of mixing can be a very helpful piece of information to possess, which is another reason why Schneider was so adamant to learn it on her own. She continued, "It's really hard when I don't know the language like, 'This sounds like an icicle piercing my skull.' How do you just make up stuff?" Using dramatic descriptions to specify a sonic element may lend to funny moments, however is rather inefficient when under time constraints. A period of limited creativity which is commonly experienced by musicians in lockdown is the perfect chance to try and advance to the next level of understanding a skill, and her efforts spark excitement within listeners as to what the next album will sound like.
With the world still stuck in a COVID-19 choke hold, Schneider has made the unfortunate decision to halt on any upcoming tours or shows for the safety of herself and peers. However, you can have peace of mind that she is working on another album that is going to be full of high energy and spirit, pursuing a sound that is delightful and fun. She divulged, "I just want to make music in this tiny room, music that I like and I sort of don't care that much about it. I mean, I want people to like it, but I'm not making stadium music." This sense of maturity demonstrates that she doesn't feel like she has to prove herself anymore; she will make the music that she loves, for the sole purpose of her own happiness. From starting as a seedling with a dream for fame, to a now fully grown intelligent, passionate and talented musician — one can only wonder what her past-self might think of her now.
Personalia is out now through Captured Tracks.
Stream the new album below.