Indigo De Souza has adopted, and been warmly embraced by, a new community since the making of her 2021 record Any Shape You Take. Her third LP, All of This Will End, is beautifully illustrative of De Souza’s recent shifts: shifts in mindset, in the people from whom she draws support and/or inspiration, and — as a result — in songwriting.
Referring to this new community, it’s not simply that her notoriety and influence have grown at home in Asheville, North Carolina, though I expect that’s true – the Saddle Creek signee is appearing on more festival lineups this year, headlining a tour and also opening dates for the likes of The Flaming Lips, Japanese Breakfast, Caroline Polachek, Rainbow Kitten Surprise and fellow North Carolinians Sylvan Esso. No, the artist’s social and creative rebirth spurred from all of De Souza’s former bandmates actually quitting her, shortly after recording Any Shape You Take. Her career was taking off, but she was personally hurt, and briefly befuddled about next steps.
“For a moment I thought that I couldn’t make music. When I learned to play with a band it was with these people, and now they’re gone, so how am I supposed to keep going with this project?” she said. “I had a really low moment there, where I felt really sad and abandoned.”
But she’s been writing songs since age nine, she told me. And she’d learned so much in past years about how to create sounds she liked. She recalls coaching herself, “I thought I could probably just think about the arrangements myself, and go with my heart and it would be OK. I found something in my core that led me to write these songs, and it happened very quickly.”
What came from the creative blitz are the 11 songs on All of This Will End, another vivid palette of grunge/alternative rock meets drum machine pop, but produced in a time of healing. Lyrically, we get plenty of deep blues (“June is killing me and all my friends are leaving”), plus fiery, furious reds (“You’re bad, you suck, you fucked me up”) and flashes of bright yellow (“I really love the water,” capturing a summer day skinny dipping). On the instrumentally expansive and vocally ambitious, penultimate track “Not My Body,” De Souza and her new bandmates get nearly psychedelic.
Draped over the mid-twenties snarkiness and serious riffage is ample self-soothing (“I’m a growing girl, my ups and downs are natural”), even in the form of power balladry on “Younger and Dumber.”
There’s also, across the album, a sort of shruggy resignation (“There is nothing I can do when the winds of change blow through”), including these passages from its title track:
I don’t have the answers, no one does.“All of This Will End”
I take comfort in that.
There’s only moving through and trying your best.
Who gives a fuck? All of this will end.
These pep talks serve as the LP’s relative earth tones, grounding De Souza’s wild screams or most anxious parking lot ruminations with serene reminders that we’re all kind of wading through it. All of us. These moments don’t sound cynical, rather sincere.
“I feel a lot more settled in my body and more committed to self,” she said over Zoom, visibly calm throughout our chat, though not in a bored-seeming way. She gushed about recently buying some rural land with plans to eventually build a home there. She bragged on her “brilliant” friends: “The community I have now feels very special and supportive, I really feel held by them. I didn’t have that kind of thing before. The last two records before this one feel like they came more from a place of disarray and pain. This album, still with many of the same themes, feels like it’s from a different space.”
Listen to the full record and read my full interview with De Souza, below.
On the Record: A Q&A With Indigo De Souza
Celia Gregory: Indigo De Souza, your new record All of This Will End is now out on Saddle Creek Records, and I’m very excited to talk to you about it. I have pointed questions because I love so many of the individual tracks and I want to give you space to talk about them musically and thematically. But I think I’ll start here: because of the cycle of an album, from writing to recording, mixing, mastering and then getting it out in the world, it takes a little longer, maybe these sentiments might not feel as fresh anymore. Can you speak to some of the growth between your last really fantastic record in 2021 [Any Shape You Take] and finally getting this new one out, and maybe how that personal growth has influenced your songwriting?
Indigo De Souza: There has been an immense amount of personal growth between the last album and this album. Extreme growth. A lot of things in my life have changed as well as place. I have moved and I have new community and also new ways of thinking about writing and a new brain it feels like. I think that I feel a lot more settled in my body and more committed to self than I used to be in the past, although it still is a struggle.
I think that the shift in community is the biggest shift that happened and probably most important also because the community that I have now is really special and really supportive and I really feel held by them. And I don’t really think I had that kind of thing before in my life. And so the last two records before this one feel like they came from more of a space of disarray and pain. And then this album, still with many of the same themes, feels like it’s from a different space.
CG: And so some of these songs, like you said, are still processing past pain, but also feeling more comfortable expressing that because you said you felt held. I love that. Is this mostly an artistic community you’re talking about or is it friends and family of all stripes sort of surrounding you with love and support during this time?
IDS: I think that everybody has different skill sets and does different things and I feel like it ranges from movement and dance to cooking to tanning skins and growing food and also making music or making artwork visually. My roommate makes beautiful pottery and does basically just so many brilliant things all the time. I’m always impressed by her. But I think that one of the most beautiful things about the community is that I, I realize the importance in sharing trust and space to fully express and share your truest self with other people. What I was missing before in my life was the ability to actually bare my entire soul to someone and feel like it was okay for me to be the full spectrum of who I am. As small of a thing as that seems, I think that a lot of people in the world don’t really do that for one another, like allow that space. There’s not a lot of forgiveness for the flaws that people have or the pain that they carry or the trauma that causes them to do whatever they do.
And so I think that the community that I have is just a really specifically healing community because we hold that space for each other — we’re committed to each other’s growth and committed to witnessing that. And I think because of the strength that I found within my community, I also found an incredible strength within myself to show up in my direct family as someone who holds that space for them, as well. My sister just had two twin babies and I’m obsessed with them and care about them so much.
CG: I would disagree that it’s a small thing. I think what you just said is a huge thing, especially to find, maybe in a second phase or third phase of adulthood, whatever you feel like you’re in, to have found those people that you can really be real with. And that, of course, influences the art you make that people connect to — people that might not have that community, right? They find that in music. I would say about this record, listening to it, I felt less alone because you’re speaking some really plain truths, but in a beautiful way that is like soul baring. I feel like it goes between feeling like “I got this” and also being resigned to “Well, I don’t have this, but nobody else does. So like, let’s just go.”
IDS: Yeah, yeah, definitely.
CG: I’m thinking about early on in the record, “Losing.” You sing about your friends leaving and you’re remembering how to face it. How have those changes, maybe interpersonally, influenced the way you do create? When you sit down to write, are you just feeling different in your body and in your heart to be able to pour some of these things out?
IDS: When I wrote these songs, there was a really intense shift in the way I wrote because I, before this record, had a totally different band and had totally different friends and had a totally different life. When we finished recording Any Shape You Take, around that time, just kind of slowly, my entire band quit. And it was shocking because I for a moment thought that I couldn’t make music. I was like, “Oh, when I learned how to play with a band, it was these people. And now these people are gone. So how am I supposed to, like, keep going with this project?” I had a really low moment there where I just felt really sad and abandoned. And then I came out of that feeling like, “No, I’ve got this. I’ve been writing songs since I was nine and I’ve gotten a lot of practice playing with a band, and I feel like now I can probably just think about the arrangements myself and just go with my heart and maybe it will be OK.” And so I did.
I found something in my core that led me to write all of these songs and that felt really special. And it happened very quickly. I wrote a lot of songs all at once, and they kind of came out in a different way than they had before, and I made a lot of demos for them as well, where I played all the instruments to kind of flesh out the forms of them. And I remember feeling really proud of myself that I was able to do that without anybody’s help. It taught me a lot about trusting myself and my inner musical voice as well as just my spirit.
CG: I’m snapping in appreciation. I didn’t realize you initially composed all the instruments for these because these are really lush songs, a lot of them. I’m drawn to this sort of alternative riff rock — it feels ‘90s inspired — but then you have a lot of synths, too, you know, it goes between rock and traditional pop sounds. I wonder how you normally compose, do you sit down at a piano, strum on a guitar, and then flesh it out? One of my favorite tracks that surprised me is “Not My Body,” there’s so much happening. Can you tell me about making this song maybe as an example of how you compose and then pull it all together for final production?
IDS: I think that my composition is normally pretty bare-bones. I can kind of hear the song in my head and how I want it to flow. I can hear different instruments I want to have there and different ways that they would interact. And I’ll try to kind of sketch that out in a demo as best I can, using whatever I can to mimic those instruments. And then I’ll bring it to my band or whoever I’m recording with and play it for them, and we’ll talk about how we could bring it to life in a recording studio.
One of the biggest parts of that is just sharing it with my guitarist Dexter Webb. He’s just a total genius. But his voicing, especially with guitar, is really, really important and we really speak to each other very well. He’s known me for a long time, so he also can speak my emotional language with guitar. And then I love working with Alex, who worked as an engineer on the last album, but I felt like we had such a beautiful connection, I ended up giving him production credit as well. And then on this album I realized that all I needed as a co-producer and engineer was him. And so he helps a lot to flesh out the possibilities and how we could make it all flow together. But yeah, I don’t know. It really just happens. It’s like we all just get there and we know where the songs need to go and we just like try to give it what we got.
CG: So it is pretty exploratory, once you’re in the studio taking the demo sounds and deciding, OK, how about this here? How about this here?
IDS: Yeah. And even for some of the songs on this album, we used some of the sounds straight from my demos and put them into the project. I’m thinking of “Smog” — we made that one really fast because we just dropped all of my project in there and then kind of just like, enhanced it and added some things. I didn’t even redo the vocals, we just used the vocals that were from my demo.
CG: That was the early cut on “Smog,” that we’re playing a lot of on the station?! That’s so great. I love the drive of that one with the drum machine, certainly an early single from the record, but also it was a standout on the record.
IDS: Thank you.
CG: I’m thinking about “The Water” being such a great summer song right before we launch into summer. Have you found in your community a new sort of grounding not just in art, but maybe in nature? Or has that always been with you?
IDS: When I was young, I had a really beautiful connection to nature and I was very imaginative. And I remember making fairy houses and being outside in the woods. And my mom was one of those moms that didn’t buy me plastic toys. So I was always in the dirt with the sticks and just, like, creating things outside. And then I think in my teenage years, I went through a lot of darkness and got involved in a lot of situations that were really limiting for me. And I kind of lost myself for a while.
I only put it together recently that during that time I actually didn’t go outside very much because a lot of the like community that I had or the people I was hanging out with didn’t go outside or didn’t celebrate the outdoors very much. It kind of just drifted off. And then during the pandemic, when I started branching out into a new community and also moved to a new place that was actually further out into nature, I found myself reconnecting with nature in a big way. I got very, very deep in it. I actually just purchased some real land because I realized that that’s most important to me — connecting with a piece of land and really understanding the way that it is naturally occurring, learning from it and growing with it.
CG: Wow, that is super cool. So are you planning to build on that and live there or just enjoy it for the finite resource it is, which is a piece of land? What’s your plan?
IDS: Yeah, I want to live there. It’ll probably take a while till I’ll have a structure there. But yeah, I want to live on it.
CG: I don’t want to make any assumptions, but when you were signed to Saddle Creek, what did that record label and maybe the support of that label, the history of that label mean to you, if anything? Do you have inspirations that are labelmates or former label mates on Saddle Creek?
IDS: To be honest, when I started, trying to decide on a label, I was just new to understanding that that world even existed. I wasn’t very aware of the music industry until a little after I put out [my first LP] I Love My Mom. I started working with my manager and she kind of opened my eyes to everything that’s going on in it. I remember in the beginning we were really overwhelmed and confused. It’s amazing to reflect on that now, although I’m still confused, I definitely know a lot more than I did and can wrap my brain around it more.
But yeah, when I was offered a Saddle Creek deal, it was like the first time I’d heard of it, which was how it was with all of the labels. I just hadn’t been someone who paid attention to where music was coming from. I just thought it magically existed. But I love Saddle Creek so much, and the reason I went with them is because they were by far the most humane label that offered me something. Their deal was incredibly caring and actually had the artist in mind.
CG: Well, that’s high praise because you’re right, it is a business and it is overwhelming. You are not alone in that. Although, I have to point out that you just said you thought magically, music just happens. But the way you described your creative process and your band pulling together a song like, “Not My Body,” that turns psychedelic and your voice is soaring. THAT sounds to me like magic. The process of putting thoughts and feelings and talent into, you know, a three and a half or four-minute composition. Can you tell me about the finalizing of the tracklisting on this record, All of This Will End? Did you leave stuff on the cutting room floor that didn’t feel like it fit where you were anymore?
IDS: Yeah, there was one song that we actually cut earlier on in the process, in the middle of working on it, I realized that I just didn’t want to use it and we cut it and put “Smog” in instead. I remember the sequencing being really hard on the last album, but for some reason on this one, it only took a few tries and we just sent some ideas back and forth between me and the label and my manager. And then I looked at everyone’s ideas and then made my own version based on their thoughts. And it just was the right version. It came together kind of seamlessly, which is nice.
CG: Is there a song that I haven’t asked you about directly that is especially speaking to you right now, or that you’d like to shed some light on, what it’s about or how you made it?
IDS: I love “Parking Lot.” Yeah. For some reason, when people ask me about the songs, sometimes my brain goes blank and I can’t even remember what the songs are for a moment. [Laughs] But yeah, I really love parking lot. I love playing it live, it’s really fun. And I play acoustic guitar for it, which is really nice. We’ve added acoustic guitar in with the live show as well as Libby, my bandmate, on violin. Um, yeah, I, I think that. I remember writing “Parking Lot” and feeling like it was a really brilliant ode to the many times that I have been in my car in a parking lot crying because the world isn’t making sense to me, and I had a hard time in the grocery store interacting with everyone.
CG: It’s supremely relatable. And honestly, it’s almost like a subhead for the title of the record: “I’m a growing girl, my ups and downs are natural.” Again, sort of the resignation of like, this feels really hard, but I’m not alone and I’m not weird. This life is hard. You end with, “Maybe I’ll just always be a little bit sad,” but it’s sort of a sweet little ditty. Can you hold those things in tension in a given song, like “This might sound happy, but listen to my lyrics, heads up, it’s kind of depressing”?
IDS: Totally. I’ve never been a huge fan of songs sounding really sad, for some reason. Just melodically, I’ve never been drawn to like minor chords. I like power within darkness, like grimy, dirty stuff. But I’ve never really been able to write really sad, minor chord stuff. I just do love that marrying of a happy-sounding chord with a sad lyric, especially because it’s kind of just like, “OK, well, that’s how it is.” I don’t know. It feels more accepting or something, like it’s not wallowing.