Country Queer

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Q&A With Delaney Hafener of The Belle Curves

By Christopher Treacy

Photo Credit: Kelsey Sucena

Songs are microcosms. Or, at least, they can be. In the case of “Rosé Drive-Thru,” our current CQ Roundup Song of The Week, Delaney Hafener of The Belle Curves was meditating on circumstances in her family’s world and in the surrounding communities she’d pass in her car. Something as simple as a roadside sign from a local vineyard created a metaphor for the classist divide that got sharper in this country during COVID.

Some urban folks could afford to leave the city for more spacious environs. But many could not, leaving them stuck in situations where it became challenging to isolate themselves enough to feel a satisfying degree of safety. Others could simply jump in the car and drive away to a summer cottage or a beachfront condo.

You can’t order through Instacart with food stamps. And yet, just down the road a piece, the biggest concern might be grabbing a bottle of delicious local wine via hands-free delivery. Hence, “Rosé Drive-Thru.” Take it away, Delaney Hafener…

The pandemic really drove home the divide between the haves and have-nots. Did you find that the way you observed the changes in the landscape driving to and from your family property became more pronounced during this time when we’re all sorta focused on our classist positions in the world? Can you talk a little more about your thinking?


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

The thing that was on my mind the most was green space. Right when the pandemic started and New York State instituted the first lockdown, my family was moving from our old house in the dense, aggressively suburban, low-income community that I grew up in to this old farmhouse that’d belonged to my grandparents… my mom’s childhood home. The property is about 6 times bigger, the house itself is much bigger, and the neighborhood is a very different vibe compared to where we were, even though the two houses are less than ten minutes apart.

I went from a house where I could see a Home Depot sign from my bedroom window to a living where there are enough trees and space that we mostly don’t see the neighbors’ houses. So, to be living with my family, but not on top of each other, and to have so much outdoor space to enjoy and not have to be on top of our neighbors, was an incredible privilege and made it easier to cope with a very difficult time.

The experience that inspired this song was when I was doing a lot of freelance work in East Hampton, which is like ‘The Hamptons.’ And the nature of the landscape and highways here on the south shore of Long Island meant that I would essentially leave my family’s house, go east on a highway that has much more rural energy than most of the highways on LI, and just drive straight till I got to the job. So it was a beautiful ride even though it was long, and I have a distinct memory of going west instead of east one evening to go to a friend’s house and being ripped back to the reality of the world outside The Hamptons and my house. That reality is dense and noisy and dirty and full of people.

It was a wakeup call in a lot of ways, I realized how quickly one can become complacent when things are easy.

Can you articulate what’s missing when you’re removed from an urban landscape? It’s more than hustle and bustle – there’s a spirit to it, which I think is an element in what the song is talking about… missing that spirit. 

I’m not sure that I necessarily want to live in someplace as intense as NYC, but I think a lot about the alienation that suburban landscapes breed. In a place like Long Island, you have to drive everywhere, so you don’t see your neighbors and community in the same way you do in urban settings where you have to physically walk past people or take public transit, because the infrastructure nearly requires you to always have your car. But the proximity of stores and amenities and such make it so you don’t have to rely on your neighbors in the practical ways that I imagine many rural folks have to. And there are still so many people around you in the ‘burbs that there’s less personal connection than there’d be in a place with a small population.

It’s a perfect storm that creates a deep, deep alienation, leading people to think they’re doing everything themselves; they seem to think they live in a vacuum outside of the networks of relationships that make up society. I also think that alienation is a major reason behind middle and upper-middle class conservatism. It’s a plague.

“I want other water running over my skin…. But a promise to myself is so easy to break.” It’s easier to stay in a holding pattern than break away, particularly if there’s perceived safety in the holding pattern. Can you tell us a little more about the broken promise?

That’s exactly what that line is about. I never thought I was going to stay on Long Island as long as I did after college. The first year and a half after I graduated, I only worked freelance and odd jobs and I traveled a lot and toured with friends and basically was just freewheeling and broke all the time. Then COVID started and suddenly I had to stay home, whether I liked it or not. And I sort of stumbled into a very nice day-job career that I actually really enjoy.

I was always so hesitant and against the idea of having a “regular job” because I was afraid it would tie me down too much to seriously pursue music. It’s turned out quite the opposite, mostly because I am incredibly lucky with what I do and it’s mostly work-from-home. So the broken promise, I think, is referring to this notion of giving up just a degree of the rambling lifestyle for the stability of committing to a day job.

I want so badly to travel and see new places and meet people like I did the few times I was on tour, but touring at any level feels so impossible right now. so I’m settling for short trips and long drives and trying to still tap into the magic of DIY touring even if not technically going on tour.

I also think ‘the promise’ refers to living a life that’s in line with your philosophy. Once you start making money, it’s easy to forget about what life is like for the vast majority of people who struggle every single day for the basic necessities that capitalist systems withhold from them. But there is a way to live a comfortable life and continue to fight the good fight and disrupt unjust systems. It requires self-awareness and loving self-criticism.

Shelter is comforting, but it lacks forward momentum. It breeds restlessness in some of us. And yet, when we’re moving forward, we often long for shelter’s comforting respite. And so, we’re often focused on what we lack in a given situation rather than what we have. How do you deal with this ‘grass is always greener’ mentality that plagues so many of us? Have you devised ways of staying in the moment? 

It’s funny you put it that way, because the first song I ever released as The Belle Curves is called “Greener,’ and it’s about exactly that. I wrote it when I was still in college. My family’s financial situation was often very unstable as I was growing up, especially after the 2008 crash. Money was often the only reason my parents ever argued. So when I was in college, I was so torn between wanting stability and comfort, and wanting to wing it and have grand adventures. Looking back now, I think I was seeing it as a false dichotomy.

Again, I’m incredibly privileged to have work that is conducive to being remote and flexible. But I’ve found that day-me and night-me can coexist and support each other. Part of it is having a healthy relationship to work and creativity. I don’t think a fulfilling career in your day job has to take up all of your time or be the only thing you care about. And I don’t think it’s healthy to give everything up to pursue creative projects. It’s important to find balance in all things, and that probably means not taking anything too seriously. I don’t think about my job when I’m not working, and I have done a lot of work emotionally to not feel like I always need to be “hustling” to be moving forward in music.

It’s anti-capitalism as self-care. Really letting those ideas steep in your psyche and getting rid of that nagging voice in your head that tells you you’re not being productive. Fuck that. We’re not alive to be productive.

But to come back to the grass-is-greener bit, I think that feeling is part of the human condition. We always want to be doing what is best for ourselves and our families, it’s natural. but there are a lot of urges we experience that are natural that we have to work through and overcome to live good lives. Sometimes I’m a bit Vulcan about it, and try to logic my way through big decisions by saying ‘yeah, it would be great if X happens, but it’s also good if Y happens, so there’s no wrong answer. All outcomes are good.’

I’ve made the best of some pretty terrible situations, so I know that I can always do that again if things go awry.

What’s your favorite track off Watershed? Can you tell us why it’s your favorite?

Honestly I’m a bit tired of all the songs at this point, so it’s hard to say if I have a favorite. But maybe “We Haven’t Been Talking” is at the top right now. It’s a totally true story about a platonic breakup I had with my best friend since middle school. I’m really proud of the songwriting on that one, both the storytelling and imagery as well as the melodies and production. And people always tell me how they relate to it, which feels good. I’m best friends again with the person it’s written about, so it has a happy ending too. She had a lot of growing up to do, and I did too. We used to make music together and it became a wedge in our friendship, because we had different goals. I think I pushed her too hard and the old band dissolved, and even before that happened I felt like she didn’t treat me well, and then something happened which I don’t even remember the details of any more, and we didn’t talk for a full year.

It was strange and I tried to tell myself I was better off for it because at that point our relationship weighed me down. But I always knew that when she worked up the courage to apologize and reach out to me, I’d be open and willing to repair the friendship. And that’s exactly what happened. We’re as close now as we were when we were 14 years old and inseparable. I was nervous the first time I played the song for her, but I had warned her about it when we first reconnected, and she understood because when we were playing in a band together we always wrote songs about breakups and our real lives so I don’t think she was surprised to learn she’d made it into a song of mine.

Christopher Treacy has been writing about music and the music industry for 20 years. He’s contributed to The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Herald, Nashville Scene, and Berklee College of Music’s quarterly journal, as well as myriad LGBTQ+ outlets including the Edge Media Network, Between the Lines/Pride Source, Bay Windows and In Newsweekly. He lives in Waitsfield, VT.