By Christopher Treacy & Olive Klug
We don’t always get what we came looking for in relationships, but in the hands of a capable songwriter, the world gets a reward on the other end of the equation. And so, perhaps the songwriter does too. In the case of Olive Klug’s new single “Parched,” which dropped last week on Nettwerk, we’re rewarded with a track that expresses the futility of love affairs that weren’t meant to be… those times when we’re attempting to shape-shift in an effort to see something through that we’ve decided is worthwhile. The ‘how’ and ‘why’ of it is too vast to dissect here—we all have our rhymes and reasons. Klug uses a metaphor about thirst to describe the diminishing returns, and it’s a befitting choice. Hydrating ourselves is a basic human need, and feeling parched is often the result of hard work… we’ve extended ourselves.
“Parched” is the third single in the run up to a full length album that Klug will release this year, and their creating an audible buzz with their distinctive viewpoints, expressed through an indie musical lens that blends folksy basics with judiciously placed modern production flourishes. But where “Out of Line” and “Coming of Age” are charming in their defiance and speak more directly to Klug’s struggle in navigating their 20s through such culturally explosive times, “Parched” is a deeper interior shot. And yet, it’s no less compelling, which is what made it an easy choice for our Song of the Week in the new CQ Roundup. The video clip is a triumph as well, featuring dancer Shannon Kelly and Klug, out in the desert, expressing the metaphors in the song through interpretative dance (with help from choreographer Marie Spieldenner). The ending is a palpable thirst quencher.
“…and I’m not one to brag, but I think I might pass your impossible test.”
Many of us do this. Rather than accepting that a situation isn’t right for us, we keep trying to make it fit. We jump hurdles. Try and pass tests, even when we suspect the results may be rigged! Can you talk a little about how this behavior has impacted your life?
I think this tendency traces back to a need for approval… a need to win everyone’s approval. I keep mentioning Dodie in my interviews, but she has a song I really resonate with called “Special Girl” about this phenomenon. The lyrics go “I found my worth in this world by proving I’m a special girl” and later on “can’t care less if you love me, but hate me first yeah make me work that’s perfect.” I think we often feel like the approval is worth more if we’ve had to work or win someone over in order to get it, which is why we get trapped in this endless, toxic cycle of trying to pass tests with ‘rigged’ results.
Sustaining romantic relationships seems more difficult than ever lately and dating in the 21st Century is a nightmare. A lack of willingness to compromise is the pervasive spirit. And yet, I know plenty of folks that are terrified of being alone… enough so that they keep engaging with people that won’t meet them halfway. Do you think that the situation described in “Parched” is a common one? From that perspective, does it seem like we’re entering an age of singularity, where coupling up is less popular or will become less popular – less ‘the norm’?
Hmm, this is an interesting question! I am currently in a very happy relationship, and my relationships mean a lot to me. I do think that being queer and living in the modern day, people are more open to adjusting their relationships in order to fit their lifestyle, and often pay less attention to relationship milestones we’re told are important like moving in together, getting married, being monogamous, etc. However, I think this is a net positive! No one should feel societal pressure to fit their relationship into a box they don’t want to fit it into.
Something I like about “Parched” is that while I include some specific details from my relationship, it’s an extended metaphor that can relate to thousands of different situations. The heart of the song is about trying fruitlessly to make a relationship work with a person who isn’t committed to putting in that same effort. I think this dynamic has been happening for centuries, will continue to happen, and is sort of a quintessential experience of being a human who loves other humans.
“Out of Line” and “Coming of Age” speak to a rebellious streak, and it’s a warranted one. I honestly couldn’t imagine being in my mid 20s at a time like this – a time when none of the systems in place in our world are working properly. On the one hand, perhaps it’s exciting to blaze your own trail. On the other, it’s got to be daunting… maybe even frightening. How has songwriting helped you move forward despite what’s got to be an overwhelming amount of uncertainty?
It is exciting and daunting and frightening all at once! In the most literal sense, my songwriting has helped me embrace uncertainty because it has led me down an extremely uncertain and unstable career path. A couple years ago, I never imagined I’d be able to support myself solely with my creativity, so I feel like experiencing the fulfillment and excitement of being a full-time musician has helped me cope with the uncertainty of it all. I also just utilize songwriting as a tool to process and feel my own emotions. In the writing and sharing of both “Coming of Age” and “Out of Line,” which I think of as two sides of the same feeling, it was extremely comforting not only to create art with complex feelings, but to also have that art received and related to by so many people.
You have a full length record coming out later this year. Can you tell us a little about the album, it’s overall sound and maybe some thematic threads?
I do! Whoa, so much to say about the project. I would say the overarching theme of the album is a joyful and sentimental farewell to one’s youth. The album itself alternates between nostalgia and excitement and frustration, all in relation to finishing that final, most painstaking page of one’s coming of age story that often manifests around age 23. It’s also about making the radical decision to pursue joy, pleasure, and magic, even in the face of a seemingly bleak world.
Its overall sound is pretty hard to pin down; it ranges from Americana to folk-punk to musical theater to pop ballads in a lot of fun ways, but has a couple recurring musical motifs tying it all together.
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’s the Managing Editor for CQ and lives in Waitsfield, VT.
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