Lindsey Baker, a visual artist and songwriter based in New Orleans, performs music under the name, Guts Club. This summer, she released her third album, Trench Foot (available on Spotify, Bandcamp, and Soundcloud). It’s a record of mournful, swampy country tunes that tell stories infused with regret and pain.
Trench Foot explores the feeling of being simultaneously beholden to the past and determined to move on from it. These songs acknowledge failure as a fact of life, like on “Bad Aim,” when she sings, “I used to cry all night / But now, I just sleep / Time moves faster that way.”
On Trench Foot, Baker went electric for the first time, including electric guitars, organ, and chugging drums. With this new backing band and two albums of experience under her belt, these songs exude a sense of confidence heretofore unseen from Guts Club.
Baker called in to the Impact 89 FM studios from New Orleans to talk about her origins, her inspirations, the new album, and more.
What other musical projects [were you]a part of before Guts Club?
LB: There was something called The Crater Family, and what we would do is pick an album, like an old record, and cover it in 12 hours or less with Garage Band and twenty people in the living room. It was cool. We did Nebraska, the Bruce Springsteen record, and Astral Weeks, the Van Morrison record. We did Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits. We did a Sublime record. Like, the popular one… I don’t, I don’t remember…
Yeah, I don’t know what it’s called either.
LB: Yeah, so… And then, I played in a psychedelic rock band. I guess they say, “Psych rock,” now… For a little while in New Orleans.
Can you tell me about the videos your were making… before you were in Guts Club?
LB: They were two types of videos I was making. There was music videos where I would cover like… the Ozzy Osbourne “Changes” song… “Nothing Compares 2 U.” So, I would cover songs like that and make videos with a lot of found footage from Youtube and illustrations and stuff. And then, the other videos were long rock’n roll movies about Elvis, like the Elvis and Me movie, or like Great Balls of Fire or 8 Mile. I would extract the audio from those and replace them with me and other people covering the soundtracks from those movies that those artists are popular and known for.
How did you come up with that idea?
LB: I had this theory that popular music was folk music because it’s like, the people’s music, so everybody knew it and everybody knows the words to popular music and how it’s sung and how it’s listened to and how it’s consumed. I sort of had this idea that we were just performing folk music.
Interesting… Tell me about coming up with the singing voice that you’re currently using. Because I think it’s… unique. I don’t know if that’s an insult to you…
LB: Well, I don’t have a lot of range. Like, I can’t be like, [imitating an operatic, high-pitched singing voice] “Aaah!” I’m like, kinda tone deaf. I have trouble harmonizing with people. And it came from doing those videos where I would sing in this soft, bedroom voice.
And it sorta grew up, like, it matured into an adult woman’s raspy, weird, getting-it-done voice. You know, like, there’s still songs that I wanna sing or ways that I wanna sing them, but I can’t, you know, like, do it… in that way. In a way that might seem less unique, like a pleasant female singing voice. I guess [it’s] sort of a voice that just… happened, like a voice of acceptance, like I just accepted my boundaries, my talent, my lack of talent, whatever, and that’s… what came from that.
Do you think going electric gave you more confidence in your singing voice? How’s that been?
LB: So-o-o, so much. Yeah… The weird thing is that, when you’re singing with an acoustic guitar… People can hear you. You know what I mean? You don’t have to go hard, like, you’re audible. But I think I just felt more comfortable sharing, in like a giant bed with a bunch of friends than I do like, alone on the road… It’s like this weird thing where I feel more comfortable that way. I think a little bit of it’s avoidance, like, being scared. It’s easier to scream in a forest where not a lot of people hear you than, you know, right in front of someone’s face. It’s strange.
I’m gonna start talking about the album. Can you tell me, in general, what kind of themes you were trying to explore with this one, if you think it’s a departure from your last few albums or a continuation of them?
LB: I think it’s like… a maturing of them. That grammar sucks. [laughs] The Arm Wrestling Tournament was mostly obsessive love songs and me realizing that I can do this and realizing that I have this weird voice, meaning, both what I write and how I sing.
And then, Shit Bug… There are still some love songs on there, but I was starting to use memory a lot and realize, you know, stuff what’s happened before in the past super-affects what’s going on now. And again, I was realizing I can play music, that it’s cool to have a band, that I don’t need to do this myself…
And then, Trench Foot… I feel the most confident with my voice, than I ever have, with Trench Foot. I feel the most confident with my writing. I feel the most confident with my performance. And I think it’s just… going through those past experiences of making records and writing music and realizing, like, this works, this doesn’t work, this doesn’t really work but I still need to do it… It’s sort of an acceptance of things and a polishing of things.
Tell me what inspires you in the natural world… because that seems to play such a big part in your music…. So much of it has this “earth-y” quality….
LB: Definitely with Shit Bug… I moved to New Orleans and immediately started writing that record… Urban landscapes are predictable…. But I think there’s this mysterious quality to nature or places where there’s few people. Because that allows time for reflection and allows for these weird meditative experiences that you won’t have if you’re sitting on a sidewalk….
And how has New Orleans itself been a part [of your writing process]?
LB: There’s more space here. Like, I’m able to just spend time playing music, spend time writing, spend time staring at the water, spend time staring at things I may not have been able to stare at…. Things I may not have been able to chill with in other cities I’ve lived in. It’s definitely kind of a weird place, a place unlike a lot of environments I’ve been in…. The weather, the things that live here, are weird or unusual…. There’s just this weirdness to it that I really appreciate.
What types of real life experiences are you drawing from for your songwriting?
LB: It’s pretty real. I use metaphors to… describe smaller situations that ended up being kind of large in my mind. Like, the song “Pit Fight” is about watching a dog get abused and not being able to do anything about it because you’re a little kid, and like… that happened to me. But like, take “Bowling” for example, I’ve never actually drowned myself with cinder blocks…. Obviously, like, I’m talking to you right now. I’ve drowned myself in other ways. I’ve screwed myself over in other ways….
”Pansy From The Hills”… I haven’t killed my family off or anything, but… a lot of them are, like, fantasies or how I think I might exist in an alternate universe…. Some of them are pretty real. These things would’ve happened, based on the real events that did occur to me, or ways that I felt victimized, or ways that I couldn’t handle a situation, or ways that I ran away from a situation. On this record, I’m like, I actually came back to it and handled it.
Tell me about the use of self-deprecation in your music and its function in these songs.
You know, I’m not really aware of its function. People that are close to me tell me not to be so self-deprecating. I’ve heard before that when I talk about my music, I’m too self-deprecating and that I need to be more proud. I know I’m naturally a pretty self-deprecating person. I’m just learning after three records how to self promote. Like, “Oh, I should post this story on Instagram of a good review I got.”
I think I’m generally… I kind of live with a lot of regret, and I’m not psyched about where I ended up. Like, I’m happy about it, and I feel proud sometimes, like I’m not doing so bad, but then, at the same time.… I think it’s maybe growing up as a millennial where your parents are like, “Yeah, you can do anything. Get out there, and be president.” You know what I mean?
Listening to the record… especially on “Metal Arms,” [you sing]about having “No land and no home and nothing but my debt,”… What struggles have [influenced]your music?
LB: In some sense, I guess that’s, like, my folk song or my queer banger. And again, I think it’s an issue of growing up a millennial, where, like, I put myself in a bunch of debt thinking that I wouldn’t have to work weird, hourly jobs to, like… eat sometimes. But I did, and I do, and I have nothing to show for it. I think it’s about privilege. Not fully about privilege because like… I didn’t lack privilege growing up… Like, things are fine… It’s just… [I thought] things would be better, and they weren’t. And you know, like, what do I have to show for it? Nothing. I’m, like, massively in debt because I thought I should go to college.
LB: [sarcastically] Cool! Great! [pause]And, I mean, the part about letting people have my body, that’s just… existing as a female-presenting person in this world. Because you have really have no control over yourself, or you have no control over others, when you exist in that form.
(Note: This interview is abridged, edited down from a longer conversation.)