Synaesthesia Magazine Americana - Page 9

C h r i s P u r e k a

We meet...

Carlotta Eden talks to the American singersongwriter, musician, biologist, poet, traveller.

“Songwriting just gets harder and harder. It’s easy to do the same thing over and over,” Chris leans forward, taps her knuckles on the wooden table we’re sitting at. “I guess every song and every lyric has a different process.”

I meet Chris on the edge of a council estate, opposite an abandoned building, outside a dingy graffitied pub in Brixton. It’s not how I would have imagined meeting the American singersongwriter; I pictured a dive bar off a long highway, the bar a chorus of syrupy drawls and a broken, blinking neon light swinging loosely outside.

But that’s the stuff of fantasies, right? It’s the kind of America that’s got me hooked, listening to dirty banjos and creamy vocals and reading Carver and Yates and Wolff.

Chris Pureka’s music stirs up those same fantasies. In her video for ‘Shipwreck’, she’s playing guitar in the attic of a wooden house, a whiskey bottle sits at her side, a dusty forest waves outside. How can I not fall for that side of America, when that quiet, romantic, postcard picture feels like a rocking lullaby? I’m nostalgic for something I’ve never had. It’s my American dream.

“I think it’s this idea of American individualism and freedom – just do what you want,” Chris says, when I ask her why she thinks Americana is so romanticised. “But there’s a lot of really sad country songs out there – there’s not always a happy ending. Towns Van Zandt’s songs are super depressing, and they also epitomise that style in a darker way. There’s romanticising, and then there’s a darker underbelly to the Americana style that also shines through.”

When Chris was younger she wanted to be in a band – a lot. She didn’t know why; no one else was a musician in her family. She wanted to hold a guitar and listen and play instruments with friends – bass, banjo, electric and acoustic guitar. When she was seven, she began to teach herself how to listen, write and play on a broken piano in her family’s basement. She’d steal her dad’s vinyls and tapes and listen to Simon and Garfunkel and The Beatles, Cat Stevens and Neil Diamond.

But her music isn’t rootsy. We talk about Gillian Welch and Van Zandt and growing up in Connecticut and Massachusetts – Chris always goes back to saying that, while everything she listens to and loves still shapes her music, she doesn’t write those narrative stories that you might find in more traditional folk music.