Pascal Stevenson has shared the second single off her debut album as Fashion Club. Driving rhythm and bent synths propel “Pantomime” towards its piercing hook, bridging the gap between disarming experimentalism and pop pleasure. “This is the first song I wrote for this record” says Stevenson, “It’s about different kinds of social performance, and how we weigh our needs against others. A lot of people advocate for marginalized groups in their public lives but then don’t make any effort to look inward and address their own harmful behavior in their private lives.” Pulling inspiration from influences as diverse as Kate Bush, Brian Eno, and Wire, Scrutiny (out 6/17 via Felte Records) is a tour de force of dreamlike art-rock.
Throughout Scrutiny, Stevenson reflects on the ways that people tend to fortify hegemony while posing as if they are dismantling it – especially in social media spaces, which prioritize image-making over constructive change and genuine connection. “In arts communities, and in culture more broadly, you’re confronted with a lot of people who are performing morality surrounding social issues instead of actually caring,” she says. “To be somebody that’s Black in a predominantly white industry like indie rock, you realize how what people project about who they are and how they treat other people is so at odds with how they actually feel.”
While concocting Scrutiny‘s dreamlike art-rock palette, Stevenson drew inspiration from artists working during the incipient decades of the synthesizer’s lifetime, like Kate Bush, Brian Eno, and Wire’s Colin Newman – musicians whose work bridges the gap between disarming experimentalism and pop pleasure. The album similarly channels the influence of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’s tactile, material production on Janet Jackson’s late ‘80s albums Control and Rhythm Nation 1814, records that exploded the potential of digital music-making and entwined the sounds of new technology with the currents of the body.
Scrutiny marks the first time Stevenson has assumed the lead role in a musical project, and reflects her coming into her own as a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. “I’ve been making music since I was 14, and I’ve never been the front person in a band until this one,” she says. “Trying to take myself out of that behind-the-scenes role was uncomfortable at first. You have to imagine yourself completely differently. To make that shift in your mind is hard. Especially if you have built something up in your mind about how the person that fronts a band has to be perceived. It felt really good and freeing to be in control, because I trusted myself. When you get to a certain level of confidence, you can be more free.”
Photo Courtesy: Tonje Thilesen