Julia Massey Talks New Band Warren Dunes, Shares "Come Find Me" (KEXP Premiere)

Local Music, KEXP Premiere
05/02/2018
Jake Uitti

Seattle’s Julia Massey has always made music that’s warm and loving, kind and patient, welcoming and enlightening. It’s why some close to her even call her the Emerald City’s Mr. Rogers. Whether she’s wearing a feather mask during a KEXP in-studio or making what she calls “kids music for adults,” Massey and her band mates have treated their audiences to songs that are good for the spirit, no matter your age.

And today, we are happy to premiere the latest from Massey and her band, Warren Dunes. The group – comprised of Massey, husband Jared Cortese and his brother Dominic Cortese – will celebrate the release of the new song, “Come Find Me,” May 4th with a show at Barboza. It’s an epic echo of an entreatment. It asks you to seek, to both find and be found. And you can listen to it below while also reading an exclusive interview with Massey about the track’s origin, how her young son influences her work and how she’s grown over the past year.

 

KEXP: As Julia Massey and the Five Finger Discount, you wrote what you often called, “kids music for adults.” What does it feel like you’re making now with Warren Dunes?

Julia Massey: For me, Warren Dunes feels like coping and processing music for the modern era.

What do you get musically from the band that made you willing to let the Five Finger Discount go?

The thing I’m getting out of this band is the challenge in the writing process - because we co-write songs with total honesty. Now that I’m in a band with just my family, by having that unconditional love and foundation, I’m not afraid to push back and be pushed back upon with regard to the songs. It really feels like for the first time that I’m in a band setting where we are really serving the songs as opposed to each other, which took a long fucking time but now I’m really doing it.

How does your son influence the music?

Carl, he has a playlist. And he’s the DJ of his playlist. We have decided to give him full reign on how he curates his playlist. For example, I was reading Captain Underpants to him the other night and there’s a joke in there about how bad the song, “I Got You Babe,” by Sonny and Cher is. And he heard me sing it and he liked the melody of it and the next morning, he said, “Can you put ‘I Got You Babe’ on my playlist?” So, I’ve been listening to “I Got You Babe” for the past two days and I’m beginning to pick up really cool elements of the song - like, maybe I should use that in a Warren Dunes song. So, everything he plays ultimately influences the band.

In the two iterations of The Five Finger Discount, you featured bass players as the third members. Now, you play with a guitar player, Jared. What does this change in your sound?

Having a world-class musician like [former bass player] Geoff and like [former bass player] Matt and now Jared, the benefits are obvious. Now that it’s changed from bass to guitar - I used to have autonomy over that middle octave range. Now Jared takes over that section, which has allowed me to express my own love of the bass low-ends. And it’s caused us both to be very picky about that middle range. All of these have been difficult changes, but they really benefit the sound.

The three Warren Dunes releases so far have been titled “War Cry,” “Running For Cover” and now “Come Find Me.” There seems to be a progression from tragedy to escape to ready to be seen again. Any thoughts on this?

Wow! You’re right! What comes to mind is that it feels a bit like the stages of grief we learn about in psychology and therapy. That is thematic in all my music and lyrics but I think this time it’s not cloaked in a kid-friendly way.

The idea within “Come Find Me” is that it’s both a welcoming and a loving-but-stern holding your loved ones accountable. Why did you want to express this idea?

The challenge and welcome in the helper-and-helpee dynamic is kind of the point of this song. It stems from a conversation I had with my friend and collaborator, Chris Blount, out of Tacoma. In the wake of the election, I had a conversation with him on the way to an in-studio with KEXP. I asked him what can we, as white folks, do? His perspective as a person of color was of importance to me. He essentially said, “You know how we’re friends? Go and do that with other people who don’t look like you.” It’s such a simple thing to say, in a way, but it inspired the lyrics. There’s this feeling that we’re all going through right now, so let’s try to find each other in this mess. But we have to reach out and do it and also be willing to accept it.

Since the song is called “Come Find Me,” I want to ask the question: who are you? Like, how have you seen yourself change over the past year? Especially in terms of your, well, relationship to relationships?

I don’t know if I’ll ever know in this lifetime the real truth, but here’s what comes to mind with that question - I studied anthropology in undergrad and I remember learning the concept of the Mitochondrial Eve. How we can all be traced back to one woman. DNA sequencing can just about prove that all human DNA can be traced back to one woman hundreds of thousands of years ago in Africa. And I think about that when I look at people on the street. There’s differences between us, but we’re all also siblings from an ancient common ancestor.

But amidst that hippy-dippy togetherness feeling, there’s also one thing I have really embraced in the last couple years. And that’s that we don’t have to be chummy with one another if things aren’t working out in a friendship. Sometimes respectfully parting ways is the path to real peace. Having that balance of realizing we are all on this planet together but we don’t always have to be around one another, especially if there isn’t chemistry, is alright. It feels like a true way forward.

What kind of community do you hope your son grows up into if he chooses to be an artist?

That question reminds me of when I was in high school. I was in a few sports in school; I’d done that path and had buddies on the teams. And then I tried out for the musical; by inserting myself into that community, I found a different level of love and encouragement for being yourself. It wasn’t without its dramas, no community is. But it felt like there were fewer repercussions for expressing yourself. That’s what I experience in the music community here and that’s what I hope flourishes. So when Carl comes of age, I hope there is a community where he feels like he can challenge himself and where he feels supported.

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