Sound & Vision: DJ Abbie on Why This is the Moment for Fiona Apple's Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Sound and Vision
Emily Fox

Fiona Apple’s first album in eight years, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, tells raw stories of women being silenced or abused by men. Apple addresses the Me Too movement, Harvey Weinstein, and Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, as well as her own story and the stories around her.  Apple’s label wanted to release the album in October due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Apple pushed for an earlier release date for self-isolating listeners. One of those self-isolating listeners was KEXP’s DJ Abbie, who stayed up late the Thursday before the album’s release to hear it at midnight. Sound & Vision host Emily Fox spoke with DJ Abbie about the themes of Fetch the Bolt Cutters and some of her favorite tracks.

You can listen to this interview and the entire Sound & Vision show in the KEXP archive.

What was your reaction when you first heard this record?

DJ Abbie: I was sitting up late waiting for it to come out and right when the first song kicked off, I knew it was a different record. And it just really blew me away because Fiona Apple's honesty is just very empowering but also it just kind of cracks away all the feels that you weren't expecting. And I just really loved what she did to really push her voice. Also, with all the percussion, Fetch the Bolt Cutters was like, "Hi, here's the new Fiona. I'm not holding back."

Was there a line or lyric that stuck out to you in this first track?

Oh, yeah, right away: "I know a sound is still sound around no one." I remember stopping and going back to that. And I'm like, oh, yep [laughing]. Because sometimes I feel like everyone has this universal experience of trying to say something or to bring something up to someone, or even themselves, but even just stating a thought is still valid, even though it feels like no one is listening.

It was just such a great opener that it was like, hey, listen, I've been silenced and I'm here to say something. And that opening track really showcased that. So, I was following you on Twitter last week. And I know on Thursday, right before the album was released, I saw a tweet from you saying, "I can't wait to discuss this with my therapist tomorrow [laughs]." And then the next day, you, like, discussed it with a therapist, we came to this conclusion. Can you talk about why you're excited to talk about this with your therapist and the conversation you then had with your therapist about this record?

I mean, I was up late that night because I was waiting for the album to drop and it just kind of unlocked all these things that I know that I've been thinking about, especially with my therapist, in isolation, quarantine, it just brought up the nooks and crannies that you're struggling with. And one thing that I think a lot of us struggle with is feeling muted, especially women, with bringing up concerns all across the spectrum. And I just was like, oh my God, Fiona unlocks all of these things for us because she's straight up honest. When women, in particular, are honest — and I'll bring this up with “Under the Table” — sometimes when women are honest, they're punished for it.

When we talk about Fiona Apple’s honesty, I read so many articles with her, dating back to the late 90s, and so many people say she cannot not be honest. She's so honest in all her interviews or when she talks to journalists, it's like she becomes friends with them, she confides in them. And I feel like, when you hit like a certain level of celebrity, you have to cut yourself off a little bit or filter yourself. And she is so not that person. So, you had mentioned the song “Under the Table.” Let's talk about this a little bit because there's this line that stands out that says: “Kick me under the table all you want. I won't shut up.” Talk about your reaction to this track.

Oh, I love it because I was reading somewhere, she was like, I was at an uncomfortable dinner party. And, you know, it could be one of those dinner parties where you're not supposed to tell people that you don't agree with them. And I love this because it was like, you should be able to disagree with someone and tell them that despite their reaction. And I just love that. It was just what Fiona does, she validates and encourages honesty with everyone, no matter who you are. And I just like that she is defiant in this. And she's like, no, I still won't shut up.

Yeah, that's right. I'm at this dinner party. I don't want to be here. I'm going to call you out fancy man that made me go to this fancy dinner. And I'm going to say it. And you can kick me under the table and that is okay. So, there's another track that I want to talk to you about, and that is the track “Newspaper.” And it seems to be about Fiona feeling close to another woman because they have the shared past with an abusive man. Tell me what you got out of this song.

Oh, yeah. You know, just reading stories every day, like in the newspaper or online, just with all the cases and stuff that are breaking out – with the Me Too movement or the Weinstein cases – and then just being like, wow, these women are so brave, but also they should be able to do this. And I think with this song, it's, in a way, seeing them validating that. And wishing that you could help in some way, because I think there is this line. I wonder what he did so that we couldn't be friends, you know, like what he did to separate it so that other women didn't know what he was doing. And it just crushes you.

I was also reading that Fiona Apple, while she was making this album, was watching the case against Justice Kavanaugh.

Oh yes.

When he was accused of abuse, when he was in the running, or getting closer to becoming, a Supreme Court justice. And she was watching that case super closely. And I think that had a huge influence on this album. But also, a big theme on this album is this idea of like, yes, women are abused. But even if we're abused by the same man, sometimes men pit us against each other as women. And for her to be like, no, we need to band together. If we are abused by the same person or we've been in the same relationship with this man, don't let this man get in the middle of us. We should band together as women. I thought that was a really, really powerful statement for her to make. The last track that I want to talk to you about, I feel like was the most powerful. I went for a run and I just kind of listened to the whole record as it was and was taking notes along the way. And then we got to this track and it's called "For Her." And I wrote in my little notepad just uppercase “FOR HER!!!” There's just so much going on in this song. But I want you to explain a little bit more like what is happening in this track.

Yeah. Oh, if I had to listen to that track repeatedly just to kind of ... It was hard for me to listen to at first. I just love how it kicks off, just like painting the picture of the whole situation. And the line that she says, "was she lost?" That line just killed me because it was bringing up all these things that kind of were brought up in “Newspaper,” like these Weinstein cases that you just watch in the news and just how women are treated like less than a guest and treated with this weakness. And she brings up her own experience in this, as well, and combines it with the Hollywood creeps that are being portrayed more recently in the news like Harvey Weinstein. And it could have been one of those situations where like because, you know, she was in this situation or this relationship that is going on, they don't consider it rape. Oh, it was just very hard for me to process it because it's just so messed up.

Sonically, it's such a powerful song. And then for the lyrics to be so strong, I think this song was inspired by someone she had met who was an intern in Hollywood. And this woman had this mentor who was higher up. And I think at the end of the day, this woman realized she was raped. But it took her a while to realize that was the case. And Fiona Apple has been very, very vocal her whole life about the fact that she was raped when she was 12 by a stranger. And so, you hear what we hear in the Me Too movement, Hollywood, Weinstein, you hear Fiona Apple's case and you hear it all come together so strongly in this in this track. But, any other big takeaways you got from this record before we wrap up?

DJ Abbie: Yeah, I felt like, especially in this moment of quarantine where we're all kind of stuck in our thoughts and dealing with our own inner struggles, I felt like this is like, okay everyone, you're ready now. Here you go. Let's process this stuff while we have the time. And I think she's really just calling out to women and people who have struggled with feeling muted and not being able to process these things because society has said you're not allowed. That's not valid. She's really validated us with all of this.

KEXP's Sound & Vision airs every Saturday morning from 7-9 AM PT, featuring interviews, artistry, commentary, insight, and conversation to that tell broader stories through music, and illustrate why music and art matter. You can also hear more stories in the new Sound & Vision Podcast. New episodes are out every week. Subscribe now.

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