No Longer A Loner, A Frenetic Caroline Rose Finds Her Synth-Pop Sound

Caroline Rose once spent a lot of time alone, in a van, crisscrossing the country. That’s largely over now.

“I think that was really me exiting an older part of my life,” Rose says. “I'm forced out of it now. I can't even imagine a day where I can go off into the mountains alone with my thoughts.”

Rose’s first two albums, “America Religious” (2013, currently out of print) and “I Will Not Be Afraid” (from 2014), reflected that itinerant time, with textures borrowed from folk and country music: acoustic drums, twanging guitars, long string-tones and subtle slap-back echo.

“Loner,” the Long Island native’s new album, arrived in February, just as her life seemed to be getting more crowded. Her third LP turns its back on Americana (previously Rose’s sweet spot) toward frenetic, synth-heavy pop, without sacrificing seriousness.

Rose also leans heavily into other mediums: fashion, visual art, photography, and especially eye-popping music videos.

“If I could dance well, I would be just as much into the dancing as the visuals or the music,” she says. “You're creating the experience that people can see and take away from and try to understand better.”

Rose brings her band to Cafe Nine in New Haven on April 6. We talked to her while she was en route to South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, at the start of a long spring tour across the United States, with a couple stops in Canada.

Q: I understand there were a couple of steps in the recording process: You had recorded a bunch of material on your own and then you worked closely with [producer] Paul Butler?

A: Kind of, yeah. I was looking for a co-producer. There were some holes I wanted to fill, in terms of what I thought that I needed to learn before I produced anything on my own, and I ended up working with a handful of different producers until I found the right fit. It was basically just trial-and-error for a couple years.

I think when you have a big group of people that you're working with, it is a lot more difficult to put things out with the whole team behind it. There’s just too many cooks in the kitchen. At a certain point, I was just like, “OK, I need to take control of this. It needs to be the right person and this needs to have some serious direction.” I have to shut everyone out of the studio for a handful of months until the finished product is ready to go. That’s what ended up happening, because it was just too chaotic.

Q: There were too many people involved in the early stages, and you didn’t like that?

A: I don’t know any artist who likes that. When you’re trying to get something done, it’s just difficult. I don’t like talking about this, because it’s really boring to people. So I don’t talk about that side of it, like why I like working with certain producers. I do find it somewhat boring.

[“Loner”] just feels like a complete body of work that it took years to make, to say everything I wanted to say how I wanted to say it. I think it really reflects me as a person. Now I feel like I can go into the next record with complete confidence, that I can produce the whole thing myself and really give it a direction that it needs.

Q: What’s more exciting to talk about, the visual element?

A: Creativity comes in a lot of different forms, and for me, using my brain creatively in any way is really exciting. Obviously, first and foremost, I’m a musician and a writer and producer. That’s the foundation of my creativity. That’s where it lies. But the whole experience is the other side of the coin. The two sides together make a really interactive experience. I love that. I love experiencing that with other bands and other artists. I think there are some serious geniuses out there who create some incredible visuals.

I also think the visuals are important in bringing out things that you don’t necessarily hear in the music upon first listen. I talk about this a lot, but I think satire is something that's difficult to translate in music. But if you have that in combination with the visuals, it really hits you over the head. It’s been difficult trying to explain without the visuals what I’m trying to achieve.

Q: Does the visual element — the potential for it, anyway — begin to seep into the songwriting process? Can you see how the music will be presented visually while you’re writing it?

A: Yeah, I think that, even with this album, when I’m writing, I have a pretty narrative writing. I like that it’s pretty visual in a lot of cases. I like telling a story that you can then present in any way that you want to. For me, I’m kind of visualizing the songs as I’m writing them. That’s definitely something that I’m going to continue doing, to challenge myself to push the boundaries further in a lot of ways. It’s probably something that I'm going to continue attempting to get better at.

CAROLINE ROSE performs at Cafe Nine in New Haven on April 6, with Henry Jamison opening. Tickets are $10.

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