Christina Schneider resists definition, while remaining unashamedly human. During the past decade, Schneider has taken on a handful of monikers—exploring her personal voice and creative vision but still maintaining the same underlying openness that continuously flows throughout her work. Schneider was CE Schneider Topical, Jepeto Solutions, and Christina Schneider’s Genius Grant all before she arrived at Locate S,1. Schneider propelled further into her world of brilliantly disruptive, unabashedly fringe-pop music. The world that set the stage for Personalia, her sophomore album as Locate S,1. Personalia was released April 3, 2020 via Captured Tracks. The album was produced by Schneider’s partner and regular collaborator, Kevin Barnes (of the rock band Montreal). If you were to listen to their respective artist projects before or after listening to Personalia you would easily detect how the two bounce off each other both musically and lyrically. In the face of a global crisis, Personalia screams of wild self-love and acceptance. It lifts you up and begs you to look oppressive forces in the face and say, “Fuck you, this is my life. I have meaning.” It’s refreshing and liberating with just the right amount of weird, and its arguably Schneider’s best work to date.
FRONTRUNNER met with Schneider to discuss her relationship with art and songwriting and how it has led her to evolve into the persona that is Locate S,1.
How old were you when you first started writing and playing music? What compelled you to continue playing?
I have always made up songs as far back as I can remember. My parents were both musicians so they were always supportive, taught me basic chords, pushed me to learn the hard Joni Mitchel songs and how to explore different tunings and sounds. When I started trying to really craft songs in high school, my dad would give me constructive criticism like “I see what you’re trying to do here, maybe you could say it in a more creative way.”
Where did you grow up and how do you think it affected your songwriting and relationship to music?
I grew up in Westchester, New York, in a very affluent community. We lived in a secluded area with a big forest and a little stream as our backyard that catered to my agoraphobic nature. I had a privileged upbringing, but I also had some early trauma that overwhelmed me and put a lot of distance between myself and others, so I spent lots of time alone listening to music and working on creative projects.
Who are some of your early musical influences?
Very early on, The Beatles, ABBA and Joni Mitchell were really important to me.
What role has music played throughout your life? How has it helped you feel more like yourself and more control? In what ways has it grounded you?
Listening to “S.O.S.” by ABBA during a very difficult point in my childhood, I felt like they were singing directly to me and they were going to save my life. I think they actually kind of did. I have always turned to music when there’s nothing else and it’s always there, so I think it must just be part of what I am. I’ve also come to appreciate how it allows me to be close to other people, like the members of my band or other musicians and friends who inspire me, because I have a really hard time connecting with people otherwise. More recently, coming into my own as a bandleader has helped me develop the confidence I used to lack. I used to be a push-over, but being in charge of a band forces you to be good at being bossy.
How would you define your sound? Has that changed over the years?
I would define my sound as resisting definition. I have a tendency to use lots of chords and a determination to find the strangest ones and make them sound like pop music.
Even though you’ve taken on a number of musical aliases throughout your artistic career, there are certain things about your work and the way you do it that remain the same. Your music is always honest, and it connects with people regardless of the genre or persona you may be inhabiting. How intentional do you think that is?
It is my opinion that a lot of musicians today write for an audience that they assume is musically illiterate and/or has no emotional depth. I like to treat my listeners with a little respect and give them something they can actually work with. When I listened to Joni Mitchell’s lyrics and chords as a struggling young person, there was an emotional richness there that I could apply to my own life. I could take those songs and make them mine, and that’s a real gift. Joni isn’t greedy with her insights and that’s what makes her such a great poet. I always wanted to be a great poet like Joni, so I try to give everything I have and that is intentional.
I was reading your recent interview with When The Horn Blows and you were talking about the message behind the video for “Personalia”. You mentioned that even though it’s nice to have a degree of industry support, it still makes you feel uncomfortable to start looking at your work and yourself as a product. At what point did you start struggling with that feeling? How do you grapple with that?
I’m realizing this is more a problem I have with myself than with anyone else. I have a fear that I will produce something that is not from the heart because the stakes have changed and now I’m in a “market” rather than just in my bedroom. I have a fear of putting music out into the world that is soulless just to sell something. I also worry that the structure of being an artist on a label with a certain number of albums you have to make, and the expectations that generates, will stifle me as an artist and turn me into a charlatan. I think I grapple with those very healthy fears by intentionally stoking them and writing music in the face of them.
What are some of the moods and themes you’ve been tackling in your recent work—specifically in the three tracks you’ve released this year?
On this album, I’m interested in self-empowerment, self-love, and creating meaning in our own lives in the face of patriarchy and capitalism, which tells us that we are all worthless and everything is meaningless.
How are “Personalia,” “Whisper 2000,” and “Even The Good Boys Are Bad?” and your upcoming album as a whole different from Healing Contest?
I think Healing Contest was Carpenter and Personalia is Hitchcock.
How have you been coping with the COVID-19 crisis?
By listening to the rain and feeling historical.
How do you feel about releasing a new project during the time of Corona? Are you anticipating certain things for this release that may have been different if everything wasn’t going down the way it has been during this global crisis?
It definitely doesn’t feel great to be selling anything when so many people are struggling just to survive. It will be a challenge to promote a new album without any tour dates, but it’s exciting to see artists and venues getting creative with live-streaming performances and I’m always happy to try new things. I hope for and anticipate a cultural shift in how we value music and its makers now that people are more aware of how difficult is for most musicians to survive.
I haven’t personally seen any music streaming bump, but the average artist doesn’t make much money from streams anyway. I think the best thing people could do to support artists would be to vote for socialism.