I am not one to talk about all my personal life BS publicly – but I’m about to release an album full of it, so I may as well be upfront about it.
So I’m going to briefly tell you what happened and then tell you about the songs on the album.
For the record, it was not my idea to write the album about all this stuff. It was Mike’s idea. He said if we were going to move through it we had to purge it (haha – SKS song reference) and as usual – he was right.
[Tectonic releases worldwide on May 4, 2018. The first single, Paper Doll, releases April 17, 2018. ]
Here’s What Happened
Very soon after Everlasting Fire came out in 2014 I got sick. I ignored it for a while like we all do figuring it would pass, but it didn’t. It was getting worse and impossible to ignore, so I finally went to the clinic. “Probably cancer” was the diagnosis. Biopsy. Not life-threatening, but life-altering. Would require major surgery.
My husband and I were already in a rough spot at that point. When I came home with the diagnosis he was done. He left soon after – packing up and leaving while I was away on tour. I came home to an empty house the day before our wedding anniversary like I was in a Lifetime Television for Women movie. We are very much divorced.
There was a mixup with my insurance signing up through Covered California. I had insurance but it didn’t show up in the Blue Cross system. They kept sending my money back. Lawyers got involved. It ended up delaying my ability to be treated for 9 months – during which I got weaker and weaker. My body couldn’t keep up with me anymore. I was so tired. The depression set in. In June of that year, I realized I was suicidal. Having had bouts of suicidal depression before, I told my therapist immediately. I didn’t know at that point that it would last for 7 months straight.
In July I thought I had really bad heartburn. It kept me up all night. My belly swelled up like I was pregnant the next day and I assumed it was associated with my ongoing health issues. Nope – my appendix needed to come out. I think I was in the hospital 3 nights? I’m not sure. Some parts of this story are a blur to me now.
I had been working as a resident manager for almost 5 years and suddenly I lost the job. For a ridiculous reason. It is the only job I have ever been fired from in my life. During the time I held the job the rents in San Francisco had quadrupled. As a full-time artist, I couldn’t even afford to rent a new place. When we left on our European tour in September 2015 I was homeless. And sick. And suicidal.
We got back from Europe in November of 2015. I contemplated ending Sit Kitty Sit altogether. Some friends allowed me to move into a space in their house until I got my ducks in a row. The insurance thing never got resolved but the lawyer helped me get on to another plan and I was finally able to go to the doctor. After all the tests, referrals, and other tests I was scheduled for surgery in February 2016. It wasn’t cancer. And they were able to fix the problem. It took about 4 months for my body to heal from surgery, and almost a full year after that before it got back to feeling like *my* body.
That same month (Feb) is when my depression changed from “suicidal” to “deep depression”. I was still struggling, but I didn’t want to die anymore. On good days there were actual sightings of hope. In May I would move down near Santa Cruz to a cute little spot in the mountains. I got a job online to help make ends meet until I could get back to full-time music. Somewhere in 2016, I got happy again – and then Mike started going through a bad patch of his own. Right after he finished walking me through every step of mine. He’s a saint. I remember saying to him “It’s okay – I’m better. I’ve got you.”
Here’s what the album and songs are about
We’d been trying to put an album out every two years and because I had been hiding under the bed for over a year and a half we were way behind. But when I looked into my heart to see what to write about all I heard was the wind blowing. Like I mentioned, it was Mike’s idea to lay it all out there. We both needed to blow off the last few years and turn it into something positive.
We brainstormed what came to mind looking over the scorch marks of the last few years. Rage. Fear. Despair. Quitting. More rage. Feeling helpless. Slowly discovering hope again. We created our own custom stages of grief.
I chose the name “Tectonic” because what I had been through changed me. What Mike went through changed him. It changed us on such a deep level that it slightly altered everything about us. I am the same person I was before but I am also different now. My tectonic plates have shifted.
Forgot To Burn – Rage and chaos. I went back to SKS roots with this proggy number. The push/pull tempo embodies the spinning in my head that was going on when everything in my life crumbled so quickly. The lyrics capture rage – screaming at the sky in frustration. Not understanding why this is all happening – or what lesson is supposed to be learned. The message cannot be heard. The B section finds some tongue-in-cheek humor in being forced to deal with idiots.
What Doesn’t Kill You – Rage at the Universe. For a long stretch, I felt like the Universe was doing everything in its power to emotionally destroy me. The chorus is a call and response to the crowd: “You think I’m better off dead?” But my human will to survive shows her stubborn streak in the last line: “What doesn’t kill you will leave you pissed as fuck / so take your best shot let’s see what you got”
Million Miles – Cocoon. The place my friends let me crash until I could afford to move out of SF was on the edge of the city with an amazing view. I felt like I was hiding away observing life from a distance. The song is about that little apartment and me contemplating my life while being there.
Paper Doll – Suicide. I created the music of this song to embody what it feels like to be walking around day in and day out wishing you were dead. The lyrics also touch on the subject in a more subjective way – because that’s how being suicidal felt to me. Everything was an act. Everything was just going through the motions: “Another visit to the chair / measurements recorded / the judgements written in the files for the young-at-hearted” refers to going to therapy and being on meds.
Skinned – Rock bottom. The music of this song was written by Mike Thompson. It’s his first hand at songwriting and he killed it. I wrote the lyrics and they describe the sensation of truly giving up. Giving up hope. Giving up everything you ever thought you loved or cared about. Not having enough energy to care anymore.
Burst – A glimmer of hope. Even at my worst (and probably due to years and years of therapy prior to this time in my life), I had two voices in my head. One telling me to quit and one telling me to keep going one tiny baby step at a time. To create this I wrote a piano part and recorded it at home, then I wrote the dark voice song, recorded that and walked away. I waited until I couldn’t even remember how the song went anymore then went back to the computer, muted that recording and wrote the light voice song over the same piano part and recorded that. Then I unmuted everything to see what I had. Two completely different songs over one piece of music. It was so accurate I started crying.
Sanctuary – Safety. When hope started showing up I grabbed it and started going out of my way to identify what made me feel safe and then actively started seeking those things out knowing feeling safe would help me heal. Probably no surprise to you to learn that what made me feel safe was music, our rehearsal studio, and Sit Kitty Sit.
Never Had a Chance – Cautious optimism. When I got far enough into the process that I could see that everything happens for a reason. When I could see what the good stuff was on the other side of the hill. When sometimes I would cry because I was happy, too.
Tectonic Shift – Fuck it. I had no intention of writing a title track to the album. The title of the album came months before this song. This little riff came out on the piano and the words: “It’s just a matter of time before the earth starts to shake me” – oh! I guess we have a title track. For a long time, the motto of Sit Kitty Sit has been, “Fuck it”. And that’s what this song is. My body is shot, I’m broke and homeless and abandoned – but fuck it – I’m going to keep on living anyway.
So there you have it. That’s all the behind the scenes stuff. I’m proud of this album. I’m more proud that I’m still alive. I would not have made it if it were not for, first and foremost, Mike Thompson (what in the world would I do without you?), my incredible therapist Bonita Palmer, and a very small and beautiful group of friends who were the only ones that knew what was going on with me during that time period and kept me afloat until I remembered how to swim.
Depression is real. Feeling suicidal is okay – just really try not to act on it. Tell someone. Anyone. Call a suicide help hotline. Needing help is okay. (If it was your friend who needed help you wouldn’t hesitate, right? Let them help you.)
Thank you to all of you who continued to support us through this lull between albums. We hope you think the end result was worth the wait. We love you all so much!