Rain Phoenix, the singer and songwriter behind papercranes—an LA-based music collective with an ever-evolving roster of collaborators (including sisters Summer and Liberty)—grew up, she says, learning the ropes performing “uplifting songs” on street-corners with her famously non-conformist family to make ends meet. Inspired by these humble beginnings, Phoenix has continued to perform and compose music, this week releasing her second full-length album, “Let’s Make Babies in the Woods” (cover below), out now on Manimal Vinyl. The very lovely Rain Phoenix, while celebrating the launch of her new album from her home in Laurel Canyon, shares her thoughts on collaboration, charity, family and creativity with W.
Socially and environmentally… It’s about the people I’m around or have heard perform, or people I meet. papercranes is an ongoing writing/studio/live project with various musicians and friends taking part including Michael Perfitt, Flea, my sisters Summer and Liberty Phoenix, Michael Tubbs, Robb Buono, Myles Matheny, Andy Lord, Michael Amish, Dave Lebleu, Norm Block, Kirk Hellie… It has had many incarnations in terms of “the band”; each has been as important as the other because of the learning experience and what each person brings.
Tell us about papercranes’ second album, “Let’s Make Babies in the Woods.” “Let’s Make Babies in the Woods” has a raw, organic feel. I wanted this album to be more experimental than my previous record “Vidalia”, which was delicate and clean. A lot of the writing for this one was “on the spot” for the musicians and myself. We often did only one take tracking, sometimes sacrificing performance for vibe. I wanted to push myself out of my usual comfort zone. Choices that in the past would have seemed too gritty or naked, I embraced. We wrote the record as we were recording it.
It’s such an organic way to go about creating your own band. Have you been performing live? I love performing live! Something wonderful happens between the band and the audience energetically that is indescribable. I’ve been performing songs from the new album quite a lot in LA, and the audience response has been great.
What are the songs you write generally about? This record is pretty dark; I noticed that afterwards. I’d gone through a divorce before writing and recording it so that makes sense. As divorces go, it was very pleasant and we’re still very close friends, but we’d been together for 13 years and when you’ve shared so many years with someone it’s difficult to let go. When you’ve lived with someone for that many years, you experience an intense loss—and a lot of my record was about that. It wasn’t about divorce or pain, it was really written in the spirit of letting go. Being sad, being angry, being honest and being me. Finding myself, letting go of being a couple and accepting being on my own. It was very cathartic, I was opening up who I was and just letting go—that’s the only way I can put it.
You’re involved in a number of charitable organizations including Gift Horse Project. Gift Horse Project, which I co-founded with photographer/artist/designer AJ. Mason, is a non-profit rotating artist collective that puts on concerts and gallery shows to raise awareness and funds for artist-driven charities. The rotating aspect allows for a wide variety of talent to be showcased. Joining us on performances have been Joe Sumner, Chris Stills, Flea, Ane Diaz, Angela McCluskey, Luke Rathborn, Royston Langdon, Emily Kokal, Cameron McGill, Antony Langdon and many more. I really enjoy working with fellow musicians and songwriters and knowing our efforts are benefiting artists in need. So far we’ve given funds to, and/or raised awareness for BRAND AID Haiti, Silverlake Conservatory of Music, LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division) and Art of Elysium’s “Elysium Sessions”. Flea has been a good friend of mine for some time, and when GHP played in support of his music school, Silverlake Conservatory of Music, he was our special musical guest.
Can you tell me about your involvement with the amazing Citizen’s Band with filmmaker Sarah Sophie Flicker and model Karen Elson? It’s been six or seven years since Citizen’s Band was started. I’ve been involved since the beginning; our first show was in a warehouse in Brooklyn. In the beginning it wasn’t a completely realized idea but still had all the elements that is the Citizens Band: political cabaret and topical commentary. It gets an important message across through musical entertainment, song and dance rather than a terrifying shove-it-down-people’s-throats kind of way. We’ve covered healthcare reform issues, the environment and gasoline crisis, displaced people… Citizens Band is a charitable enterprise because we are working off the topics of now and singing the questions we all have about the government, or environment or international wars and disputes, anything that we feel is kind of messed up right now. Our most recent show in New York benefited The Blue Key Campaign, an important campaign set up to assist refugees.
There are over 30 very-diverse members of Citizens Band— Yes so many people. Sarah Sophie Flicker is our tireless leader. Sarah and Jorjee Douglas came up with the original idea and brought their friends and other performers together, including myself and Karen Elson, and that was the beginning. It was very organic and effortless, one of those things that was just meant to be. And now The Citizens Band is such a wild production with amazing hair and costumes and sets and make-up. It’s evolved so perfectly.
Do you feel that within the creative community people are more inclined to share their ideas in recent years – to collaborate rather than compete? I do. I think for our generation it’s in our collective unconscious to collaborate and share. Maybe it has something to do with the Internet. I like to think of the Internet as our modern day campfire. We all sit in front of our glowing computer screens sharing stories, photos, work and experiences. The challenge is to manifest this “campfire” idea in what we do collectively in the world.