During the first few weeks of my freshman year at a Mennonite high school, the Twin Towers fell. As a politically unaware adolescent, making sense of what unfolded that day and our nation's resulting decisions was difficult. Thankfully, I had the privilege of unpacking the complicated history that led to these events within a pacifist space. My teachers assigned essays by activists and academics from both sides of the political divide. They dedicated class time to teaching us how to discern the difference between propaganda and discourse. They encouraged us to challenge the concept that our worldview was universal. They taught us that it was OK to examine our failures, not only as a nation but as individuals as well.
For Channy Leaneagh, the lead vocalist of the synth-pop outfit Poliça, considering such shortcomings is essential for growth and progress. In her songwriting, Leaneagh taps into her folk roots in order to address the many ironies of American identity. On United Crushers, tracks like "Wedding" (an irresistibly rhythmic protest song against police brutality) and "Lately" (a love ballad that isn't afraid to examine the fragility of romance), Leaneagh reflects on the complexities of our limitations as individuals and as a nation while celebrating the lessons that can be learned from our failures. Whether it be on "Lime Habit" or "Lose You," Leaneagh challenges listeners to consider the impact of the stories that we tell ourselves about who we [are] while managing not to sacrifice melody or memorable hooks. A few weeks before the album's release, I spoke with Leaneagh about the importance of honesty in artistry and the way that the intersection between the personal and the political has influenced her songwriting.
Dianca Potts: You experienced a few monumental life changes while working on this LP: you got married and became a mother. How did those changes — and the new roles that came along with them — impact your identity as an artist?
Channy Leaneagh: I was pregnant during the whole writing and recording of the record, so I think for women, when you start feeling the baby inside [you], you start looking outside of yourself more. You start thinking about the world through the eyes of the person that you're bringing into it, and that played a part in wanting to write a record where I started each song as a story about someone besides myself.
DP: On your prior LPs, you wrote a lot about endings and breakups. After hearing songs like "Lose You" and "Lately," its seems like you've reversed your approach on that theme, that you've embraced being more earnest and direct when it comes to sharing your emotions with those closest to you. What led to the switch in perspective?
CL: I think that [this time] I'm writing a record about breaking up with myself, with old habits and old ways. In these songs, I'm discussing with myself about how I want to live my life, about how I want to do love this time and how I want to be better at things and make the world better.
DP: Thematically, love has always been central for you as a songwriter. How is your approach toward love on tracks like "Kind" and "Lately" different than the way that you've written about love in the past?
CL: In the song "Lately," it's the idea of remaking love and marriage into something that works for you, and rewriting old ideas and making them your own, like having a child. I [had] a lot of anxiety about bringing a kid into the world that we live in today, but also there's an argument for raising your kids to help make the world better. Those ironies are constant.