"Strawberry Margarita," co-directed by Josef Kraska and Lauren Gregory, finds Macy going all Nutty Professor II: The Klumps--or maybe JLo in "Get Right" to keep it in the pop realm--playing a bartender waiting for her shift to end and a quartet of trying customers who will stop at nothing to make each minute feel like an eternity. It's a vibrantly mundane fantasy that mixes green-screen graphics with painting and claymation, all of which feels appropriately dissociative for a video about making four made-to-order blended drinks back to back for four variations on the theme of nightmare customer.
The bubbly anaesthetic track, co-produced by Rodman and JX CANNON, comes from the Brooklyn artist's upcoming debut album, The Lake (Sweat Equity, June 20). I recently called up Macy to learn more about the IRL Strawberry Margarita girls who inspired the video. We also talked about the work that went into her first full-length LP and how it differs from her 2016 EP, Help.
Watch the OUT premiere of "Strawberry Margarita," below.
"Strawberry Margarita" totally reminded me of it. Was it a source of inspiration for you at all?
It wasn't, but oh my god you're so right! Main JLo is the DJ in her video, and Main Macy is the bartender in my video. Playing a lot of different characters in the same video is definitely a well-worn diva trope. Mariah did it in the "Heartbreaker" video. Britney's done it a few times.
What made you wanna play different characters?
Jo Jo [a.k.a., "Lazy Girl" director Josef Kraska] and I wanted to do another video together and we wanted to get Lauren Gregory involved to bring some kind of mixed media to it. The song is about being a disgruntled service employee dealing with stupid people. We based the setting on Happyfun Hideaway, the bar I work at. Not because it's full of stupid people! That was just, like, the closest reference for a bar that we had.
Did you draw on a lot of real-life run-ins with strawberry margarita girls?
Yeah, I mean every bartender has had that experience with someone asking for quote unquote "something fun" or "Surprise me!" To me, that was a good way to sum all of that up. "Strawberry margarita," you know?
Yeah, I totally flashed back to this cafe I used to work at that made blended drinks to order. That anxious bridge near the end where you're like "And she forgot to cut the liii-iiiime" is too real!
No, it's totally real. It's just such a thankless position a lot of the time. People come in and they're wasted and they're like "WOOOO!!" and I guess I just have to do whatever you say. In food service, really any area where you have to be professional, you always have to bite your tongue and go along with things because you have to survive. You have to work, especially in New York.
How does "Strawberry Margarita" fit into the overall sound of your album, The Lake?
"Strawberry Margarita" is on one end of the spectrum as far as the record sounds. It's so poppy and light and summery. The other end would be "She Will Be A Relic One Day," which sounds like nu metal. The record just goes all over the place. The title track is this wompy, scary-sounding, industrial folktale track. There are songs that are a little more resigned and introspective. Then there's this track I did with [Mister] Wallace that's very sexy and energetic, very sex demon channeling Janet Jackson. It's called "Grunt." Wallace and I had been wanting to do a track together for a long time. When I was putting the album together, I had this beat that Jim [AKA producer JX CANNON] had collaborated on a really long time ago. I found it. Showed it to Wallace. They loved it, so we got together and banged it out.
You and Jim co-produced most of the songs on your last EP. How does production break down on The Lake?
Help was more of a straight collaboration between us. I wrote all the songs, but we both produced them. A couple of them he did pretty much by himself. I produced a couple of them pretty much by myself. We did an equal amount of work, and Andrew Nerviano mixed and mastered it. The Lake is mostly all my production. Jim worked on "Grunt," the song with Wallace, and "Strawberry Margarita." He's such a great producer. He can do pretty much anything. But I wanted to find my sound and get to a more personal place in my songwriting, where the songs felt like the lyrics and the production were speaking to each other in a singular way.
What's your songwriting process like?
My process is very DIY. I like to record by myself, doing the track over and over and over and over to explore where it can go. I use a program called Reason and another called REAPER that's like an open-source GarageBand. I work with a lot of samples and manipulate drum sounds and stuff. It's all pretty intuitive. I didn't go to school for music or anything. I was never the best student in music classes. I always had a hard time reading sheet music. I would just jam with my sister when I was younger. That was my introduction to music. When I was 19, my friend showed me how to use GarageBand, and that got me started wrapping my mind around song structures and stuff.
How did the recording process for The Lake compare to the recording process for Help?
Help was very much my attempt to see what a trans pop star would sound like. I was exploring a lot of these musical styles from the pop songs I remember hearing on the radio when I was growing up and doing a lot of vocal manipulation. I was trying to assert a certain pop star-like quality with my vocal. On this one, I'm embracing the fact that I can go really deep with my voice and get really raspy. I'm really trying to show the character of my voice instead of fighting it.
Where did the title for the album come from?
The Lake is a reference to a place I remember from growing up in Juneau, Alaska, called Twin Lakes. A lot of the imagery I use on the album comes from that part of my life. The title track describes a really scary scene from the point of view of a kid who imagines that a witch is gonna drag them into a lake and eat them. It's very Bloody Mary, going to very dark and paranoid places with my imagination in a really childlike way.
Were you that masochistically imaginative kid who always thought the bogeyman was hiding under your bed and stuff?
Yeah, totally. I had a super-active imagination and would come up with backstories for every noise I heard. Once, I was sleeping on the floor of my parents' room on Christmas Eve. My grandma was staying at our house. She was snoring so loud, and I swore to god I saw Santa Claus on a motorcycle revving it up in the hallway about to run me over. I was so scared! I'm trying to purposefully get back into that mindframe when I'm making music. It's hard as an adult to let yourself go like that. It's a little bit scary, but it can also be really good.