"Cheers. Morning drinking." Caroline Rose says as we clink flutes. The 28-year-old musician and I are eating breakfast at a bougie restaurant in Chelsea, where the rest of the crowd has chosen post-workout juices while we settle on a carafe of mimosas. It's a painfully cold day in New York, and Rose "had to wake up at the ass crack of dawn" to meet me here from her parent's house in the part of Long Island "where you fill up your gas tank on the way to the Hamptons."
She looks cherry-cool in head-to-toe red, which can be seen all over her new album, Loner; from the cover photo (shot by Matt Hogan), to both music videos she's released ahead of the album's drop, "Soul No. 5" and "Money."
Not only is red Caroline's favorite color, but it's become an emblem of her infectious personality: she is hilarious, sharp, and unapologetic. She's also not afraid of being herself, something that took time crafting in an industry that's rampant with misogyny.
"I was so hyper concerned with being taken seriously as an artist that I'd wear all black; I didn't want anything to detract from the music," she says, her floppy hair falling in front of her face. "I don't know if I have Benjamin Button syndrome and I'm just immaturing as I get older, but I definitely take things less seriously now and I'm and much happier. Why should anyone take themselves that seriously?"
But her laid back, fuck-all attitude doesn't mean she doesn't care. She does, she just finds humor in life, something that is perfectly encapsulated in Loner. "It's heavily satirical and a lot of it is based on eye-roll behavior that people do or that I do that I get caught up in. Like the song 'Money' is just as much about me and my obsession with money...I'm as much a part of the things that I'm singing about as anyone else," Rose says.
But at the same time it's a deeply personal album for her, the underlying elements of the songs reflecting on complex human emotions that are hidden behind humor. "Most of the time I feel really manic. I have the type of personality where I'll feel like I want to go out and party and be the center of attention and be really boisterous and fun, and then there'll be days where I don't want to leave my room and I just want to be alone with my thoughts. So it's really hard to make an album where it shows all the different sides of you."
We refill our glasses and pick at our healthy food as we talk about the performativity of the humans and how that's led to an intense fear of admitting to feeling emotions like sadness; the irony of being in a curated health space not lost on us--this restaurant is, after all, Instagram porn. But Caroline isn't interested in solely creating work that reflects happiness, or sadness, grandiosity, or simplicity; she wants something more complexly straightforward: honesty.
"I think differently about what I'm putting out now and I want to consciously make sure it's something I'm proud of in some way. I don't think that means it always has to be this grandiose artistic masterpiece. I think there's also a place for feeling like hearing something that just makes you feel good. It doesn't have to have this important message, it could just make you feel good and make you dance and I think that's really important as well."
Honesty is what leads us to the topic of sexuality. "When I was first starting, I was kind of afraid to make being queer a part of my identity for fear that it would consume it, because that happens to a lot of artists, unfortunately. When you're first starting, that is the way people identify you cause that's all you get. You get one elevator pitch and if you're lucky, a 30 second clip of what your music sounds like--and that's the pitch.
"But I hit a point where I was like, 'That's dumb.' People should be as much of themselves as possible, 'cause then everyone would be super unique. No one else is you. You are independent of other people and you can do whatever you want with your identity and your body and the way you dress and the way you act. I realized I should just be myself--middle fingers up and no fucks given, cause life is really short. My life is zipping by and I'm okay with that, but I want to make sure I do it right."
Caroline is planning on moving back to New York after touring. Maybe Philly, actually. She thinks of Vermont as her home base, but doesn't live there. She's a nomad.
So if Loner were a place, what would that place look like? "That question deserves a round of applause," she says, as she claps in circle motion. "My immediate thought was a B sci-fi movie where there's a tropical island planet floating around in space. There's one palm tree and a beautiful sand beach and you're drinking a cocktail but there's no one around."
We talk about our love for B movies, like Sleepaway Camp, and about how their crap aesthetic is actually kind of elevated--just misunderstood. "We're directed into what's good art and what's bad art and every once in a while there will be one outlier that sort of traverses across everything we know about good art and you're like, 'Wow. That is really something special.' B movies can sometimes be like that. They're almost so bad, but the director was so thoughtful in their badness that it makes you wonder, is this actually just genius?"
This type of aesthetic influences Rose; she's actually directing one of her music videos inspired by Springbreakers, that, although not a B movie, presented a self-reflecting commentary on what it was supposed to glorify. It might possibly be Harmony Korine's biggest troll to date, the film made only better by the fact that it was met with such anger. "You know it's accessible when everyone's fired up about it," she laughs.
As for Loner, Caroline is just happy that it's out there and that it's getting positive reviews, even though she's a perfectionist who will think that something could have always been better. It's interesting, Rose's juxtaposed sense of not caring and caring a lot--but it's what makes her personality shine through in her songs, commanding, light, and powerful all at once. I ask what three words she would use to describe the album. "Danceable brain goop. Mic drop." We finished our mimosas a long time ago.