k.d. lang has reinvented herself once again. And this time, everyone’s favorite Canadian cowgirl has set aside her solo career to form a girl group. (Because of course.) Along with singer-songwriters Neko Case and Laura Veirs, Lang will release their dreamy collaborative album —which is titled, in alphabetical rather than egotistical order, case/lang/veirs— this month, followed by a North American tour through August 14. Out recently caught up with k.d. to discuss her new musical endeavor, her iconic lesbian chic moment, and her honest review of Carol.
OUT: In 1997, I interviewed you for the cover of Out. What have you been up to since then?
k.d. Lang: Well, I moved to Portland from Los Angeles and, you know, just sort of gave my life a little bit of a shakeup. And I met Laura and Neko and decided that I wanted to make a record with them.
How did this surprising project come together?
I have been mulling over doing a trio record for quite a few years. It is something I always wanted to do —to be part of a band, a real collaborative effort. Then I met Laura and Neko around the same time. I was just thinking about it one night and I went: “Oh, my god. Neko Case and Laura Veirs. That would be awesome.” I sent them an email and in about half an hour, they both wrote back and said: “Yes, let’s do it.” So that’s how it happened.
The concept strikes me as Wilson Phillips for the Coachella Generation.
[Laughs.] That’s funny. It doesn’t offend me at all.
What was your inspiration?
Maybe the Traveling Willburys. And the girl groups from the ’50s and the ’60s: The Ronnettes and so forth. My original idea was kind of a girl group-punk-folk combo. It sort of skewed more toward a real modern folk record. Thankfully, because it is less kitsch and more substantial. Neko and Laura are real from-the-gut songwriters.
Are you looking forward to touring North America with them all summer long?
A lot of the dates are festivals and outdoor shows, and I love that atmosphere of celebratory and joyful venues for music. I also love the fact that all the pressure is not on me; we get to share it. We get to go have fun together. It’s only six weeks —not a long tour— and this is a one-off record, so we have nothing to lose.
Which one of you three is the biggest diva?
[Laughs.] We are equally divas at different times —that is the beauty of it. But I am probably the biggest diva because I’m the oldest.
So I assume that you will have the biggest dressing room backstage.
Oh, yeah. For sure.
Speaking of divas: I remember interviewing Madonna for your Out cover story and at the time, she told me: “I worship k.d.” Are you two still galpals?
I haven’t seen Madonna for a thousand years. I don’t know if we are still friends; we don’t talk or anything. Life has swept us our own ways.
Are there any more Portlandia appearances in your future?
I hope so. That would be fun. I had a blast —Oh, my God. Those people are crazy, especially Fred [Armisen]. They did ask me [again] this year but I was out of the country at the time. Hopefully that [opportunity] might come up again.
Why on earth did you move from LA to Portland?
I love the weather and the pace of the lifestyle there. And I love the Trailblazers basketball team. I love that I can walk or bike everywhere. And the food is interesting and reasonably priced. Portland felt like home to me when I toured here throughout the years; I always felt a connection to it. It’s a special little city.
You were an icon of lesbian chic in the '90s. Who best epitomizes lesbian chic today?
I have no idea.
Looking back, how do you feel about the pinnacle of that particular achievement —getting shaved by Cindy Crawford on the cover of Vanity Fair?
You know, in all honesty I look back on it with a great sense of pride. When you are in it, it’s hard to have a perspective of how it may impact [your life]. But now that I can be more objective, I am humbled. Because it was a big moment in the LGBT culture historically.
Just curious: What did you think of Carol in terms of lesbian visibility in contemporary pop culture?
[Groans.] That’s a though one because I don’t know him but I have met Todd Haynes. And he is a Portland boy. So it is hard for me to tell you my absolute honest opinion. But, um, I felt a little disappointed by the fact that the emotion was… like, I wanted Cate Blanchett to melt at some point. And she never did.
What would you say is the proudest moment of your career?
I don’t know because I feel like I am still in the middle of it. There are so many —and many more to come, hopefully. Probably I am most proud of the fact that I’m still doing it.
Musically, what’s next for k.d. lang after wrapping your summer tour?
Well, I am still contracted with Nonesuch Records. I’m looking forward to coming up with my next record, which I have been working on for three or four years. I just can’t seem to get all the pieces to fit together yet. But I am quite confident that will happen eventually.
What’s new in your love life? Back in 1997, you were dating singer Leisha Hailey of The Murmurs.
That was a long, long time ago. Lots has been new in my love life. I think I’ll just leave it at “No comment.”
Do you have any desire to become a bride now that gay marriage is legal?
Oh, there are moments, I guess. Some days I feel like: “Yeah, I would like to get married.” And then other days, I am like: “Why? What does that have to do with anything?” I vacillate back and forth on it.
k.d. Lang's new album with Neko Case and Laura Veirs, case/lang/veirs, is out June 17. For futher information, go to caselangveirs.com
Photo: Jason Quigley (band) / Courtesy of Anti (album)