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)