In conjunction with today’s announcement, Van Etten has shared a recently unearthed, previously unseen video for ‘Serpents’ that was directed by Naomi Yang of Galaxie 500.
The singer explained in press material that she chose not to release the video at the time owing to feeling “uncomfortable in my own skin”.
Addressing the reader and her fans, Van Etten wrote: “About a year or two ago, Naomi Yang (of Galaxie 500) reached out to me after she had rediscovered a video that we had made together in 2011, during the making of ‘Tramp’, just before the album’s release. It was for the song ‘Serpents.’
“At the time, I didn’t have much experience with music videos. I was very insecure about being the focus of a video. Maybe I wasn’t ready to face my demons. I know it sounds funny. I could write and perform them, but facing them and baring my soul on camera felt like an entirely different thing, and when I looked at myself, I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I chose not to release the video.”
Van Etten added: “While reading Naomi’s email during the pandemic, and watching this younger version of myself, I felt empathy for the emotions I was trying to express in the song and the video form. I could see the drive within me to share my soul and connect with others that felt a similar drive and desperation for answers, resolution.”
“The timing was uncanny, approaching the anniversary of ‘Tramp’,” Van Etten continued in her note. “Thinking about my time in New York while in the bubble of Los Angeles and my home. Thinking about how restless I was, and now settled down and stable. Thinking about how Aaron Dessner took a chance on me after I messaged him with a fury of demos.
“He could see through the hiss and crappy vocals on my GarageBand demos, and that I had something to say. He could hear my shitty finger tapping drum beats and knew I had an inner rock kid in me.
“I remember when he handed me his Fender Jag, and told me to play ‘Serpents’ after hearing the original demo. He gave me the confidence to be loud and to scream my rage and feel founded and justified in my own pain. He gave me more tools to find catharsis in my work. I have carried that with me ever since.”
Sharon Van Etten performs at O2 Academy Leeds on June 19, 2022 in Leeds. CREDIT: Andrew Benge/Redferns
The songwriter continued: “Being on the west coast the last two years, I look back on my community in New York and am forever grateful. I had so many friends and peers step up and help me unfold these demos into the album that it became. Doug Keith and Ben Lord from my original touring band, Logan Cole, Peter Silberman from The Antlers, Jessica Larrabee from She Keeps Bees, Thomas Bartlett of Doveman, Rob Moose of yMusic, Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak, Julianna Barwick, Zach Condon of Beirut, Matt Barrick (of The Walkmen), Clarice Jensen, Ben Lanz, Bryce Dessner, and Bryan Devendorf (of The National).”
Van Etten then expanded on the unreleased ‘This Is Too Right’. “I had almost forgotten about a song titled ‘This Is Too Right’ that didn’t make it onto the record,” she said.
“It was one of the first guitar ‘riffs’ I had ever written and Jenn Wasner sang on it with me. A song about not believing how good I had it. Like the other shoe was about to drop. I still feel so lucky for the things I have gotten to experience and accomplish, and I feel so blessed to celebrate this anniversary with you.
“It means so much that all these amazing musicians gathered around me to help me find my voice. I still have so much to figure out, in my life and my work, but I still feel the support and community to this day, even though we are all a bit scattered. I hope everyone that helped make this record, and that supported it, feel the love and admiration that I continue to hold for all of you.
“I hope that in sharing this record again, with a new video and this forgotten track, that new listeners are brought in to this album and find meaning and relevance in it today. I may have been just 30 when I made this album, but I was a lost, broken, vulnerable kid. All of the musicians on this album helped me come to life and perform in ways I never had before. May these songs find you well. Sending all my love.”
‘Serpents’ had a supporting cast of Aaron Dessner (slide, guitar, bass) and Bryce Dessner (ebo guitar), The Walkmen’s Matt Barrick (drums), Doveman’s Thomas Bartlett (keys), and Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner (vocals).
Director Yang said: “Upon hearing ‘Serpents’, I was struck by the emotion in the song, the raw anger. I imagined showing this fury escaping and overtaking the room – Sharon’s rage as expressed in the song manifesting itself in physical space.
“We made the video on a cold January day in 2012 [note: Van Etten said 2011] in an East Village walk-up loft borrowed from friends. It was me, on camera, with Susanne Sasic running the projections she had designed, and Sharon performing. I am delighted to know that now, on the 11th anniversary of Tramp, the ‘Serpents’ video will be seen at last.”
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