Lindsey Baker on her new album "Shit Bug," being a woman musician in spite of terrible men, and the severity of being a Scorpio.
Despite the warm, welcoming inclusivity of the name, Guts Club is a party of one. Lindsey Baker moved to New Orleans a little over a year ago from Philadelphia by way of Brooklyn, bringing to the South her unique brand of outsider folk or raw country. She doesn’t care what you call it; she really just wants to sound like Vic Chesnutt. “In my heart, I feel like I’m singing country songs,” she says.
Guts Club will play an album release party for her new album, Shit Bug, Friday at Sidney’s Saloon. Baker found inspiration for Shit Bug, her second full-length record, as well as for the album’s title track here in New Orleans. Jokingly, she contrasted the Northeast where she grew up with Louisiana’s swampy climate. “There’s bugs there, but it’s different,” she says.
On a larger scale, the physical geography and landscape of New Orleans threw her for a loop. “Here the landscape is active, you know what I mean?” Baker asks. “Like this land exists because the river just like, spit out shit for so long. Land is always moving, but I grew up in Appalachia. I was in mountains, and those mountains were there for what seemed like an eternity, and here, while the landscape is flat, it’s always moving and things are happening to it. It’s flooding, it’s shifting, it’s sinking. When I really thought about it, it was like, this is a fucking parallel universe.”
Sometimes it seems as if Baker lives and writes songs in a parallel universe, one a little bit flipped around but recognizable just the same. Her first album, The Arm Wrestling Tournament, boasts songs that juxtapose dark lyrics with melodious guitar. In “Trunkie” she sings, “I’m a bank robber, I’m a kidnapper / and I stole your soul and held you hostage in the time it takes to blink / now we’re on the run with huge bags of money and you’re tied up in the trunk.” In “Intestines,” Baker confesses, “I want to give you all my guts / I want you to have all my tissues. / I want to give you all my guts / I want you to have my intestines / because if you were locked in a tall tower / it’s like Rapunzel’s hair, you can climb down the wall.”
To Baker, these are love songs. “There’s a lot of ways that you can say that you love someone, and that you’re obsessed with them, and there’s a lot of ways that people have already said it,” Baker says. “I think we’re all a little bit nar-nar sometimes. I am a Scorpio, I don’t just love you; I also own you. Those were very severe love songs.”
For Baker, this intensity also means coming to terms with the darkness she admits is inside her. “I always think the world’s gonna end,” she says. “Like if someone doesn’t call me back, I think that they died, or that they got in trouble, or that they don’t love me anymore. I constantly think the world’s ending, and I hate everything, too, in this weird way. I often see the shitty points in people. I guess I’m jaded, but not in the way where I block it out. I stare at it and let it fester.” She wonders why life sucks. Why we have to walk down the street fearful during the day. And never at night because we’re not that stupid. Why is that stupid to begin with?
Her question gets at a fundamental rejection of the idea that women should have to check or alter any aspect of themselves in order to be respected. It’s another form of severity, an assertion of self. “You should have the confidence of a mediocre white man,” Baker says. “I can occupy this space and I can be here, and not just physically embodying a space. I can do this on the stage and I can write these songs and I can exist in this way, and I can and I want to and I should. I absolutely fucking should.”
When Baker got into an Uber pool with a college-bro type on the way to a gig during South By Southwest, he interrogated her when she said the guitar in the trunk was hers. “We have to do it better, we have to do it twice as hard,” she says. “I should be able to just fucking do this.”
When she plays shows without her band, people mess with her more. “The scumbags populate the space more when you’re alone,” she says. “You become a target for horseshit more.” But Baker isn’t one to just let the shit get thrown at her. When some guy said something antifeminist and a girl slapped him and a fight broke out at her very first show, she got excited. “Is this what Guts Club shows will be like?” She relishes when men at her shows who feel a need to metaphorically man spread get put in their place. This satisfaction ties in to how she sums up her almost-jaded attitude towards life: “Shit sucks, but it’s also really fun.”