Getting to Know: Nicole Dollanganger Edit
Posted on: October 23, 2013
I can remember so clearly the numerous days of August, 2012 that I spent lying in my bedroom with the fan propelling above me, listening to Nicole Dollanganger’s album Curdled Milk on repeat. Something about the softness of her almost childlike voice, the poetry of her lyrics, and the minimalist instrumentation brought me into a trance of sorts, where I could watch my thoughts could swirl around in the air with the imaginary ghosts that she mentions in her songs. Here is an example of some her lyrics from one of her songs: Barren (go to song for more info.)
The first time I listened to her second album, I was sitting on a train to New York City late at night, and I found a rare sense of peace as I looked at the passing scenery of the east coast: fields, forests, farms, train tracks and factories. Very few musicians have this effect on me, in fact, the only other musician I can think of is Elliott Smith, an artist that Nicole herself has covered and been compared to.
But Nicole Dollanganger is more than just a musician; her creative talent includes a large terrain that includes her visual artwork and the way that she writes her blog posts. In simple terms, she is a visionary, a romantic.
I was very fortunate that Nicole Dollanganger could answer my questions for this interview, and that she is so accessible to her fans in general, giving them advice and reassurance in times of distress or joy. You can listen to her music on her Bandcamp and see more of her work and her thoughts on her blog.
The Pulp Zine: How were you able to use your tumblr blog to promote your music and artwork? When you posted your work on tumblr, did you expect it to be as successful as it is?
Nicole: I had been using my Tumblr for about a year before I posted my first song "Coma Baby" to it. It was the first song I’d ever written and recorded by myself, so I was extremely nervous about the whole thing. I had decided to post it and delete a few minutes later, only in those few minutes I received an overwhelming amount of encouragement and support. I think the success I had with Tumblr partially came from releasing the music to a particular – and somewhat distinct – audience. The people who listened were the people who were following me, so there was already that mutual connection and attraction in terms of blog content. That being said, I was definitely not expecting any of the success that came from using my Tumblr.
TPZ: I’ve noticed through following your blog and listening to your music that there are some recurring motifs, such as dolls, Columbine, and V.C. Andrews references. What about those subjects fascinates you or draws you to write about them? In a larger sense, what works of art, literature, music, etc inspire you in your daily life?
N: I’ve always had a hard time explaining why I’m drawn to the things I’m drawn to because it feels very instinctual. With things like dolls and V.C Andrews, I think I’m attached to them sentimentally, as I grew up in the home of two avid doll collectors and spent my childhood reading V.C Andrews novels. But with some other subjects that always seem to rear their heads in my writing, like Columbine, I feel that I’m drawn to them mainly because they are a strong representation of death for me, and as part of the human condition, I am very drawn to death.
TPZ: Your songs and writing contain a lot of vivid, morbid imagery. What compels you to use such imagery in describing topics like love, lust, and illness?
N: I think it’s just my perspective on life and death and all the grey areas in between. I could have the identical experience to someone and yet we’d likely both take away completely different things from that experience, and that’s usually where my imagery comes from. I’ve always been drawn to very aggressive music but struggled to create the sounds I wanted to with the means I had to write, play and record. So instead of drawing inspiration from the sounds of the music I listen to, I try to draw inspiration from the feelings I get when I listen to that music. I like to play around with trying to convey aggression in different ways.
TPZ: When I listen to your songs, I can’t help but notice that juxtaposition between your sweet, high pitched voice, and some of the darker, gorey lyrics. Typically lyrics like that are heard from male voices in a lot of heavy metal, and often women aren’t encouraged to be gory or “gross.” Do you think your work has feminist undertones to it? Would you identify as a feminist, and why?
N: I think everything I make has feminist undertones to it, because I am a feminist and that impacts the way I perceive and think about everything. But I only became more consciously aware of that after releasing “Ode To Dawn Wiener: Embarrassing Love Songs” and seeing that a lot of people were not familiar with a girl being sexually explicit. Sometimes a girl will write to me and tell me that those songs helped her to feel more comfortable about her own body and sexuality and I think that’s because for the most part it’s still taboo for a girl to talk about masturbating and getting off.
TPZ: Any follower of your blog knows that you interact very closely with your fans, doling out love and life advice. Do you see that as an important part of being a musician and artist? As your popularity increases, do you think/hope you will be able to maintain relationships with fans?
N: It’s very important for me. These are the people who’ve encouraged me from the very beginning to keep writing and creating, who’ve continuously supported me by purchasing my songs and handmade CDs, who’ve written to me and become real friends of mine. I think those relationships will always be maintained because I really can’t imagine doing all of this without that connection and closeness you find in all of these other wonderful people.
TPZ: How does your hometown impact your writing and work?
N: I’ve always lived in the same small town, and so with that comes harbored feelings of both affection and resentment, but it has always been a huge source of inspiration for me and when it impacts me creatively, it impacts me positively. I think that’s because there are so many feelings to build off of here for me, tracing way back to my childhood and earliest memories.
TPZ: Have you ever had the subjects of of your songs confront you about their roles in your lyrics? How to your friends, lovers, and family inspire your work?
N: When I write a song about someone (whether good, bad or ugly) I like to show them because in the end, it’s my way of saying that I care about them and that they’ve really inspired me. So I don’t think I’ve ever been confronted by someone so much as they will be very honest with me about their feelings towards it and the response isn’t always a happy one.
TPZ: A vague and mildly terrifying question, but where do you see yourself in 5, 10 years? Do you think about the future a lot?
N: Ideally, in five years time I see myself secure enough to be able to support myself and pursue everything I would like to creatively, and I couldn’t ask for anything more. I think of the future in terms of end goals I have, and trying to make decisions that lead me in that direction. So I see a little home and a bed for me and my pug to share.