Juliana Hatfield toured the United States in support of “Juliana Hatfield Sings The Police” while contemplating her most recent project.
Working through a pandemic, Hatfield recently releqased “Blood,” a 10-song collection that echoes her classic ’90s indie rock sound that made her a household name.
For “Blood,” she honed her technology skills to give it a different sound.
“I finally learned how to use GarageBand and how to record into my laptop, which was something that I had been putting off and putting off,” she says. “When everything shut down, I finally forced myself to figure it out. And I made this album.”
As a result, “Blood,” which was released May 14, is a tightly arranged rock therapy session. While the songs are upbeat, the lyrics are a dark reflection of the last year.
“I like bouncy melodies and pretty chords, but then I have this dark view of society, so they intermingle,” Hatfield says.
An example of this duality is the bouncy, upbeat “Suck It Up,” which includes the ominous line, “We creatives/ We always find a way/ When a door closes/ We just open a vein.”
Hatfield explains, “If I sang a song about stabbing someone in the neck (‘Had a Dream’) and it sounded too serious musically, then I’d just be like Marilyn Manson or Nine Inch Nails, and that’s not who I am. I have this outlet which is songwriting and playing music.
“And so I’m able to explore those hard feelings. It’s been a tough period for everyone — except for maybe Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. It’s been tough for everyone else. I am exploring the darkness on this album, but I think it’s a good outlet for me, so I can get it out of my system and share it with other people rather than going and storming the palace or something. I don’t need to do stuff like that, because I have an outlet in my music.”
To say “Blood” is a “subtle” protest album would not entirely be true. It’s hard to be subtle with lyrics like “I’m living in a nightmare and I can’t wake up” or “The wells of greed have no bottoms,” but it is subtler, in Hatfield’s opinion, than 2017’s “Pussycat.”
“It’s really a protest against humanity — including my own self,” she says. “There are songs that are just talking about my own faults and failings as a person. The album does not take a very forgiving view of people. I think what’s happened over the past four years is people’s worst qualities have been put under a spotlight, or a big rock has been turned over and all the ugliness is exposed now.”
Like most people, the pandemic has changed how Hatfield will work going forward.
“I think I’m going to try to keep doing stuff at home,” she explains. “I do like going to the studio at some point, because I like to add real drums on my songs. I don’t have a drum set at home, nor would I want to make that noise in my apartment.
“I would like to end up at the studio for some overdubs and mixing, but it’s great to be able to get a lot of it done at home. It cuts down costs like 50% — or at least it did this time, which is great. There’s less pressure because I’m not on the clock in the studio, When I’m at home, I can work for an hour and then I can stop. I can just go at whatever pace I want to go rather than working 12-hour days without stopping.”
Hatfield’s talents go beyond her music. She pained the image on the cover of “Blood.” It’s a person jumping — presumably into a body of water — with arms extended in a seemingly exhilarating moment, but with hands that are freshly severed with streams of blood coming out.
“That drawing existed before the album existed,” Hatfield says.
“I was drawing from an old photograph of a woman. You couldn’t see below her, but she was diving and she was up in the air and in the middle of the city. I don’t know if she was a daredevil or if it was a circus or something. I was drawing from that but without any background. It was just in air. I think of it as maybe she was diving.
“So, one of her hands burned off and the other one is chopped off. When I decided to use it as the album cover image, (the designer) added the color and the background and he added blood bubbles coming off of the hands. I think of the drawing as this girl has been through some really heavy (crap), right? And she’s been battered, but she came through it, she came out of it and now she’s flying free.”
Even before “Blood” had hit the shelves, Hatfield was already writing songs for her next project, of which she’s unsure of the direction.
“I don’t know, I’m thinking of both covers and originials,” she says. “I guess it just depends on which one I get the most excited about when I start working. Maybe I’ll do one original album and then a covers album, go back and forth like that.”