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“It’s always been something that I’ve known about and been on my mind ” – an Interview with Housewife

When the lineup for this year’s New Colossus Festival was released, I was very excited to see that Toronto’s Housewife would be playing several shows across the week. The musical project of Brighid Fry (they/she), Housewife have been an IDOV favorite for many years starting with 2020’s Better Daughter EP (released as Moscow Apartment) through to recent singles “Fuck Around Phase”, “King of Wands”and “I Lied”.

I caught their show on Friday evening at New York’s Heaven Can Wait and were treated to a fantastic set featuring the recent singles, tracks from 2022’s You’ll Be Forgiven EP such as “Patrick Bateman” and a new song “Wasn’t You” which is due for release soon.

Earlier that afternoon, despite nursing an injured ankle, Brighid was kind enough to join me in New York’s Lower East Side for a chat over a jasmine tea.

How are you enjoying the festival so far? 
You know, I haven’t gotten to see much of it but what I have seen is really cool. I caught NOBRO the night that we played (Wednesday) and they were really awesome.

When did you get into New York?
Tuesday. We got in after a long day having left Toronto at like 6am. And we’re staying kind of in the tourist area and so, we were like, we’re so close to everything, we might as well go out. But yeah, the festival’s been cool so far and I’m looking forward to catching some more of the artists tomorrow. There are so many that I’m interested in seeing and I don’t even know who’s playing when or where or what I can get to, but I’ll figure it out. 

Which classic album cover art is your current mood?  
Um, that is difficult. I might have to come back to that.

You’re currently on a roll of fabulous singles that we love and “I Lied” is the latest. Have you been recording those all in Nashville? 
Some of them in Nashville. “I Lied” is the most recent one. I wrote it in Nashville, then I recorded it in Toronto with Derek Hoffman. He’s this great Canadian producer. 

I was reading that’s your first independent release in five years. Why have you gone back to an independent? 
Um, my label closed down and so I’m independent now so I self-released.

Fair enough! You directed the “King of Wands” video. Is that something you want to get more into and do more of? 
Yeah, I mean, it’s something I’m interested in. I’m a really big film fan but at the same time I have no visual skill at all. So that’s kind of fun. I went to art school with the intention of taking film classes and then that didn’t really end up happening. But I’ve always been interested in doing film stuff.  But I can’t come up with stuff that works well so I have to have someone to help me with that.

We first discovered you as Moscow Apartment back when the Better Daughter EP came out. Your sound has definitely evolved and is now almost indie-pop now.
I started out doing folk because that’s all I knew really. I grew up listening to folk music and I didn’t really listen to a lot of pop music until maybe the last four or five years. I just feel like there’s been a lot of really great indie-pop that’s come out recently and that wasn’t necessarily a thing when I was a kid. The only pop I really knew was Top 40. So, I think it was just kind of a natural progression of what I knew. I grew up listening to lots of like 90’s rock and my dad was like an old school punk kind of guy. But that is a very daunting thing to explore in music so I’m kind of trying to lean into the pop first, and then hopefully start slowly, slowly bringing some more rock stuff in.  

Why did you change the name from Moscow Apartment to Housewife?
I think we chose Moscow Apartment on a whim. I was 14 and it’s a cool name. I have no connection to that place, I’ve never been to Russia at all. I wanted something that actually had a connection to me and my music, and so I chose something that reflected the kind of stuff that I was inspired by, like gender roles. And I wanted something that grabs people’s attentions and it rubs a lot of people the wrong way.

Pasquale used to be in the band with you. Why did they leave?
They just didn’t like doing music professionally. It’s not an easy thing to do. We signed with a record label right out of high school and they just kind of thought “this is not for me”. So they left and they’re not doing music anymore and they’re just living their life. I mean being in the public eye and having to do social media and stuff is really hard and awful at times.

So I was going to ask about that. Do you feel any pressure with social media to try and have something go viral?
I think I do to a certain extent because I see it happening to other people and suddenly they have all these great opportunities and stuff. But also, there’s a lot of bad stuff that goes with being viral as well, and so, in a sense, I’m honestly kind of grateful with what I have. Obviously if that happened, that would be cool, and I would try to make the best of that and get all the opportunities I could from it. But really, I’m just trying to slowly and steadily grow on social media and hope that’s kind of a more sustainable and less mentally taxing thing to do.

It seems the main issue is that the things that go viral are almost random and impossible to make happen. That must be a nightmare as an artist.
Yeah, you never know what’s gonna go viral. I have one TikTok that went viral, not on my music account, but just on my personal account. It was the most random thing, it was a picture of my roommate sleeping and it got like, 3 million views. And I was like, “are you kidding me?”  

If you could only listen to one record, what would it be? 
Ooh, okay. Um, ba ba bum. I don’t think I could choose just one. Fantasies (by Metric) was the first record that I was just obsessed with. I think it’s just  a perfect record. I’ve really been loving DJO – you gotta check him out. He has this album called DECIDE that came out two years ago that’s just amazing. Those are probably the two that come to my mind first. My mom is always finding about cool bands before I am because I just kind of listen to the same stuff over and over until someone introduces me to stuff. But I’m also not a huge album person.

You must be reading my questions! I was going to ask about the fact you’ve done EPs rather than an album. Is that where you see a better way to get your music out?
Um, I definitely want to do an album, and that is something I plan on starting soon. I’ve been writing for an album but I just haven’t felt up to the challenge of doing that. On an EP, I feel like there doesn’t need to be as much of coherence throughout the whole thing. Or, if you are achieving that, it’s easier with like, four or five songs than twelve or fourteen. And when I want to release an album, I want it to be an actual album and not just 12 songs put together. It’s something that I’ve just been slowly kind of trying to get to the point where I feel comfortable and ready to do that.

You’re involved with Music Declares Emergency (More info here) and it’s obviously something you are passionate about. How did you get involved in the organization
Well, my mother is a climate activist and has been my whole life. She worked at Greenpeace for a long time when I was a kid and now she works on sustainability stuff where she lives. So it’s just always been something that I’ve  been aware of. But, also, I think my generation is just hyper aware of it. So yeah, it’s always been something that I’ve known about and been on my mind. 

Is it difficult to have those beliefs being a musician with all the traveling that is required and do you think the music industry has really embraced it properly?
I don’t think any industry has embraced it. I mean, I can talk about the music industry specifically, but I don’t think anywhere has. Obviously there’s lots of individual people, and there’s some great activists and stuff, but, generally, industry wide change hasn’t really seen anything yet. That being said, I do think music is such a volatile industry. The pandemic hit it so hard and then, with social media, there’s been so many pivots where people are not trying to focus on that, they’re just trying to figure out where to go next and how to survive. But also, you know, it’s super important. I’m 14 years older than my sibling, and so I’m like just constantly thinking about their future. So, I totally get why it’s not everyone’s main focus in the industry, but also it does need to be something that everyone’s thinking about constantly, because that’s a thing about survival. 

So what would you like to see the industry do more? What’s the main push at the moment? 
I mean, it’s hard. It’s a lot. Something that I’ve been talking about a lot is the fact that the biggest carbon footprint with live performances is not the actual artists, but the audience. The biggest carbon footprint is from when you have that many people coming from that many places.

I never thought of it like that. I thought, because you see the number of coaches and trucks and lights and all that, that must it must be due to the artist. 
Exactly. But then, when you’re a smaller artist, you don’t want to put any blame on the audience – you just want to get people to your show. So you can’t be like, “hey, you, who’s coming to my show, I’m actually not grateful” so it’s a really hard balance to be like, hey, this is something that we should be thinking about. But also you don’t want to make it more difficult for people to come to your show because you want people to come to your show. So it’s a very tricky thing, but, there’s been some experimentation with bringing buses to festivals. For example, I live in Toronto and If there’s a music festival that’s a few hours out of the city, which there are tons, having a bus running from Toronto to that place specifically for the festivals. You don’t have a bunch of people coming in like carpooling or whatever. Just like finding kind of innovative things like that and I think another thing that people often think of as a big holdback with sustainability in the music industry is a money thing, right?

People have this idea that any sustainability practices cost a lot of money and a lot of them do, but a lot of them also save money in the long run. So I think we just have to kind of shift how people are thinking about things. With the bus thing, I think that’s such a cool way to both cut down a carbon footprint, but also can create a really cool sense of community going to the festival, right? So I think there’s a lot of different ways to reframe things instead of thinking we have to spend all this money like, what are these innovative things that we can do that both to improve the experience and help with sustainability.

You’re off to South by Southwest next. Is that your first time there? 
Yes, yeah, I’m really excited. I’ve been told it’s kind of like a thing where a lot of people get tired of it, but I’m really looking forward to it. We were supposed to go last year, but we ended up getting, like, super last minute. Like, literally, four days notice, we went on a tour of Kuala Lumpur TV, which was an amazing opportunity. But it also meant that I didn’t get to go to SXSW so I’m excited to get to do that this year.

How many shows are you doing? It seems like some bands do seven or eight shows. 
I’m not doing that many, I’m doing four. Quite a lot but it’s a doable amount. 

What’s one thing you couldn’t leave home without that you have to bring on tour?
I have two. One is my travel recording setup because I am constantly coming up with ideas and I wrap my mic in all my clothes and put it in my suitcase wherever I go. It literally came in handy yesterday. I was in our hotel room and I came up with an idea and I actually had to get it down. And then this is a less interesting or cool answer, but I have a thermal brush which is like a hairbrush/hairdryer. I love it and it takes up so much room but I never go anywhere without it because I really like having good hair!

What would go on your signature pizza and what would it be called? 
Okay, um, I like plain boring food so I usually just get cheese pizza and that’s my go-to. I really love arugula but I don’t think would work very well on pizza

A lot of people put arugula on pizza so I think it will work.
Really? Okay, well that’s cool then. I have a deep and abiding love for arugula. When I get drunk, those are my two foods I want. I know everyone loves pizza, but I was literally talking to my bandmate about how I think I have like an extra deep love for it. Because the last time I went on tour in the Northeast, I think I ate pizza like six or seven days in a row. My band mates had to be like, “Brighid, you can’t do that. You need something else!” I also always just want to eat arugula by the handful when I’m drunk. I also really like spicy food so put some chili flakes on and some chilli peppers on there. I don’t know what I’d call it. I’m not good at coming up with snappy names.

Who was the one artist that made you want to become a musician? 
Metric. And probably Broken Social Scene. Those were the two bands I was just obsessed with since I was really little. Seeing Metric live, I mean, Emily Haines is just an amazing performer and I saw her for the first time when I was 12, I think? My grandpa is a really big Emily Haines fan and he’s a big music fan and he’s always made a very concentrated effort to take me to iconic female rock stars shows.  So he’s taken me to see Joan Jett, Heart, Stevie Nicks,  Metric, Chrissie Hynde. So he introduced me to Metric and I’ve been obsessed with them ever since. And then Broken Social Scene, I don’t really remember, I have very vague memories of my first time seeing him live. But I was probably eight and my mom took me to see them. They played a show at this record store called Sonic Boom, which is an iconic Toronto record store. They played a show there when I was a kid and apparently I turned to my mom and I was like, “This is the best day of my life!”

With today being International Women’s Day, it seems like there are more female artists around and there seems to be more opportunities available. What are you seeing from the other side of the industry?
Yeah. You have tons of really awesome female artists but the production and the engineer side is still super lacking. I’ve never outright worked with a female producer. I’ve worked with female producers to write songs and write I have a couple songs that are like co-produced with women but the main producer on any of my songs has never been a woman. There are amazing female producers I want to work with, but there are so few – they’re very outnumbered by the men. 

Is it starting to change? 
Yeah, there’s lots of programs that are encouraging women in the studio. For me, I’ve produced some stuff and that’s totally fine. I can do that and I feel fine with that. The tech side I think is the barrier where there’s just another thing that blocks women so greatly. Obviously there are producers out there who know nothing about the technical side like Rick Rubin. He just lets it happen. But for most producers, you do need to know a certain amount about the technical stuff, and I think that’s a really big barrier. But, again, there are tons of programs that are, like, encouraging women to learn how to engineer and stuff.

What else do you have planned in 2024? 
Well I have a new single, I haven’t announced  it yet, but it’s coming out very soon. Another independent release and I’m  working on writing for an album. I don’t think it’ll be released till next year, but there will be stuff progressing toward that which I’m really looking forward to.

Any more shows after South by Southwest, or festivals or anything? 
Yes, I don’t think I can announce any of them yet, unfortunately, but there’s definitely shows coming. 

You can find out more about Housewife by visiting their website and follow them on Instagram and Twitter for all the latest news.

Feature photo credit – Luke Rogers
Article photo credits – Luke Rogers and Paul Atkinson

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