Dropping October 14, Kari Lebby’s new LP Die Alone is pulled from the iphone note diary entries of an entire generation. “I wanted to make a dance, weird pop record,” Kari said, “but it’s still a record about depression.” And somehow, Kari has turned depression into something danceable. Staying true to form, Kari sings about the fears, loneliness, and disappointment of life as a twenty-something. Their last LP, released in 2012 was more #SadCore, but this time around they’ve graduated to #BummerPop: “People asked me after the last album ‘are you ok?’” And that sadness in tangible on Die Alone.
That transition from #SadCore to #BummerPop follows Kari’s connect the dots path through school and the expected milestones. “Sometimes I’m criticized for being too personal. But I’m not a storyteller. Sandcastles is my solo project. It’s my outlet.” Kari told me, “EPs basically are me vomiting out ideas. None of my LPS are perfect and the fact that (they) are flawed is part of the art. They’re like diary entries.” Kari croons “I wish I felt right” on the track “Black Sheep” and “I’m so good at beating myself up” on “Okay, Cupid,” and my own insecurities dance right along to the beat. Kari released the single “Okay, Cupid” (and the TOMBOi remix!) last week as a teaser before the album drops this Friday.
Kari is a total bae who isn’t afraid of spilling their guts on the track. While sitting in the back of Drip drinking wine and beer floats, we were stopped no less than four times by people who came up to hug Kari and chat for a minute. Everybody knows Kari and everybody wants to be known by Kari. I’m consistently blown away by the way people flock to Kari—blown away but not surprised. Kari has left their mark on the Columbia scene with Hollaween, Hoechella, their Is It Lit? podcast series, and directing at Workshop Theatre, all of which creates space for a more open, accepting scene: fighting slut shaming with Hoechella, taking on race and privilege through theatre, and bringing together diverse groups through music and dance. ”Hoechella came from just really hating slut shaming,” they explain. Hoechella was a two day music festival that raised thousands of dollars for Girls Rock Columbia. When I asked them how they pulled off such an awesome feat, Kari replied: “Kick down doors. If you want something done, go kick some doors down.”
I dubbed Kari the Ambassador for Queerness in the South, and they shrugged, “If there were people who did what I do, or dressed like I do when I was younger maybe…I dunno…” Kari trails off. Apparently pulling off a skintight catsuit is easier for the queer sex symbol than accepting a compliment. But there’s strength in bravado. “Hiding is stupid. If they don’t like it, fuck it…it can be scary at times.”
I applauded Kari’s work and the growth in the Columbia scene. “I think it’s more tolerant of people and less tolerant of bullshit. Now all the bigots have to hide. Maybe it’s a generational change—that people are starting to realize that sexuality and gender are fluid.” There’s more openness. “Less hate, less false lives.”
But there is still work to do. Kari has a lot of hope for the changes Columbia can make to be a create a better scene: pushing the community to have more challenging theatre and to have higher inclusion and incorporation of queer people and people of color. “Just look for them. Give them stages.” Kari applauds bands like Cyberbae, Debbie and the Skanks, Ossifrage, Hissyfit, Can’t Kids and organizations like Harriet Hancock Center, Scenario Collective, Girls Rock Columbia, and Keep Our Scene Safe. Kari’s advice for the rest of us was simple: “Be loud. Be outspoken. Make noise. Don’t be afraid. Test them.”
As for the next Sandcastles LP…? “It’s gonna be loud.”
It’s not an Auntie Bellum interview without a good Duke’s vs. Hellman’s interlude. Kari was blunt: “Duke’s. What the hell kind of question is that?”
Check out the new Sandcastles LP: Die Alone October 14 online and check out the listening party October 13 at The Whig. The album release party will be October 21 at Videodome hosted by Scenario.