Last year was a life changing 12 months for Julia Shapiro in more ways than one. Following the break down of a long-term relationship and dealing the personal issues leading to her band Chastity Belt taking the bold and admirable move to cancel the remaining dates, Shapiro was left with time to herself to contemplate the next step. The end result? That would be the formation if her solo debut release, Perfect Vision, which is out today.
Far Out had a chat with the Seattle-based musician to run through as many aspects of the new record, the thought process that made her decide to take the leap into solo life and the challenges that come with it.
It was April last year was when Shapiro’s world was turned upside down, a number of different circumstances which has led to the aforementioned record we have out today. Starting our conversation, I wanted to know how the singer herself wants her new project to impact fans. Contemplating for the moment, Shapiro lovingly says she wants to leave fans feeling “warm and comforted. Like they’re back inside the womb.”
Going solo can be a daunting task, especially for Shapiro who has been touring the world with Chastity Belt since 2010, I felt compelled to ask if this record was something she felt like she needed to get off her chest and do for herself.
She replied with a sense of honesty: “I didn’t really think about it like that before I started working on it, but now looking back, yes, I feel like I really needed it.”
Knowing full well that this album came out of a time of confusion and difficult decisions, I knew immediately that I need to asked where the inspiration record came from. Shapiro stated, quite clearly, that it came from a place of the need to fill a creative void: “It happened pretty naturally. I started recording songs in my apartment cause I wanted to learn how to use Ableton, and at the time Chastity Belt wasn’t practising that much.
“Our bassist moved to LA so there was a lot of time in between Chastity Belt practices that I needed to fill with some kind of creative outlet. I didn’t really intend to write a solo album, but it after recording a few demos it turned into one.”
Perfect Vision isn’t a Chastity Belt record and feels like Shapiro is treading new waters, she explained: “I’d say it’s more ‘stripped back’ and simpler than Chastity Belt’s newer stuff. A lot of these songs I wrote pretty fast without overthinking them, and I wrote the bass and lead guitar parts as I was recording them. It’s definitely less jammy than Chastity Belt.”
The time away from touring and being in a band, reverting back to being a ‘civilian’ again for the first time in years was a much needed break for the singer, a required sense of normality that could allow Shapiro to again get a strong grasp of her personal and professional life: “It was very needed,” she explained. “We were touring so much… you sort of lose touch with reality after a while and it’s hard to have things to sing about when all you’re doing is band stuff. Your songs just become about band stuff.”
Shapiro talks with the up-most admiration about her bandmates, likening their relationship as a “four-way marriage”. I knew already that was more than just a band their principles and creative drive was full of important messages for women. Chasity Belt, is in a sense, a sisterhood but not in the stereotypical sense. Four young women who set about challenging the gender norms, exploring femininity in their own unique approach. “It’s really nice to be in a band where we all get along and support each other,” she continued while talking about the band. “We’re like a family, or a four-way marriage,” she reiterated. “It felt really good that they had my back throughout everything, and I think they were also really into the idea of taking a break.”
Being in a band with people who you have such a tight-knit relationship can be a saviour for artists like Shapiro, who couldn’t help but admit that the atmosphere can be a very draining place on the road: “It’s really hard… I’m still trying to figure that one out. Touring can be fun and exciting, but also exhausting and monotonous… so you kind of have to take the bad if you want the good.”
Leaving performing with Chastity Belt on hold and starting all over again solo has left Shapiro feeling vulnerable with no protection, saying: “It sort of feels like there’s more pressure, because it’s all on me if it doesn’t turn out well. But it’s definitely easier to make creative choices, because there’s no discussion except the one that’s going on inside my head.”
She continued: “I’ve just been playing solo so it’s a way different feel than playing with a band. If I mess up it’s really obvious.”
On the album Shapiro is wide open, she’s opened up her heart, her soul and her whole creative essence for those who want to accept it. She’s courageous, she’s pioneering and she’s unrelenting.