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Interview: Lady Midnight's pursuit of movement, perspective, and healing

Lady Midnight, photographed at Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023.
Lady Midnight, photographed at Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023.Jaida Grey Eagle for MPR
  Play Now [16:47]

by Diane

October 23, 2023

Adriana Rimpel, AKA Lady Midnight, coined the term “pain-pop” to describe her new dance-forward electronica record, Pursuit and the Elusive. While club music might not always be thought of as an outlet to investigate painful subject matter, Rimpel spoke with Local Show host Diane about how physical movement and storytelling have helped her gain perspective in healthier ways.

Known for her pure, soothing voice, and cutting-edge artistry, the singer worked with acclaimed local hitmakers Night Stone (Lazerbeak and ICETEP) to create her second LP, set to release on Friday, Oct. 27. In early 2024, Lady Midnight will also release a corresponding visual companion piece directed by New York City-based Laura Robards.

Rimpel, The Current’s Artist of the Month for October, will also join fellow lauded multi-faceted artist Dessa for a string of Midwestern dates, including Nov. 16 at First Avenue in Minneapolis.

Diane: Let’s get right to it. Tell me about the album.

Adriana Rimpel: The album is called Pursuit and the Elusive. It takes a bit of a different approach from my last album in the sense that this is primarily produced by a duo, Night Stone, as opposed to eight different producers. And it's decidedly a dance album. So there's some experimentation in some of the breakdowns, but for the most part, it is an album to get you moving. 

[“Morningstar” by Lady Midnight plays in background]

The subject matter, again, deals with something that's not new for me, which is looking at difficult experiences in my life and putting that through music as a way to understand it more. And also to get some distance, perspective — the H word, some healing. But I wanted people to be able to move their bodies, and kind of change the energy. And in my mind, I think about how each time somebody does that, it helps to repattern the story that I've told myself about these themes, or even the things that I'm talking about. So in some way, the more people listen to it, the more that they move to it, it's also helping me heal those wounds as well, by not just sitting with them.

[“Take Shape in Your Love” by Lady Midnight play in background]

Music is such a great modality for healing and growth. And your voice fits so beautifully with this type of electronica music. Yeah, it is dance music, and it is about some really deep self-reflection. Your voice almost even has a healing quality to it. Lean more into this electronica sound that you've really embraced with this. You collaborated with Lazerbeak and ICETEP, two dudes with such great resumes, especially Lazerbeak. Tell me about collaborating with them to get this dance-forward electronica sound.

Yeah, it's so funny, because when we were creating this music — and they had just such incredible driving beats that seemed really cinematic, but also concise. And here I come with my childhood trauma (laughs).

I know all about that.

Just, like, lay it all out there in the lyrics. And we were joking, I'm like, "It's pain, but it's pop! It's pain pop!" I think I wanted people to move. I think I've always been really interested in electronic music. I had a project way back in the day called VANDAAM. But I think in some ways, I'm sort of coming back to this sound, and have just really loved the ways in which you can get lost in a rhythm. And what happens when you're at a club with huge subwoofers, and you're just letting yourself go into a bit of a trance. Letting your mind quiet and your body take over. 

[“Pursuit” produced by Night Stone plays in background]

And I think working with them was really awesome and natural. I started making this album at the beginning of the pandemic and the height of the pandemic. And I think so many things changed for everyone. But definitely looking at groups and the ways in which we gathered, so much of my life was around going to shows or performing at shows, events. It gave me time, when everything shut down, to really just take time to reflect on my own habits and the habits of the company that I'm keeping. And what ways we were serving each other and not serving each other. 

And again, art is my safe space for unsafe ideas and feelings. And I just decided that I wanted to say something. I think we were all kind of bombarded with this term essential. And I felt like, well, myself as an artist, what can I do? The world is in such a difficult and painful place. How do I begin? It's so overwhelming. And I came back with that conclusion of like, well, I think that it begins within me of healing myself so that as I walk my path, I know that, as much as I can, I'm not unintentionally hurting anyone. And I just decided, well, some of the things that I didn't want to look at might be a good place to start.

That was very beautifully said and stated. And one of the things I think I appreciate about you, as an artist, is you really take on the role of being an artist, and you say, "This is the gift I've been given in this life. And I'm going to use it to reflect on how I can heal myself. But also, I know that what I'm making right now is paying forward to other people who are receiving it." 

There's a really powerful record you put out called Death Before Mourning in 2019. I heard that record and I was like, "I am a fan." Because I love artists who create really compelling music that you can latch onto — you can sing along … You create melodies but you also create these experiences.

[“Bloodsong by Lady Midnight” plays in background]

Talk to me about this artistry role you take on and this multifaceted presence you really bring with your art.

Yeah, I come from a family where medicine and healing is present and prevalent on both sides. And so even just listening to the stories of my family, particularly my mom, who has a musical gift. I would ask them, “Why is that not something that you pursued in a professional way?” And I think there was always this question, even within my extended family around like, "Well, how is that going to help the rest of the world?" It felt like it was too ego-driven, and I felt like my services would be better in other areas. And so I think, for me, I do feel and accept and receive that this is my gift. And I think I'm in a privileged position because of what my family has done to be able to provide that platform where I can say, actually, “Yes, I'm going to decide music.”

But I do hear that like, well, how is this not just something that's self-serving? How can this better serve the planet that we're in, the community that we're part of? And also recognizing that I'm part of that community as well. So it is something very serious to me. Music serves a lot of different functions. And by no means do I think that only conscious music is the right music, definitely not. And I listen to all sorts of types of different music. But the ones that I choose to create, I think, are ones where there's different levels of access. I never want to alienate anyone from not being able to enter the work, but also have several layers and perspectives and angles that — looking at it — there's a place for it to grow. Because many times I'm singing these things and it isn't even until years later that I recognize, “Oh, that's what that line means,” or that's now how that line resonates with me. 

And with this album, I understand that you're creating a companion piece with a visual aspect. Tell me more about what we can expect for that to come in the New Year?

Yeah, in 2024. I decided to use this genre of dance music to talk about some potentially painful subject matter. Moreso, looking at love. I think Death Before Mourning was definitely about love. But it wasn't so much about romantic love as it was maybe around like bloodlines and letting go of grief. But I decided to make this much more about romantic love, and also the patterns of where we learned that from. So that comes from our childhood, that comes from our parents. If you've done any therapy, it's going to go back to your mom or your dad.

I know all about that. I've had my fair share of therapy.

Me too. And I just think I was like, Okay, well, let's get to the source. So, I feel like my story isn't that unique, but I did have addiction in my family. And that's something that I know a lot of families struggle with. And that definitely influenced the ways in which I create bonds and the ways that I sort of define love … Music and addiction kind of go hand-in-hand within those venue spaces. And definitely the sort of escapism that comes from dance music. So that was very intentional to be able to have like this genre, and the subject matter together. But I guess I didn't want people to just dismiss it as like, that's what it is. And so I wanted to create a piece, a story, a short film that would be able to underscore that relationship. That this isn't just a dance album — that there's a greater story in it. 

And I was fortunate enough to be able to collaborate with a very talented artist/actor who's making her directorial debut with this piece. Laura Robards. She's a director that is based in New York. And then also a very skilled tech, video, virtual reality, AI aficionado Brian Skalak, who has his own company, Second Sight Visuals, but also works with REM5 VR out in St. Louis Park. And we were able to concept the story and use technology that we have never used before to do things that we've never done before — really challenge ourselves of like, “Well, let's just run with it and see what we can make.”

But the short film is also the same title as the album, Pursuit and the Elusive, and it stars myself as a motorcycle-riding private eye who's on the hunt for the perceived or the accused assailant of someone she believes has murdered her father. And it sort of sets off in this trippy world where we recognize that there could be maybe another relationship with her and this potential murder suspect. But also there's some twists and turns in which she realizes that what she perceived may not be what really happened. Or who really the culprit is. 

So I think it's underscoring this idea around — with addiction, with love, or even heartbreak, we really just want somebody to blame. And it's really difficult because it's not so black and white. And we participate in that, too. So the idea of right and wrong, guilty and innocent, can be far more enmeshed than we want to admit, or that feels comfortable for us. 

[“Good” by Lady Midnight plays in background]

You have few upcoming shows with Dessa. And I remember even being on Instagram and seeing you two hanging out in New York City. Tell me about this relationship you have with Dessa, and these shows you have coming up. Dessa obviously has a huge following on The Current, along with big fans of you too. But I think people are curious about what's going on with the team-up between you two.

Yeah, I feel so fortunate and really lucky. I think Dessa such a kind, smart, funny, beautiful, authentic, generous person. And we knew of each other being in music. And I'm sure moreso through through Lazerbeak — that we both collaborate with him. But she reached out to me a couple of years ago, and we got coffee and got to know each other a bit, and has just been such an amazing supporter of me. And I just really admire her just for who she is as a person. But also, as an artist. I think she's incredibly intelligent. And I think that she is not afraid to hold difficult feelings, emotions, and to pose them in a way that allows people to think. I think that her music is definitely a space for reflection and conversation. And I just really admire anybody who prioritizes those things when they're making work. 

I think it's such a good team-up. A lot of the things you speak about Dessa, I feel similarly about your work as well and your process. 

Thank you. So yeah, she invited me to do a couple openings for her. And then yeah, I got to hang out in New York and do a show. And then it was just hoping, lighting my candle, that I would get a call of like, "Do you want to open for any of the tour?" And it's really exciting. It's my first tour that I've ever been on. I've never been on a tour. So we'll be hitting the Midwest states early mid-November.

Thank you so much for coming into the studio with me and talking. Yeah, I'm a huge fan of your work, always have been, and especially with this new record. And is there anything else you'd like to add?

I guess I'll just add that it comes out October 27. If you aren't following me already, it's such an easy way to support an independent artists, please follow me: @iamladymidnight on all the platforms. And yeah, definitely come back to either my website because we will be hosting a listening crawl starting at Modist Brewing on October 27. So you can hang out with me at a couple different places, and there'll be fun prizes. 

Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.