I have rarely felt as intimidated by an interviewee as I did when I plonked myself down at Neko Case’s lunch table in the bar of the K West Hotel in Shepherds Bush a few months in advance of the hugely successful Fox Confessor Brings The Flood. With the clatter and scrape of cutlery and crockery ringing in our ears, she eyed me up warily with a look on her face that suggested she would rather be anywhere else than in that seat, at that moment, talking to another journalist. As we chatted, though, she softened and became less guarded, revealing more of that famously wry sense of humour, and it was a fascinating experience to hear her speak about the Ukrainian folk tales that inspired the songs and her own take on the gift of songwriting.
Neko’s frustration with the political situation in America at the time dominated much of the conversation, reflecting the record’s central theme of loss of faith, but she remained upbeat that the tide was finally turning against the Bush administration. But it wasn’t all political tubthumping, she was philosophical too. “It’s about any kind of faith really,” she told me. ”I’m just amazed by the fact that no matter how much faith you lose, there’s still a little grain of it left. It’s like physics, you can’t destroy matter. Sure, you can split the atom, but there’s energy in there too.”
As ever, our time went too quickly, but her smile, at first uncertain and ambiguous, had thawed into a warmer, friendlier shape by the time I said my goodbyes. Half an hour isn’t long enough to really get inside the mind of anyone, let alone a character as complex and interesting as Neko Case, but this was my attempt.
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