Photo by Aubrey Gigandot
Origins is a recurring new music feature in which an artist charts the influence of their latest single.
There’s a lot that went into the making of Johanna Warren’s companion albums Gemini I and Gemini II. From a technical standpoint, each song on I mirrors one on II, linked via a quirk of production or a repeated melody. Lyrically, the Portland singer-songwriter poured her very essence into the tracks, filling them with references to the occult and mysticism that are part of her every day existence.
Perhaps more than anything, though, it was a difficult three-year relationship that gave itself over to Warren’s songwriting. The latest single off Gemini II, “Hopelessness Has Done Nothing For Me”, expresses this at its most vulnerable. The track is slowly dizzying, as if Warren’s voice is Alice falling gently through the darkness of the minor guitar plucking. A piano anxiously haunts from the background, reminding you that love is never sure as Warren sings, “Now you’ve got a stranger in your home/ You could kick him out/ But then you would be alone.”
Take a listen below.
Gemini I was released in September of 2016, and now the pair will finally be complete when Gemini II drops on February 16th from Warren’s own Spirit House Records. Both albums will be available packaged together as a double LP that can be pre-ordered here.
For more on what influenced Warren to pen “Hopelessness Has Done Nothing For Me”, she’s broken down the Origins of the track. From Modest Mouse to choose your own adventure books, learn what led to the song above by reading below.
Old school Modest Mouse:
When people ask who my influences are I always forget to mention how formative those early Modest Mouse records were for me. A lot of the first songs I picked out on guitar were theirs, and I feel like their influence comes through pretty strong in the guitar line for this song, with the little string bends. Their guitar work was so vibey and strange and expressive, and they often hang out on one riff so it becomes a kind of drone to build on top of, which is usually how I write, too. Those were some truly weird and inspired records and I’m grateful they found me at such an impressionable age and totally shaped my brain.
The Parallel Universes/Many Worlds Hypothesis:
“Turn back the clock/ See the time we lost/ Make a different choice and watch the whole picture change.” This line is kind of talking about the wobbly nonlinear quantum nature of Time as I’ve come to understand it, and our ability to play with it.
I dig the Many Worlds Theory, which proposes that basically any time there is a choice to be made, the Universe duplicates itself to accommodate the existence of all possible outcomes. Whether it’s true or not, I love thinking about how everything that could ever possibly happen is happening, has already happened and will continue to happen forever overlaid on top of itself in a holographic multiverse that’s always expanding. I find it oddly comforting.
One night when I was fourteen I was sitting on my roof and saw my whole life fan out in front of my eyes, like frames in a movie reel. It was like everything that was ever going to happen to me had already happened, and I could see it all right there, floating in the night sky. But the interesting part was, when I tried to zoom in and look more closely, every individual frame branched off in many directions, and that seemed to be about choice – the choices I was going to make. For instance, in this moment, here I am sitting in a chair. In the next frame of my life (the immediate future), I might raise my right hand, or I might raise my left hand. With this choice, the path of my life branches into two equally plausible alternate futures. Of course, I have much more than two options in this moment: I could stand up and throw my computer on the ground, or start dancing, or go get a snack. So we can visualize every moment as a single point, and every point splits into branching future lines based on our choices and the choices of those around us.
Ever since that night I’ve felt an understanding that the Universe is an infinitely expanding web of data where literally anything is possible, and we navigate this complex matrix with our minds, using the power of our free will. It’s like the ultimate “Choose Your Own Adventure” book…
“Choose Your Own Adventure” Books:
I was super into those things as a kid, and now they’re one of my favorite metaphors for life. In a Choose Your Own Adventure book, when you make a choice that leads to your doom, you can just flip back to the last page you were on and make the other choice. The real life equivalent, in my experience, is about slowing down your reaction time and recognizing patterns – noticing, even though the specifics of a situation might be different, “I’ve been here before,” hitting pause and revisiting the last time I was at a similar juncture, and reviewing: I made a choice back then – did I like the outcome of that choice? Instead of feeling frustrated about being stuck in some kind of pattern, I’m recognizing now that it’s a gift to be able to revisit these crossroads with the power to change the future by making a new choice.
Tich Nhat Hanh and “Deep Listening”:
“Learn that to hear is to have a voice” – that line was inspired by this interview between Oprah and Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh:
Oprah: I love this idea of deep listening, because often when someone comes to you and wants to vent, it’s so tempting to start giving advice. But if you allow the person just to let the feelings out, and then at another time come back with advice or comments, that person would experience a deeper healing. That’s what you’re saying.
Nhat Hanh: Yes. Deep listening helps us to recognize the existence of wrong perceptions in the other person and wrong perceptions in us. The other person has wrong perceptions about himself and about us. And we have wrong perceptions about ourselves and the other person. And that is the foundation for violence and conflict and war. The terrorists, they have the wrong perception. They believe that the other group is trying to destroy them as a religion, as a civilization. So they want to abolish us, to kill us before we can kill them. And the antiterrorist may think very much the same way—that these are terrorists and they are trying to eliminate us, so we have to eliminate them first. Both sides are motivated by fear, by anger, and by wrong perception. But wrong perceptions cannot be removed by guns and bombs. They should be removed by deep listening, compassionate listening, and loving space.