In the wake of a tough breakup, most people wouldn’t write 20 new songs in 30 days. But Macy Rodman has always done things differently.
Speaking to NewNowNext via Zoom from her hometown of Juneau, Alaska, Rodman is more chill than you’d expect. The Brooklyn nightlife legend and transgender indie-pop musician is known for her larger-than-life onstage persona (and, yes, her hysterical Caitlyn Jenner impressions), but we’re not here to talk about that. She’s in full promo mode for her forthcoming third album Unbelievable Animals (out August 27), her first major project since signing with Accidental Popstar Records.
Shamir, the queer indie-pop artist behind the record label, described signing Rodman as “the best thing I’ve done to date,” and she reciprocates the sentiment. They’d been friends on social media for years, Rodman says, but it wasn’t until 2020 that she and Shamir began to seriously discuss collaborating. “They were super nice about my music and had a vision for what they wanted to do as far as promotion,” Rodman recalls.
Initially, Rodman planned to collaborate with Shamir on a different project, but the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States complicated things. It also coincided with a difficult breakup for Rodman last March. Heartbroken and unable to do normal post-breakup activities while quarantined, she poured her energy into her work, writing almost two dozen songs over the course of one month. “I’d never really worked like that before,” she explains. “I’m used to taking a really long time writing stuff, but I was just like, this seems like it will be helpful. And it really was.”
Those 20 songs were trimmed down to 12 for the track list of Unbelievable Animals, an epic fusion of electro pop and ’90s punk rock influenced by everyone from Madonna circa Ray of Light to “Liz Phair in her flop era.” The record’s title is a nod to Rodman taking stock of her love life after the breakup, a taxonomical endeavor that felt oddly “like a Discovery Channel special.” But this is no lo-fi lockdown album. Unbelievable Animals glitters like a disco ball on the ceiling of a dingy nightclub, marrying slick production with raw, complex emotions.
It’s Rodman’s most vulnerable project to date (she openly describes it as a breakup record and says it was almost titled “Soft and Pink“), but her artistic and emotional range allow her to defy clichés. On “Joshua,” a synth-y, post-breakup lament addressed to her ex, Rodman croons about being “crazy for you” and begs him for a second chance; on “Groovey,” a sprawling track accented by a killer saxophone solo, she experiments with a more abstract dance sound. No two songs sound the same, and the record is all the better for it.
The three tracks Rodman kept returning to were “Joshua,” “Love Me!”, the record’s lead single, and “Rock ’N’ Roll Gay Guy,” a sultry pop-rock cut with a camp masterpiece of a music video (directed by Steven Harwick) to accompany it. “I wanted it to feel like a Bond intro-slash-school portrait kind of thing with the floating heads,” she explains.
Sonically, the song was heavily influenced by the Austin Powers soundtrack. “They always got Lenny Kravitz, Beyoncé, Madonna, to do these incredible songs that were ’60s-inspired, or covers of singer-songwriters from the ’60s,” Rodman explains. “I just wanted it to feel like that, to have that kind of radio, pop rock vibe.” Shamir actually plays guitar on the track, shredding their way through an epic guitar solo on the bridge.
The actual lyrics of “Rock ’N’ Roll Gay Guy,” about two friends who casually hookup after sharing “friendly kisses over sparkling wine,” were inspired by Rodman’s real-life hookups with friends. “I have been lucky enough to be able to hook up with a lot of my friends and have it be fine,” she shares, “and I really wanted to celebrate that in a song. I feel like it’s very specific to queer relationships, gay relationships, trans relationships, where your friends are your family and your partners and everything.” If that isn’t a post-vaccine queer anthem in the making, I don’t know what is.
Watch the music video for “Rock ’N’ Roll Gay Guy” below, premiering exclusively on NewNowNext, and listen to Unbelievable Animals in its entirety on August 27.