Angel Olsen on Style, Surrealism, and the Story Behind Her New Record, ‘Big Time’

ByMary E. Alvarez

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The film, which was released last month, twists the record’s hazy sonic textures into something altogether more surrealist, with the concept—a Lynchian trip that includes everything from an eerie, séance-like garden party to a queer line dance—originally coming to Olsen in a dream. Its deliberate warping of time, beyond nodding to the record’s title, reflects how Olsen now seeks to move through the world—as someone with a newfound understanding of just how precious every moment with your loved ones is. “I’m not saying I have it all figured out, of course, as I’m obviously still processing a lot of this stuff,” Olsen says. “But I know that I’m a really different person now than I was six months ago, than I was a year ago, and I don’t think it’s just because of the pandemic.”

As Olsen kicks off the U.S. leg of her Wild Hearts tour with Sharon Van Etten tonight, here, she tells Vogue about the process behind making the new record, how she paid homage to her mother through the short film, and why style served as an important storytelling element for Big Time’s visual world.

Vogue: Big Time feels like your smallest and most intimate record yet. I know there are personal reasons for why that might be, but was it also a response to All Mirrors, which seemed like such a big record in every sense?

Angel Olsen: I remember reaching out to John Congleton [the producer of All Mirrors], and I was like, “I love working with you, but I don’t think this is the record to do that.” I felt like the most punk-rock thing I could do was strip everything back, and he agreed with me. I know I’ll go back to him when the time and material call for it because I really love my relationship with him as well. But I was like, I don’t really want to get experimental with this. I just want it to be kind of straightforward. I’d been listening to a lot of Neil Young, and I still am, and I think I just wanted to make a record that felt classic in that way. I know that’s hugely ambitious, and I have no idea if I got anywhere near to achieving it, but that was what I was listening to. I always go back and forth with Neil. I’ve listened to him to death on tour, and then I can’t listen to him again for, like, two years. But I really connected with him during the pandemic.


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