New Orleans based chaos chauntese Oblivia has always been a maven of metaphoric means, deep-diving in the perforated psyches that relate to IRL past lives through digitized confessionalist concept pieces. Debuting Suburban Legend with album art featuring them and their mother in the backyard of the artist’s childhood home in Norristown, PA, photographed by Chris Berntsen, this symbolic return to an adolescent space after a timeframe of transformative process clues into the space that stamps the story throughout Oblivia’s second album.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of mythology. Gods, monsters, archetypes, and legends that dance and elaborate the theatre of life, a mirror for society. I think of the self in this same way: an invention that we develop and that others make for us as we live our lives, both of these ideas eventually creating a deeper truth,” Oblivia explains. “I wanted to weave a tapestry of stories from growing up queer in the suburbs of Philadelphia and reflecting back on my personal mythology in a traumatizing household, to see what lessons I could learn from my past, as I remember it in fragments, sounds, and stories others have told me.”
Suburban Legend has overarching themes regarding concepts of family and safety, grappling through betrayal, self-reliance, fear and metamorphosis, as stated: “I wanted to meditate on the perpetual violence within the seemingly calm world of suburbia, what happens behind closed doors of stark beige cookie-cutter homes with chestnut rooftops.”
With a half year recently spent in Mexico City, Oblivia recorded much of the material during this time frame of intensive study for a condensed Spanish language program. Suburban Legend is the result of the moments in which the artist had to create, reflecting on what youth was at “home” while being in the extremely diffing environment of Mexico City’s international metropolis. Suburban Legend’s collection of tracks range from juxtaposed jingles, looming witchhaus haunts and samplified mishmash madness, the ambience and energy of this record intense and harrowing.
“I tried to capture this essence in the form of ambient noise and weird electronic sexuality: a howling chorus of winter valkyries desperately chirping sonic landscapes through the distortion of teenage emotion and the trials of familial secrecy and judgement. Will we see an end to this violence, or will we indulge in the fetish of a silence?”, Oblivia questions.
Like all of Oblivia’s works, Suburban Legend is built on the exploration of self. From constructing the complicated and juxtaposed art film Year of the Whore in 2014, teetering between parody and femme vulnerability with a heavy dose of Beyonce, to finding further artistic actualization through 2018’s “noise opera” The Bottom, Oblivia has perfected deconstruction (and sometimes destruction) in her particular brand of queer art divahood. Her uncanny ability to seek reflection in environments and situations as it relates to her identity and artistic expression, filtered thru mocked clubby motifs and distortion, one could say Oblivia’s music in itself is a commentary on the nitty gritty hiding within our ego-oriented society, and the victim that is individual vulnerability, bringing dysfunction to the surface while maintaining hints of glamour and pop that sits at the forefront of femme performance. If there ever was a Lynchian equivalent in the queer performance art community today, it would be Oblivia.
“With Suburban Legend I fathomed indulgence, self-destructive habits, and the game of risk that we play to experience joy in sterile environments. One day, while writing this album, I came across a sign in Lowe’s that read, ‘Safety is when nothing happens,’ which easily became a personal thesis,” Oblivia explains. “I’ve come to the conclusion that safety’s an illusion. This is a suburban myth to me, a suburban legend if you will, that preventing danger from happening is better than experiencing the world in its austere unfamiliarity.”
Sunni Johnson is the Arts Editor of WUSSY and a writer, zinester, and musician based in Atlanta, GA.