“This song was written quite a few years ago. At the time, I was 26 years old and living in an illegally-small 1-bedroom apartment in Bushwick, NY. I’d started a band called The Worst Humans and I was struggling desperately to keep my head above water. At this point I was in the throes of addiction; misdiagnosed and taking the wrong medication to combat my bi-polarity (1); and retaining less and less sleep as the days fell off the calendar.
Sometime in April of 2017 my dear friend, Cory, flew into the city from Seattle to do a shoot with me for the Humans. I couldn’t get out of bed. I was ashamedly discourteous to my friend and his time and I wasted the lot of it by feeling insurmountably depressed and self-deprecating. Forever the optimist, Cory wasn’t going to have any of it. He helped rally me from my bed and was sympathetic to my self-loathing, thus sparing me the camera’s eye. Instead, he picked up a guitar and started strumming. He had introduced me to The Dandy Warhols earlier that year and I was listening to them obsessively. So it started, I tried finding something on the guitar that would fall in the realm of the Dandy’s.
Cory was prodding me with questions, trying to invoke some semblance of curiosity to get the writing process started. I remember looking through my Notes app on my phone and scouring all the one-liners and would-be lyrics I had taken down in my free time. I landed on what would become the first line of the song, “I wannabe New York City.” The idea behind it is that there is a desperation to reach new heights of fame. There is an immense feeling of validation that comes with it and it’s very rarely satisfying enough to fill someone up for the rest of their life. They always want more.I toyed with the term “wannabe.” I tried to fold it into itself and make it self-referential. I think everyone wants to be as famous as New York City. I also think everyone wants to be as famous as food (thus the line, “I wannabe the food that you eat.”). If it sounds disgusting that’s because it is.
Cory helped me get my thoughts in order and even contributed an expertly-written bridge section that didn’t make it into the final product. The guy who I recorded the song with, Keith Nelson, wrote some new parts and helped make it the song it is. I’m forever grateful to them both and regard them both as dear friends. And I might still be in bed if it weren’t for Cory.” – K!lly !dol
Dear Ms. Brownstein,
I read your book Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, and I gotta be honest: I f*cking loved it. In fact, it made me wish I wasn’t born five years before your first album came out, and too busy hearing my pop’s records — classics like Deja Vu and Attempted Mustache — to catch rippers like “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” when they were first released. I got around to ‘em eventually though. And I’m proud to say I picked up a Sleater-Kinney-inspired guitar when I was just 9 years old (an SG, to be clear).
The only problem? I grew up in the Garden State. And due to my rather ‘provincial’ surroundings, I wasn’t playing indie rock, or even rap-metal for that matter. It was more like a bunch of hardcore and screamo bands, one of which (Bandit! Bandit!) played Warped Tour (may it rest in peace) when I was 16. And yet, despite that small feat, I still hated high school. But who didn’t, right? It was then that I weathered the first of several psych-ward stints, which cropped up during my junior year. But my predilection for addiction wouldn’t reveal itself until later. And when that itch finally hit, boy howdy did I bounce between boorish pits and split-faced highs nearly everyday thanks to a steady diet of uppers and downers.
Now, before you think I’m trying far too hard to act ‘cool’, I’d like to admit something I rarely say out loud: For as long as I can remember, I’ve abhorred myself. Which might explain how I ended up being one of Central New Jersey’s many token ‘emo kids’. My friends and I were routinely harassed for wearing ‘girl jeans’ — baited into bloody engagements, and punished with a seemingly endless series of suspensions, detentions, and near-expulsions. My rough and rowdy youth is probably what afforded me a job as a bouncer at an East Village venue called Berlin in 2016. The beloved Jesse Malin was my boss actually, but I digress.
Back to how I left home at 18, I was city-bound. My college years were uneventful outside of a folk band and all the heady literature I read as an English major, from Rimbaud to W. B. Yeats to Frank O’Hara. Upon graduating I joined a band that signed to Atlantic Records. This is where I fell into the world of addiction further than I ever had before. We toured with The Fray, James Blunt, and some smaller names. It all peaked when I was 24 and left that band to form The Worst Humans, which took me to where I am today. And that is the mad-for-it solo outlet K!lly !dol, a way of revisiting, and truly processing, the tough yet transformative years that informed my young adult life.
In a lot of ways, I was able to relate these through your book. Your days growing up in Olympia really resonated with me.
When my EP comes out this fall, I’ll be sure to send you a copy (or a link, rather). I hope you’ll get around to listening someday. Then it’ll all make sense.