Want to do a little simple addition? No? Well, if you want to understand what’s happening on Serena Ryder’s forthcoming album (out sometime this fall), Utopia, you’re going to have to.
“Can you do math? I can’t!” says the Canadian folk rocker when asked about “Got Your Number,” the album’s lead single. “But I do know that if you do the numerology of the phone number from that song—534 6607—you’ll be able to tell me what it means.” (We were going with it being a gleeful takedown of a cheating ex, but, when pressed, Ryder shares that it amounts to “the number of the angels.”)
That kind of oblique, slightly mysterious response is typical of a conversation with Ryder, the mind and music maker behind 2012’s “Stompa,” a hand-clapper that topped charts worldwide, and who won Best New Artist of the Year at the Juno Awards in 2008. This latest album was born out of what Ryder describes as “dark, dark times.” “This album came out of a moment of confusion—where I didn’t know my head from my ass,” she says. “And then I tried to do a handstand and I was like, ‘Oh, it doesn’t really matter, does it? My head and my ass are both still there, whether I’m upside down or not.’” And, no, that’s not a metaphorical handstand. She actually did one. All of that inversion created an album with what the 33-year-old Ontario native calls “a dark side, a grey side and a white side.” It’s built on songs like “Fire Escape,” which she says is about “falling in love without a parachute, being on the edge of something that you feel is unsafe,” written in about three hours one day in Los Angeles, where she lives half the year. (She spends the rest in Toronto.)
Ryder particularly loves the paean to patience “I Can Watch, I Can Wait.” “It’s a beautiful virtue that I’m still learning,” she says. “When I wrote the song, I was like, ‘Fuck, do you want to take me to that dark place again? Okay, let’s go and shine some light on it.’”