Forget January Jones, EMA Is South Dakota’s Best Cultural Contribution Of The Moment

Sorry, I couldn’t help it. They’re both blond, and they’re both making a big cultural impact right now. I guess that loose association by hair color probably makes me a lazy journalist.

Anyway, Jones you’ve heard of and is getting all the headlines for Mad Men and X-Men. But I think EMA is making the more valuable contribution with her music.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with EMA’s Past Life Martyred Saints. It’s folk, punk, goth, poetry — basically a big batch of beautiful, raw emotion.

One of the more intense moments is on “Marked,” where EMA, aka Erika M. Anderson, sings, “I wish that every time he touched me left a mark.”

The song, “California,” which begins “F*** California/You made me boring …” is also a high point.

Obviously, if you’re sensitive about language, you probably shouldn’t click on the video below:

I’m not alone in lavishing praise on the album, which came out last month. It’s cumulative rating on Metacritic is 82 out of 100.

However, it was just this week that I learned that Anderson grew up in Sioux Falls. I would never have guessed that, but maybe it’s just because I wasn’t paying close enough attention. In retrospect, the album has some lyrical references to “the plains” and “small towns.”

I wish I could have caught her playing in Omaha this week, but it didn’t work out. Maybe next time …

In an interview with 17 dots, EMA talks extensively about growing up in Sioux Falls.

Here’s a small excerpt from the extensive interview. Again, if you’re sensitive about profanity, proceed no further:

File Under: Fractured art-folk with warped melodies and haunting poetics
For Fans Of: Kim Gordon, Lydia Lunch, early Cat Power, Zola Jesus
Personae: Erika M. Anderson (songwriter, vocals, guitar), Nikki Angerson (drums), Leif Shackeford (violin, keys), Aaron Davis (bass)
From: Portland via California…via Sioux Falls, South Dakota

On the music scene in Sioux Falls:

It was kind of weird; there was actually a decent music scene ‘cause we were along the I-90 — which is like, if you’re going across the country, you have very few places you can stop and Sioux Falls was one of them. So I saw a lot of stuff: Gauze, Marilyn Manson, Cannibal Corpse.

When I started playing, the scene was almost entirely [made up of] these hardcore emo boys. One of the boys actually tried to start a riot girrrl band called Man Hater, but we didn’t really know what riot girrrl was. We liked Bikini Kill and Julie Ruin, but no one could play. So, I was drafted into playing guitar and I kind of took over that band, because all these boys in high school already called me a dyke and shoved me up against lockers because I had a shaved head.

On Man Hater and Swamp Pussy’s reception:

There had actually never been a female-fronted band in Sioux Falls, pretty much ever, and I don’t know if there’s even really been one since. So, we were doing this thing that was kind of like almost performance arty, but we had no concept of that at the time. It was just kind of instinctual.

I didn’t really want to be in a band called Man Hater, but when I look back it’s like, “We’re just gonna take what anyone would call me anyway and kind of own it.”

3 thoughts on “Forget January Jones, EMA Is South Dakota’s Best Cultural Contribution Of The Moment

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