After several years of touring the US, Portland’s Roselit Bone have perfected an infectious and powerful live show that falls somewhere between a demented Roy Orbison and an angelic Gun Club. Their anthems of loneliness, alienation, and triumph have allowed them to artfully navigate through a cluttered underground scene, captivating audiences and transfixing crowds in a nightly conversion ritual. On their newest release, Crisis Actor, they lace vignettes of systemic violence, sexual confusion, and class warfare with a wry, suicidal humor straight from the gut of America. In a review of Crisis Actor, Sean Jewell of American Standard Time writes, “Roselit Bone present a bizarrerie of song, a black mass of greased leather that oozes cool, and billows terror. Their music moves seamlessly from conjunto to cosmic country, from surf to rockabilly, transporting the listener from black forests to lonely casinos. It lives mournfully and defiantly in motels and dive bars of the mind, guided by strings, gliding on woodwinds and brass, over the heat mirage of pedal steel and electric guitars.”
In July of 2019, Roselit Bone entered Supernatural Sound (Oregon City, OR) to begin tracking Crisis Actor. Charlotte would oversee the majority of the writing and production. The sessions were long, but after only a few days, the seven piece band had recorded the bulk of the record live. It was a valiant effort to capture the manic energy of their live set which previous records had yet to fully realize. Yet by the time Noah Georgeson (Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom) was tapped to mix the album, Charlotte was immersed in something even more profound – the beginning of her gender transition. “There are echoes of what was to come in the lyrics of this record. I spent hours tracking the vocals on the title track, getting deeper with each take into the headspace of the toxic, angry, sexually confused person I inhabit on that song. At the end of it I was totally drained and felt an amplification of the anxiety that I came to recognize as gender dysphoria.” And with such a revelation, there follows a sense of distraction that can accompany it, one that Charlotte is quick to point out. “I don’t think people should see this album much through the lens of my transition, as it was written before I knew what was going on.”
Crisis Actor’s arrangements are vast and ambitious, revealing a sonic, panoramic landscape where street urchins, psychedelic vaqueros, and drunken outlaws ride painted horses through a savage, dystopian, punk rock future. It’s a record of layers, revealing itself more fully with each listen. Charlotte admits, “there’s a little bit of myself in every character,” and it’s precisely those characters that bring to life the record’s vision of a broken society straight from the American underbelly, one that the sprawling eight-piece outfit so vividly mimics on stage. But in the end, it’s hard not to believe that this record lies somewhere within Charlotte herself, an artist on the cusp of rebirth.