Macy Rodman’s approach to music and performance is a smorgasbord of references, a collage of genres, a smattering of styles. Her sound has been described as “trashy bedroom slut pop” to “pussy punk” to “Bushwick synth metal.” The variation in these responses show how fluidly the Brooklyn-based musician moves between a remarkable breadth of aesthetic cultures and techniques. She’s experimental and exploratory, not quite a DIY punk princess, not quite a kitschy camp legend, not quite a dazzling pop diva, but somehow encapsulating all of those at once.
Born and raised in Alaska, Rodman moved to New York City for art school when she was 18 years old. In the city, she started DJing and doing drag at local clubs, where she was able to develop her gender expression and artistic voice. Having discovered a passion for performing, Rodman dropped out of school to pursue a career in entertainment. Now, around a decade later, she’s a certified Brooklyn legend with three full-length albums, a hysterical improvised comedy podcast (Nymphowars) and a viral Instagram account on which she impersonates Caitlyn Jenner.
When I sit down to chat with Rodman about her upcoming tour, which kicked off Sunday, July 24 at Ottobar in Baltimore, she too has a hard time describing her performance style, settling eventually on “a fake pop star gesturing towards punk.” I like the words “fake” and “gesturing” here because it is precisely in Rodman’s embrace of failure, her sheer refusal to play into her audience’s expectations of genre and form, that her brilliance as an artist emerges.
“I like to toy with the audience a little bit or start with something that’s a little bit slower and then switch it up completely,” Rodman explains. “I have songs that are very thrashy punky and then some that are soft and pretty…I like to take [audiences] on a little bit of a journey.” She fully draws audiences into her world and sweeps us up in an erratic voyage through influences as varied as PJ Harvey, Sandra Bernhard and Liz Phair. Whether she’s contemplating if a nose job would make her look better in a blazer, rolling around on the ground like a “Greased Up Freak” or singing sweetly about watching films with an ex, where we end up seems to matter much less than how we got there.
Perhaps what ties together all of these disparate sounds is her absolutely arresting voice. “It’s like Britney Spears but filled with gravel,” she laughs. There’s honesty to it, a very affective rawness that’s present in her lyrics and attitude on stage as well. Her latest album, “Unbelievable Animals,” tells the story of a quarantine break-up infused with the everyday reality of being trans.
“Most of the time I’m writing for myself,” Rodman says. “But then other times, like with [‘The Aronofsky Method’], there is a really fun thing about writing for other trans girls and trying to think of things that will make them cackle…things that are relatable in a way but are kind of a secret code.” What makes Rodman’s particular brand of absurdity so special is her ability to convey a certain truthfulness and vulnerability through it all, even in the most quotidian ways. Take, for example, her sexed-up hyper-pop cover of “Landslide,” which is somehow still just as personal as the original.
Pervasive earnestness makes Rodman such a compelling artist. She’s incredibly funny and zany and punk rock; I’m continually surprised by the relatability and genuine emotion she conveys both on and off stage. This strikes me as I’m interviewing her. She delights in my observations about her work — laughing more than any of the interviewees I’ve talked to in the past — and always flips the script on my questions, answering quite sincerely and simply whenever I think she might be quippy. Like when she tells me that her favorite theater in New York is “Regal Essex just cause the seats are so nice,” or that all she would add into a performance rider is “a dressing room…and like, a mirror would be nice.” To use her own words, this attitude might be described as “Kylie Minogue meets Courtney Love — something that’s not too precious but has an element of showgirl.”
Catch Macy Rodman’s show at Ottobar on Sunday, July 24, 2022. Get tickets here.