The debut EP from the project of Katie Ortiz is a product of intense processing—a breath of fresh air after “a deep dive into vulnerability, grief, and cynicism”
There’s no graceful way to deal with grief. No tidy way to work through trauma. You can’t undo what’s happened or know for sure what’s next, and you can’t just pack up your pain and put it away. All you can do, really, is work through it. And everyone does that their own way, in their own time and on their own terms.
What continuously blows me away, though—a thought I’ve surely repeated dozens of times in slightly different ways and the theme that serves as the through-line in most of what I write—is the way that musicians, in dealing with their loss, end up giving the rest of us so much.
I’m in awe of this form of expression, this act of generosity, this taking, taming and transforming of pain to produce art—something we’re invited in to experience, empathize with and enjoy. It’s a bearing of the soul for the benefit of all, and while it might not single-handedly solve every problem or cure anyone, including the artist, completely, I do believe that music offers much-needed hope, helps us heal and allows every individual, on some level, to become a little more whole.
Debbie Dopamine is the project of Katie Ortiz, with Dylan LaPointe on bass and Zach Rescignano on drums, and the vehicle through which the artist is turning herself inside out and offering us a look—and listen—at the emotions, events and, yes, physical wiring that both influence her art and determine the way she moves through the world.
Following the record’s release (and the Best of Brooklyn feature we recruited her for last month), Katie shared some intel on the making of the record—the process of… processing.
“Pets was a deep dive into vulnerability, grief, and cynicism, and I feel as though it constantly teeters on the edge of a breakdown.
When I first started putting this record together, I was thinking a lot about my childhood pets, fiercely adored but poorly cared for. One by one I buried them under the rhododendrons in my backyard. Then years later, as an adult, I started having these morbid visions of the new pets of the new families that have lived there since digging the bones of mine up.
Love is not enough to keep fragile things alive, and dirt alone can’t keep your secrets. This EP is about digging up the bones of everything I’ve buried. I don’t believe in closure, but I believe in keeping the ghosts of your past company.”
Katie also sent over a short selection of lyrics and some thoughts on each of the record’s six tracks, in which the artists looks back on the past, out towards the future and inside herself, reminiscing on first love and mourning lost life, fleeing from certain feelings while facing, and embracing, others full-on.
Pets—TRACK BY TRACK
All your edges are wrong / There’s no hunger behind your stupid songs / Not a scream but a sigh / So you get better, and I’ll keep getting high
“Hello, this is your depressive episode speaking, here to convince you that being ‘well’ is a hoax! You’re better off staying in bed, numbing yourself, and accepting your most cynical thoughts as truth. You can’t make good art unless you’re fucking miserable. You can’t fail at recovery if you never actually try in the first place.”
I’ve been making out with all the empty in my head
“God it can feel so good/comforting/honest to be sad. Shut the door on the whole world and stay inside with nothing but the candy-colored monsters inside your own head. Stop waiting to feel better, just embrace the crap place you’re in now.”
And has their dog dug up the bones? And have their children planted their own?
“A tender ode to the childhood pets buried under the towering, tree-like bushes in my old backyard. Have the pets of the new owners dug them up or taken their place? Could I crawl in next to them and let my guilt decompose me alongside them?”
In my mind I’m half asleep / bathing in your old apartment / it’s been years since I have felt so clean
“A song for a first love that lives only inside my memory. The first time I felt free enough to love so wildly is also the last time it felt safe enough to do so.”
It makes me sick to tell, but I am doing well
“This is about a summer of sun-soaked manic grief that I spent after losing a parent. It’s rushing towards something at full speed, but I don’t know what. In the end the guilt and conflicting emotions catch up, but nothing resolves. Just keep sprinting to stay one step ahead of total collapse. There’s something weirdly euphoric about it.”
I don’t know, I’m just built wrong / I’ll be happy if I get a dog and move to Philly
“Am I doing this right? Probably not. I know I feel terrible, but I can’t tell whose fault it is. Do I need a career change, a higher dosage, or a pet to make sure I leave the fucking house every day?”
Pets is out everywhere now. Give it a listen, give it a feel and thank Katie—and musicians like her—who are making our own existences more meaningful, and certainly more enjoyable, through their art.
Feature image provided by the artist.