Track By Track: Klein Zage – Feed The Dog
Feed The Dog is Klein Zage at her most authentic.
It’s the coming together of all the musical pitstops she’s made along the way. Growing up in Seattle, Klein Zage – real name Sage Redman – was surrounded by the fertile grunge and punk scene in the city, before a move to London in 2011 opened her eyes to a new world of sound, from trip hop to UKG and grime.
Then came the most important relocation – New York in 2019 – the place that would be instrumental in her own songwriting and music production journey.
Alongside her longterm collaborator and production partner Joey G ii she launched Orphan Records with her debut EP Womanhood. Characterised by her witty social commentaries this release and her follow up, a homage to the hospitality industry called Tip Me Baby One More Time, established her as a talented lyricist and poet who can find beauty in the mundane.
Feed The Dog, which marks her debut album on Rhythm Section International, welcomes us into a new chapter of Sage’s musical metamorphosis, however, as the label attest, ‘even though her new project sounds like a departure, this is the music she’s always been making’.
A cocktail of slow dream pop, shoe gaze guitars, wistful vocals and grunge-soaked rhythms, the release captures the essence of all those diverse formative influences and showcases her evolution as an artist.
In the wake of the album’s release, we asked Sage to unpack the situations, inspirations, moods and feelings that surrounded the writing and production of each track. Here’s how Feed The Dog came to be…
At the time I wrote Sand I was listening to a lot of David Sylvian, Nick Cave, Mark Hollis, Robbie Basho, down tempo Bjork – and drawn to sort of epically melancholic soundscapes and slow burning ballads. The track opens and closes with a field recording from Hood Canal, Washington, where the beginnings of the album were recorded. It’s one of few fjords in the States and an unassumingly beautiful place. Seals swim just off the dock and oysters cover the beach. It offered me an oasis at a time when the exhaustion of city life was hindering my ability to feel creative and it became a home base for the life that the record took on as it came together.
Relishing in the ease of it all, getting complacent in happiness.
Optimism to save the day – here it comes, the pay off.
This is it, this is all there is, the sand is washed over by water, all the time resetting, past markings erased, patterns repeated, lost time.
Bored, With You
Something I was thinking about when making the record was that I wanted to create a body of work that you could really live with. By that I mean, put on in the background – of a dinner, of your work hours, of drinks with friends – something that would enhance an experience but not give *look at me* energy. The records I listen to the most and reach for time and again, are pretty chill, not uninteresting or flat by any means, but not flashy either. I hope this record can really live in somebody’s world without taking up too much space.
Complete comfort with another person, words not needed, understanding in silence.
Beautiful, mundane banality, collectively endured, shared.
The video was directed by Murdo Barker Mill. Originally from London, Murdo is a Brooklyn-based film student at Colombia university, and the son of acclaimed light artist and Oscar winning cinematographer Adam Barker-Mill.
Accept Me As I Am
I grew up in grunge era Seattle and though I don’t think that can often be ‘heard’ in my music, this song and ‘Make Me Better’ are the closest exceptions… although it seems absurd to say that “out loud”. Joey G ii, who wrote and recorded the record with me, is a very talented, sick guitar player and we had a lot of fun letting him rip on this one, leaning into more crunchy, toasted vocals and overdriven guitar tones. I wanted to balance some of my more emo influences with bright synth pops and anthemic melody. High, low, happy, sad!
Me as not an attachment to you, an enhancement sure, but singular, like a clip-on earring.
Almost a want for objectification, because that is some form of sick acceptance.
Make Me Better
Spoken word, dance floor Zage gone soft! This song is about learning things about yourself through the eyes of another person. I was playing around with a lot of different vocal deliveries at the time, pushing myself to embrace the human aspects of my voice, and the imperfections. The contrast of the stripped down, spoken delivery of the verse and the stacked octaves and harmonies of the chorus really highlight two extremes that I tried to interweave throughout the entire album – the beautifully polished and ethereal with the guttural, no nonsense realness. LOL, indulge me.
Self medicating, relationship as a bandaid, spackle.
You make me better , understand me better than anyone, due for a checkup.
Bored, With You Interlude
This bridge between the a & b sides serves to anchor the record in place for me, that place being Hood Canal. This is another one that solidified early on in the recording sessions, as we were playing with different versions and directions to take with ‘Bored, With You’. It has that feeling that almost as you’re listening to it, it’s being written and sort of unfolding in an experimental, mind of its own kind of way. I love a song that builds and builds to no payoff and it felt right to keep this sense of tension moving into the second half of the record.
The break down – the dark side.
Slipping into comfort is one thing, bottoming out is another.
Anxiety in comparisons, frustrations stemming from a quiet, unspoken pattern.
Feeling the tipping point, but never reaching it.
No resolve, head down.
Prince I wrote on my childhood upright piano in one sitting, on a night that had me doubting a lot of what I had believed to be true about longevity as an artist and the pursuit of music. When we went to record it it sort of took on a life of its own. I love trip hop and we leaned into that influence with the drums and everything else just followed suit. I like to think it starts in a pretty paranoid place and reaches a bit of a resolve in acceptance as the track progresses.
I am my own fallen idol.
Past inspirations irrelevant.
Curtains closing/lights going out.
Acceptance in unacceptance.
Anger in failure.
I am not a genius.
In The Gaze
This song went through many different iterations over the years and it’s probably the oldest track on the record. Eventually this sort of slow dancey, waltzy arrangement felt like the most intimate and appropriate reflection of the lyrical content. To me the song is very bedroom mirror, curtains drawn, voices in your head, working up to something, giving yourself a pep talk. It really takes me back to being a teenager and staying up late playing guitar in my room.
Required reading. Display shelf.
Waiting for an experience to be dictated, not wanting to set a tone. Wash over me, reluctancy.
Home alone, do I still exist. Male gaze is a complicated and often avoided thing. Not anymore.
Feed the Dog
This song is about family, as is the record as a whole, and specifically the family you choose for yourself. Years in the making, it finally comes out at an interesting time for me. This year I’ve gone through a separation with my partner of 10 years, marking a significant book end of pursuing life alongside somebody else, sharing dreams and goals, until you don’t anymore. Which I’m learning is totally ok. I’m happy that this release can help me close an incredible chapter of my life, and hopefully open a new one.
Routine tethering you to reality.
Making a family, what it means on the ground.
The care and attention you show someone you love, trumps all ambition, and truly feeling like it is enough.
Bliss in the little things.
For My Friends of Lewisham
I spent the most formative years of my young adult life roaming the streets of South London – falling in love, with a person, a city, a culture, all of it really. For that reason, London has always felt like the closest thing I have to home. I’ve moved around a lot and always felt like I left a part of myself in SE4. Joe grew up in London and has a complicated relationship with the city. This is really a love song that we wrote to a place that formed us as individuals and as a couple.
Formative times for better and worse.
Waiting for a bus for so long. Like so, so long you’re forced to find comfort in other things – distractions, other forms of transport even. You’re convinced buses aren’t for you in the end, then two buses come at once. But you can only ride one, as they are destined for different places. C’est la vie baby.
Feed The Dog is out now on Rhythm Section International.