Interview by Anna Dória

Haley Dahl, the visionary behind Sloppy Jane, has redefined chamber pop/rock with her critically acclaimed 2021 album Madison, recorded in a West Virginia cave and released on Saddest Factory Records. Known for her dynamic live performances with an up-to-10-piece band, Dahl’s shows are a captivating blend of frenetic energy and orchestral brilliance. Sharing stages with acts like boygenius and Phoebe Bridgers, Sloppy Jane continues to push artistic boundaries, drawing inspiration from Dahl’s deep connection to the color blue, her performative journey, and her commitment to ever-evolving musical expression. Her latest track “Claw Machine” is a highlight in the latest A24 film “I Saw The TV Glow.”

From all the spectrum of colors, is there a reason you’re so passionate about the color blue especially?

I appreciate the depth of the color blue as it contains an infinite quality. The sky is blue, and on the opposite side, the ocean is blue. It means the most depth, and it’s beautiful. Also, my hair is red and blue tones create a good contrast to it. My grandpa immigrated to the United States from Iraq when the Jews were being persecuted. He was an abstract painter who only painted with the color blue. He died when I was very young but I always wondered if he had the same feelings as I do about it or if he had other reasons for liking it so much.

During all your presentations and while shooting for Vulkan, you have
been a powerhouse of a performer. Was there a formal process to acquire such a level of bodily knowledge?

Thank you for saying that! I have been a total character and had a performative vein since I was a little kid. When I was younger I thought I wanted to do acting so I took acting classes for most of my upbringing. There was a point where I decided I didn’t want to do it because I didn’t enjoy doing other people’s characters. I didn’t like the idea of having a career I would only perform if I got a role. When I got into music, I felt free to create whatever character I wanted and perform whatever I wanted. I have been performing for most of my life and how I developed my onstage character has been a process of discovering things that were true about me physically; Taking something I am self-conscious about and amplifying it. For instance, I have bad posture and I’m always trying to correct it as my onstage character has a lot of shoulder movements. This performative dynamic ends up helping me make corrections to my posture. It led me to giant adjustments but was also more of a character choice.

What differentiates your stage persona from daily Haley Dahl?

I think that me onstage is the biggest, most invested brightest, and truest version of myself. Who I am onstage is somebody trying to serve another person. Most of my life out of the stage is trying to get back onstage. I’m consistently practicing, choreographing, singing at home, or writing songs and thinking about how I will incorporate all of this into my stage performance. Of course, I am not eating chips and lying in bed as I am in real life when I’m onstage. I have previously tried eating onstage but I’m just not hungry there. There’s too much adrenaline going on. It just didn’t feel right.

Sloppy Jane has been through intense changes in style since its first days, incorporating elements ranging from punk rock to something more theatrical. Were you ever afraid it would affect your fanbase’s affection? Did the pressure for consistency ever turn into a burden to you as an artist?

All of my favorite artists were people who metamorphosed a lot throughout their records. Each work would be completely different from the previous one. So, that ever-changing quality is always what I truly strive for, trusting my voice and vision enough to believe that anything I make will sound like something I made. With such fluidity, my music can embody the forms of punk music, orchestral music, pop music, or heavy metal. There’s a strong enough undercurrent in how I develop lyrics in whatever genre I’m writing. It will not alienate the fans who enjoy my projects for the right reasons. I’m just too excited about every artistic expression. This makes me enjoy many different concepts. It also prevents me from feeling limited to other’s expectations about my work.

Do you feel like you and your audience share a sense of trust in each other?

There’s a lot of trust between me and my audience. I’m not a celebrity or something and there’s not necessarily a specific type of person who is a fan of mine. During our tours, we had “black tie” dress codes and stuff and it was nice seeing everyone’s interpretations of it. Becoming more and more committed to participating in a communal sense is genuinely fulfilling.

There is consistent religious imagery in Madison. I was wondering if they came from a religious background and what is their position in your art?

I wasn’t raised in religion at all so I have no trauma with it. What I have is this sort of voyeuristic perception which almost makes me a fetishist of religion. I love the concept of God, I think it’s great. It is the horrible things that people did with the weaponization of this concept that are not great. Still, I love the imagery, I like equating the mundane to the religious. In Madison, as I wrote the song Jesus on your living room floor, I envisioned a reality that I’m so in love with God that even linoleum, the kitchen floor, or anything they touch becomes God. My vision of religion consists in finding drama within the mundane.

When it comes to creating for cinema, how do the restrictions of the story influence your process compared to a song you start alone from scratch, without any attachments to a second reader’s creative expectations?

I like writing songs for films, it’s nice to have an assignment because when I’m writing for myself there can be some confusion about what I’m trying to create sometimes. This feeling of unsureness is one of my biggest roadblocks. I love all music so much that it is a blessing but can also become a curse. Sometimes I’m writing what I think will become a real rock song and I’m proud of it. Then I go for a walk, put on my headphones, and listen to it again and the same work will turn more into an opera style. I get like “This is a great thing! This is what I should be writing”. Right after this, I end up working on something else. My attention span can get difficult with something like that. With other people, they’ll be like “Give me something like this.” then become a supervisor to check in about it all and how it’s doing. Then I will send this other person a draft and they’ll say “This part is good about the song.” or Change this part of the song.” It means less pressure on me to have all the answers, which is nice.

How was the journey to find your particular style and aesthetic? Are there any personalities that have inspired you in this process?

I love cartoons, I love Las Vegas, and I have been goth my whole life. I was an intensely goth teenager. Adolescent I would walk around without eyebrows, wear corsets every day, and display a long black hair down to my waist. That style still influences me. I love chains, any kind of hardware, and pieces with spikes. At the same time, I acquire lots of inspiration from Liberace and classic Las Vegas showgirl imagery. It is all so heightened yet incredibly funny. I’d like to offer an honorous mention to Cruella Devil, with all her exaggerated cartoonish aesthetics.

The theme for this issue is Luck. We would love to know the meaning it has for you and how you encountered it on your journey. Also, I’m curious if you’re drawn to any esoteric practices.

I believe in luck and I want it! A lot of this idea comes from your imagination. It all returns to our earlier conversation about finding God in the mundane. I think about times in my life when I considered myself the luckiest… These would be the moments when I was connected with a higher power, feeling in tune with the universe’s rhythm. In my life, I will see a piece of trash on the streets and understand it as a sign, as if it speaks to XYZ. When I meet people I feel open like “Wow! I just met this person and they could change my life”. A lot of times they don’t, but walking around with the attitude that every little thing has meaning creates the experience of being lucky much more than not doing that. To assume everyone you meet and everything you find on the road have meaning instead of acting mechanically towards life. You can assign yourself as a lucky person and decide that. Of course, it can be difficult considering how scary is the world we are experiencing at this time and age. One can easily get poisoned by the internet and the people around them living through bad times. Still, trying to find magic in little things is the most powerful weapon for me to see beyond it all.

Haley Dahl @sloppyjanebandd

Photography + Creative Direction Isabela Costa @isa.chromatic

Assisted by Valentina Rosset @morangoazul

Interview Anna Dória @_______elcosmosyanna

Styling Andrew Philip Nguyen @lil_saigon

MakeUp Leibi Carias @leibi_carias

Hair Robert Steinken @robertsteinken1

Production _ Location @bellomediagroup x @maisonpriveepr_la