I was at Jumbo's Clown Room during the 2 weeks of June 2021 when we thought the pandemic was over and mask regulations were lifted. I showed up alone, but the place was packed. I chatted with the dancers whom I hadn't seen in over a year and dropped off some special hats at the bar that I had designed for the club before the virus. After a few hugs and drinks were thrown my way, a young blonde woman in a red dress came up to me and asked me what my deal was. It wasn't in a defensive or condescending tone; she was genuinely curious. I asked her if she could be more specific and she asked me what was up with my expensive-looking suit and why were dancers hugging me and why were the bartenders giving me free drinks. I told her the truth; my expensive-looking suit was legitimately expensive, the dancers that hugged me were my friends, and the bartenders gave me free drinks because I gave them some free hats. I'm a regular. Or at least I was, before the pandemic. I typically don't tell people the truth about me, but what the hell. The blonde woman and I bought each other some drinks and sat by the stage. We chatted in between pole dancing routines. I told her that I was at the seedy motel across the street for a couple nights and she was more than welcome to join me over there for a few minutes. We could finish our conversation in a place more quiet and with free mini-fridge Tecates. Surprisingly, she said yes. I didn't think that in 2021, a single woman would agree to go to a fleabag motel across the street from a strip club where she just met a stranger, but here we are. Social isolation lapses your judgement, I guess.
When we got to my room at the motel, I told her that I lived in LA but I spend a lot of time in motels and hotels all over the city for a couple days every month or two just to get away from the people around me. She told me she was on a tourist visa from Canada as she illegally interned at a very popular podcast that I had actually heard about. I opened my suitcase and pulled out some warm beers and exchanged them for the cold beers already in the fridge. I also pulled out a copy of Jon Lindsey's novel Body High which I had recently gotten in the mail, and reread the last paragraph I had finished. She asked me what the book was about and I told her it was about a sad, bummed out guy making his way around LA with his fucked up friends and his even more fucked up mind. After I said that, I realized that Los Angeles was one of the better characters in the book. The main character isn't a hero; he isn't cool and nobody would ever want to be him or be in his situations. It isn't romantic. I think that's what makes it so good. The 20th century had too many lovable losers and romanticized addicts. Getting smacked with reality is good for growing up.
Ethel Cain has been floating in and out of my YouTube algorithm for a couple of years now. I regularly listen to Lil Aaron and Wicca Phase Springs Eternal (both of whom appear on Ethel Cain's Inbred) and other artists associated with the GothBoiClique. A ticket stub from one of Lil Peep's last shows before he died is always sitting on my desk; it was the only time I'd ever seen him in person.
I listened to Ethel Cain's earlier releases from 2019, but never with much lucidity or even intention; the songs just popped on and I'd drift through it. Her demos and other releases from 2019 (under the names White Silas and Ethel Cain) were a haunting and calming mix of Aphex Twin's piano music, the black metal band Ulver's acoustic album Kveldssanger, Gregorian chanting, and graphic lyrics that are akin to DIY Xeroxed, low-circulation fetish zines you could find in the bathroom of a sex club. I think that's why Inbred struck a chord with me when I first heard it. It was infused with more pop, but still kept the creepy, graphic, and ethereal vibes with tasteful amounts of reverb that I associated with Ethel Cain's earlier music. The song I became obsessed with was Crush. I listened to it on repeat throughout the spring.
I don't know why I became so obsessed with this song. Maybe it's because it's a combination of so many of my interests that I never thought would intersect because it wouldn't make any sense, but here it is and it makes more than sense. The best way I can describe it is if Taylor Swift was born and raised around Southern gothic poverty, smoked cigarettes, and wrote a perfect love song about Tummler from Gummo.