How To Dress Well

Phone Interview by Brenda Bosma
Photos shot by Ryan Lowry in Chicago, USA

Back in June we briefly spoke to Tom Krell, aka How To Dress Well, minutes before his show in Amsterdam. Then we got the opportunity to call him up to finish the interview and discussed repetition, desire and some songs on his latest album, What Is This Heart?, an intense and wonderful ride made with the kind of thought and care the pop devotee extraordinaire is known for.

htdw2Hi. Feel like talking déjà vu?

Sure. That feeling you have that something happening for the first time is happening again is weird, though. I have it often, that feeling where I’m talking and all of a sudden I’m like, ‘Oh, what’s going on here?’

When does it happen the most, alone or when talking to someone?

I’m not sure if I ever had a déjà vu while on my own. That would be really weird and disorienting.

How does a cycle of repetition stop being a cycle and become a broken cycle?

It’s usually just kind of staying with it, but unavoidably you lose it when you start saying something. It’s like you have a feeling of a déjà vu and then as soon as you have that feeling, you’re already slipping away back into the present. It has to do with noticing it in that moment. And just the experience of time as well, I guess.

Do you believe this pleasure you sing about in ‘Repeat Pleasure’ can ever turn into something more substantial – like, say, love?

Even the truest love has the same structure. True love doesn’t come by changing that nature of desire, but by dealing with that fact with someone and learning how to live with that.

htdw3There’s no desire to reject (some of) the desire?

That’s just not possible, first off. That’s like rejecting your humanness. That’s like how old people in long marriages treat each other.

What about self-control?

When you’re a monk perhaps that’s a thing. They try not to be human beings. In order to be both human and a monk you have to live in a hut on top of hill. That kind of ascetic self-control is just the most pathological thing. That’s like trying to deny you have an animal body, that you’re a human being, that you’re on the earth and all these things.

In the song ‘Face Again’ you sing about not knowing who knows what’s best for you. An answer to that would be helpful.

It’s definitely not me! I think it’s other people, the world. There’s just lots to learn about from other people, a lot more than just being yourself alone somewhere.

In the video for ‘Childhood Faith in Love’ there’s these big extremes; love and curiosity vs. hate and suspicion from the adult world.

They’re going through something rather traumatic together. There’s no way the little girl can understand what they’ve gone through. She doesn’t see them as filthy and broken like the store manager does. I think to be in this childhood world is just as bad and naive as trying to be a monk, even though I do believe there’s a lot of truth in that childhood world.

htdw1You seem to really pour your heart out onstage.

Yeah, go for it, though sometimes it can be a bit of a nuisance, exhausting.

Like a love and hate thing?

It’s kind of like sliding down a waterslide. You know how you’re, like, really in it, but that it’s a little too much and you feel you have no control over it?

And then when you’re down, you’re down. You could climb back up again, but that’s such a hassle. Does sliding down make you feel more alive?

Sometimes. It’s always extremely thrilling. And sometimes it’s just incredibly special.

You simply cannot stop in the middle of sliding down.

If you were trying, you’d really hurt yourself.

How To Dress Well plays on 1 November at TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht. The show is free for Subbacultcha! members.