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I’m journalling, just like Taylor Swift’: Kim Gordon on TikTok, motherhood and her revealing new album

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The Daft Hunks are two twentysomething YouTube influencers who don’t review music so much as react to it (their most-watched videos see them listening to Olivia Rodrigo and Lana Del Rey in real time). On their latest video they check out the new single from Kim Gordon. “She’s 70 years old and still doing it,” says one of the Hunks. “That’s crazy,” says the other.

They begin playing Gordon’s new single, Bye Bye, its dread-inducing hip-hop beats scraping against each other as Gordon intones a scribbled to-do list. “Buy a suitcase, pants to the cleaner,” Gordon raps threateningly. “Call the vet, call the groomer.”

The Hunks are in bits. “Nahhhhh!” screams one, twisting his fists in the air as if he were in a hip-hop video. “It’s literally Playboi Carti!” he shouts, referencing how much the song sounds like something the 27-year-old trap rapper might make.

It’s not just them. Anthony Fantano, the biggest music reviewer on YouTube, opines: “Kim Gordon is writing trap bangers, about packing things for a trip, that go harder than you can ever imagine.” On TikTok, teens are filming themselves following Gordon’s packing instructions: “Sleeping pills, sneakers, boots” listed in sullen verse. After more than 40 years in music, Gordon has something of a viral hit.

She is nonchalant about her dark trap direction, a sound that began on her 2019 solo debut No Home Record but has been cemented on new album The Collective – filled with intoned notebook scribbles and pained post-industrial beats. “People used to ask Sonic Youth all the time why our music was so intense or dissonant and I just think that’s what’s in life,” she says. “It didn’t feel like I was making an abrasive record. I just feel like it’s realistic.”

What about her lyrics, clipped and present tense, which pepper the record like a collage rather than a narrative – are they snatched from real diaries? “Sure I’m journalling, just like Taylor Swift,” she smirks. “But you know, I’m not writing about sad things. Well I guess a little sad. There is something about that kind of writing that’s powerful. It’s something you can do right now.”

People used to ask why our music was so intense or dissonant and I just think that’s what’s in life
We meet somewhat awkwardly at the Karma art bookstore in Manhattan’s East Village (there are no chairs so we sit alongside each other in the front window display). It’s a location selected because Gordon is publishing a book with them next month, a compilation of her late brother Keller’s notebooks. He was also journalling, in a way, Gordon points out. Keller was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia after leaving college and spent much of his life needing professional care. He died last year.

He was a Shakespeare and classics scholar and wrote poetry – sonnets, mostly,” Gordon says. “He kept these notebooks and you can hardly read them but they’re quite beautiful, sort of loopy. You can pick out some words: ‘Adonis’, and ‘Venus’ and some Greek things. It’s a kind of a homage because he never lived up to his potential. I wanted to do something that celebrated him.”

Celebration of her brother aside, Gordon is keen to steer conversation away from her personal life, notably the passages in her 2015 autobiography, Girl in a Band, in which she details the “pattern of lies, ultimatums, and phoney promises” that led to the breakdown of her marriage to her Sonic Youth bandmate Thurston Moore.

“I’m sort of miffed about the London Times piece that just came out about me, because the subtitle was about infidelity. The writer, it seemed, was just really looking for dirt. That stuff is just way past beyond for me.”

Perhaps because of that piece, Gordon, who describes herself as an introvert, is especially reserved when the conversation drifts to the subject of herself, but talks with great intensity about her work – as well as fears about Trump (“The scariest thing about a second term is his attitudes to climate”), the response to the war in Gaza (“It’s torn New York apart; the left has never been this divided”) and her favourite podcasts (she listens to Breaking Points, an anti-establishment news show where figures from the left and right debate).

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