Abbie Pitre

Following the release of her latest music video for “You & Me” from her latest EP, Catching Rabbits, critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter and pianist Genevieve Stokes sat down with Variance's Ethan Ijumba to discuss her recent project regarding its process, influences, and emphasis, among other topics since the release. Composed of seven tracks that perfectly balance themes of nostalgia and angst,  the music transparently shows that Stokes has embodied her heart and soul into every aspect of the project. With its amalgamation of existential themes, tender moments of reflection, and never wavering exploration of the expansive reach of sound, this EP is a promising start to what is sure to be a fascinating career. Be sure to read below for the full conversation between the two as well as stream Catching Rabbits on all platforms.

Recently your new EP titled Catching Rabbits just released. How did the idea come about, and what was the overall inception that brought you into making this work?

I started writing the EP around two years ago when I was releasing my first EP, “Swimming Lessons,” and I was really influenced by Alice in Wonderland. So there are a lot of references in the videos from that EP, and just even throughout the songs. But I wanted it to feel like this reconnection with my childhood and looking back on growing up in Maine. I was coming out of a pretty dark phase in my life where I was just struggling mentally. I would write a lot about these cyclical thought patterns that I was having and this feeling of not being able to escape my mind and seeking solace in fairytales.

You mentioned how you were coming out of that dark place and space at that point in time in your life and that this EP sheds light on it. One of your main songs is “Habits” which took over TikTok making major waves regarding shares and plays. Is there a specific song from this EP that you let yourself have a more bare-stripped emotional shedding from the track list? 

Each song plays a really important role in the EP, “Book of Memories” is that for me which is the highlight track for the release date because that's just a piano and vocal I wrote two years ago; I remember we were recording live versions of my first EP. I recorded the base of that song in this lobster shack in Maine, and it encapsulates the whole process of the project for me because it's very simple, and the layout of the song is simple but very poignant. 

So when it came down to making this EP, did you have to go through a whole bunch of tracks that you had to cut and/or keep? Or was it like a strenuous process when it came down to what you wanted to fit in? Because some say EPs are more complex than albums or vice versa.

Totally, I actually was planning for this to be an album, but we were a little worried about having an album this early on. Honestly, an EP was easier because we were taking the top tracks that my team and I collectively decided were the best for the EP. It just made it a lot simpler because, for an album, I wanted interludes and more of a story, but with an EP, it can feel like more of a presentation of, like, OK, here are just six songs. If you guys like it, there will be more which takes the pressure off in a way for me. 

When it came down to making this EP, you worked with Tony Berg, who's already worked with Paul McCartney, Phoebe Bridges, Taylor Swift, among other big names. What was it like working with him? 

It was such a different process, and I've grown so much through it because this is the first project that was my first time ever recording my music in a more traditional way. All of my music up to that point was just put on Soundcloud, and it was just voice memos. So with Brian Kierulf, it was like a step up but still really homemade. We just rented out an Airbnb in Maine and recorded everything. So when meeting with Tony, it was like the first week I just stayed at his house, and I practiced the songs on his piano and so it would be hours a day just practicing. So that was already pretty intimidating to me because I was like, damn, this is like a really intense process. But it was also really good because by the time that week was up, I was super prepared to record vocals and play my parts for each of the songs. He hired a bunch of these incredible musicians like Matt Chamberlain, who was the former drummer in Pearl Jam, and Mason Stoops on guitar. It was an intimidating process because I sat in the studio and listened to all these musicians hear my demos, and then they came up with their own instruments and parts for the songs. I just have never played in that environment or worked collaboratively with hired musicians, so it was crazy.

Do you normally write your songs by yourself regarding the composition process or are you open to sharing with others and like getting working in a songwriting space?

It's just me, myself, and I; I just play piano and sing. I've tried doing more collaborative stuff, and it's fun, but it's harder to get to that emotional state around other people. While working with Tony, I wrote and practiced new stuff for the EP.  He helped me with chord changes and gave me different ideas, which was super helpful. His music theory knowledge was interesting, and I don't know much about music theory, so it made me want to learn more. Just being in that environment, seeing all these incredible people, and knowing who Tony's worked with. It really inspired me to learn more about music theory and different types of music. I think Tony's a real teacher; he showed me so many new songs and just wanted to challenge me every day; that was so new to me because it was so different. 

With that being said, are there any specific goals you have in mind or have you set for yourself in your career? Is there anything that you yourself want to capture or have, whether it's a personal or materialistic achievement of any sort? 

I really want to build a visual world around the music. I've started to and I'm interested in music videos, cover art, and collaborating with other creatives that I'm a fan of. I want to build narratives in that visual world. That's why I've been planting seeds recently, but my siblings are also artists; my sister's a writer, and she's creating a tarot deck to go along with each song on the EP, and my brother is also a visual artist. Just bringing in more and more people and creating this whole collaborative experience. I'm excited to expand what I want my music to be and not just musically. For example, I love what Tyler, the Creator has done with his music. It's like a whole new world, and other artists like Frank Ocean, even though he doesn't have that many visuals to go along with his music, it paints such a clear picture just sonically.

Are there any other specific artists that influenced you in a musical aspect? 

Yeah. Kate Bush, Regina Spektor, Fiona Apple. There are so many; also Alex G. Regina Spektor was my big influence growing up. I was obsessed with her when I was eight after finding one of her albums, but I also listen to a lot of just mainstream pop music. But I'm glad that I found Regina Spektor at such a young age because if I had grown up on just top 40, things would be different. But I think she was one of those people I remember; I fell in love with the song “Laughing With” when I first heard it. That was the first Regina Spektor song I'd ever heard, and I was trying to mimic her Russian accent and stuff when she sings with her piano, just everything about her. 

For yourself as an artist, you said that you want to have an artistic and visual aspect brought to life is one of the big main goals that you wanna have specifically. So when it comes down to this EP, are there any songs you want to capture that vision with or do you want to have it as an entire visual album itself?

There's a video for “You and Me” and “Book of Memories”  which we pushed off on some of the videos that we've come up with. But I'm planting those seeds now. So some of the concepts in those videos will be recurring, and they'll be in the next body of work too. Especially with the masks used in the “Habits” video, you'll see them in other music videos that I've been working on.