Sweet Soubrette – City People
New York City’s Sweet Soubrette is a ukulele-powered indie rock band with dark, poetic lyrics, songs that tell stories, and lush instrumentation. Sweet Soubrette’s edgy love songs explore troubled romance, works of literature, and the mysteries of existence, featuring the songwriting, vocals and ukulele of Ellia Bisker and a talented backing band.
In this exclusive weekly series for Feminist Wednesday, Ellia talks about some of Sweet Soubrette’s songs that take on themes relating to the modern female experience. Each song is paired with an image of Ellia by Brooklyn-based photographer Emily Raw. The two artists have been working together on various photo and video projects since 2007.
The first line of “City People” is “You’re city people, you like to live alone / You’re older than your parents were when you were born.” When we play it live people usually laugh at that moment, but it’s a nervous laughter because it hits so close to home, it strikes a nerve. I wrote it when I noticed a common theme emerging in conversations with my female friends as we turned 30 years old. We discussed whether we wanted to have babies, whether we would, and if so, when and with whom. Women struggle with these narratives about how our lives are supposed to go, which come partly from our families and the choices our own parents made, and partly from popular culture; you meet the right person, you get married, and you have kids. It creates a lot of anxiety, whether that track appeals to you or not. What’s the right time to settle down? Do you want to? How long can you put off the decision? What will you have to give up? Is someone going to come along and save you? If not, what then? There’s tension for a lot of women between what we imagine for ourselves as children and how we actually live as adults, and I think it’s especially acute in New York. “City People” speaks to that anxiety.
There are two versions of this song. The original recording, from Sweet Soubrette’s second album, “Days and Nights”, has a dark electropop feel and plays it really straight and serious. It’s pretty faithful to how I felt when I wrote it. The live version, which was released in 2012 on the “What’s My Desire” EP, emphasizes the humor and captures a real joy in expression, with an almost mariachi feel to the horn section. It’s more playful, but that doesn’t make it less true. —Ellia Bisker