Pascal Stevenson (Moaning, Girlpool) is currently gearing up to release her debut solo album as Fashion Club, Scrutiny (out June 16 via Felte Records), and after sharing lead single “Feign For Love” last month, she’s now released a second single, “Pantomime.”
When beginning work on her first musical endeavor as a frontperson and primary songwriter, Stevenson pulled from a wide range of influences, including the experimental art-rock of Kate Bush, Brian Eno and Wire’s Colin Newman, as well as Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ production on classic Janet Jackson albums Control and Rhythm Nation 1814. Each of these artists make their mark on “Pantomime,” especially in the way they make use of synths to build dramatic, dark statement pieces that still feel accessible, fitting grandiose arrangements into the confines of a four-minute pop song.
Over dreamy flashes of keyboard melodies and insistent percussion, Stevenson questions the performativity practiced by some of her (mostly white) indie rock peers: “Can you justify your cruelty to the world? / Are you terrified of your own words? / You’ll pantomime a feeling that you rehearsed / To quantify your work.” The dense instrumentation soars over the chorus’ hook, maintaining a sense of darkness that tells you there’s a threat looming behind every lofty synth line. In balancing danceability with danger, it aims for the heights Stevenson’s influences reached while also honing her own singular voice as a songwriter.
“This is the first song I wrote for this record,” Stevenson said of “Pantomime” in a statement. “It’s about different kinds of social performance, and how we weigh our needs against others. A lot of people advocate for marginalized groups in their public lives but then don’t make any effort to look inward and address their own harmful behavior in their private lives.” She expanded upon this thought in a statement on the album, noting that “to be somebody that’s Black in a predominantly white industry like indie rock, you realize how what people project about who they are and how they treat other people is so at odds with how they actually feel.”
In the same statement, Stevenson also talked about finding her footing as a frontperson while working on Scrutiny, saying, “Trying to take myself out of that behind-the-scenes role was uncomfortable at first. You have to imagine yourself completely differently. To make that shift in your mind is hard. Especially if you have built something up in your mind about how the person that fronts a band has to be perceived. It felt really good and freeing to be in control, because I trusted myself. When you get to a certain level of confidence, you can be more free.”
Stevenson has recently been on the road playing support dates as Fashion Club with Ed Schrader’s Music Beat and Deradoorian, and also made an appearance at SXSW to play as a member of Girlpool. Now, she’s announced that she’ll be supporting Shamir on tour for four dates in August, playing in Seattle, Vancouver, Portland and Las Vegas. You can find tickets for each of those shows here.
You can listen to “Pantomime” below, and preorder Scrutiny here.