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Fiona Apple on Her New Album and Acknowledging Indigenous Lands

The album includes an acknowledgment that it was “Made on unceded Tongva, Mescalero Apache, and Suma territories.”

In a broadcast exclusive, world-renowned singer-songwriter Fiona Apple joins Democracy Now! for the hour to discuss her critically acclaimed new album, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters,” which was released early amid the pandemic. “I’ve heard that it’s actually making people feel free and happy,” Apple says, “and it might be helping people feel alive or feel their anger or feel creative. And that’s the best thing that I could hope for.” Her record includes an acknowledgment that the album was “Made on unceded Tongva, Mescalero Apache, and Suma territories.” We also speak with Native American activist Eryn Wise, an organizer with Seeding Sovereignty, an Indigenous-led collective that launched a rapid response initiative to help Indigenous communities affected by the outbreak.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Democracy Now!,, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

FIONA APPLE: [singing] Fetch the bolt cutters
I’ve been in here too long
Fetch the bolt cutters
I’ve been in here too long
Fetch the bolt cutters
I’ve been in here too long
Fetch the bolt cutters

AMY GOODMAN: Fetch the Bolt Cutters. That’s the name of the new critically acclaimed album, just released, by singer-songwriter Fiona Apple, into a world under lockdown. Fiona Apple’s fifth album was released months early due to the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic. The remarkable album has become somewhat of a soundtrack of our time, with emotionally wrought songs including “Ladies,” “Relay” and, of course, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters.” Music website Pitchfork gave the album a 10-out-of-10 score, its first perfect rating in nearly a decade. The record also includes a land acknowledgment. The bottom of the tracklist on the back of Fiona Apple’s album cover reads, quote, “Made on unceded Tongva, Mescalero Apache, and Suma territories.”

Well, Fiona Apple joined us on Friday from her home in Los Angeles along with Native American activist Eryn Wise. Eryn is a Native American organizer with Seeding Sovereignty, an Indigenous-led collective Fiona Apple supports. Seeding Sovereignty has launched a rapid response initiative to help Indigenous communities affected by the outbreak. In New Mexico, Navajo Nation is the epicenter of the outbreak throughout Native America and has the third-highest infection rate in the country, following only New York and New Jersey. I began our conversation with Fiona asking her about her new album.

AMY GOODMAN: Congratulations on this album. Did you expect anything like the global acclaim that you are getting right now upon this release?

FIONA APPLE: No, I did not. It’s a little bit uncomfortable, to be honest. But I just wanted to release a record in a time when I thought it would have a chance to be listened to. And I’m just so, so happy that it turned out to — it seems like it’s actually doing the thing that any artist would want their art to do, which is to help people feel free, especially when they’re not feeling free.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, what could be a better name and title for your album and song than Fetch the Bolt Cutters for our time? Talk about how you came up with that?

FIONA APPLE: Well, I was at home, as I usually am, and my housemate Zelda and I were watching the show The Fall, starring Gillian Anderson, and were just eating dinner, watching a television show. And there’s a scene where she was to rescue a young girl from where she thought was locked behind this door, and they were supposed to wait for backup. And she just sort of throws away this line, and she says, “Fetch the bolt cutters.” And I just shot up from the couch, because I was like, “This sounds — this is exactly what my — this is what my record is going to be called.” And I wrote it on the chalkboard. I got a tattoo. So, that’s what the title is about.

AMY GOODMAN: So you came up with the title before you came up with the song.

FIONA APPLE: Oh, yes. The song “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” was actually the second-to-last song that I wrote for the record. And it was just — it was sort of the last thing that I had on my mind after the culmination of everything that had been going on in my life, that I finally was just like, “Let me face this all and just see it all, so that I can finally get out of here.” And then, of course, as soon as I saw — as soon as I fetched the bolt cutters and was like, “I’m going to get out of here,” then we got on lockdown. So…

AMY GOODMAN: So, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, the album, includes a land acknowledgment. You’ve described it as sort of a last song of the album. Talk about what this land acknowledgment means to you.

FIONA APPLE: Well, Eryn and I had been talking about doing land acknowledgments. She wanted to start this project, which I think is amazingly smart and would be so nutritious for Americans, is that when artists go on tour, that they acknowledge the lands, the unceded lands, that they’re performing on, and perhaps educate people — and Eryn will correct me on any of this if I’m wrong, but educate people about the tribes that lived on those territories, so that we can keep aware of where we are and what the story is.

Now, the fact that we can’t tour now until probably 2022 maybe or late 2021 means that I can’t do that on the road, so Eryn brought this up to me when the album was finished. She said, “I wonder if you would consider doing this on the album.” And I just thought, “Absolutely, of course. That makes total sense. And yes, I would love to do that.”

And I do think that putting that on my album, as opposed to just like saying something like “I support this cause,” and the act of giving songs, giving sync requests, keeps them close to me and my life, so that it’s not just like a one-time thing that I’m just saying, “Oh, I’m into this cause right now because it’s kind of interesting,” but I’m just going to flit off over there after it’s over and just be done with it. This way, I’m tied into it with something that I made, now has more meaning because it’s attached to them. So, it’s a way for me to also make a life commitment to be listening and to be able to be a friend in whatever best way I can.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you say, “Made on unceded Tongva, Mescalero Apache, and Suma territories.” Where are you?

FIONA APPLE: Well, I’m in Los Angeles, so that would be Tongva. And then we did go to Texas for a little bit. It wasn’t entirely made in this house. We had gone and done a session on a pecan ranch in Texas. And I gave Eryn the addresses of any place that anything was done — the mixing studio, my house and the sonic ranch in Texas. And she took those addresses and told me what the real addresses of those places are, which is these territories. And it’s just very important to keep on saying it, because it’s not in everybody’s day-to-day life. People aren’t thinking about this every day, and they really should be, that we are not living on land that was ceded to us.

And not only that, but — I mean, I’m sorry if I’m getting ahead of myself here, but I was reading — you know, once I was done with this album, I’m not interested in myself so much anymore, you know? So I’m starting to read the news a lot more. And I’m ashamed of how uneducated I am, but I don’t want to let that shame keep me from being in conversations and keep me from asking questions and keep me from being able to be useful to people, because it’s that shame or that guilt about that, that sometimes keeps people from wanting to enter a conversation. And I just think that this is always relevant, and it always will be, and it needs to be constantly. Constantly, you need to be reminded of it.

AMY GOODMAN: Singer-songwriter Fiona Apple. She just released her latest album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters. We’ll be back with Fiona and Native American activist Eryn Wise in a minute.


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