In March of last year, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Olivia Awbrey quit her full-time job as a social worker advocating for trauma survivors and devoted herself to pursuing music. She successfully funded a Kickstarter to make “an album about a feminist revolution” and began recording with Portland pals Dan Klee (drums), Noah Merrill (bass) and Pete Abraham (guitar) at Destination: Universe!, then flew across the pond to wrap up the record at London’s OneCat Recording Studio.
A year later, she’s set to emerge with her sophomore release and debut LP, Dishonorable Harvest, which’ll be released on her own label Quick Pickle Records on May 1. It’s a punk-tinged rock record with intricate lyrics oft relayed in a stream-of-consciousness vocal styling reminiscent of Courtney Barnett. It’s an album that takes her from the Portland Art Museum to Heathrow Airport while critiquing capitalism and the invasive nature of technology in our lives. It’s serious but hopeful—hopefully jumpstarting you to get off your ass and be the change you’d like to see in the world—as Awbrey explores love, activism, ancient geography and modern politics. And it all starts now with the release of her first single, “Advanced State of Decay.”
“The song is about my relationship with certain power structures and the way those power structures influence the way you see yourself or the way the world sees you, be it an interpersonal toxic relationship or something larger like an unjust institution,” Awbrey explains. “It’s about giving up on people who’ve given up on treating you like a person (such as toxic men or toxic institutions), about not allowing another narrative of a woman to become ‘the savior’ and overload herself with emotional labor, and instead force the question: How could I save you when I can barely save myself?”
Taking place in various parts of Portland, “I chose the phrase ‘Advanced State of Decay’ out of a book I was reading at the time,” she continues. “It was such a great way to summarize that feeling: The clock is ticking and the entropy of world events isn’t making things any easier.”
Decrying “a trigger-happy Proud Boy” in the song’s lyrics, Awbrey is “aware that some of the things I’m singing are divisive and put me in a vulnerable position. But if I’m going to openly sing a song about women-identifying folk facing their abusers and toxic institutions of power, then I’m definitely going to address the fact that Portland Police and extreme right-wingers have collaboratively stifled harmless left-wing protests and demonstrations. At this point it’s common knowledge among leftist factions. And thankfully we’ve recently seen that abuse of power shifting for the better in our local government thanks to many different activist groups.”
Drawing on her experiences in social work, feminist theory and activism, listen to “Advanced State of Decay” below, the first single from Awbrey’s forthcoming 10-track Dishonorable Harvest—out on her own Quick Pickle Records on May 1 (which is also International Workers’ Day).