Passionately raw, darkly pure
Jeanette Mackie is a star on the rise; cellist, drummer and vocalist in an act of her own creation, the cathartic Polly Panic, alongside working with Rasputina. Her latest album, Losing Form, might just be her most personal yet – we caught up with her about honesty, beauty and purity.
What inspires you when you write songs? Honesty. Stories that are people at their most raw, so they are unable to lie, or wear a facade. I try to break through those walls within myself (lyrically). I believe that people will find their common ground and it will help them, as only music can. Sometimes, the songs are just simple...I tend to dwell on the analytical side lyrically, but occasionally I do remember to lighten up. The music kind of comes to me in the night. I don't think my way through it for the basic melodies, I close my eyes and listen. Sometimes I need to bring my musical education into it to connect sections or find a graceful way to change keys, but that is pretty rare.
How would you describe your aesthetic style? I have searched around for that. What I feel most like Polly Panic in, is the kind of sexy but messed up look. Many cellists who perform in a similar genre wear costumes, and I get it...we are sitting, we need something to look at. I always felt like I was trying to be someone else in a costume, so I went back to Polly Panic, and what she means, and she is raw. She is enticing and then she blows your brains out. So I am sexy with a messy edge. I always have the red lipstick, it is kind of what seals the deal of my changing mindsets, from, just Jenny to Polly Panic. Lately we have been going all white, because that is a classic symbol of purity to me....I am my most free when onstage, and that allows me to let go of everything else but that very moment, and in my mind that is purity. One human existing on a pure level can help others in all kinds of ways.
What does being Polly Panic allow you to do? Ummm…everything? Being Polly Panic allows me to be brave? I can address things I can't speak about when I am Jenette. When I perform as Polly Panic, I feel safe, and like I am doing what I am meant to do. That safety opens many doors. I can look into things that scare me. For instance, I worked in strip clubs for a long time. You would meet some people that were just gross, but you would also meet some people that were just desperately lonely. The song "Strawberry" (Fragment), is about a person who becomes a killer out of desperation to have that light that he sees in this girl. She loves him, until the song is over of course. She is the only place he has not been lonely. This is a huge exaggeration on the end results, but I began to wonder how far desperate loneliness can take people (not to mention there is always a chance that someone is going to follow you out of the parking lot). But there are also songs that are more personal, like "Losing Form" (Losing Form). It is, in a nutshell, about co-dependent addiction, and how my gut impulse is to just walk the hell out because I am unable to solve the issue any other way. And my mother did that. She left because she found that who she was was dissolving, and even though she knew it she couldn't stop it. I think a lot of people experience co-dependence on some level. I am learning how to really break things open as I go. It's a process, and I am learning more about how to really go there as I go farther down this path, each album seeking to be more authentic. We have enough bullshit in our lives, music should be real.
What are your biggest influences outside of music? Books are a big one. You can totally escape in a good thriller, or you can get to the heart of everything, in literature. It’s wonderful. Books have inspired many a Polly Panic song, and many moments just for myself to feel like I had another friend, that I wasn't alone. I find inspiration in off-the-wall performers. Things that are unexpected, like something you would see in a Fringe Festival...poets, dancers, good performance art. These are people who can't/won't live their lives going to work and going home...there is nothing wrong with that if that is what you need, and what fulfils you. But I need to reach for something else, and I find inspiration in others who do the same thing. Not that I am in love with what they are doing all the time...but they are doing it. They are reaching out and doing it.
What have you learned from Rasputina that you can use in Polly Panic? I have certainly seen first-hand the level of success I would like Polly Panic to have. Melora is successful, but she can exist in her own town without being bombarded all the time. I learned how to mix friendship and professionalism. How the hell to get out of the dressing room in a timely manner after a gig so you can get to your next spot. I like how Melora mixes her gut instinct in song-writing, with the learned musicality of training. I would like to push myself to get out of my comfort zone musically by thinking my way through a few chord progressions, and then letting the gut instinct take the power back.
What's next for Polly Panic? I have recently trained new drummer Caleb Beissert on a set list worth of music, but we will be spending the winter extending that list and start incorporating new material. I am signing with Write Hook Records and continuing to push "Losing Form", and filling the spring of 2019 with tours and festivals. I have a 10 month old baby so he hits the road with us, but he loves adventures (as long as we are not in the car for more than 5 hours). I have many musical ideas floating around in the corners of my mind so I will need to attend to those. We are excited to push forward!
You can find out more about Polly and when she's playing near you on her website.