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After a particularly rough solo performance in 2018 when one of her own friends talked loudly throughout her set, Christina Schneider exited the venue and told herself, “If they’re not even going to listen, then I’m fucking done.” It wasn’t quite the feeling she’d hoped for after dedicating her life to creating subversive, genre-fluid pop music. Working under various aliases since 2014 — including CE Schneider Topical, Jepeto Solutions, Christina Schneider’s Genius Grant and now Locate S,1 — she’s explored everything from groovy garage rock to minimalist bedroom pop to Syd Barrett-style psychedelia.
But when she got home that night Schneider gave herself a little pep talk, and after some self-reflection she came away determined to begin another chapter. “I thought, I don’t really need this world to value me,” Schneider says. “The process of writing and playing is what I really love, I’m simply getting lost in this other thing that’s ruining it for me.” Buoyed by her desire to create the same “crazy, powerful feeling” she gets when she hears an ABBA or Kate Bush song, she reached again for the outer limits of pop music and recorded Personalia, her sophomore album as Locate S,1.
Named after a poem by Mary Ruefle, “Personalia,” the lead single and title track, is a retelling of that emotional night in 2018 when she nearly quit. “Almost killed myself so I went home / I just cannot take these local shows,” she sings over a gloomy, despondent bass line. “Drive through thunderlight all alone just to play while they’re looking at their phones / curse another crowd that doesn’t get it,” she later sneers. But in-between this melancholy Schneider suddenly finds her spark. “Plug in tonight when I get to my room / pretend I’m someone that I could believe in,” she sings during the songs fizzy, euphoric chorus. “I’ve shorted out but if I play long enough I'll become the person that I wanna be again,” she cries, echoing some of Blondie’s most triumphant moments.
The song signals Schneider’s desire to center Personalia in the present. Much like the character in Mary Ruefle’s poem, Schneider spends much of the album trying to understand and expel a darkness that has come over her (and society at large) in order to live a more fulfilling life. While she was writing and recording the album in her home studio in Athens, GA over the past year, she was thinking a lot about her own growth and self-worth as an artist, and where her constantly evolving and always experimental music fits in the digital age.
Environmentalism, money, power, and modern feminism formed part of that conversation, too. Throughout Personalia, Schneider seeks to address how the attention economy is plaguing us with feelings of FOMO and anxiety, causing many of us to abandon their progressive values.
One of the more profound statements about this topic comes via a song called “After The Final Rose,” which is based on Schneider’s observations of the last two seasons of the reality TV series The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. “At the end of the season they have this episode called 'After The Final Rose,' and the Bachelor or Bachelorette meets up with all the other contestants and they yell at each other,” Schneider explains. “I thought that was a very funny and unintentionally self-reflexive title for the episode, so I borrowed it to criticize corporate feminism and its lethal effects on romance. On The Bachelorette women feel like they’re powerful because they have money and can travel all over the world. It seems like that’s replaced any kind of meaningful feminism or romance in the world, currently.”
Her partner Kevin Barnes, of the rock band of Montreal, co-produced and engineered the album, and shares a writing credit on “Even the Good Boys Are Bad,” which references a conversation she had with Barnes about his daughter beginning to date. Schneider coined the phrase “even the good boys are bad” in reference to his paternal anxiety, they then took it and it turned into the album’s biggest hook—“Even the good boys are bad / even the best ones, even the good sons.” The song reached its final form after Schneider listened obsessively to Britney Spears’ hit single “Toxic.” You can hear this influence in the charging drums, spiraling synths and the song’s enigmatic chorus.
Schneider also has a sharp sense of humor, and while it’s more obvious on stage, if you listen closely you can also hear it on Personalia. Opening track “Sanctimitus Detrimitus” is named after a phrase she misheard while watching the James Stewart movie Made for Each Other. “I love songs where people completely make up words, like Steve Miller’s ‘pompatus of love’ but I thought it would be even funnier if I just made up some Latin, though ‘Sancitmitus Detrimitus’ does mean something to me now” Schneider says of the devotional, MIDI-saturated jam. “Futureless Hives of Bel Air” is an apocalyptic, anti-capitalist song about how we are killing our ecosystem, yet something about the idea of the ultra rich leaving behind their empty mansions and fleeing Earth to live in space (the idea came to Schneider in a dream) seems decidedly absurd.
At its core, Personalia is about rebuilding, not rebranding. It’s about evolving and moving forward despite knowing the world is falling apart around you. On the peppy, dance hit “Whisper 2000” Schneider fully embraces this idea: “If you cannot behold my miracle, step away from the vehicle,” she sings with a defiant spring in step.