Image via Vera Sola/Instagram

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Listening to Lingua Ignota gives Mike Giegerich catholic guilt and he’s never even been to church.

Almost 100,000 acres of land were scorched by the Woolsey Fire that tore through Malibu, CA, in 2018. It was an ecological disaster that claimed both land and lives against an iconic coastal backdrop. For Vera Sola – the vocalist and multi-instrumentalist born Danielle Ackroyd – it was also a personal calamity as cascading fires stormed toward her mother’s home. While the house was ultimately spared, the traumatic experience directly influenced Vera Sola’s sophomore album, Peacemaker.

Written and recorded over a five-year period, Peacemaker alchemizes Vera Sola’s anger and fear – both on the macro and micro level – into a creative triumph. Album opener “Bad Idea” directly addresses her experience with the Woolsey Fire atop dramatic strings. Later, the morose “Instrument of War” inverts the St. Francis prayer into a call for bloodshed. It’s here that Vera Sola explicitly addresses interpersonal violence (“You let him lay his heavy hands on me”) while the song’s spiritual subtext pulls straight from her Catholic upbringing. It’s this sort of multi-layered writing that makes Peacemaker feel so intimate.

The album’s balance between concepts like spirituality and brutality also sits squarely in the record’s title. The Peacemaker was a pistol created in the late 19th century, blighted by its use in the brutal westward expansion of the United States. It’s a symbol of Vera Sola’s rage that is transmuted into a beautiful exterior across Peacemaker. Subtle picking and silky vocal melodies on “I’m Lying” belie her personal reckoning: “If you break me, make it quickly now / What makes me suffer makes me grow.” And in a more literal sense, the Peacemaker pistol manifests in Vera Sola’s embrace of technicolor Westerns and their cinematic fantasies.

Alongside contemporaries like Ethel Cain who are immersed in the aesthetics of American reveries and nostalgia, Vera Sola’s music even more so sounds the part. Peacemaker’s twangy, reverberating guitars conjure up images of great American landscapes. The influence of the grand New World Symphony seeps into the scope of her compositions. She intermixes singer-songwriter simplicity with orchestral swells and occasional indie-rock catharsis. And Vera Sola’s vocals have a propulsive tone – not necessarily baritone, but baritone in spirit – that makes every recording feel epic in scale. While her debut album was a sunfaded daydream, Peacemaker is an exposition of American musical heritages, all thread together with her incisive narrative inflections. It feels right at home with records from City Slang labelmates Anna Von Hausswolff and Jessica Pratt, both of which have their own singular sounds.

While recalling her anxiety around the Woolsey Fire in Malibu, Vera Sola expresses an overarching grief about other fires across the globe. She was deeply affected by the destruction of the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral as she watched it burn on live television. She also sees the razing of the American Rainforest as the destruction of the Earth’s greatest cathedral. Alongside imagining music in a Cinerama scope and exploring the nonduality of reality throughout our conversation, we discuss how Vera Sola’s interior fire was purified during the creative process of Peacemaker.

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