“This was the peak of my ego,” says 21-year-old Adrian Orange about recording Adrian Orange and Her Band, his second album made under his own name and the tenth in his lifetime. “There were feelings, looking back, that were building up towards a psychedelic explosion of my life, that was opening doors and letting go of all of my own established beliefs in an effort to find the seed, the source of inspiration. There was a concept that there’s always more to it than you can understand.” In an hour, Orange talks more about shedding the heavy burden of the patriarchy than Bell Hooks on Oprah. During our conversation, we talk about Hooks, feminism, commercial and artistic expectations, and Fela Kuti, but not once do we stop talking and not all of that is due to him.
Adrian Orange has a way of speaking—and singing—that makes you want to sit on a stoop with him and talk about life. On “Give to Love What’s Love’s” he sings in a trembling, always about to break tenor, If your eyes see no lesson and your ears hear no lecture/ And you can’t find a teacher, don’t doubt the existence of her/ Just clear off your mind/ So curiosity comes like a fast fragile light/ Then let yourself learn, which is sage enough advice (Orange’s parents were “really into Taoism”), but when it’s backed by horns, steady funk drums and a chorus assembled from the Pacific Northwest’s indie community, Orange conjures images of a palefaced, anxious Fela for kids who wander into shitty clubs everywhere in search of meaning.
Orange’s earlier albums released under the name Thanksgiving and his previous eponymous album Bitches Is Lordsought these truths through evolving, yet similarly ragged, folk that was admittedly influenced by Will Oldham. It was only after an obsessive stretch of Kuti-listening that Orange felt subversive, energized and compelled to make a “straight rip of it.” Fortunately, straight rips of afrobeat from a dude like Orange sound as weird and amazing as Nigerian straight rips of James Brown. But the spirit of it is what matters, anyway. “I felt like breaking down the current establishment, the current ways of making things work in this masculine way. I’m not trying to live that way or succeed in a man’s world,” he says. “I just wanted to say fuck all the laws, it’s all about love. This album is straight up love vibes, about wanting to organize and make a joyful sound in the face of so much bullshit.”