Categories: Performing Arts

Emmy the Great inspired by sunshine, literature

As the self-proclaimed artist Emmy the Great, Emma-Lee Moss had hit a dead end last year after two solo albums. So for her new EP “S” – and a forthcoming, as-yet-untitled third effort – the Londoner decided a change of scenery was in order. Impulsively, she packed her bags and moved to Los Angeles, and wound up with ethereal, California-inspired janglers “Swimming Pool,” “Social Halo” and “Solar Panels.” “My eyes were just wide open and amazed for about a year in L.A., and the world and everything I was seeing was just brand new to me. It was an amazing time,” she says.

You’ve always been really into books. And as a kid, you even snuck them under the table at family dinners?
Well, when you eat as a family, you’re supposed to interact. So that was the main thing that my parents wanted out of us – interaction. But I was reading things like “The Joy Luck Club” at 7, and even with my babysitter, sometimes I’d read the books that she had to do her English projects on and then I’d tell her what they were about.

How did other children see you?
When we were kids, I remember my best friend asking me what my favorite book was, and I said, “The encyclopedia.” And I remember him just looking at me for a long time, and then just walking away. I think I was pretentious, like the girl with glasses on “Modern Family.” My parents sometimes made other parents bring their children to our house.

But you’re now writing about literature for The Guardian in Britain?
I was asked to write for Guardian Culture last year, when they were setting up a U.S. branch and I was on the West coast. Then I met someone in the book section, and I basically said that – although I’m fond of other stuff – books were my favorite thing, and I would die if I could write for them. So that’s how it started.

You just wrote an essay on Bulgakov’s classic “The Master and Margarita.” What are some other faves?
I really love “The Bell” by Iris Murdoch. I would bring it everywhere. And also “Them” by Jon Ronson – when I read it at university, I was about to become a conspiracy theorist. And there’s a complete collection of “Calvin and Hobbes,” 1,000 pages long, and every day, I would read a page. Bill Waterson is the best.

Is it possible to be a literate rocker? Or is the term oxymoronic now?
I think that original definition was created in the ’60s, in the hysteria of the beginnings of rock and roll. But these days? The definition can be anything you want.

Emmy the Great
Where: Hotel Utah Saloon, 600 Fourth St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. June 12
Tickets: $12
Contact: (415) 546-6300,

Tom Lanham
Published by
Tom Lanham

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