I have covered Lainey Schooltree in her endeavors in musical comedy (The Steamy Bohemians) and prog rock (Schooltree) and there is no indie artist quite like her. And it’s no surprise that she would take on a smart, ambitious project like Heterotopia, her new rock opera/double album. She is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for it, and I caught up with her to ask a few questions. Make sure to watch the video below and visit the page to find out more (and donate!).
Can I ask you what the concept behind the rock opera is without sending you into a frenzy of new document creation?
Luckily I have those documents at the ready. It’s a hero’s journey style narrative. The story follows Suzi, existential everygirl and underachiever extraordinaire, who loses her body and must travel through a parallel world of the collective unconscious to get it back. But something is wrong in this “otherspace;” it’s been overtaken by shadows and chaos. In order to become whole again, Suzi has to delve into the origins of this world’s darkness, where the fate of otherspace and her own are inextricably linked.
In terms of genre, it’s not exactly science fiction, but it does have some of those elements. I’ve been calling it metaphysical fantasy.
What does the title refer to?
“Heterotopia” means social or cultural spaces of otherness; worlds within worlds that connect with the rest of space in ways that simultaneously reflect, distort, and change it. Heterotopia the rock opera imagines our collective unconscious (referred to as “otherspace”) literally as such a space – a place both real and unreal, physical and mental, an ancestral repository of symbols and archetypes where an initiation of self can take place.
Also it just sounds cool.
How big is the team you’re working with?
The audio production team is Peter Moore and me. Four other musicians performed on the album: Brendan Burns (guitar), Derek Van Wormer (bass), Tom Collins (drums), and Pete Danilchuk (organ/synth). I’ve also commissioned two illustrators, Crystal Araiza for album art and Amanda Watkins for libretto illustration. I’m handling the rest of production (art direction and formatting, physical packaging, etc).
How did you come to the conclusion that this needed to be a book as well as an album?
I wanted to include lyrics with the album, like ya do, but the libretto is just too big for liner notes. Also, because I’ve been hanging out in Heterotopia so long I have a really clear idea of what it looks like, including the scenes through which the story unfolds. Those images now feel like as much a part of the story as the words and music do to me.
Will you mount this as a stage production? If so, how often could you do it?
Probably. It’ll likely be around a two-hour show. How often it could be done depends to some degree on the resources and venues available to us. It could end up being something that’s only performed in its entirety a handful of times. Or we’ll do some kind of world stadium tour with inflatable hundred-legged cats and lasers.
Are there any plans to make a film version?
There are a couple ideas in the works. Animation is also a possibility. Also, it turns out this could potentially be a good fit for a video game, and I would kind of love to see that happen. That’s another reason for the book, to be a kind of storyboard for other media.
When you reach your goal, how much work is left undone after that?
Audio-wise, we just have to finish mixing (we’re probably about halfway through) and then take the album to the mastering engineer, then the music is done. After that I’ll be working on other production stuff like assembling the album art, getting t-shirts / artwork / photos printed, and learning how to format a book. So, a lot. But I’m looking forward to it.