You might wonder where you are while listening to Fripp’s lyrical and transportive new EP, “Body Work.” The five enchanting songs paint inviting but distinct topographies: a hilltop for stargazing, a seaside home, even, perhaps, an operating table. But it’d be a mistake to feel too rooted in the sturdy locations Fripp lovingly sets as the launchpads for his songs; despite its name, “Body Work” looks to transcend the physical.
Our bodies are funky vessels, each showcasing features and facades that may not match or be representative of the souls within. “Body Work,” too, is full of contradictions — its songs are catchy and ethereal, expansive and intimate. Fripp (the stage name of Brooklyn’s E.B. Hinnant) gently wields these songs, employing synths and equating queer love to the cosmos, as odes to the chemical and corporal keepers of our pain and euphoria, our curiosities and longings.
Releasing new music is tricky during a pandemic; sure, artists can share content online (as Fripp has, unspooling his songs on Instagram in tender, slow-mo renditions), but the magic of live performance is lost. Nonetheless, Fripp has found creative ways to perform, singing in socially distant outdoor concerts in Prospect Park and Williamsburg’s Boscoe Barles Backyard Center for the Performing Arts. His EP — soon coming out as a cassette — is now available on SoundCloud and BandCamp, and in advance of a new single and music video, Fripp sits down to discuss his home state, the mystical origin of his name, and more.
Greenpointers: How has your home and upbringing in South Carolina informed your work?
Fripp (E.B. Hinnant): I’ve gone back and forth about how much being Southern plays into my identity. I feel like I’ve grown warmer to being Southern since I’ve been in the city. I miss it a lot; I don’t particularly miss all the people but I miss the air and the river and the ocean and the swamps and animals. And I miss the quiet. There’s not really anything urban in the writing, I don’t look to the city for inspiration; what writer hasn’t looked to nature for that?
You’ve mentioned the difficulty of promoting an album these days and how hard it is to not have a live performance as a vehicle to share music. You did a performance in Prospect Park a month or so ago and another recently in Williamsburg. What was that like?
The big thing was making sure that everyone is and feels safe. I get tested every week and got tested before those performances so I could ensure I was safe. I wanted there to be open areas so people could sit far enough from each other but also feel a part of a space where they could forget all of this and feel good about what was happening.
This is in many ways a corporal album. The title track and other songs suggest this storm considering the body’s exterior but a celebration of the soul within. This is a strange question, but can you talk about your relationship to your body?
The record is called “Body Work” almost as a small joke because the work of doing the record was work I did with my body. The title song in particular — the story I associate with that song is when I was 11 years old, just as I was coming into puberty, I had this immense sense of dysmorphia with my body, particular with my genitals. I blamed them for the sexualizing thoughts I was having. I hated what they were. I would sneak kitchen knives into the bathroom and google things like “how to stop profuse bleeding.” Thank god I never did anything, but still, that experience has stuck with me as I’ve gotten older. I didn’t want to make that entirely apparent in the song, because that’s really dark, and because it’s not, like, universal. I was able to scrape away some of the details that brought me back into that place, if that makes any sense.
You just finished a music video today for “Honey,” one of the tracks. How did it go?
In September I went to Floyd Bennett Field just to go there; I’m not a city girl. (Laughs.) I yearn for any opportunity to feel like I’m not in the city. I went to scout a location for a photo shoot. It was so beautiful and vast and I’ve never walked around on a runway in an airport before, it’s so huge and I just love that. As I was walking back to the bus I was listening to my old music and “Honey” came on and I just started running, and I said, “This is it.” And I bookmarked the idea. And then we did a whole separate photoshoot there, had a great time, and it’s just so stunning, and I thought I have to film it here. I want to be running, I want to be Keira Knightley, a character in a Brontë novel. The whole impulse of the song is I will wait for you, I’ll be there forever. And that is such a vast statement that I thought this location matches everything.
So I went to Screaming Mimis, sweet Anya helped me get a dress, and I worked with friends who have their own production company, Blue Slate Films. We got a small crew, and we all got tested yesterday, tested negative, and it was so beautifully foggy. I left the shoot and thought, “Did that really just go this well?” We’re looking to drop it mid-December.
At the Williamsburg concert, I think you said honey is hygroscopic, and that chemical makeup of being able to endure and endure played a role in “Honey”‘s chorus. I love that comparison.
My brain is very sciency. I love to research some animal or bug or a plant somewhere and learn qualities about it and cry. That’s something I do at two or three in the morning.
You mentioned you have a new single coming out?
It’ll be on the B side of the cassette. It’s called “Sciolist,” it kind of means somebody who talks their ass off about a subject they don’t know a lot about. It was two weeks after I had written “Orion,” in 2013 or something, I had just broken up with somebody and I was mad at them. (Laughs.) I said I was going to write a song about them, and I sure did. But I didn’t have the spine to be angry at somebody, so the song’s this loving, gentle way of telling someone off. I decided to hand it to my friend Ron Shalom, sweet sweet man. He’s an engineer; he has really nice recording equipment. He’s also a brilliant musician and producer of music in his own right. So with “Sciolist,” it wasn’t my favorite piece but I sometimes find pieces you don’t love are ones others do. And then I revisited it and loved it again, I thought it was worth recording. And then I thought what if I just hand it to Ron, let go of myself and let him do his thing, and it’s fabulous. My stepdad is going to paint the album artwork for the single, which is exciting.
Finally, let’s hear about your stage name. Why Fripp?
Last December I was home, my parents had just moved, and they had piles and piles of boxes that hadn’t been unpacked. So I found this old book of ghost tales from the South Carolina sea islands, and I just sat there and read through it. And one story was of Caroline Fripp, the “Blue Lady.” She and her father had tended to a lighthouse on Hilton Head Island. There are several versions of the story but this is the one I run with: in the hurricane of 1898, Caroline’s father was tending to the light and was experiencing a lot of strain. He had a heart attack, and Caroline, noticing his absence, went out into the storm, climbed all the way up the lighthouse and found her father unconscious. She was said to be like 13 years old. She brought him down the spiral staircase, took him home, and some people say he told her to keep the light going before dying. Some say she died of the heartbreak of her dad, but the ghost story aspect is that apparently during storms, you can see blue lights traveling back and forth between the home and lighthouse, which is gorgeous. I just like that story. Official records basically say there was never someone named Fripp at that lighthouse, but that story is such a legend. I like that relationship the father and daughter had. It’s Southern, it’s Gothic — and the name wasn’t copyrighted. So, Fripp.