Having played with notable acts like Pressure Kill, Manchild, Gold, Shematomas, and Burnt Shrines, Rena Kozak is a mainstay in the Calgary music scene. Now, as solo project Child Actress, Kozak is releasing her debut album, Milking A Dead Cow.
Writing, recording, and mixing was all done by Kozak, meaning that Child Actress veers away from the works of her past to offer up something more personal.
“The thing that is the most different for me is that I finally feel like I’m expressing my ideas,” says Kozak.
“I feel like my role in the world a lot of the time is to inspire other people to be their best self. So that translates when I’m in bands. Someone would come up with an idea, and no matter what I thought about it, I would sort of help them develop it, and put my own ideas aside most of the time.”
With Child Actress, however, Kozak is front and centre.
“This is actually what I’ve wanted to say, and musically it’s different from everything I’ve done before.”
Kozak was motivated to start the project after the death of her partner Chris Reimer, anther celebrated Calgary musician who was a member of Women and the Dodos.
“‘Great Hall’ was the first song that came to me after Chris passed away. I had the full song, lyrics and everything, within a half hour of sitting down, and I thought, ‘okay, maybe I want to write more music, and that’s going to be my way of dealing with this,’” muses Kozak.
“This batch of songs was an experiment for me to figure out how to write and record music by myself, and I hadn’t necessarily planned to put them together as a release. I envisioned these as a catalyst for a more cohesive project in the future, but then they just fit together.”
While many prefer to retreat in times of grief, Kozak’s openness helped her cope.
“There’s always this kind of clouding over people when they talk to me because it’s like ‘Oh is she going to be uncomfortable talking about this elephant in the room,’ but I talk about it all the time and am totally comfortable with it,” explains Kozak.
“I was very open to whatever I was thinking, and wanted to feel whatever pain I was feeling as openly as possible, so it was very easy to translate that into music.” However, she does admit that being vulnerable through music isn’t always straightforward.
“To be presenting a piece of material and associating it with this grief process, I’m not entirely sure how the public that consumes music is going to receive that, and that’s a little bit intimidating. It’s different than just being in a group of people and going ‘Yeah, I have a dead boyfriend.’ This is a public presentation of art, with that behind it.”
As for songs that stand out to her, Kozak has a special attachment to “Fully Waterproof,” which evolved from one of Reimer’s unfinished songs.
“I was given permission to use these songs and finish them. He made these musical arrangements and came up with what I thought he was saying in the lyrics, even though he would sometimes not be saying words or you couldn’t really understand them,” Kozak recalls.
With dreamy numbers like “Soup,” and upbeat tracks like “Monogamy,” Milking a Dead Cow isn’t what you’d expect from an album about grief.
“If you were to read that it was a grief-driven project, you would not expect it to sound the way that it does,” Kozak explains.
The music is correspondingly floating yet quietly sad, with understated echoing vocals, shuffling drums, and dreamy guitar lines throughout.
“It’s definitely a pop record. It just came to be what I want to hear, and it just happens to be from a place of grief.”
By Morgan Cairns (BEATROUTE)