Identity Control

“The old me and the new me are in a fist fight!” As howled in PUJOL’s “Manufactured Crisis Control,” the lyrics help paint an obvious scene of conflict, revealing an individual struggling for an objective view while commentating on an overbearing I against I scenario. While the new album, KLUDGE, “idiosyncratically captures life as it exists in our weird almost future world of flying robots, cancer from food, cell phone wire taps, metadata, $7.25ish minimum wage and $15.50 an hour endless choice buffets,” it more precisely feels like a challenge of self, an attempt to see through the ego and beyond the shell of pollution that now masks whatever may or may not be left inside. “I never know who I am at the moment,” relays guitarist and singer Daniel Pujol via email. “Maybe out of shear stubbornness. Or because I just don’t know. Or because I’ve hit some weird point where I just don’t care anymore.” There’s a tipping point somewhere along the road of self-discovery when — in the battle for separation between the old and new — looking within loses its novelty and a post-introspective future begins to take hold. This is where KLUDGE begins.

“Culturally, we’re encouraged right now to manicure our own identity,” Pujol tells the Nashville Scene, “to value our own identity, to maybe fetishize our own identity, and to try to present this manicured identity like it’s real.” Whether in active battle with it or not, right now we are all in the middle of a war with our surroundings, at once attempting to defend the inner while simultaneously allowing external elements to dictate who we project ourselves as. As Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti recently commented, “Capitalism needs to be constantly producing identities for peoples if the system is to survive.” The lines of who’s on whose side seem as blurred now as they’ve ever been. We are not ultimately our feelings, our songs, or our blog posts, but at the same time, when trying to figure out what is inside, our actions and expressions of self unveil themselves as mere reflections of the bits and pieces of identity that have been sold to us as indicators of uniqueness.

“Years ago,” continues Pujol, “I started noticing a lot of opportunities to grab things from culture, whether brands, viewpoints, associations, and use them to articulate a cohesive identity, and then exercise that identity cohesively in public. I felt like it was encouraged, and I began to wonder who benefits and why. Everybody wants you to be an individual to sell you stuff? A passive individualism? ‘It doesn’t matter I make $7.25 an hour because I can wear whatever I want to work!’ As an artist, that bothered me for a while because I debated whether I was just making media content and not art. That the whole apparatus launders everything created into content.”

At times KLUDGE reflects this perverted feedback loop, with its lyrics attempting to interject understanding into confusion. Despite leaning on an autobiographical tone, Pujol is vocal that the album isn’t as much a self-analysis as a purposeful narration, identifying the struggles of a character abandoning or killing off their past self. “That character wants more than perfecting who they were yesterday,” he says. “The crudest way to put it is watching a narcissistic [person] break up with themselves. He’s been encouraged by the world to decorate himself for other people who decorate themselves for him/her, and he/she just wants more than whatever he/she wants all the time based off what they liked yesterday forever.” The symbolism of recording the album in a suicide prevention center was, Pujol says, “pure poetic coincidence.”

“Obviously,” he continues, “it’s not that hopeless or one dimensional, but I figured if I made a record directly addressing ‘identity as commodity’ I could deal with that dilemma constructively. By trying to take it apart in song. The sticker on KLUDGE says ‘100% Pure Content.’ I think it’s funny. I think I just make things and move on.” What’s next might simply be looking forward for lack of a better option. Where any of this leaves us: who knows. But at least we’re all confused, together. “Whatever lesson I learned through making KLUDGE is where I am now, but I don’t know where that is.”