PROFILE: death insurance is in your walls.
Updated: Jun 28, 2022
A2B2 Record's first signee makes a rare outdoor appearance to talk about social media, her new album, meeting Andy Morin of Death Grips and psych-pilling billionaires.
If you've ever listened to the music of death insurance, the above picture might come as a shock to you. Filled with angst, paranoia and introversion, songs like "Digital Relapse" paint a picture of an unhinged maniac trapped in own her phone. When I met ??? in person (you don't get to know her name go find it yourself) on the steps of ??? Church in ???, New York (you don't get to know all that either sorry :/), the experience was the opposite of what I expected.
This year, Andy Morin (aka Flatlander of Death Grips) and his multi-faceted organization A2B2 decided to make her their first signee. From the first few seconds of her indie label debut i'm in your walls, it's clear that she has been a fan of experimental digital hardcore acts like Machine Girl and Death Grips for a long time, it's baked into her DNA. Without falling into the trap of copying her idols, ??? is able to follow in their lineage while doing something entirely new. We sat down on a beautiful, 70 degree New York day to discuss it all:
RYAN: I saw a quote yesterday that basically said “Tumblr & MySpace were so great because they were pre-algorithm, leaning completely on people’s taste.” As a self-professed extremely online person, do you agree with this concept?
death insurance: I would say yeah, I pretty much agree. Having the ability to create this space where you can have the style of the site you want and everything like that is much better than the presets of Facebook and Instagram where you're really limited with what you can customize. I feel that way with iPhones and Androids, with the ability to jail break your phone, it's really cool.
R: Instagram, for my usage, is the most powerful online tool. It’s how I linked with your label and its founder, Andy Morin of Death Grips, as well as you. It’s also extremely evil. What would you say is the worst or most evil thing about the platform?
di: Good question! I just hate spending so much time on it. It was a lot worse in high school, it kind of just gives you brain rot. Instagram is not the worst in that case, there are probably much worse sites.
R: Like TikTok?
di: Yeah or like Reddit. I have a soft spot for Reddit, I created an account early on when I was really young and just stayed on there for a long time. 4chan too. But with Instagram, when I go on there and I'm really active it's always when I'm in my worst mental state. It's very addictive, getting notifications and likes on there, almost like a game.
R: Yeah that's a good point, like you start off with nothing and as you progress you get upgrades, newer features, friends. Getting to a certain follower amount is like a traditional "level up" too.
di: True. Actually I don't think it's like a video game at all (laughs)
R: (laughs) Strike that from the record!
di: It's really addictive and they know it, but it's a useful tool for getting in contact with people you wouldn't otherwise be able to get in contact with. I was so addicted at one point I actually ended up switching to a flip phone. That was nice but the only real problem is no GPS. At one point, I actually ended up using my dad's Garmin GPS, like an analog one, bringing that around wherever I went.
R: In places like Brooklyn and other hip neighborhoods of New York that must've been kind of a flex. Like "oh shit, she got the Garmin?!"
di: (laughs) I got the Garmin!
R: My first exposure to your music was the track “Digital Relapse”, where you said “If I spend another second online, I know for sure I’m going to lose my mind.” Which parts of the internet make you relapse the hardest (forums, YouTube, reddit, games, and combination?)
di: Reddit. That's so cringy to say, but it's this sort of this thing that's been a part of me since high school. Recently, I haven't been doing much Reddit unless it's scrolling through r/Depression or r/Relationships. Just because it's really interesting to see what other people go through. The most extreme of that is probably R/ShittingAdvice. [censored to save your stomaches]
R: A2B2 Records, the newfound label that you are the first artist on, is part of this large network that moves really fast. Within the span of about a year, A2B2 has a Minecraft server, 2 Arca headlined concerts, a magazine, an internet radio show and massive network of employees from hackers to graphic designers to producers. Would you say the process of getting signed to them was just as quickly paced?
di: Yes, it was. I originally found out about A2B2 because of their first online concert, Night of Fire. My friend played it, and some other crazy people like Machine Girl were on the bill. I was listening to the stream of it while driving around Connecticut. I started getting into their Discord, just kind of observing. I started getting involved in A2B2 Magazine, the first zine submission was for the issue 'fungal world'. I think I was really sad, I was just drawing shit, with red pen on postal letters. I was like "well there's no way that they'll take this" and then they did. So then I submitted to the A2B2 Radio show, and that's basically how they found me. I submitted the track "ifeelgr8" after not making music for a whole year. I was getting mad at myself. Within a week or two Bort [Jack Federman, talent scout, radio host, Andy's right hand man] messaged me and said "hey me and Andy thought your track was really sick, we were wondering if you wanted to be the first signee to our new label. I was like what the fuck this has got to be a joke! But it is real, it is real, we're here!
R: I mean I did listen to the album, it is in fact real.
di: It's real! I was so nervous. Being a big Death Grips fan in high school, so it was pretty wild. I was on the phone with them, they told me about Night of Fire 2 and the album dropping, all of the announcements I basically had to keep secret for six months. I went to meet Andy, me and my friend Margia drove from Portland to L.A. I fully expected it to be a prank like, some random guy just popping out and going "a ha, gotcha!". He was awesome though, he's really nice. That was the beginning of our friendship.
R: I really enjoy the way you portray yourself on record, you're like a horror movie monster of some kind. You have “bugs in your hair”, you’re “in [my] walls”, and you “just want to kill everything in [your] path”. What inspires this persona?
di: It's because I can't express that stuff in everyday life. At the core, I do feel a lot of pent up shit, but rather than punch walls, I'd rather just write a song about it. It's very cathartic for me, trying to put into words, how I feel. Even if it is metaphors like that. I didn't really have bugs in my eyes. I was just so pissed at the bugs in my room, I had a lot of flies. I don't really clean super well, so there were all these flies going through growth cycles where you'd think that they're done, and then more would be born from the maggots and shit like that. At one point, I had roaches.
R: Oh wow, so those lines about the bugs were not metaphorical. Like presumably you were recording and there was like a fly buzzing around your head?
di: There would be flies buzzing around yeah. It's like that for just that one, it doesn't extend to the other songs. I don't really want to kill everyone to make that clear. Sometimes I feel mad and I just wanna ahhh!! That's what mosh pits are for I guess. I don't really go to shows too much anymore, I usually just stay in my room because it's been cold. Around the time of "Digital Relapse" though, I'd go to like 2-3 shows a week, and just trying to balance class with that. Sometimes even though I was dying on the subway at 5AM, I reminiscence to those times a bit because they made me feel alive.
R: I absolutely understand. It’s ironic that we’re doing this interview in a park on a beautiful day, considering the lyrics from your song “go offline”, “I just wanna go offline, I don’t wanna go outside, I hate it there, fuck the sky, I just wanna feel alive.” How do you feel your music speaks to this deeply unsettling idea that reality and fresh air has become an escape from your phone?
di: I always change how I am about that. Like today is nice, the sun is nice, it doesn't feel like everyone is out to get me. It's easy to just not go outside, and pull the curtains. I used to do an intermittent sleeping schedule in high school. I would be awake at night, at one point I put tin foil up to black out the light. It's good to be outside though, therapists recommend it. When I get into a routine where I drink coffee, read and outside in the morning, I feel so much better than just sitting indoors watching YouTube videos. It's harder to make that effort but it's worth it.
R: I go through that myself, especially living in the tri-state area, it's either cold or breezy 9 months out of the year. On top of that, it's just so much less mentally taxing to wake up and go do stuff. But if you don't get up, nothing happens.
R: If someone gave you $10,000 tomorrow with the expressed purpose of using it for your art, how would you spend it? And if you could pick one artist on Earth to collaborate with for your next album, who would it be?
di: I would rent out a tiny shack in the middle of nowhere, to live comfortably and make music. There is so much distraction in these apartments, because I set everything up and then it's the wrong time of day to be screaming and recording. It's low budget with my process. I had a dream I had a better computer. I actually had a dream about you, where I woke up late for this profile and you were texting me to come and meet you.
R: It's ironic because I was the one who was late [by an hour btw, thank you for being so nice ???]
di: (laughs) No it's ok! And as far as dream collabs go ...JOHNNASCUS and Machine Girl. [The latter] is the one that really inspired me to make this kind of music, a pinnacle moment for me. I used to be in jazz band in high school, and I would do jazz guitar and loop-based stuff which was cool. I wanted to do indie rock, I was in a band for a bit. I always wanted to get loud and collaborate with other people. But as time went on, I had to teach myself a lot and I actually prefer doing things solo. I've been asked to collab many times and I never really have. Mainly because I just don't understand what the process would be like if I want it to sound like THIS and they want it to sound like THAT. And I'm very protective over the death insurance name.
R: I see, like you might reluctantly agree to make a track with an artist and then it comes out and it's complete shit.
di: Exactly, and I am kind of a pushover in that way. But that's something I need to get somewhat better with.
R: This is a bonus question, you could just cut the interview off here if you want. But I was curious to hear what your answer would be. Screw, Marry, “Get Rid Of”: Zuckerberg, Musk, Bezos.
di: Wow...uh....can I like do something else?
R: (laughs) Sure, what did you have in mind?
di: Ok, so I'd have them all like at a table sitting in chairs.. I have six pills, three of them are red, three of them are blue. I'd give two to each. They're all sedatives...no it's acid! In the room, there's a bunch of projectors, and they're all strapped down by the way. And I'd just A Clockwork Orange them.
R: (laughs) So it's a bit of Clockwork Orange, a bit of The Matrix, with a healthy dose of Midsommar.
di: I guess so, they have to watch...YouTube Poop videos, on repeat. Like things that were funny in 2014. Maybe Shrek slowed down to 0.25x every time he says a key phrase. I think that would really mess them up psychologically