“Are there any Star Trek fans in the audience tonight?” she asks eagerly. A number of arms shoot up and a few voices in the crowd shout wildly. “Good,” she announces, flashing a wide, toothy grin at the crowd.
Rachel Lark stands with her back perfectly erect as she begins to croon into the mic, face scrunched with passion, fingers sweeping nimbly across the strings of her light brown ukulele. “Well, Picard, I wanna get you hard. Woah, oh, oh! Well, I love you so.”
The crowd is all stunned faces. Did she really just say… F*ck? Picard? F*ck Picard? Lark is not surprised by the crowd’s reaction. She keeps going, “Now you’re gonna sing along; it goes like this: I want to…F*ck Picard…F*ck Picard. Sing along with me, ready!?”
As hilarious as it is to see horror and shock on the faces of the new freshmen in the audience, it’s even more amazing to see how quickly they grow comfortable with the music. Soon enough the entire room is booming: “I want to…F*ck Picard! …F*ck Picard!”
This was a common trend throughout Lark’s performance — regardless of how risqué the lyrics, the audience continued to sing along. Rachel Lark has a certain something that draws people in, and her painting a vivid image of Jean-Luc Picard getting it on is only the beginning.
Rachel Lark is a rising singer and songwriter from the city of San Francisco. She primarily writes songs about relationships and sex-positivity, many of which happen to be educational and morally charged. Normally she sings at counterculture haunts in San Francisco and surrounding areas, but lately she has begun to perform for colleges. This is her second time performing at the Junipero dorm house at Stanford.
Lark’s exposure to the music industry didn’t begin with her trademark sex-positive anthems. “I didn’t write funny songs or songs about sex,” she admitted, “I wrote what every songwriter writes about: breakups.” In fact, her first dirty song ever, titled “F*ck My Toe”, was actually a complete accident. Lark used to tour with a band, and tensions often escalated after spending so much time with seven other people in a bus. “I have this tone that can bother people when I’m annoyed,” she explained. “I just had been given this familiar talk by one of my band mates about how I really needed to watch my tone, so I started writing this song ‘F*ck My Tone.’ But our merch person overheard me and she was like F*ck My Toe? And I was like, you know what? I’m just gonna write that song instead.” And thus, a song that eulogizes podophilia was born.
This eventually led Lark to Bawdy Storytelling, “the Nation’s Original Sex and Storytelling show.” Through live performances, storytellers at these shows recount authentic sexual experiences in the form of prose, poetry, music, comedy, or acting. It was only after becoming a regular there that she began writing sex-positive songs that coincidentally happened to be educational and empowering. “I don’t think I started off wanting to make a point or get something across,” she said, “It’s just that when I started tapping into this topic of sex, I realized how politically and morally charged it was for me and that just started coming through naturally.” This is notable in the strong feminist attributes embedded in Lark’s sex-positive lyrics. For example, throughout one of her more popular songs, “For the Guys,” she delivers a homily to men about the necessity of acquiring absolute consent before having sex with a woman: “If you’re thinking that you wanna fuck someone // I ain’t trying to ruin your fun // All that you gotta do // Is make sure they wanna fuck you back.”
However, the power behind Lark’s music cannot be attributed solely to edifying themes like sex-positivity and consent. Rachel Lark is funny – her lyrics are the kind that make you laugh so hard until you literally can’t breathe, and they’re funny because they are so immediately relatable in their bluntness. While she does confess that she tries to integrate humor into her music, people tend to find her funny mostly because she focuses on meticulously describing a huge aspect of dating that we normally don’t publicly discuss with the rest of the world: sex. But as Lark has mentioned before, her messages are generally unintentional. While she does affirm that she tries to make her music relatable, at least to some extent, it’s usually more about expressing herself. “I find that if you can find something that really feels authentic for you, it is going to come across [that way] and people will relate to it,” she said. By singing about things she’s passionate about, the audience’s empathy follows along naturally.
Finding absurdity in the mundane is a calling card of hers, and because of this she often talks about the kind of stuff you think about over and over but would never have the nerve to say out loud. One song from her Lark After Dark album, titled “Text Me the F*ck Back,” details the unmistakably relatable struggle of dealing with someone who isn’t well mannered enough to simply return a damn text message (!). “[The song] is sort of trying to say hey, I’m not trying to have your babies here,” she explained, “I just deserve to be engaged with. This emotional distance that you think you’re doing is not protecting you from anything because I don’t want anything more from you than just fun and sex.” She describes the frustration of texting so well that it’s difficult not to snap aggressively in agreement, and it’s because we’ve all gone through this redundant thought process; we’ve all been guilty of humoring the whole Let me reply hella hours later AND be the one to end the conversation with something vapid like a “haha lol” so that the other person doesn’t realize that I’m more interested in them than they are in me mentality. Lark has experienced these same weird power dynamics of modern dating far too often, and her exhaustion with these mind games is exactly what leads her to loudly sing, “Just text the f*ck back!” If the enthusiastic audience participation at her live performance is any indication, it’s safe to assume that everyone else is right there with her.
Rachel Lark smiles widely at the audience before commencing the next song. Standing before us, she models the edgy, street-chic aesthetic to a T: round-framed sunglasses, denim jacket, graphic tee, tight black jeans. She has a charming personality, apparent even before she begins to sing.
“This next one is really special to me,” she announces to the crowd, still all smiles. “We just got done shooting the music video for it. If you haven’t seen it yet, you probably shouldn’t watch it in public places.” (She’s not kidding; you really don’t want to watch it in public places. Can personally confirm. It’s really, really hard to explain to your friends). Rachel then opened her biggest hit so far, “Warm, Bloody, and Tender”. While during a live show it might take a while to understand what she’s talking about, the accompanying music video makes it abundantly clear from the start: period sex.
Lark’s first music video garishly depicts period sex through the euphemism of an aggressively messy dinner party. “That was the song that everyone really wanted me to play when I performed; that was the song that everybody knew me by,” Lark said, talking about her decision to turn this particular song into her first video. After watching it, it seemed pretty obvious that Lark would want to create such an attention-grabber as her first music video. But she admitted that she was at first hesitant to choose “Warm, Bloody and Tender”. “It’s so visual and it’s so graphic already in the song that to put that into a video is too much. It would [also] be less funny because what’s happening in your mind is so over the top that there’s no way that what’s happening on screen would live up to it.” But by taking what Lark already does — being very blunt and very honest — and simply visualizing it, it totally lived up to expectations, and in a very hilarious way. In the span of three minutes, a waiter spills bright red wine all over a white tablecloth, dinner guests slap juicy raw meat across each other’s faces, and a three-tiered cake volcanically erupts, spewing red food coloring e v e r y w h e r e. By the end, the message is fairly clear.
Luckily for Lark, the video became largely successful, not just for the shock value but because of the quality of her music. But this achievement doesn’t necessarily mean she’s ready to make another video as gaudy as “Warm, Bloody, and Tender.” “No way,” she laughed. “It was messy.” Lark’s one piece of advice for aspiring artists looking to create a music video that will get you noticed? Plan for cleanup. “There were like two hauls to the dump,” she revealed. “People thought it was a crime scene. Which is when I found out that crime scenes go to the dump. Crazy. They were like crime scene? And we were like, um, period sex.”
“Warm, Bloody, and Tender” is no outlier in Lark’s discography. Most of her songs are uniquely sexually graphic and eccentric, and oftentimes it may seem like she randomly thinks of some bizarre sexual act and then throws together a song about it. But Lark admitted that her songwriting process is, in fact, somewhat structured. “There’s definitely an element of brute force involved,” she explained. “I sit down with my ukulele and my journal – no distractions – and I try to come up with a phrase that is really going to carry the emotional core of the song.” The key to her successful songwriting? Find the words or phrase that accurately capture her emotions, be they about sex, dating, or dealing with jerks, and let the rest of the song unfold organically.
But as dedicated as she is to writing quality music, Lark’s artistic goal isn’t to change the world through her music. She writes and performs because she is extremely passionate about what she does. “Music is really therapeutic for me, so I feel really privileged to spend so much time on it because it really does just takes hours out of the day,” Lark said. “I love singing and performing so much and I think that it’s tricky as a performer because on the one hand you’re always chasing this feeling of connection with the audience and that’s sort of what you go for. But there is also this humility you have to have as an artist because so many nights are not going to feel like that.”
Lark understands that pursuing a career in music is unstable and teeming with unexpected obstacles. But it doesn’t discourage her — because above all, she’s dedicated to the music. While she does enjoy the thrill of performing sexually explicit songs with her characteristic comical flair, her work goes far deeper than that. Rachel Lark is not a toe fetishist, she doesn’t yell at men for not texting her back, and she doesn’t regularly partake in bloody food fights. Lark is no less genuine and down-to-earth than any other uprising artist with a fervent passion for singing, for songwriting, and for telling it like it is. “Ultimately, [it’s] having fun and getting on stage,” she explains. “At the end of the day, that’s why I’m doing this. But I think also, if I can accomplish anything, I hope that it gets people to let go of the stupid bullshit that keeps us tense and restricted in life. I just want everyone to chill.”
Visit Rachel Lark’s website for more details regarding upcoming dates for her Vagenius Tour.