THE LAST TIME I spoke to Kaia Wilson it was during the summer of 2010, and we were in between the zip of loop slams at revered table-tennis club Blitz Ladd. Wilson was then mired in an intense training regimen that would propel her to a gold and bronze medal at the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne, Germany. Her competition that particular day was more target practice than worthy opponent. It'd have been tough to tell then that Wilson—energetic, hilarious, and fun loving—had also been in the trenches of a growth period that saw a lot of personal tragedy. After listening to her fifth solo album, Two Adult Women in Love, it's easier to tell.
"I went through more pain in the last six years than I had ever previously," explains Wilson. "That always gets you a lot deeper as an artist."
With six years' worth of material, the album's barebones, lo-fi tunes stand in stark contrast to the crunchy queer-core rock of her past groups, Team Dresch and the Butchies. Recorded in snippets over those six years as demos, Wilson and engineers/producers Rob Jones (Jealous Butcher) and Seth Lorinczi (the Golden Bears) crafted a piecemeal album that was as much a labor of loss as it was of love.
"This record really does have a couple pretty main themes," says Wilson, "and those are the most relatable themes ever, which are grief and love."
That the album title alludes to her relationship with partner Sarah Gertrude Shapiro—who contributes vocals on the track "Field Guide"—is appropriate. Wilson falling head-over-heels was likely the turning point to getting the album done after six years of demo-ing (she'd also released 2008's Godmakesmonkeys during that time, from material written during a similar six-year stretch from 2000-2005), and provided a sunnier counterpoint to a batch of songs that are dominated by unbelievably sad odes to Wilson's fallen pets.
"I wrote a lot more songs about my animals dying [than about being in love]," explains Wilson. "I had three pets and they all died within six months from cancer and heart disease. I was very sad because they were my family, ya know? I was almost gonna put out a record that was just for them. The other running title was My Animals All Died."
These experiences hit hard right from the get-go of Two Adult Women in Love. On the album's opener, "Canopy," a somber Wilson finger-plucks a sparse, folky tune that attempts to come to grips with an unspoken anguish. A majority of the 14 tracks parlay similarly hollow, minimalist frameworks of voice-and-guitar songs. But a few tracks receive the post-demo treatment, most notably "The Rogue," a song about "the amazing sea turtle!" that necessitated additions of drums, bass, viola, cello, cabasa, castanets, and group vocals.
It's the more ambitious numbers like these that have prompted Wilson to call this album her strongest work to date. "I really feel like I did the best I could," says Wilson. "It's not like I didn't do the best I could back in the day, but I gave so much time and love for this record. A lot of it has to do with the content, lyrically, and what happened over the last six years. How I went through that process and how I was able to document it through songs is a very confident feeling."