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The Joyful Rebellion of Hurray For The Riff Raff

Alynda Segarra on healing trauma, mirroring nature, and falling in love with life itself.

by Erica Campbell

Photo by Akasha Rabut

Alynda Segarra, the self-claimed purveyor of “nature punk” who also answers to Hurray for the Riff Raff, recently made the hell-bent decision to not only survive life but to embrace all aspects of it as a means to thrive. The Bronx-born New Orleans-based singer-songwriter had been in fight or flight mode throughout their life and career, even before running away from their home in New York and towards music at just 17. But, an involuntary pause from touring and work gave Segarra the time and space to go inwards and illuminate the dark corners of their mind and memories, with the aid of therapy. 

“I intellectualize everything,” she shares knowingly over a video call about past trauma. “I’ll think, ‘but I’m fine now because they didn’t mean any harm.’ It got to the point where I didn’t feel like I was healing. I could write an essay about everything that’s happened, but it wasn’t seeping in. I didn’t feel better.” Luckily, a friend of Segarra’s recommended a therapist who introduced them to EDMR, a form of psychotherapy that helps people resolve unprocessed traumatic memories. It was also during this time of healing that Segarra got acquainted with an unlikely mentor, the unruly plant life growing in Louisiana. The lush trees and flora around their home became a perfect example of how to rebel and be resilient while still gracefully going with the flow of life. The results of the treatment, which they call, “incredible”, combined with a new admiration for the elasticity of nature, allowed Segarra to access a raw and open creativity that proved to be fertile ground for her new album, Life on Earth. 

When Segarra headed into the studio she brought a wide range of musical rule-breakers as inspiration, from Bad Bunny to The Clash, as well as a deep desire to “get a little bit messier and scare myself.” “I started doing things with my voice I hadn’t done before,” Segarra says. “I think a lot of that had to do with healing trauma in my body.” The inner work allowed them to feel “free to play around.” She also leaned into the loving guidance of producer Brad Cook who she was drawn to because of his work on Waxahatchee’s Saint Cloud and Kevin Morby’s Sundowner. With Cook, Segarra felt safe to unleash the fullness of their creativity, sharing, “When I met him in person, my whole body relaxed. He really has a coaching vibe of being like, ‘I want you to succeed. I want you to be the best version of you, or not even the best version, the most version of you.” Segarra was unbounded while working, and fondly remembers “moving around more when I was singing, playing with random synthesizers, allowing myself to play, and not have to be an expert of something.” It was the first time she’d felt that creatively free. “Coming from a folk background, I didn’t know you could do that,” she says.

Life on Earth opens with the heavy drumming of “Wolves” and Segarra crooning sweetly, “Go away from here darling / While the wolves have arrived at your door.” The song sees Segarra sending love to their younger self who ran away from New York, but also brings up the sensation of running for your life in general. “I don’t think the future is going to be chill,” she says. “We should find ways to heal and love each other and create community. But, we still might have to run for our lives.” Despite its joyous undertone, Segarra shares that she doesn’t want their songs or their album to “pretend everything’s gonna be okay.” “We’re dealing with a climate crisis. I’m meeting people who had to flee their country of origin so they could stay alive. [‘Wolves’] was a song where I tried to balance both. To say, ‘I believe we can survive. But, I also believe in the listeners or my own ability to run.’” 

In “Pointed at the Sun” Segarra admits “I’m just a loaded gun” over a slowly-building guitar, before delivering a heart-stirring mantra, repeating, “And I crucify myself” at the bridge. She recalls the moment she recorded that line in the studio as a shift. It was the first time she’d ever “fucking cried during a recording!” The last song of the album, “Saga” begins with a timeless rock groove, and Segarra candidly discussing trauma through the eyes of someone who has realized they’re not just a survivor, but a joyous powerful being who can write their own story and is not defined by their past.

Life on Earth ends with “KiN,” an instrumental Segarra created by capturing the melodies made by New Orlean’s Singing Oak art installation on their iPhone. The living breathing work of art was created by hiding wind-chimes in the branches of a century-old oak tree, the same trees that inspired Segarra to see nature as the blueprint for how to live. “Being among these trees, I felt, ‘Wow, you have seen everything.’ [I was] understanding and seeing them as living beings for the first time and felt like, ‘You guys have been around forever and you’re withstanding hurricanes and you’re withstanding wars you’re withstanding so much.’’ She took solace in the perseverance of nature, its unruly growth, its joyful rebellion, its ability to continue standing. It reminded Segarra of herself. “[Trees] don’t care about what I look like today or how many followers I have,” she says. “Even to get that dumb about it but that’s where we’re at. Our world is violent and dumb. It felt grounding to take a moment and get myself out of the rat race.”