Sink / Swim

by Cutting Room Floor

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about

content warning for violence, sexualized violence, suicide, self-harm, substance abuse, and emotional abuse

Sink / Swim, the sophomore album from Cutting Room Floor, finds the band grappling with queer and trans spaces gripped by new and old wounds. While the damage done to LGBTQIA+ communities by societal bigotry is well-known, less discussed is the permeation of that damage into every facet of those communities, including interpersonal relationships. Sink / Swim, by contrast, makes that absorption its focus. The band struggles with being functional elders to queer and trans young people only a few years younger than themselves, thanks to lower life expectancies exacerbated by rising rates of teen suicide. Faced with the prospect of serving as guides, Sink / Swim chooses honesty over platitudes. The album dives deep into abuse and its ripple effects, charting the excruciating work it takes to approach a kind of recovery.

In their 2013 debut You Shouldn’t Be Here, the band took aim at power imbalances and sexual violence on multiple scales, from the intimate to the apocalyptic. It also introduced several of their characteristic moves: angular vocal lines that veer from three-part harmony to full-metal screaming, structural complexity worthy of math rock, and a wry lyrical surrealism that can convey dispassion or go straight for the jugular. Six years later, sexual assault and abuses of power are prominent in the public consciousness. The path that led us to this point was twisted and nightmarish, making exhausting demands on survivors’ courage, and it isn’t over.

It is therefore fitting that Sink / Swim doesn’t leave those themes behind, but it refuses to look at them the same way twice. The biting humor remains, tempered by a more explicit compassion that only amplifies the horror and grief. The frightening, mesmerizing “Something Like Forgiveness” asks “is your body like my body / breathing freely like I did before you met me / are you well?” then circles back to a violence that ultimately becomes violence against the self: “kill your double / cause she’s like me / she talks like me / hurts you like me.” Images of water recur throughout Sink / Swim: slaking, destructive, ally and enemy at once. In “Leviathan,” a loved one’s self-harm scars are “the high-water marks on the sides of your thighs.” “Other Oceans,” in many ways a love song to queer and trans youth, recalls a dream of “other oceans / full of fish who knew my colors.” There is, the album argues, no rebuilding without reimagining, no healing save transformation.

This intricate, swirling sensibility is well-served by a lush, broad soundscape. Drummer Alyssa Kai (Ramshackle Glory, Loone, Mallory) takes an iconoclastic approach to the drums, juxtaposing styles and time signatures to create a strikingly complex percussive space. Ana MeiLi Carling (MALLRAT, The Homewreckers) and Fiona Chamness share lead vocal and guitar duties, pushing their vocal synergy with intricate harmonies, contrapuntal lines, and the occasional blood-curdling banshee howl. Sink / Swim showcases the musical and emotional maturation of a group still asking ruthless questions about violence, community, accountability, and care, questions that have shaped the lives of the marginalized for far longer than they have been asked out loud.

credits

released July 24, 2019

Cutting Room Floor is Ana MeiLi Carling (voice, guitar), Fiona Chamness (voice, guitar), and Alyssa Kai (voice, drums). All songs written by Cutting Room Floor. Recorded and mixed by Will Killingsworth at Dead Air Studios. Art by Fiona Chamness. Layout by Ana MeiLi Carling. Special thanks to Jonah, Garrett, LAA, Melo, Dar, Audrey, Felix, Uma, Will, Elle, Rachika, Vilde, Lauren, Chris, Squid, Lupinewood, the Neutral Zone, and Q.

Dedicated to queer and trans youth—those who have gone and those who have stayed.

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about

Cutting Room Floor

Cutting Room Floor is a queer, feminist, genre-bending punk 3-piece based in the northeastern united states. Also sometimes described as a psychic rock band from the underworld.

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Track Name: Leviathan
when the flood comes are we gonna get free
when the flood comes are we gonna get free
when the flood comes are we gonna get free

the high-water marks on the sides of your thighs
shimmer like silver in front of my eyes
running like rivers in purple & white
they’re smooth in the dark & they shine in the light

we all got our scars, we all gotta cope
but how long can we wait ‘til the flood comes around
to take us home

I’m hearing your scales as I handle your skin
they slice me a little but I let them in
I hear disaster roll in from outside
as you draw your hooks further into my eyes

god how you shimmer, god how you seethe
but how long can a fish out of water pretend
that they can breathe

I dreamt of a monster down in the deep
(I dreamt of a monster) (down in the deep)
shaking the earth as it stirred from its sleep
(shaking the earth) (stirred from its sleep)
& I was its feet & you were its wings
(I was its feet) (you were its wings)
they’ll mark us on maps as the dangerous things
(mark us as dangerous things) (dangerous things)

breaking the waves from the shadows beneath
lifting our eyelids & baring our teeth
Track Name: The Nightmare Dimension
go ahead & be dead & gone
you’re the girl of my dreams gone wrong
I ran away from a city of rust
I left my life there collecting dust

& how I’ve tried to want you dead
but I can’t help how you haunt my head
when you breathe I can feel the pull
you suck me in like a black hole, black hole, black hole
black hole, black hole, black hole

are you okay? you’re acting strange
writing rules you make, break, & change
I can’t keep track, keep coming back
I can’t tell if I’m in danger

in my nightmares you’re sweet on me
you fight with a sleeping army
they are strangers, friends & family
their closed eyes won’t see you harm me

am I real enough? am I am I real enough?
am I real enough? am I real enough?
am I am I real enough? am I real enough?
am I real enough? am I am I real enough? am I real?

it’s where I buy you chocolate cake
it’s where there is no sense to make
it’s where I keep the clothes I borrow
where I say I’ll leave tomorrow

where I smell vanilla perfume
where I’m drunk & miss my curfew
where I start to plan my days
by when your makeup streaks your face

the world I call you baby in
is where I see your naked skin
& I can’t make a monster of you
the nightmare dimension is where I love you

the nightmare dimension is where I love you
where I love you, where I love you, where I love you

just as sweet as you were rotten
warm like wool & raw like cotton
soft as sky & quick to fire
burning down the all-night diner

fill my mouth with gasoline
something nameless gets you mean
the rule of blame comes as a ghost
it haunts whoever you hold close

whispering, “you owe me something
don’t forget, the winter’s coming
you’re so special, I can’t stand it
that’s why I’m so heavy-handed

look at me, I’m bleeding holes
I chew myself, I can’t control
the things I do, that’s why I need you
see how well I try to treat you

we both know the things you feel
are not exactly fair or real
watch your memory deceive you
don’t expect them to believe you

listen to me, you’re too quiet
I believe you, I don’t buy it
go away, welcome in
don’t come near me, where’ve you been

don’t try to help me, please don’t leave me
you’re the problem, I’m so sorry
black hole, white noise
once a void always a/void

you can’t leave if I’m everywhere
you can’t breathe if I’m in the air
you have no walls if I’m a ghost
I’ll haunt whoever you hold close”
Track Name: Gaining Ground
I still think I suck at playing the guitar
even though I know it’s a lie, it’s a lie, it’s a lie, it’s a lie
I’m counting down the minutes until somebody tells me
not to blame my self-esteem on boys

you know what sucks about lipstick service
it’s how you learn you have to be the best on the first try
eating half as much, fucking up your hands
‘cause you have to make the hardest noise
gotta tear apart that voice, that pretty voice

I didn’t hear of anyone getting raped today, didn’t see the murder count go up
there’s some pretty great things about never leaving your bed
they call it leaden limb paralysis when your arms & legs get pinned like this
like gravity’s a monster & it’s begging to be fed

but nothing’s quite as heavy when you’re underwater
I’m not hungry, I’m not thirsty, look at all the salt I swallowed
here among the bottom feeders none of us are picky eaters
circling the sulfur chimneys waiting for the dead

& the boys in the first band shout about killer breasts
& misgender one of us when we’re changing sets
their bodies spit & spray & the audience cheers
& the singer asks where we get our ideas

was I invited to reveal or was it to redeem
oh, are you asking, oh, are you asking where I learned to scream

the white boys in Keb Mo’ shirts are jamming
I’m at the edge of the woods
my friends are assaulting my friends in the trees
& I’m learning chords & eating lunch

he’s in love with me & he lies down smiling
hides his hard-on & says my writing is so good
he pinched me hard at the classroom door
& I slapped his face, but I have a hunch
that it should’ve been a punch, should’ve been a keys-in-the-knuckles punch

I’m working hard & I’m getting functional, counting blessings & cutting checks
I’m dodging the blade & catching the flat of the knife
it’s not giving in if what you give is what it takes to let you live
or is that just the voice inside that tells me to be nice

I swung between the armchair & the ottoman
& called my daddy, “come & save me, the floor is made of molten lava”
in twenty years, I say “remember how you said, ‘you’re not in danger
& you should always be able to save your life’”

& they teach me to blame the success of people I love
blame anybody trying to rise above
teach me to blame the place & time being wrong
teach me to blame myself for not being strong

but I blame the poison in our blood & in the stream
oh, are you asking, oh, are you asking where I learned to scream

well I learned right here, I learned right here
I learned right here, I learned right here, I learned

let me gain ground
let me gain ground
I can’t say you can’t keep me down

let me gain ground
let me gain ground
let me gain ground
I can’t say you can’t keep me down
Track Name: Nero
in this city we are standing
building something is demanding

go, get out & go
get out & teach you a lesson, extract a confession
out, get the fuck out
get the fuck now that we see who you really are

keep your hands where I can see them
keep your broken body breathing

home, get back, go home
get back, go all your limbs poseable, body disposable
back, step the fuck back
step the fuck how else can anyone feel safe here

none of us know what we’re doing
still we have to follow through it

gone, we want you gone
we want you think of the children, the trauma they’re learning
dead, we want you dead
we want you we just want places where we can live

my golden home
she needs support like the rest of us girls
sweet city, sweet Rome
light up the torches, the banners unfurl

what’s right, won’t know
here’s what we do to people like her
fiddle while you
fiddle while you
fiddle while you
fiddle while you burn
Track Name: Cry All the Time
before we start I’d like to mention
a few things such as that I’m
an ugly crab with no redeeming
qualities except my cooking
& the fact that I’m a genius
which is really more a liability
than anything because of course
I’m smarter than whoever tells me
I’m a human being with a reasonable
chance at peace & not a clump
of slime that crawled out of an asteroid
just to bother everyone so now that I’ve
explained the situation what are you still doing here

what do you mean you think it’d be nice to hold my hand
how much do I have to sulk to make you under stand
what do you mean you still wanna go to Taco King
why aren’t you impressed by how I ruin everything

this is absurd
where are you from
you must be new
oh god you’re gonna make me

cry all the time, cry all the time, cry all the time
‘cause you’re nice to me, GOD
cry all the time, cry all the time, cry all the time
‘cause you’re nice to me

what do you mean you trust me to punish myself
what do you mean you have more books than I do on your shelf
what do you mean you think I can manage my own life
what do you mean that’s just my heart & not a butcher knife

stop this at once
I’m going to die
maybe throw up
then after that I’m gonna

cry all the time, cry all the time, cry all the time
‘cause you’re nice to me, FUCK
cry all the time, cry all the time, cry all the time
‘cause you’re nice to me

stop this right now
I’m gonna punch a street lamp
I’m gonna fall in love
& that’s a really bad idea
because I’m not prepared to accept
kindness & integrity
or god forbid your bravery & tenderness & charm

what do you mean my feelings don’t make you afraid
my feelings will kick your ass back into second grade
what do you mean you see me & you’re willing to be seen
you’re disrupting my routine

so leave me alone (leave me alone)
I am upset (I am upset)
you’re really cute (you’re cute)
& everything’s wet

cry all the time, cry all the time, cry all the time
‘cause you’re nice to me, UGH
cry all the time, cry all the time, cry all the time
‘cause you’re nice to me

cry all the (cry all the) time, cry all the (cry all the) time, cry all the time
can I use your other sleeve
Track Name: Something Like Forgiveness
is your body like my body
breathing freely like I did
before you met me? are you well
I didn’t see the final letter

that you sent me, saw the flames bite
at the page, I wondered what you’d
think I’d want to hear, I wish I
had your address so I’d come &

draw a spell in lighter fluid
‘round the base of your apartment
just before I’d light the match
I’d see you smiling from the window

kill your double ‘cause she’s like me
she talks like me, hurts you like me
when I stand over her body
maybe then we’ll talk forgiveness

is your body like my body
do you burn when you see strangers
hurt your loved ones? when your loved ones
hurt your loved ones? what’s the difference

saw you in the window with your
hair done up like mine & with
that dress you know looks better on me
I wish I was better than you

were you like this ‘fore I met you
too much like me, is it in my head
the way my every movement
casts a shadow looking like you

who’s your double? is she like you
dressing like you, grinning like you
when we stand beside our bodies
is there something called forgiveness

I wrote you a letter begging
you to leave me & my friends alone
but somehow you remain
a ghost that lives forever in me

did you burn it? did you listen
can you hear me like I hear you
when I start to fall asleep
I hear your breathing, it sounds like me

suddenly I’m by the window
smiling down at someone outside
something flares up in her hand
& we watch fire start to spread

so kill your double ‘cause I’m like her
I am like her, I am like her
when she stands over my body
maybe then we’ll talk forgiveness

kill your double (kill your double)
‘cause I’m like her (‘cause she’s like me)
I am like her (hurts you like me)
when she stands over my body (when I stand over her body)
maybe then we’ll talk forgiveness (maybe then we’ll talk forgiveness)
Track Name: Fight or Fly
I want you alive
‘cause I know if you go
you’ll go for the reasons that grip at my loved ones
we’re trying to build houses from rotten wood

& we’re not living
we’re coping, we’re stumbling
& feeling is strange, what’s familiar is numbing
& kindness always comes as a surprise

‘cause the ways we’ve been hurt split us off in directions
that make us go headlong, ignore intersections
we look through the cracks in the bodies of friends
for some kind of truth

replaying our trauma as if we can’t help it
we’ve all seen the harm & we’ve come to expect it
who’s going to teach us to cultivate care
& make it bloom

do we fight or fly
when neither’s an option
we’re all on this island with families chosen
by how we’ve found ways to survive

it’s hardly
intentional really
communities flailing, can’t deal with our feelings
we’re trying to build houses from what we can find

only time will tell whether we fight or fly

& if you hurt me am I still your keeper
isn’t my abuser still one of my people
I’ve tried but I can’t keep the question at bay
& it’s haunting me

to dream of escape is a waste of our time
that’s what makes so many of us want to die
who’ll teach us forgiveness when we’re so afraid
of our own insides

no one’s here but us whether we fight or fly

you drove by my house last night
I couldn’t let you in
I let you have my bed after our fight
stayed on the couch that night

& lay awake trying to decide
if I was right to doubt
whether or not your kindness
was something I could count on

you wrote a letter, tried to bring it
by but I said no
my friend got caught up in your game
I couldn’t have her in my home

I cast out everyone
& everything
that could tie me
to you
except of course there
was one tether
I couldn’t undo

honey you’re a beehive, sweet & stinging
I still remember the singing
love, love, love, love, love, love, love

I had to tear myself away from the lakeside
the days you gave me your good side
love, love, love, love, love, love, love

you told me that you knew you still had a knife
in your back, it kept hurting everyone
you touched, you knew that much

& how can I forgive you now that you’ve swallowed
the girl I loved more than anyone,
one, one, one, one, one, one

& I don’t wanna see you, I can’t be near you
but sometimes, I wonder if you’re okay
or if I did you harm

the good in you was only mine to borrow
but we’ll both wake up tomorrow
that’s what I want, that’s what I want
Track Name: Double Cross
tonight I will sit down on my bed to listen to my memory
open up the gate to anything it has to say to me
welcome all you buried pains into my loving arms
just as long as you can promise you’ll never again
do any harm the way you’ve always done
it’s all your fault, you learned all wrong
you evil baby, when I try to feel you always run
why is it the tears they never come
come on over, I am not holding a weapon

I’m just a desert
I’m a work of art
look at all this progress
watch me double-cross my heart

eat & sleep & take professional advice
starve all day & tangle up your sheets at night
listen to the angels of your better nature
turn the sirens off to prove you’re not in danger

shaking hands lifting the coffee to your lips
use the brave face that you put on for the kids
exercise & put the sun lamp on full blast
work through problems like a crowbar works through glass

‘cause I’m an empty vessel
I’m so fucking smart
I know just what to tell you
double, double, double-cross my

if there’s better I’m the worse it has to get
if there’s movement I’m the ache in every step
if there’s mending I’m the place the needle stabs
if there’s healing I’m the skin beneath the scab

& I don’t know how I need to be, need to be, need to
is there any water here to be found
I am so, so, so thirsty, I’m so thirsty, I’ll drink
anything, anything, anything
I’ll drink blood, I’ll drink my ugly blood

tonight I’m gonna draw another bath & watch some bad TV
pretend to love myself like you pretend to love your enemy

wash hair, dry face, make bed, clean clothes
get up, work out, push through, crack jokes
self-care, fake-out, take that, here goes
shrink, drug, walk, fuck, run, hide, breathe, pose
Track Name: Violations of Distance
in the attic there’s a room all full of boxes, overgrown
if you dig down deep enough you’ll find out where the seeds are sown
once you reach the roots you’ll take this tangle & make it your home
but there are reasons they were buried, do you really want to know
(do you really want to know, do you really want to know)

sing for the guests, they came just to look at you
let’s hear that pretty voice, don’t make us look rude
it’s lonely being an ornament, a feeling you’ve learned to ignore
how can you speak when you’re already spoken for

my sister & I used to say
we had a secret brother hiding upstairs
floating through the air like dust
no one knew he was there but us

count the stairs in steps of three now, treading on them silently
learn to be a ghost among ghosts, never heard & rarely seen
though the house it threatens to sink, no one dares disturb the floors
(I am you but I’m not yours, I am you but I’m not yours)

swimming through the darkened house
I try to speak but the water fills my mouth
I want to get out into the light, but nothing
comes through the window

the moon is my only witness
I wonder what my sister would have to say about all this
my mother can’t stop praying not to see
my father doesn’t want to look inside of me

well you’re still breathing, but you know you can’t be seen
keep your distance, don’t reach for the hand that feeds
violations, you’re too far away to reach
it takes patience to survive invisibly

& you’ve waited, feels like lifetimes at the least
generations, & you don’t know what you need
no one told you how to grow from such a seed
it takes patience to survive invisibly

well you’re still breathing, but you know you can’t be seen
reputations, we’re so proud of how you keep
all our secrets, hide your pills & hold your peace
it takes patience to survive invisibly
Track Name: Eva
we come out of surgery raving & wild
our hearts far from home
we howl like harpies & scream like a child
in that moment we’re known

we take the pills but we don’t understand them
you keep the gate
but when we divine them & start to demand them
you take them away

I lie alone in my hospital bed
I hang my memory above me in thread
I can’t understand how dampened & dead we once were

how can we remain here while you tell us who we are
it’s not right, it’s not right
we’re breaking out of here & we’re never coming back
tonight, tonight

we come down from the balcony, see you beside us
warped by the pain
we thought that it would help us & heal us & hide us
it just makes us strange

we sulk in the corner, praying to see her
feel her presence in us
if we abide ‘til we learn how to be her
wonder where she’ll bring us

I lie alone & I stare at the ceiling
trying to circumscribe all that I’m feeling
turn it to offerings we can make kneeling to her

we go about our days, we play & we pretend
but now we’re done, now we’re done
we’ve made our preparations & we’ve studied long enough
we’re as good as gone

you call this a body & cling to a name
& expect us to simply accept it
but learning our lives aren’t just pity & shame
at last we know how to reject it

we’ll keep our form for as long as it suits us
dispose when it loses its worth
we’ll sharpen our teeth on the pits of the fruit
that’ll one day grow over this earth

I’ve found myself where her wild winds blow
I’m losing myself in her luminous glow
how grand & how gorgeous to finally know what we are

we’re setting up a screen where our smile used to be
nothing behind it
we’re burying a secret at the bottom of our heart
come & find it
Track Name: Illusion of Control
flip the pillow, nudge your head
time to leave this quiet bed
start the day with good mistakes
say a prayer for things that break
sailing like a queen across a sea of broken blades

the cards said you’d be down on your luck
this year & the year after that
all your notebooks getting stuck shut
tripped up, landing flat on your back

but you just made your coffee & clocked into work
tried your hardest not to be a fucking jerk
ran your hands over your head & didn’t cry
acted like you didn’t know you couldn’t lie
goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye

work your magic, move your feet
let them try to make you eat
give the bad love leave to go
watch the rain become the snow

you broke yourself against a wall
& broke the wall & knocked the house down
lay beneath the rubble like all
you could do was wait to be found

well, did you know that you’re my fucking heroine
I just watched your heart decide to shed its skin
& I don’t know how much of you it’s gonna take
maybe lifetimes, I refuse to speculate

beneath the illusion of control
is nothing but an endless fall
& of course we’re tired & of course we’re ill
& of course we wish we could claw & kill
but you dove down where you could be still
& see the hole you had to fill

look at your blood
look at your face
I’m so in love
with what you’ve made

you made tea & you made room
didn’t even know for whom
swept the floor & made things nice
no such thing as the same river twice
Track Name: Other Oceans
dreamed last night I tried to hide you
from the man who claimed to own you
somehow he would always find you
couldn’t stop him wailing on you

tried to shield you with my body
but I’m just as soft as you are
older, yeah, but I’ve been broken too
by those who claimed to love me

I remember you from somewhere
worlds behind me, they still find me

& I was twelve years old the first time
someone put his hands on me
numb, confused, & cold, I watched him
in the mirror, far away

I didn’t think of no so I said yes
I guess that’s what I get
sometimes the safest thing is to pretend
you wanted it

drown it out in pills & liquor
being sick just made me sicker
watched my body sabotage me
sink or swim here in the water

do you remember which way is up
do you remember which way is up
do you remember which way is up

& I don’t believe in safe spaces
I don’t believe safety exists
I’ve had my mind battle my body
got the tally marks to show it

still, I wanna hold on to you
bring you somewhere warm & say
I see you, I believe you
I can’t tell you it will be okay

but you’re welcome in my fucked-up house
as long as you feel you belong
can’t promise you anything
but I can long for what you long for

used to dream of other oceans
full of fish who knew my colors
thought I was just treading water
but I’m closer ten years later

do you remember which way is up (used to dream of)
do you remember which way is up (other oceans)
do you remember which way is up (full of fish who)
(knew my colors)

& they tell you it gets better (thought I)
& it’s true for me, at least in some ways (was just)
but I’m still afraid my friends will die (treading)
I know I’ll lose ‘em someday (water)

can’t tell you it’s worth staying alive (but I’m)
‘cause I don’t know your pain (closer)
but I know mine & see it in you (ten years)
I’ll stay in this nightmare with you (later)
signaling from other oceans
if you swim I just might reach you

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