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Sink / Swim

by Cutting Room Floor

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  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    4-panel Digipak. Artwork by Fiona Chamness, layout by Ana MeiLi Carling.

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  • Cassette + Digital Album

    Single-J-card casettte. Art by Fiona Chamness, layout by Ana MeiLi Carling. 100 copies.

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    Screenprinted by New Planet. Sea green on black gildan tee. Sized S to 3XL; please reach out for larger sizing options if needed. Describes a painful and powerful moment.
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Leviathan 03:21
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
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”
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
Nero 03:02
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
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
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)
Fight or Fly 07:42
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
Double Cross 04:50
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
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
Eva 04:28
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
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
Other Oceans 05:57
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


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.


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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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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