Pebe Sebert has lived many lives, but this latest one has her revisiting the past.
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For the past 40-some years, the 65-year-old musician has been penning hits for everyone from Dolly Parton to daughter Kesha and has, in the process, solidified herself as one of the industry's most talented songwriters. Back in the '80s though, she was also on track to become one of the decade's biggest pop acts, but that never came to fruition. Now, Sebert is finally ready to let go of the disappointment and close that chapter of her life with the official debut of her song, "Vampire" — a haunting goth-pop track about a woman and her vampire lover.
Written in the early '80s with good friend David Vidal after a cemetery photoshoot, Sebert enlisted producer Guy Roche to build the song using recently developed synthesizer technology, which served as the perfect backdrop for her ethereal and dramatic vocal delivery.
However, despite increasing interest from labels and the promise of success on the horizon, the song and its accompanying debut album were never released following a series of painful personal incidents for Sebert, including her ongoing struggles with addiction and the heartbreak of her ex-husband falling in love with somebody else. And, unsurprisingly, all of this spurred her to take her son and "disappear" to the San Fernando Valley, where "nobody except the drug dealer knew where I was for at least six months."
"I had this complete full meltdown, three days before I was supposed to go in and finish this record," Sebert recalled, before lamenting that she'd also just begun to finally "find her voice" around that time.
"I just completely lost my mind and it was a really rough time," she continued. "I didn't want to even contact anybody I'd been working with because I was so ashamed of the fact that I just disappeared and kind of threw everything away."
The end result was years of residual pain from something that felt like a "huge hole" inside of her, especially since "Vampire" and the other songs she recorded had felt truly reflective of her artistry.
But with her decision to finally release these songs, Sebert feels like she's finally obtaining closure, even if her decision to put "Vampire" out first was motivated by more sad news, namely Vidal finding out that he was terminally ill. As such, she said "Vampire" felt like the natural option, since she "wanted David to still be alive when we put it out," though the move was also partially informed by the Halloween holiday and a previous leak of the track.
Earlier this year, the song experienced an online renaissance of sorts after Sebert posted a mashup of Kesha's 2012 "Vampire" cover alongside a leaked version of her original track.
Granted, while Sebert doesn't really know how "Vampire" reached that point, she did hypothesize that the younger generation could be gravitating toward the rawness and imperfection of the track, as it feels markedly different from the pop perfection of today, and said she wanted to use the buzz to draw attention to her new nonprofit Magic Mission, which is dedicated to improving the lives of Central American street dogs.
And with that in mind, Sebert decided to finally find the deteriorating tapes in her house in order to fulfill fan requests for the entire song and see if the original tracks could be salvaged with a little help from Roche who, thankfully, was able to bring the tapes back to life.
Sebert also went on to say that they had no choice but to use the old recordings since she lost the upper portions of her singing voice about five years ago. And though Sebert explained it can happen to women during and after menopause, she still took a moment to mourn its loss, comparing this natural "part of aging" to "the death of a friend," especially as a lifelong musician.
But even so, there's also something to be said about how "Vampire" will now be able to live on forever thanks to its newfound success online, not to mention how that trajectory mirrors Sebert's own journey and the tenacity of her spirit amidst all the difficulties she's faced.
"I was such a tragic sort of lost soul in my youth, not a bad person, but... just an addict [who] didn't know how to function correctly," she said, before adding, "So I definitely am like a vampire in some ways. I literally had to die and be reborn as a different person in order for this music to come out."
Welcome to "Internet Explorer," a column by Sandra Song about everything Internet. From meme histories to joke format explainers to collections of some of Twitter's finest roasts, "Internet Explorer" is here to keep you up-to-date with the web's current obsessions — no matter how nonsensical or nihilistic.
Photos courtesy of Pebe Sebert
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