Victoria Wasylak, Our Modern Dystopia: Schooltree shake up the rock opera with ‘Heterotopia’, Vanyaland: Music and Beyond, March 29, 2017
Somewhere over time, in between spoken lore and salty Facebook statuses, the rock opera was the en vogue way to recount epic stories. While the trend might have seen its peak of popularity around The Who’s eccentric Tommy, the opus still weasels its way into certain music scenes when some maestro builds enough ambition. For Lainey Schooltree, singer and keyboardist in art-rock outfit Schooltree, the desire to pen a rock opera has been ruminating inside her since she was 13. It just took some prompting from fans to get her rolling — and a Live Arts Boston grant from The Boston Foundation didn’t hurt, either.
Four years later, Schooltree debut their second album and rock opera Heterotopia this Friday (March 31) at Oberon in Harvard Square. Honing in on the metaphysical journey of main character Suzi, Heterotopia shares some common themes with the rock operas that inspired Schooltree when she was a teenager.
In the process of writing and recording Heterotopia, lots of high school psychology and literature lessons resurfaced as Schooltree discovered the unique challenges that come with writing a rock opera instead of a “normal” album. When crafting Heterotopia, Schooltree delved into Tolkien, Dante, Plato, and Jung to do research for the plot of the story, while the opera’s title is borrowed from philosophy Michel Foucault’s considerations of utopia and dystopia. Considering the opera’s vast influences, Schooltree describes the Heterotopia as a metaphysical fantasy with romantic and 20th century classical influences.