The name Ethel is of Old English origin, the last time it was a popular name amongst newborn babies was in the 20th century. It is a feminine Anglo Saxon name that means “noble.” Cain is a Hebrew name that was given to the firstborn son of the bible who murdered his brother, jealous of all that God had given him.
A noble murderer.
The saga of Ethel Cain is no less dramatic than her stage name. Born Hayden Silas Anhedonia in Tallahassee, Florida to a strict southern baptist family, the story of Ethel Cain is largely inspired by her own life. She came out as gay at 12 and left the church at 16 before coming out as trans at 20. She talks about how all three of her baptisms failed to take place on her as a baby, remembering how her community “treated her like a satanic witch,” which she recalls in an interview for the New York Times. She started making electronic music in 2017 under the name White Silas, but on her 20th birthday, after trying on a frilly white dress from Etsy, she said “I swear to God, Ethel Cain, like, possessed me… almost immediately, it was no more gothic churches, no more electronic music. It was guitars and it was schoolhouses and ‘Little House on the Prairie.” And thus, Ethel Cain was born.
Hayden grew up in a strict, religious community, mostly listening to gospel music and Gregorian chants. Her only “vision into the real world was this violent, graphic media, full of drugs and murder,” She recalls. So the album Preacher’s Daughter and the EPs released beforehand (Golden Age, Inbred) help introduce her character and all mirror her upbringing. Preachers Daughter is her magnum opus, and tells the story of her alter ego: Ethel Cain in 1991, ten years after the death of her father, who was the deacon of the town church and maintained a strict order on his family which is now controlled through her mother. Ethel finds a boy at a Texas roadshow and falls in love, runs away, and spirals into a deep hole of drug abuse, prostitution, and a journey to the seventh layer of hell while high in someone’s basement. The story concludes with Ethel being killed and eaten by her lover (yes, he eats her.) in the final song of this saga, Strangers.
I guess her name makes perfect sense now.
She tells this story through hauntingly powerful vocals on songs like “Thoroughfare,” “Family Tree,”and “Strangers.”But for an introduction, I recommend listening to “Crush” and “American Teenager” which are both very heavily influenced by the dreamy pop vibe of Lana del Rey, Florence Welch, and Lorde. She is about to start her tour with Caroline Polachek this Spring. Here is a playlist of music to introduce you. Enjoy!
Article by Summer Reid (@summ3rlu, email@example.com).
Graphic by Madalyn Schaller (@madalyns.photos, firstname.lastname@example.org).