Collage with Indigo De Souza On a Mushroom Illustration Background
Original photo by Angella Choe / Digital collage by DoubleBlind

Songwriter Indigo De Souza Credits Macrodosing for Inspiring Her Craft

We caught up with the North Carolina-based indie-rock star about the power of psilocybin to channel creativity, work through trauma, and overcome the fear of death. 

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This interview is a part of DoubleBlind’s Medicine Music series, in partnership with PORTAL, a campaign to destigmatize the responsible use of psychedelics. For video interviews with musicians about their relationship to plant medicines, check out DoubleBlind’s YouTube

Microdosing may be a growing trend in the psychedelic world lately, but Indigo De Souza usually takes a different approach in her experiences with psilocybin. 

“I haven’t done as many microdose sessions with mushrooms as I have done, like, macro dosing,” says the 26-year-old songwriter, who has gained acclaim in recent years for making raw indie-rock full of stylistic changeups and musings on trauma and death. “I’ve had periodical experiences of taking a lot of mushrooms and letting them completely blow me out. That feels like more my style.” 

It’s no surprise that De Souza prefers her shrooms in large doses—her music is equally uncompromising. Her latest album, All of This Will End, released in 2023, features the kinds of satisfying riffs and confessional lyrics you would also hear from next-gen indie contemporaries like Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus. But it’s her startling gestures of intimacy—paired with her music videos’ captivating costumes and dance routines—that really let De Souza stake out a unique place on the rock landscape. 

Just consider the video for All of This Will End lead single “Younger & Dumber”—an everything-all-at-once exploration of growth and regret, the video intercuts low-res camcorder footage from her childhood between images of De Souza gyrating and twirling on a studio soundstage. Under a torrent of stage rain, she enters a trance-like state while dressed in a frilly costume and tentacled mask designed to evoke sea creatures, human tissue, and pieces of refuse. The songwriter took a sizeable dose of shrooms before filming the dance portion of the video, helping her create a transcendent experience as she harnessed the power of energy and movement. 

“It’s like mushrooms take the part of your brain that says you can’t do things, and they challenge that part,” she says. “I feel like when I’m dancing on mushrooms, there’s just no barrier between me and what I’m able to do.”

DoubleBlind recently got on the phone with De Souza, who lives in a town outside Asheville, North Carolina, to talk about the inspiration she draws from mushrooms. We also discussed her album art and costume design, made in collaboration with her mom, the artist Kimberly Oberhammer. 

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*This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

DoubleBlind: You’re in Los Angeles as we speak to record with producer Elliott Kozel. How do you like being in LA compared to North Carolina?

Indigo De Souza: Oh, I definitely would prefer North Carolina. LA is beautiful because of the plants. I love the plants here and the green of it all. The nature is really cool, and I love how the nature is, like, taking back over the city, too. But other than that, I’m not a huge fan of, like, the feeling of being in LA. I much prefer the little mountain town that I live in near Asheville.

I love the artwork on your album covers. I read that those are paintings by your mom. What’s the story behind those? They all have the same kind of theme of a mother and daughter; they’re both skeletons and in different places. 

The first time I thought of the vision for the first album cover, I was actually on mushrooms at this festival with my mom. My mom was dancing, and I was watching her dance from afar. And I just started to notice all of the bones under her skin—like I could see her bones moving around. It filled me with this kind of, like, despair about mortality, and it brought this vision to me of our bodies as skeletons. So, I wanted the album cover to depict that. Like, mother-daughter as skeletons, because of feeling sad about mortality being a reality.

That’s really heavy and powerful. Does your mom paint a new painting for every album cover? 

Every album cover she paints depends on my vision for the cover. I explain to her what the vision is, and then she sketches it out and shows me the sketch. If I feel good about the sketch, then she starts painting. And then once she’s painting, I don’t really give her any more direction. I just let her do her thing. 

How did you first get into psychedelics? What was your first experience or your entryway into that realm?

My entryway was just learning about it in high school, and knowing that it existed, but not knowing much about it. Hearing other people talk about eating mushrooms. I just became very curious about it. There was a day when someone knew where I could get mushrooms, and I just bought some. Then, my friends and I took mushrooms. I remember we put it on pizza, and then we had this beautiful experience together where we were painting and listening to music and talking and dancing together for hours. It was with three other friends, and I just remember the greatest thing that I learned was how it just brings people together in such a special way. We ended up becoming so close after that experience. 

Are shrooms your preferred psychedelic? Have you ever done LSD, or smoked weed or anything like that?

I mean, I smoke weed sometimes, but definitely, mushrooms are at the top for me. And I feel like I haven’t done as many microdose sessions with mushrooms as I have macro-dosed. I’ve had periodical experiences of taking a lot of mushrooms and letting them completely blow me out. That feels like more of my style. 

Death is a recurring theme in your music, and I was wondering if you have ever seen any overlap between the idea of death and psychedelics. Are there any areas where those two overlap for you?

Definitely, just in the way that I’ve lived through multiple ego-deaths through psychedelics, which feels similar to dying. Those ego deaths are very lyrically and sonically inspiring for me. And mushrooms, in general—all of my experiences with them feel like they are constantly inspiring my music. 

Really?

Yeah, for sure. And my artwork, too. I do visual art, but for a while, I wasn’t doing it at all. And then I had a big mushroom trip. After that, I couldn’t stop drawing. So yeah, it feels like mushroom experiences inspire me always. I feel less scared of death than I maybe did before I knew mushrooms, if that makes sense, because I feel like mushrooms show you what death looks like if you take enough. At least for me. And I don’t feel as afraid of it anymore.

When you say “ego-death,” what does that mean? Like, what is the actual feeling?

It feels like my body is not me and that there’s a little spirit living inside. And that little spirit just becomes, like, hyper-animated on mushrooms. It becomes more important than the body. I think it feels separate from the body, and it makes me feel really calm, like less attached to my body.

Kind of like an out-of-body experience. It seems like you prefer taking larger doses—any reasons why?

Yeah, exactly like an out-of-body experience. You know, it’s so funny how hard it is to put into words. I never know how to say this without sounding really cheesy, but there’s just a certain quality to the experience of taking a lot of mushrooms, where suddenly I’m able to work with energy around me or energy becomes like a physical thing. I am able to work through the energy in my body and work through trauma. And I find that when I microdose, I’m not able to get to that space, but it’s more of just a glowing experience. I kind of use it as a periodical therapy.

Where do you want to be when you’re tripping? Who do you want to be with? Is it something you do with friends or alone? What’s the ideal setting?

I’ve done it with friends and also alone. But I like to be in the woods, and I usually like to set up a little tent with a cozy bed inside, so I can be outside or inside if needed. I like to do it on a sunny day. That’s basically all. I just make sure that I have water and snacks and a cozy spot. It’s interesting. I don’t know if you know this, but I took mushrooms for a music video that I did.

Oh, yeah, I was going to ask you about that. That was for the “Younger & Dumber” video, right?

Yeah. And so it’s interesting. I was still able to work with energy and movement in the same way, even though I was under a lot of eyes.

You’re on camera, and there’s lighting, and you’re on a set surrounded by people…

Yeah, exactly. But that experience was really beautiful, because even though the setting was strange, I was still able to work with my movements and energy in a powerful way. It felt almost like it rippled through the other people that were there, which was really nice. I kind of felt interested in working with that more—the idea of there being people around when I’m doing the work.

That’s amazing. The video for “Younger & Dumber” is remarkable. It’s one of the most powerful music videos I’ve seen in a long time. The costume you’re wearing is really, really cool, and the video has all this like childhood footage spliced in between the clips of you dancing. It’s just so raw and honest, and I see what you mean by working with the energy. Throughout the video as you’re dancing, you’re sinking into this trance-like state or something. I have to ask you about the costume first. What was the concept behind that?

I was looking at pictures of leafy sea dragons and really admiring the way that they move through the water. I wanted to create something that was like a leafy sea dragon, something that would move underwater, and something that you would find inside the human body—a piece of tissue. And I wanted it to represent, like, trash. I wanted it to be like a trash bag. I just wanted to embody everything in one outfit, if that makes sense—the intermingling of trash, humanity, and nature.

Did you make the costume yourself?

My mom made it and I designed it. We picked out the fabric together, and she’s really good at sewing, so she made it. And then the mask—I actually wasn’t going to wear a mask at first. And then I was on Instagram. I saw these masks by this person named Henry Shearon, and I just like loved them so much. He’s a brother of one of my friends, so I reached out to him and had him make a mask that matched the outfit. [The mask] allowed me to take on this whole character that didn’t have a face. Dancing with a mask on was crazy.

As the video progresses, you remove parts of the costume and the mask. So there’s a narrative arc where you’re becoming more exposed or vulnerable. How did you come up with the idea of doing the dancing for the video? 

All the dancing has always been a part of my mushroom experiences. I’ve always had a specific way of dancing when I’m on mushrooms. And that way of dancing is similar to the work that I feel like I’m doing to deal with my trauma when I’m on mushrooms. I really have always wanted to capture that specific way of dancing, and so that was my whole concept. The set was essential, the lighting and the rain machine were crucial. The rest was like, I just knew that if I let the mushrooms speak through me, they would tell me what I needed to do.

It sounds like you have a very transcendent experience when you do mushrooms.

It’s strange. It’s like mushrooms take the part of your brain that says you can’t do things, and they challenge that part. I feel like when I’m dancing on mushrooms, there’s just no barrier between me and what I’m able to do. I feel like I can move more freely, and it also makes me feel very connected to the plants. Like the dancing feels like it’s coming directly from, like tiny little organisms in the plants. It’s almost like it’s nature’s way of like speaking through my body.

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Could you talk a little bit about how ‘shrooms help you process trauma? How does that work? 

It’s so hard to put into words, because it feels like magic. If you take a lot of mushrooms, it’s going to bring up a lot of stuff in your body. And I feel like, for me, it will bring up specific pieces of my history and show them to me, and then I have the opportunity to face it and let it go. I think a lot of people could get caught up in, like, if you take too many mushrooms and you’re not ready to face things, then maybe you could have a bad trip. 

But if you can just accept things as they come, it can do a lot of great healing on your body. I’m at peace with mushrooms and the way that they work on me. I’m able to allow them to aid me in my processing of things.

You go into it, knowing what to expect and what’s going to happen. So you’re not going to be taken by surprise. 

Yeah, exactly. It’s like, I know that it will be hard, and I’m accepting of that.

It’s interesting because some people take psychedelics recreationally—basically, they want to have fun. But your experience is a pretty serious undertaking. It’s not something that you take lightly?

Yeah, it’s really not. Although I definitely do have fun when I take mushrooms, and it definitely allows me to feel really light in my body and really joyful, it can also bring a lot of heavy weight. And I think my ability to accept the heavy weight allows the joyfulness to be there.

Do you ever make music when you’re tripping?

I have before, but honestly, it’s hard to completely focus. There’s so much that feels possible. I would love to someday, like, take mushrooms while I’m recording with a producer who can actually help me bring the ideas to life. Because I’ve tried recording by myself before on mushrooms, and it’s too confusing for me—all the wires and the buttons and stuff. 

You were saying earlier that you started drawing after doing mushrooms. How did that come about?

That also feels like a magical occurrence. I used to draw a lot when I was a teenager and then somehow lost my ability, or just thought I had lost my imagination. After taking a big dose of mushrooms, I just like felt like drawing and I started drawing. And then I realized that something magical had happened and my ability or imagination had come back. 

I got a big drawing pad, and I couldn’t stop drawing. I ended up using all those drawings for my new line of merch that I put out. I also had this whole realization about my merch through the mushrooms—that I could use my merch to speak positively to the world. Instead of putting out merch that has my name on it, I could have positive messaging in my work. 

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