There’s a tension in “Preach,” the latest single from Los Angeles-based post-punk band Agender, of the world at a turning point. While “Preach” was seemingly made for 2020, the song was actually written late last year. “It was written in the old world,” says singer Romy Hoffman. She describes “Preach” as an “anti-elegy.” In other words, it’s not as bleak at is might appear on first listen. “It is positive,” she says, adding that the song is a call to “hold on to your power.”
The video for “Preach” was made by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Anthony Maldonado, who has previously collaborated with Hoffman on visuals for her live, solo performances. “We weren’t sure this wasn’t going to be the first single but I think, with everything going on in the world, we just thought as a band that this felt right,” says Hoffman. But, the pandemic created some complications for making a video. “Obviously, everyone was very limited as to what you could do and where you could go and shoot and how you can shoot,” says Hoffman. “So it just seemed logical to me, the best thing to do would be more of a found footage kind of thing. I know Anthony’s very good at that, and I knew his aesthetic would suit the mood.”
Hoffman is a lifelong musician whose work has crossed genres, but bears the influence of punk. “Punk rock has been my staple,” she says. “It’s been woven into everything that I do musically. Growing up in the ’90s, being around a DIY culture definitely shaped my everything – how I perceive the world, how I walk through it, how I react to things, how I make things.”
She adds, “My art has always been very immediate.” Hoffman describes her work as coming from a “pure raw place” that’s been accessible via punk. “I would say my musical career has always come from that urgent, raw energy, of just needing to make things for survival and just for existence.”
She launched Agender solo while living in Melbourne, Australia and played all the instruments for the project’s debut release. The first incarnation of the full band came together when she was ready to play live and that line-up went on to record Fixations, in 2014. Around the time of the sophomore release, Hoffman moved to the U.S., settling in Los Angeles. “It has this beautiful-brutal dichotomy thing that I love,” says Hoffman of the city, adding, “It’s this sunny, warm place but the music coming out of there at the time (and now) is really cold.”
At that time, in L.A.’s underground scene, minimal electronic, cold wave and industrial were thriving and Hoffman’s solo work, which she releases simply as Romy, was on a similar wavelength. “I fit nicely into that,” she says. She quickly gained a following around town as both a musician and a DJ. Agender made a comeback, though, after Hoffman met bassist Christy Michel, drummer Christy Greenwood and synth player Sara Rivas. As Hoffman points out, they’re a band with two Virgos and two Cancers and “it just works really well.”
“It feels like family. It feels like we all support each other,” says Hoffman. “It feels very emotional, physical, spiritual.”
“Preach” is a teaser of sorts for Agender’s third album, No Nostalgia, which will be released in 2021. Hoffman wrote the record last year and the band recorded with former LCD Soundsystem member David Scott Stone between 2019 and early 2020. “We took our time with it,” says Hoffman, who finished work on the album right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
It’s only been in the past couple months that the members of Agender were able to start rehearsing again. “We all have masks and shields over our faces and are crazy with disinfectant and hand sanitizer,” Hoffman says.
Meanwhile, Hoffman has also been working on new solo material, which she may release in the near future. The band is aiming to release one more single at the end of this year and then drop the album next spring, but Hoffman says they’re also playing it by ear. “I’d like to release the record closer to when we know where things might be a bit more open and you can play shows in support of this stuff,” she explains. ” It’s very hard not being able to play shows, supporting stuff you’re releasing, especially when we’re a live band. It’s so important to us playing it; it transcends the music to another level.”
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