On Quaranmood, Boise, Idaho-based singer and musician Angel Abaya, who uses just her first name for her solo work, goes through the range of emotions triggered by this year’s COVID-19 pandemic, and the stay-at-home orders that came as a result of it, over the course of a three-song EP and accompanying short film out on Friday, October 16. The EP, released through record label Earth Libraries, marks Angel’s debut as a solo artist.
“This project is pretty new to people,” says Angel. “It’s pretty new to me.”
However, Angel, a lifelong musician, is a familiar voice in Boise’s music community. “I’ve been singing since I got out of the womb,” she says. At six, she started playing violin. Two years later, she picked up piano. Choir and orchestra were a part of her youth. As a pre-teen, she found jazz. “I think that’s really when I found more expression in my voice and was able to find new pathways to creativity,” she says.
In her teens, she began dabbling with guitar but, she adds, it wasn’t until about four years ago that she really got into playing it. A short-lived band when she was 18 led to an invitation to play with the performing arts group LED. She’s been with them for five years now. Angel was also part of the band Electric Coconut. She’s played in a jazz duo and an all-femme cover band and has collaborated with various artists, like the singer-songwriter Kathleen Williams. She’s a regular at Boise’s annual Treefort Music Festival, where she also works in the communications department. Since 2016, she’s played the event every year, either with LED or Electric Coconut. This year, she was set to play solo. However, the COVID-19 pandemic took the event off-calendar for 2020.
“I had only played two shows before under my solo project and it was just me performing by myself with some loops and some live instrumentation,” Angel explains. For Treefort, she had intended to step up the live set, with dancers and other performance elements.
Angel had already been at work on a collection of songs that she intended to release as an album, so she continued that route, releasing her debut music video, for a song called “Gelli,” in at the end of March. “All spring, I was working really hard writing and recording and I was determined to have my album finished,” she says. Naturally, some of Angel’s songs from the period reflected her experience during the pandemic, but they also worked with the greater themes of uncertainty and changing times that she was already exploring on the album. “I felt that when I started writing songs about my shelter in place, it seemed to fit within the world that I was already creating,” she says.
Meanwhile, there were grants available for Boise artists to make work about the pandemic. That inspired Angel to spin her shelter-in-place songs into a separate EP with an accompanying short film. “I think that it makes more sense too,” Angel says. Since staying at home was something that so many people experienced as a result of the pandemic, Angel explains, her own work from that period might resonate more with listeners on its own than as part of a larger collection of songs.
Angel was able to obtain a grant that allowed her to work with a videographer, Adam Wright, on clips for all three songs from Quaranmood. They filmed in May and June of this year in the house where she was living during that time. Each video and song represents a different part of a day and a different mood.
In the electroclash-throwback jam “Haute Hermit,” Angel depicts the “stir crazy” portion of quarantine with camera-ready outfits, colorful food and Instagram poses that devolve into a mess of dripping cocktails and flying pillow feathers. “Spatial Therapy” takes a somber turn as Angel sings about isolation and loneliness, while hanging out in a yard and riding a bike down an empty street. Closing out the EP is “No Ill Will,” an indie rock tune with ’90s vibes that’s about acceptance. “It’s mostly letting it all happen and trying to be understanding and patient about your situation,” Angel says.
Angel is continuing work on a full-length album, which she plans to release in 2021. She says that working solo has given her an opportunity to see and hear how much she can do on her own. “I think it’s really cool to realize that I can compose and write and record all these songs by myself and not feel like it’s missing anything,” she says.
“I do cherish and appreciate collaboration,” Angel adds, “but it’s been good for me to find independence.”
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