RSVP HERE: Purple Witch of Culver livestream via PopDust & MORE!

Purple Witch of Culver is a new collaboration between baritone saxophonist, vocalist, poet and activist Sarah Safaie, and producer/multi instrumentalist Evan Taylor. Both Safaie and Taylor have spent a lot of time in the NYC music scene, but began their project after making their Westward migration and meeting in Los Angeles.

Their first two tracks have complementary vibes that show the broad spectrum of what they’re musically capable of. “Trig” is full of biting East Coast attitude, with a groove perfect for a sarcastic walk down the sidewalk. “Eulogy of a Sunbeam” has all the chill California atmospherics, full of ascendance, hope and love. Both tracks were recorded at Taylor’s studio and released on his label Loantaka Records.

Their first-ever livestream is Friday 12/11 at 7pm EST via, where they will be opening for Laraaji! We chatted with Safaie and Taylor about their favorite recording gear, the NYC Poetry project, and the importance of realizing our collective power in 2021. 

AF: How did Purple Witch of Culver come to be?

SS: Originally Evan was producing a solo track for me, but it became such a collaborative process that we decided to start a band! 

AF: What was the writing and recording process like for your two singles “Trig” and “Eulogy for a Sunbeam?”

SS: “Trig” came together super spontaneously. It was originally going to be a sax feature but I decided to put some fragments of my writing together last minute. I wrote most of those fragments while I lived in New York, and they really fit the vibe of the track. The sax bits came together pretty seamlessly after I did the vocal take. The whole process just flowed so well.

“Eulogy for a Sunbeam” was a bit more involved since there are so many layers, but it was once again another one-day venture. Evan recorded all the parts besides the flute, saxophone, and vocals, which I layered on top. I did the entire vocal in one take; I had spent about a week writing and assimilating my work to reflect my typical stream of consciousness. 

Our third single “We the Sun” is being released next week, December 14. We’re excited for that one; it is a departure from our two previous tracks. I sing. It’s a vibe.

AF: Do you have any favorite pieces of gear you used while recording Purple Witch of Culver?

ET: Our favorite piece of gear is our 2″ tape machine. We also love all of our analog echos, delays, and countless synthesizers. 

AF: Sarah, what drew you to the baritone sax?

SS: I first picked up the bari when I was 17. I had been playing mostly alto and tenor since I was in 4th grade, but I found my high school’s baritone and decided to take it to my sax lesson. I played it for my teacher and he surprised me with his enthusiasm; he said it was definitely my main axe. The tone and execution of the bari is so satisfying to me, and it has been my primary instrument ever since.

AF: Evan, can you tell us a bit about your studio and record label?

ET: My studio, Loantaka Sound, is an offshoot of my record label, Loantaka Records. It is a predominantly analog (yet with digital capabilities) studio stocked with what I consider all the tools necessary to make a compelling record. As a producer I hold about 80% of my sessions there these days. It’s become a second home and laboratory for Purple Witch. As for the label, Loantaka Records, I refer to it as an “artist-curated boutique community label.” It’s comprised of some of my favorite artists from the scene who also happen to be incredible inspiring individuals. Our current roster includes Jess Cornelius, Sofia Bolt, The Chapin Sisters, Easy Love, and of course Purple Witch of Culver. We have some big plans brewing for 2021 which I’m thrilled about.

AF: What poets, jazz musicians and activists have influenced your work?

SS: I spent a lot of time at the Poetry Project in NYC over the last few years, which is where I found out about Eileen Myles, Alice Notley, Bernadette Mayer among countless others. They have been an incredible inspiration, enabling me to feel like I can write again. Jazz musicians I am influenced by of course include John Coltrane and Charlie Parker, the two saxophonists I listened to mostly while growing up. Charles Mingus is my favorite composer; he was always very political and his works have been blowing my mind since I was ten years old. Mingus is the reason I got into jazz, and he was a heavy activist. Pretty much anyone I look up to has been outspoken about the political landscape. Right now I am looking towards the BLM movement as well as the BDS movement (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) for their leadership.

AF: Are there any other non-musical things are you inspired by?

ET: Psychology and folklore.

SS: Nature and astrology.

AF: What can we expect from your first ever live-stream?

ET: It will be an opportunity to expand upon all the parts we overdubbed ourselves as we have a band all adding their influence to the tunes. At the end of the day we just want people to dance. 

SS: Purple Witch, live band style! We’re super psyched for this. Tune into for details, this Friday around 7pm EST. We hit right before Laraaji. 

AF: What would you like to see change in the world in 2021?

SS: It’s time for people to come together and help each other. We are going to need to realize our collective power if we are to topple the powers that be and take the measures necessary to ensure a livable planet for all beings. We must keep fighting. 

RSVP HERE for Purple Witch of Culver’s first livestream on 12/11 at 7pm ET.

More great livestreams this week…

12/11 Jhariah, A Day Without Love, Queen of Swords, Oux, Long Neck via Around The Campfire. 7pm ET, RSVP HERE

12/11 Primus via Primus’ website. 9pm ET, RSVP HERE

12/12 Hachiku via 8pm ET, $5, RSVP HERE

12/12 Ilithios via Instagram. 8pm ET, RSVP HERE

12/12 Charly Bliss via Seated. 7pm ET, $5, RSVP HERE

12/13 Adult Mom, Zeke Forever, Kicksie, Krankey, Ariel + Bottomfeeders via Twitch (benefit for DJT Justice Network). 8pm ET, $5, RSVP HERE

12/14 The Hell Yeah Babies via FLTV. 8pm ET, RSVP HERE

12/15 Sizzy Rocket via Moment House (Live from an Abandoned Theme Park). 9pm ET, $10, RSVP HERE

12/16 Beau via 8pm ET, $5, RSVP HERE

RSVP HERE: Safe Space Sessions Halloween Bash + More!

Safe Space Sessions is a Miami, FL based collective that are banning together to create safer spaces for both their performers and audience. They have been organizing live-streams since September to raise funds for different organizations and provide a safe haven for anyone involved in the music community by providing resources for mental health, addiction and victims of sexual assault. On their website they have a form where you can vent anonymously along with an extensive google doc of contact info for organizations that can help. For Halloween they teamed up with Backroom Sessions for their Halloween Bash including performances by Baby G, Bonzey The Kid, Playkill, The Hattts, Shay Pastel, Better Than This, Pocos Postres, The Old Youth and Shoveit, streaming from Twitch on 10/30 at 7pm ET. 50% of their proceeds will be going towards NIVA for the Save Our Stages campaign. We chatted with Safe Space Sessions founder Val Varela about why they began SSS, more organizations to support and why organizing virtual shows is actually easier.

AF: Tell us about how Safe Space Sessions started, your team & goals.

VV: SSS started a few months ago because a lot of people were coming forward in the Cali music scene that their abusers were in big bands and making the scene unsafe. There were stories of sexual abuse and drugging of minors, really horrifying shit. I know sexual abuse is a widespread problem so of course it’s happening here in Miami and I didn’t want to stand by and not make a change. So I got together a group chat on IG with a bunch of bands, venues, photographers and event coordinators in Miami, saying we gotta make a change, telling people the horror stories. There were like 40 people in that chat and the people that stayed to help me plan the event are my kick-ass team (Mel, Will, Abby, Lee, Fi and Tess). We do everything: the flyers, reaching out to bands/venues/sponsors, setlist times, and especially now, making sure everyone is wearing a mask, sanitizing in between bands and taking temperature checks. Our goal is to raise as much money as possible to help other organizations who provide resources for sexual abuse survivors. It is important to have open conversations and give people a place to feel safe. We also do our best to research bands that we hire for events to make sure there is not a history of sexual allegations.

AF: How have your livestream sessions gone so far?

VV: Everything has gone great and it’s been a really fun learning experience. The first two streams were a little rocky as far as technical issues because we’d never done a livestream (and for many of the team it was the first event we’d set up by ourselves) but we were able to raise over $700! 

AF: What are some of the challenges of organizing digitally vs. in person shows?

VV: In some ways it’s easier digital because people don’t have to leave their house, they can just log in on their phone. The downside to that is keeping people’s attention and getting them to stay for a three hour stream (especially the 20-25 minute lull where bands are switching). During that we played sexual abuse PSAs and music videos from local Florida artists. Also when it’s digital it’s hard to feel the crowds reaction because you’re playing into an almost empty room so we jump around and hype them up.

AF: What organizations have you raised money for so far and what other resources/organizations do you recommend to support? 

VV: ForgeForward (trans & queer resources) RAINN (national network for rape and incest support) and Mujer FL (our local sexual abuse resources for Latinx people). There’s hundreds of organizations but if you can help local or queer ones those are the best because they don’t get as much funding and black and brown queer kids are most at risk. We have to help as much as we can.

AF: What steps do you think need to be taken in the live music industry to make it safer before events resume as normal?

VV: Jfc, first of all, people need to stop having in-person concerts with no social distancing/masks. There’s not much the industry itself can do as they are already going under financially – it’s on everyone to wear a mask, social distance, get tested and donate to relief funds (when possible).

AF: What are you most excited about for the Halloween Bash? Are any bands dressing up or playing covers?

VV: Ooooh, this bash is gonna be so fun!!! A lot of the artists I haven’t seen live before, very exciting so see new performers and mosh (by myself lol). Everyone better dress up!! We sent an email saying we are doing polls on IG. I don’t know everyone’s set lists so it’ll be a fun surprise.

AF: What are your plans for the rest of 2020 and beyond?

VV: Personally after we finish with this Halloween bash/mystery merch bags I’m going to try to take a mental health break for the rest of the year. I’m sure SSS will plan another show or two! 2021 I want to do more live streams and even when shows are safe again I want to do hybrid shows so fans from other states can see artists they like live! Also continue to find creative ways to fundraise and spread awareness for sexual abuse and make our scene as safe as possible.

RSVP HERE for Safe Space Sessions & Backroom Sessions Halloween Bash on Twitch 10/30 at 7pm ET.

More great livestreams this week…

10/30 The Paranoyds, Honey Child via NoonChorus (from Bob Baker Marionette Theater). $10, 9pm ET RSVP HERE

10/30 Starcrawler via No Cap. $15, 9pm ET RSVP HERE 

10/30 The Aquabats (Kooky Spooky! Halloween Party!) via Veeps. 6pm ET RSVP HERE

10/31 Japanese Breakfast, Lexie, Gabby’s World, The Dead Elvi, Slight Of, The Glow via BABY.TV. $10, 9pm ET RSVP HERE

10/31 Death Valley Girls via NoonChorus. $6.66, 9pm ET RSVP HERE

10/31 Adult Mom, Oceanator, Diet Cig, PUP, Charly Bliss & More via Twitch (Ratboys Halloween Telethon). 1pm ET RSVP HERE

10/31 The Cure via YouTube (Teenage Cancer Trust Unseen). 4pm ET RSVP HERE

11/1 Shamir, Tony and Tony, Stella Donnelly & more via Independent Venue Week (from Baby’s All Right). $5, 8pm ET RSVP HERE

11/3 The Decemberists, Drive-By Truckers, The Dresden Dolls, & more via Voted Festival. 12pm ET RSVP HERE

AF 2017 IN REVIEW: Ten of the Year’s Best Albums By Trans Artists

In (yet another) year where coverage of trans lives vacillated between stories of hyper-visible trans people – wealthy “success” stories, wearied activists and advocates, public artists struggling through waves of aggression and hate – and mournful eulogies (22 trans women of color were murdered in 2017), it’s easy for some to forget that trans lives are, after all, lives. Paying attention to the minutia of trans days – the boredom filled, plans made, and art created – means extending empathy to those that many see only as dead or decorated bodies.

Binaried interest in trans lives is mirrored and facilitated by the two days each year set aside to think about them – Trans Day of Remembrance and Trans Day of Visibility. But trans folks need to be more than remembered or rendered visible. They need to be supported daily, given access to the resources and tools needed for survival. And so much of the art I loved in 2017 was made by trans folks.

Defining “trans artist” as an individual musician or band with one or more trans or non-binary members, I’ve collected ten 2017 albums I want to share with everyone I know. As I wrote about these releases I love, my chest expanded to be tender and open – my self filled with the deep and satisfying strength which comes from meaningful art. In other words, I felt very !!!!! while writing this list, and I hope listening to these artists will spark the same feeling in you.

Aye Nako – Silver Haze

Listening to Aye Nako feels like being hit in the gut and wrapped in warmth at the same time. The band makes hard-working, gritty music which is both empathetic and unapologetic, and Silver Haze – which takes on anti-blackness, safety, childhood friendship, and feeling disconnected – is no exception. Mars Dixon and Jade Payne split vocals on songs which are challenging and complex. Earlier this year, I got the chance to speak with Aye Nako about their new album. And months after Silver Haze was released, I’ve taken to carrying a black tourmaline in each of my back pants pockets.

AhMerAhSu – Rebecca

Rebecca is dreamy and compassionate. On it, Star Amerasu tackles addiction, transphobia, and grief with a remarkably soft and open approach. It’s a forgiving album, treating both speaker and listener more kindly than we often treat ourselves. Each time I turn to Rebecca, I am struck once again by the grace and lightness that AhMerAhSu imbues in her work, as well as the technical and exacting beauty of her production. The songs on Rebecca are silky and deftly spun; worth both learning from and leaning on.

Rainer Maria – S/T

Rainer Maria’s first release in eleven years, S/T is more than a reunion album. Like some of their earlier work, S/T features haunting vocal give-and-takes from Kaia Fischer and Caithlin De Marrais, accompanied by fantastically heavy instrumental arrangements. Every time I listen to this album, I feel the same kind of driving satisfaction I imagine I might get after punching a TERF in the mouth. S/T is intense and surprising, blooming new sonic details with each listen.

Shamir – Revelations

Revelations is Shamir’s first release on Father Daughter records, and marks a shift in the artist’s sound. The album is expansive and meandering, unfolding complicated, fractured emotions through lyrical development. Compared to earlier albums, instrumentation and production takes a backseat on Revelation, but Shamir’s voice more than makes up for it. It’s a deep well of an album; one that I return to, over and over again, to draw out hurt, joy, and inspiration.

Vivek Shraya – Part Time Woman

2017 was Vivek Shraya’s year! On top of releasing Part-Time Woman, Shraya’s first book of poetry, Even this Page is White, won a 2017 Publisher Triangle Award, her upcoming book I’m Afraid of Men was slated for publishing in Fall 2018, and she was featured on Tegan and Sara’s anniversary album, The Con X (as was Shamir, and about a dozen other queer artists worth checking out). Part-Time Woman, which features musical support from the Queer Songbook Orchestra, is smart and biting. Shraya skewers what she calls “the labour expected in order to be seen and valued as a woman,” exposing mechanisms of violent transmisogyny through her lyrics.

Adult Mom – Soft Spots

Soft Spots is warm and weepy; an album that I can’t help but hold close. Steph Knipe’s approach to their songs is careful and enduring, resulting in songs which cradle the listener. I had the chance to see Adult Mom play in San Francisco last summer, and the feeling of fullness and great joy I felt during that show reappears with each listen of Soft Spots. 

Worriers – Survival Pop

Listening to Worriers makes my whole body ache, and yet, somehow, it’s still fun. Survival Pop is like candy for folks who love pop punk, but also love listening to music about being non-binary. Though Lauren Denitzio’s lyrics are relentless, and occasionally even painful in their pointed honesty, the album is buoyed by fast and enthusiastic drum and guitar parts. Survival Pop is an album that asks to be danced to with abandon, desperately even. At the same time it sets itself up to be an educative tool for your mom.

Freya – The Brightest Ones

Released on Trans Day of Visibility, 2017, The Brightest Ones is soothing and imaginative. It offers world-building lyrics backed by sparkling electro-acoustic arrangements, as well as an endearing sense of personal intimacy. On her website, Freya notes when and where each song was written, offering a tender glimpse into the artist’s process.

Hirs – How to Stop Street Harassment

Hirs describe How to Stop Street Harassment as “ten songs about wanting to be left alone while minding our business being in public.” If you miss G.L.O.S.S. (and don’t we all?) this is the 2017 release for you. Hirs is a rotating collective of trans, queer musicians, and How to Stop Street Harassment is a brilliant manifesto in support of street safety for trans folks.

She/Her – Marigold

Chicago duo She/Her are triumphant on Marigold, wielding dysphoric and troubling lyrics with strength and precision. She/Her takes their time on the album, committing to varied instrumental movements and, in some cases, longer songs which build until it seems they might break. The opening instrumental track “Locust Street” is a gorgeous surprise which sets up the band’s attention to texture throughout the album.