BODEGA Brushes Up on the Classics on Broken Equipment LP

Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana

“It’s only when things break down does the presence of the thing reveal itself,” says “Bodega” Ben, a founding member of the Brooklyn “art-punk incendiaries” who release their new full-length record Broken Equipment today on What’s Your Rupture?

He goes on: “What good art does is that it reveals these relationships we take for granted. And I like the pun of broken equipment too, because as artists, at least speaking for myself, we’re essentially damaged goods. We’re damaged people. We’re the jesters out in the world, and because of our pain – this is a gross oversimplification – but I think we can see things that not everybody can. We are broken equipment.”

The band borrowed the phrase from German philosopher Martin Heidegger, whose writings on technology and art and their interconnectivity with how we perceive the world loom large over this record. It all began with a philosophy book club, started in early 2020. The band had already written about a dozen new songs, but then the pandemic happened. Isolation allowed time for the ideas they had been grappling with to sink in. So they wrote more songs, and only about half of the originals made the final cut.

The beginning of the pandemic also brought with it some line-up changes, timing that proved serendipitous as it intersected with the formation of the book club. “De facto” book club leader Adam See is a philosophy professor, but also a bassist. 

“I know him first and foremost as a friend from the music scene, but didn’t really get to know him until we started reading philosophy together,” Ben explains. “I figured out he played a lot more bass than I knew, so it was kind of amazing that he was able to slip into being in the band.”

“A band is a gang, and it’s nice to have everyone bring their own personality, but the gang is the sum of its parts. And our band had that in a musical way, but there was something really special about the book club in the sense that it was rejuvenating for all of us,” he says. “It’s really fun to return to the classics that we had all read as undergrads, but in a non-academic setting. And that sort of bookish nature has slipped over into the band in a way that I think is really fun, which is more important than any books we read. It was the idea of reading together.”

So back to Heidegger. He appealed to BODEGA in the way that he, as Ben says, “puts you back in contact with what it feels like to be present in your body.” They were particularly inspired by his essay “The Question, Concerning Technology,” wherein he writes about man’s relationship with technology.

“We tend to think of technology as this neutral concept,” Ben says. “When a tool’s invented, it’s neutral, people use it, whatever. But his whole idea is that you go back to when the Greeks first invented the word techne, what they were really coining was an ideology of man’s relationship to the world, as he uses the [phrase] ‘standing reserve,’ so seeing everything in the world as a standing reserve.”

What this essentially means is that technology is not at all neutral, as it directly informs our experience with the world we exist in. The “I” you once were fundamentally changed when you held that first iPhone in your hands.

“In modern life, we tend to treat our own friends as standing reserve. We tend to treat our own bodies as standing reserve,” he continues. “What can you do for me? There’s this transactional relationship to everything, that extends to inanimate objects as real people. I feel like that rhymed with a lot of BODEGA concerns.”

Which brings us back to Broken Equipment, a logical next title in a series of albums that deal deeply with the ways capitalism, technology and their intersections have shaped our identities and experiences as humans living in the 21st century: Endless Scroll (2018) and its live counterpart Witness Scroll (2019); Shiny New Model (2019). In a way, that’s what this band is about – they read Heidegger so you don’t have to. They break these weighty ideas down into something more digestible, more palatable even, so that they might transmute these ideas that concern them to others in a way they’ll actually consume.

Vocalist Nikki Belfiglio puts it this way, referencing the American essayist Ellen Willis: “The true prophets [in a communication crisis] are the translators. And I feel like in a sense artistry is like that. We show ourselves almost as prophets, in a pretentious way, but in the way of the true form of pretension, we try to be more than what we are.”

She continues: “What I’m trying to say is artists fulfill this role as translators, and are trying to communicate these things, like broken equipment, things that have broken down and are not yet noticed by society, or uncommunicated in a sense, other than on an art-making level.”

As far as artistic endeavors go, this sounds heavy, ambitious even. But they’re also having fun with it. Part of what makes Broken Equipment such a special record is how evident the love and fun that went into making it is. When they set out to write it, BODEGA was tired of being lumped in with third or fourth-wave post punk bands. They believe in allegiance to artists and songs, more so than genre.

“What we want to do is trace how consciousness is changing,” Ben explains, “[but] people say to us all the time, wow your band is so boring. We get it, I’m on my phone a lot.”

In this sense, you might even note the influence of Martin McLuhan here; on Broken Equipment, the media is the message. BODEGA is all about how the constant bombardment of outside influences shapes us in this over-inundated media landscape, and the ways art, music and media have shaped the band are overwhelming on this album. The influences are all over the chart here – you can of course see hints of other contemporary punk outfits like B Boys, and Ben’s vocals are at times reminiscent of Show Me the Body’s frontman Julian Cashwann Pratt, namely on tracks like “Thrown” and “Doers.”

Which makes sense, given that they infused their sound with a lot of ’90s hip hop sensibilities; artists like Run DMC and Eric B. & Rakim come to mind as you make your way through the record. Gasps of pop and classic rock puncture the noise as well; Nikki says she jokingly refers to album single “Statuette on the Console” as their “Sheryl Crow Ramones song.”

With this, the message comes through as genuine, and never preachy. On opening track “Thrown,” Nikki shouts “Watch the thrown,” a warning as it were, to be on guard for all images and content the world will throw at you today. Ben jumps in to list the many ways he’s “thrown” by the world around him, “big rock ads” and “the itch on my back.”

We’re never free, and neither is BODEGA. But the band practices radical acceptance on Broken Equipment, allowing the many factors that influence them to seep together into something greater than its parts. There’s very little any of us can do on our own to stop the progress of technology as it snowballs more and more insidiously into our lives, for better or for worse. The best you can do is be conscious of it, and with that, maybe even have a little fun with it.

Follow BODEGA on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Scrappy Brooklyn DIY Synth Poppers Nation of Language Find Their Way Forward

Photo Credit: Robin Laananen

The three members of acclaimed Brooklyn synth pop band Nation of Language were quite literally searching for a way forward after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic cut short what would have been their first major tour. After four years of scraping funds together to record one-off singles, they’d finally been able to release debut LP Introduction, Presence in May 2020; when songwriter/vocalist Ian Devaney and keyboardist Aidan Noel got married, they’d requested guests give them money for studio time in lieu of wedding gifts. But without a tour to promote the album, releasing it seemed like a lost cause – until Introduction, Presence gained unexpected traction and critical acclaim, selling out of three vinyl pressings.

Devaney, Noel, and bassist Michael Sue-Poi did what any scrappy DIY act would do in a similar situation – they decided to record a quick follow-up with Abe Seiferth (who’d worked on their debut) and Nick Millhiser (of Holy Ghost!). “There was so much uncertainty in not being able to tour that for a while we felt a bit lost while everything was locked down. Starting to write and record seemed like the only way to take a next step and get out from under the cloud that was so heavy over us,” says Devaney. Released November 5, A Way Forward takes its title from minimalist album track “Former Self,” in which Devaney sings, “”Away from you/I cover it well/But I may crumble/I can’t stop myself/A careful word/Something to guide my soul/A way forward.”

“Sonically speaking it felt like a good title because we were diving into a more expanded pool of influences,” he adds. “It felt right both in terms of life during the pandemic, and as a band finding new ways to expand what kind of sonic space we could occupy. There were so many directions that could be taken, but this felt like the right next step.”

Back in 2014, Devaney and Sue-Poi were at another crossroads; their Westfield, New Jersey-based pop rock group The Static Jacks had just broken up despite releasing two LPs and touring internationally. “The Brooklyn DIY scene is really what brought me out of just being a New Jersey musician in my early 20s and expanded the people and bands and venues I would come to know and love,” Devaney remembers. “It taught me the hard work it takes to try and stand out as a band and the fun you can have while you do that work. Quasi-legal venues like Shea Stadium were so important to my development and the friends I would make through the years.”

Devaney recognizes that NYC “looms large” on A Way Forward. “I still love the romance of New York, even as I contend with disillusionment with it on songs like ‘In Manhattan.’ It can really grind you down sometimes but that can also be a great source of inspiration, and I love the idea that our records might have some sense of place here,” he says.

Nation of Language deftly leverages the power of synth and new wave tropes, treading the line between contemporary indie rock and post-punk of the ’70s and ’80s. Anthemic while remaining authentic, A Way Forward juggles nostalgia and innovation meticulously, crafting contemporary modes of interacting with the new-wave icons of yore like Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, and Cluster. They studied the Krautrock pioneers of the ’70s, bands whose electronic experimentations influenced new-wave bands of the following decade. “That helped us give the music some more room to breathe,” says Devaney.

One advantage of having that breathing room was the ability to revisit old ideas with a refreshed mindset. “There are elements of songs that go back a few years, and others that were written entirely during the pandemic. The act of curating from a large list of songs and making last minute changes is a really fun and challenging endeavor,” Devaney says. “I like to say that I’m writing every album at the same time in a way, so that as I write I’m never limited by what kind of record I’m supposed to be making.”

The band went into the studio with several songs in a more open-ended place so they could continue to elevate what they had already written. “A Word & A Wave” and “They’re Beckoning” both started as shorter demos, but “grew into so much more as we used the studio itself as an instrument, flipping switches and turning knobs” for each take, says Devaney. “The song you hear is essentially just one variation of the song, of which there were a few to choose from.”

With “This Fractured Mind,” the band was able to take small moments from a demo and build it out into something new in the studio. “I had written a lull into the song before the last chorus. Once in the studio, we filled it with more ambient sounds that we created from playing synths backwards through a tape machine, which gave the moment much more meaning and value to me,” says Devaney.

No matter how much experimentation goes into making an album, Devaney says he sees Nation of Language primarily as an indie rock project. “It’s a pretty broad umbrella, but I like the freedom it gives – it presents an exciting opportunity to draw from as many influences as I want,” he explains. “If I only thought of myself as a new-wave band I think I might feel more limited, whereas as an indie band I could make a shoegaze record, an acoustic record… the future feels wide open.”

This way of writing allows Devaney the freedom to explore, understanding that Nation of Language may not always have the same sound. “If I find I’m writing a song that’s all violins or something, I can finish it and set it aside as another direction to explore in the future, rather than stopping because I need to write more songs with synth arpeggios.”

This is perhaps where the band diverges from new-wave bands of days gone by. Traditional synth sounds may provide a spark, but eventually traverse a broader territory of sound – another way forward. “It’s really just chasing what I hear in my head – sometimes that may be referential in some way to a certain sound on a record I love, sometimes it might come from a place all it’s own,” Devaney says. “It’s also about leaving space to be surprised – part of what I love about not being some kind of synth master is the ways the machines can do unexpected things with the push of a button. Maybe you have some sound you think is cool, and suddenly it’s moving in a crazy rhythm and inspires a whole new song then and there.”

Balancing this point of entry while allowing oneself to be affected by the unexpected allows Nation of Language to write music that is both familiar and mercurial. Endeavoring into places unknown can snowball into new songs, new sounds, and new ways of expression, but as Devaney says, “In the end, the most important thing is to feel excited and moved by whatever is being made.”

Follow Nation of Language on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Dropper Seeks Personal Growth with Lead Single “Don’t Worry”

Photo Credit: Cirsty Burton

Dropper is the brainchild of Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist Andrea Scanniello, who finally steps into the spotlight as a vocalist and songwriter after many years playing guitar, bass or keys in other projects. A veteran of Brooklyn’s indie rock scene, Scanniello previously played in High Waisted and Stuyedeyed, and has filled out the line-ups of TVOD, Russian Baths and Saara Untracht-Oakner (Boytoy, SUO)’s solo projects, among others.

She comes from a long line of musicians and has played music since childhood, but says she “was always too shy to show people music that I was writing. I was like, well I’ll just play guitar, I’ll play keys. It’s fine. I don’t mind being in the background.”

She is in the background no longer. Joining longtime collaborators Jono Bernstein (also of High Waisted), Yukary Morishima and Larry Scanniello, Dropper releases their first LP Don’t Talk To Me on February 11, 2022, and they’re premiering their first-ever single from the project, “Don’t Worry,” today on Audiofemme.

The album is two years in the making, written and recorded pre-COVID, something Scanniello patiently sat on while she awaited the return of live music. “I don’t want to release anything if I can’t play a show,” she said. “I [didn’t] want to put it out in the middle of the pandemic, because we’re so new, that I just didn’t want it to get lost in the Internet shuffle.” The band will have the opportunity to preview the album on a handful of Midwest tour dates with Habibi later this month.

The record lays bare Scanniello’s personal journey through her twenties in nine tracks. She wrote it while she scraped by with a series of service industry jobs and all that comes with them: the late nights, the drinking, the shallow friendships born of participation in a scene. What started as an exercise in healing after a bad break-up became more introspective, a personal inventory of life thus far, the habits that weren’t serving her and the things she’d like to change about herself.

“For a while I was kind of caught up,” she says. “Going out too much, partying too much, and then being anxious because you’re partying too much, and not feeling really connected to anything you’re doing, general bad feelings.” She laughs. “Trying to work through that.”

In the band’s press release, they say they write music for “People who have worked in the service industry too long and become curmudgeons at the ripe old age of 26. People who are lonely yet want to be left alone. People who drink because they are sad but also sad because they drink. Bisexuals with crumbs in their bed. Optimistic pessimists. Those with seasonal allergies. But overwhelmingly for people who, in lieu of being crushed by the eternal weight of existence, choose to scream internally with a smile upon their face.”

And it lands squarely at this nexus, emotionally astute in a way that speaks to Scanniello’s self-awareness and chops as a songwriter. “Don’t Worry” is peak Dropper, in that it encompasses the entire weight of the album with these words: “I do it to myself.” The track negotiates the happy medium between what Scanniello calls “sad girl singer-songwriter kind of stuff” (your Angel Olsens and Waxahatchees) and the heavier, psychier aspects of the Brooklyn music scene, with nods to all the bands Scanniello has lent her talents to. It hits a nerve emotionally, but one can imagine the energy of a raucous, PBR-soaked crowd growing as the track’s energy builds from the opening licks to the multi-faceted explosion of sound that drops in after the bridge. The irony is that it’s exactly this kind of scene that led Scanniello’s songwriting to this place to begin with.

She says this track particularly speaks to “the amount of times in my life I woke up hungover, being like what the fuck am I doing with my life? But then realizing it’s my fault, these are choices that I’m making, and I could easily change these things but I’m choosing not to.”

This type of reflection and self-realization is frequently the catalyst for the type of change she’s referring to, a journey I imagine we’ll see play out alongside Dropper’s journey as a band. In the meantime, you might bask in the sharp empathy of this first offering, that you’re not the only one who feels this way. 

Follow Dropper on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

W.S.A.B.I. Radicalizes the Natural World with Red Hook Farms Mixtape

When’s the last time you considered your relationship to the land you live on? For those of us living in cities, it can feel particularly challenging to cultivate a connection with the natural world, given that in our context it’s been largely paved over. But to Brookyn-based artist and musician Jennae Santos, who creates under the moniker W.S.A.B.I., our urban setting is all the more reason to consider this question.

To Santos, there’s something radical and subversive about communing with the natural world on a more intimate level. W.S.A.B.I. itself stands for Warped Sanggot And Boss Interior, which she describes more specifically in an artist statement: “The Sanggot is a Visayan Philippine hand sickle— a farming tool and martial arts weapon that guides W.S.A.B.I.’s artistic, political, and emotional practice in the harvest of love, community, and subsistence, and the fight for the oppressed body. Our blade is warped from the ongoing work at hand: decolonization, abolition, and warrior pedagogy, fight songs against white supremacist patriarchal capitalism, love songs stoked in multi-sensory radical commitment. Boss Interior means inner strength through the work, and acknowledgment of both the oppressor and the spirit of resistance within colonized identity.”

Santos’ musical style is highly technical and at times jarring, a genre she’s come to define as “art prog.” And by that, she means to synthesize the angular, sometimes unpredictable acuity of art rock with the ambitious composition and repetition of progressive rock. Her most recent release is the Three Houses (Live) EP. Attributed to the WSABI Duo of Love featuring Alex Goldberg, live from quarantine, the three songs were written and recorded over what she describes on her website as “transient overhauls” at three different houses over the course of the initial COVID lockdown. Minimal and lacking the jolting angularity of her work with a full band, they reflect her newfound experimentation with field recordings that led to the walking mixtape, though they do have their heavier moments.

Like many musicians, her practice became more of a solo endeavor when COVID separated her from her bandmates, and her creations became more experimental. A winner of Audiofemme‘s 2020 Agenda Artist Grant, she took the opportunity to expand her artistic acumen to something new and different: a “walking mixtape” exploring the concept of harvest, made in collaboration with Red Hook Farms, where she is a CSA member and volunteer. 

She took field recordings to include sounds from the farm, plant meditations and personal accounts from the youth farmers she supervises – many of whom are neighborhood teens with little existing connection to the natural world – and converted the sound samples into beats inspired by the energy of the farm, creating a site-specific musical walking tour that visitors could access by scanning a QR code at the Saturday farmer’s market. 

“I have like 200 recordings on my voice memos,” Santos shares when I ask how she takes these field recordings. They require nothing more than an iPhone, allowing Santos to record sounds whenever inspiration strikes: for example, for a recent commissioned piece on climate change, she went out to Far Rockaway and Dead Horse Bay to document the sound of tiny bits of glass washing in on the tide. 

Santos began volunteering on the farm as part of her CSA membership, the first time she had ever harvested her own food, and found the practice grounding. She took to studying the larger socio-economic issue of food insecurity over the pandemic and became all the more inspired.

“It’s such a global issue, food insecurity, and the rights of farmers, from migrant farmers to just people of color having food sovereignty and land sovereignty, so combining that with my artistic passions has been something I’ve been trying to work on for the past year,” she explains. “It’s coming from this wanting to see how we can inform each other, and land is such an experiential element that a lot of humans in cities seem to forget, especially if you’re not having to grow food for yourself.”

Issues of food insecurity and the inaccessibility of fresh produce to underprivileged neighborhoods have always plagued major cities, and New York City is no exception. Even when you have the privilege of affording fresh foods, the hustle of living and surviving in a major city can often leave you reaching for whatever foods are the fastest and most accessible, regardless of how unhealthy or processed they might be.

“I’m trying to bridge those practices of taking time to connect to food and to your health and well-being, through land, and I think that art is an access point for that, if not food itself,” she says. “What I was saying before in terms of land being very experiential, sound is also very experiential. Both of those elements really inform the human condition and remind us that we’re not just machines in an economy, we’re animals — we’re humans of the earth.”

As a self-described “decolonizing Filipinx,” Santos found great inspiration in the agricultural heritage of the Philippines, particularly a rice winnowing song recording from the Kalinga mountain province, and folk dancing based on different baranguays’ (the native Filipino word for village, or district) agricultural specialties and goods. She notes that there has always been a sacred relationship between art and nature in pre-colonial cultures, something she hopes to revive in her own contemporary community of Red Hook, Brooklyn. She conceptualized the project from her own moral exhaustion with the capitalist commodification of both the music and food industries, hoping that she might begin to heal both by synthesizing them with an immersive experience.

By thinking so critically about these issues, Santos has led others to reevaluate their relationship to the land they live on, namely the youth farmers she works with. She references Braiding Sweetgrass by scientist and author Robin Wall Kimmerer, how “finding your own indigeneity is about getting to know the land you inhabit.” Her exercises ask the youth farmers to consider their relationships to art and land, and encourage them to explore their ancestral agricultural heritage by asking elder family members about the family’s historical relationship with land. This aims to undo some of the damage wrought by capitalism and colonialism, particularly the way the latter can limit the depths of ancestral knowledge for people of color. Ultimately, though, it’s meant to unify, a reiteration of Santos’s earlier point, that “we are humans of the earth,” which she does in part by recording these exercises with the youth farmers and incorporating them into the mixtape.

“It’s supposed to evoke a sense of grounding and wonder, as it relates to land, especially in an urban environment, [where] we tend to lose that sense. We have to venture out to go hiking, out of the city, when it really is all around us, so it’s meant to be a reminder of the importance of city ecology also,” she explains, describing the interesting juxtaposition in her field recordings of construction sounds coming from the Amazon distribution warehouses across the street from the farm with its own lush, peaceful sounds. She takes this vast array of sounds and imports into her drum kit and uses them to create the beats that accompany the other sonic elements of the mixtape.

“There’s a pulse to the city, especially when there’s construction nearby. There’s a rhythm to the different seasons, and life cycles of plants,” she continues, explaining how this rhythm is aesthetically similar to the guitar loop-laden durational pieces she typically works on. The repetition in these pieces, she says, makes you “feel time differently.”  

“I think I’m trying to bring that type of patience, that kind of patience [that] also happens when you’re on the farm, just the way that people interact with each other and the space that’s there. It just feels like time, the New York hustle, slows down a bunch, and is more present with this newer rhythm, which is vastly different than just navigating the city.”

While the pandemic has forced all of us to slow down in one way or another, the mindfulness and intentionality Santos brings to her Red Hook Farms project is very welcome as society slowly circles back to whatever version of the status quo will remain in the wake of our present turmoil. Many of us don’t want to go back to the way things were before, rushing through our days as we juggled a seemingly endless cycle of jobs, tasks and errands. 

Santos does want to return to normal in the sense that she misses playing with other musicians. On October 28, she’ll participate in a performance dubbed “The Great Rat Summoning” at the Sultan Room, with EVOLFO, Castle Rat, Reverand Mother, and DJ Miss Hap Selam. She’s also heading into the studio with a full band to record the first full length record for the W.S.A.B.I. project, but her connection to the natural world remains; she participated in a harvest ritual at O+ Positive Festival in Kingston, NY earlier this month. I’d imagine that once you hear the rhythm of the natural world around you, it’s difficult to unhear it.

Follow W.S.A.B.I. on Instagram for ongoing updates.

The Writing’s on the Wall for mmeadows in “You Should Know By Now” Video

In the early days of a new relationship, second guessing is second nature. Singer-songwriter Kristin Slipp, known for her work as keyboardist in Dirty Projectors, wonderfully captures the unease and doubt that creeps in like a sinister force with “You Should Know by Now.” As one-half of mmeadows, a creative collaboration with Cole Kamen-Green, who’s played trumpet on two Beyoncé records and worked closely with Lorde, Slipp approaches the emotional turmoil with vigorous delicacy.

“I tried to capture a tone that’s lovingly blunt, using language you might reserve for the ones you’re closest with,” Slipp tells Audiofemme. “I’m dreaming of a video montage of people playing this song for their crush and capturing the reaction, the crush having this aha moment, like ‘duh, the signs were all there, I just needed someone to spell it out.’”

Harp (played by musician Rebecca El-saleh) harmoniously intermingles with layered drums/percussion (courtesy of Ian Chang) to elevate the scalpel-sharp lyrics. “It’s when you’re looking in the mirror/And you find your light/And your reflection is a secret/In the darkest night,” sings Slipp over the crunchy soundscape.

“If I die before I wake, there’s one thing I want you to know,” she continues, unraveling the thematic frays, almost gliding with swan-like ease into the chorus – before an abrupt about-face with a trickling hip-hop cadence. “Every time I turn around/I’m ahead of myself and I’m falling faster.”

It’s an intoxicating, delightfully jarring switch-up — a syncopated vocal contrasting in explosive bursts against the harp’s tender tone. “The melody of the chorus centers around one note, hammered into over and over. It’s a bit of tone painting,” she explains, “hitting you with this note until it’s obvious. Then, jumping up to articulate the idea in a higher register, in case you needed to hear it another, sweeter way. Sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it.”

The accompanying music video, directed, filmed, and edited by Derrick Belcham (La Blogotheque, A Story Told Well), glows with a warm, vintage ambiance, almost acting as a time machine back to MTV’s music video heyday. “We spend our lives in front of screens,” remarks Slipp. “When faced with 2020’s stark reality, we decided to look inward and focus on writing; songs becoming salves.”

As such, the visual “recontextualizes the relationship between screen and viewer” with Belcham snapping in-studio performance footage of the band and then funneling it through an old school TV set and a giant screen projector, placed strategically around various NYC locations, including along the shoreline overlooking the sparkling cityscape in early evening hours. “Taking something that is often inches from our face and throwing it up on a larger-than-life space is sometimes the only way to read the writing on the wall,” notes Slipp.

Slipp and Kamen-Green released their first project together as mmeadows in early 2020 with the hypnotic six-song EP Who Do You Think You Are?. Over the pandemic, Slipp continued her work with Dirty Projectors, issuing the ambitious 5EPs compilation of five separate extended plays. “We’re excited to continue to release this music we’ve been cultivating and developing well into 2022,” she teases. Their next show takes place at The Sultan Room in Bushwick on November 6, and the duo’s debut long-player, Light Moves Around You, arrives in early 2022.

Follow mmeadows on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Night Palace Premieres “Into the Wake, Mystified” Video

Photo Credit: Bảo Ngô

When Night Palace singer Avery Leigh Draut prepared to shoot the video for “Into the Wake, Mystified” with director Hanna Haley, she packed up her bags with the most “magical things” that she could find in her apartment before catching a taxi. That included a gold deer statuette, a few crafty fake birds that she used to wear clipped to her hair, silver garland, six different outfits and lots of fabric. “I really hoard fabric,” says Draut by phone from New York. “I basically dumped a bunch of tulle on her floor and it shows up in various places. We made backdrops with the fabric.”

That was back in 2019, when Draut and her bandmates were still mastering their debut album, Diving Rings, which is set for release next year via Park the Van. Today, though, the video for “Into the Wake, Mystified,” is live. 

The clip features Draut in what appears to be an enchanted world filled with hues of purple, blue and green and filled with small details. Miniature objects and a deck of cards lend an element of Wonderland to the video, while those fabrics that Draut collected help add an ethereal quality to the visuals. 

The video for “Into the Wake, Mystified,” is based on storyboards that Haley had made of winter transforming into spring, which ties to the themes of the song. Draut describes the song itself as being set in an “oceanic world” with lyrics that speak to changes in relationships, specifically those “relationships that we sustain throughout our lives and seasons that come and go with those, how we are maybe no longer in the same season with other people, but still connected to them,” she says.

But that’s not how the song began. The story behind “Into the Wake, Mystified,” goes back a ways before Draut recorded the song with Night Palace and made the video with Haley. In fact, it’s actually one of the first that she wrote. “We had played this song live for three years before recording it,” Draut explains. “It had totally different lyrics and a totally different situation and the chorus melody was different.”

With time, though, this early example of Draut’s work needed to evolve. “ I had it going on so long that I had then changed and wanted the song to change with me,” she says. After a significant overhaul, the band was able to record it. “It finally found its place.” 

Night Palace formed in 2016, first under the name Wanda, in Athens, Georgia. Draut, who grew up in suburban Atlanta, headed to Athens for college and, after finishing school in 2014, she decided to stick around town for a bit. She got a job at a boutique, began writing songs and started playing live with a few friends. When those friends moved, she connected with other local musicians who would become her bandmates. Eventually, though, Draut headed to New York.

“I was pursuing more classical voice stuff. The place [to do that] was in New York,” says Draut. There, she worked and continued taking voice lessons while also auditioning. Meanwhile, she was working on music with her bandmates back in Georgia. 

Draut now splits her time between Brooklyn and Athens. In 2017, she and the band began work on their forthcoming debut full-length. She would record demos using her electric organ and send those to the others. Then, when she was in Athens, they headed to the studio to record. Once those session were done, Draut continued the collaborations in Athens. She would head into the studio with producer and engineer Drew Vanderberg, who has worked with artists like Of Montreal and Toro y Moi, and record with Andy LeMaster, known for his early ‘00s band Now It’s Overhead, as well as an engineer and producer who has worked with Bright Eyes, Fischerspooner and Michael Stipe. “It was very much this growing living thing that got layered onto for a couple of years,” says Draut of the album, which was completed prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With Diving Rings, which is inspired by Draut’s grandmother teaching her how to swim, still a few months away from release, Night Palace’s founder has been focused on making videos. She says that there are a few more on the way, which are in various stages of completion right now. “I love that aspect so much. It’s really a fun part of it for me,” says Draut, who says that she’s always finding artists online whose work she admires and who might be good collaborators. “I delight in color and that entire world. It rules my world a bit.”

Follow Avery Leigh’s Night Palace on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Alex Orange Drink Comes to Terms with Brokenness on Most Candid LP Yet

As a pioneer in New York City’s DIY all-ages scene over the past decade, alongside his brothers in the The So So Glos, Alex Zarou Levine – better known by his solo moniker Alex Orange Drink – represents a millennial shift in pop punk. Today’s punks hold space for complexity, they go to therapy, and they unabashedly share their souls with the intention of healing, ushering a new era of emotional maturity for the genre at large. Once, at a Desaparecidos show, Conor Oberst’s nephew told Alex that he seemed to be aging backwards, with the spontaneity and direct nature of a little boy, and the compassion and wisdom of an old man. The observation struck a chord, and feels even truer listening to his recent work.

After releasing his debut solo LP Babel On in 2018, Alex Orange Drink returns with his most intimate musical project to date, Everything Is Broken Maybe That’s Ok. A powerful autobiographical body of work, he throws shade to stereotypical white men whining about high school (of course there’s a sprinkle of flat rim caps, Dickies, and wallet chains) that characterized late ’90s and early aughts pop punk. Instead, Alex Orange Drink candidly explores his experiences with love and loss, getting arrested, and his life-threatening battle with rare genetic disorder Homocystinuria. Tapping into narratives of broken political systems woven together with universal themes of heartbreak, the record stays true to his never-ending teenage angst. Released digitally in July, pre-orders for vinyl will ship this month via Freeman Street Records.

“Half of the album was recorded before the pandemic in a party-like atmosphere – with basic tracking captured live among friends, family and lovers – while the other half was completed by a heartbroken protagonist reflecting in isolation,” Alex tells Audiofemme over a long, impromptu car ride to the beach in rush hour traffic. As we inched through Bay Ridge – the infamous setting of Saturday Night Fever, and also the neighborhood where Alex grew up – he broke the album down song by song to offer a window into its unique and autobiographical depth.

“Brooklyn Central Booking”

“[I’ve been arrested] three times. This song is a combination of all of them. I had an outstanding warrant for pissing in the street. One time we got arrested as a full band, coming from our practice space and smoking a joint. Everyone made it through the system and got out except me. After 15 hours I was tripping out from not having my orange drink (which I drink for my Homocystinuria). I was malnourished and going crazy. They say if you have diabetes or any kind of genetic disease, you’re supposed to tell them. But they just take you to the hospital, then it takes 20 hours before you go back to the jail. I was trying to get a glass of water but they wouldn’t let me. They took me out of the first cell, which is the worst one – and called my name. One cop was standing on one side of the hallway and the other was standing on the other. The cop on the other side said, ‘Did I tell you to move?’ I sat down on the floor, then a cop threw me against the wall by my head and threw my file at the bottom of the pile. I was there for two days in the first cell. Two days without my orange drink.”

“Homocystinuria Pt. 1 (1987-1994)”

“Homocystinyria is a super rare genetic disease that I was born with, and it’s pretty life threatening if it’s uncontrolled. Luckily I’ve been controlled since birth. It’s an extremely restrictive diet where I can’t break down protein. It’s this medicine I have to take with all of the amino acids, with the one I can’t have taken out. It’s like my rapper name that’s like my super power. The song is about growing up with that, and feeling really isolated and alone because I didn’t know anyone else who really had it or was living with it. The song is about bringing my music friends to the hospital for my check ups – I list all of the artists I listened to that got me through it. I wasn’t affected yet so much but I was clinging to music and making it a survival instinct. Later I realized it was anxiety. You don’t know what anxiety is when you’re a kid. You grow up and begin to realize what it is. I had a lot of panic attacks in my teenage years. The mental things that come with having a restrictive diet, the psychological effects of that are interesting – it’s what makes me an artist. Part of it is very physical. You feel like you’re dying and you attribute it to physical things. Racing thoughts – it’s very crazy real anxiety in your head. I felt uniquely crazy. I kept it very private until this project. I very consciously didn’t think about it.”

“Oxytocin (Love Buzz)”

“The song was inspired by extreme and perpetual heartbreak. The feeling of someone falling out of love, and looking to science to try to understand something emotional. I did a lot of research on limerence and oxytocin. The world shows you Disney love, but not five years later when it gets hard. That’s what this song is about. Wanting to believe that there is a magic thing that is love, that it’s not just some kind of scientific chemical to procreate. It’s a hopelessly romantic song at the same time, like you’re addicted to desperation.”

“How High?”

“This song is about the urgency and desperation of feeling powerless at 3AM. The only thing you can do is run away and disappear. The first line is ‘Julia’s hanging in the corner,’ and that’s a real person. She was 99 years old. She’s just a really special person and I always wanted to put her in a song. She’s the oldest person I’ve met in New York. She was telling me about the elevated 2nd Avenue line in Manhattan. I met her when I was doing construction at a pizza place. This song is about that feeling of knowing I’ll do whatever you want; when you fall into love like that you lose power. It becomes a struggle. I think you can lose yourself very easily and it’s scary. It’s complicated. Fiona Apple and Bob Dylan are really good at giving the 12-sided die to relationships. I love to write about multiple interpretations of a relationship. I’m obsessed with double meanings, double entendre rooted into really deep emotion.”

“It’s Only Drugz (Limerence)”

“I’m just playing an acoustic guitar on this one, and Adam [Reich] did the string arrangement. He’s also playing bass, and Johnny [Spencer] is playing drums. Adam and I went in a year and a half later after we finished this track and went crazy with overdubs. I was in a heartbroken state of mind when I recorded the vocals. Emmerson [Pierson] is singing vocals. She’s doing that little hook. Her music is really good. The song feels inspired by the Zombies or the Kinks. Maybe a little Serge Gainsbourg or Leonard Cohen. I didn’t really think about the influences consciously on any of them but it’s fun to analyze them now. If I had to say it, it has a psychedelic ’60s kind of crooner energy. It’s a similar concept to the ‘Oxytocin’ theme.” 

“Click Bait, Click Me” 

“It’s always a subject, internet obsession. I think the least about this song, but I think that it’s the feeling of voyeurism, watching someone behind a screen. It’s about the celebrated narcissism in our society. The feeling of being sold something that’s a lie, that’s empty, not fulfillment. The lab rat in the pellet experiment where they keep pressing the button and they just want more – I forget the name of the experiment. Instagram feeds off of our insecurities, and then if you add a human relationship to it, and all of the things that come with that, it’s like a love song through a screen, with the addictive thing of what you see in someone else, and what you see in yourself through someone else and how they see you. That sense of hyper voyeurism, like the film We Live in Public.

“Homocystinuria Pt. 2 (1995-1999)”

“The sequel to ‘Homocystinuria Pt. 1,’ the infant stages of becoming a superhero. There’s this bully named AJ who’s bullying me, and the feeling of being a total outcast and growing into your teenage years. Feeling different from people, not totally connecting it and not understanding why. The feeling of being an outsider, and finding my way towards high-energy rock ‘n’ roll. That’s why it’s the most punk song. It’s a metaphor for the kind of punk I was listening to as a teenager. I still like that music. Part two is more suburban. My parents split up around that age, and my mom moved to the suburbs. It has the feeling of teenage angst, but it’s wordy, like hip hop. I think about it like a Biggie Smalls song – he’s just talking about himself in middle school, and the struggle. This is my rap song.”

“I L​.​U​.​V​.​I​.​O​.​U.”

“It sounds happy, almost like an American Beatles circus. I tried to make it like a carousel. The protagonist is trying to be in love and have someone all the time. All I want is an i.o.u, you owe me! It’s the feeling of when you’re just looking for acknowledgement. It’s about unrequited love, and it’s the simplest song on the record.”

“Teenage Angst Forever”

“This wasn’t as much a personal song, but a story song. In one half of the song I’m a little boy and in the other I’m an old man. Shilpa Ray plays the harmonium on that and the mellotron. It’s a live recording, just me and acoustic guitar and then Shilpa doing her stuff. This is the only one that’s separately recorded. This was recorded during the blizzard the day before Christmas Eve. My parents get sad when they hear that, but I did have feelings like that [when they divorced]. Once you express them they’re not even about me, they’re about whoever hears them. Cystadane is a medicine I take for Homocystinuria, that’s my only “cysta.” We all have these dreams as a kid of a better utopian kind of place and we’re forced to think that ambition isn’t real. That cynicism that we’re supposed to grow up with and accept the racist sexist capitalist bullshit that makes us all pawns. It’s not teenage to say that, it’s just true. Teenagers can be brats and they don’t know everything about the world, but a lot of them know their truth and I was one of the kids who did. You don’t die at 27, you grow up and you’re a certain breed – teenage angst forever. I think a lot of people are like that.” 

“Sun is Only Shining (Everything is Broken)”

“This song was written really organically with my friend Karla [Nath]. We have a really good energy together. We wrote it on a bench and then I went home and put the verse down really quickly. I knew it was going to be the name of the album when I was listening to my friend’s band Bueno – there’s a reference to a So So Glos song, and so it’s a reference to a reference. I thought it was a really cool concept and feeling for the record. The system that I knew was broken, my heart was broken, everything was broken. The broken glass from the protests in May. You saw the fabric of everything these last couple of years. Maybe that’s okay – we gotta smash everything and rebuild it better, to solve the problems. Or maybe we just leave it broken, I don’t know. It’s a dark statement and then a surrender to that. It’s acceptance. The album is like the seven stages of grief, and this is just acceptance. It goes through all of it. It’s denial, then anger comes in the middle, then sadness. This entire record is about loss and also about finding something. It’s a grand finale that the sun’s only shining on me even though everything is broken.”

Follow Alex Orange Drink on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Michelle Rose Makes Her Own Dreams Come True “One Promise At a Time”

Photo Credit: Daniel Giovanniello

The same earworm plays in nearly every episode of the final two seasons of Comedy Central’s Broad City; it’s in the bodega, it’s on the radio, someone’s performing it at karaoke. Fans of the show are probably already humming (or belting) its singular refrain: “I am LEAAAAAANNNE!” Though Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson created the show’s most memorable Easter egg as a spoof on Lady Gaga’s Joanne persona, there’s a talented industry vet at the helm of the studio version – and our readers are likely already familiar with her.

Longtime Audiofemme contributor Michelle Rose, in fact, is the Leanne – and she didn’t just stop at tracking vocals for Broad City. She turned “Leanne” into a full-blown performance piece, evidenced by a karaoke-style video shot at Baby’s All Right just after the show’s fifth season wrapped. The opportunity came about because Rose was naturally doing what she does best – striking up a conversation with a random stranger at the right time. “I’m a sticky person who constantly just wants to enter new spaces and meet new people,” she explains. In this case, that person was the show’s music supervisor, MattFX, who brought in Ary Warnaar of ANAMANAGUCHI to helm production; the rest is history.

Rose’s professional history is long and storied: she’s a classically trained cellist and played alongside her sister Sarah Frances in Frances Rose off and on since 2011; she interned at PAPER and worked in experimental theatre; had a songwriting deal with Warner/Chappell; and most recently curated events as the Program Manager at Soho House, where she helmed their Future Female Sounds series. But when the pandemic hit, there was no more networking, no more booking, no more events. Reeling from the loss of her livelihood, in the throes of a toxic relationship mired in tension and distrust, and still grieving her father who’d succumbed to cancer in 2018, Rose set out to fulfill his dying wish.

“One of the last things he wrote down for me after he lost his ability to speak was to use my skills,” Rose says. Coming from a master of the flat-top guitar, music teacher, and mentor who played with Pete Seeger and Les Paul among others, she felt the weight of her dad’s last request heavy on her shoulders. But it would be years before she put pen to paper to write “one promise at a time,” premiering today via Audiofemme.

Written at the start of the pandemic, “one promise” channels the pop-punk energy Rose gravitated toward as an angsty teen coming of age in Hudson Valley, while its DIY production recalls the scrappy grit of Kathleen Hanna’s post-riot grrl electro project Le Tigre. She finally vents long-simmering frustrations built up over years of pushing her own ambitions aside to make other people’s dreams come true. “I love doing that, but I had to find a balance being an artist,” she says. “The song became an anthem for myself that I was ready to call out all of these false promises and expectations that were orbiting my life at the time. I was ready for not only a pivot, but a catalyst of growth.”

That growth is richly documented on Rose’s forthcoming EP, arriving early 2022 (in the meantime, she plans to release a new single every five weeks or so). The EP underscores the importance she felt in showing up as authentic and autonomous, to tell her story transparently, and to put the music first. Appropriately, the EP is called it’s about time, expressing Rose’s playful impatience, as well as holding space for all the weeks, months, and years that slipped by while life got in the way.

“A lot of these songs are about the literal passing of time and personal growth, and over time, coming to these realizations,” she explains. Minimal break-up jam “i don’t see you in my dreams,” for instance, was written before Rose’s doomed relationship officially ended; subconsciously, she knew it was already over. “These songs are a piece of self knowledge,” she says.

They’re also a roadmap to Rose’s eclectic musical tastes. There’s dance punk circa New York City’s electro indie golden era, when Rose first arrived in the city after studying at Bennington College. There are vocal nods to Madonna and Britney Spears and sonic odes to hyperpop and disco. “I just felt like the world really wanted pop music that was coming from a simplistic place, like direct songs from a place of empowerment that didn’t need to be theatrical and larger than life,” Rose says, her music biz savvy showing. “People want brooding, vulnerable, disco songs in simple registers that we can sing along to, these kind of pop punk-adjacent, female-fronted anthems.”

Photo Credit: Daniel Giovanniello

Rose is lyrically vulnerable on each track, but they also embody the lightness of the songs she loved in her youth. “I really love that bright, shimmery, escapist pop,” she enthuses. Surprisingly, most of her demos start out as “sad country songs,” but Rose never felt that was true to what she wanted her sound to be. “I really wanted to make something upbeat and fun and electronic. I have the language and vocabulary for electronic music but I know that I’m not the fastest engineer and can’t really capture my ideas in real time as they come.” She’d often thought to herself, “Why can’t I just meet some indie kid who makes electronic pop music in Brooklyn and like, make a record?” And then, she did.

After dipping her toes into performing solo again (or making a splash, depending on who you ask), a mutual friend introduced her to Godmode alum Tyler McCauley. It had been years since someone had offered to connect Rose with a producer (“Everyone thinks that I know everyone and that I’m just the queen of networking but I had no one to work with!” she says, lamenting the “elaborate coffee meetings” with so-called producers who wanted steep fees for unheard beats).

“I said to him: I don’t really have any kind of budget and no label. I’m looking to do something really collaborative,” Rose remembers. She and McCauley instantly found common ground, surprised they hadn’t met sooner via the one of the many serendipitous links between them. But most importantly, says Rose, “our skillsets worked well together – I was more experienced with pop toplining, writing quick hooks, and song structure, and my ear is really strong. He was a super fast engineer, really good with electronic sounds and synthesizers and disco and dance music.”

“But also, just the fact that he wanted to work together was so meaningful for me,” she adds. “We genuinely had fun together – it was something we looked forward to, an escape. It felt really cosmic and super cool and we just kept going.” “one promise” was the first song they finished together, and in the year since, they’ve completed more than a dozen.

As it’s about time began to take shape, Rose says she felt euphoric. “Any experience I had in the past that made me feel jaded or question if I should keep going totally washed away, because I was having so much fun making this music,” she recalls. “People can really get swept up in the idea of what something can become and then so much time passes you don’t get started. I was told that I’m too pop for indie but too indie for pop. Now that’s a whole genre and there’s space for that.”

And Michelle Rose is done waiting. “I want to re-enter the community with a more authentic sense of self than just being passive and longing,” she says. “I could go all these different directions, do whatever’s on my mind. But I want my passion within pop culture to have substance and to be rooted in something I’m creating. It took a lot to reawaken that, but now it feels nothing but honest to be moving into this next chapter.”

Follow Michelle Rose on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

LIVESTREAM: Anna Fox Rochinski @ TV Eye

While the live music industry is slowly returning to normal, there’s still something to be said for a filmed concert performance. It doesn’t pack the exact same punch as a live show, which is not to say that it packs no punch at all, but rather that its significance rests more in its posterity. It means that we can revisit, that we can both relive the joy of a live concerts we actually attended, but also experience the magic of ones we did not, even ones that took place before our lifetimes. 

With that in mind, we are thrilled to present, alongside BrooklynVegan, Anna Fox Rochinksi playing selections from her debut solo album Cherry at TV Eye in Ridgewood, Queens. Perhaps best known until now as a vocalist and guitarist for psych rock four-piece Quilt, Rochinski has refined her taste for contemporary pop artists like Madonna, Midnite Vultures-era Beck, and circa 1995 Robyn into her own unique brand of effervescent pop meets plucky ’70s art funk.

On set for “Everybody’s Down” (Photo Credit: Rivka Rose)

This production was directed by Alex “Otium” LaLiberte, who has directed Rochinski’s videos for singles “Cherry” and “Everybody’s Down.” Rochinski and LaLiberte list some of their own favorite concert videos as the 1984 Talking Heads performance Stop Making Sense, Madonna Live: The Virgin Tour, Gorillaz: Demon Days Live and Pink Floyd’s Live at Pompei. With influences like that, you know they brought the heat here. 

“There is a type of collective energy associated with a live performance,” Otium says. “Knowing this [performance] was going to be watched in the comfort of one’s own home, perhaps alone, we had to find a way of substituting that excitement from the collective, with something that would be as stimulating, so we went with a different place and idea for each song in the concert – something you wouldn’t expect or be able to achieve in a traditional concert setting.”

On set for “Cherry”

And so they filmed the tracks in different rooms of Ridgewood’s TV Eye. The collaborative duo’s taste for unique, aesthetically appealing settings shines through strongly in the videos they created together, especially with “Cherry.” Its effectiveness lies in the trust they place in their own tastes: “I think that whatever visual you give people, they will find a way to connect it to the music, so it’s important not to overthink it and just do whatever you want to do,” Rochinksi says. 

Otium agrees, adding, “I think visuals for music, whether it be a music video, concert video, or the projections/lights during a concert, should always aim to give the eye a complementary experience to the ears. When it’s really effective it can elevate the music to a place it can’t go strictly sonically, whether that’s because the video is tackling the theme or sonics obliquely, or perhaps it just adds an extra layer of congruency.” 

On set at TV Eye

So sit back and enjoy. Just because we can go to live shows again doesn’t mean there isn’t still a place for a thoughtful, beautifully filmed gig that you can absorb from the comfort of your couch.

Make a suggested $10 donation via NoonChorus and catch the stream here when it goes live at 9pm EST – the set will be available for 72 hours following the performance.

Follow Anna Fox Rochinski on Instagram and Twitter for ongoing updates.

A Place To Bury Strangers Return With New Members, New Perspective, and New Hologram EP

Photo Credit: Heather Bickford

Coming out of quarantine, Oliver Ackermann offers this advice: “Everyone be good to one another. It’s nice when people are nice to other people.” 

The founding member of iconic NYC noise band A Place To Bury Strangers is no different than the rest of us in the sense that the last year felt deeply strange, but ultimately contemplative and ripe with opportunities to grow. Lovingly hailed as “the loudest band in New York,” APTBS has seen many different line-ups over its nearly twenty-year lifespan.

“There was sort of a shift in the band,” Ackermann explains. “The last iteration of the band broke up kind of contentiously, so there was definitely some bad feelings, and the weird unknowing of what was going to happen [with the pandemic], so I was just like, I need to reform this band with people who I know are really good people, and friendly, and doing this for the right reasons.”

APTBS reemerges into the present with new members and a new EP, Hologram, out July 16 on Ackermann’s own DedStrange imprint. With it comes the video for single “I Might Have,” a raucous spin with the band around their neighborhood of Ridgewood, Queens. 

“I [started] this for the reasons you always start a band in the first place,” Ackermann continues. “You’re there with your best friends, trying to do something together.” Enter John Fedowitz, Ackermann’s childhood friend who had played alongside him in underground Virginia shoegaze band Skywave, and his wife Sandra Fedowitz, who have joined the band on bass and drums, respectively, after playing together in Ceremony East Coast.

“I think we connected in all the right ways to bring all of us back to that fun and exciting place of starting a band, and doing things from the ground up,” he says of the overwhelming positivity and good vibes he felt every time he’d go back to Virginia to visit them. “That’s where this album is – that connection of the pure form of songwriting that’s inside of you, people who just easily get along and write songs together.”

He describes the new EP as “the glimmer of hope or something, the need for a future,” born of early pandemic solo recordings and “bizarre” writing sessions. It brings him back to writing the first APTBS record, released in 2007. “That was all just making music for me and my friends to listen to… When that album came out, it was just those demos that I recorded to get everybody excited about the music. It was awesome that people actually liked that and took to that,” Ackermann remembers. “I think this is the same sort of thing. I didn’t know what was going to happen, if music was going to continue, so we just started doing stuff to make some music that we wanted to hear.”

The new song and video for “I Might Have” reflects this return to the joy of creating without expectations: the band cruises around Ridgewood listening to a cassette tape endearingly labeled “demos” while hijinks ensue and escalate. The song itself is “a fuzz-soaked sonic disaster in the best way possible,” the band at its most honest and unfiltered. It captures the ironic purity and joy of youth, a time when there wasn’t anything to do besides nothing at all really, what Ackermann refers to as “street hangs.” In a way, this visual rendering of a simpler time is a testament to the weirdness of the last year as much as the music itself, the pent-up energy of all our favorite haunts and hangouts shuttered with no end date in sight.

“Originally I had this really loose idea of, let’s do what was fun for us to do growing up, which was basically just you’d drive around in a car and listen to music and that was it,” he says.

With that in mind, the band prepares for their return to live performance and touring. They have a slew of European tour dates already slated for spring 2022, as well as a number of festivals and one-off dates. “We’ve got as many shows as we can possibly play coming up,” Ackermann says, refreshed and more ready than ever to get back in the game. “Whatever it is, you know, someone’s birthday party or whatever, I want to play it! If you book A Place To Bury Strangers, we’ll come play.”

It’s a newfound sense of purpose that might never have been so acutely felt if not for the pandemic. “When you dance really close to death, or whatever, the potential of that, you reevaluate your life and think like, oh wait a minute, what’s important to me? Maybe I need to go to the beach today and not work on stuff,” Ackermann says. “I’m only starting to realize it now, what a weird time we just went through, how strange it was.”

Follow A Place To Bury Strangers on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Ambient Artist M. Maria Debuts Otherworldly Sound with Premiere of “There’s A Spirit In My Body”

Photo Credit: Dana D // Hair/Makeup: Zina Gladiadis

“It’s cool to depend on yourself and come out the other side and be like ‘cool, I did that.’” So says Ridgewood-based ambient experimental artist M. Maria. She is on the cusp of dropping her debut EP Saturn Returned, from which she premieres single “There’s A Spirit In My Body” on Audiofemme today. Entirely self-produced and recorded, it is yet another example of a project only dreamt about pre-pandemic but actualized once we were forced to stay home.

“Before the pandemic hit, I really wanted to make an album, but I hadn’t spent enough time in it to where I really understood how to record music, how to produce it,” M. Maria explains. “I feel like as soon as we had time to be by ourselves and shut the world out, I was able to just go straight into Ableton, just progressing and getting better until I had actual results.”

Though she began learning Ableton Basics and tinkering with the idea of making music two years ago or so, it wasn’t until she turned 27 that the urge really took over, in alignment with the astrological phenomenon from which the EP gets its name (the infamous Saturn Return is when the planet reaches the same celestial position it was in when we were born, approaching in our late twenties and making its impact felt through our early thirties). “It’s supposed to realign your life in a way, and make you go through these extreme changes, to be on a path that can better serve you,” M. Maria explains. “As soon as I hit 27, I was like, I need to do something. I need to make music. I felt this astrological push, and everything around that period going in a direction that felt more real, and more like it was supposed to be, you know? Sorry if I sound insane.” She laughs.

The resulting music is darkly ethereal, with M. Maria utilizing her high-octave voice as an otherworldly instrument, layered over darker, industrial elements. “I like that contrast so I like playing with it a lot,” she says.

“There’s A Spirit In My Body” begins sparsely, with only vocals and a light beat, and slowly different beats and vocal elements are introduced to build into a heavier, layered sound. It brings to mind the likes of Grouper or Holly Herndon, though M. Maria lists shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine and A.R. Kane as her greatest influences. The influence is there, but the creative decision to use the voice more as an instrument than a vehicle for delivering lyrics takes the sound to another world. The emotionality lies in the delivery, not the words themselves.

“I feel like I have trouble expressing with actual words,” she explains. “When I’m feeling something, I start singing, and just having the sound of my voice be an expression, even when it’s not saying something. I feel like the voice can express so much with noise.”

Having mixed and produced the EP, each song is a creation all her own. As she preps for release later this summer, and for her first live shows, M. Maria expresses some apprehension around releasing her first creative endeavor into the world. At the same time, though, she recognizes that Saturn Returned is only the beginning, and confidence in her potential provides some relief from that pressure. “There’s going be so much more to build off of it,” she says. 

Follow M. Maria on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Goo Tease Debut LP Return to the Garden with Single “Animal”

Psychedelia-inspired indie quartet Goo began with endless college jam sessions; post-graduation, they morphed into playing regular shows in the Brooklyn DIY scene, describing their project potently on Bandcamp as a “slow-burning nebula of lovesickness and hopeful/less crooning into the void.” On June 16, the band – Eriq Robinson (bass/vocals), Leah Beck (keys/vocals), Anders Johnson (drums) and Beck Zegans (guitar/vocals) – is set to release their first LP, Return to the Garden, nine tracks which invoke the lo-fi atmosphere of their live show and previous EPs The Squeeze and Under the Electric Blanket, while also using hi-fi production to sharpen the expansive musicality throughout the album. In the lead-up to the album’s release, Goo have shared three singles so far: “Fur,” “Fruit,” and “Animal.”

Zegans wrote “Animal,” the third single off the record, during a moment of “utter despondency” while sitting on her bedroom floor. As a writer, she tends to start with a chord progression that feels close to what she’s trying to convey and then gradually pulls lyrics from her journal which she stitches together and then brings to the band. Unsure if this particular song was right for Goo, she let “Animal” take a back seat until playing it for a friend. “We were just hanging out and playing guitar, I had a bunch of candles lit and it was all super vibey. He was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I love that song so much – is it about killing God?’” Zegans remembers. 

With lyrics like “Hope is a cannibal thing, an all-natural gnaw” and “That was a time of odd myths and prayers/And of him who was spinning it all,” there’s a poetic examination of purpose, fate, and joy, that contrasts the bright background instrumentation, leading to a delicate but optimistic balance. The religious subtext on “Animal” reflects the spectrum of extreme emotional intensity within the song lyrics. “I was feeling a really big lofty emotion and I think the drama and scale of the lyrics, where it could be about a personal relationship or God or poetry, makes sense in that context,” says Zegans. There is a certain openness in “Animal,” creating space for listeners to explore the multifold concepts as they relate to their own individual experiences.

Although there is a darkness to the lyrics, the light guitar strumming and fluttering drums bring a levity to the drama. Keys that mimic church organ  rise up into the atmosphere of the song’s simple chorus: “Now I’m a dead animal/I hold my tongue, tongue, tongue.” The brief moment of silence prior to the chorus leaves listeners leaning in, piercing through the vocal reverb which casts a hazy sheen on the track. The tone in Zegan’s voice is Dylan-esque, passive and cool, a certain style of singing which isn’t quite smoky, but tonally familiar to Courtney Barnett. Goo uses a big fuzz pedal on the track to keep the depth alive. “This song is kind of about throwing your hands up and saying fuck everything,” Zegans says. “The fuzz is the fuck everything pedal because it takes the signal and explodes it and blows it out.”

About a third of Return to the Garden was recorded in quarantine, with Zegans holding the sound together through a careful balance of guiding her bandmates and allowing them room to freely explore. Each of Goo’s members had a home recording set-up substantial enough to record from their bedrooms, and as demos started coming in, Zegans was able to shape the album along with producer John Roland Miller at RE Recording in Red Hook. This unconventional (but very 2020) recording process allowed the band to experiment and then refine, collaborating relatively easily over Zoom after having played live together for so many years. “We talked about the types of things I might want in there, but really what happened was a bunch of improvisation over the track,” Zegans says. “We tried out a bunch of different things and people sent me their different ideas.”

While writing the record, she was working at Roulette, an experimental venue in downtown Brooklyn, where she digitized concert recordings going back to the ’80s. The philosophy behind experimental music inspired the plethora of instruments used on the record, such as the theremin, flute, and trumpet. “As long as you’re expressing yourself, anything is fair game. It’s best to not feel confined by the expectations of the genre,” Zegans says.

“Fruit,” for instance, abounds with sonic allusions to ’60s psychedelic folk à la Nick Drake and Donovan, which Zegans describes as “this time of being able to have really deep and emotionally expressive songwriting while also having lots of weird stuff happening around it musically.”

With all of the effort that went into molding these songs for a comprehensive recorded piece, there’s a tangible excitement around how it will sound once the band is finally back together again. Once the LP is out in the world, Goo is looking to retake the stage; after almost a year and a half of not playing due to COVID, they’ll play a rooftop album release show at Honey’s with Cut Outs and Ok Cowgirl. “I’m excited to finally be releasing a full album and so excited to be able to start playing live again,” Zegans says. “That’s really our favorite thing. Before COVID we were always playing – I miss it so much. I think my main focus right now is getting to play these songs for people again.”

The way that this album was recorded, separately yet together, reflects the experiences of the DIY scene over this past year. And Goo certainly picked a relevant album title for their debut; getting to see the artists we’ve grown to love in our headphones take the stage again feels like the holiest way to celebrate the world reopening – a Return to Garden of musical delights.

Follow Goo on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Mel Chanté Constructs Debut EP Flo from Poetic Self-Love Affirmations

Photo Credit: Briannia Walters

Self love – the kind that stretches far outside the limits of a bath bomb – doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years of re-teaching yourself and connecting with and discovering the person that you truly are. On Flo, the debut EP from Mel Chanté, the Brooklyn-based poet, rapper and affirmation advocate shows a fully formed version of an artist in love with herself, her higher power and her practice. 

On Flo opener “The Mission,” Chanté is clear about her intentions: “Know to love yourself from the soul is the only mission.” Even if the world is burning around you, even if you’re experiencing extreme loss, even if it feels really, really hard – loving yourself is the most important thing there is. Chanté outlines a few ways to achieve this, starting with manifestation. “When belief in yourself and spirit is ignited/And your dreams you envision/Then sit down and write it so it’s written.” Sometimes, the simple act of writing down your dreams and desires can be the stepping stone to accomplishing your dreams. Some people may scoff at the idea of manifestation, but no matter what you believe of its mystical powers, there is something to be said about believing in yourself. And Chanté knows that. 

She also knows that part of loving your inner self is loving your outer self. “Temple” is an ode to just that – a love letter to the vessel that contains the self. Chanté describes herself in the words of someone describing a work of art. “Ain’t no stopping this melanin/Glistening /Skin dipped in chocolate topped with cinnamon/Sweet infinite eyes and prized intimates.” Her poetic lyrics are a wonder in themselves, but the perceived mastery she has over her own self-image is another.

Chanté says that this confidence is something that has taken time to cultivate. “I’m sure it’s evolved to this point and it’s still evolving. I just take it day by day,” she says. And although she dedicates “Temple” to honoring her divine self, she doesn’t close off the opportunity to others, saying,  “Bringing honor to my body – if it be temple then pray somebody.” It feels like the highest form of sensuality – accepting and admiring yourself completely, and finding someone who mirrors that. 

It’s clear that Chanté is a poet first. Her delivery is clear, emphatic and metaphorical, much like her debut volume of poetry, Brown Butter. She first started writing poetry at age eleven and was introduced to the piano around the same time; poetry came naturally to her, and putting it to music did, too. Her mother – for whom the EP is named – always emphasized the power of positive thinking, and her father was a musician; it seems Chanté inherited the best from both of her parents. Tragically, her father passed away before getting to see her realize her musical talents. 

“My mom was always big on positive words growing up, my father too,” says Chanté. “I had moved to New York [from Boston] and six months later my father passed… I  started writing letters to him every day and from there it just was a way for me to affirm things within myself and let things go and talk to him but also talk to myself.”

The loss was a huge blow to Chanté, but she says that she drew inspiration from her father’s resilient spirit. “He’s a musician, he’s the one who bought me my keyboard… he was just so passionate about his passions and his gifts,” Chanté remembers. “Even when he was in the hospital he was still posting his videos about his surgeries and stuff – it was just inspiring to see him still grasping at his dreams when he was in the position he was in. I feel like that just kind of sparked a flame in me to do what I can with the life that I have.”

Chanté found solace in her affirmations, and quickly discovered that others did, too. She started sharing daily affirmations on social media and people would reach out to her to tell her how much it meant to them. That turned into followers sharing their affirmations with her. She used this opportunity to create a platform and podcast called Vow to Self, where anyone can share their affirmations. This platform feels like an organic pairing with her uplifting and reflective rapping. She also hosts a meditation podcast on The Shine App called The Daily Shine.

Aside from infusing affirmations into her music, Chanté practices them daily. Among her favorites: “I am inspiring millions;” “I am attracted to abundance, abundance is attracted to me;” “I am present I am here I am now;” “The divine love I am seeking is also seeking me.” With affirmations that sound like poetry in and of themselves, it’s no wonder that Mel Chanté is so on point, and only fitting that Flo reflects that.

Follow Mel Chanté on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Mat Weitman of Hotels On Mars Invites Us To Tour His “Grief Museum”

This past year had me glued to late night news channels and articles on my feed, nonstop. Most of it has been dreary, sometimes hopeless; it became second nature, sighing at my screen. Then came the positive takes, so optimistic about the inevitable change, promises of heading into some kind of normalcy. Although comfort in some form is certainly necessary during these times, I found myself wanting to just scream into the darkness; sometimes I’d rather wallow in the bad, or at least accept reality. That’s why Grief Museum, the debut record from Hotels on Mars, out now via Styles Upon Styles, felt so appealing to me – I could throw it on and let its anti-anthems consume me, even from opening track “The Worst Year On Record,” which goes, “If I could become a rat, well, there’s something appealing in that… because then I could chew through the walls.”

Hotels on Mars began in Chicago, where multi-instrumentalist Mat Weitman released several EPs and singles under the moniker before abandoning the project. After relocating to Brooklyn, Weitman started to contemplate putting out new music, and realized it wasn’t just the worldwide pandemic putting his life on hold. In the beginning of 2020, he had also faced personal tragedies. “It was a rough start to the year,” Weitman tells Audiofemme. “I lost someone really important to me. That shouldn’t have happened. Things started to happen, one thing after the other, kind of going to a larger scale.” Fragments of emblematic journal entries started coalescing around the concepts of wasted time and lost relationships, as well as current events; to recontextualize these in album form, Weitman took on something like the role of a curator, cataloguing events and emotions as his beautiful, haunting Grief Museum came together.

It was no easy feat, especially when mourning. Grief comes with a hint of guilt and loss of self-value, apparent in “(I Don’t Want To) Hurt Myself” where Weitman sings, “Lately, it seems as though all the things I do cause me pain/And not only that, but all the things I touch hardly feel the same/I picked a flower the other day and it died before I could get it into a vase.”

Although contemplative and candid, Grief Museum feels twangy and cosmic, offering lighter tracks as a breather at just the right moments. The album was completely recorded in Weitman’s home, which contributes to the dreamlike vibe. On “Catalina Pigtail Pork-Rind,” Weitman purposely leaned into dream-logic. “It’s kind of like waking up, but talking about a dream. Sometimes in a dream, things are the way they are in waking life, but slightly different,” he says.

While he’s a powerful lyricist, Weitman also channels his feelings into instrumentals dispersed throughout the album’s ten tracks. “I had certain musical themes in terms of chord progressions and going back to certain ones,” Weitman explains, noting that his goal was to “make a real art to it, building toward something that would descend. I had certain lyrics that I would come back to. When you’re really going through something emotional, you return to something over and over. It becomes a loop.” 

In the wake of this year’s events, Weitman found another form of catharsis via his sister Drew, giving added meaning to the record. “Over the summer, I marched with Black Lives Matter,” Weitman says. “At the time, I was doing a lot of work with my sister. I released an unpolished version of ‘Worst Year on Record,’ and all proceeds went to the South Brooklyn Mutual Aid.” The organization will also receive a portion of proceeds from Grief Museum, which features a tribute to Drew in the form of instrumental track “13 Mimosas.” Weitman wrote the song in four parts, contrasting with the more direct approach he took for the rest of the record. “I wrote the album mostly sequentially and I didn’t know if I was going to use it,” he admits. “But it was a relief for me to make. And I found a spot for it.” 

While I was listening to this album initially as something I could drown my sorrows in, I’ve realized since its release that it’s also like a battle cry not to go down without affecting some kind of change. Weitman displays his pain as a means of catharsis, but by using Hotels on Mars as a vehicle to benefit others, he also shows us, by example, how to get through it. “It was important to not just make a song about what’s going on, but to do something for the community… even in a small way,” he says. Grief Museum isn’t just a monument to sadness and suffering – it’s one of reverence, where we can all grow and hopefully learn from its artifacts.

Follow Hotels on Mars via Bandcamp for ongoing updates.

Kinlaw Builds a Monument to Movement and Change with The Tipping Scale

Photo Credit: Cameron Tidball

I stumbled upon the expansive world of prolific multidisciplinary artist Kinlaw many years ago, when I promoted a show with her then-band SoftSpot at the now-shuttered Brooklyn DIY space Shea Stadium. This goes to show how deeply ingrained they have become in the NYC music and arts community; since then, the composer, choreographer, and artist (who uses both she and they pronouns) has made a name for herself with both solo performances and productions with as many as two hundred performers, gracing institutions like MoMA, Pioneer Works, National Sawdust, and more. Last Friday she released her first solo album via Bayonet Records, The Tipping Scale – a stunning, dynamic dark-pop album that nearly forces you to move despite the heavy themes it tackles.

As an artist whose primary medium is choreography, it comes as no surprise that Kinlaw’s process for writing this record was anything but orthodox, beginning with mere movement. “Years ago, working with a band, [songwriting] would start with someone having an idea and then suddenly there’d be a lot of sound, and quite a lot of noise, and then [we’d] kind of shape it down,” she explains. Their songwriting process as a solo artist happens nearly in reverse. “The entry point for a lot of these is really super quiet,” they explain. “I would start with a gesture, and let it build until a memory attached itself to it.” Different gestures intuit different sounds, associating smoother gestures with vowel sounds and those that were more “crinkled and quick” with consonants. “It’s all just a huge trip but it works for me,” she says. “It makes it so I don’t feel intimidated by the songwriting process. It makes it so that I feel like I’m making material that feels of the moment to me.”

The depth of The Tipping Scale is such that it’s difficult to articulate in words; Kinlaw refers to it as “an introspective and very strange dance party.” Wrapped in pop music that is both accessible but somehow wholly original, it combines lyrics deeply personal to Kinlaw with universal themes like loss, regret, identity, and more than anything else, change. The title itself is a metaphor for change, the idea of an ever-present slipping in and out of change, and the acceptance of it, what they describe as a constant “pull-tug” between past and present versions of ourselves. The songs are fluid, ripe with meaning never meant to sit stagnant, but rather to evolve with the listener and their environment.

For instance, Kinlaw says, “What I might have written ‘Blindspot’ about initially, is not always what it’s going to continue to be.” The video for this track was directed by her dear friend Kathleen Dycaico, who provided a mirror to reflect these ever-changing meanings. “I think working with Kathleen was a really really great thing for me, because I’m able to see that the relationships I have with other people so often parallel the ones I have with myself,” Kinlaw says. “And so even the difficulties or the grief, or the loss or the frustrations I have with things, relationships that have died, I can see them mirrored so clearly in so many things I experience on my own, with myself.”

Change is a strong theme on the album, but also configured heavily into how Kinlaw has released and promoted it; the events of the past year altered their intentions regarding The Tipping Scale. She began filming the visual component as an alternative to the live performance it was supposed to be, and the realization that a performance would not happen as soon as she had hoped. “People who were part of the developmental phases, I told them the album was a script. And that really for me, the reason I was doing it was so I could create a live show in accordance with the script,” she explains. “So for me to make a record was a really exciting thing because, like, how fabulous to have a new starting point to spend a lot of time and consideration on these songs and to allow them to have another phase, like when you do the performance.”

While I have no doubt that whatever live performance Kinlaw would have crafted (and will certainly craft, once we’re allowed live performance again) would have been powerful in its own right, I would argue that the transition to produced videos has opened up a previously unimaginable realm of possibilities for these songs. The medium provides her a vehicle to really delve into the meaning of change, the different characters she portrays and the different worlds she inhabits. Like Kinlaw says, “Music videos are great – you could do anything in three to four minutes. Whatever world you say, then that’s the way it’s gonna be.”

As a visual metaphor, hair factors strongly into these videos, changing from track to track and sometimes in the middle of the video. In “Permissions,” they crawl from a wrecked vehicle in a choppy red wig. In “Blindspot,” she and her childish counterpart begin with sleek ponytails before they take turns chopping at each other’s thick blonde braids, until Kinlaw emerges with her hair curled. In “Haircut,” her hair remains natural, but they articulate this sentiment in lyrics: “There’s a rule/That when you cut off your hair/You let the old things go.”

The strong imagery resonates with anyone who ever got a new haircut in the midst of a bad break-up, or hacked some ill-advised bangs with a pair of craft scissors on some uneventful childhood afternoon. “I think it brings to mind a lot of the symbolic ways that we try to cope as people, and it’s been interesting, since writing [‘Haircut’] and talking about it with some folks,” they say. “It’s been really interesting to see people be like, ‘Oh yeah, I totally get it,’ and they’ll tell me a story: ‘Oh I chopped off my hair that one time in like 2005, I was so upset’… I guess it’s just like identity, and an extension of, and memories. I’m also really quite stubborn with my hair, like I refuse to cut it for long stretches of time.” This last statement is thick with irony, given the artist’s dynamism and penchant for constant reinvention.  

Reinvention can surely be at least partially attributed to Kinlaw’s commitment to a rigid therapy practice. I felt it reductive to ask an artist of Kinlaw’s caliber who her sonic influences were in the creation of The Tipping Scale, and I told her so when I asked, to which they unsurprisingly responded, “I can honestly say I don’t [have any].” Rather, warning that what she would say might be construed as “cheeseball,” she listed therapy as their greatest influence in the writing of this album, particularly EMDR therapy, which utilizes binaural sounds to create a pattern of eye movements and from that, spawn memories. “That, to me, is what spawns storytelling,” they say, “understanding firsthand what the crazy connection is between a body and your thoughts, and sound, and how sound influences your body.”

Pop music can be its own kind of therapy, a means of transporting oneself across energy levels and moods, something anyone who has ever turned on Top 40 radio to dance away the blues knows well. Describing pop music as a “raft boat,” Kinlaw explains, “I purposefully chose pop music because I wanted to feel like I could move, dance, party forward into the next chapter of my life. The juxtaposition of having these confessional songs paired with pop sounds was a really strange space that I wanted to learn more about.” But did the process of setting traumatic memories to music designed to lift the mood provide therapeutic relief for the artist? “I don’t know, but it’s like I wanted to float these songs on the lens of pop because I hope it will make me feel better,” they say. “Talk to me in a year and I’ll tell you if this worked out for me or not.”

As far as what’s next for Kinlaw, more videos are on the horizon. For someone with such sweeping vision, the creative possibilities are endless and the only limitations are financial. A recipient of the Audiofemme Agenda Grant, Kinlaw put some of the money toward filming their videos – and in doing so, employed many struggling artists and musicians who are out of work due to the pandemic. “That’s what it’s been about for me since the beginning. My friends are the most talented people on Earth. They’re such mindful and smart artists, so it’s really easy for me to get a team together who I love,” Kinlaw says. “I’m hoping I can figure out how to finish the rest of this, because I do intend on having more videos.” Whatever worlds Kinlaw imagines for next, there’s certainly no doubting her determination; as she sings in “Blindspot,” “I get what I want/Cause I know that I deserve it.”

Follow Kinlaw on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Matthew Danger Lippman Revisits Hometown Haunts in “Suburban Girlfriend” Video

Photo Credit: Adrian Lozer

Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist Matthew Danger Lippman has always had a taste for the theatrical, once showing up for sixth grade show-and-tell in a bikini. Throughout his adolescence he began to funnel the class clown antics into music; his high school band Brimstone Blondes put out a few releases via Western New York-based label Admirable Traits Records. In the years since leaving Buffalo for Brooklyn, Lippman’s sound has shifted from angular guitar punk to lo-fi bedroom pop. “I just liked making noise,” he says, but as he began toying with a dreamier sound for his solo work, or, as he puts it, “experimenting with a tenor and a sound that was more earnest.” The positive reactions – and the opportunity to open for the likes of Foxygen, Shonen Knife, and Caleb Giles – left him “feeling like it was a better way to connect with people and a better way to be truthful,” he says.

Since joining forces with jazz bassist Arden Yonkers and drummer Oliver Beardsley (who refer to themselves as the “Molson Twins”), Lippman has settled into a “psychedelic widescreen rock & roll sound,” evident enough on his forthcoming EP Touchdown U.S.A., out March 5th. Today, he’s premiering a video for EP cut “Suburban Girlfriend,” and once again, Lippman spares no theatrics.

Equal parts shoegaze, glam rock, and bedroom pop, “Suburban Girlfriend” is a nostalgic plea, a desperate wish for a simpler time. Lippman went back to Buffalo to shoot the video with longtime collaborator Jacob Smolinski. He’s stars in the video wearing garish dollar-store makeup beneath a glaring light, traipsing around his hometown with clips from classic sitcoms and old YouTube videos of himself from middle school spliced in, resulting in what he calls a “collage of pop culture memory.” His aimlessness, combined with the strangeness of his appearance in this idyllic suburbia, create a feeling of alienation hinging on the realization that he’s become a stranger in his old haunts. Lippman says he “wanted it to be this Lynchian, horrific vision of the past, longing for something and knowing it can’t be replicated. The total loss of self when you desire things you can’t replicate.”

Lippman wrote and recorded Touchdown U.S.A. pre-COVID; because the project is a product of the before times, he says, “These songs gained some preciousness in my life, because it was like the documented evidence of this era, and this concept. The songs were about longing for connection – something that is earnest and simple and physical and beautiful – when anxiety takes over and you can’t fully express yourself. Those are easy topics to tap into anyway, in the 21st century, but especially in an age when people are so isolated.” He notes with positivity that while he always intends for his music to be experienced live, the fact that people have to listen to the EP at home may bring out more nuance in the sound that might’ve gotten lost in a raucous live setting.

Though he jokes that on release day, he may just play Touchdown U.S.A. on Instagram Live in his bedroom for eight hours straight, Lippman says he’s not quite ready to adapt to this new digital performance landscape. “I don’t fully, at least for my own sake, buy into the totally paranoid – or maybe some would say kind of accurate – futurist version of the world, where it’s like, time to adapt! This is now!” he says. “I still believe music is about a physical presence and a physical connection and I love that stuff so much.”

He has been able to explore aesthetic interests he wouldn’t have had as much time and inclination to unpack in the past, like the very editing of this music video, which he did himself. While he’s accepted these new circumstances, he knows many artistic friends who aren’t faring as well, who require the energetic feedback of a live audience to push their visions toward completion. In a return to his own theatrical nature, Lippman would suggest to those people to “find those ideas that are a little more embarrassing, where they push them away because they wouldn’t want to do it in front of someone, and for the next few months have fun indulging in those. That’s what I’ve been doing. [Something] I just recorded this week is borderline cringey for me, but it’s lit for that reason.”

There is no such thing as a comfort zone for Matthew Danger Lippman – and he hopes “Suburban Girlfriend” will pull viewers into that same frame of mind. “I would like people to see the video and let it unsettle them maybe,” he says, “in a good way.”

Follow Matthew Danger Lippman on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Palberta Play With Fiction, Animals, and Repetition on Poppy New LP Palberta5000

Photo Credit: Chloe Carrasco

Nina Ryser, Ani Ivry-Block and Lily Konigsberg don’t take themselves too seriously, and that’s what makes their band, Palberta, so much fun to listen to. The NYC-based indie rock outfit’s fifth studio album Palberta5000, like much of their previous work, is disjointed, chaotic, and sometimes disorienting – in the best way possible.

The album features the kind of lo-fi sound you’d imagine emanating from a Brooklyn warehouse show, with songs inspired by the relationship between the members, both as bandmates and as friends. The song “Before I Got Here,” for instance, mimics an argument between two people, then settles into soothing instrumentals, conveying that “you made it, you communicated, and now you’re still friends,” Konigsberg explains.

“We’re three women, and groups of three are really hard,” she says. “We had to figure out how to spend a lot of time together on the road and make music together without talking over each other or anyone feeling left out, and we have grown a lot in accepting and working through our issues. I feel like that made the music clearer because we can write together more easily.”

In a larger sense, the album deals with connection and community, something that’s become elusive to many in recent times. In “Corner Store,” they sing in discordant vocal tracks about meeting up with your friends at a local bodega, adding a fictional storyline about seeing someone they know on the cover of the newspaper.

The line between reality and nonsense is blurred throughout the album, where the band used animals as plot devices just for the fun of it. On “Cow,” they build a story around the act of taking home a bovine buddy, and in “Red Antz,” they describe running over the insects on a drive. “We’re oftentimes singing about feelings that are there, but maybe fictional scenarios that kind of bring about those feelings that maybe someone could relate to,” says Ivry-Block.

“We use absurdist combinations of words, and then they come to take on meaning when we put them together and process them,” Konigsberg adds. “There was really no reason to include so many animals. It was a surprise to all of us.”

Palberta’s songs are notoriously short — the 22 tracks on their last album, 2018’s Roach Going Down, are all under three minutes — and with this album, they set out to make them longer. “People always gave us grief about how short our songs are, and said it would be cool if we could go for longer, and I wanted to see if that was true,” says Ivry-Block. They succeeded: Two of the songs, the heavy, staccato “Fragile Place” and the harmony-driven “All Over My Face,” are nearly five minutes.

To lengthen the songs, the band experimented with repeating lyrics and melodies. “We write parts that sound kind of crazy, but if they’re repetitive, they’re less so,” says Ivry-Block. “If you hear it more than once, it becomes normal.” For the entire second half of “Big Bad Want,” for instance, the phrase “yeah, I can’t pretend what I want” repeats again and again in a way that’s a bit maddening yet pleasantly hypnotic.

Palberta5000 was also more heavily produced than the band’s past albums, giving it a poppier sound, which they were already inclined to incorporate. “We were all just way more interested in pop music at that current moment,” says Konigsberg. “Listening to it, being better at our instruments, being in a professional recording studio, and having a better vocal mic sound all led to a more poppy album.”

Palberta has been around for seven and a half years, the members having first met while they were students at Bard College. The origin of the band’s name, like much of its music, is fairly random: they’re all fans of their dads, so they were going through their dads’ names, and a friend of Konigsberg’s who was staying with her had a dad named Albert. They decided to feminize it and added the “p” as a play on words signifying their friendship. “People think we’re from Canada,” says Konigsberg, even though the existence of the Canadian province didn’t even register in their minds at the time.

Ivry-Block hopes that when people listen to Palberta, they feel inspired to make music also. “We all come from really different musical backgrounds, and we kind of came together to make very specific music,” she says. “I just believe in my heart [that] anyone is capable of making music, and we’ve just got to go for it. We hope it inspires everyone, even if you don’t have any experience. You can do it.”

Follow Palberta on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Vákoum Unpack an Anxious Mind to Become One with the Body in “Airotic” Video Premiere

On their debut full-length LP Linchpin, experimental duo Vákoum offer up an expansive array of rhythmic, textural, and tonal complexity, utilizing unexpected transitions between effected guitars, a blend of acoustic and electronic drum beats, and ethereal Bulgarian-inspired vocals to create a sound that mirrors the many mood swings of an anxious human mind. Though certainly relevant in these unprecedented times, these are themes Vákoum has been unpacking since their very inception.

Multi-instrumentalists, composers, and producers Kelli Rudick and Natalia Rudick-Padilla formed Vákoum in 2014, upon meeting at a guitar clinic at now-defunct creative hub The End in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Since then, they’ve released an EP (2017’s Home for Home), toured with The Album Leaf, and refined a sound inspired by the likes of Björk, Blonde Redhead, and Holly Herndon. They’re due to drop Linchpin February 19th, and they premiere the video for the album’s second single “Airotic” on Audiofemme today.

“Airotic” was written pre-COVID, though it translates well to our present moment. The track guides the listener through the stages of an anxiety attack, using sonic transitions to mark the initial moment of panic leaden with fear and dread, through the disconnect we feel from our body and breath until the moment we finally let go. The song is about grounding through breath, a skill Kelli explains she only honed in recent years. ‘“Airotic’ came from this visualization of the breath,” she says. “There’s so much power in conscious breathing, and most people don’t know how to breathe. I feel like I didn’t know how to breathe until a couple years ago, and so to me it’s the only thing that’s left when things become really hard, and dark, and you lose control. It’s the only thing to anchor you to the ground.” 

Directed by Adrian Landeros and featuring dancer Yansi Mendez, the video’s choreography was entirely improvised. They had been filming all day; Mendez was cold and exhausted. They stopped production but the cameras were still rolling when something came upon her and she started moving, capturing the song’s meaning through movement entirely led by intuition, herself becoming grounded, becoming one with her body. 

The video is edited to further articulate the feeling of a violent mood swing by rushing through clipped, saturated images of the natural world: crinkling leaves, sparks of flame. But around the 45-second mark these wildly flashing images stop, transitioning to the dancer’s organic movements just as the song bursts wide open into the Vákoum’s haunting vocals. Mendez flails wildly and the manic images return, until the mood shifts again and her movements become more gentle, the imagery cuts in less violently, the beat slows and the vocals become more drawn-out, almost akin to chanting.

At times Mendez pauses completely; we can see the breath rise and fall in her exposed ribcage. In the final minute of the video her movement picks up again but she is now covered in blood, perhaps signifying a rebirth from her own dread to a new space of letting go. The blood is “something human beings are so ashamed of, and scared of, and disgusted by. It’s like a part of us. It’s everywhere in our body, and yet we’re so scared of it,” Kelli explains. “At the end, when she starts dancing with it, it just felt like a baby coming out of the womb.” Blood also figures heavily in the video for Vákoum’s previous single “Spark,” also directed by Landeros, establishing an intense visual language particular to the duo.

While the track articulates the mechanization of an anxious mind, Linchpin as a whole also serves to illustrate the way anxiety can affect a relationship between two people. Married in real life, Kelli describes herself as the more neurotic of the pair, leaning on Natalia for support in these difficult emotions. Natalia explains that it’s no less dreadful to witness these moments of panic in a loved one from the outside. “There is a sense of solitude, and helplessness, from not being able to reach in,” she says. “I think when you see or feel that main shift of the song, you hear the lyrics say, ‘It’s you in it, untrue isn’t it, enough enough.’ And I think it’s really beautiful to be able to hold that space for the other person, and speak almost kind of softer, and change the filters in which life is being viewed.”

The pair describes music as their marriage counselor. Their musical collaboration has helped them to learn more about each other and resolve triggers and other issues, which is where the album’s title comes in, a linchpin being the tool that connects a wheel to an axel. “Things that remain unspoken that you sometimes, for some reason, are afraid to say, you’re able to put out there in music. Or even a feeling, which is maybe this transition or this chord or whatever,” Natalia explains. “It’s a beautiful thing about our relationship that we have a way of feeling music that is extremely similar, and sometimes it can be spoken that way, so you’re not hurting anybody, you’re not saying the wrong thing, you’re just putting it out there with music and the other one picks up on it in a way nothing else does.” In other words, it provides a vehicle for deeper connection, for more difficult conversations.

Despite the limitations and frustrations inherent to releasing an album at the height of a pandemic, both Kelli and Natalia warn against the overwhelming sense of pessimism so many feel. They continue to practice every other day, and have used this time to become more disciplined in learning new technologies to help them share their album with a wider audience, focusing on streaming in place of live performance. Kelli laments the pent-up energy that comes with releasing a new record without a live vehicle for sharing and experiencing it with others, but ultimately says, “What it comes down to is that we have to just keep doing what we love, and no matter what happens, that’s the most important thing, just to keep creating.” Natalia agrees, once again emphasizing the linchpin that holds their creative and personal relationships together: “We’re not as affected in that regard, because we always make music for ourselves. It’s kind of a newer thing to want to share it. And so it’s a little bit like home anyway, with an industry or not. I feel complete.”

Follow Vákoum on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Brooklyn Punk Duo Groupie Commemorate Life’s Fleeting Moments on Ephemeral Debut

Photo Credit: John Clouse

Brooklyn-based post-punk band Groupie, consisting of Ashley Kossakowski (bass, vocals) and Johanna Healy (guitar, vocals), has carved out a niche through its DIY approach and riot grrrl-inspired aesthetic, drawing from the likes of Patti Smith and Sleater-Kinney. Having put out two EPs, 2017’s Groupie and 2018’s Validated, today the group releases its debut album, Ephemeral. – available on vinyl via Handstand Records and cassette via Tapehead City.

The band formed in 2015, after Kossakowski read a book about the riot grrrl movement. “I was really inspired because a lot of those bands, like Bikini Kill and all the bands in that scene, didn’t have any experience when they started and just kind of came together and started learning their instruments together and made awesome punk music,” she says. “So I decided to put out a Craigslist ad just really honestly being like, ‘I don’t have any technical musical experience.’ I listed some of my influences, and Johanna responded.”

Healy had been writing music and playing it in her bedroom, though she wasn’t making music formally either, so she helped guide Kossakowski as she learned the craft.

Kossakowski grew up in Chicago and attended shows constantly, earning the nickname “Groupie” from her mom – so it made for a perfect band name. While some might think of a groupie as a woman devoted to following male musicians, the band wanted to redefine the concept to include women who care about music and make it themselves.

“The scene that I was in when I was in high school was super male-dominated,” says Kossakowski. “I think I can name one woman in one band that I would regularly see. I definitely felt like there wasn’t a place for me then, so I wanted to kind of flip that meaning on its head.”

The album incorporates elements of shoegaze and talk-singing a bit reminiscent of the Velvet Underground, as well as shout-singing more along the lines of Rancid. The title Ephemeral encapsulates a common theme among many of the songs, exploring the moments in life that may feel big and long-lasting but are actually fleeting. It comes from the chorus of the single “Thick as Glue,” which repeats the word “ephemeral” as the band comments on groupie culture: “Young woman, idolizing heroic men/singing ’bout heroin/Tried to keep it cool, now it’s my turn too/Who you think you’re looking up to?”

“We had just finished recording vocals, and Johanna and I were just going back and forth and thinking of different names for the album,” Kossakowski remembers. “I remember we were listening to ‘Thick as Glue;’ the engineer we were working with was starting to fix it, and in the chorus we say ‘ephemeral’ together, and we turned to each other and said, ‘Is that it? Yeah, that’s it.'”

Even though they finished recording the album in January 2020, a number of the songs are relevant to the current state of the world. The second track, the bass-heavy “Waiting,” for instance, was written by Kossakowski while she was unemployed and feeling depressed, and its message may be uplifting to those who’ve lost their jobs due to the pandemic. “That moment ended up being fleeting. It felt like it was never going to end and it was many months of that, but in the grand scheme of my life, it was a fleeting moment I learned from,” she says. “I’m sure everyone feels like we’re in a state of flux and just kind of waiting until this pandemic eases up.”

The mellow, bi-lingual “Daleko,” which Kossakowski co-wrote with her Polish immigrant mom, is named after the Polish word for distance. It was written as an homage to Kossakowski’s relatives in Poland, but it also now speaks to the separation between her and Healy, who have only been able to see each other once in person since the pandemic began.

Other songs on the album include the surfy, sassy, tongue-in-cheek “Half Wave,” in which deconstructs a dysfunctional relationship Kossakowski was in; the minimalist “Industry,” which describes buying things you don’t need in order to numb yourself, and the angsty “Human Again,” a reflection on post-tour depression.

Their overall goal with Ephemeral was to create a “dichotomy of soft but also hard-as-fuck edgy,” says Healy. This was partly achieved through the addition of guitarist Eamon Lebow, who added delicate notes to some places on the album and dark, dissonant chords to others. The instrumentals were recorded live with Kossakowski, Healy, Lebow, and drummer Aaron Silberstein, and they added the vocals afterward.

With the album, the band aims to cement their unique sound. “I think it would be nice if people saw this as something fresh, like an original sound within the rock/indie/punk world,” says Healy. They’re also hoping to remind people that the emotional roller-coaster we’re all on, much like the ride that inspired it, won’t last forever. “I think there’s some really fun moments on the album and some darker moments, so if listeners go on that journey with us of the highs and the lows, I think that would be really awesome.”

Follow Groupie on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

That Brunette Celebrates Friendship with “Platonic” Premiere and Merch Line to Benefit Black Drag Queens

Photo Credit: Florencia Alvarado

Earlier this year, That Brunette stepped into a spotlight of her own creation. She finally shed her past, discarding a previous stage name, and has since flourished in her craft. Her new song “Platonic,” premiering today, displays an artist continuing to discover her place in the alt/pop space and carve out a singular voice.

“My heart is a little bit broken/When you cheat on me with the city where I’m from/Yeah, our story was just beginning,” she sings over magical-sounding percussion built from bells, shakers, and handclaps. The song’s emotive core plays provocatively against a glistening shell, and with production courtesy of Certain Self, it’s the friendship anthem we all need right now.

Musically, the song mirrors “one of those friendships that starts explosively, like a chemical reaction, and proceeds to help you evolve as a person,” the Brooklyn artist tells Audiofemme. “I love writing about more than one kind of love, and this felt like the perfect opportunity to explore platonic love and how it can be just as profound and transformative as romantic love.”

Those xylophone-like sounds, which give the message blinding brightness, were actually created with “an untuned piano being strummed with a kitchen fork,” she notes. “Certain Self and I had fun experimenting with organic sounds in his apartment to create an eclectic rhythmic atmosphere. From there, I wanted to bring it to a more ethereal and dreamlike place with shimmery synths and angelic bells. I love how it came together.”

“You opened a part of me that was dying,” That Brunette muses later on in the song. Despite its inherent longing, writing the song was actually “a happy experience” for her. “It serves as both a lovely little time capsule of the inception of a friendship, as well as an examination of platonic love. I felt like I was honoring this friendship’s impact on me by writing a song about it and that felt good.”

“Platonic” falls quite in line with another 2020 entry called “Metro with Matthew,” in which she celebrates friends who have never left her side. “I’m so lucky to still be friends with so many people I met my freshman year of college nearly a decade ago. We’ve grown up together and seen each other at our best and worst,” she says, “and we still love to hang out and shoot the shit. I treasure those connections the most because they’ve stood the test of time.”

Coinciding with the single drop, That Brunette has crafted a line of merch for the first time in her career ─ with 100 percent of proceeds benefiting various Black drag performers in the Brooklyn scene, like The Dragon Sisters. “They are iconic and everyone needs to know about them. I’ve been friends with them since college and their ability to transform a room in under .5 seconds is breathtaking every time. Their work ethic is only rivaled by their ferocity and performance capabilities. Obsessed forever,” she says. “I also need to shout out Miz Jade who has been killing the game since before I knew the game existed. Her seamless blend of raw talent, fashion, storytelling, and comedy is truly finessed. She’s a professional who’s caused me to get my life on multiple occasions.”

The merch came together in collaboration with graphic designer Florencia Alvarado, who is also the co-editor of Women on Women, a publication of art and poetry made by LGBTQ+ women. “Florencia has been the perfect person to collaborate with on the shirts. Our aesthetics blend together in such a natural way,” says the singer.

“I want to give back to Black people in a tangible way. This allows me to give funds directly to people whose art I’ve loved and admired for years,” she explains. “Especially in a pandemic when it’s basically impossible to support Drag Queens in person at the clubs, it just feels right to continue supporting them financially in some way when I’d normally be out tipping my queens every weekend.”

Like many, 2020 completely rearranged how That Brunette thought about creativity and songwriting. “It forced me to come back to my roots of writing songs alone with just me and the piano. That was difficult in some ways because writing alone can be uncomfortable,” she reflects. “There’s no one to use as a distraction or to bounce ideas off of. That made it a little harder to move through the stickier parts of the songwriting process, but the songs I have written are very close to my heart. And I can’t wait to bring them to life.”

“Platonic” showcases That Brunette’s earnest desire to keep pushing forward, exploring with increasingly more fascinating moods and structures. “My next long form release is in a similar vein of organic production fused with pop textures. I’ve been enjoying pairing a somewhat grittier backbone of raw percussion and dirty bass synths with lush and shiny pop pads and synths. I feel like that’s the world my vocals want to live in, and it feels really authentic for me.”

Follow That Brunette on Twitter and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Laura Jinn Explores Illness in Many Forms on Sick! Debut EP

Listening to Brooklyn-based electropop artist and producer Laura Jinn’s debut EP Sick! is an experience somewhat akin to watching a dark comedy. Full of sass and detailed scene-setting, the EP covers dysfunctional relationships, paranoia, and encounters with quirky characters.

Jinn’s lyrics are simultaneously fun and incisive, playful and poetic, with an underlying theme of sickness, broadly defined. “I wrote the songs before the pandemic, so my concept of sickness has expanded a lot, but I was just thinking about what it means for someone to be considered sick,” she says. “I was thinking about the politics of sickness in general, and also, I think I’m kind of a paranoid person, so that is always oozing out.”

Each song is almost a movie with a full storyline unto itself, beginning with the nostalgic “I’m driving to Target,” where Jinn vividly describes the random shopping list one might have in mind: “Lipsticks/lipgloss/mascara tubes and crop tops/Flip-flops/knee socks/glitter glue and card stock.” Despite the ingenuous subject matter, there’s a darker undertone to the song — if you listen closely, you’ll realize it’s a glimpse inside the mind of a kleptomaniac, with lines like “I’m gonna take this lipstick and that’s just the beginning.”

“I was thinking about all these ways how, when people are considered sick, it’s often people who are on the fringe — so women in general,” she explains. “You have something like kleptomania, which is a way to pathologize a certain behavior that may be more common in women, when there might be other motivations for doing that.”

The eerily repetitive, nursery-rhyme-like, almost tropical-sounding “Memories of trees” similarly contrasts idyllic scenes from Jinn’s childhood with an unsettling darkness that colors those memories. “I was just thinking about how a lot of the things that happened, a lot of my attitudes at the time, were incredibly messed up — there was a darkness and a danger that was always present,” she says. “There was a lot of paranoia and fearfulness.”

The sardonic title track “Sick” plays on the multiple meanings of the word, imagining a conversation where someone declares that they’re sick “as in cool” but slowly reveals that they are also literally unwell. “I knew I wanted to write something fun and poppy, so I think the most natural way it came out was just this bratty, confident singer who sang ‘I’m sick,'” Jinn recounts.

The highlight of the EP, however, is “I’m beginning to think,” which narrates a series of events that sound like they’re out of a Broad City episode — “He invited me over, and when he opened the door/He was wearing an entire Adidas fit/We took an edible and he started crying/We watched 30 Rock, he kept crying” — as well as the inner dialogue of someone debating whether to stay in a relationship. The song was inspired by a short story Jinn wrote, where one character is venting to a friend with a line that became the song’s refrain: “I’m beginning to think I made a big mistake in loving him.”

“I was thinking about how dangerous it is to date a man based on statistics and how it’s so crazy that we accept that and live with that, but it is our reality of how we live with people in the world,” she explains. “I wanted to capture that dissonance of ‘I’m saying this fun thing to my friend about this guy’ and ‘I have to say this scary violent thing about this guy.'”

In keeping with the theme of sickness, she also threw in an electropop cover of Harvey Danger’s 1997 hit “Flagpole Sitta,” her version full of snappy percussion. “I just felt like in so many ways, the bratty, silly energy of the singer in the song fits with the energy I was trying to capture,” she says. “What I like about it is that the speaker is kind of reflecting on themselves and critical of themselves, and it kind of throws that critique back onto the world and is looking for someone to blame like the whole song, but it always ends in that place of ‘I’m responsible, I’m culpable.'”

She and co-producer Tatum Gale made the album almost entirely digitally, minus some acoustic drums and analog synths, while they were quarantined together in Brooklyn. “I would work during the day and then at six, I would close my work computer and we’d go into the home studio,” she remembers. “I feel like when I went into the EP, I  didn’t know who I was as an artist. I was just exploring a lot of different styles and also trying to cohere them and present them in a clearer way.”

Jinn started making music just a few years ago, teaching herself how to produce on GarageBand and then working up to Logic. Genre-wise, she considers her music “electro goth pop,” incorporating dark, catchy, and electronic elements. Her sassy, flirty singing and prominent percussion tracks evoke The Blow, though she cites emo as a major influence.

By day, Jinn is a software engineer, which she says gave her the confidence to start producing. “I know that I can do hard things, and I know that I can come up against something when think I don’t understand it and work hard and understand it,” she explains. “That has helped me when I’m working on music and come up against things I don’t understand — working on Logic, starting that process, and being like, ‘How am I gonna do this?’ I can be like, well, I didn’t know how to code and now I know how to do that. And it’s a very different part of my brain I use all day. So in some ways, it’s a relief to scratch that other part while working on music.”

Follow Laura Jinn on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Mima Good Sows Resilience with Hydra LP

Photo Credit: Blaise Bayno-Krebs

NYC-based songwriter Raechel Rosen has resurrected her anti-pop alter-ego Mima Good for her latest LP, Hydra. We premiered the lead single “Sad Club Night” earlier this year, back when COVID was new and we were only beginning to feel the dread and uncertainty of Lockdown 1.0. With all that has happened since this year, the title of this new release feels all the more appropriate.

Greek mythology gives us the 9-headed serpent Hydra, who grows two heads for every one that Hercules cuts off in their legendary face-off. To Rosen, this monster serves as a metaphor for real world struggles. She says, “It isn’t like an adventure movie, where the hero defeats the villain, saves the day, and then we’re all good. Often, when we overcome one trauma, solve one problem, we uncover others that were existing beneath the surface.” Rosen’s first release as Mima Good, the Good Girl EP, dealt with her struggle to overcome an abusive relationship with a former bandmate. With each new release building on the last, Hydra seeks to soothe any other sore spots Rosen uncovered while healing from that specific trauma. 

The brutality of the Hydra theme contrasts with some of the more vulnerable imagery on the album, namely the second track, “Lolabye.” It plays on Judy Garland’s classic song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” referencing the same blue birds that fly somewhere else, somewhere better. The track itself samples a recording of Garland yelling into a tape recorder “I laughed at myself when I should have cried,” a reference to all the ways she allowed others to take advantage of her during her career. Though Garland ultimately succumbed to the Hydra of her own life, Rosen takes these words to heart, looking inward to figure out how to overcome all the times she’s had to laugh or grin through her own pain as a female performer, while remaining authentic to her sentimental nature. 

Writing these songs allowed Rosen to see herself as a fighter on a quest to defeat these painful forces that haunt her, saying, “I had so much fun with these songs, even when I was singing about painful topics, because of the built in narrative. It has always helped me to turn my struggles into songs, but as part of a quest-like epic, I was really able to face them. They felt small in the end.” This idea makes the record relatable to almost anyone, especially under the present circumstances. For most of us, 2020 didn’t offer the chance to improve your life so much as the opportunity to build resilience, the ability to choose how to react when things go awry. For Rosen, this meant adjusting her expectations to how she could release and promote Hydra, as well as diving deep into self-care practices like tarot, physical fitness, and reconnecting with her Jewish spirituality. For you, it might be different, but as Rosen said to me, “All of us are extremely brave every day that we wake up and try to defeat any of these heads.”

Follow Mima Good on Facebook for ongoing updates.

From Dessner to Dickinson, Luluc Recounts Inspiration Behind Latest LP Dreamboat

Zoe Randell and Steve Hassett of Luluc (pronounced “Loo-Luke”) have been riding the rollercoaster of pandemic feels, just like the rest of us. While it wasn’t in their plans to be back in Australia for the indeterminate future, the duo have been embracing the beauty of Sorrento. For those readers unfamiliar with Sorrento, it’s a picturesque, coastal town in Victoria – just outside of Melbourne – that attracts beach-loving holiday tourists, surfers and artistic types looking for some solace from city life.

“We visit every year, usually in the summer,” says Randell, “but this is the first time we’ve stopped here for long enough to experience the winter and smell the first hints of springtime arriving. Melbourne is very different to New York; the light, the colours. It is quite a magical experience, like catching up with an old cherished friend.”

Randell and Hassett founded Luluc in Melbourne in 2008, then moved to Brooklyn, New York in 2010. Their indie-folk sound has attracted attention and acclaim for each of their three past records (2008 debut Dear Hamlyn, 2014’s Passerby, and 2018’s Sculptor) from NPR, Uncut, and artists ranging from Iggy Pop and Sleater-Kinney’s Janet Weiss to Lucinda Williams, who Luluc supported on tour. Luluc’s latest, Dreamboat, is already hot property. It was featured on NPR All Songs Considered (a personal pick of host Robin Hilton), and single “Emerald City” featured on Australian radio, Double J’s Mornings show.

Co-produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner, “Emerald City” is one of the many Randell was working on pre-pandemic, when life as usual, frenetic and glorious in New York, was taken for granted. Dessner had invited Randell and Hassett to Berlin for the PEOPLE Festival (run by Dessner and Justin Vernon), which is where the three artists began work on Dreamboat. The album was recorded across both Berlin and their Brooklyn studio, then mixed in isolation in Sorrento.

Guests on the album, other than Dessner, include Bon Iver’s JT Bates on drums, and Arcade Fire’s saxophonist, Stuart Bogie. “I took a few songs to PEOPLE Festival that were close to finished, but these particular songs both Steve and I felt needed different instrumentation and textures,” says Randell. “So, a couple of the songs on this record have beats and synths that Aaron played, as well as two incredible drummers. But with all these newer sounds we’ve explored, it is still very much in keeping with our vibe. Really we feel like we can explore any sounds we want to, if the song is there at the core.”

“Emerald City” is gloriously atmospheric. Randell’s melodic voice, a lullaby, effortlessly graces a downtempo, glitchy beat that hints at the restlessness of urban life. “Finally sleep takes the wheel,” sings Randell. “I won’t let this pull me under, I won’t let you pull me under.”

For Randell, inspiration is not as clear cut as sounding like, or taking influence from, other musicians. She refers to the practice of drawing from the artistic richness of books, music, sights, smells and ideas as an act of synthesis. “For us, our art is a whole-life pursuit, so I draw from all forms; books, film, nature, art, photography and of course music. Often I’ll go deep with an artist, a record, or an author, that captivates me, and kind of let it wash over me, leave it’s impression.”

“All the Pretty Scenery,” for instance, came into being as a result of Randell’s immersion into Emily Dickinson’s poetry, an exploration of a time before our modern imaginations were affected by all-pervasive technology, before iPhones dictated what we know and how quickly. “I was inspired by some of the pictures she created,” Randell recalls. “It felt like time travel. Like I could experience some sense of how her outlook was influenced by the times she was living in. That got me thinking about writing a poem, or lyric, that reflects my experience of the world now as distinct from her time.”

To that end, the album is thoroughly appealing to a modern listener while still being a romantic thing – a creation that recalls vinyl jazz records, the raw and textural joy of a real album that requires full attention and dedicated listening from beginning to end. Don’t press shuffle.

“That auto-shuffle function that happens makes me crazy!” admits Randell. “Songs are like chapters in a book or scenes in a film, so I very much want people to hear them as we create them. I love how you get to know an album, how you hear the next song in sequence before it even starts playing. I hope people at least start out listening to the sequence we created. The songs can stand on their own of course, but I think it helps to get to know the world that’s been created when you’re hearing a new album.”

Though touring, as we’ve become accustomed this past six months, is off the table, Luluc will be offering live performances online once the duo have organised how and when they’ll deliver these. It will be intimate, far from their opening slots for the likes of The National, J Mascis and Dinosaur Jr., Father John Misty, Fleet Foxes and Jose Gonzalez, likely closer to their past performance for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts in 2014. But the album itself unravels like a gift; as the world is forced to run into the brick wall of enforced lockdowns and cities become sparse places where people scurry – eyes down and distant – from their home to pick up takeaway and straight home again, it feels nourishing to spend time in the lushness of Luluc’s dreamscape.

Follow Luluc on Facebook for ongoing updates.

Drew Citron Gets Free on Debut LP

a black and white photo of musician Drew Citron
a black and white photo of musician Drew Citron
Photo Credit: Ebru Yildiz

Adapting to life after heartbreak. Calling on the old phantoms of your recent sorrow. Nostalgia we sometimes want to revisit, and sometimes we only write about. Brooklyn babe and Public Practice member Drew Citron released some of that anguish on October 9th, with her solo debut Free Now. Following the breakup of her first band, Beverly – and the end of her relationship with drummer Scott Rosenthal, whom Citron also opened Bushwick venue Alphaville with – she set out to write the album as a means of channeling her emotions on her own creative wave. “When you go through loss, there’s a really great growth period afterward, and you really ‘get free.’ That’s the theme of the album,” Citron explains. “It’s not a coincidence that this [change] coincides with my solo debut.”

For Citron, writing the album was a comfort covering an overflow of emotions. “I honestly was just trying to sing and play guitar in a way where I would soothe myself because I was so sad. And it worked. I started focusing on finishing the songs,” Citron says. “I’m lucky that I can play music and write as a form of catharsis.” This writing process became a kind of therapy, clearing the fog from her mind, as Citron explored sounds she could take solace in, rather than the nervy post-punk of Public Practice or the grungified surf rock of Beverly.

Her first single, “Summertime,” showcases an undisturbed mellowness; Citron explains that she focused on painting a picture with the instrumentals, rather than telling a specific story. “I was working on scaling things back and being very sparse with the arrangement and the production,” she says, adding that she wanted to “create a feeling with the sounds.” Subtle acoustic guitar on the title track lets Citron’s voice shine in a way it hasn’t been able to on her previous projects. Elsewhere, like on “Kiss Me,” Citron buries her sentiments in layers of dream pop fuzz. Citron leans into more pop-oriented sounds throughout, even incorporating country twang on album closer “Love’s the Illusion.” Free Now isn’t just about anecdotal liberation, but creative freedom, as well.

Citron stretched her creative muscles even further with her involvement in the video for latest single “Kiss Me,” choreographed by Citron’s friend Jen Freeman, who had been quarantining upstate with several dancers who ended up being perfect for the clip. “I wanted to do a sort of traditional duet dance number for a video, kind of an old-fashioned Ginger Rogers piece,” Citron explains. Videographer Joseph DiGiovanna spent hours editing “Kiss Me” until the two dancers, although never physically in the same frame, were in flawless harmony. The finished product balances tension and joy, a socially-distanced work of art. “It turned out very beautifully, and safe for the time that we’re in,” reflects Citron.

In addition to her many music industry projects, Citron spends time writing for other creative outlets. “I generally have a screenplay and a novel on the backburner at all times. They’re in my head as dream projects that I might one day tackle,” Citron admits. “I love crafting stories out of the written word.”

Until we can read that novel-in-the-making, Citron’s solo music ventures won’t stop with Free Now. “I definitely finished a second solo album in quarantine,” she says. “I’m putting finishing touches on that and can hopefully release that next year.” She’s also hopeful about touring with Pubic Practice, since the gigs around the release of the band’s debut LP Gentle Grip back in May were canceled due to COVID. Since the ongoing pandemic will also affect her promotion of Free Now, Citron has set her sights on hosting a ticketed streamed release party, to be announced soon.

Having not only written and performed the tracks, Citron also produced and engineered the album, taking true ownership of the material. Through all of the sentimentality revisited in Free Now, at its core the album is really about Citron stepping into her own identity as a solo performer and songwriter. As she explores new frontiers both creatively and personally, we see her breaking from the past and following her own freedom into a bright future.

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