Harry the Nightgown Deconstruct Their Relationship on Experimental Self-Titled Debut

When Sami Perez and Spencer Hartling met at a Ventura, CA dive bar where they’d both performed in 2014, they had an immediate connection that was both romantic and artistic. It turned out the latter outlasted the former, but this didn’t put a damper on their band, Harry the Nightgown. In fact, it fueled it; their self-titled debut album is dedicated to this very experience of making music with your ex.

Perez and Hartling had already written much of the album’s music while they were still together — then, after their breakup, they were tasked with the challenge of writing the lyrics. “Pretty much all the songs are about each other or how we were feeling trying to pursue working together while also managing separating romantically,” Perez explains. “It’s kind of like a representation of our commitment to working together as musicians, because I think as musical partners, we really click.”

Though both members wrote the lyrics, they often did so on their own, then came into the studio and shared them with each other. This meant that the process of making the album initiated some big post-breakup conversations. “There were many times where one of us would be in the live room recording vocals, showing the person the lyrics for the first time, and the other person would be in the control room, kind of panicky, freaking out, or appreciative — it was such an emotional process,” says Perez. “It’s taken a year now, but we’re finally at a place where we can comfortably work together and not feel so much tension that you feel with an ex-partner.”

You might not surmise the album’s heavy subject matter from the fun sound, and indeed, many of the songs put a humorous spin on breakups. In “Pill Poppin’ Therapist,” Perez reflects on her desire to help her partner while using him to self-medicate her own issues: “Rocky Horror sleepover/I needed you/Seemed so healthy from a distance/Something new/I made a pill out of you.”

In the duo’s first single “Ping Pong,” Hartling sings about making peace with the breakup and feeling confident in he and Perez’s ability to move through it and stay friends: “I’m a decent friend at best and I know you see it/But you don’t want to sound uptight/I’m a careless ex, I know, so don’t waste time here/Yeah, you’ve got better things to do.” The video keeps up the silly tone of the song, with Hartling singing and strolling around with a lampshade on his head — a “runaway lamp” getup inspired by his most recent Halloween costume.

With both members on guitar and bass and Hartling on drums, the L.A.-based duo has mastered an aesthetic encompassing a variety of indie rock styles. Perez’s saccharine voice has earned the band comparisons to Deerhoof, while the use of electric guitar on songs like “Ping Pong” is a bit reminiscent of The Strokes. The band cites Kate Bush, Raincoats, XTC, and Rosalía as major influences behind the LP. Both had played in various bands before forming Harry the Nightgown; Perez started the band The She’s with several of her friends in middle school, then began playing bass for L.A.-based rockers Cherry Glazerr in 2013. Currently, she balances these two projects with Harry the Nightgown, while Hartling’s focus is more on sound engineering.

Harry the Nightgown — a name that stems from Perez’s nickname for a tree outside her childhood window — also made use of electronic techniques on the album. As sound engineers, both Perez and Hartling set out to push the bounds of what they could do production-wise. Recording at John Vanderslice’s all-analog Tiny Telephone studio, where they both worked, they’d spend entire days messing around with old Moog and ARC synthesizers and create harmonies through vocal layering. In “Babbling,” which Perez remembers struggling to record right after the breakup, her voice slowly, hauntingly soars above a choir created by multiple recordings of her own voice, while “In My Head” adds discordant arcade-like instrumentals to a similarly multi-tracked vocal.

“[An all-analog studio] sets limitations, but in a way that forces you to be really creative,” says Perez. “For example, there’s only 24 tracks, so how do we make a song sound interesting and complex without just adding a million tracks? That’s a challenge.”

The duo plans to donate a portion of their singles’ proceeds to the Summaeverythang Community Center, which brings organic produce to South Central L.A. and works to empower Black communities. After processing their breakup in the studio, their professional relationship is still flourishing – they’ve got two more singles and a new album on the way. And, along with Vanderslice, they’ve established a modest backyard studio in Los Angeles called Grandma’s Couch. With a knack for deconstruction that extends from their own romance to their sonic aesthetic, Harry the Nightgown may have created the experimental indie equivalent of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours – without sacrificing their creative kinship.

Follow Harry the Nightgown on Instagram for ongoing updates.

RSVP HERE: Ilithios Streams Debut Live Performance + MORE

Welcome to our weekly show recommendation column RSVP HERE. Due to live show cancellations we will be covering virtual live music events and festivals.

More solo endeavors are sprouting up now that many musicians have been left separated from their bands due to social distancing. Most recently, Manny Nomikos of Catty released a music video of him dancing alone in quarantine and a cover of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” featuring Rosie Slater. His latest project, Illithios (meaning idiot in Greek), stemmed from a collection songs that never fit well enough to bring to a band. All musicians write songs sometimes that come out of left field, but for Nomikos, a true New Yorker born and raised by a Greek father and Korean mother, the project has its roots in an identity of not feeling a true sense of belonging to either side of himself. The project’s namesake serves as a cover so that “no matter how idiotic it all turns out, at least it’ll be in character,” while the songs themselves range from Thom Yorke-inspired pop to personal drum machine fused folk. Never having performed live before the quarantine, Nomikos will have the unique experience of debuting this project via Instagram livestream. There are only a few tracks available online, so tune in for Illithios surprises tonight (4/27) at 8pm. We chatted with Illithios about how to get better livestream sound quality, Dodge Caravans, and his spirit animal quiz.

AF: You’re livestreaming your live show debut on Instagram. Is that as nerve wracking as having your first show in person?

MN: I hadn’t considered that really, but I suppose it’s way more nerve-wracking. Besides performing on your own, there’s also no physical audience to engage with, which makes the whole performance feel very unfamiliar.

AF: What is your live stream set up like? What’s your favorite piece of gear?

MN: This was the hardest part for me cause I was debating how much I should actually play vs. using samples/pre-recorded parts. I felt that rather than just play the guitar the whole time, I’d use a sampler and tape deck to trigger parts and focus more on a performance. Wasn’t sure I’d be very entertaining just playing a guitar for 30 minutes on the internet. So with that said, my fave piece of equipment is my Critter and Guitari Organelle which I’m using as the central part of the sound.

AF: It says your live stream will be presented in Hi-Fi, what does that mean exactly?

MN: Since being stuck at home I’m sure we’ve all been catching streaming shows and they all sorta have their ups and downs. Instagram live has the best foot traffic for live-streaming but their audio is garbage. So I’m running a bunch of software stuff I found to get IG live running off a laptop and using a proper audio interface so the audio doesn’t have that streaming washiness. Hopefully people put on their headphones and I don’t blow it in the mix and we all have a good time.

AF: One of your cover photos is what I think is a ’90s Dodge Caravan. I owned a 1995 Dodge Caravan named Patrick that was very dear to my heart. Do you have any good Dodge Caravan stories?

MN: There’s a special camaraderie of ’90s Dodge Caravan people. I have yet to meet someone who drove a Caravan who’s not a pretty alright person. I married a Caravan driving gal. One story that sticks out was driving with friends to the mall to get Doom 2. We were so excited to get home that I started to drive before my bud Lamar had closed the sliding side door. And I suppose the momentum or gravity or science did its thing and the door slid back so fast it flew off which was not good. We got it back on but it was never the same.

AF: What is your quarantine anthem?

MN: “Play at Your Own Risk” – Planet Patrol. Or Forest by Stella (with a Greek sigma).

AF: I saw on your Facebook invite you made a spirit animal quiz. What is your spirit animal?

MN: Ooooh… well first off, wanna make sure it’s clear that it’s not like a spammy quiz where I collect data or anything like that. I keep getting butterfly mixed with baby deer. Which is sad cause I made the quiz so I wouldn’t get butterfly but I suppose it can’t be avoided.

AF: What spirit animal do you think I am?

MN: We’ve had limited interactions so I’m gonna guess, based on your Kurt Cobain persona from your Sharkmuffin Halloween show… I’d guess you’re a bat mixed with a little bit of dog spirit. Bats have good intuition, they’re night creatures, are highly motivated but on their own schedule. Like you will make a plan to do your taxes, and you will do it and it will be well done, but like you’ll miss the tax deadline by like a few months. Dog mix gives loyalty and playfulness. I dunno, take the test and see how off I am!

AF: I took the quiz and turns I am 48% an Owl (so you were on track with the night creature), and 43% a Panda. 

RSVP HERE for Ilithios first ever live performance 4/24 8pm est on @mannynomikos Instagram.

More great live streams this week…

4/24 Sleater-Kinney (conversation), Harkin via Instagram. 2:30pm est, RSVP HERE

4/24 Play On: 3-day virtual music festival: The Flaming Lips, Weezer, Cardi B and more via Youtube. 12:00pm est, RSVP HERE

4/24 Post Malone (Nirvana tribute) via Youtube. 6pm est, RSVP HERE

4/25 Bethlehem Steel 24 hour live stream for NYSYLC. 10am est, RSVP HERE

4/25 Block by Blockwest: a Minecraft music festival: Pussy Riot, IDLES, Cherry Glazerr via Block by Blockwest website. 3pm est, RSVP HERE

4/27 WINTER via Baby’s TV. $5 8pm est, RSVP HERE

4/28 Bully via Noonchorus. $8 8pm est, RSVP HERE

4/28 The Footlight Drink and Draw via Instagram. 7pm est, RSVP HERE

4/28 Exploding in Sound Live From Home feat. Pile, Shady Bug, Jordyn Blakely (Stove) + more via Instagram. 6pm est RSVP HERE

NEWS ROUNDUP: St. Vincent Producing Sleater-Kinney LP, Woodstock Returns, & More

sleater-kinney and st. vincent, hollywood, ca, jan 2019. photograph by jonny cournoyer

New Year, New Music

By Lindsey Rhoades

Sleater-Kinney is in the Studio… Producing an Album with St. Vincent

If this tweet didn’t warm your riot grrl heart, we don’t know what will. Though details are scant (no official release date, no title, no tracklist, no leaked audio) Sleater-Kinney announced via Twitter that St. Vincent mastermind Annie Clark is producing their next record, the follow-up to their return-from-a-decade-long-hiatus-instant-classic No Cities To Love, released in 2015. The tweet came with a photo so amazing we thought we were dreaming: four of our favorite female musicians sitting at a mixing board, their expressions saying only one thing: Y’all are not even ready for this amazingness. Though it’s officially become our most anticipated release of the new year, other artists aren’t slouching – keep reading below for the veritable onslaught of recently released jams. But first…

Woodstock Will Return in 2019… Can it Compete With New Festival Lineups?

Break out the patchouli – Woodstock is coming back for its 50th anniversary. The original founder, Michael Lang, announced Wednesday that he’s planning to book multi-generational artists with an activist bent for a weekend-long festival in August at a racetrack called Watkins Glen; meanwhile, another Woodstock Anniversary fest helmed by LiveNation at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (the original site of the 1969 gathering) was already in the works. No artists or ticket prices for either fest have been announced, but our heads already ache at the thought of sorting out nightmare radius clauses.

Woodstock, of course, has already had some disastrous anniversaries – most recently Woodstock ’99, which ended in rapes, rioting, and violence. But perhaps the bigger challenge than putting that memory behind them will be simply competing for audience numbers in an over-saturated festival market. Coachella announced its lineup, including headliners Childish Gambino, Tame Impala, and Ariana Grande, onm January 2. This week, Bonnaroo announced they’d also be hosting Childish Gambino as a headliner, along with Post Malone and multiple sets from jam band stalwarts Phish (this prompted Forbes to beg the question: Why isn’t Cardi B’s billing higher?). New York’s own Governors Ball has once again invited The Strokes (who have played the fest before but not headlined), as well as Florence + The Machine and Lil Wayne to play their top spots, with Tyler, The Creator, Nas, Sza, Brockhampton and more rounding out the bill. And though it’s not strictly a festival in the same sense as those mentioned above, SXSW has begun hyping the first handful of buzzworthy acts who’ll play showcases all over Austin in March, including Amanda Palmer, Swervedriver, Ecko, The Beths, and Wyclef Jean.

That New New

Kehlani has a new song featuring Ty Dolla $ign; “Nights Like This” will appear on a mixtape due in February, which is itself a precursor to a new album due sometime this year.

Girlpool have a new album coming out February 1st, and have shared the title track, “What Chaos Is Imaginary.”

Ex Hex is finally releasing a follow-up to 2014’s Rips, called It’s Real (out March 22 via Merge). Their first single is “Cosmic Cave.”

Sharon Van Etten will release her first album in five years, Remind Me Tomorrow, on January 18. This week, she shared a video for “Seventeen,” after previously sharing “Comeback Kid” and the absolutely stunning “Jupiter 4.”


Mineral are releasing new music for the first time in 20 years, including this video for “Your Body Is The World.” The song appears (alongside “Aurora“) on a limited-edition 10” that comes with a hardcover book commemorating the Austin band’s 25th anniversary.

Beirut release Gallipoli on February 1; Game of Thrones actor Ian Beattie plays a kind of klutzy knight in the video for “Landslide.”

Pedro the Lion shared “Quietest Friend,” a companion video to “Yellow Bike.” Both singles appear on the group’s first record in over a decade, Phoenix, which you can stream now in full via NPR.

Priests have announced a new album, The Seduction of Kansas, and shared its title track. The LP comes out April 5 and they’re doing a huge tour around it.

FIDLAR ironically manages to Skype in their entire LA crew in a video for “By Myself,” from their forthcoming LP Almost Free (out January 25 on Mom + Pop).

Cherry Glazerr shares “Wasted Nun” from Stuffed & Ready, out February 1 via Secretly Canadian.

Deerhunter released the third single, “Plains,” from Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? but Bradford Cox is worried no one will listen to the record in its entirety when it comes out January 18.

Also releasing an album on January 18, experimental rock duo Buke & Gase premiered the title track from Scholars.

End Notes

  • Attention Brooklyn! Early aughts rap-rock one-hit-wonders Crazy Town are inexplicably playing Sunnyvale on February 23rd. Sorta wondering if it’ll just be one forty-five minute set of “Butterfly” played over and over.
  • If you’ve got kids, or have simply interacted with one in the last year, you’ve probably had “Baby Shark” stuck in your head at some point. But this week made it official – every toddler’s number one jam appeared for the first time on Billboard’s Hot 100, making it one of the few children’s songs to do so.
  • A documentary on Lifetime called Surviving R. Kelly aired the first week of January, and with it has come some new hope for victims seeking justice. The doc has prompted a kidnapping investigation in Georgia, more victims have come forward, and Phoenix, Lady Gaga, and Chance the Rapper have all recently released statements apologizing for working with R. Kelly in the past. Chance recently appeared on Sesame Street and admitted in an Instagram recap that he saved someone’s life by pulling them from a burning car last April, so we think his karma may be in the clear.
  • In a rare interview, Frank Ocean shared his very respectable skincare routine (and some other stuff) with GQ.
  • Risqué rap sensation CupcakKe (real name Elizabeth Harris) made some worrisome allusions to suicide on social media, prompting her hospitalization – but she seems to be on the mend, having released a single on Friday called “Squidward Nose.”
  • Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody was a big winner at the Golden Globes last Sunday, taking home Best Picture and Best Actor for Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury – all in spite of its negative critical reception. Honors for Best Song went to Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga duet “Shallow,” from A Star Is Born.


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photo by Devon Bristol Shaw

I hope everyone is sufficiently stuffed from Thanksgiving and had a chance to cuddle up with some fluffy friends over the long weekend! Make sure you chop up some of those leftovers for your pets to show your appreciation. If you don’t have a furball bestie what the heck are you waiting for?! November is Adopt-A-Senior-Pet Month; if you’re in NYC, check out one of the many great rescue programs for senior and special needs pets we’re very fortunate to have, or find a local no-kill shelter to support near you.

For this month’s column, I had the pleasure of talking to the lovable Shari Page, drummer of THICK, before the holiday weekend. THICK has been crushing the music game more than ever, recently opening for Cherry Glazerr and receiving a mention in The New York Times. I had the chance to watch them in action again a few weeks back when Sharkmuffin played a show with them. As usual, they were vivacious and fierce – a melodic but explosive live act. Shari is tough on the kit, but also one of the most affable personalities in the Brooklyn music scene. Check out her spirit animals, those she assigned for her band, and her history of pets!

AF: What is your favorite type of animal?

SP: I love dogs, and all animals, but I have such a soft spot for mutts.

AF: How would you say your personality correlates to this species?

SP: I think dogs are very goofy, loyal, and compassionate. I hope I am also! Growing up, I sort of felt like the mutt amongst the bichons. My town wanted to breed people to all go to the same colleges, have the same jobs and interests, so I found myself trying to always do the opposite.

AF: What is your spirit animal?

SP: Bloodhound.

AF: What do you think your bandmates’ spirit animals are?

SP: I think Nicole’s spirit animal is Tails and Kate’s is Sonic (from the video game).

AF: Where did you grow up and did that have any bearing on the types of pets you were able to tend to?

SP: I grew up on Long Island, and we always adopted cats and dogs. Since it was the suburbs, we were able to have a cat that could go outside and come back. I used to jump with my dog Bud on the trampoline in my backyard. My cat Rockey would eat mac and cheese with me.

AF: Who was your first pet? What type of animal was it and how did you come to care for it?

SP: My first pet was a dog named Apache. He’s the childhood mascot for my friends. He was a bloodhound mutt mix. I used to always walk him, and play with him. I took him everywhere. He was the sweetest animal. He used to open the fridge when no one was home, and take all the food out. We would find cold cuts all over the living room floor! He was famous for drooling on everyone.

AF: How many pets have you had over the course of your life?

SP: I’ve had four dogs and two cats, who were all adopted.

AF: Is there any “dream pet”—real or fictional—that you always wish you had?

SP: I always wanted to have Yoshi as a pet. I feel like we would go on a bunch of adventures together. I also would love to have a magical pug named Townes.

AF: What are your current pets named, how old are they, and what type of animal are they?

SP: I have two dogs named Raine and Rocket. Raine is 10 and Rocket is 4. Raine is a dalmatian/pit bull mix. Rocket is part brussels griffon/mystery.

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Rocket is a little snuggle bear!

AF: Do you have a favorite animal-themed song?

SP: The Wishbone theme song, and not just because I had the coolest Wishbone lunch box growing up!

AF: When did you start drumming?

SP: I started taking lessons in third grade. I went to an event where you sign up for activities, and my mom suggested drumming. When I couldn’t afford a drum set, I would pretend a chair was a drum set and learn Blink-182 songs. I would just play the beats by hitting the chair. I finally saved up babysitting money when I was 13 and got a used drum set!

AF: Was there anything in particular that you can point to as an “a-ha!” moment in your life that launched your career?

SP: I think playing shows and having anyone there is an amazing feeling. I was playing in bands for 10 years, and all you want as a band is for someone to be at your shows. We recently played a show with Cherry Glazerr, and there were a bunch of people moshing and going crazy. I was once that kid at shows in the mosh pit, watching bands, and going “ I want to do this one day.” I don’t think of the launch, but the next positive thing for THICK, and anyone and their mom or dog who will listen to our music.


AF: How did you come to meet Nicole and Kate? Tell me a little bit about the history of THICK.

SP: I was randomly on craigslist, and saw a post that said “two girls, one drummer.” It said they were around my age and into Blink-182. This was everything I’d dreamed of! Making a pop-punk all girl band. Nicole and I would see Kate in the air at every show (she was always crowd-surfing or moshing). When our old bassist left, Kate joined, and the rest is history!

AF: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment to be as a musician thus far?

SP: Having a band that works as a team. I feel so happy to be able to play music with genuine people who I can call my best friends. I’m so proud of Nicole and Kate for all the hard work and rock n’ roll that they keep doing. I’ve been in bands since I was 17, and my college band must have had 100 different members. I really never gave up on myself or music, and I hope we can influence anyone to do the same… that’s the real accomplishment!!

AF: Any big plans for THICK this year?

SP: One of our goals as a band was to play with Diarrhea Planet, which is happening on New Year’s Eve. It’s very surreal. I think Nicole said she would retire if we ever got to play with them. We were also featured in the New York Times this year, I’m still pinching myself to wake up…

AF: Are you anticipating seeing any animal pals over the holidays?

SP: I’m going to be visiting my parents in Florida, and seeing my dogs. I’m going to be spending my birthday and Thanksgiving watching TV with my dogs, and feeding them pretzels (don’t tell anyone). They like to binge watch Lock Up with me on Netflix.


AF: Have any animals or pets ever influenced your songwriting?

SP: Having pets taught me everything about connections. We can’t speak the same language as our pets, but we feel the same love, loyalty, compassion, and connections. I feel the same way toward music.

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Have a snoot boop courtesy of Raine, Shari’s dalmatian/pit mix!


“Teenage, teenage/I want a car, I want a girl.”

It’s 10am, and the 1979 hit “Teenage” by L.A. punks The Weirdos rotates maliciously in my head. I meant to wake up hours ago, but the weighty fuzz of last night’s beer kept me tucked in.

“Teenage, teenage/Don’t wanna work, don’t wanna go to school.”

I don’t believe it. I’m being mocked by my subconscious – and I haven’t even had coffee yet.

My dream state has produced an apt song to score the morning. It must have known that I’ve been feeling “Teenage, teenage…”

I’ve been thinking a lot about the teen image in pop music lately – and wondering if it is to blame for my arrested development. It’s not the most reliable theory, but hey, it’s possible.

The teenager is a relatively new concept to Western history, and yet the moment it was introduced like a sparkly new car model near the close of World War II, the identity found a home in popular culture. Born in 1944, Seventeen magazine was the first periodical to specifically target this new demographic. Naturally, the film, fashion, and music industries weren’t far behind in glossing their products for teen appeal. Teen-themed songs shined especially bright.

Early instances of the teen hit included “Seventeen” by Boyd Bennett and His Rocket (1955), Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” (1958), and “A Teenager In Love” by Dion and the Belmonts (1959). Of course the trope has persisted into contemporary music, although teenagers themselves often sing the songs, which is far more comforting. When The Undertones released “Teenage Kicks” in 1978, the band members had hardly touched their twenties. When Chuck Berry sang “Sweet Little Sixteen,” however, he was 32 – not so sweet, Chuck!

More recently, Cherry Glazerr’s “Teenage Girl” was written by 19-year-old Clementine Creevy, and Lorde’s “White Teeth Teens” from 2013’s Pure Heroine was recorded when Lorde was still a teen herself. These tracks are just a couple of current reminders that the motif isn’t going away any time soon. And why would it? It seems now more than ever the teen and tween sectors hold an influential hand over the pop culture marketplace. Goliath hit makers such as Katy Perry (“Teenage Dream”), Drake (“Teenage Fever”), and Khalid (“American Teen”) know this too, though their own ages render the subject matter a bit tired and sad, if not creepy. I guess “Early 30s Dream” and “Millennial Fever” don’t roll off the tongue too well.

But who am I to judge? I’m 27 and still wearing band shirts. In fact, I pretty much wear the same outfits I wore in high school, just pared down to feature fewer spiky things. Maybe I do this because I hate shopping, or because I’m clinging to the fact that the clothes still fit (thank you Lycra!), or maybe – and this is a far more embarrassing possibility – I still feel like a fifteen year old. In many ways I am perpetuating a similar state of arrested development as pop culture en masse…and I’m not even getting paid for it.

At 27 – an age already loaded with music mythology and tragedy – you can do one of three things. 1) Die horribly of a drug overdose or in a plane crash. 2) Cling to the idea of your bountiful 20s and become a (Wo)Man child. Or 3) Become an “Adult” with a capital “A.” Follow in the footsteps of my old co-worker, who despite being two years my junior, makes monthly Excel spreadsheets with his girlfriend to track and budget their combined spending. This is the same person who, when I got excited about the free poster stowed within a record I was opening, earnestly asked,

“Who puts posters on their walls anymore?”

ME.  That’s who.

Looking around my bedroom, I wouldn’t say it screams “27-year-old-educated-woman!” but rather, “15-year-old-pop-culture-junkie!” “Hey!” my room shouts. “Do you wanna listen to a record?! Look at my cool stuff!”

Some people my age want to buy houses, or couches, or couches for their houses. The well-adjusted long for crockpots and a nice dining room table. Looking around my bedroom I realize I haven’t paid for a single item of furniture in it. Desk: found on the street. Dresser: left by a former roommate. Bookshelf: free pile in the hall. The things I do spend money on – records, books, movies, writing and drawing supplies, food, booze – haven’t changed a hair since high school. My monetary ambition seems stunted, and my income is in a gradual decline. When people speak about being “an adult” I spin around. “Adult? Where? Do you see one?” I ask, only half-kidding.

Because a teenager’s finest skill is not taking responsibility for his or her actions, I blame this all on pop music. How am I supposed to adult when listening to Tom Waits sing “I Don’t Wanna Grow up,” or “Teen Lovers” by The Virgins? It’s not that I want to hang out with teenagers – that would be weird – I just don’t want to be shamed for my teenage taste, and my teenage disinterest in “feeling like an adult.” Because just like the teenager, the adult is a construct, too.

A Female-Fronted Future: Thoughts on SXSW 2017

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Snail Mail at SXSW 2017. Photo by Lindsey Rhoades

I didn’t even have to break out my “The Future is Female” t-shirt to sound the alarm; at South by Southwest last week, the message was loud and clear. In a whirlwind five days, I saw dozens of acts – mostly emerging or signed to small labels – and only three of those bands did not have women on stage. I didn’t even have to try to make this happen. I made, as I always do, a must-see list, hoping to catch some new-to-me projects at showcases along the way, and in both cases, the most compelling artists at this year’s SXSW were women.

Now, it’s 2017 and women playing music shouldn’t inspire an epiphany. It’s a wonder then, that at this year’s Coachella, only 25 percent of the performers are women or prominently feature a female player. After facing criticism for gender-biased exclusion in years past, GoldenVoice (the company that books Coachella and its NYC sister fest, Panorama) killed two diversity birds with one stone by booking Beyoncé, the fest’s first black female headliner (and its first female headliner in ten years – Björk was last to hold that honor, in 2007). When Bey dropped off the bill shortly after announcing her pregnancy with twins, Lady Gaga was named as a replacement. This year’s Governors Ball doesn’t fare much better, with all-male groups, male DJs, and male rappers outnumbering women performers and groups that have, say, one woman in a band of five (like the Strumbellas or The Head and the Heart) by a shocking margin of ten to one. Lorde is closest to a headlining spot (followed by Beach House and Phantogram, both male-female duos) but she only gets second billing Friday night. Most of the women are relegated to earlier daytime slots, which begs the question – why can’t more of these slots be filled with ladies?

SXSW is pretty different than either of the above-mentioned fests. It’s really just a series of shows held in venues all over Austin, and SXSW-goers can certainly pick and choose what they want to see from a much wider array of artists. But music industry honchos – reps from labels, booking and PR agencies, and, of course, journalists – make up the bulk of the crowds. This year’s buzzy performances could populate the stages of tomorrow’s blockbuster festivals, even if they don’t yet have a big enough draw. That’s what’s exciting about the chaos. It provides a peek at who’s flying under the radar but poised to reach greater heights.

And this year, women ruled. Likely the biggest name of the bunch, the line to see Solange’s headlining slot at the dazzling YouTube house showcase wrapped around the block. Lizzo and Noname, two lady rappers with critically acclaimed albums out last year, routinely packed shows all week, and bring an energy to the stage that could easily translate to large festivals. Sylvan Esso, a male-female duo who toured festival circuits a few years ago on the strength of their 2014 debut, were on hand at SXSW to play new material to dense crowds as well. Any of these acts could’ve easily populated lineups this year.

Meanwhile, there are more than a few names that are likely to crop up when it comes time to book Coachella and Gov Ball for 2018. Hurray for the Riff Raff’s alt-country, pro-immigrant vibes won tons of hearts. Melina Duterte’s solo project, Jay Som, has evolved into an arresting full-band indie rock onslaught with the release of her excellent LP Everybody Works, which came out the week before SXSW. Her former tourmate Michelle Zauner, who founded Japanese Breakfast, played some gorgeously shoegazey sets (during the one I saw, she did an excellent cover of The Cranberries classic “Dreams”), and will get a big signal boost opening for a run of Slowdive’s upcoming North American performances. She’s not to be confused with The Japanese House, an electronic trio from England led by Amber Bain who may just be heirs to the xx throne. Similarly, Sneaks, Tei Shi, and Anna Meredith all brought unique blends of unclassifiable, off-kilter pop to SXSW’s many showcases.

There were a whole bevvy of astounding punk, grunge and garage acts, too. Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis brought her Sad13 solo project up to full-band speed with killer all-woman backup. Baltimore babies Snail Mail delivered vintage teen angst, former Swearin’ singer Allison Crutchfield and her new ensemble the Fizz, New Paltz newbies Diet Cig made a ruckus with little more than a drum kit and guitar, Cherry Glazerr veered into delirious heavy metal, and at the She Shreds showcase, Jillian Medford of Ian Sweet triumphantly announced she’d gotten her period before a raucous set – no one batted an eye. Meanwhile, Pill, Downtown Boys, and Priests, three of the most important acts currently touring, didn’t shy away from political messages and protests, either in their songs or in between them. It’s easy to imagine any one of these rockers tearing up an afternoon stage at Governors Ball, once bookers get the hint.

By contrast, of those three man-bands (which sounds as ridiculous as it should when someone refers to bands featuring women as “girl bands”) I saw, two of them bored me to tears: Floridian punks Merchandise haven’t managed to really grab my attention the way they did with thir 2012 EP Children of Desire, even though I still keep giving them a shot. And Spiral Stairs, the revived indie rock project of Pavement’s Scott Kannberg, felt like a slog rather than a celebration of their upcoming record Doris and the Daggers, their first in nine years. I would’ve rather seen a band that was actually called Doris and the Daggers, because they probably would’ve played with much more conviction. I won’t keep my fingers crossed that they’ll get a headlining slot on a big fest any time soon, but there are plenty of real, live, female-fronted bands that certainly deserve a shot, and if this year’s South by Southwest is any indication, their day could be coming soon.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

NEWS ROUNDUP: Aviv, CMJ & Cherry Glazerr


  • Aviv To Close In October

    According to a Facebook post, the Greenpoint DIY venue will be closing when its lease expires at the end of October. The owners promised they would set up shop elsewhere at some point, but before it’s gone forever, check out some of their last upcoming shows: Parlor Walls (9/15), Pharmakon (9/17), Slingshot Dakota (10/10) and this weekend’s Summer’s End Music Festival, featuring Sonnymoon, Guerrilla Toss, Pill, Honduras, Surf Rock Is Dead, and more.

  • Watch Cherry Glazerr’s New Video

    “I’d Told You I’d Be With The Guys” is a track brimming with fierce intensity, that stresses the importance using female solidarity to escape everyday sexism. Singer/guitarist Clementine Creevy lounges in all white, as an endless parade of middle-aged men in red polos and khakis infiltrate the room the band plays in.

  • What’s Up With The CMJ Festival?

    After a series of articles that speculated CMJ wouldn’t happen this year due to lack of funds (to be fair, dates/lineups haven’t been announced yet), CEO Adam Klein sent Pitchfork a statement regarding its future. It read, in part, “We are all totally committed to protecting CMJ’s unique and ‘live’ heritage while adapting to the ever changing demands of artists, fans and the music industry….. A little patience and a whole lot less wild and unsubstantiated speculation is what we need right now.” So is it happening? Kinda maybe.

  • Watch Angel Olsen On ‘Colbert’

    I know, I know, there’s been a lot of Angel Olsen coverage lately. But, she’s amazing and her My Woman is finally out, today. Right now! You can also watch her perform “Shut Up Kiss Me” on The Late Show, below.