Bnny Set to Channel the Grief Behind Debut LP Everything on Tour with Fellow Chicagoans Dehd

Photo Credit: Alexa Viscius

Jess Viscius is going to break your heart, gently and slowly. In August, Fire Talk Records released Everything – her dreamy, fuzzy, captivating debut album as Bnny. It shows off the intense musicality and vulnerability the Chicago singer-songwriter has demonstrated since her first EP Sucker in 2017. That same year, tragedy struck when Viscius unexpectedly lost her partner, fellow Chicago musician Trey Gruber, who had been struggling with substance abuse issues; writing Everything became an outlet for Viscius to process her grief around his death.

It is a delicate creature, this album. It softly writhes, baring its naked belly for you to scratch then pulls away so that you can’t get too close. It is bristling with hurt, but sweetly surrendering too. Its delicacy and articulation of grief took several years to finely sculpt while Viscius mourned Gruber and tried to make sense of the dueling powers of love and loss. That is not to say that the album is morose or melancholy. Rather, it exists somewhere between dusk and dawn, hovering blurrily between the enormity of a new day and the possibility that the light will remain and memories won’t scar the senses.

The all-encompassing nature of “everything” offers so much potential for interpretation, but Viscius knows exactly what it means to her.

“I remember I was listening to the final track on our album titled ‘Voice Memo’ that I wrote with Trey. It’s the only recording I have of us singing together and I remember thinking… ‘Is this really everything?’ And that word kept coming back… is this everything I have?” she explains. “Everything feels like all my memories in one place. The word itself is at once all-encompassing and, in some ways, finite, which resonated with me, my own experience with grief and making this album.”

According to his friend and journalist Charlie Johnson in this Chicago Tribune editorial, Gruber was only one week out of a detox facility when he fatally overdosed on heroin spiked with fentanyl in 2017. The frontman of Parent was just 26. Viscius and Gruber’s mother, Desiree, released  a collection of Gruber’s work, Herculean House of Cards, in 2019. The songs are lo-fi, charming, funny and quirky while also revealing a musician who really loved the art of songwriting (“Do You Feel Fine” epitomizes the strangely melodic garage-folk feel of the album).

Without wanting to point out the obvious, Gruber was a different musician to Viscius, and Bnny. Everything is poignant in its multi-tonal, ever-changing hues – in some places, sky blue and soft, and elsewhere deepening into a star-speckled indigo night. It is not a commiseration, but a chronicle of love and a paean to life.

It is not a solo affair, either; Viscius is joined by her twin sister Alexa on bass. “She picked up bass when I started the band so she could play with us. She’s an amazing photographer and designer as well,” Viscius says. Tim Makowski plays lead guitar. “I really don’t remember how he joined the band… I just remember him just being there one day in the beginning and he’s been here ever since. He’s one of the funniest people I know,” she continues. “Matt Pelkey is our drummer, he joined about two years ago. He’s also an amazing writer. Adam Schubert is the newest member. He plays guitar and keys. He’s an incredible multi-instrumentalist and has his own solo project called Ulna.”

Viscius can trace her inspirational spark back to hearing an ABBA CD that her friend’s older sister was blasting at home and being moved to ecstatically dance, all her senses ignited and attuned to this novel sound. In terms of her career in music though, her humble beginnings came a decade later.

“In my early twenties I started casually teaching myself guitar and then became more immersed in the Chicago music scene,” she recalls. “That’s when I became interested in writing my own music, at first, as some kind of challenge to myself, like, can I play guitar? Can I write a song?”

There’s no doubt she can write a song; Everything proves it from beginning to end. It was not a painless process, and that is evident in the lyrics and the sound, but it is beautiful, and there are silver linings tracing all the ragged edges. There’s never a sense of being lost in someone else’s grief. Viscius may send you out to sea in a little rowboat, but she is always there ready to draw you towards the shore when the waves begin to rage.

On “Not Even You,” Viscius fools herself into believing her beloved is present despite the reality of their absence. She catches sight of her partner, mistakes memories for reality, allows desire to trump truth. When she swallows her heart, repeating “what we dreamed…” anyone who has lost someone they loved (all of us?) will understand. “Blind” is gently catchy, a slow-but-determined wander through busy streets lost in one’s own reflections and revelations, the elastic, deep bass strum keeping time with boots on the pavement.

“The first half of the record… was easy and fun. I was just starting to play music, learning how to be in a band, everything was new and exciting. The second half was written during a period of time when I felt like I was in hell; everything was difficult,” she says. “You can’t change the past, you can only learn from it.”

That sentiment is at the core of “August,” a gorgeously sepia-toned ride through sun-drenched folk, supported by woozy rhythmic guitar. “I’ll change, I’ll change, I’ll change,” Viscius chants with increased determination. There’s a lovely nostalgic quality to Viscius’ dreamy voice – not unlike Mazzy Star or Lana Del Rey in its romantic, hyper-feminine quality. “In ‘August’ I’m promising myself that I’ll change,” she explains. “It’s a promise I’m still working towards.”

Bnny heads out on tour in October with beloved “trashpop” Chicago rockers Dehd – performing the songs on Everything as though opening a time capsule, allowing her to simultaneously remember, and let go.

“I think of [this album] as preserving this period in my life that I can always access,” Viscius says. “The songs live on, and with them, so does Trey.”

Follow Bnny on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Fri. 10/1 – Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club
Sat. 10/2 – Oberlin, OH @ Oberlin College
Sun. 10/3 – Detroit, MI @ El Club
Mon. 10/5 – Columbus, OH @ Ace of Cups
Thu. 10/7 – Brooklyn, NY @ Market Hotel – SOLD OUT
Fri. 10/8 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
Sat. 10/9 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Made
Tue. 10/12 – Boston, MA @ Northeastern University

AF 2020 IN REVIEW: Our Favorite Albums & Singles of The Year

In a year that’s been like no other for the music industry, it feels a bit weird to make a best of 2020 list – there have been no tours, venues and clubs across the globe are in danger of closing their doors for good, release schedules were shuffled beyond recognition, and musicians have had to find other ways to make ends meet while those in the U.S. await the next round of paltry stimulus checks. With a situation so dire, the metrics have changed – should we ascribe arbitrary value to the skill of producers, songwriters, performers, and the execution of their finished projects, or simply celebrate records that made us feel like the whole world wasn’t crumbling?

Definitively ranking releases has never been the Audiofemme model for looking back on the year in music. Instead, our writers each share a short list of what moved them most, in the hopes that our readers will find something that moves them, too. Whether you spent the lockdown voraciously listening to more new music this year than ever before, or fell back on comforting favorites, or didn’t have the headspace to absorb the wealth of music inspired by the pandemic, the variety here emphasizes how truly essential music can be to our well-being. If you’re in the position to do so, support your favorite artists and venues by buying merch, and check out the National Independent Venue Association to stay updated on what’s happening with the Save Our Stages act. Here’s to a brighter 2021.


  • Marianne White (Executive Director)
    • Top 10 Albums:
      1) Mary Lattimore – Silver Ladders
      2) the Microphones – Microphones in 2020
      3) Soccer Mommy – Color Theory
      4) Megan Thee Stallion – Good News
      5) Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
      6) Amaarae – The Angel You Don’t Know
      7) Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
      8) Adrianne Lenker – songs/instrumentals
      9) Perfume Genius – Set My Heart On Fire Immediately
      10) Lomelda – Hannah
    • Top 5 Singles:
      1) Kinlaw – “Permissions”
      2) Billie Eilish – “Therefore I Am”
      3) Little Dragon & Moses Sumney – “The Other Lover”
      4) Yves Tumor – “Kerosene!”
      5) Megan Thee Stallion – “Shots Fired”

  • Lindsey Rhoades (Editor-in-Chief)
    • Top 10 Albums:
      1) Land of Talk – Indistinct Conversations
      2) Dehd – Flower of Devotion
      3) SAULT – Untitled (Black Is)/Untitled (Rise)
      4) Public Practice – Gentle Grip
      5) Cindy Lee – What’s Tonight to Eternity
      6) Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
      7) Benny Yurco – You Are My Dreams
      8) Eve Owen – Don’t Let the Ink Dry
      9) Porridge Radio – Every Bad
      10) Jess Cornelius – Distance
    • Top 10 Singles:
      1) Little Hag – “Tetris”
      2) Elizabeth Moen – “Creature of Habit”
      3) Yo La Tengo – “Bleeding”
      4) Caribou – “Home”
      5) Jess Williamson – “Pictures of Flowers”
      6) Adrianne Lenker – “anything”
      7) Nicolás Jaar – “Mud”
      8) Soccer Mommy – “Circle the Drain”
      9) New Fries – “Ploce”
      10) El Perro Del Mar – “The Bells”


  • Alexa Peters (Playing Seattle)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Deep Sea Diver – Impossible Weight
      2) Blimes and Gab – Talk About It
      3) Perfume Genius – Set My Heart On Fire Immediately
      4) Tomo Nakayama – Melonday
      5) Matt Gold – Imagined Sky
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Stevie Wonder – “Can’t Put it in the Hands of Fate”
      2) Tomo Nakayama – “Get To Know You”
      3) Ariana Grande – “Positions”

  • Amanda Silberling (Playing Philly)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Frances Quinlan – Likewise
      2) Bartees Strange – Live Forever
      3) Told Slant – Point the Flashlight and Walk
      4) Diet Cig – Do You Wonder About Me?
      5) Shamir – Shamir
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Kississippi – “Around Your Room”
      2) Sad13 – “Hysterical”
      3) The Garages – “Mike Townsend (Is a Disappointment)”

  • Ashley Prillaman (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Perfume Genius – Set My Heart On Fire Immediately
      2) Lasse Passage – Sunwards
      3) Megan Thee Stallion – Good News
      4) Grimes – Miss Anthropocene
      5) Yves Tumor – Heaven To A Tortured Mind
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Megan Thee Stallion – “B.I.T.C.H.”
      2) Perfume Genius – “On the Floor”
      3) SG Lewis & Robyn – “Impact” (feat. Robyn & Channel Tres)

  • Cat Woods (Playing Melbourne)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Jarvis Cocker – Beyond the Pale
      2) Róisín Murphy – Róisín Machine
      3) Run the Jewels – RTJ4
      4) Emma Donovan & The Putbacks – Crossover
      5) Various Artists – Deadly Hearts: Walking Together
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Emma Donovan & The Putbacks – “Mob March”
      2) Laura Veirs – “Freedom Feeling”
      3) Miley Cyrus – “Never Be Me”

  • Chaka V. Grier (Playing Toronto)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Lianne La Havas – Lianne La Havas
      2) Joya Mooi – Blossom Carefully
      3) Lady Gaga – Chromatica
      4) Witch Prophet – DNA Activation
      5) Tremendum – Winter
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Lianne La Havas – “Green Papaya”
      2) Lady Gaga – “Free Woman”
      3) Allie X – “Susie Save Your Love”

  • Cillea Houghton (Playing Nashville)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Chris Stapleton  – Starting Over
      2) Brett Eldredge – Sunday Drive
      3) Little Big Town – Nightfall
      4) Ingrid Andress – Lady Like
      5) Ruston Kelly – Shape & Destroy
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) The Weeknd – “Blinding Lights”
      2) Billie Eilish – “Therefore I Am”
      3) Remi Wolf  – “Hello Hello Hello”

  • Eleanor Forrest (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Grimes – Miss Anthropocene
      2) Rina Sawayama – SAWAYAMA
      3) Allie X – Cape Cod
      4) LEXXE – Meet Me in the Shadows
      5) Gustavo Santaolalla, Mac Quayle – The Last of Us Part II (Original Soundtrack)
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) CL – “+5 STAR+”
      2) Yves Tumor & Kelsey Lu – “let all the poisons that lurk in the mud seep out”
      3)  Stephan Moccio – “Freddie’s Theme”

  • Gillian G. Gaar (Musique Boutique)
    • Top 10 Albums:
      1) Dust Bowl Faeries – Plague Garden
      2) Ganser – Just Look At That Sky
      3) Oceanator – Things I Never Said
      4) Loma – Don’t Shy Away
      5) Maggie Herron – Your Refrain
      6) Pretenders – Hate for Sale
      7) The Bird and the Bee – Put up the Lights
      8) Partner – Never Give Up
      9) Bully – Sugaregg
      10) Olivia Awbrey – Dishonorable Harvest

  • Jason Scott (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Mickey Guyton – Bridges EP
      2) Katie Pruitt – Expectations
      3) Mandy Moore – Silver Landings
      4) Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
      5) Cf Watkins – Babygirl
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Mickey Guyton – “Black Like Me”
      2) Ashley McBryde – “Stone”
      3) Lori McKenna feat. Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose – “When You’re My Age”

  • Jamila Aboushaca (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
      2) Khruangbin – Mordechai
      3) Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon III: The Chosen
      4) Tycho – Simulcast
      5) Run the Jewels – RTJ4
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Tame Impala – “Lost In Yesterday”
      2) Phoebe Bridgers – “Kyoto”
      3) Halsey – “You should be sad”

  • Liz Ohanesian (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Róisín Murphy – Róisín Machine
      2) Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure?
      3) Phenomenal Handclap Band – PHB
      4) Khruangbin – Mordechai
      5) TootArd – Migrant Birds
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Anoraak – “Gang” 
      2) Kylie Minogue – “Magic”
      3) Horsemeat Disco feat. Phenomenal Handclap Band – “Sanctuary”  

  • Michelle Rose (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
      2) Taylor Swift – folklore
      3) Shamir – Shamir
      4) Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure?
      5) HAIM – Women in Music Pt. III
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Porches – “I Miss That” 
      2) Annabel Jones – “Spiritual Violence”
      3) Wolf – “High Waist Jeans”  

  • Sara Barron (Playing Detroit)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Summer Walker – Over It
      2) Yaeji – WHAT WE DREW
      3) Liv.e – Couldn’t Wait to Tell You
      4) Ojerime – B4 I Breakdown
      5) KeiyaA – Forever, Ya Girl
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Yves Tumor – “Kerosene!”
      2) Kali Uchis, Jhay Cortez – “la luz (fin)”
      3) fleet.dreams – “Selph Love”

  • Sophia Vaccaro (Playing the Bay)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now
      2) The Front Bottoms – In Sickness & In Flames
      3) Zheani – Zheani Sparkes EP
      4) Various Artists – Save Stereogum: A ’00s Covers Comp
      5) Halsey – Manic
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Charli XCX – “forever”
      2) Doja Cat – “Boss Bitch”
      3) Wolf – “Hoops”

  • Suzannah Weiss (Contributor)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Galantis – Church
      2) Best Coast – Always Tomorrow
      3) Overcoats – The Fight
      4) Holy Motors – Horse
      5) Suzanne Vallie – Love Lives Where Rules Die
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) CAMÍNA – “Cinnamon”
      2) Naïka – “African Sun”
      3) Edoheart – “Original Sufferhead”

  • Tarra Thiessen (RSVP Here, Check the Spreadsheet)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Brigid Dawson & The Mothers Network – Ballet of Apes
      2) Ganser – Just Look At That Sky
      3) Death Valley Girls – Under The Spell of Joy
      4) The Koreatown Oddity – Little Dominiques Nosebleed
      5) Ghost Funk Orchestra – An Ode To Escapism
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Miss Eaves – “Belly Bounce”
      2) Purple Witch of Culver – “Trig”
      3) Shilpa Ray – “Heteronormative Horseshit Blues”

  • Victoria Moorwood (Playing Cincy)
    • Top 5 Albums:
      1) Lil Baby – My Turn
      2) A$AP Ferg – Floor Seats II
      3) Polo G – The Goat
      4) The Weeknd – After Hours
      5) Teyana Taylor – The Album
    • Top 3 Singles:
      1) Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion – “WAP”
      2) Roddy Ricch  – “The Box”
      3) Big Sean & Nipsey Hussle – “Deep Reverence”

RSVP HERE: Death Valley Girls Stream via Levitation Sessions + MORE

Photo Credit: David Fearn

Looking to unblock your pineal gland with some otherworldly guidance this fall? You’re in luck! Los Angeles proto-punk psych-rock band Death Valley Girls will open your third eye with their new space gospel soaked record Under the Spell of Joy due out October 2nd. Dipping their feet into the Akashic records isn’t new territory for the band, who are brave enough to write their lyrics the morning before they record with the help of spirits from other layers of our universe. Their latest record was inspired from the text of t-shirt that guitarist/vocalist Bonnie Bloomgarden wore every day for five years – its words ‘Under the Spell of Joy’ became a motto and inspiration for Bloomgarden to manifest her desires. With Larry Schemel on guitar, she wrote the record with the intention to bring people together with its hypnotic choirs and chorus’ to chant along to. The next chance to raise your vibration with Death Valley Girls live is the Levitation Sessions livestream via Seated on Saturday, September 5th! We chatted with Bloomgarden about her favorite alien race, connecting to alternate dimensions and the pandemic’s effect on her views of life, death and societal growth.

AF: What experiences, records, and other media forms inspired your upcoming release Under the Spell of Joy?

BB: The main sources of inspiration were studying the dream state, Terrence McKenna, trying to access the akashic records, the Duncan Trussell Family Hour podcast, his guest Mitch Horowitz, and learning about Neville Goddard.

AF: After writing a record that channels something from “somewhere in the future,” has your perspective on what the future holds changed?

BB: The more I think about it, I think what we channeled was not necessarily in the future or the past or even time as we understand it at all! I think we just connected to an energy, alternate dimension, or some type of higher being and that gave us access to these songs.

AF: Do you feel like the pandemic as a whole will lead to a greater spiritual evolution/awakening for society?

BB: We believe so, because we have to. It is horrible and terrible that anyone has to suffer or that our society seems like it has to completely implode for justice to prevail. However, the only way we can look at this all is as an opportunity for growth. When we grow we become strong and compassionate; this is just part of that journey.

AF: What have you learned in the past few months about yourself as a musician and how you operate as a band?

BB: Mostly the last few months I’ve realized I was only a musician the last few years, not really a human. We were on the road like five tours a year for I think three years. I built no life for myself at all! I basically gave everything I had energetically for a month on tour, then cocooned silently in my room until we had another tour, nothing in between. Now that we don’t have tour I’m learning how to not cocoon (while also quarantining, so that’s pretty far out!). I got my first plant! And got a printer so I can make art. Trying to get excited about stuff like that.

AF: Now that the fall is creeping up on us, do you have any accounts of paranormal activities you’d like to share? Are you partial to any specific alien race?

BB: Haha! I’m not actually a contactee! I’m involved with contactee and abductee support groups, but I’m not one myself. I definitely love the Pleiadians and their message. I would love to hear from them someday!

AF: I read in a past interview that you were kind of excited for end times because you really want to have a compound to be with your friends. Have you created or thought out your apocalypse compound or have any other doomsday plans?

BB: Yeah, I’ve been thinking about it non-stop! I lived on a compound-esque farm in upstate New York so I kind of have an idea of what I would want. And if I were alone in the world I would definitely make it happen. But I live with my little nephews now, and being with them and them being safe is the most important thing. Freedom and compound will come when the world is safe for them!

AF: Have these past months in lockdown changed your views on life, death, the afterlife, and spiritual transcendence?

BB: That’s a good question! When I thought about the black plague or other major world altering events I never really thought of the individual people and their experiences. I think this time has given me a new perspective in the sense that we are like caretakers for the earth. We come and go and teach and learn, and in the end hopefully we leave the earth better than we found it.

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

BB: Learn, grow, create, write, sing, fight, love, and on and on…

RSVP HERE for Death Valley Girls via Levitation Sessions on 9/5, 8pm ET. $3.98-100

More great livestreams this week…

9/4 Patti Smith via Murmrr Theatre. RSVP HERE

9/4 Long Neck, Cheekface, Shay, Diners and Pinkshit via Twitch. 7pm ET, RSVP HERE

9/5 Death to Museums: Organizing + Mutual Aid via YouTube. 12 ET, RSVP HERE 

9/5 I’m Talking to White People: Your Role in the Fight For Justice by Kenny A. Burrell. 11am ET, $50, RSVP HERE

9/7 The New Colossus Fest: Blushing, Ceremony East Coast, Elijah Wolf, Jelly Kelly, Michael Rault, Pearl Charles  via YouTube. 5pm ET, RSVP HERE 

9/9 + 9/10 Margo Price via FANS – Live from Brooklyn Bowl Nashville. 8pm ET, RSVP HERE

9/9 Devendra Banhart via Noonchorus. 9pm ET, $15, RSVP HERE

9/10 LA Witch (album release party) via DICE. 10pm ET, $11.30, RSVP HERE

9/10 DEHD via KEXP at home. 4pm ET, RSVP HERE

RSVP HERE: Oceanator Record Release Stream via + MORE

Oceanator is the Brooklyn-based solo project of Elise Okusami, who writes honest grunge-pop tunes that range from solo acoustic folk to synth pop. Okusami’s current live band includes Andrew Whitehurst and Anthony Richards, but her newest record Things I Never Said (released today!), also features performances by Eva Lawitts on bass and Mike Okusami and Aaron Silberstein on drums. Lead singles “A Crack in the World,” “Heartbeat” and “I Would Find You” have earworm qualities that belie their sonic heft. Though grunge is often associated with angsty feelings, Things I Never Said is actually comforting, with snippets of positive lyrical affirmations like “I’ll keep trying to keep the skies blue anyway.” The record was recorded at Wonderpark Studios by Eva Lawitt and Chris Kasnow and by Okusami’s brother in his studio in Maryland, and was released by Okusami’s new label Plastic Miracles. You can celebrate Oceanator’s record release tonight 8/28 on BABY.TV at 8pm EST! We chatted with Elisa Okusami about her Dead Kennedys cover, creating her own label, and her recommendations for must-download material for next Bandcamp Friday (September 4th).

AF: The first time I saw Oceanator was at Shea Stadium in fall of 2016 and you were completely solo. How has the project and your songwriting style evolved over the years?

EO: I miss Shea! I was playing a lot of solo stuff in the beginning because I wanted to get out there and play those songs, and I didn’t have any people to play them with yet. I still love playing solo for sure, but it’s very exciting to be able to play these songs big and huge with a full band. Andrew Whitehurst and Anthony Richards have been my touring bandmates for the past year and they’re amazing. I was also playing shows with Eva Lawitts, Aaron Silberstein, Zoe Brecher and a few other folks, and knowing that I had people I could ask to play shows I think made me feel freer to write songs for a full band and write less acoustic stuff, maybe? Not sure, I guess. I’ve always written both and I’m excited to get to perform both ways these days!

AF: Do you have a quarantine routine? Has lockdown affected your creativity in any way?

EO: I’ve been making cold brew coffee every few days – that’s about as much of a routine as I’ve got right now. In the beginning I was doing better with it and also doing walks and stuff. I need to get back into it. As far as creativity, I’ve been having an extra hard time writing lyrics. I’ve been writing a bunch of music, but any time I try to think about lyrics at all it’s this big grey blur.

AF: What are you most proud of about your new record and what do you want listeners to take away from it?

EO: I hope people take away a feeling of enjoyment and also a feeling of hope. I think the record goes through a lot of dark and heavy stuff, but I think overall it’s an optimistic record. That’s also why I ended it with “Sunshine,” because after all the disasters, etc, it’s like “Okay, we’re gonna be okay.” I’m pretty proud of the record as a whole, to be honest. I like the way it flows and I think these are some of the best songs I’ve ever written.

AF: How was recording your cover of the Dead Kennedys’ “Police Truck“?

EO: It was super fun! I did it at my brother’s studio and played all the instruments. I was having a super fun time just jamming on everything as we recorded. I was nervous about doing the vocals ‘cause Jello’s got that distinct voice, but I tried to just be me and I’m happy with how it turned out.

AF: What was the process like of creating your own label to release the album?

EO: Well, the label had been planned for a while, actually. I was always planning to launch it this year, and the original plan didn’t include me releasing any of my own music at all. Then I left the label I was on, so we were shopping the record around and with everything going on it was taking a while so we decided to self-release, and then I was like, well since I’m launching the label anyway might as well put it on that! It’s been a fun learning process. A lot of folks from other labels have reached out to offer to chat if I have questions, and that’s been super helpful. I’m really excited about the future of the label. We have four more releases coming in the fall and just put our first release of 2021 on the calendar.

AF: What is your favorite piece of Oceanator merch and how did you get the idea for it?

EO: I don’t know if I have a favorite right now! I’m very very stoked on the entire run of stuff I did around the record. I guess if I had to pick it would be the post cards or the temporary tattoos? The postcards were designed by Kameron White and the tattoos by Haley Butters and they’re both perfect. The post cards my friend Gretchen suggested doing. The temporary tattoos, I got the idea because I was thinking about what other fun ’90s stuff I could do since I was doing pogs. Temporary tattoos just popped into my head and I knew Haley had made flash sheets before so I asked them if they wanted to do the temp tattoo designs and they sent back this perfect thing with a tattoo for each song inspired by that song. It’s so cool.

AF: What bands/labels do you recommend to support on Bandcamp day next week?

EO: Solidarity Club, Grimalkin Records, Exploding in Sound, Quiet Year, Good Eye, Get Better, Disposable America to name a few labels. Cave People and Alright both also have records coming out this Friday so I would say pick those up. McKinley Dixon and Maneka are excellent. Artisan P has a new EP coming out on Sept 4th. I could go on and on but I’ll stop there.

AF: You’ve also drummed in various bands – are you still drumming in any projects or will you be in the future?

EO: I’m not actively right now because of the pandemic. Most of the drumming I was doing for folks was on tours, but yeah, I’ve been talking to some friends and I think if scheduling works out when touring starts again I’ll be playing some drums! I hope so. I miss the drums.

AF: What is your livestream setup like?

EO: Recently I have been doing the guitar through pedals just direct in to the mixer so I don’t bother the neighbors as much. At the beginning of quarantine I was mic’ing my amp but now that I’m doing more streams at later times and stuff, so I’ve been doing direct in and it has actually been sounding pretty great. Then I’ve got a mic for the vocals. Those both go into this little mixer, and I connect the mixer either to my interface and then into my computer or directly into my phone depending on what platform I’m streaming on.

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

EO: Mostly just seeing how things play out with pandemic and stuff. I don’t think shows will happen anytime soon which stinks. But I’m trying to stay busy. Got a bunch of things coming out on the label, so I’ll be working on that stuff. And I have a bunch of songs that I wanna work on for the next record, and also maybe an EP.

RSVP HERE for Oceanator’s Things I Never Said Release Party via BABY.TV, $5-50 8-9PM EST

More great livestreams this week…

8/28 Yaeji via Boiler Room Instagram. 7pm EST RSVP HERE

8/28 Angel Olsen via Noonchorus – Cosmic Stream 3. $15 adv/$17 dos, 9pm EST RSVP HERE

8/29 Ben Gibbard, Arlo Guthrie, Glenn Mercer (of The Feelies), and more via Coney Island Mermaid Parade Tail-a-thon. 8pm EST RSVP HERE

8/29 The O’My’s, Dehd, Frank Waln, Bomba con Buya, Andrew Sa via Square Roots Festival. 7pm EST RSVP HERE

8/29 Charlie Parker’s 100th Birthday Celebration: Sam Turvey, Jason Moran, Jaleel Shaw via SummerStage Everywhere. 10pm EST RSVP HERE

8/31 Goat Girl via Working Class Movement Library Facebook. 2pm EST RSVP HERE

9/2 The Plastic Show (Fantastic Plastics Talk Show) via Twitch. 9pm EST RSVP HERE

9/2 Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Baby via Red Rocks Unpaused. 10pm EST RSVP HERE

9/4 Policing on the Agenda: Understanding ‘defund the police’ and calling for police accountability in Black communities via Black Future Labs. 5pm EST RSVP HERE

PLAYING CHICAGO: Support these Musicians on Bandcamp this Friday

DEHD is one of the many Chicago-based artists you should consider supporting via Bandcamp this Friday. Photo Credit: Alexa Viscius

In case you’d forgotten, here’s your reminder: that pandemic? Still happening. Which means Bandcamp Fridays are also still happening, and one’s coming up at the end of the week. I know, I know, there are so many places to put your money at the moment, right? Consider this:

Chicago has been slower to reopen than many cities, but every day I’m seeing people walk around maskless like they have no accountability to Black, Brown, and low-income people — you know, folks who’ve been disproportionately impacted by the virus. The less masks I see, the further live music feels, too. Our mayor has permitted select venues to reopen with strict guidelines like no vocals or wind instruments. But many musicians and would-be patrons see this as a rush. Why are we being encouraged to risk our physical health for the financial health of beloved entertainment spots and the people who play them? Why is it one or the other?

In small ways, our city is lucky. Having modest local support of the arts means the city and state have provided some relief grants to musicians. And thanks to legislation shoehorned by Senator Bernie Sanders, self-employed and contract workers throughout the country have received unemployment relief, which has also covered some musicians. Unfortunately, many occupy an employment grey area that can be difficult to parse for grant or unemployment applications – and the end date for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance looms at the end of July.

As Wax Idols founder Hether Fortune explained during a phone call last month: “I’ve never made a consistent living off of my music. Writing, day jobs, shows, selling stuff online, Bandcamp — those things combined are how I’ve made a living. Now that the pandemic hit, some of that stuff is more difficult. It’s not like you can get a quick server job for a few months or whatever. I can’t do readings or solo performances. Another one of my side hustles has always been thrifting and reselling clothes, and I can’t do that.” For Fortune, who’s been weathering COVID-19 from Chicago, Bandcamp Days have been the difference between making rent and not.

Right now in America, we’re in this weird state where consumption feels like a moral imperative. Every GoFundMe is a reminder it’s on us as individuals to financially mitigate situations that are clearly expressions of larger systemic failures. This, at a time when many of us don’t have as much money in our pockets. And yet Bandcamp Fridays remind me of a popular sentiment often credited to Emma Goldman: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want your revolution!”

She didn’t actually say those exact words – it’s a popular paraphrase of something she wrote in Living My Life when a man chided her for dancing. He basically said respectable organizers should not be seen having fun. But Goldman emphasized: There is no freedom without freedom of joy and expression. These are both equally necessary for change.

With so much happening in the world, some of us really need to dance out our demons — or at least, find a temporary escape. So if you can, why not do it on the day that helps musicians the most? Here are some Chicago sounds to consider dropping money on.


NNAMDÏ announced via Twitter that he’d drop another album on Friday, but it’s worth scooping this quarantine release (especially as a luscious gatefold LP). BRAT is an introspective blend of jazz, hip hop, and math rock that resists easy comparisons. Across twelve tracks, NNAMDÏ wrestles demons, struggling to distinguish the personal ones from those shared. Complicated, playful, insistent — everything that makes the best brats exciting.


Carlos Niño and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson – Chicago Waves
In the winter, Los Angeles natives Carlos Niño and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson performed an improvised set of spiritual jazz at the South Shore Cultural Center in Chicago, which was released by Chicago label International Anthem. If staring into Lake Michigan in sub-zero temps was an album, it would be Chicago Waves. When the air is hot, we’re free to romanticize winter: recalling somersaulting snowflakes, breath tracing patterns in the air, and undulating ice as lake temperatures rise.


Pixel Grip – Heavy Handed
I’ve heard Pixel Grip referred to as “goth disco,” and whoever said it is not wrong. The trio draws on Chicago house and Hi-NRG beats — both of which owe to disco — then puts them in a dark package. Imagine a much queerer, less sexed-up Goldfrapp. That’s Pixel Grip.


KeiyaA – Forever, Ya Girl
Technically, KeiyaA has relocated to New York, but her sound is homegrown Chicago, a city where women with synths are thriving and she was raised on Afrofuturism. KeiyaA uses a microKORG synthesizer to layer sounds and samples, building complex interior worlds where she runs with desire, explores her loneliness, and affirms her worth. Whether it’s craving needlessly specific things like pineapple-pear juice (“I Want My Things”), using weed to lighten her mental load (“FWU”), or honoring the double-edged sword of her own strength (“Keep It Real”), she brings depth and originality to familiar themes. It’s an extremely compelling debut.


DEHD – Flower of Devotion
Flower of Devotion is only available for pre-order; the full album DEHD’s third studio release —doesn’t drop until July 17. But its two teaser tracks beg an investment now. DEHD is a trio that sounds like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes meets Cocteau Twins. Their song “Loner” is for dancing in your underwear when you’re sad but still energized. Emily Kempf sounds triumphant as she wails, “Yeah, you’re running-running-running from your cuts.” Right now, many of us are still limiting contact with the outside world, and certain ideas feel wildly popular and yet not popular enough. In that sense, it’s never felt more necessary to celebrate loner status.