Drone Rockers somesurprises to Debut New Songs at Ronette’s Psychedelic Sock Hop

An immigration lawyer by day and mastermind behind Seattle ambient rock collective somesurprises by night, Natasha El-Sergany – born in Ireland, raised partly in the UK, and has lived throughout the U.S. – is not your average Seattle rocker.

The music of somesurprises is a unique combination of sounds from her various homes: the German rock and Brit-pop soundtracking her childhood in England; bands she loved while in high school in Florida, like Radiohead and Elliott Smith; the narrative songwriting and twang native to the American South where she lived in in her twenties; the DIY ethos she’s devoured while living in Seattle for the last 12 years.

All of El-Sergany’s moving around—and the connection between the bandmembers—impacts the distinctive, drone-heavy amalgamated sound of somesurprises. They’re first on the bill at Ronette’s Psychedlic Sock Hop this Saturday, November 5th, followed by Purest Feeling from New York City, American Culture from Denver, and Tomten.

Somesurprises, which includes El-Sergany on vocals, guitar, and organ, Josh Medina on guitar and synth, Nico Sophiea on drums, and Laura Seniow on bass, began as a solo project of El-Sergany, who is self-taught on her instruments and wrote her first song at the age of 14.

“I [started] on the keyboard and and then I started playing guitar because I visited my cousin… and she had a guitar,” says El-Sergany. “She taught me some chords and I learned, like, Coldplay songs. And I was always really into the experience of listening to recorded music when I was growing up. I remember having a cassette player in England – I had this like ’60s compilation that had some Beatles songs on it. Just listened to it on repeat all the time.”

For El-Sergany, songwriting and playing music has been a constant since early childhood, though she didn’t study it in college. Instead, she studied creative writing and pre-med and then shifted to law, which is what she does now.

Nine years ago, after graduating college in Florida and living briefly in the Carolinas, Virginia, and Georgia, El-Sergany fixed her eyes on Seattle — both because it had work opportunities in law and because it had a buzzing DIY music scene.

“When I came to Seattle, I… quickly formed a noise trio with a couple of musicians in the noise scene. And then decided I wanted to focus more on writing songs. I wanted to just like work by myself for a while,” says El-Sergany. “That’s when Josh [Medina] and I met and formed the ambient duo.”

They called their duo somesurprises, and put out a tape called serious dreams in 2017, which showcases music that resembles the current incarnation of somesurprises, but more stripped down. From there, El-Sergany and Medina decided to bring in a bassist and drummer to round out their sound.

“What we’ve become together as a band is a combined intensity,” says El-Sergany. “None of us is like, depending on music for income or anything; it’s all just something that we devote time to out of love and wanting to make sounds that we want to hear.”

Those sounds include intense drones, ambient keyboard flourishes, and blurry, shoegaze-inspired vocals, which lean on a raw rock ‘n’ roll backbone. “We’re all into ’70s German rock bands, like Neu! and Harmonia, English psych-noise bands like Spacemen 3, and [artists like] Mazzy Star,” adds El-Sergany.

Though she writes many of the lyrics and early melody ideas, El-Sergany says somesurprises’ overall sound is the result of the combined vision and drive of the four members, who all happen to be August-born Leos.

“That’s something we joke about a lot,” she says. “Leos are supposed to be creative showmen, and also kind of shy at the same. I think that our strength is that we’re all leaders… that makes for an interesting dynamic [with] everyone really taking ownership of their parts [but] serving the whole.”

El-Sergany adds the band uses the music to process and explore certain emotional states, too, and that the often repetitious, drone-heavy nature of somesurprises’ sound comes from El-Sergany’s belief in “staying with” a challenging emotion until it can pass through you. It also comes from her obsession with certain fragments of songs and desire to hear them repeated—just like with that cassette tape from her childhood.

“Listening to, you know, more traditional pop and rock music and things like that I would always really love like… just a fragment of a song or like, I’d really be listening to one part of a song, in particular, and just like wanting to hear that over and over again,” says El-Sergany. “I guess it’s also… about holding on to a mood for long enough that it actually is identifiable.”

The mood of their most recent release, 2019’s eponymously named LP, is deep introspection. On songs like the eerie, orchestral “Sometimes,” El-Sergany sings, “Sometimes I only feel shame/But not always, not always.” Meanwhile, the more stripped down ballad, “Empty Threat,” touches on the relatable notion of wanting what’s not good for you.

“A lot of the songs are meditations on things that you’re not really supposed to say out loud, but once you do, you can look at [the emotion] and decide if that’s your[s] or if that’s someone else’s. [Do you] need to hold on to it anymore?” explains El-Sergany.

At Ronette’s Psychedelic Sock Hop in Fremont on Saturday, they’ll play some new tracks off a yet-unreleased record they recently recorded with Paurl Walsh and are shopping around to labels.

“I was working on a lot of this stuff totally isolated, and then brought it to the band… it continues to have the same spirit as our last LP [but] we’ve paid more attention to bringing the best out of each player,” says El-Sergany, adding that she hopes the record will come out in 2023.

Follow somesurprises on Instagram for ongoing updates.

LIVE REVIEW: The Haxan Cloak @ Lincoln Hall, Chicago

Haxan Cloak

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Haxan Cloak
The Haxan Cloak (Photo by Rebecca Cleal)

Filled with a gorgeous mix of brooding bass and sulky rumbles, The Haxan Cloak show at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall last Wednesday was quite the immersive tour through producer Bobby Krlic’s bone-chilling soundscapes. An otherworldly performance, the sparse crowd was a bit of a disappointment, but somehow the empty space also added an appropriate sense of alienation to the experience. And as “isolation” is the big buzzword surrounding his most recent release, 2013’s Excavation, there was something gratifying about floating amongst the pockets of black-clad Chicagoans, swaying to the echoes of haunted drones and ominous rumbles.

Serving as an opener was local act Kwaidan, a doldrums-flecked trio who also specialize in stewy buzz and ghoul-ridden whispers. An impressive act in their own right, they provided a satisfying taste of drone-y demise in preparation for the impending spook-filled storm.

Krlic’s brand of all-encompassing doom is gorgeous in its simplicity, an incredible achievement when one considers how expansive his intricate soundscapes feel. Krlic’s dirges seem incredibly straightforward, simplistic even, as all his work can be boiled down to a similar series of rumbling bass beats accented by the occasional guzzling burble or echoey reverb effect. But it’s striking how multifaceted he can make even the most repetitive sequence of tones sound. When the bass is deep enough to rock a room, it’s typically a sign that I’m already far too drunk and at an event where sonic appreciation isn’t exactly at the top of my priority list. But this instance of vibrating ribs was obviously more breathtaking than booty-shaking.

Crafting an absorbing purgatorial soundspace, the entire show was akin to some billowing misadventure through an imagined land of foggy, pitch black gloom. It was brilliant “explore your swirling headspace” music, the kind that forces you to make that ugly face of grim concentration and contemplate what kind of impending shitstorm awaits you in the real world. Seeing Krlic live is like being bludgeoned in the head and waking up in a fantastical reality that somehow manages to be simultaneously thrilling, terrifying and thought-provoking. A mesmerizing experience for the introspective and imaginative that’s worth every single show ticket cent.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

LIVE REVIEW: Sonic Celluloid’s static & shimmer on Chicago’s North Shore

Mark McGuire



Misty seas, microscopic slides and mannequin shots dominated this year’s Sonic Celluloid showcase at Northwestern University’s Evanston campus last Friday night. Well-attended by students and community members alike, Sonic Celluloid is now celebrating its twelfth year as one of the most exciting experimental music and film events put on by WNUR 89.3 FM’s Rock Show and the Block Museum Cinema. Providing live scores for art and archival film reels, it was promised to be an event to “reconfigure your consciousness.”

To help facilitate altered states, this year’s roster of musicians included multi-instrumentalist and former Emeralds member Mark McGuire, as well as local Chicago-based drone artists, Vertonen and Kwaidan.

Vertonen is the rumbly experimental project of Chicago noise veteran Blake Edwards, who also runs local record label Crippled Intellect Production, better known as C.I.P. Playing over a Prolepsis, an experimental art film composed of pixelated night club promos, ABC news footage and panning clips of mannequin heads, his concentrative set was almost meditative in its adherence to the hovering camera shots and precisely timed transitions.

Like the film itself, Vertonen’s music was very cyclical, slowly building upon a lazy, droning buzz as the film drifted between helicopter hover shots of craggy human faces and topographic maps. Gradually layering wobbly synth, cartoon-esque glitch and choppy radio transmissions into one chaotic mélange of noise, Edwards eventually descended back into a lulling drone that served as a satisfying finish to his jagged, corrugated set.

Up next was Kwaidan, who borrow their moniker from Masaki Kobayashi’s classic 1964 horror film. Just as ghoulish as you’d expect anything named after an Oscar-nominated ghost story to be, their set followed the narrative of Jean Epstein’s Le Tempestaire, a folklore-influenced story about a surly old “Tempest Master.” Worried about her sardine-fishing beau in rough waters, a woman sets out to find this tamer of sea winds to Kwaidan’s ominous score. Most prominent was an indefinable sense of impending dread, tense and intimidating. Featuring Neil Jendon’s wandering keyboards, Andre Foisy’s croaky guitar and Mike Weis’s weighty percussion, the trio crafted a portentous soundscape perfectly suited to the film’s threatening premise. Looming and foreboding, Kwaidan had the audience on the edge of their seats, leaving many still unsettled despite happy endings.

The last act to take the stage was headliner Mark McGuire, who thanked the audience for bringing him to such “a beautiful building and beautiful campus with beautiful people.” Known for his adventurous, wonder-filled guitar work, the two short films selected for him were perfect in their geometric and naturalistic simplicity. The entire set felt like an otherworldly journey, whether it followed the cycle of crystal formation or the reproductive habits of octopi, filled with blissful tessellations and oscillating riffs. Glimmering and kaleidoscopic, he did an incredible job of improvising his set and adapting to the organic flow of the films. From the sensual slow jams of the alien-like octopi to the accelerating riffs of rapid crystallization, it was a grand, gliding adventure that truly took the audience to another realm of “reconfigured consciousness.”