PREMIERE: Tender Creature Filter Loss and Identity Through Queer Lens on Debut EP ‘An Offering’

Photo Credit: Emilio Mendoza

On their debut EP An Offering, Queer New York-based indie folk duo Tender Creature provides a raw glimpse into some of life’s most difficult experiences, from losing loved ones to coming out to navigating relationships. But members Steph Bishop and Robert Maril tell these stories with beautiful melodies, playful instrumentation, and relatable lyrics that provide hope for those in the midst of such travails. Relating stories Bishop wrote about specific events from their life, the group mixes folky vocals and a variety of instruments with electronic effects that make for a collection equal parts fun and contemplative.

Bishop and Maril met in 2011 and initially played together in the queer country band Kings, then spent some time making solo music on their own before reconnecting in 2018. Their goal with the new EP was to meld their traditional folk singer-songwriter styles with electronic techniques like beats and synths, taking advantage of Maril’s newfound knowledge of digital production and dance music. “We had worked on a previous project together, and we had a certain style we were used to writing and performing in,” says Bishop. “I think one of the goals for this EP was to sort of break out of that box a bit and try something new.”

During the production process, they alternated between in-person sessions and independent work, where they’d record parts of the songs and send them back and forth to each other. They incorporated a variety of unfiltered instruments, including electric guitar, cello, and ukulele, careful not to alter their voices or use too many effects. “When we were arranging these songs, it was a very conscious decision not to filter the instruments or put them through a bunch of processors,” says Maril. “It’s very rich, organic, wooden-sounding instruments sitting in this soup of digital beats.”

The groups sites Arthur Russell and Joanna Newsom as their biggest influences; they were particularly inspired by Newsom’s use of vintage synths, as well as the beats of bands like Pet Shop Boys. Their music also emanates old-school indie folk vibes in the vein of The Weepies or The Finches.

Thematically, An Offering reflects on loss, identity, and learning from the past. The title track and first single is a poetic depiction of Bishop’s experiencing losing their grandmother: “Black dirt in my hands, this is where I leave you/The sky on fire, the static on the radio/And I don’t understand, but I don’t need to/The birds on wire will tell you when it’s time to go.” Meanwhile, “If Anyone Asks,” is a catchy, upbeat account of reclaiming oneself in the midst of a dysfunctional relationship. On “The Quietest Car,” Bishop sings against mournful cellos about the death of a former student. “Count to Five,” the last song on the EP, is a dreamy, ukulele-driven love song.

The members’ queer identity is also a big part of the EP and of their broader musical mission. In the slow, harmony-filled “Climbing Trees,” Bishop reflects on someone they knew during childhood who received a lot of backlash for coming out. Although it’s written from the perspective of someone who is now out, it shows compassion for the subject of the song, who ultimately went back into the closet: “Oh, I felt it/Your breath as you held it/The winds as they warned you to stay.”

“It’s [about] the brave choice of coming out and then the choices you have to make based on your surroundings to stay safe and stable,” Bishop explains. “The people around him weren’t ready for it, so he had to make his choices in that way, but it was hard to watch as a young queer person.”

Through their music, Bishop and Maril hope to help people who may be in situations like this. “A kid struggling in a place where maybe it’s not such a safe or a positive environment in which to come out, it’s something that a queer person can listen to and sort of hold on to as representation,” says Bishop.

“We’re so starved to see our experiences reflected in media,” Maril agrees. “We really don’t, and so for us, there was really no choice but to be out and make music for queer people. I mean, we make music for everybody, but we write from what I see as a queer perspective — kind of an outsider’s perspective. So I hope other people feel a connection to this music and feel like this is for them.”

Follow Tender Creature on Instagram for ongoing updates.


Wayfarers’ newest track “KINGS” is an anthem of empowerment, specifically that which can be found through music. With short claps throughout and a catchy yet minimalistic backing, it’s impossible to not get a surge of confidence while listening to “KINGS.”

It’s a throwback for many listeners to that moment when they first heard a specific song or band, the moment something clicks—there’s an immediate connection with the music, and there’s no getting enough of it. It recalls the recklessness of youth and the out-of-control impulses that the right song can elicit: a wild, instinctual desire to bust a move as the music courses throughout the mind and body and reverberates within the soul. It’s the epitome of “dance like nobody’s watching.” The track doesn’t need much production to it because the nostalgia it stirs up suffices.

Vocalist Katie Cecil, former guitarist of KSM, has an aura of tenacity and assurance. Her high, raspy vocals evoke an immediate energy (and also bring to mind Mandy Lee of MisterWives), which is a necessity in a song that calls for dancing in every chorus breakdown. Since joining forces with multi-instrumentalist Anthony Purpura, formerly of For the Foxes, the New York/Los Angeles-based duo have certainly proven that they have a knack for creating uplifting music together.

Check out the single below, and keep an eye on the band for upcoming tour dates.


To get you as pumped as we are for our CMJ 2013 showcases, we’re introducing each band to you by asking them five unique questions. Kings is playing Sidewalk Cafe, 94 Ave. A in Manhattan on Wednesday, October 16th at 10PM.  You can RSVP on facebook or DoNYC.


Kings are a three-piece country band composed of Brooklynites Emily Bielagus, Steph Bishop, and Robert Maril. Together, their exquisite harmonies, pedal steel and bright banjo weave together stories along the lines of traditional country, bluegrass, and folk, but the band has a deeper agenda, too. As activists in the queer community, they’ve made their music a reflection of that identity, composing narratives around the LGBQT experience.

AF: You describe Kings as queercore alt-county and perform with a very powerful mission in mind – in your own words, “to open up a space for queer people inside traditional country music”. What’s been the most difficult part of fulfilling that mission, and what’s been your most triumphant moment?

KINGS: We know that we’ll never be on Top-40 Country Radio, and that’s OK with us. Really, our goal is to reach some queer kid living in Bumblefuck, Oklahoma/New Hampshire/Poughkeepsie who loves country music, but is currently stuck listening to mainstream heteronormative bullshit music about drinking beers out of red solo cups and riding dirtbikes. Don’t get us wrong, those things are fun, but we want that kid to know that they can enjoy country music AND still feel queer pride. It’s been hard to accomplish that yet because we’re still so unknown outside the Brooklyn music scene. But hopefully not for long?? One of our best moments so far was when a music writer mentioned Chely Wright in one of our music reviews. We were like, “Yes, EXACTLY.” That’s exactly the movement we’re championing.

AF: Though Kings’ music evokes the sensibilities of the Western plains and other wide-open rural spaces, you’re based in Brooklyn. Is it ever difficult to cultivate and maintain a country sound in such a huge, urban city?

KINGS: Nice Dixie Chicks reference! [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Eds. Note: It actually wasn’t, but having grown up on country music I guess it seeped in to me a bit, too.] No, it’s been easy. It’s the kind of music we all listen to on the regular, and it’s a timeless sound. Americana/Folk/Country music is having its trendy moment these days (it’s also maybe a part of this somewhat insufferable trend – the Brooklyn handmade knit-bomb moustache homebrew ball jar suspenders thing) but I’m glad people are into it. The three of us grew up in rural places, and it’s the music that’s just a part of who we are. It’s almost like we cling to it and create it because we live here – we maintain this sound for our big-city survival.

AF: How do you collaborate when writing songs? We’re dying to know how you develop those breath-taking harmonies!

KINGS: We generally come in to rehearsal with a few songs already written, or a few song “nuggets” that we flesh out together. The songs that stick around are the songs that lend themselves to our 3-part harmony and, honestly? That harmony just kind of happens. It’s sort of magical, and it’s how we first realized we were on to something when we first got together. We sang a couple lines of harmony and we were like “oh shit! That sounds good.”

AF: You just finished recording your gorgeous debut EP, Bones. Do you like recording or playing live shows better?

KINGS: Yikes – that’s like a choice between the best and the other best! Oh man, being in the studio is the best best best, though. We joke that we could spend all day every day in the studio, but actually, it’s not really a joke. We loved our Bones studio days and we can’t wait to go back and record more. However, we’re theater-kid performance-junkies at heart, so the live shows keep us going. They also inform our songs. You can write a song and rehearse a song for hours but you don’t really know what the song’s personality is until you sing it live.

AF: If you could hear any classic country singer cover a Kings song, which one would you want to hear and who would you want to sing it?

KINGS: I think all three of us would lay down and die if Dolly Parton covered “Western Sky.” I would absolutely never recover.

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