PREMIERE: Nisa Meets Anxiety With Understanding on “Turn Me Down”

Photo Credit: Sara Laufer

To call a sound merely indie rock at this point leaves much to be imagined. For New York City born and bred singer-songwriter Nisa, who releases her forthcoming debut EP Guilt Trip on March 26, that sound more specifically borrows elements from the varying subgenres existing under the indie umbrella: the heartfelt sincerity of Julien Baker but higher energy; the emotionality of emo without its saccharine sweetness; the power-pop hooks of Tancred’s 2016 LP Out of the Garden. Nisa combines these elements in an irresistible way, but beneath the EP’s catchy exterior lies themes of emotional detachment and reticence born of anxiety, something of a defense mechanism against the guilt and shame that can pervade the psyche.

After studying abroad in London, Nisa returned to NYC, simultaneously nursing a broken heart and preparing to record her debut. The EP’s title refers to the shift in scenery, as well as the feeling that Nisa could see the break-up coming miles away. “I had been moving toward it but didn’t feel completely certain in my decision to do it, so once I was the one to break it off, I felt guilt,” Nisa recalls. “That guilt was followed by this emotional detachment from myself. That person and the reasons leading me out of the relationship were the ones keeping me there.”

The timing was serendipitous in a way; the geographical and emotional changes intersected with the onset of the pandemic. We’ve all been forced to turn inward and examine our own rough edges over the past year. Nisa says she “took to writing to deal with what I was struggling to vocalize,” given the time to hunker down and consider what she was feeling and how to translate it into music. She also co-produced and released her singles “Forget Me/Giving” and “Colossus,” waiting until it was safer to proceed with her stalled recording plans for Guilt Trip.

Having to wait ended up having a huge impact on the sound, Nisa admits, as did being able to record for the first time in a real studio, rather than her bedroom. “I’d gone in with a much more Americana feel, but then we got there and there was this unnatural energy, this eclectic anger and like, very hard-pressed feeling in your face,” she explains. “It was a confrontation of all that time spent pent-up.” She recorded with a smaller team than she initially intended, working alongside close collaborator/guitarist Fritz Ortman and producer Ronnie Di Simone, as well as a handful of local musicians, like Del Water Gap drummer Zac Coe and guitarist Nick Cianci.

So far, Nisa has shared four songs from Guilt Trip – “Common Denominator,” “Bottom Feeder,” “Ferris Wheel,” and “Growing Pains,” each offering a glimpse into the seven-song effort. Today, she premieres latest single “Turn Me Down” via Audiofemme, which fits squarely into its place on the EP, dealing with social anxiety specifically. It reads almost as though Nisa is giving herself a pep-talk to enter a party, that the “you” and “me” she refers to could be the same person. “If you want, you can turn me down,” she offers, proposing a lonely, late-night diner as an escape route.

But there’s a dare in her voice, too – she makes space for the anxieties at play, but is encouraging enough to push through them, to seek self-acceptance and the ability to embrace our limitations. “It’s always gonna be like that for me as an anxious person,” Nisa explains. “I think that anxiety can also be met with understanding yourself. I just started understanding anxiety as it relates to me, so rather than detaching from myself, I took the time to understand it fully, and sometimes it’s just about riding the wave. So I think this song is definitely a ride the wave song.”

The animated video for the song embodies the tunnel vision that anxiety can create. “We wanted to give it a cinematic feel, and the music video reflects that. It ends up being this grand journey, so super excited to have that come out,” Nisa says. The metaphor is crystal clear: once you give up the guilt about the things that make you you, you’re free to view them from a perspective of neutrality instead of self-loathing. 

Nisa is set to release the full EP on March 26, and in the meantime finds herself remaining productive, recording two other projects she penned during this time at home. With only the smallest light at the end of our pandemic tunnel, she says that if nothing else, she’s “just really grateful to have the time and the right headspace to be writing now.” And, no doubt, to have put some of that guilt behind her.

Follow Nisa on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Anna Fox Rochinski Champions the Effervescence of Pop Music with Debut Solo Single “Cherry”

Photo Credit: Eleanor Petry

Sometimes things coincide unintentionally to come together in a way that ultimately makes the most sense. Such serendipity is at play with Anna Fox Rochinski’s upcoming solo debut Cherry (out March 26 on Don Giovanni Records), of which she shared the title track and video last week. Rochinski is perhaps best known as a vocalist and guitarist for psych rock four-piece Quilt. Few sonic elements of that band remain on this latest offering, which is a product entirely of Rochinski’s own mind: plucky 70’s art funk shone through the lens of some very specific contemporary pop influences, among them Madonna, Midnite Vultures-era Beck, and Robyn’s 1995 debut.

Although Rochinski acknowledges that “lyrically my record is rather sad,” it doesn’t feel or sound that way. As evidenced by “Cherry,” it’s fun and funky, an amalgamation of futuristic sound effects, wiry guitar riffs, and the fizziness of pop music. “Honestly, pop music is something that I’ve always loved my whole life, and I kind of need it now more than ever, if that makes sense?” she says of this shift. “Pop music is almost medicinal in a way. Maybe not medicinal, but what I need. It’s an effervescence that I have to have right now. And it’s extremely fun. And I just recommitted myself to the pursuit of fun.”

Shooting the video itself became part of the pursuit. Shot in Arizona by director Alex LaLiberte (OTIUM) and styled by Dani Bennett, we’re presented with three different characters. One floats around her house wearing a flowing silk robe (designed and sewn by Bennett herself) and drinking a green juice, perhaps the idyllic version we all wish to embody during this time at home. Another is a business woman presiding over an empty conference room, her turquoise pants, scrunchie, and the furniture all mirroring each other by accident (there’s that serendipity again). The third dances around a semi-abandoned shopping mall in the sun, light and carefree in her yellow pants.

Rochinski acknowledges the difficulty of breaking out of her shell to embody these characters, recounting a dispute with the director over a black blouse she insisted on wearing. “I was like c’mon man! I’m so used to wearing black in New York City. It’s kind of a habit we fall into here,” she says. “He pushed me out of that comfort zone but I’m glad he did. He was like, ‘These are outfits that you aren’t going to wear in your normal life because we are making a music video. Like these are characters.’”

The production itself was the first time Rochinski experienced socializing in any capacity during the pandemic; the crew all got tested upon arrival. Despite the particular accommodations that had to be made in the interest of safety, Rochinski is quick to acknowledge the joy of “collaborating on a creative project in such a normal and free way with people. I had been missing that too. It was just great! But it’s ironic because in the video all you see is me. And like a shadow at times too.” 

But who are these characters, and who is that shadow? She leaves the characters themselves up to interpretation, keeping them abstract if only to say that she’s not really sure if they’re all her or not, or just different versions of the same person. It conveys a certain kind of isolation, the fragments of ourselves we present in different settings and social situations that mask the complete picture of who we are. “It’s kind of like this person at home, and then another version at work, and then another version out in a public space being more carefree, conveying different emotions and different atmospheres of emotion rather than conveying specific people,” she says. All of whom, it’s worth noting, don’t cross paths with a single living person throughout the whole video.

They’re chased only by a faceless shadow, which follows the characters throughout all the settings and portrays the distinct feeling of being watched. But not necessarily by another person, Rochinksi explains, as much as by yourself, the person we often hide from the most. While she says the shadow too is up for interpretation, she does offer some insight. “Maybe it’s something from the past that’s haunting you, but maybe it’s also an opportunity from the future that I’m resisting,” she says. “The song is about this push-and-pull feeling of knowing that you’re emotionally unavailable but being presented with chances to connect, and kind of wanting it but knowing it’s impossible. So you’re haunted by past trouble while trying to move forward into the future, but being stuck in the middle, just preserving yourself, out of the need to protect your heart.”

In other words, there’s a sense of choosing isolation because the possibility of anything else feels too vulnerable – a sentiment that shows itself in the first lines of the track itself: “I’ll never let him in/Because my guard is up for stormy weather.” The shadow, in a way, is that guard.

Rochinski penned Cherry, her first solo effort, after transplanting herself from the Hudson Valley to New York City following a tough break-up of a six-year relationship, starting a new life on her own without a partner or her band. Although she had written and recorded this album pre-COVID, isolation is already a major theme at play, starkly evident in the video itself. But in another example of bittersweet serendipity, our current circumstances offer the album a whole new emotional entry-point for listeners. We’re all alone right now, in some capacity or another. For many, the isolation on display in this video will resonate with the experiences of this past year, the slivers of our identities shaved off once we no longer saw coworkers in person, or that friend you have lunch with maybe once a month, or the barista from the coffeeshop. And for musicians, that extends to the part of their identities lost with the continued cessation of live shows and touring, something they must all contend with.

Rochinski remains optimistic. “I have high hopes for late 2021, but I’m not expecting anything,” she says. “I’m just keeping my ears perked up and planning on rehearsing a band and just basically being ready to play in whatever capacity we can play in, so there can at least be some documentation of live performances of these songs. I feel very excited about that actually. I’m keeping an open mind on how to show the world the performances.” 

In the same way the fun, funky instrumentals of “Cherry” add nuance to the song’s sad lyrics, the point here is to try to make peace with the difficulty of our present circumstances, to bask in the version of yourself living right now, and, lest we forget, to recommit to the pursuit of fun. As Rochinski has shown us with “Cherry,” it’s when you do this that things finally come together in the way that makes the most sense.

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

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.

Abir Melds Moroccan and American Cultures on ‘Heat’ EP

Moroccan-American singer Abir challenges common notions of what it means to be a woman of Arab descent, and her latest EP Heat embodies this defiance. The EP, a followup to 2018’s Mint, was born from Abir’s simultaneous interest in mainstream pop, R&B, and hip-hop as well as traditional Moroccan music, which she’d listened to growing up and later attending weddings and other events. She and producer Mick Schultz (Rihanna, Kelly Clarkson) used instruments like the bendir (a wooden-framed drum) and the oud (a pear-shaped, guitar-like string instrument) to create a sound that is new but classic.

In preparation for Heat, Abir took the initiative to learn more about music from Morocco and other parts of the Middle East; she cites Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum as one major inspiration behind the EP. “There was a lot of research and looking into different instruments — the Arab scale, the melodies, and looking at how I can bridge these two worlds,” she says. “It’s super thrilling to make them coexist.”

This merging of cultures is audible on every track on Heat, a title aiming to evoke the notion of combustion and “the beauty behind disasters,” she explains. The infectious, rhythmic “Pray for Me” combines familiar pop beats with traditional Moroccan instrumentals and dramatic harmonies. In “Searching,” mellow verses and dreamy echoes tell a relatable story of looking for light amid darkness. In “Inferno,” the first single off the EP, Abir’s voice soars and dips in a catchy chorus.

Abir’s music mirrors her own refusal to adhere to social conventions or be placed within a box based on her background. “I am an Arab Muslim woman, and I can also walk out here in a crop top and show up on stage,” she says. “I can still be Muslim, be Arab, be Moroccan, and live my life the way I want. The theme [of the EP] is empowerment and taking back that narrative. It’s important to share all perspectives so we don’t get narrow-minded; [there is no] one story of the Arab woman.”

Abir doesn’t always challenge stereotypes by speaking about them directly; she also does so just by singing about the complexities of her own life. “Sometimes I’m loud, but also sometimes, I put the identity to the back and just speak as a human,” she says. “I think it’s important to remember that when you speak about representation of women, at the end of the day, I’m just human and I have the same feelings as anyone could have. I have heartbreak. I feel like I want to be single. I feel the same shit that women all over the world have the ability to feel. I share my perspective, and I hope that it inspires other Arab women to share theirs so we have way more perspectives on what an Arab woman is outside of this shit you see on TV of Arab women being oppressed or Arab women being terrorists.”

The NYC-based artist also aims to make people rethink their assumptions about women in general. “Inferno,” for instance, was written with the intention of reversing certain gendered relationship scripts. In it, Abir sings to a suitor about not wanting to get into a relationship: “Sorry I don’t text back or answer your calls/I can’t be who you want, no, I don’t wanna play the part.”

“Women are always on the losing end, always seeming to be the ones that are heartbroken, or the guy doesn’t want to be with you because you want to be in a relationship but the guy’s not into it,” she says. “That’s not necessarily the truth. We’re in 2020. Women are heartbreakers. At least the people I’m around, my friends and family, we’re strong women who aren’t waiting on a guy to say if they’re ready for a relationship. We control whether a relationship gets serious or not. In this case, it was kind of that idea that it’s just not for me, playing this role of being a girlfriend at this moment.”

The video for the single was aimed at portraying powerful women, particularly Muslim women, as well as quite simply making “a fucking clusterfuck of shit,” as she puts it. Filmed in the Moroccan desert, the plot is supposed to be ambiguous so that people can read their own story into it. The one thing that was very intentional? “You just see women in an empowering light, and the men are an afterthought,” she says. It was also important to her that all the people she worked with on the video were of Arab descent, she adds.

She and Schultz are already working on her next project together, which continues her mission of melding Arab and American sounds. “We’ve come such a long way, and it’s a journey I’m so here for,” she says. “I want to be on this journey forever. We’re only going to keep learning more and more.”

Follow Abir on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: Razor Braids Promote Pastel-Hued Positivity with “Nashville” Video

When life gives Hollye Bynum lemons, she makes lemonade. Her tart-yet-sweet rock band Razor Braids is all the proof you need; it didn’t really come together until a minor head injury sidelined the operatically-trained singer, forcing a recovery slow enough she had time to teach herself to play bass. Not long after, the current lineup began to solidify: first came guitarists Janie Peacock (a friend of Bynum’s old flame) and Jilly Karande (who jokes she joined the band “accidentally”), with drummer Hannah Nichols taking a seat behind the kit after her short-lived band Space Bitch shared a stage with Razor Braids at Punk Island. The quartet has played dozens of shows in Brooklyn venues, but hadn’t put anything to tape until recently, when they released their debut single “Nashville” on pink cassette with b-side “I Am.”

Now, Bynum and her crew find themselves with a pile of lemons again, as the Corona quarantine squashed everything they’d planned to promote “Nashville” – the release show at Baby’s All Right, the weekender tour, the dream of recording follow-up singles, shooting a glam video in dreamy upstate digs. But not even a pandemic could put a stop to their momentum; Razor Braids kept going. They turned their release show into a full-day event, where each member got to show off aspects of what they bring to the band: Bynum did a makeup tutorial; Peacock, who designs all the band’s posters and merch, drew personalized pictures for fans; Karande played covers that put her lovely back-up vocals front and center; Nichols, who’s a master barber by day, offered much-needed DIY haircut tips. And now, there’s a video for “Nashville” too. It may not be what Razor Braids had dreamed of – filmed over Zoom due to social distancing and edited in iMovie, it’s not exactly big budget – but it’s still silly, sexy, and ultra-endearing, a distracting little gem of a daydream, just like the song itself.

“It was tough to be so close to something that was exciting and that we had planned [but] we got right down to business once we knew everything was not gonna happen,” Bynum says. “I still wanted to honor the song and the hard work that we had put into it and I still wanted people to hear it – actually more so than before. I wanted it to provide some sort of sweet escape or momentary calm or fun or whatever the case may be.” Bynum built her “Nashville” lyrics from a series of sentimental vignettes, fleeting moments with a lover cropping up across each verse like over-exposed party-goers caught in Polaroid flashes. In her honeyed croon, Bynum confesses she “could live forever in that moment” when playing music, talking shit, and smoking weed with a crush leads to a spontaneous kiss.

The video, though, is more about the love and admiration Razor Braids have for each other. If you haven’t dressed up for a Zoom dance party with your besties to blow off a little steam, what have you even been doing in lockdown? The band employs the same monochromatic pastel outfit scheme they’ve been known to sport on stage (sort of like Powerpuff Girls playing really good rock music). Their aesthetic, they all agree, is an important component of Razor Braids, even if it’s mostly meant to up their entertainment value. “It’s feminine and nostalgic but also contemporary,” Bynum explains. Certainly, it’s hard to feel bummed when confronted with daisies, roller blades, glitter, and a candy-colored palette that would make Lisa Frank proud, but it’s the music itself that feels truly mollifying.

“The context of now has kind of enhanced the message and the meaning behind the song,” Peacock says. “It was already a feel good song before all of this happened. You listen to the song and reminisce. It’s a good distraction from what’s going on and a great way to feel like you’re a part of something, so it was interesting releasing it during this time.”

Karande says they often start off their shows with “Nashville,” because it helps the band find their groove. “‘Nashville’ is just one of those songs that feels like home base for all of us. It’s something that sets a tone – upbeat and positive and a fun way to introduce us that feels good to play live.”

Developing their songs in a live setting has given the band confidence to re-approach them, too, with a newfound collaborative spirit, one Nichols says she truly appreciates. “It’s hard to be creative if you don’t feel comfortable, like you can’t open up to the people you’re playing with,” she says. “Having been in several bands and seeing what works and what doesn’t, I feel like being in Razor Braids is a really nice balance of feeling like I have the freedom to write my own drum parts and express myself and also have plenty of material to work with.”

“When things are right, they flow,” Hollye adds. “It felt like something was kind of unlocked within myself by being with this group of women. Songwriting comes more easily to me. Playing my instrument, seeing things in a different way.”

For now, Razor Braids are doing what they can to preserve that magic long-distance, until it’s safe to return to some sense of normalcy, or at least their practice space. “We’ve been trying to capture that energy and positivity and just kind of meet the world where it’s at right now, trying our hand with recording stuff individually and seeing if we can piece together some little demos and things – just kind of figuring it out and trying to do it with excitement and energy,” Karande says. “That, I think, is very emblematic of who Razor Braids is.”

Follow Razor Braids on Facebook for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: Satellite Mode Navigates Technological Dystopia in “Click Now”

We’re living in strange times, where the internet age has taken on an entirely new meaning, thanks to the coronavirus and social distancing. This makes the latest single from NYC electro-rock duo Satellite Mode, consisting of Jessica Carvo and Alex Marko, especially timely.

“Click Now,” off the band’s EP Robots Vs. Party Girls, to be released this summer, is about “cutting through the haze of modern life to foster connection,” says Carvo. “It paints a satirical picture of a tongue-and-cheek dystopian future, calling our listeners to strive for clarity and purposeful living in our detached world.”

“Hey kid / your life is now or never / you can have everything we choose,” she sings in the catchy chorus. “Hey kid / click now for your new future / there is no future left to lose.”

The video features lyrics flashing across various screens, depicting how “technology is always stalking us, lurking in the background and informing a lot of how we interact with the world,” says Marko.

The role of technology in our lives has always been a topic of interest for the duo; their original band name was Aeroplane Mode (a riff on “airplane mode”). But the idea for “Click Now” came to them while they were on tour. “Alex and I noticed the stark contrast between our lives on the road, where adventure was so tangible and present in the physical world, versus everyone living their ‘best life’ while glued to their iPhones, comparing themselves to others on social media, all the while being sold to and surveilled,” says Carvo.

Carvo describes the EP, which combines traditional singer-songwriter roots with dance beats, as “a cry for truth and transparency,” which is particularly relevant today, when accurate information is crucial for our health and well-being. “There’s no time for dancing around the heart of the matter — we are vulnerable, and it’s dangerous for us to be scrolling through any curated feeds of partial lies,” she explains.

The title Robots Vs. Party Girls was inspired by two alter egos of Carvo’s, one of them being a “party girl” named Stacey. She’d evoke this character when she wanted to sing with “a little hoopla and eccentricity” instead of her usual “matter-of-fact or stoned-sounding” vocals. “I like to imagine her as a 1994 party girl with bleach-blonde hair, tied up with a hot pink scrunchy, colorful cocktail in hand,” she says. The other alter ego, the robot, is the monotonous voice you hear in “Click Now.”

“The Robot (algorithms) and the Party Girl (influencers) symbolized two archetypes in social media that serve to mask and disrupt real truth and connection between humans,” says Marko. “We saw that to be truly happy, we had to use technology to connect with people instead of using it as a tool to project what we think our lives should be like.” That’s a message many people could benefit from hearing right now, whether they’re party girls, robots, or a little bit of both.

Follow Satellite Mode on Facebook for ongoing updates.


Credit: Andrew Bordeaux

NYC-based alt-pop artist PETRA started playing piano before she could walk and got her first electric guitar when she was six, after she complained to her mother that she wanted to be her “own kind of musician.” Today, this philosophy of independence is still in her music, which contains empowering lyrics about embracing singlehood and not settling. She made her debut in 2015 with “Glamour Girl,” a playful and flirty love sing with lyrics like “You hit my radar like a blazing laser.” Her latest single “Just Stay” is a little different, showing a more vulnerable side of who she is in relationships. She plans to compile her music into an album that she’s releasing on November 12, titled Dancing Without You. We talked to her about her latest music, future plans, and the trials and tribulations of modern dating.

AF: So what’s the story behind your new single “Just Stay”?

P: It’s definitely one of my more heartfelt songs on this album, and it’s mostly inspired by this conversation I had with a former partner. It came at this really critical time in our relationship where we seemed to be at this crossroads, and it was really hard to talk about how we felt because somewhere down the line, the love faded, and instead of addressing it, we waited until this final moment. But even though things got bad, I was still telling him, “I want you to stay.” It was interesting because I’m a hopeless romantic, and I think love is so powerful, love can fix all these things — and it was the first time I doubted that thought because love is not always strong enough to keep things together. That song was me pleading to him to stay and saying we can fix things, but he felt otherwise, so that’s where the conversation came from.

AF: A lot of your songs about being self-sufficient and not relying on relationships. How do you balance that with being a hopeless romantic?

P: When I’m in a relationship, I can be quite prideful sometimes, and there’s a line in the pre-chorus that goes, “Forgive me for I know I’m weak, but I’ve shredded all my dignity on you.” I can be independent — I run my own life — but in that moment, it was just this overwhelming sense of vulnerability that I just faced head-on. And usually, I’m not somebody to give in to that feeling, but in that moment, it was so intense and hard to ignore, and I was accepting a moment where I feel so weak and feel I need someone, and even the most independent of people can feel vulnerable in those moments.

AF: Your previous single, “Luckboy,” sort of embodies that fiercely independent attitude. What inspired that one?

P: It’s funny because “Just Stay” and “Luckboy” are pretty much the opposite of each other, but it’s kind of interesting to think that this is the next single because this album is such a good example of the different parts that encompass my personality. And with “Luckboy,” it definitely dug into that fierce boss lady attitude that I always carry myself with, going to the idea that I just don’t need anybody, that I can function on my own, that sort of “screw guys, who needs them” attitude. This song came after “Just Stay” in a way because I needed to get myself back into the game and feel like I was in charge again after going on so many terrible dates, especially one specific one where I was like, “I don’t need anybody. I can do this on my own.” I do think of myself as having these different sides of my personality. I lean to more the fierce PETRA idea, but “Just Stay” goes into my more vulnerable side.

AF: So what was the date that inspired “Luckboy”?

P: I was seeing a guy. He was pretty cool. We went on a couple dates, and I was just more interested to see where things were going. And after one date, we were sitting down, and he said things were not working out for him on his end. But instead of it being a nice conversation, it was like he said his piece then gave me a high five and said, “Are we still gonna be friends?” And I was just in that moment like, “Cool, this is an interesting way to have this conversation.” Then I got up and left, not wanting to have this conversation. I was like, that took me by surprise. Just let that one go.

I sort of had this emotion because I went on a couple different dates, and some New York guys have a similar one-man-for-themself, don’t-have-the-time-and-energy-to-invest-in-someone-else attitude, and that was unfortunately the type of guy I was seeing at the time. And I sort of took the experiences I had from these various dates and constructed “Luckboy,” which is a play on the word “fuckboy.” I like to think I can be very coy with words, so instead of “fuckboy,” I said, “You’re running out of luck, boy.”

Credit: Andrew Bordeaux

AF: How does being a woman of color play into it for you?

P: In the past, in the pop world, I feel as though there weren’t so many women of color at the forefront. Nowadays, Lizzo has changed that perspective. Yes, she raps, but in terms of being accepted by the pop world, she’s one of the biggest stars of the moment — also super body-positive. When I started my music journey, people were like, “Are you sure you want to do pop? Because it sounds like you should be doing more urban-based music.” And I love that kind of music, but it’s not what I identified with. So, with my music, I wanted to hone in on, “Yes, I’m a woman of color. I sing pop music. But I can still sing about the same subjects as my counterparts and be part of that world.

Nowadays, it’s much more accepted, and there’s more visibility and inclusivity in the pop world, so the perspective I can give is talking about the same subjects, like love, romance, heartbreak, death, and loss, in a way that hasn’t been addressed by other pop artists — so, taking back the idea that this is an inclusive genre and including that there are different races and ethnicities, so I can be that person i didn’t see growing up on television or on the radio.

AF: Who are your biggest influences?

P: I would say I’ve always been influenced by a lot of ’60s and ’70s rock and roll, a lot of Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Who, I would say Queen was a big influence, but also I love Fleetwood Mac, Cher, my list can go on and on. So, I’d say a lot of ’60s and ’70s music was the core of my sound because that’s what I grew up listening to via my father. Then, some old-school pop. I’ve always loved Britney Spears, how can you not? I’ve always melded these old-school songs with modern-day pop, so that’s where the balance of my songs comes from.

AF: What are your next plans?

P: There’s going to be this really awesome album release show at Knitting Factory at the end of this month. The album comes out November 12, and in spring 2020, I’m planning on going on a cross-country tour. The details of that are still in the works and will be announced early next year. I’m really excited because I love performing live and can’t wait to get back out on the road.

Follow PETRA on Facebook for ongoing updates.


In Fritz Lang’s classic film Metropolis, the main character is jolted out of his privileged life and given a glimpse of the underbelly of the city, its workers struggling to survive while the bourgeois eat on plates of gold. New York-based experimental pop artist/female producer Dani DiCiaccio, aka KYOSi, takes the pleas of the proletariat and sets them against a steady dance beat: a modern protest in action that permeates her latest three-song EP, Negative Space. In the video for her single “Boo Radley,” KYOSi reimagines the mysterious Harper Lee character in To Kill A Mockingbird as a a modern day everyman, a mere “cog in the machine.”

“To me this is ALL about class and the juxtaposition of the haves and have-nots,” DiCiaccio said of the song. “I wrote the track after a long rehearsal in Soho, where I was two floors underground in a raw artist space. It’s one of the wildest and most hidden places I’d ever been in NYC, yet we were beneath a luxury building. As I walked around thinking about what it might be like to live there I got to thinking that the only reason those people want to be in a luxury building in that location is because artists and thinkers have done the hard work to make it desirable.”

The video utilizes archival footage from the industrial and worker’s revolution, its black and white moving pictures set within the faces of dancers Shareef Keyes and Frankie DiCiaccio. It’s a clear message that not much has changed since Harper Lee’s time, as the everyman continues to suffer under the boot of the 1%.

Watch Audiofemme’s exclusive premiere of “Boo Radley” and read our interview with KYOSi below.

AF: When did you first begin creating your own music?

DD: As a kid, really. I was a chorus and musical theater nerd in high school. And in my car I had a little book and a pen that never moved – the idea being that I would write everything I heard on the radio. Out of college I ran a non profit music studio in Ithaca and learned to use pro tools and logic there. I’d always been writing music but that’s when the creation process I use now started to codify.

AF: What artists were your early influences?

DD: Avishai Cohen, Björk, Boyz II Men, Samuel Barber, TV on the Radio. There are so many more but these are the ones that come to mind immediately.

AF: The video for “Boo Radley” feels very fresh. Can you tell us about the story boarding process, working with the dancers, etc?

DD: I put the idea into words and dug up some examples of things I like or wanted to emulate. Todd and I filmed Shareef and Frankie first and gave them complete control over the choreography. We asked them to try some things on the spot but for the most part they took the concept and ran with it. I’ve seen both of them dance so much and love the way they move – at most I’m “proficient” in dancing which is maybe why I appreciate it so much. So I had no doubt they would come up with something beautiful. Then we handed it off with the detailed brief to the motion designer, Jeff Watts. It took a lot of talking through it early on to poke holes in misunderstandings, getting the others’ ideas, all that.

AF: Why did you name the song after Boo Radley?

DD: I kept some qualities of the character, Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird, like being misunderstood and brave, but then recontextualized him as a modern day Everyman; a cog in the machine that becomes almost sympathetic and protective to the machine itself.

AF: Your music layers in a lot of interesting soundscapes; “Negative Space,” in particular, had an interesting jazz vibe to it. Do you create sounds as you build the song in Ableton, or do you have a file earmarked “eclectic sounds”?

DD: Ha! Nah I don’t have a folder called that but good tip. I love jazz and I wrote this EP with Todd Brozman, who has roots in jazz. I think that’s one of the reasons we click.

AF: Civil action is a mainstay for your music. Do you normally begin writing with a subject in mind, or does the music inspire the subject matter?

DD: Neither, actually. Or at least I wouldn’t describe it that way. This is just what I’m thinking about, all the time lately. It usually starts with bass and drums, then I fill in the mid section with a pad or sample. Once the bones are there I put the track in my headphones and walk around NYC writing and see what happens.

AF: Who or what is currently inspiring you? Music, food, books?

DD: I’ve been waiting 12+ years to know what happens in The Handmaid’s Tale so I was up til 3am reading The Testaments. I resisted watching the show past season one because it felt like what my brother dubbed Trauma Porn.

Just got a subscription to New Yorker. I recently bought It Came From Something Awful by Dale Beran. I’m a big fan of Marc Maron’s podcast, WTF.

AF: You currently live in NYC. What are your favorite venues to perform in?

DD: I performed in the basement of Trans Pecos a couple years ago and it was dope. It got sweaty and packed and was just overall a great time. I’m dying to play National Sawdust – I hope to make that happen in 2020.

AF: What do you want someone to take away from a KYOSi show?

DD: I always want people to get the best sonic experience possible. I hope they walk away with a little melody in their head, or wanting to know more about the world I’ve created.

KYOSi’s new EP Negative Space is out now.

PREMIERE: Pleasure Prince, “Entry” EP

In the not-so-distant future, when the earth is covered in red sand dunes and everyone is finally wearing floor length metal space dresses, humans will need some sick jams to make love to. Brooklyn’s own Pleasure Prince is eager to provide the musical backdrop.

Musicians Lilly Scott and William Duncan use their voices in tandem throughout their new EP Entry, giving each song a playful tension, like new lovers flirting across a Voigt-Kampff machine. Off-kilter drums kick off “You Look Good To Me,” which slowly evolves into the disco beat of “Be My Friend” disco beat; the metallic touches on “Tropical Surprise” complete the ’80s noir vibe. Kick off your heels and pour yourself (and a date) a mezcal Manhattan – this album is sure to set the mood.

Read our interview with the band and listen to Entry below:

AF: Pleasure Prince is based out of Brooklyn, NYC. Where are you both from originally?

WD: We moved here together from Denver four years ago.

AF: What kind of music did you grow up listening to?

LS: I’m a diehard Beatles fan since childhood. My dad would always be blasting T-Rex and Zeppelin in the garage, and when I started learning guitar at age 12, those were my idols.

WD: Lots of classical music. Also Toto and Supertramp. My Mom wouldn’t stop listening to Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan.

AF: Entry has an ’80s Blade Runner feel to it. What was the catalyst for the sound?

WD: We used to be in a folk-rock band together for years, and when we moved to New York we just wanted to immerse ourselves in something different, and became obsessed with synthesizers. Also, I love Blade Runner.

LS: Both of us love experimenting with new sounds. We used our vintage ’80s Roland Juno-1 synth on this record, so the Blade Runner vibe was effortless, but not intentional. I used to get told I looked like the chick from Blade Runner when I had platinum hair back in the day.

AF: Can you tell us about the writing process? Do you normally start with the music or lyrics?

LS: It’s never the same – sometimes I’ll sit down and write a song by myself on the synth or guitar from start to finish. Other times, Will surprises me by creating a whole new track in Logic with all the parts already recorded without me. That’s when I like to come in with super creative “oohs” and “aaahs.”

WD: My main instrument is percussion. I’ve been collecting all sorts of crazy drum toys lately and have been inspired to start songs using just a beat and some bass. But in reality, it’s all about the vocals and the sweet Hall & Oates harmonies we hope to channel.

AF: You’ve been performing shows in Brooklyn. What’s the music scene there like? Is gentrification killing it or are underground shows expanding to the outer boroughs?

LS: We live just a few blocks away from Elsewhere, and enjoy being immersed in both the new all ages/big ticket venues, and the amazing underground scene, which is still very much alive in Brooklyn. We played the most insane house show this summer and had the best time meeting people from all different backgrounds in the local scene.

AF: What artists are ya’ll listening to right now?

WD: Can is always on repeat, love the new Porches record, Tomaga, and lots of old soul. Also Brian Eno forever.

LS: Tom Waits, Can, and Broadcast play everyday at some point. I have a constant urge to discover old releases from the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s; I recently fell in love with Walter Wanderly. Also, the new Mr. Twin Sister is fire. I’ve been listening to them forever.

AF: Other than music, what inspires you and gets you in a creative mood?

WD: Lilly’s naked body.

LS: Will in his robe.

AF: What can an audience expect from a Pleasure Prince show?

LS: Pleasure Prince is all about spreading love and dancing your ass off. I love playing shows and I love when I see people in the audience smiling and having fun.

WD: We wrote sad bastard folk tunes for so many years, that we had to start a project that is all about feeling good and not taking yourself too seriously. We want people to have fun, because that’s what we’re doing.

Follow Pleasure Prince on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter for tour dates!

PREMIERE: Lexi Todd “Complacent”

Have you noticed a sudden trend of “blacked out” Facebook profile pictures? You may have received a few messages about this one, encouraging you to show followers a “world without women.” October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and already there’s some confusion on how people can support victims of domestic violence. For musician Lexi Todd, the answer is through music.

“You’d think that after all this time / you would learn to accept the fact he’ll always burn you / but you never face him,” Todd croons over a slick piano groove. As she watched her friend struggle under a tide of infidelity, Lexi Todd was motivated to write what would become her new EP Maria, Immured; it tackles the relationship from the perspective of a friend, watching, waiting for the opportunity to help. Like most music that broaches tough subjects, “Complacent” is subversively pleasant to the ear; at first you might not even hear the true meaning of the song.

Listen to “Complacent” and read our interview with Lexi below.

AF: Tell us about Lexi Todd. Where are you from originally?

Lexi Todd: I’m originally from the Jersey shore – the Long Beach Island area – but I’ve been in Brooklyn for a little over five years now. The shore culture definitely influences my aesthetic, personal style, and taste in music, even now that I’ve assimilated more into city living and culture. I grew up listening to classic rock, soul, r&b, and reggae, and I think there are traces of all of that in the music I’m creating now. I also still love the beach and being outdoors, I’m an avid yogi (I have a yoga trapeze in my apartment), and I try to incorporate that free-spirited, bohemian nature into my creative process.

AF: Describe your music as a celebrity couple. For example: Tame Incubala.

LT: I’m going to go with Lake Street Holding Company. Like Lake Street Dive meets Big Brother and the Holding Company during the Janis Joplin era.

AF: When did you first take an interest in music?

LT: I started making up little songs as early as I can remember. To this day, the way I remember certain pieces of information, like my social security number and my parent’s phone numbers, are from little jingles I wrote when I was a child. I didn’t start writing complete songs until probably 5th or 6th grade though. I started guitar lessons shortly after that, and then my writing really picked up. That’s pretty much how I spent all of my free time during those days, and I still have binders full of songs I wrote when I was in middle and high school. They were mostly singer-songwriter style songs, some were more blues and some were more rock. I didn’t start performing original songs until college though, when I joined my first band.

AF: Your new track “Complacent” centers around a friend’s emotionally abusive relationship. Why was it important for you to tell this story from your own perspective?

LT: I thought it was important to write “Complacent” from my point of view for a few reasons. Mostly, because that’s how I experienced it, so by writing it from my perspective it kept it honest. I wanted to lend a voice to survivors of domestic abuse who may find it difficult to find their own voice, and to encourage all people – not just those directly impacted by DV – to speak out in solidarity. I also felt like I could offer more of an outside perspective, and was freer to point out certain aspects of both sides of this toxic relationship from the outside looking in.

AF: October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Your new 3-song EP Maria, Immured tells a story many women are familiar with: a man consistently cheating on his partner, a woman afraid to leave. Ultimately, your friend was able to get out. What were some of the tent poles / resources that helped support her as she made that decision?

LT: The focus of the EP is more than just cheating; it’s generally more about emotional and mental abuse. The second song focuses almost entirely on emotional abuse through constant put-downs, hurtful words, and condescension. The third song focuses on her breaking free from his manipulation; constantly lying about his wrongdoings as well as convincing her to think of herself as crazy, worthless, and the one that’s really in the wrong.

My friend started realizing how unhealthy the relationship was through a combination of a solid support group of friends and family, consistent therapy, and sheer internal strength. It wasn’t easy for her, and I tried to be there for her as much as possible, as an intermediary, a shoulder to cry on, and anything else she needed. It was difficult for her to let go, but, not to be cliché here, time really is the true healer.

AF: Have you had a chance to perform the songs live? If so, what was the audience response?

LT: I recently performed all 3 of the songs at Rockwood Music Hall earlier this month. I gave the audience a little context for each song before I played it, which really got everyone’s attention. Anytime I’ve played any of the songs off of the EP the crowd gets super quiet and attentive (a rare treat at a busy music venue!) and afterwards I can feel the support. Women in particular have come up to me after shows and told me how much they respect the honesty and vulnerability of those songs. It’s really special.

Are you a NYC native? Go to Lexi Todd’s EP release and music video screening for Maria, Immured  on Wednesday, September 26th at WOW Café Theatre. 

Do you know someone in need of support? Direct them to so they can create a personalized safety plan. 

TRACK PREMIERE: Anna Morsett of The Still Tide Walks the “High Wire”

Photo By Anthony Isaac

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Photo By Anthony Isaac
Photo By Anthony Isaac

The Still Tide currently reside in Denver, Colorado where they craft the kind of lovely, expansive music one expects from a town surrounded by mountains. Anna Morsett picked up the guitar at an early age; her lyrics capture the melancholy of long nights alone. We talked about her writing process and whether a change of location alters a band’s sound. Listen to The Still Tide’s new single “High Wire” below!

AudioFemme: You grew up in Olympia, Washington. What’s it like growing up in the northwest? My mind sort of melds scenes from Twilight in with a Kurt Cobain documentary.

Anna Morsett: Haha, EXACTLY. My childhood and teen years are pretty much a mash-up of the two. It was great; I feel spoiled to have grown up in such an amazing place really. I miss it all the time. Being near the water was such a gift! It was amazing to grow up in such a liberal and accepting place too. I think that instilled something important in me at such a young age. And there was so much music and art everywhere; it was always so celebrated. I think seeing that and having access to it changed my life direction.

AF: You said in an interview with that you got interested in music during middle school. Who were your first musical influences?

AM: Yes! My older sister would hand me over all the things she was listening to then, during my middle school years, which were a lot of Seattle bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. That was definitely a start. And then of course that was when Third Eye Blind’s self titled record came out and I listened to that relentlessly. I’d started playing guitar then too and really wanted to rock out like those bands. I remember spending hours online trying to learn little riffs and licks.

AF: When did you first start writing music?

AM: About then, probably when I was in seventh or eighth grade? Not of course anything exciting but realizing I could do that or wanted to was important. I think I buried a lot of middle-school feeling/realizations in private half-written songs.

AF: Have you revisited any of those middle-school lyrics for inspiration?

AM: Ha! I haven’t but I should, shouldn’t I?! I did have a collection of old tapes for a long time of those first songs…oh man. I should’ve kept them.

AF: AudioFemme, inspiring artists to search through old diaries since 2017.

AM: Haha! I really am gonna go back and find some of that . . . the last time I went through my boxes of ol’ middle school gems I found a to-do list that said something like “1. quit golf 2. practice guitar 3. take up karate”

AF: You met bandmate and guitarist Jacob Miller in New York. Why did you decide to move to the city?

AM: I decided to move to NYC to live out my dreams as an ex-golfer/guitarist/karate-master. Obviously. I decided to move there because I wanted to get involved in music, more so than I was at the time. I was living in Portland and doing open mics and stuff like that but I think I wanted a place to reinvent myself, figure myself out more and just have an adventure. I just leapt without much of a plan other than that, and moved into a crawl space – my room was four feet tall and only had three walls – in a loft building of artists Bushwick. Which was really one of the best decisions I made! It was hilarious, but such an adventure and I met so many great people.

AF: New York has such a specific energy to it. Did the city greatly influence The Still Tide’s initial sound?

AM: The city was definitely an influence! The energy alone I miss sometimes. Everyone I was around in those early days was on a mission! Always working for or towards something, struggling to get by in the name of the art, music, performance, whatever they were doing. Just running wild with experimenting in whatever arena they were in. So inspiring. And being in that community of Bushwick DIY spaces and bands changed how I thought music was possible.

As far as sound goes, it changed a lot over time. The first EP we put out is much more rock-heavy than what came later. I think that had more to do with what we were into at the time, who was in the band and the bands we were playing with and around. That, and probably just trying to be heard over the loud bars we were playing then.

AF: How has the band’s sound shifted since you and Jacob moved to Denver?

AM: We started writing songs, initially at least, that were a little more quiet and delicate. The crowds we had here were really attentive and curious about us and because we didn’t have to try to shout across the room to get people’s attention like we often did in Brooklyn, we worked harder on lyrics and on how our guitars were working together. It was really refreshing and breathed new and different life into the project. Songs that I’d been working on that hadn’t quite fit the rock thing we were doing previously finally had a landing space. Having time and space – and local support here – to explore that side of ourselves ultimately helped shape us into the project we are now.

Eventually we became more rocky again (which is more represented on this latest EP) but I think having gone through that quieter, more vulnerable performance and writing space was a really important phase to go through. I think it changed how Jake and I wrote together and how we approach new songs.

AF: How does the writing process normally work? Do you start with lyrics and go from there?

AM: Most of the time the music comes first. Usually I’ll play for hours and hours until I stumble into something I think is exciting or inspiring and then try to build it into an actual song. I have many journals that I’ve kept over the last several years with little pieces of lyrics and ideas and often I’ll just start raking through them to see if anything calls out or sticks with what I’m working on and use that as a starting point for lyrical direction. Often too, something will just spill out in that initial writing moment and I’ll just try to keep unpacking it until a song is revealed. Like finding treasure in a sandbox. Once the song is in presentable shape (roughly) I’ll bring it to Jake and our now drummer/producer pal and wonderkid Joe Richmond, and we’ll work through it together.

AF: The band has gone through a few different iterations, with you and Jacob remaining the backbone of the project. Does the process change when you add members or do they act more as support for the live shows?

AM: It does change a little, I guess. After years of playing together, Jake and I are great at working through ideas in their roughest, most unformed shapes but the songs do need to be a little bit more fully formed by the time we bring them to the rest of the band. I love how much ideas can change when we work through them as a group; everyone always brings their own flavor. That kind of collaboration keeps me inspired and excited.

AF: What’s a challenge you’ve faced as an artist that really blew you away? That you weren’t expecting at the start?

AM: So many little challenges along the way! Trying to balance time, energy and finances are all pretty tricky and generally a constant. But I’d say the biggest challenge I’ve faced was often just myself. It took a long time to learn how to get out of my own way and be braver about getting my own work out into the world.

AF: Tell us about your new single “High Wire” – I love that opening trill at the beginning.

AM: Me too! One of my favorite parts of our shows lately is launching into that song. “High Wire” is about a relationship falling apart and the energy each person in the relationship spends trying to save it when maybe it’s best to just let it go. And about how difficult it can be to make that call, especially when you’re still in love with each other but so aware of how things aren’t working. The chorus “Where do you run to / whether you want to / whether you don’t” speaks to that and the inevitable distance that creeps into a relationship while it’s unwinding.

AF: You’re currently touring through August. Will you be adding additional dates?

AM: There will be a few local shows in Denver over the fall but we’ll focus on touring again more in Spring. We’re also part of another band called Brent Cowles and will be touring with him in September and November. Wish there were more time for us to get out then too! Just so much cool stuff going on…

AF: Anything else on the horizon we should look out for?

AM: We’ve got some music videos in the works! We’ll be releasing those over the next few months. We’re also working on some demos for the next record already, so fingers crossed that we can move on that this winter.

AF: What advice would you give a middle schooler currently jotting down ninja lyrics in her diary?

AM: I would tell her to just keep going – keep working those ninja lyrics, someday they may change her whole world. Oh and then I’d ask her to send me some so I could get back to my roots. Maybe she and I could collaborate.

The Still Tide’s new EP Run Out is out this Friday.

Want to see The Still Tide LIVE? Check out their website for upcoming tour dates. [/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

ONLY NOISE: Summer In The City

What does summer sound like? For those of you living in respectable locales, it may sound like the buzz of John Deer lawnmowers, or a nighttime orchestra of cicadas. Summer anywhere but New York might hum along to the tune of unfurling picnic blankets and jet skis zipping across lakes. But for New Yorkers, the hot season presents a whole new catalogue of sounds – and smells – to take in.

Summer in New York is unlike summer anywhere else. Where July in, say, Bethesda, Maryland brings the whizzing of Frisbees on crisp air, NYC’s July sounds like asthmatics wheezing from air pollution. As a nine-year New York resident, my personal midsummer song goes something like this:

-The pitter-patter of dripping AC units.

– The rhythmic panting of the Husky next door.

– The raucous block party down the street.

-Wailing sirens.

-The rotund man who whips down Classon Ave on his motorized wheelchair, blaring soul music from a boom box.

– The lowrider bouncing by the Biggie mural on Franklin, blasting “Hypnotize.”

-Gushing fire hydrants.

-Wailing sirens

-Brawling rats

-Brawling cats

-Steaming trash

-Wailing sirens

On percussion: hamster-sized cockroaches, skittering across my bare body as I try to sleep.

I know. It’s gonna be a hit.

All this beautiful music got me thinking: sure, there are songs about summer in the city – i.e. The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer In The City” – but where were the songs about summer in New York City? Where was the refrain for this special circle of hell we survive each year?

Yes, I am aware that soft rock crooner Michael Franks recorded a track literally called “Summer In New York” a while back, but have you listened to the lyrics of that song? Please tell me if any single summer day of your New York life has EVER resembled this:

“We’ll both review Fifth Avenue/From uptown to St. Pat’s/Indulge our vice: Italian ice/Then walk through Central Park/It’s summer in New York.”

Bullshit. Since when is Italian ice a vice? More like, “We’ll stumble down Kosciuszko/From the bar we just closed out/Indulge our sin: three liters of gin/Then dry hump by a bin/Of steaming trash.”

It’s summer in New York!

The fact of the matter is, there just aren’t a lot of songs that effectively capture the glorious grime of a New York summer – so I’ve found a few that make a comprehensive playlist for the season.

  • “Hot in the City” by Billy Idol

What’s the first thing you notice about summer in New York? (Certainly not “Shakespeare In The Park” as Michael Franks would have you believe). The heat! It’s hot as balls here – especially in the train cars sans AC. No one knew this better than Billy Idol, who immortalized the suffocating temperatures in his 1982 hit, “Hot in the City.” Idol also managed to pick up on the all-around friskiness that ensues when the temperatures (and hemlines) rise:

“‘Cause when a long-legged lovely walks by/Yeah you can see the look in her eye/Then you know that it’s/Hot in the city, hot in the city tonight, tonight.” 

By no means a meteorologist, Idol certainly tapped into the hot-blooded heartbeat of a New York scorcher.

  • “Rockaway Beach” by the Ramones

People often think that New Yorkers don’t go to the beach, as if we’re “too busy” – well we do go; and just because we don’t all own Priuses to transport us there doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Some dig Fort Tilden and Jacob Riis, but for me Far Rockaway is the only beach. Sure it may be a bit filthy and drab, but it’s also home to a thriving surfing community, and Rippers, the best beach bar in town. As it turns out, Rockaway Beach was the sandbar of choice for a little band called the Ramones, too:

“It’s not hard, not far to reach, we can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach/Up on the roof, out on the street/Down in the playground, the hot concrete/Bus ride is too slow, they blast out the disco on the radio.”

  • “Hot Dog” by Elvis Presley

In a feat of terrible planning, someone somewhere once decided that Hot Dog Season must occur at the same time as Bikini Season. This cruel verdict was clearly authorized by a man, whose bikini bod has never been scrutinized by decades of advertising culture.

It makes no sense that I crave hot dogs every summer, when the rest of my appetite has receded in the grueling heat. But alas, hot dogs I crave – immensely. And thank god I live in New York, where I can literally get a hot dog every corner, 24/7. There’s Sabrett, Grey’s Papaya, and my personal favorite, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs in Coney Island. Nathan’s is also host to the prestigious Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest – an event so barbaric it belongs in the arenas of ancient Rome, but I’d recommend going at least once.

It’s true, there aren’t a lot of great songs about hot dogs, and even this Elvis song (which is not about a hot dog but ostensibly a woman named Hot Dog) isn’t that good either…but at least it’s Elvis!

  • “Out There in the Night” by The Only Ones

Many people think this is a love song – and it is, but not about a human. In fact, The Only Ones’ Peter Perrett wrote it about his dear cat, Candy, who ran away from home one night never to return.

“But what does this have to do with summer in New York,” you ask? Well, I don’t know what borough you live in, but where I dwell the title “summer” and “season of the stray cat” are synonymous. They’re everywhere. On the street. In trashcans. Screaming in heat outside my window. Skittering in new litters on the parking lot concrete. Cats, cats, cats, everywhere. It almost makes sense why Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote that ghastly musical about them. Almost.

  • “Trash” by The New York Dolls

Back in the 1970s, when New York was still dangerous and you could get a dime blowjob where M&M’s World now stands, The New York Dolls were rock n’ roll’s enfants terribles. Surely they had to deal with trash (or, in its summer form: “hot garbage”) far more than we do today. But we still deal with it.

It’s not that there is more or less trash season-to-season, it’s just that the hot sun tends to bake and boil the existing refuse, opening up the pores of all that is rotting so we might smell it more. A LOT more. And don’t even get me started on hot garbage juice, which is the aforementioned boiling refuse in liquid form. Unfortunately the only songs I could find entitled “Hot Garbage” are not too good.

Enter: The New York Dolls. Who could sing about “Trash” better than a cross-dressing miscreant like frontman David Johansen, who, might I add, is from the floating garbage formation itself: Staten Island. No one. I will also ask you: has ever a more New York lyric been penned than:

“Trash, won’t pick it up, don’t take my knife away.” ?

Probably not.

I’m sure I’m missing a few things, but the truth is there just aren’t any good songs about cockroaches or day drinking or swamp ass, which is a pity, because they are all very real things. Especially for summer in New York.

LIVE REVIEW: Blue Healer at Rockwood Music Hall


Set the scene in your mind: An intimate setting at Rockwood Music Hall complete with dimmed lights, a hazy atmosphere, and a collection of swooning, folky, country-esque music courtesy of Blue Healer. Can you feel the relaxation and good vibes? Great. Then you now understand exactly what it was like seeing them perform last Wednesday.


It was a mixture of synths and keys as well as heavy basslines and distorted upright bass. At times, the music had an older glam rock feel, surreal and ethereal, reverberating throughout your mind. Then it would transform to a folk, country-esque show complete with energetic synths — pop folk, if you will. A lot of their songs called to mind tracks of Melee and The Black Keys.


The trio hailing from Austin recently released their debut self-titled album and played an array of tracks from it (and also tracks not on it). They played their popular single “30,000 Feet,” which was full of airy vocals from frontman and bassist David Beck and otherworldly synths from keyboardist Bryan Mammel. They also slowed things down when they played “Only the Rain,” with synths that perfectly emphasized its gentle nature. When they played “Empty Bottles” is when I really felt The Black Keys vibes from them (never a bad thing).

Their last song, “Bad Weather,” was an empowering, anthemic note to end on. But fortunately, it also wasn’t quite the end, as the crowd pretty much begged for an encore, and Blue Healer happily obliged. So their real last track, “Like Diamonds,” ended up being a way more fun way to go out. It was energetic and upbeat, complemented by crashing cymbals and a big finale drumline as well as contagious energy from the band who genuinely looked like they were having the time of their life.

As a show I went into hardly knowing the band, I was pleasantly surprised and had a great time. It also helps when the band is skilled at their instruments and loves what they’re doing, too.

LIVE REVIEW: Peter Bjorn and John @ Webster Hall

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Photos by Aaron Tian for AudioFemme.

Three revered names in indie pop made their presences known before a simple light display akin to a cross between an electrocardiogram and a music staff. You have the sharply dressed bassist Björn Yttling donning a blazer, while drummer John Eriksson took his seat behind the kit, standing out in a simple white baseball cap. Finally, lead singer and guitarist Peter Morén positions himself at the other end of the stage in what resembles a utility suit. All three are unified in their look with an array of the band’s patches on their navy blue outfits, as well as name tags  – you know, in case you forgot who you were there to see.

Morén quipped that back in 2000, they signed a contract stating that if anyone left the band, they had to replace him with somebody of the same name. Fast forward sixteen years and seven records later, and Peter Bjorn and John are back with an even more danceable new sound that challenges the classic definition of pop music and conveys no less energy in the live show.


Peter jumped over the barrier of the pit early on to walk around the crowd during “It Don’t Move Me,” for a rock ‘n’ roll display – “I’m not a big fan of rock,” he says.  “Rock ‘n’ roll, on the other hand, it’s kinda sexy.” – which set the tone for the etiquette of the evening: dance with complete disregard for the space around you, and don’t stop moving.

While this tour spotlights the most infectious pop tracks off the new record, Breakin’ Point, a taste of each of their previous records worked seamlessly into the mix:  a performance of “Eyes” that highlighted Bjorn’s talent on bass, Peter guiding the crowd through a singalong of “Dig A Little Deeper,” and John’s command over the slowed down breakbeat of “Amsterdam,” which brought back memories for both me and the girl behind me, who said that “every song from 2007 just flashed in [/fusion_builder_column][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”][her] mind.”


Along with bringing outside producers into the mix for Breakin’ Point, two new touring members have accompanied the band this time around, allowing them to achieve a live sound closer to what you hear on their records.  Peter took the time out to introduce the two “dear friends and talented musicians,” Freja on backing vocals and percussion, and Klaus on the computer and keyboard.  In addition, Julian Harmon of POP ETC took over on the bongos while Freja took center stage as the female counterpart in “Young Folks,” the hipster whistle song that just turned ten this year.

But Peter Bjorn and John continue to prove over and over again that they are beyond capable of getting more than just that song and “Second Chances” stuck in your head for days on end. Closing out the show with “I Know You Don’t Love Me,” which is no slower but a bit more mellow, the trio still makes use of the whole stage and every ounce of vitality left in them during the song’s extended instrumental bridge.


The upbeat intensity of the live performance showcases the harmony that makes Peter Bjorn and John work so well together.  As Peter said, “You meet someone, you do some things, 10 years later you have a family.”[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]


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Photo by Jen Maler.
Photo by Jen Maler.

Early in the evening, I found myself at a soundcheck at a hole-in-the-wall called Friends and Lovers in Prospect Heights.  Even if they were just messing around to adjust levels, I was jarred by their large presence filling up the small space.  Bi-coastal, genre-bending newcomers Faulkner are quickly rising through the ranks with their tastefully aggressive sound.  Comprised of Lucas Asher (singer, guitarist), Dimitri Farougias (bassist), Eric Scullin (multi-instrumentalist), and Christian Hogan (drums), they are feeding on the positive acclaim for their EP Revanchist, and inching closer to the release of their first full-length album, Street Axioms.

Intimidatingly tall and sarcastic, yet sweet, Asher, Scullin, and Farougias opened up on topics like the recording process, working with the RZA, and nudism just before their show as a part of Mondo NYC.

Ysabella Monton for AudioFemme: First thing’s first, what creatively do you think each other brings to the project?

Lucas Asher: Eric brings the production and arrangement, and musicianship.  Dimitri, mostly rhythm, holding the rhythm down and performance, like incredible energy.  And then I’m a songwriter.

One thing I drew from is that you tend to cross genres — there’s no real boundary there.  Where do those influences come from?

Dimitri Farougias:  A lot of  ’70s, you know, some ’70s punk there, some ’80s pop, and ’90s hip-hop all kinda blended together.  No specific references, but those genres definitely come into our songs.

Does the songwriting and production cross over as well?  Is there a real cut process to it, or does it just happen?

DF: Lucas will bring the basic structure and the melody and the works, and the rest of the band will — or the entire band, actually — will just come into the room and start putting all the pieces together. All the instrumentation, everyone will write their parts.  It’s fairly, fairly smooth.  Everyone knows exactly what they’re supposed to do in the band, and it’s a very painless process.

So the album is coming together?

LA: Yeah, we released our EP called Revanchist, so that’s out right now, and then the album, you can look for it a little bit later in the fall.

And Revanchist, it’s very much a conceptual album.  Without explaining exactly where you went with it, where does that come from?

LA:  It has very strong themes of retribution, um those are found in the songs “Waters Are Rising” —

DF and Eric Scullin:  “Keep Your Enemies Closer”.

LA: Right.  There’s also a strong visual component that’s parallel to the music that’s reflected by the cover art, as well as the music video for “Revolutionary” which people can check out on YouTube.

And the album, is that meant to be conceptual as well?

LA:  Yeah.

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Photo by Jen Maler.

So Lucas, your decision to move to New York?

LA:  I ran away from my orphanage in Oklahoma.

And since songwriting influences come a lot from life experiences, I know specifically you started writing a lot when you first came here. 

LA:  I think my biggest songwriting influence is 50 Cent, so…

DF:  Poetry.

LA:  Yeah, so just a lot of it, honestly, is from the streets, because I lived on the streets for a minute.  So coming up off the streets.

It’s a really cool way that you guys play with hip-hop, especially having worked with RZA from Wu-Tang, that’s amazing.

DF:  Yeah, that was wonderful.  That was really amazing.  It was really cool to write with him and record with him.  He originally signed on to produce a demo we sent him, and once we got into the studio with him at Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La, he really got into it.  He just got in the booth and started writing, spit the illest verse, so that was really magical.  That was definitely a highlight.

There have been some other big names there too, though.

DF:  Yeah!  JP Bowersock, who worked with The Strokes —

ES:  He’s also an expert of chardonnay.  He will school you in chardonnay.

DF:  He can school you in a lot of things.

ES:  He’s a connoisseur of a lot of things.  He’s a sommelier as well.

DF:  Yeah, a connoisseur.  And then Mark Needham, who worked with The Killers and Imagine Dragons, and a whole lot of other acts.  He’s a very predominant mixer, engineer, producer in rock music.

ES:  He’s a mix pirate.  He’s got a toucan on his shoulder.  Like a parrot.  He just talks like a pirate, always making these funny sounds.

So, the trajectory of things that have been happening in the last couple of years, since you guys formed in 2013…

DF:  It’s happened very organically, you know.  I don’t know, we’re very hard workers, but we also need a lot of different elements for all of this to happen.  We have a great team that supports us, and we’re all very hard workers and dedicated to what we do.  Only good things can come from those elements.

So the festival that’s going on right now, Mondo, how did you guys get into that?

LA:  We heard it was a nudist festival, and then they told us no.

DF:  Yeah when we got here, we were pretty bummed out to be honest.

LA:  But we had already committed by that point, so…

DF:  We were ready to take it all off, and they were like, “No no no no, stop!”

It’s a very new thing for New York City, Mondo Fest. How did you sign onto it?

LA:  Our team brought it to us, and we have like, this punk rock attitude about playing shows.  We’ll play anywhere, at any time.  Not to sound desperate –

DF:  No, we love to play.  We love to play, we love to make new fans all the time, we love to meet people.

LA:  And we love New York.  We’ve been in New York for almost every week we’ve been in LA.

How did you all originally meet?  

DF:  The LA music scene.  We were all in different projects, different bands, and then Lucas kinda brought us all together.

LA:  And that’s the PR version.  I was on looking for matches.

ES:  And then I came up, and I was like, fuck it, we’ll give it a shot.

That’s on the record.  That’s the real story now.

DF:  We met on a nudist beach on Ibiza.

ES and LA:  Yeah.

Just playing music.

ALL:  Yeah.

But really, the LA music scene.  What are the differences between the scenes here and there?

ES: I don’t know, I mean, LA seems to kinda be more central lately.  I’ve noticed people moving from NY to LA.  It’s more of a hub for music.  And I have my studio there, it would be a lot to

LA:  Studio plug!

ES:  [/fusion_builder_column][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”][laughs] Yeah.

LA:  What’s your studio called?  Radio Quality Sounds?

ES: Yeah, it’s really, really nice.  I’m kidding.  My point is, to have the space like that here is not the same.  LA’s got a lot more space, and people move there increasingly.  I’m seeing more and more people headed there.  And I grew up there, so I love it.

LA:  I prefer New York, but it seems like LA is…there’s more of a live element right now.

ES:  Different vibes.  You gotta do both.  I prefer to live in New York and visit LA often.  They’re very different.  [pause] Wait, I meant live in LA, visit New York often.

LA:  The inverse of what you said.

ES:  Basically, anything I say I mean the opposite.

So you’re not nudists.

ALL:  Yeah.

Photo by Jen Maler.
Photo by Jen Maler.

Have you done any recording in New York?

ES:  Yeah we did at Avatar, which used to be the Record Plant,

DF:  Amazing studio.

ES:  Awesome.  Neve console, great room. Recording here is a different vibe.  Space too, you know.  Everything is on the third floor of some weird building.  LA is a different vibe.

LA:  You have to grab the piano.

ES:  Yeah, I have to carry my Steinway alone upstairs.  It’s terrible.

 No help from these guys?

ES:  Not at all.

I’ve heard about that kind of stuff from other people, saying they’ve gotten snowed into studios here in the winter or something.

ES:  Yeah, I can see that.  That’s not happening in Malibu.

I just wonder what it is about LA that draws people in.

LA:  I think it’s part of our generation as well.  Not to wax on here, but “I feel like everyone in the millennial generation is down to go anywhere.  People aren’t as chained to where they were born for example.

One hundred percent.

LA:  I blame Instagram for that.

DF:  Everyone’s a travel blogger.

Yeah, the glorification of that lifestyle.  Well, thank you guys so much for taking this time with me today, I appreciate it.

ES:  We appreciate it too.  All the knowledge off the top of your head, it’s amazing.

I do a little research!

LA:  You didn’t find any criminal records?

Not yet, I guess I didn’t look deep enough.

LA:  Look deeper.

It’s just stuff about nudity, right?

ES: Our interview is basically, “Faulkner: The Nudist Band You Need to Get to Know Now!”

I guess we took the wrong pictures for this article.


TRACK REVIEW: Zula “Basketball”


Feel like taking a musical voyage? Zula has got you covered with their psych pop jam “Basketball.”

While figuring out exactly what their genre is (experimental? psych pop? synthpop?) might not be entirely possible, it’s fun to get lost in their sound. It’s the sort of music that swirls around in your headspace, leaving you temporarily lost in the music—it’s the perfect place to forget about your daily worries and just relax. Their rhythms are intricate, their synths are plentiful, and their vocals are entrancing. This Brooklyn group is one you want to get familiar with, especially before the release of their full-length Grasshopper on August 26.



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Photo by Ty Watkins

Following the release of last year’s energetic single “Silver Streets”,  Thomas Killian McPhillips VII, Derek Tramont, and Ryan Colt Levy of BRAEVES zealously uprooted themselves from the familiarity of New York to explore how the band could flourish with a little change in scenery.

“When the prospect of moving to LA came up,” said Tramont, “It was a lightning bolt that hit us so hard, we just picked up and drove across the country together, practically no questions asked.”

And “Bitter Sea” makes it clear: California sun sure suits them well.

Equal parts love letter and break-up song, the track illustrates a bittersweet goodbye to a personified New York City.

“We were kind of at odds with the New York music scene, partly because we have been living and playing in New York all our lives,” recounts Tramont. “It could have been Chicago, London, or Portland.  I’m sure you would grow tired of your hometown; that’s just natural.  But we felt a bit of a disconnect. Whether it was some of the bands we played with, the venues, or the real lack of a music ‘scene,’ something just felt like it was holding us back from truly expressing ourselves.”

It’s a new kind of relationship they’re developing with LA, as the band “really needed something that would make us feel like we were growing and not just stagnating…something drastic needed to change to get us to the place we want to be.” But while BRAEVES may be based on the West Coast now, lyrics such as, “And the more my body tells me I’m entranced/The deeper in your quicksand I’ll descend” show that even if you leave New York, it never quite leaves you.

Recorded at Red Rockets Glare with Raymond Richards (known for his work with Local Natives, whom the band often cite as a key influence), “Bitter Sea” illustrates a fresh vivacity and prowess that were never lacking in older songs, but rather, have been elegantly refined. It has BRAEVES sounding refreshed without straying from the soulful and shimmering echoes that define their ethereal sound, and it has us eager for their forthcoming sophomore EP.

Stream the track below, and if you’re on the West Coast, catch them live, where you certainly won’t be disappointed.  Plus, you might just be lucky enough to hear even more new songs:

July 16 – Chinatown Summer Nights – LA
July 21 – Molly Malone’s – LA[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Highlights of Governor’s Ball 2016

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Mother Nature rained heavily down on this year’s Governor’s Ball, which took place on Randall’s Mud Pit Island.  It was a test, and us New Yorkers proved that we sure have some spunk, staying true to the festival’s slogan:  “You’re doing great!”

I earned personal emblems of a successful music festival: purple bruises made to look like sunsets on my skin, irreparably damaged white Air Force Ones, and an inevitable cold from being wet for the duration of Saturday.  The last one, I deserved. That morning, the weatherman and I were adamant that I wouldn’t need a jacket.

Then, there was Sunday’s disappointing full-day cancellation that left legions of fans angry because they traveled x amount of miles to see Kanye or Death Cab for Cutie. When I got the news, I remained motionless on the couch, silently crying the tears I’d have shed at Death Cab’s closing set.

And the biggest curse of a festival, as always, is not being able to be in two places at once.  I was sad to have missed Big Grams or another fun show from Matt and Kim because I parked myself at the main stage all of Friday. And even on Sunday while I was camping out for a last-minute Two Door Cinema Club ticket, I was also committed to missing two surely phenomenal performances by Courtney Barnett and Prophets of Rage, both just a walk away.

But I digress. Let’s end this one with some highs, shall we?

The Strokes covered “Clampdown” for the first time since 2004
To be fair, I could peg the whole set as my favorite part of the festival. When I was 11, I used to blast this Clash cover on my iPod, fantasizing that I might one day hear it live. That, and “Red Light,” which they performed for the first time since 2010. Everyone and their mothers know that The Strokes are my favorite band, but even I can objectively say that lately, they haven’t been at their best. However, on the heels of a new EP whose songs fit seamlessly into their set, New York’s finest garage rockers showed that they’ve been revived with a new positive energy.  The best feeling was watching the expressions as all five of them performed with unrivaled mastery, looking truly happy to be together.

Getting intimate with Two Door Cinema Club
Though it’s been a minute since their last album (almost four years, but who’s counting), 15-year-old me would’ve never forgiven present-day me for skipping Two Door Cinema Club’s make-up show at Music Hall of Williamsburg.  Adrenaline distracted me from the cold air and the rain drenching me through my flimsy windbreaker during the four hours I waited out (tip: phone a friend who’d be willing to bring you a lox bagel while you wait. You’ll need it). It proved to be worth it; there surely is no better venue to see a favorite band than one where from every angle, you feel like you’re in the front row.  Plus, even through moshing with grown men and crowd surfing during the encore, my glasses survived the night.

Beck being Beck
A live Beck experience was yet another realized fantasy from my fleeting youth, ignoring the fact that his breakout hit “Loser” is a couple of years older than me, and “Where It’s At” is less than a year younger; in any case, they all fit seamlessly into one animated set.  And during “Hell Yes” I couldn’t help but laugh, overhearing the guy next to me ask, “Is he rapping?” And it’s only been two years since “Blue Moon” reduced me to tears, and only a little more than a month since Prince’s tragic passing. Beck recalled accepting his Album of the Year award and a hug from The Artist himself, which he described as one of the “strangest, most amazing moments.” His cover of “Raspberry Beret” was easily the best of myriad Prince tributes this weekend.

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Beck at Governor’s Ball 2016. Photo by Ysabella Monton for AudioFemme.

Este Haim getting wet with the crowd
Midway through Haim’s set, rain came down yet again. Gratefully, the Gov Ball NYC stage was on cement rather than grass, so mud was the least of our concerns, but that didn’t stop some people in the crowd from seeking shelter in lieu of enjoying the music. Este, the oldest of the Haim sisters, stepped out in between songs to pour a full bottle of water on herself in solidarity before continuing a stellar set that culminated in another fantastic tribute of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” and a wild drum finale.

Easy afternoon with Catfish & the Bottlemen
Being the perpetually late person that I am, I had to sprint not only across the bridge, but to the complete opposite end of the island to make sure I didn’t miss a minute of Catfish & the Bottlemen on the main stage.  They drew a much larger crowd, with more than enough energy to wildly dance along, than one would expect for a 3 pm set. Their set encapsulated exactly what it would’ve felt like to see Blur at a hole-in-the-wall venue in the early ’90s.

A rainy rave with Miike Snow
Just after receiving a notification from the official Gov Ball app that the worst was behind us, rain came down yet again for Miike Snow, weeding out the weak and prompting we, the thick-skinned, to go all out.  Everything I owned was drenched.  The cash in my wallet is still damp as we speak.  With feel-good music, a brilliant lights show before us, and nothing to lose, we embraced the feeling of wet skin on wet skin as limbs flailed in the muddy flood. Missed connection: the guy in the tropical print shirt who came back into the crowd with a slice of pizza and let everyone within three feet have a bite.

The best moves from Christine and the Queens
I caught Christine and the Queens completely by accident as I made my lap around the island on Friday and saw that someone happened to be getting set up on stage.  I’d never heard of her before, but “WOW” wouldn’t even begin to cover my reaction when Christine (real name Heloise Letissier) and her Queens (four male backup dancers) took the stage in trousers and tees, performing synchronized dance routines and tossing flowers into the crowd.  Now that’s what a festival performance should be.

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Christine and the Queens, via

Nostalgia with The Killers
Wrapped in a wet blanket as my only protection from the cold, I was about to head home midway through M83 as I could feel a sore throat coming on. But, as I made my way out, I could faintly hear The Killers from across the park, and I knew I had to catch a little bit, even if I wasn’t going to immerse myself in the crowd.  I was more than happy to dance in the middle of the field with several hundred strangers, singing along to “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” off of 2004’s Hot Fuss and admiring the fireworks behind the stage to round it all up.

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The Killers Gov Ball
Fireworks and “When You Were Young” by The Killers.  Photo by Ysabella Monton for AudioFemme.

TRACK PREMIERE: Atlas Engine “Everest”


Atlas Engine Featured

Celebrate Friday with a track premiere from Atlas Engine, “Everest,” from his upcoming EP “After the End.”

Atlas Engine is the solo venture of Nick LaFalce, formerly of BRAEVES. With this new project, LaFalce undertakes the task of writing, singing, performing each instrument, and producing to conceive a skillfully crafted effort that is truly all his own.

With LaFalce belting out lyrics such as, “Something in the air I’m breathing must be forever changed/So tell me what I have to fear now,” over a stunning melody, the track emanates a sense of freedom, and an exciting anticipation for what’s to come.

The full EP is set for release on June 3.  New Yorkers, you can catch Atlas Engine’s live debut (for free!) at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 on May 19.

Listen to the single below:

LIVE REVIEW: The Griswolds @ Warsaw


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Tim John - Griswolds
Tim John of The Griswolds

When Australian indie-pop quartet The Griswolds took the stage to Shania Twain’s “Man, I Feel Like A Woman,” I knew we’d be in for a fun night.

Opening with high-energy tracks like “Down and Out” and “If You Wanna Stay,” they set the stage for a high-energy performance.

“You better fucking sing along!” shouts lead singer Chris Whitehall, with flaming red hair and a slub knit sweater hanging freely off his shoulder. The dazzled crowd has no choice but to oblige.

Alongside their better known songs like “Right On Track” and “Beware the Dog,”  the band played a couple of new ones from the sophomore album currently in progress.  The first new song, “Get Into My Heart,” produced imperative screaming with lines like, “Get into my arms and into my home/Get out of your clothes and into my bed.”

Before premiering their second new track, “Role Models,” he first taught the audience how to sing along to the hook.  “We’ve got nothing to lose,” sang Whitehall. “Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah,” we followed.  Both tracks have a new dimension to them; the latter especially stood out compared to their more familiar songs, with a funk-inspired flavor.

And as a fun treat, we all got to sing “Happy Birthday” to drummer Lucky West before they closed with the classic “Heart of a Lion,” from their first EP.

Brooklyn’s Warsaw has a nice cinematic quality to it, and The Griswolds easily filled the air with bright energy.  On this Hotline Spring tour, the boys have undoubtedly gotten listeners pumped for a new record to come.


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Chris Whitehall 1
Chris Whitehall of The Griswolds

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Lucky West of Griswolds
Lucky West of The Griswolds

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LIVE REVIEW: Lolo, The Griswolds, New Politics, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness @ Terminal 5



Any show at Terminal 5 is always a big one, so when I came to see the four-artist, co-headlined Wilderness Politics tour, I knew I was in for one hell of a party.

First up was LOLO, a young Brooklyn native with a lot of soul. Getting on her knees with passion, it was clear she was having the time of her life, commanding the stage with her ability to belt and hold some strong high notes.

The Griswolds have the look of your favorite early 2000’s pop-punk groups with a nice danceable flavor. They put out happy vibes with their upbeat songs. The energy during the quick set was irresistible — “If You Wanna Stay” was especially fun for dancing along.



Here’s what’s curious about The Griswolds — in spite of their incredibly fun tempos, giving the crowd all kinds of excuses to scream and dance, in songs like “16 Years,” lyrics like “I’m half the man I used to be/Tequila, lust and gambling/Oh, mama, I need rescuing” aren’t exactly the happiest upon closer listen.


In any case, there’s no need for anything flashy to enjoy a Griswolds show — they’re simply a group of charming Aussie guys wowing the crowd by having the time of their lives.


Journeys, the show’s sponsor, is holding a contest to win a pair of shoes hand-decorated by the band themselves.   Enter here!



I was almost caught off guard when David Boyd burst out waving a bright red New Politics flag, displaying their tally mark logo.

Boyd (vocals) and Søren Hansen (guitar) originally hail from Copenhagen, but Boyd called Terminal 5 a hometown show, trying to get the New Yorkers to be the loudest crowd yet. They’ve been living in Williamsburg since ’09, and met current drummer “Long Island Louis” Vecchio here in the city.


Boyd, a breakdancer, made the most of the beats center stage to showcase his skills, even if it doesn’t quite match up with the pop punk sound.


For the crowd favorite “Fall Into these Arms,” Boyd came out to the audience’s hands to dance and surf the crowd right back to the stage, leading into the multitalented Hansen performing a powerful solo on the piano. “Girl Crush” brought the energy back up with Andrew McMahon joining the band on stage.


The former lead singer for Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin, Andrew McMahon now performs solo under the moniker of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. The set design, consisting of grass platforms for the keyboard and drums, and some turf to top the piano, was a rare display of greenery in the city, though it felt a little more like a suburban backyard, minus the picket fence.


McMahon performed a diverse set of songs from his previous bands and solo work. Fans responded well to songs like Something Corporate’s “I Woke Up In A Car” and “Punk Rock Princess,” evident as everyone seemed to know all the words.  It felt as if you could hear the echo of the audience for the duration of the set.


When I first walked into the venue, I was approached to have my cheek swabbed by volunteers of the Love Hope Strength foundation to register for bone marrow donation.  McMahon took time out of the show to talk about his own experience with cancer, having been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2005.  He announced that this marks ten years of being cancer-free, before performing the Jack’s Mannequin song “Swim” for “anybody who’s going through something.”


There certainly were crazier moments during the show, like McMahon crowd surfing his way down to the bar to get a shot of Jäger. The highlight, however, was the childlike joy that fell across the room during the performance of “Cecilia and the Satellite,” penned for his daughter.  He brought everyone back to elementary school with a giant parachute, making for the perfect encore.


All photos shot by Ysabella Monton for AudioFemme.


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Cover art by Danielle Guelbart

This summer, New York’s own BRAEVES released a new single called “Silver Streets” as a follow up to 2014’s Drifting by Design EP.

The band bid their farewell to New York last weekend at The Studio at Webster Hall, rounding out a busy year of stellar shows at other venues in the city, including Baby’s All Right, where I first got to meet the guys, Glasslands, and (Le) Poisson Rouge.  All of their hard work has led to a major next step, as they’ll be moving to Los Angeles later this month to work on their first full-length record.

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braeves recording session
Derek Tramont, Thomas Mcphillips, Austin Mendenhall, and Ryan Levy at a recording session. Photo by Tim Toda.

At Webster, Snowmine’s Austin Mendenhall stepped in for former member Nick LaFalce, who performs lead guitar on the track.

The song shines, quite literally, with metallic imagery such as, “Silver streets, golden bodies” and “copper in our bones.”  Coupled with sleek, otherworldy guitar and bass work, that blend seamlessly, “Silver Streets” is a perfectly warm track for speeding down a country road this fall.  With lyrics like, “Take me back to days when I was fearless in your arms/I’ll follow your way home, I’ll follow your way home,” Levy’s dulcet vocals will make you nostalgic for a time that you weren’t even there for.

See the full lyrics on their Bandcamp page, and be on the lookout for a video coming soon. Listen to the track below:

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INTERVIEW: The Intelligence


The Intelligence Vintage Future album cover

Imagine that aliens have invaded; they’re taking control, except instead of ruling the planet, what they really want is to jam in your garage.  What you’ve got then is The Intelligence, an LA-based post-punk band that grows more and more with each new album (and they’ve had eight great ones, it’s hard to keep up).  Just a week or so after the release of their latest LP Vintage Future, I got to speak with founding member, lead singer, and resident genius Lars Finberg via e-mail.

“I think maybe we have tried to have a foot in the future and one in the past?” says Finberg, in terms of where exactly this extraterrestrial sound comes from.  “I am a fan of antiquated rickety presentations of the future like Buck Rogers or Joe Meek.”

The influence is clear – it’s like Meek’s I Hear a New World got a bit of a modern upgrade on Vintage Future.  The album’s title track especially emphasizes this imagery, starting with an other-worldly ringing and ending with a robotic voice whining, “But I was just learning how to love.”  A tragedy indeed.

The fantastic production value of this record makes for a clear vision of what exactly a vintage future might be.  Says Finberg, “I think our engineer/producer/recordist Chris Woodhouse improves from greatness with each record he makes.”

A clean and cohesive lo-fi sound coupled with simple, catchy lyrics capitalize the band’s thematic lyrical poignancy, as well as their ability to be unforgivingly and cohesively strange.  These lyrics and themes have a way of creeping into your brain, and it’s brilliant to see Finberg keep coming up with more and more, seemingly never running out of new ideas.

“I X-ray what’s inside me and try to read the blueprints as clearly as I can,” he says.  “If it sounds like someone else’s X-ray I’m not afraid to use white out or tape or glue to make it newer to me.”

A standout for me is “Dieu Merci Pour La Fixation De La Machine a Coudre,” which is a near-translation of a track on 2009’s Fake Surfers record, “Thank You God For Fixing The Tape Machine.”

While the original track fits right in with their garage rock sound, the latter is a slower serenade. Lyrics like “In the moonlight/Out of the cruel light/I’ve been mesmerized/I think I almost feel right” backed by a swoon-worthy guitar make you want to go for a tango in Paris.  Though the songs sound worlds apart, Finberg calls the connection between the two “a secret puzzle.”

“Cool you noticed that,” he says. “The Fake Surfers song was related to a tape machine and love.  The Vintage Future update was inspired in France at a club called ‘Machine a Coudre’ or sewing machine, and love. Or some kind of version of it in either case.”

And it all seems strange to us from the outside, but that’s part of the magic in listening to The Intelligence – wanting to understand just what’s going on in Finberg’s brain.  “To quote Mitch Hedberg,” he says, “‘Come inside my head and tell me that doesn’t make sense.'”

Catch The Intelligence supporting Franz Ferdinand + Sparks at Terminal 5 on October 6.

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BEST OF 2014: Best Tracks from NYC Bands

There were a lot of great songs released in 2014, and many came from bands who are from New York City (or, like many of us here, just currently call it home). Here are some of the year’s best tracks from the city that never sleeps.
Ava Luna: “Plain Speech” from Electric Balloon (Western Vinyl, March) 
Ava Luna is an eclectic quintet based in Brooklyn. Practically three tracks in one, this hipster love song involving fixies is an example of how the band can switch seamlessly from funky, offbeat rhythms to heartfelt, soulful anthems. Expect a new album from them soon.

Celestial Shore: “Gloria” from Enter Ghost (Hometapes, November)
This Brooklyn-based band released their second, more polished album in November. On Enter Ghost’s second track, they transition easily from complicated drum beats and snarling guitars to soft melodies. “Gloria” builds up and pulls back constantly, never quite resting on any one type of sound.

Hospitality: “I Miss Your Bones” from Trouble (Merge Records, January) 
The trio’s second album toes the lines of psychedelic/garage rock and guitar pop with songs about the subtleties of relationships and everyday insecurities. “I Miss Your Bones” is one of the album’s most energetic tracks, with shifting rhythms, perfectly synced guitars, and spot-on lyrics sung with Amber Papini’s charismatic lilt.

LVL UP: “DBTS” from Hoodwink’d (Double Double Whammy/Exploding in Sound, September) 
LVL UP’s hometown is Purchase in Upstate New York, but they’ve recently joined the roster of emerging Brooklyn bands. They’re masters at crafting quick songs, sung with a tired drawl and lively metaphors reminiscent of David Berman. Hoodwink’d is a short, bittersweet showcase of mid-twenties angst.

Mitski: “Townie” from Bury Me At Makeout Creek (Double Double Whammy, November) 
How do you describe Mitski? You could say she’s like Brooklyn’s edgier version of Angel Olsen, with more grit and fuzzier guitars. That’s not all, though. With lyrics like “I want a love that falls as fast as a body from the balcony” and “I’m holding my breath like a baseball bat,” you can’t help wanting to know exactly what’s going on in her head.
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Parquet Courts: “Ducking and Dodging” from Sunbathing Animal  (What’s Your Rupture?/Mom & Pop, June)
These punks originally from Texas play an intense form of something falling between blues, punk and rock. They recently turned Webster Hall into a mess of mosh pits and attempted stage-diving, which reached its best point (or worst, if you were the incredibly unamused bouncer) with “Ducking and Dodging.” The lyrics are more spit than sung, punctuated by sharp guitar chords and a constant, pounding bass.

Parkay Quarts: “Pretty Machines” from Content Nausea (November 2014, What’s Your Rupture?)
Andrew Savage and Austin Brown made this list twice, with another recently released album under a slightly different name. “Pretty Machines” has a catchy, bright guitar hook, Savage’s deadpan vocals, and a surprisingly uplifting horn section. Every verse in the song is a quotable gem, with lyrics such as “ Whiskey sips upon me as my secrets escaped/ In the skyline of hell there are no fire escapes.”
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Sharon Van Etten: “Taking Chances” from Are We There (May, Jagjaguwar) 
Known for being kind of a downer, Are We There is probably not an album you want to listen to when you’re in a good mood. “Taking Chances” was the album’s first single and one of its best tracks. Van Etten’s sleepy voice, gloomy guitar and electric piano make this a good song for days when you’re not quite ready to force a smile.