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Photo by Tanya Zhenya Posternak

Rose Blanshei’s powerful lyricism and storytelling is a clean-cutting weapon in rock project Prima. She has been kicking around concepts for the last couple of years in collaboration with drummer Butch Merigoni and guitarist Jessica Ackerley, and their raw and vulnerable work is finally available for the world to hear. Prima’s debut EP, Performance, was recorded in the summer of 2015 at The Black Strap in Borough Park, Brooklyn with Torey Cates and finally released June 1 of this year via Time Castle Records. This album is full of left turns and surprises as she harnesses a sinister guitar tone with noisy washes of delay and modulation. When they take to the stage, their presence is strong with a delivery that creates a lasting impact.

I delved into the mind of Rose about the birth of Performance, her cathartic songwriting process, and how playing live makes her feel like she’s got a secret that only she knows.

AudioFemme: What was it like writing with Jessica Ackerley and Butch Merigoni? What aspects did they bring to the record? How did they help you grow as a musician?

Rose Blanshei: I can safely say that every single person that I’ve had the honor of playing with has taught me something and helped me grow as a musician. Prima, as a concept, effectively began when I met Butch Merigoni. An immensely physical, kinetic player, joining forces with Butch is what showed me that I could rock. In the span of a few months, I went from plodding away in my bedroom to making mountains of sound with another human. Butch taught me about rhythm, but more so about energy and commitment. Watching Butch play, low to the floor, mouth agape, limbs flailing, no one would ever question his investment in the moment, and in the music.

The process in the first couple of years of Prima you could say was almost anti-intellectual. The writing was all about the feel. In this period, many of my lyrics began as improvisations. There are literally days worth of Voice Memo recordings of Butch and I hammering at our instruments in unison, me babbling away. Often times I would go back, listen to these recordings, find the one discernible lyric, and then write the rest of the song from there.

Jessica coming along introduced an element of musical theory that was totally foreign to me at the time. With her influence, I think I learned how not to simply pour and call it a song, but to think about layers and arrangements. By introducing a second guitar voice into the project, I began to see my driving root notes and chords as substantive blocks to build other parts from. Her command of her instrument and her chops were not only inspirational, but educational for me, and exploded my awareness of the choices that I could make, even just in terms of the chords I chose to play.

Performance is very much the product of the time the three of us spent playing and writing together.

AF: What is your current live lineup? Have you written new material together?

RB: The current lineup of Prima consists of Frank Rathbone (Sic Tic) on guitar, Jeff Widner (Russian Baths, TELAH) on drums, and Nico Hedley (Chimneys, Journalism) on bass. I have the most bizarre sensation when I look out at these guys during rehearsals and at shows— a combination of awe, disbelief, and gratitude: I’m literally surrounded by some of the most talented and intuitive musicians I’ve ever met in my life.

There are a handful of new songs which we’ve already incorporated into our live set, which I plan on recording this summer. I’m learning how to play drums and bass so that I can be more hands-on in the demoing and writing process.

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Courtesy of Rose Blanshei

AF: Is there a recurring theme in this record? Can you share some lyrics from a favorite of yours if you can choose one?

RB: The themes of Performance weren’t apparent to me until I looked back at it, in retrospect. There were incredible amounts of pain I was experiencing at the time of writing this record; pain that I was very much entangled with. When I was finally able to step back and look at the record as a whole, with some separation, I was able to identify many of the themes and the sources of a lot of that suffering. Listening to this record now is like flipping through an old photo album, or notebook.

In a sentence, Performance is dealing with a certain kind of violence — sometimes self-inflicted, sometimes coming from the environment — the kind that is asking, suggesting, or demanding that you ought to be something other than what you are.

I have broadcasted some of the lyrics that have the most meaning to me via my Instagram leading up to the release of the record.

AF: What inspires your guitar sound? Where did you learn about the element of noise and dissonance?

RB: Lightning. Dirt. Metals. Debt.

I learn about guitar like I learn about a lot of things: by accident. I find that I naturally tend towards sounds that feel a little “off”. In a photograph, I’m always drawn to the detail that feels out of place. I’m drawn to blemishes and flaws. Once contextualized, there’s no such thing as a mistake.

AF: How do you feel on stage?

RB: The honest truth is that it varies nightly. On a good night, my ego evaporates, taking with it self-consciousness, and I am able to be a pure conduit of sound and story. 

I have felt like many different things on stage: a Joan of Arc, a Barbie, a Renegade, a Soothsayer. I’ve felt like a liar and a cheat and I’ve felt more honest than I’ll ever feel. Sometimes I feel sexy, courageous, sometimes I feel like a coward. 

Lately, I’ve been feeling like I have a secret that only I know about. It makes me feel beautiful, and terribly strong.

AF: What’s your next move? 

I’m practicing a new rule, which is to not talk about things, especially new concepts until they are tactile and tangible. With that said, it won’t be long at all until you hear from—and see—Prima again. 

Prima plays a release party for Performance at Union Pool with Russian Baths and Kate Von Schleicher. Tickets are available here.


Staff Picks – Nicole Ortiz: Anniversary and Reunion Shows of 2016

This past year (for me, anyway) was full of attending various anniversary shows of bands I obsessed over in high school. It was nostalgic and exciting to see the bands I used to listen to nonstop perform my old favorites, songs I still listen to somedays when I’m riding my bike or underground on the subway. I’m a sucker for music that I have memories attached to, so it only makes sense that I sought out so many of these shows.

Here’s a look back at some of the anniversary shows that really touched my soul in the past year, as well as some 2017 shows that I’ve got on my radar.

The Spill Canvas at Webster Hall, August 2015

the spill canvas 3

Okay, I’m cheating here because this a 2015 show, but it was just so fun and full of happy good vibes. There’s a certain magic to reliving your emo days while watching one of your old favorites croon sweet, heartbreaking lyrics onstage. Also, you may notice a trend in this list involving Webster Hall and anniversary/reunion shows.

As Tall As Lions at Webster Hall, December 2015

as tall as lions 2

Easily the best show I went to in the last year. This was a reunion show as well as an anniversary show for their self-titled album. And although this show wasn’t in 2016, it practically was. Plus, it was amazing enough to resonate for years to come. I unfortunately missed out on seeing As Tall As Lions when they were still together, but this show made up for that.

The Hush Sound at Webster Hall, August 2016

the hush sound

Another show that went down in my personal history book was The Hush Sound’s Like Vines anniversary show, mostly because The Hush Sound was my favorite band in high school. I probably saw them play seven or so times, and I pretty much idolized (slash kind of still idolize) Greta Salpeter. Bob and Greta had so much fun chemistry that night, and overall, it was just a fun experience to relive that band’s live show again.

Simple Plan & Hit the Lights at Irving Plaza, October 2016

simple plan

One of my biggest show regrets in 2016 is that I missed this show. Since I wasn’t there, I can only speculate about its glory, but I imagine it was incredibly fun. Hit the Lights was another band I used to groove out to like crazy, and what’s not to love about Simple Plan’s goofy music?

Taking Back Sunday & The Starting Line at Starland Ballroom, December 2016

taking back sunday

Taking Back Sunday has been touring for their latest album Tidal Wave this year (I saw them at Irving Plaza, and it was…okay), and I also saw The Starting Line at Irving for their 10-year anniversary show of Say It Like You Mean It (which was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to). I was supposed to go to this show, and at the last minute had to cancel my plan, which is heartbreaking. This is going to be a show for many to write home about.

Jimmy Eat World at Webster Hall, December 2016

jimmy eat world

So this isn’t so much an anniversary or reunion show, since they’re touring for their latest album Integrity Blues, but I was still a bit surprised to see a show from Jimmy Eat World. I guess this sort of counts as a reunion show since they’re coming together again to make music to tour since 2013’s Damage, right?

New Found Glory at Irving Plaza, April 2017

New Found Glory

A peak of anniversary shows to come, perhaps? New Found Glory will be touring in 2017, and can’t you just perfectly envision singing “My Friends Over You” alongside their live performance in the coming year?

Dashboard Confessional at Irving Plaza, January 2017


So I have a [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][dashboard] confession: While I definitely liked DC in high school, I can’t say that I was totally the biggest fan. I was definitely an emo girl, but sometimes Chris Carrabba took it a bit too far and sad for me. So while this show is definitely one to look forward to in many ways, I’m not totally sure if I’ll be in attendance, swooning alongside others.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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: Taking Back Sunday at Irving Plaza


In high school, I heard from all my friends that Taking Back Sunday was the best show they had ever seen. They raved and bragged, and yet, I never saw them live myself. It was one of my biggest regrets—until now. On September 30, I finally saw Taking Back Sunday perform at Irving Plaza.

Now, my expectations were exceedingly high, so perhaps they were destined to fall short. But as thrilled as I was to relive my emo days, the first half of the show left me a bit bored and uninterested. Once they played the songs from Tell all Your Friends and Louder Now, I got my second wind and felt revitalized by the show. However, the first half had me feeling somewhat sleepy and disconnected.


TBS released their newest album, Tidal Wave, this year. And while I didn’t completely study up and try to memorize every song, that’s mostly because I was pretty turned off by it upon first listen. To me, it sounded like a forced attempt at punk, and the tracks I heard fell flat. But I missed the screaming, and I missed the broken hearts worn on sleeves. Mostly I missed the Taking Back Sunday of the early 2000s.


When they sang their older tracks, you could hardly hear frontman Adam Lazzara sing as he was drowned out by the enthusiastic crowd. “MakeDamnSure.” “Cute Without the ‘E.'” “There’s No ‘I’ in Team.” “You’re So Last Summer.” The old classics struck as if it were 2004 and we were all brushing up on Fuse before heading to the show. And, of course, the mic swings were there.

Overall, unfortunately, it wasn’t the best show I’d ever seen in 2016, but I’m confident that if I had seen in back in their heyday, it probably would’ve gone down in my concert-going history as an all-time best.


Remind yourself of “You’re So Last Summer” below.



NENA, who you may know from her world famous single, “99 Luftballons,” has recently come out with a new video for her latest song “Genau Jetzt” (“Right Now”).

The video showcases different people, both by themselves and interacting with loved ones. With NENA’s powerful vocals over the video, you don’t need to speak German to feel impacted by this pop anthem. It’s a track where you can go from feeling empowered and inspired to dancing around the room completely lost in the music.

NENA will be embarking on her first U.S. tour starting in September where she’ll hit San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City. If you’re looking to experience this German pop legend and hear “Genau Jetzt” live, then this is probably exactly what you’ve been waiting for.

LIVE REVIEW: The Hush Sound @ Webster Hall

the hush sound

There’s nothing that makes you feel old quite like seeing some of your favorite bands from high school showcase 10-year reunion shows of albums you can sing in your sleep. But then again, maybe these nostalgic re-enactments are some of the highlights of getting older.

Recently my favorite band from high school, The Hush Sound, went on tour for the ten-year anniversary of their album “Like Vines,” and I was thrilled to catch them at Webster Hall on August 4. I’ve already seen The Spill Canvas this past year and have plans to see Taking Back Sunday with Th e Starting Line in a few months, so yeah, these are undoubtedly the days of my life now. (Go ahead, envy me.)

In high school, Greta Salpeter was essentially my indie rock idol, so being able to see that she’s still as amazing and talented as ever was unsurprising and inspiring. The Hush Sound swept the stage at Webster with the same energy they held at shows 10 years ago—I’m pretty sure the floor was shaking from all the dancing and jumping going on. The chemistry between Salpeter and vocalist/guitarist Bob Morris is undeniable; they play together as if they’ve been jamming and quipping out stage banter nonstop for the past ten years. As they laughed and made us guess what wine they were drinking (obviously it was a pinot noir), they rocked our teenage fangirl/boy hearts with some of our old favorites. “We Intertwined,” “A Dark Congregation,” “Don’t Wake Me Up,” “Magnolia”—have they ever composed even a “meh” track? Maybe “Lions Roar,” but I’m sure there’s someone out there that lost their mind when they played that one last Thursday, too.

the hush sound

After playing through the entirety of Like Vines, the night obviously couldn’t simply end there. Not before they jammed out other hits, which of course included “Crawling Towards the Sun” and “The Artist.” It was one of those performances where I found myself singing along to the guitar and keys parts when there weren’t lyrics to follow.

Salpeter’s tinkling keys were ringing in my ears as I left Webster Hall that night, in a total and complete Hush Sound-induced bliss. Now, if you need me, I can be found wandering the streets of New York with my iPhone 6 playing music that predates its conception.