There’s only one day left in the decade, y’all. Like it or not, 2020 is almost here. Whether you’re ready to send it out with a bang or trying desperately to figure out where the last twenty years went, there’s no denying: the time has flown, and we’re on the cusp of a brand new decade.
Time to put some serious thought into those New Year/New Decade Resolutions, huh?
While you’re working on those resolutions — or just trying to detox after a month of nonstop Christmas music — PLAYING ATLANTA is here to offer a break from the jingling and jangling and remind you that not all music insists that it is, in fact, the most wonderful time of the year.
Full of sultry melodies, blazing rock ’n roll, and enough swampy Southern soul to call forth the dearly departed of Capricorn, FAME, and Stax, PLAYING ATLANTA has been a joy and an ongoing surprise to write. Over the last year, we’ve explored loss, self-love, and life’s long roads, traveled to Colorado with Sam Burchfield, and brought it all the way back home to witness the soul-stirring rock power of The Pinx.
All of that in a year, too. Who knows what the new decade will sound like.
And now, without further ado, PLAYING ATLANTA’s Top 10 of 2019:
Atlanta indie-rock group Lesibu Grand, founded by lead singer Tyler-Simone Molton and bassist John Renaud, blends sharp vocals with a Debbie Harry nonchalance, zesty synth, and new-wave-meets-hip-hop prowess to craft a debut EP that sounds like anything but. Weaving introspective lyrics between tracks like “Miranda,” which tells the story of a loveless suburban marriage launched into out-of-this-world adventures following an alien invasion, The Legend of Miranda is a zingy debut by a band who has already made a name for themselves.
The Pinx rock… and roll, and boogie-woogie all night long, especially in their latest music video, “Mercy!” Shot in the ballroom of a haunted hotel, The Pinx disturb a few guests and draw listeners out of the mundane with each single, music video, and concert.
Featuring the lead vocals and guitar work of Adam McIntyre, lead guitarist and vocalist Chance McColl, bassist Charles Wiles, and drummer Cayce Buttrey, The Pinx takes rock back to its roots and reminds us all of the true meaning of rock ‘n roll: to break down barriers and get everyone dancing.
Actress, filmmaker, indie label co-founder, and singer-songwriter Victoria Blade wear a lot of hats, but she wears them with an incomparably jaunty ease. The Brooklynite-via-Chicago-turned-Atlantian has an uncanny ability to craft an EP that listens more like a diary, chronicling the life and love of a creative nomad. Equal parts studied and effortless, good-natured and introspective, Blade blends lo-fi folk with the sweet sensibility of indie pop, resulting in the breath of fresh air that is Lo-Fi Love Songs.
Athens-based, New-York-born, Ecuadorian-and-Nicaraguan singer-songwriter Sarah Zúñiga brings an intimate sensibility to her unique brand of alternative folk, blending sharp observation with the textured poeticism of traditional Spanish folk music. When we last checked in with her, she had released her latest single, “Heart of Mine,” gearing up for a few highly anticipated winter releases.
The stop-you-in-your-tracks single was followed by a two-song EP featuring Fish, What Is Love To You, and the single “I Like Knowing You’re Around,” but there’s something about the deeply personal “Heart of Mine” that I love. Tackling the weighty, often indescribable effect anxiety has on the heart, “Heart of Mine” features Zúñiga’s unique vocal styling and showcases her ability as a songwriter and musician.
Sam Burchfield’s wanderlust-inducing, Appalachian-folk inspired single “Colorado” was the perfect track to usher in autumn (and I’m still listening to it now!). Based in Atlanta but born and raised in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Burchfield returned to his roots and crafted a stunning ode to the natural world – and the breathtaking beauty of Colorado – with this track.
Atlanta’s chillest electro-pop artist and producer Seersha – aka Kara Revnes – spent two years crafting her latest release, but it was definitely worth the wait. Her seemingly effortless ability to create ambient soundscapes that are equally driving and oh-so-chill is unrivaled, but it was her onstage presence that drew me in from the start. Calm, subdued, and self-assured on stage, she takes that easy confidence with her into the studio, imbuing each song she writes and produces with her own indelible style.
Blues-rock quartet Death Mama is one of the newest – and loudest – players in the rock scene. Committed to a shroud of mystery that envelops the slinky, smoldering sound, the foursome has already made a name for themselves in the Atlanta area. Following the release of two singles, the group dropped their debut album, High Strangeness, featuring seven tracks as jolting as the band’s name.
Atlanta sextet Sarah and the Safe Word had me hooked before I ever heard their music. Their one-line bio – “Jay Gatsby died, we played the funeral.” – wraps the group in their own brand of the operatic, twisted rock ‘n’ roll ethos. Crafting stories that range from a demon-powered car race in “Formula 666” to the swashbuckling battle on the open sea in “Dead Girls Tell No Tales,” the group manages to create a world that’s as outrageous as it is inclusive, a place for anyone and everyone to join in and enjoy the dark, swinging sounds of the 1920s.
Melodic and unassuming, Cicada Rhythm has a way of subtly blending the sweet simplicity of ’60s and ’70s folk music with the hustle and bustle of 21st century life between the slide of fingers on acoustic guitar strings, the swell of a stand-up bass, and crisp harmonic vocals. Featuring bassist Andrea DeMarcus and guitarist Dave Kirslis, Cicada Rhythm has the most down-home sound of any group I’ve heard this year, perfectly showcased in their take of Simon & Garfunkle’s “Cecilia,” the latest installment in their Stuck in My Head cover series.
Combining haunting piano melodies with fuzzy synth and driving rhythms – and the occasional flute solo – Pip the Pansy dispels every notion I ever had about pop music and replaces it with a lilting, quirky melodicism. Uniquely creative, she has a way of entrancing listeners with the effortlessness of a Greek siren, weaving a hazy dreamworld of myth, magic, and melody.
With a powerful live show and a brand new EP, Love Legends, Pt. 1, Pip the Pansy is proof of the magic of reinvention, a perfect send off into a brand new decade.
Keep on rocking, Atlanta – wishing you the happiest of days and a wonderful new year.
Autumn is officially underway here in Atlanta, bringing in cooler weather, colorful leaves, and the perfect Appalachian folk-inspired songs to hum while drinking coffee on a crisp morning, thanks to singer-songwriter Sam Burchfield and his latest single, “Colorado.” The wanderlust-inspiring track, set to a delicate backdrop of plucked acoustic and subtle percussion, is dreamy enough to stick in your head for the rest of the day and send you looking for the next flight out west (consider yourself warned).
Sam Burchfield has been a longtime favorite of mine after I was introduced to his music through his wife, Pip the Pansy. Raised in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina, Burchfield was surrounded by the sounds of traditional Appalachian folk and bluegrass from a young age. Years later, he returns to the sounds of his childhood as he reconnects with himself, the natural world, and the people he loves most.
AF: How did you find your way to music? Did you grow up in a musical household, or was there a moment where you heard a song and fell in love with it? Did you ever think you’d be making music as a career, or was it more of a hobby for you?
SB: I started playing guitar and upright bass in fifth grade and just got addicted. My sisters both played music in orchestra so I guess I saw that and thought it was cool. By the time I got to high school, I had put out a few “records” with my garage rock band and had started a pseudo solo career burning CDs for my friends (who were kind enough to buy them). I went to UGA to study Music Business and pretty much had decided it’s what I was doing with my life. That didn’t become a reality until my junior year of college when I started recording my first real release.
AF: How did growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian musical tradition influence you as a songwriter?
SB: If you listen to my catalog for like a second, you will hear a million references to mountains. That’s just sort of who I am. I’m divinely inspired by the natural world and have always felt at home in Southern Appalachia. I grew up going to my Granny’s house near Sylva, NC, where I’d play in the creek and hike and pick blueberries and pretend to be Davy Crockett. I guess a lot of my music is trying to touch those memories in some way. Also, just being around bluegrass and Southern music sort of makes that the norm, which meant that as a kid I was rebelling against Southern traditional music. It’s finally come full circle where I feel more connected to those roots and the raw honesty that the tradition calls on.
AF: What drives you to keep creating music?
SB: At this point, probably inertia. Writing songs is what I love most, and I want to always be digging for a more powerful, honest, and better song to connect with people.
AF: Who do you consider your greatest inspiration?
SB: Randy Travis.
AF: Your music toes the line between folky singer-songwriter and more soulful tracks like “Dinner,” released last year. Do you feel more drawn to one or the other?
SB: I think at the moment I’m more drawn to folk songs. It’s what I’ve been writing and it’s more of who I am at my core. I do like to have some fun and play soulful and funky jams with the band live though.
AF: Do you try to maintain a certain sound or style while writing, or do you follow the voice of each song?
SB: In the past, I almost tried too hard for my songs to be different, but lately, working on a record has really made me write for the record, which I think is important. Learning to make something a cohesive body of work is an art in and of itself. It’s a way to weave all of the unique voices of songs into a choir. But I generally let the song be discovered rather than having a preconceived sound I’m going for.
AF: What’s your writing and recording process like? Do you write, produce, and record your own music, or do you prefer to collaborate with others?
SB: Lately I’ve been doing it all myself. In the past, I have collaborated in a million different ways, whether with friends, writers, producers, or band members. I prefer to be pretty in control with the occasional feedback from people I trust a lot and who can be honest with me. Writing for me is normally about getting my mind to shut off and shut up and let ideas flow freely. At some point I just have a gut feeling on an idea that needs to be fleshed out. Sometimes that happens instantaneously, or sometimes it’s five years later. Recording is always a bit different. I want to serve the song, so sometimes I track things live on my own or with a band or overdub and layer the pieces together. I try to be present to what feels the best and trust that as much as possible.
AF: You crisscross the country quite a bit! How do your travels influence your writing? Do you tend to write while you’re on the road, or do you save it for the off-season?
SB: If I am solo driving, I write all the time. I think while I’m driving it’s easier for ideas to flow because I’m just distracted enough to not overthink things. I would say I’m pretty constantly writing or working on some idea in the studio. All the traveling has definitely inspired a lot of my new music, especially seeing some areas of the country I had never seen, like Colorado and Utah.
AF: You’ve released three singles this year: “Blue Ridge June,” “Waking Up,” and “Colorado.” Can you tell us a bit about the songs? What inspired them?
SB: “Waking Up” and “Colorado” were inspired by traveling out West, but all of them are about reconnecting with the natural world and each other. I did some soul searching over the past few years and decided that was sort of my musical mission. “Blue Ridge” is about where I grew up and was a co-write with my wife [Pip the Pansy]. Really my favorite co-write ever, I think. She’s a brilliant lyricist and really brought the feeling to life of missing the Blue Ridge and personifying the mountains as a fairy nymph or something.
“Waking Up” was a very old idea that I started probably five years ago, and then after going out west for the first time, I found the inspiration to complete it. It maps out a sort of spiritual/natural awakening. “Colorado” was obviously inspired by Colorado. Pip and I fell in love with that place and have made some incredible friends there. It was another sort of co-write with her, and originally we just had the verses with nothing else. [I] loved the verse melody so much that I couldn’t put a chorus to it, until one night at like 4 am I was working on it and came up with my first one-word chorus: “Colorado.”
AF: You and your wife, Pip the Pansy, are both incredibly talented musicians and songwriters! How do you influence each other? Do you collaborate often?
SB: We definitely collaborate. We don’t often do it intentionally; it’s more of just a passing thing since we are around each other all the time. I did help write and record her latest project with our buddy Caleb Hawley in NYC, which was a cool week of collaboration. I like to think that we keep each other grounded and hopefully keep each other true to ourselves. That’s such a hard thing to maintain, so it’s awesome to have a very talented partner who can give me honest feedback on my songs but also on my heart.
AF: What’s been your favorite experience as a husband and wife creative duo?
SB: Specifically in the creative realm? We really do love to travel together so it’s awesome when music takes us to beautiful new places. Star-gazing in the Utah desert was certainly a highlight.
AF: You are such a huge player in the Atlanta music scene; what’s it been like to be a part of as it has grown and changed? Do you ever miss the way it used to be?
SB: I’m not sure I can really speak to how it is changing – I think it’s an awesome community of people and it’s still trying to figure out what it is as a “scene.” Smaller towns I think have it easier in a way; it’s more of a natural local scene in a place like Athens. Atlanta is a bunch of scenes all swirling around each other and intermingling, which has pros and cons I’m sure.
AF: What’s been your favorite performance in the city? Do you have a dream venue you’d like to play?
SB: Favorite performance in Atlanta was probably my first time selling out Eddie’s Attic. I’d be incredibly pumped to play any legendary music venue; Red Rocks would be towards the top of that list, but I really am enjoying the cozy intimate rooms that I get to perform in now too. Something about a small space really changes how you can connect with folks, and I’m trying to fully appreciate that while I get to do it!
AF: Last one! Is there a new Sam Burchfield album coming soon?
SB: Yes! There is. Still finishing it up as we speak. But my new record Graveyard Flower should be out soon.
For Moriah Piacente, Athens-and-Atlanta-based artist, vintage fashion curator, and lover of all things weird, wacky, and wonderful, the lines between visual art and music are nonexistent. Blending the enigmatic charisma of Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka with the delicate, ethereal creativity of David Bowie, Piacente exists in a glittering, psychedelic, purple-tinted Victorian Wonderland where modern fashion caves to ’60s-Mod stylings and drudging normalcy is the only unwanted guest.
After her elegant yet visceral performance in Pip the Pansy’s “Siren Song,” I was thrilled to land an interview with Major Mars herself. Read on for a sneak peek into Piacente’s mystical world.
AF: Let’s start at the very beginning: how were you introduced to visual art? When did you realize you wanted to pursue it, or that it was your life’s calling?
MP: Oh my gosh I am insanely excited and blessed to have my first ever interview with you! Thank you so much for having me! I would say it first sparked my interest I when was introduced to Of Montreal. The way they created this insane atmosphere and brought their own world to life made me want to do the same.
I’ve always been passionate about music, and, for a long time, I thought it was what I wanted to do with my life. I could never really fully express myself through it though. I started getting into fine art photography in 2015, and I was hooked. I worked with a photographer out of Athens, Ben Rouse, and he ended up introducing me to a bunch of amazing creatives in the Athens scene. That ended up connecting me with a visual artist, Dana Jo, who was kind of mentor to me. She asked me to be a part of her DJ set at the 40 Watt during Slingshot Festival 2016, and that was my first ever experience on stage! I realized that being able to express my passion for music visually was all I’ve ever wanted and more. As lame as it sounds, my soul ignited that night.
AF: Who do you consider your greatest inspirations? Was there any one person who made you say, “This is what I want to do with my life”?
MP: I’d say my greatest inspiration is David Bowie. I’m also very inspired by the director David Lynch, but I’d say I’m the most inspired by a good, strange film: Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, Weekend, The Holy Mountain, and Clockwork Orange are some of my favorite films to flip on when I want to feel inspired. I really love how visually stimulating and bizarre those films are. It made me want to create my own world outside of my mind that others could enjoy. I’m also just super inspired by the people around me. I’m lucky enough to know some amazing musicians and artists that inspire me on the daily.
AF: How has visual art allowed you to truly express yourself at times when you don’t feel like you can otherwise?
MP: I can be a pretty shy, awkward person when you first meet me. I can be really bad with words. I get nervous and shy and make myself feel small. However, when I’m creating or performing or whatever, I’m focused on that and putting my all into it. I put all of my emotion into it. And sometimes when I’m feeling super depressed or anxious, but don’t know how to say it, I can go and take that energy and create something beautiful from it. That’s probably why most of my art is a bit creepy. Depression and anxiety are feelings that sometimes don’t have reason backing them up, so when I can’t find the words, I just go be weird.
AF: You’ve been part of some incredibly powerful performances with POWERKOMPANY, as well as music videos like Pip the Pansy’s “Siren Song.” What experience has been your favorite?
MP: I’m super proud of everything I’ve done and been a part of! My favorite experience, so far, was driving down to Vero Beach with Pip The Pansy and three other girls to shoot the music video for Siren Song. I had never done choreography before, and I didn’t know these girls very well so I was super nervous! It ended up being one of the most beautiful and rewarding experiences ever. Pip is incredible, and I love that she’s always down to create and try weird things. Working with her is amazing!
AF: What’s your dream performance?
MP: Oh gosh, that’s a tough one. There’s a lot of artists I’d love to collaborate with, and I’d also love to do an art installation. Does that count? I’d love to do an art installation.
AF: Do you prefer to work alone, or in a collaborative environment? Who would be your dream collaboration, living or dead?
MP: I prefer to work in small groups. Two to four people is my sweet spot. I feel like I get the most creative when I’m brainstorming with others and having a good discussion. I’d love to collaborate with a bunch of artists I’ve met over on Instagram like Danielle Hibert or Storm Calysta or Miss Lucy Fleur, but don’t make me decide, ‘cause they’re all too dreamy!
I’d absolutely love to collab with Jordana Dale. She’s a photographer out of Atlanta. I worked with her on a shoot for Pip The Pansy and she was incredible! Her work is insane. It was also my dream to work with Pip, and I’m so thankful that dream became reality! There are also lots of musicians I’d love to collab with. Hit me up, yo.
AF: You’ve also got a beautiful online vintage shop, Major Mars Vintage. Where did you get the name from (because it’s so rad)?
MP: Thank you so much! When I was first starting the shop, I was brainstorming with my boyfriend. He actually came up with the name! It’s supposed to be kind of like Major Tom, but it’s Major Mars, cause ya know that’s me! I’m Mars.
AF: What part do you think fashion plays in visual art? Do you consider fashion design to be an integral part of visual art, or visual art itself? Did you ever consider going into fashion design?
MP: I think it plays a huge part. I think fashion is visual art if you want it to be. Fashion is a way to express yourself freely. That’s absolutely art. I mean, look at the Club Kids. Some of the coolest art I’ve ever seen! I’ve thought about it, yes. There’s just too much math there, though, honestly.
AF: What would be your advice to your younger self?
MP: Stop putting your energy into others that don’t give a shit and start putting it into yourself and your art. Speak up and stick up for yourself. Focus on making yourself proud of you. You’ve got this. Keep fighting the good fight.
AF: That’s beautiful advice! How can your followers and fans keep up with your work, and support you as you create even more magic?
MP: As much as I hate to say it, social media is huge for small artists like myself. It really helps a lot when you share posts and comment and all of that. I’m also on Patreon! You can follow me over there to support my art and keep updated on the projects I’m working on!
AF: What’s coming up for you and Major Mars?
MP: I have a few things in the works for the rest of the year! Podcasts and pop-ups and all kinds of weird. I’m not sure about the dates just yet, though, so keep an eye out on my Instagram!
Keep up with Moriah on Instagram, and shop her curated vintage store, Major Mars Vintage, for all the mod stylings and psychedelic pieces you could ever want.
The first time I ever had the chance to see Pip the Pansy perform, she was known by another name and draped in flowers: her body, her microphone stand, her keyboard. She was a character from a Greek myth that had traveled through the ages to grace us with her song, and she captivated the audience with an imperceptible magic.
Combining haunting piano melodies with fuzzy synth and driving rhythms – and the occasional flute solo – Pip the Pansy dispels every notion I ever had about pop music and replaces it with a lilting, quirky melodicism. With the release of her latest single, “Siren Song,” I can’t help but find myself even more completely under her spell. Read on as we deep-dive into her creative process, her collaboration with her husband (Atlanta singer-songwriter Sam Burchfield), and her take on timeless lessons found in ancient literature.
AF: Thanks so much for sitting down with me! You are one of the most uniquely creative artists I’ve ever encountered; how did you find your way to music?
Pip: Gah, thank you! Ya know, it never really crossed my mind growing up that I would pursue a career in music. I had taken some piano lessons as a kid, started playing flute in the 4th grade, took some chorus classes in grade school, and dabbled in musical theatre, but it was never really my main focus; it was a hobby. I put a lot more energy into the visual arts, I would say.
I got my degree in photography and figured I would end up doing something in that field but everything shifted pretty quickly after I graduated college. I remember applying for photography jobs right after college and feeling sort of blue about it. I love photography so much — it is one of my passions — but I had a gnawing feeling that if I pursued only photography, I would be neglecting a lot of my other interests and strengths.
I had sort of toyed with the idea of writing songs, but nothing serious. My good friend Gemille encouraged me to give it a real effort, so I figured why not? Having a musical persona seemed like a good way to combine all my passions into one little package. There’s a visual aspect to it, an opportunity to connect with people, a little bit of theatre in a way, lots of traveling… I liked the job description and decided to give it a shot. It helped that I had always kept some musical hobby in my back pocket and I grew up with a fairly musical family; everyone sings or plays an instrument — not professionally — but still, it was always around me. Looking back, I should have known I would end up doing something like this.
AF: You combine such stunning visuals with music that really draws listeners into another world, and it verges on performance art, in my opinion. Can you talk some about your evolution as an artist, both as a singer-songwriter and a visual artist? How do you create such powerful choreography in your music videos?
Pip: I think the visual arts portion of me and the songwriter portion of me are constantly informing each other and shaping each other. I wouldn’t write the songs I write if I didn’t have a background in the arts, and my art wouldn’t look the way it does without the music. When I first started this whole thing my goal was just to get it out there, a “fake it ’til you make it” sort of deal. My material was more vapid, but still eye-catching, simply trying to attract some attention. I figured people were probably going to remember what they saw more than what they heard, and nowadays people may not even stop to listen unless it looks interesting. All the flowers were just a way to get people to stop and listen and hopefully leave something in their brains to remember.
Of course, you can’t fake it the whole time; the art has to mature if you want it to last at all. I know now that I have a responsibility to create things that are meaningful or that at least say something. As my career and life move forward, I am finding it more and more enjoyable to take my time with things, to learn and soak up experiences, so that when I do create art, it is coming from a place of depth and not just shallow content, although “shallow” content can have its positive place in art sometimes. But yeah, I used to not care if things didn’t make sense; as long as the melody was beautiful, I felt satisfied. Things stylistically and technically have improved over time for me as well, but the biggest evolution is probably that I care more about the meaning behind my art now more than ever.
As far as choreography goes, I am not really a dancer, but I do love the idea of the human body being another expression of creativity. I can’t help but move when I hear music playing. It just seems natural to dance in some of my videos. For my most recent music video, I had some help from my friend Jordana Dale. She came over one day and we worked through some choreo together for “Siren Song.” It was one of the most fun things I have ever done with a friend. I highly recommend it.
AF: What is your creative process like? How do you take a song from the idea to the studio to the stage?
Pip: The creative process can be so hard to explain, and it differs from project to project. The best I can say is that I absolutely have to be alone at first. I feel too shy and vulnerable to create while people are around, especially during the initial conception of an idea. Even my husband being home can give me a lot of anxiety while trying to create. I like to start at the piano and eventually I move to the computer to add the proper atmosphere around whatever melody I came up with. I don’t even know where lyrics come from. Most of my songs start with some placeholder lyrics that make no sense at all, but it’s the right number of syllables for the melody, and then I try to plug in the right words from there. Sometimes it feels like it’s all happening simultaneously.
My most productive, creative moments are a whole day ordeal. I get the best stuff done when Sam is gone on tour and I wake up and spend an entire day alone. I don’t talk to any other humans and I hole up in the house and drink a ton of coffee and tea. I pace a lot on those days or just lay in the middle of the floor looking at the ceiling. Sometimes I will have three of those days in a row. I like to get to the point where I feel really lonely and a little crazy; that’s when stuff starts to flow better.
I tend to prioritize how the song is going to sound in the studio. I want it to exist as its own little piece of art. I don’t ever really consider how it is going to feel on stage until it’s completely done. Even now, I have a new EP that is about to come out and I still haven’t thought about the show. Maybe a proper comparison would be a painter wanting their painting to look really good and they don’t even think about how it’s going to look hanging in a museum or printed on a postcard. They just care that their creation now exists in its proper form, but eventually, they’re like, “Oh yeah, I probably should put it in a good frame and have good lighting on it I guess.” Maybe that’s a dumb analogy. I definitely care that my shows are a good experience, but my songs on the stage feel like a completely different thing than the song itself.
AF: Which bands or artists do you consider your greatest inspirations?
Pip: Grimes and The Beatles.
AF: Your husband, Sam Burchfield, is a musician as well. Do you collaborate creatively with each other, or do you keep your projects separate? Does your creative process differ when you’re working together versus when you’re working alone?
Pip: I love an opportunity to work with Sam but it’s rare. My anxiety ramps up the most when we are trying to collaborate and that usually causes us to stop. But there have been a few times where we’ve kept that under control and have been able to work together and it’s always really gratifying when it does work out. He recently released a song titled “Blue Ridge June” that was our first true co-write. We were both working on our computers one day and I heard him sort of humming this melody — I don’t think he even realized he was humming — and I quickly got out my phone recorder and was trying to steal the idea without him noticing. I was caught red-handed and we decided to stop sending emails and go write the song together. I’m still pretty private with the start of an idea but once I get something going I do like to sort of bounce some ideas off of Sam and get his input. He was definitely a bigger part of this upcoming release. The melody for “Land of Love” came from him just messing around on the piano one night and a lot of the lyrics in “Medusa” were co-written.
The nice thing about working with Sam is that we play completely different genres so there is never any feeling of jealousy or competition or fighting over which artist the song will belong to. We genuinely want to serve the song and come up with something that is true and genuine for whichever one of our projects we are working on. Sam is so patient and graceful; I am really lucky to be married to him. It’s a vulnerable process but it’s really beautiful to be able to create music together.
AF: You’ve gone through quite a few changes over the last few years, most notably a name change. What has been your biggest takeaway through the changes, and what advice would you give to your younger self, knowing what you’ll face in the future?
Pip: Don’t be too prideful and stay focused on your aim.
AF: You’ve got a brand new album, Love Legends; Part 1, coming out soon. What was the inspiration behind the record? Did it differ from previous projects?
Pip: Love Legends; Part I is inspired by Greek Mythology and the Italian Renaissance. I wanted to revisit the Greek classics and bring them into an indie-pop realm. I am fascinated by the lessons that can be learned in ancient stories and it’s interesting to see the same truths reflected across many cultures. At the moment, I don’t feel like writing about parties, or ‘being yourself,’ or the political climate, or even love songs for that matter; that’s all already out there. If I am going to add to the noise I want it to be about our mortality. All the things happening around us are important but above all, we are going to die, and I want to nourish my soul with truth. At least that’s my aim for this current project. I feel like I am only on the tip of the iceberg with Part I so I am excited to further the concept with future projects.
This EP differs from other projects in that it is my most DIY. I did a lot of pre-production at home and then recorded the EP with Sam and our good friend Caleb Hawley in an empty apartment in Spanish Harlem and had our friend Owen Lewis mix everything. It’s also the first time that all the songs revolve around one theme.
AF: You’ve just released an incredible music video for “Siren Song,” and it’s absolutely stunning! What’s the story behind the song?
Pip: “Siren Song” is my version of the sirens in Homer’s Odyssey. The sirens are winged creatures that lure sailors to their destruction with their beautiful song. They are symbolic of something that is essentially too good to be true, like fame or fortune. We are tempted by the allure of fame, money, beauty, more social media numbers or lust, et cetera, but these things lead to an empty life, to the death of our souls if we aren’t careful.
In my version of their song, the sirens sing, “Call out my name.” I believe when we say something out loud, we speak it into existence. Acknowledging a desire enough to say it out loud allows it to gnaw at you and taunt you. You will start to chase it but you will never be happy.
AF: We’re living in a time where women in music and art are given more of the respect they so deserve, but, at the same time, more and more injustice is coming to light, as shown by the #MeToo movement, not to mention several groups petitioning for more visibility for women on the radio or festival lineups. What has been your personal experience as a woman in the music industry? Do you feel that the industry is changing, and, if so, for the better?
Pip: I cannot speak for others, but my personal experience as a woman in the industry has not been bad. In fact, I am very happy with how things have gone. With the exception of a few drunkards, I generally feel like my fans and peers are extremely respectful. While true injustice needs to be addressed, I am personally very hesitant to add to the subject as a “victim” of some patriarchal system because I believe all these issues are far more complicated than that. There are more factors than just gender bias that play into the visibility of women vs. men on the radio/festivals. If someone is treating me unfairly I would rather have the mentality that they are treating me that way because they’re an asshole instead of because I am a woman. I don’t want to further a culture that starts to demonize the “white man” or masculinity; I think that is a dangerous approach to the problem. I am still trying my best to understand it all and I want to be careful with my words, so for now I will continue to observe and research while grinding away at my art, finding my voice and hustling as hard as I can. I do think positive changes are happening and women have more freedom than ever to pursue something like this.
AF: You’re a fixture in the Atlanta-Athens music scene. What’s it been like to see the music and art scenes grow over the last few years, and why did you decide to make it your home base?
Pip: Athens was the perfect city to start doing music… everyone there is so receptive of art no matter what form it comes in, plus the motivation you get from being surrounded by an artistic community is priceless. I love Athens for that and owe a lot of my career to that community. I moved to Atlanta to challenge myself and to be closer to Sam. For now it is a great home base; we love our friends and we are able to travel easily out of Atlanta.
AF: Last one! What’s next for Pip the Pansy?
Pip: Part II, I suppose!
Stream “Siren Song” on Spotify now, and keep up with Pip as she prepares for the release of Love Legends; Part I, direct from the Land of Love.
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