TellemJoness and Shalom share ‘Modern Nostalgia’ three-pack

Modern Nostalgia
Modern Nostalgia
Artwork by Noah Catalan

When TellemJoness and Shalom first linked up to record “Fade Away,” they never knew it would lead to a project. The two Cincinnati natives – Joness, a local hip hop staple, and Shalom, a budding star – had been fans of each other’s for a while, and the chemistry in their intertwined voices was just too good to pass up. 

“’Fade Away’ was just gonna be a collaboration. I would do a verse or whatever, maybe be on the hook. So, we did that and Shalom was like, ‘Joness, do you think you could hop on this other song too?’ And ‘Divine Council’ happened,” Joness says. “So, we were like, ‘We should release this as a project.’”

A few recording sessions later in Joness’ home studio, and the pair had created Modern Nostalgia – an atmospheric three-pack including “Fade Away,” “God Like,” and “Divine Council.”

It’s also Shalom’s debut project. “It’s been a long time coming,” Shalom reflects. The duo first joined forces officially in 2019 on Papa Gora’s single, “Mayday.” Working on building his own catalogue, Shalom approached Joness about featuring her on a song while at Cincinnati’s Elementz

“I’ve always been a fan of Joness,” he tells Audiofemme. “I met her at a poetry slam called Speak… and being exposed to those creatives in the city motivated me to do something of my own.”

TellemJoness added, “I’ve known him for years as a poet and an activist in the community – so, a very kindred spirit, but he’s nice with some flows, too.”

“I think we both resonate with the sonic vibe of the project because we’re both poets,” she continued. “I know my power is in my words; my relationship with words and how I use them and string them together. And that’s important to him as well. So, the content, the things that we talk about in the three songs – it’s heavy.”

The emcees discuss religion, spirituality, and provide commentary on society as a whole, though you’ll have to listen to the project a few times through to truly get the deeper meanings; it’s easy to be swept up in the dreaminess of Joness’ and Shalom’s vocals. 

“The things we talk about in ‘Fade Away,’ ‘God Like,’ and ‘Divine Council,’ they’re all – for lack of a better word – trendy things,” says Joness. “Like, people talk about their spiritual journeys, exalting women – as we should be, because we do so much but get credit for so little – and getting rid of negativity, keeping positive auras. But where we’re coming from on these tracks are not necessarily trendy places – they come from a place of healing for us. We kind of flipped these trends on their head and presented them in a different way.”

Photo by: The Content Girl 

“All of the messages that we have intertwined in the songs, it was important for us to shine a light on those things and speak honestly,” Shalom adds. “And we wanted to make sure our sound was fluid, which I think came pretty natural.”

The artists’ conscientious bars are underscored by celestial production, courtesy of Pxvce. The effort was also engineered by Joness and mixed and mastered by GrandAce. With their first collaborative project out, Joness and Shalom are now working on their solo endeavors – though they’re open to working together again in the future. 

“I think we kind of set a standard with this,” Shalom says. “We could create a Modern Nostalgia Part 2. So, we’ll see what happens.” 

Joness is currently readying her debut studio album P.O.L.R., which was delayed last year due to the pandemic. “Now that [Modern Nostalgia] is out, I’m even more inspired,” she says. “I’m so grateful for Shalom. He’s an example of if he wants to do something, he’s gonna go do it.”

Follow TellemJoness on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Tori Helene Teams Up with Natown on Latest Single “Detached”

Cincinnati-based singer/ songwriter Tori Helene has joined forces with frequent collaborator and producer Natown for her first single of the year, “Detached.” Helene says it’s one of her “most empowering” songs yet. “At the time when I was writing this song, I was feeling emotional and dealing with this specific situation that felt pretty one-sided,” she tells Audiofemme. “So, [‘Detached’] was me speaking my truth and my feelings to that person and the situation.”

Helene, who’s made atmospheric vocals and relationship drama her melodic bread and butter, shines on Natown’s minimalistic production. “It’s clear that you just come around only when you get bored/I go along with it though I don’t know what I’m staying for,” she sings, about feeling overlooked by a lover and refusing to settle for less. “You won’t put no time in it/So I won’t put no hope in it.”

Helene finds the courage to walk away from the relationship on the track’s earworm chorus. “Don’t stop me when I leave, ‘cause I ain’t doin’ nothing wrong/And baby I just wanna do me, so I ain’t doin’ nothing wrong,” she croons. 

“Detached” is an accurate sampling of what Helene does best. She consistently serves up the self-assuredness and unapologetic confidence we all want to have, while never losing a relatable sense of vulnerability. “I was really feeling [this song] when I was recording it,” she says of the track.

Helene says that “Detached” was actually written and recorded during sessions for a project that was supposed to come out in 2020 called Chainless. “I decided to start a new project instead,” she explains simply. “[‘Detached’] was one of my favorite songs on there, so I had to release it as a single.” Although she ended up scrapping Chainless, Helene says she may release one other song made during the recording sessions as a future single, and is planning to release her next EP this summer. 

“[It] has a whole different sound and vibe that I’m pretty excited about,” she says of the project. “I’m releasing it in early summer and there are two features on it. That’s all I can say for right now.”

The currently untitled effort will mark Helene’s first project since her 2019 EP, Delusional, which featured Cincinnati rapper D-Eight. Helene followed up the effort with three singles last year, “Get It Right,” “If You’re Lucky” and “Sitting Pretty,” the latter two of which arrived with videos that did not disappoint. Helene says fans can be on the lookout for a “Detached” visual soon.

Turning the conversation over to Women’s History Month and female representation in Cincinnati’s music scene, Helene says the city could be doing better. While Cincy has enjoyed vibrant blooms in hip hop, pop and R&B music the past few years, it’s remained, unfortunately, a bit one-sided. 

“I feel like [women] should be represented more,” Helene says, recommending Elle and LXXS. “I feel like the female artists are overlooked a lot of the time, especially female singers.” With her commanding presence, Tori Helene is certain to be among the Cincinnati artists who will change that.

Follow Tori Helene on Instagram for ongoing updates.

PLAYING CINCY: Bershy Releases Queer Love Single, “Sixty Seconds”


Ahead of her forthcoming EP, Bershy dropped off her latest single, “Sixty Seconds.” The Cincinnati-based pop singer wrote the song in a heated moment of relationship doubt.

“I wrote that song in like 15 minutes after what I can only describe as an existential love crisis,” she told AudioFemme. “I have now been with my partner for like a year, but when we first got together I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m so in love with you, nothing will ever go wrong.’ And we had our first fight and I was like, ‘Do I even love this person? What do I want out of this?'”

With the new track, Bershy remembers the value of taking a minute to think things through and accepts that moments of obscurity and self-doubt are a part of relationships.

“We’re humans, having a squabble, it’s ok,” she said. “‘Give me sixty seconds’ sounded better than, ‘I need a minute,’ but that’s basically what it is.”


The new track also marks the singer/songwriter’s second dive into the pop genre, following her single, “Say Fire.”

“I’m like in this weird, experimental phase,” Bershy said. “I’ve been doing folk music since I was like 15 and then switched to ‘dream-pop’ last summer.”

With two breezy pop singles under her belt, she’s currently working with Cincinnati producer Mike Landis to drop one more song, which will be followed with a four-track wrap-up EP, arriving this spring.

“A lot of the songs are about relationships as a whole,” she said. “I also think [that] being a queer person informs how I think of culture and politics. So, I get a lot of inspiration from that, but love is so easy to write about!”

Stream “Sixty Seconds” below.

PLAYING CINCY: Pop Empire Talk “Novena,” Finding Their Sound & Incense

Pop Empire / Novena

Cincinnati trio Pop Empire recently dropped their nine-track album, Novena. The indie-rock outfit will head out on a supporting tour this month.

Novena marks the 10-year-old group’s first full-length album since 2014’s Future Blues and the first album with the group’s current lineup – founding member Henry Wilson, guitarist Katrina Eresman, and drummer Jake Langknecht.

Teased with singles “Sister Chaos,” “Black Wine,” and “For Maggie,” the record navigates glittery soundscapes of psychedelic and progressive rock, tied together by what the band labels as a feeling of “familiarity.”

Here, Henry, Katrina, and Jake talk about their recording process and learning to communicate as a band, which ultimately led to Pop Empire finding its unique sonic home in Novena. The bandmates also discuss the virtue of patience, studio magic, and the helpful scents of Nicki Minaj incense.

Stream Novena and check out their upcoming tour dates below.

AF: Congrats on your new album! Can you tell me about some of the underlying themes?

H: The songs came from each of us throughout different periods of time. Really what you hear on this album, is just the three of us playing in a room together and something, that the three of us have developed over a couple years, that is its own distinct sound. It’s certainly got plenty of familiar influences. I think there’s a lot of themes in the album that tie the songs together.

J: The recording of the album took place over a good couple of months. It was just the three of us, we didn’t really have anybody else’s time we were occupying and we weren’t spending a bunch of money at a studio. We were in a familiar space and we could really take our time to run takes of the songs, as many times as we needed to. Some of them hadn’t really been written or arranged, to a large degree, yet. As different as the songs might seem at first listen, from song to song, I think to all of us there is definitely a feeling of cohesion between them. We hammered them out in the same process and the same place with a lot of patience.

AF: What can you tell me about the significance of the title, Novena?

H: I would get in trouble if I didn’t give credit to my mother for actually coming up with the name, she suggested it. We had tried a bunch of titles—the album had come together long before the title was given. The number nine is significant—there’s nine songs on the album. The number nine is related to the word Novena, which means a nine-fold in Latin. It refers to an ancient form of prayer that was also adopted into Catholicism, which is a nine-day prayer in a traditional form. The reason for the number nine sounds, like, way more Hocus-Pocus than I really am [laughing].

AF: This is Pop Empire’s first album since 2014 and with the new band members. How does Novena differ from Future Blues?

K: The way that I feel all the songs are tied together in one piece is that we were trying to write them before we learned how to communicate as a band and as friends. Personally, I was communicating through the songs. I joined this band on a tour last minute so I came in and literally learned the guitar parts to play so it was very impersonal to me and I did that for a long time. I think that there was a period of time when we were trying to work on these songs and I was sort of, like, trying to play in that style still, like as the old guitarist, and fill those shoes. And then there was some point where I connected more. I think in general, I’m a little less traditionally skilled—a little bit more dirty, dissonant, and noisy as a guitarist. So now that I could see it in my own way I think that influenced the style, ‘cause all the songs existed in some form, and some of them for a really long time.

AF: What is each of your favorite song on the album?

K: I would say I’m surprised by how much I ended up liking “Riding The Crest” ‘cause it was very frustrating for a long time. I didn’t know what to do with it. And then it became something real different than what it was.

H: This is the song that, for Pop Empire nerds out there, was technically released as a bonus track on a Bandcamp download. Well, there was a song with the same name. It’s pretty vastly different. There was definitely a direct evolution from the beginning of the song into what it is now.

K: Now, it’s totally made me tear up before. It’s a really nice, emotive song.

AF: You’re also going on tour this month. Any new places for you?

H: I think there will be some new in-between spots. Even though Cincinnati is so close to so many towns, there are still lot of places we haven’t gone to as a band.

AF: Where do you draw inspiration from?

J: There’s a lot. Everything that I listen to nine months prior probably influenced this album. But the songs didn’t really come from any particular place except from me. It was natural enough with my style and the way I played, and our style, driving the album. We’ve been a band—and I’ve been playing with Henry for five years or more and I’ve known Katy now for two years—so we’ve established our own sound. I feel like the album itself had a sound before we even touched it.

K: Your style is like dark blocks. Dark-colored shapes and blocks–that’s how I picture your style, visually. That’s where you got your influence [laughing].

J: [Laughing] Cool.

K: Yeah, I don’t know for me either. I think I ended up thinking in the context of Drone-y music, like really heavy playing. I don’t like consciously point to people that I am inspired by, but I do find myself finding influence from bands.

H: For me, it’s going to be a lot of old stuff. A lot of 20’s and 30’s. While we were making this album we weren’t even listening to any of the same stuff. We just knew what sound the songs had once we heard it. When they’re all played together, to me, the songs all have to do with evoking a very calming and reassuring presence that feels very familiar, from like before you were born. If that kind of presence could be found, that’s what all of these songs were trying to go for.

AF: So maybe, stylistically, if there weren’t too many outside influences, this album was just you hitting your collective stride?

K: I think it could be. I’ve definitely read interviews where people will be like, ‘Oh, we just went in the studio and it was just there,’ and that’s kind of messed with my head because I have to try and would get frustrated if something didn’t come immediately. So I don’t like to say that, but on the other hand it is kind of what happened with this album. We were just working really hard all winter, over and over and over, and just kind of somehow ended up coming together. It showed that there is like a magic that can happen when we connect as musicians, it just took a while.

H: I think that’s a really good point. To anybody that wants to learn something, this absolutely is something that requires grit and perseverance. It was really tough, there were plenty of times where it could have felt easier to give up on the project, but we really stuck through it. The album only happened because of that.

AF: Exactly. What are some key takeaways you learned from recording this album?

J: We really came together as these three people. But also, for me, I never had the opportunity to really like take time in recording and be really patient with my parts. Short of deriving expectations—how do you get to where you have a song that is presentable as a final iteration? Both through the tools you need to use and also the working process.

H: Also, we used lots of incense to conjure the moments we were trying to create.

K: We had a Nicki Minaj incense.

H: And Ariana Grande.

AF: What do those smell like?

J: Who can say [laughing]?

K: Also, a little Charcuterie tray is very nice.

H: Yes, meats and cheeses and a fridge full of sparkling water.


9/4 – Fort Wayne, IN @ The Brass Rail
9/5 – Chicago, IL @ The Owl
9/7 – Minneapolis, MN @ Palmer’s Bar
9/9 – Nashville, TN @ The East Room
9/19 – Pittsburgh, PA @ The Mr. Roboto Project
9/20 – Philadelphia, PA @ House Show – RSVP for address
9/21 – Brooklyn, NY @ Knitting Factory
9/23 – Saratoga Springs, NY @ Desperate Annie’s

PLAYING CINCY: TRIIIBE Stays Busy With New Album, Solo Projects & Outreach Programs


With three very active members in Cincy’s hip-hop community, TRIIIBE always has a lot going on. Aziza Love recently dropped her solo effort Views From The Cut EP, Siri Imani is gearing up to release her debut solo project Therapy project next month, and as a trio they’ve not only been working on new music, but also developing community outreach projects, and credit Cincinnati for stepping up and following them on their musical and philanthropic journey.

After their Bunbury Music Festival set on June 2, members Siri Imani, PXVCE, and Aziza Love opened up about spreading positivity on stage, their individual and group growth, their next album arriving this fall, details on their youth and homeless outreach programs, and the important of investing in their community.

AF: Your set was awesome, really great energy. Siri, I know you have a solo project coming out soon, can you tell me a little bit about it?

Siri: Yeah, it’s called Therapy. It releases on July 19. It definitely just goes into a journey of my life, not only this year, but just everything I’ve been through.

AF: And since it’s your debut solo, how has that been different from your usual group recording?

Siri: It is different. Not too different, because PXVCE is producing pretty much every beat that’s on the project, so it still has the TRIIIBE feel. It has the same vibe and message, but it’s more personal and it’s more specific. Therapy goes into five points and it’s the five stages of healing from PTSD and it goes into different parts of my life that reflect those different stages, leading into the transition of a healthier life and healing.

AF: At your set today, you had everybody repeat: “I love me.” You said, “You are worthy.” You implement that positivity not only into your music, but also in your stage presence. Why are those messages important to you?

Aziza: I feel like healing is its own vibration. Music carries and supports that vibration when we all come together to speak our truths. I think that, in itself, creates the opportunity for community healing. So our music, not only when we perform live, but when we’re in the studio among ourselves performing, we open that space for clear communication and raw expression and that, in itself, can be a release, which supports a healthier state of mind, spirit, and being. So joining with people we’ve never met before in that same space, to invite them to do the same thing, I think is really powerful.

PXVCE: It’s a healing process. It’s a transfer of energy. We are able to get to know the audience [and] the audience is able to get to know us, in a very small amount of time, and it’s a lot of our first impressions for a lot of people, so in order for us to relay our message I think it’s powerful to have it received so easily. Words are very powerful; vibrations are very powerful. With us saying, ‘We love you, we love ourselves,’ I think it is very healing.

TRIIIBE performing at Bunbury on June 2, 2019. Photos by Victoria Moorwood.

AF: Siri, you’ve got a solo project coming out. Aziza, you just released your Views From The Cut EP. Is TRIIIBE recording anything together at the moment?

Siri: Oh yeah. Our last album came out on 10/10, our next album comes out 10/10.

PXVCE: We’re about to make it like a ceremonial thing.

AF: What stage is the project in?

Aziza: We’re in a transformative stage because it’s a mixture of writing, recording, reconnecting. We’re setting our focus to our philanthropic side and all that we do. Especially seeing all what’s been happening in Dayton right now, reconfiguring in general with one how we’re operating in Cincinnati and how we’re operating elsewhere and how we can help on a more grand scale. We’re in a transformative state in our music because it reflects our work in the community as well.

Siri: It reflects the project. III Am What III Am was last year. That was us literally showing who we were. III Am What III Wanna Be is showing what we want to be, that’s musically, physically, in reality and all. It’s all a process and we’re playing with different styles. We all bring different things to the table and us figuring out how to leverage that is the key toward III Am What III Wanna Be.

AF: What philanthropic projects are you currently working on?

Siri: Potluck For The People is for people experiencing displacement, homelessness, and that’s every final Sunday from 12 to 5 [p.m.] and Raising The Barz is every first and third Thursday at the public library. That is an Intro To Hip Hop class for the youth, we’ve got as young as 6-year-olds and as old as 30. We invite local artists and local students to help themselves get better with hip hop or any craft they want to work with.

AF: Most Cincinnati artists I’ve spoken with credit you to bringing togetherness and acceptance in the hip hop scene here.

Aziza: Really!?

Siri: Wow.

Aziza: That’s so beautiful.

AF: Do you guys feel a little bit of pressure with that recognition or has this just been your natural progression?

Siri: We curate spaces, but we can curate a space and nobody shows up. The people genuinely wanted to connect and taking the time to do it makes this work. Without anybody supporting, we’d just be three people trying to do something. This is something that the city wants and the city made it happen and it’s not just the credit to us, it’s never just the credit to us. That’s the whole point of TRIIIBE, it’s understanding that we are doing this. It’s one big machine and without any of us playing our part it wouldn’t work out.

PXVCE: When you look at Atlanta or Chicago, who have huge underground scenes, many people can become catalysts for some of those movements, but to take the credit completely, it just doesn’t make sense because if not everyone is participating then you can’t even say that.

AF: It’s a give and take.

Aziza: It’s a unified decision to make change.

Siri: I’m definitely proud to be one of the holders of the idea… but the city and the people are the catalysts of it.

Aziza: We’re not the first. And we’re not the last.

Find more of TRIIIBE on their website.