PREMIERE: Deau Eyes Details Latest Plans For Visual Album Debut With “Full Proof” Video

Photo Credit: Joel Arbaje

Ali Thibodeau had a moment of clarity the day of her grandmother’s funeral. She and her brother Michael had been drinking margaritas all day to cope with the loss. On top of everything, Ali was still reeling from the cancellation of SXSW; her musical project Deau Eyes was about to head from Richmond, Virginia to Austin for the event, along with a few more tour dates to celebrate the release of her debut on EggHunt Records, Let It Leave. Sidelined by the impending pandemic and mourning all at once, she turned to her brother and said, “I’m gonna make a full video album.” The two spent the rest of the day coming up with ideas they could execute as the quarantine descended, like flying an enormous paper airplane off a hill. “We’re just doing these kind of outrageous, giant crafts that we don’t really know how to do, but we’re making it work and it’s turning out to be one of the truest-to-vision pieces I’ve ever done,” Thibodeau says. “Without that, I have no idea how I would cope with any of this at all.”

One of those videos, premiering today on Audiofemme, is for a song called “Full Proof,” one of the grungier cuts on Let It Leave, with jagged guitars and confrontational vocals that range from bourbon-sweet falsetto to hungover growl. There’s an latent rage to the song, which Thibodeau wrote while processing the sadness, frustration, and anger of bitter heartache. “It’s like the stages of grief, you know?” Thibodeau remembers. “I’ve kind of been feeling that in this time as well – it’s funny how songs transcend different time frames in your life. They just keep becoming more and more alive and carrying so many different stories.”

For the visual, which perfectly recalls the angsty aesthetic of ’90s MTV with its cross fades and chaos, Thibodeau started collecting free stuff from Facebook Marketplace that she could basically destroy: and oven, a television, a re-painted piñata. At one point she even smashes a guitar – while her brother, an actor and playwright whose love of film, Ali says, made him a natural director, filmed it all. It feels spontaneous, but even Thibodeau’s outfit was fully-thought-out symbolism.

“Writing for me has always been a tool in transitional periods in my life,” Thibodeau says. “‘Full Proof’ was written at a time when I was feeling like I was starting to become a fuller version of myself, like this phoenix.” Toxic people in her life once made her feel small, but “aggravated the beast” in the process – so that’s what Thibodeau becomes in the video, mixed with a little of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.” “I wanted to represent that, so I just like, made more denim fringe and put it on the back of my jacket, and teased up my hair, and my makeup’s gonna be more dramatic and I’m gonna be a little bit madder.”

The costuming goes deeper, too, than simply representing Thibodeau’s metamorphosis. “There’s lots of Easter Eggs throughout these videos,” she hints, noting that the words bedazzled on her t-shirt are actually lyrics from “Paper Stickers,” another song that will appear on Let It Leave. It’s all meant to tie the videos together thematically, even if the songs on album rarely remain faithful to a single genre. “Parallel Time” is a wistful acoustic ballad about appreciating lingering memories, no matter how painful; “Dear Young Love” builds to ecstatic pop rock, and will get a one-take dance-oriented video; “Some Do,” boasts a twangy swagger that Thibodeau picked up while singing country music covers on a cruise ship somewhere between Alabama and Mexico.

It was in unlikely places like this that Thibodeau found her voice over and over again – from writing diaristic songs as a form of therapy in her bedroom as a teenager – ones she never wanted anyone to hear and says she “forgot about” as soon as she finished singing them – to busking in the New York City subways when musical theater auditions proved to be soul crushing. As formative as these experiences were, it was three important lifelong friendships that would become instrumental in bringing her solo debut to fruition, once she returned to Richmond: Jacob Blizard and Collin Pastore — known for their work on Illuminati Hotties’ Kiss Yr Frenemies and Lucy Dacus’ No Burden and Historian — came on as producers and helped her complete the tracks that would complete Let It Leave, while Dacus herself encouraged Thibodeau every step of the way.

“We grew up together and she was kind of the person that I would play my songs for, if I ever played them for anybody. She was like the only other person that I knew that wrote songs,” Thibodeau says of Dacus, who had signed to Matador just as Thibodeau was contemplating her next move. “Every time I’d get coffee with her she would always just be like ‘I think it’s time you moved back.’ Finally, after like four or five visits back home, I decided to, and I’m so glad that I did because I’ve been submerged into this incredible, loving, accepting community that’s so generous. That’s kind of where I started to really build these songs.” When it came time to finish the record, Dacus, Blizard, and Pastore encouraged Thibodeau to come on a weekend trip to Nashville to record at Trace Horse Studio. “That’s when everything changed,” Thibodeau says. “That was two and a half years ago. I feel like my whole life since then has been completely about this record coming out. It’s wild. I’m so grateful for them, and it’s just really serendipitous that we’re all kind of on the same path and in the same place at the same time. It’s really beautiful.”

Of course, it’s unbelievably disheartening to spend two years leading up to a debut release, only to have it thwarted by an unexpected quarantine. But Thibodeau admits she was “starved for this time to just live and be myself and make the thing I need to make,” though she admits she feels guilt that others are suffering, and has, of course, been grieving herself. But creating the visual element of the album has given these songs a new life, since touring behind the album is unlikely to happen. Thibodeau says she’s in “no rush” to get back on the road and “sleep in people’s basements,” and instead will likely focus on putting out the album and a half’s worth of material she’s written since recording Let It Leave – after she releases some eight more videos for each of its tracks, that is.

Moving on to the next thing, like a shark that has to keep swimming, is in Thibodeau’s blood. Moreso than any one genre, that idea ties Let It Leave together. “This album as a whole, if I could pick one word as a theme, it’s resilience,” Thibodeau says. “I think it’s just [about] knowing that the only thing we can really count on in this life is change, and knowing that we’re gonna be okay through it all, no matter what’s happening, even if it’s heartbreaking.”

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PREMIERE: Cheap Kisses Take Self Reflection Seriously in Debut Video for “Love Myself”

Heartbreak can cast your heart in stone and send you careening through dark depression and self-reflection. Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, lo-fi pop band Cheap Kisses ─ composed of musicians Aubrey Kay and producer Justin Black ─ observe a former relationship and the journey out of the mental muck. Originally written almost five years ago, “as a relationship was falling apart,” Kay says, their debut single “Love Myself” reconfigures Kay’s pain as a provocative bow. It’s the first single and title track from the band’s forthcoming EP release.

“During that weird time, I needed songwriting to use as a tool to get me through it and keep my depressive tendencies from taking over,” she tells Audiofemme, premiering the video today. “The lyrics really read as my own diary entry from that time. It’s about how self love can be a lonely process and falling out of love can be, too.”

Kay latches onto such influences as Angel Olsen and Waxahatchee, keeping the arrangement straight-laced, yet emotionally textured, with a healthy coating of Teen Suicide, Frankie Cosmos, and Flatsound for good measure. Most-known in the local scene as frontman of alt-country group Saw Black, Black twists the production with an Americana spritz.

Cheap Kisses’ debut soaks in the heartache’s aftermath, owed largely to Kay’s soft spoken performance. “Will I ever learn to love myself again?” she asks herself over and over again. That self-love tug-of-war stems from a very raw place in Kay’s feminist identity. She explains, “I resist that we are so heavily taught as women that we aren’t good enough in one way or another. For me, it’s important to love myself first and accept the complexities of me before I can approach being loved by another person. Loving yourself is an ongoing struggle, but it’s an essential one.”

The video, directed and co-produced by Kay’s girlfriend, Kathryn Ray, moves between intimate, bedroom confessions to performance-style snapshots backdropped with bright, shimmery curtains. The juxtaposition is aesthetically pleasing and gives further weight to the song’s message. “[Kathryn] wanted to create scenes that looked like they could be fun but also appeared somewhat artificial. We wanted to evoke feelings of loneliness for the viewer, because loving yourself is a difficult and lonely process sometimes,” says Kay. “We started with the concept for the album art where I was literally loving myself by kissing the mirror and built the rest of the video from there.”

She adds, “We wanted to show something that referenced my songwriting process, using my actual lyric journal, and further reinforced the emotional vulnerability I’m displaying through the song.”

Equipped with an arsenal of gear, including two mics on the drums and a Holy Grail guitar pedal, Black fully embraces the DIY spirit. “Love Myself” cuts with a hazy wash of guitars and a steady percussive kick. Paired with Kay’s rosy vocal tone, the duo entice the listener into a freeing expedition.

Most of their work begins through “really focusing on the song structures,” offers Black. “I was playing along on drums while Aubrey would play guitar and sing the songs. We’d work them to a point where they were interesting and fun to play. Once we had the songs ready, we spent four or five days recording the upcoming EP onto 1/4 inch tape using my 8 track (Tascam 388). We’d start by recording the guitar and drums live together in the same room. Then, Aubrey would track the vocals, and I’d start trying bass lines or little lead parts. When it was working, typically, Aubrey would be like, ‘Oh I like that, do that!’”

“To be honest, it was a really laid back environment being in my house and just having no pressure or money involved made it unique,” he continues. “I love the tape hiss and the bleed that we embraced. It’s been a very easy and fun project for me. Aubrey is a great songwriter and a good friend, so I hope to play a ton of house shows and parties this summer.”

Kay chimes in: “I’ve always been shy to show my own songs to other musical creatives, but Justin was always so supportive of my ideas and valued my input every step of the way. He has helped me feel more confident as a musician all around.”

Even a moniker like Cheap Kisses exudes a specific, low-key sensibility. “[That] was a phrase I just misspoke one day during practice with Justin. We immediately agreed that it’s a perfect band name for our twee pop sound,” admits Kay. “Aside from the cutesy vibe it gives off, I also like to think that ‘cheap’ kisses are the kisses you get from a lover or partner when you’re trying to pretend it’s all fine when your relationship is falling apart around you.”

Kay builds much of her work around such a thematic landscape, sifting through various ash piles of a long-dead relationship for inspiration. She adds, “A lot of my songs are about that exact moment when it’s falling apart.”

Identifying as queer-femme, Kay finds that while her identity doesn’t overtly play into the songwriting, it specifically “plays into how I experience the music scene and our representation in it,” she says. “My goal for this band is to boost femme representation in the Richmond scene. I’m sick of seeing cool bands play shows here and then seeing that the singer is the only one who’s not a dude. I hope that after this single drops, we are able to attract some rad femmes to play in [this band] with us, as it is only Justin and me making everything at this point. Representation matters.”

While Kay and her girlfriend both share ambitions to move to Nashville “when this pandemic is over,” she is more than happy with her life in this moment. “Richmond is a really great place to live so I can’t complain too much,” she says. From her show choir roots in high school to a solo project called Murabess, everything has led to this moment. But it took time, more than anything, for the pieces to fit together as they should. “Collaborating with someone else, especially someone so talented as Justin, has really helped me grow musically in a way I couldn’t on my own,” praises Kay.

Cheap Kisses display a sharp, soul-driven style, and given the right avenue, they will surely soar.

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