Sam Quealy Re-Imagines a Wild Night Out in “Groovy Jungle” Video

Sam Quealy in “Groovy Jungle” Credits: Creative director @alewm, photograph @wheresjd, styling @Annie_lavie, makeup @samanthalapre, hair @virginie_pineda

When we connect by phone on the Fourth of July, Sam Quealy is preparing to head back to Paris, where she has lived for the past four years, from Los Angeles. She’s been in L.A. for a week and change since the conclusion of her tour across the U.S. and Canada as opener for La Femme. In that time, she’s made two music videos, one for the single “Groovy Jungle,” which debuts today, August 31, and another for an unreleased track. Right now, though, she’s reflecting on the year that’s transpired since the release of her first single, “Sad Summer Daze.” 

“You’re always wanting to push yourself more and always thinking about the next thing, but it’s also really important to look back and and be proud of yourself as well,” she says. “It’s not just about trying to reach something.”

Quealy was born in Sydney, Australia and has lived in Hong Kong, the Philippines and the United States before her career as a dancer took her to Paris. “I was working in French cabaret, doing can-can,” she says. “Then I felt a bit restricted by the lifestyle of being a professional dancer and always doing the same show over and over and over again. It’s amazing, but I felt like I needed to be more in charge and that I had more to say, so I started writing music.”

Specifically, Quealy began making music that reflects her background in dance. Her style is eclectic, a mishmash of house, techno, hyperpop and ‘00s-style electropop all designed to make you move. “The dance aspect definitely is a big part of my performance and also my writing process in a way,” she says. “When I was choreographing dances, there’s a certain rhythm or a certain thing that I imagine should happen there in terms of accents and stuff in the music.” She approaches writing and making music in much the same way. 

For her most recent single, she dives into a deep house sound and themes of inclusivity. “I wanted to imagine that there was somewhere that you could go where they weren’t discriminating people and you had to walk through this jungle and it was just good vibes, queer-friendly, everybody there is on a good hippy vibe and this was a groovy jungle,” she says. “It’s just a sexy fun song.”

Lyrically, she has a knack for mixing sly social commentary and humor in a way that recalls artists like Peaches, Chicks on Speed and Miss Kittin. It’s a talent that’s most obvious on tracks like “Klepto.” 

“I wanted to make fun of consumerism,” she says. “We think that we need all this shit in our lives that really is so unimportant.” The character in the song was inspired by Winona Ryder’s shoplifting incident back in the early ‘00s. “She’s a famous celebrity, but she has this desire to steal something, whether it’s for attention or a rush of life,” she says. “I thought this was a really interesting concept, so I wrote that song ‘Klepto.’ This is one of my most favorite ones to do. It’s a joke, but it’s also a bit dark.”

It didn’t take long for Quealy to go from releasing her first single to embarking on her first North American tour. But, introducing herself to new audiences has had its challenges. “They don’t know who you are. They didn’t buy tickets to see you. So, you come out and they’re a bit cold,” she says. “They see me. I’m very Barbie-looking-ish. They’re probably like, we’re not going to take you seriously. Then, I prove to them, no, I’m fucking talented, I have something to say and you’re going to pay attention and listen. By the end of it, they’re jumping up and down screaming. I convert them.”

I walked in on Quealy just a few minutes into her opening set for La Femme at Los Angeles venue The Belasco and the crowd was already converted. They danced closer to the barrier between the floor and the stage, clapped and shouted with approval. She brought the set to a rousing climax with “Seven Swords,” an unreleased song slated for inclusion on her forthcoming debut full-length, that she performed with sharp, warrior-like moves that conveyed a theme of “killing an old part of yourself and rebirthing a new one.” 

“The dance and the song need to co-exist,” Quealy says. “When we made this song, this is what I imagined it to be. Even on a bigger scale, when I did it in Paris, I had four guys in high heels and G-strings and we made an army to that song, with swords.”

It’s a dynamic performance that Quealy thinks of eventually expanding.  “In the future, I would love to have it with 20 other girls with swords, make it a really big army,” she says. “This would be epic. But, let’s see. Step by step.”

As it stands, Quealy has already done a lot within her first year of releasing music. She says, “I’m proud of myself that in one year, I managed to do all of that.”

Follow Sam Quealy on Instagram and TikTok for ongoing updates.

Heather Bond Highlights Nashville’s Stellar Female Musicians with “The Mirage” Video Premiere

Photo Credit: Meg Sagi

In the middle of filming the video for “The Mirage,” Heather Bond decided to kick off her heels, not just for the comfortability factor, but to foster the intimate atmosphere she was aiming for. Surrounded by tall plants, dimly lit lamps, and paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling, Bond wanted to create a “relaxing, chill vibe” for the visual, premiering today via Audiofemme.

The song is Bond’s second co-write with accomplished bassist Viktor Krauss, and became a favorite on local indie radio station Lightning 100 – so much so it was named to the station’s top 100 songs of 2021. “It’s one of those reflective songs that I think everybody can relate to,” Bond explains. It was inspired by the nostalgia of thinking about past relationships, how they change over time, and how they shape us. “When you’re looking at everything in retrospect, suddenly everything is very clear, [even if] at the time it wasn’t, and it feels messy and muddy and you’re trying to figure out who you are and who you are in a relationship,” Bond says. “From a distance it’s very clear – wouldn’t that be nice if we could recognize that in the moment?” 

Bond had never performed the song live – until she assembled a supergroup of female musicians and background vocalists at The Studio in Nashville. Describing the experience as “surreal,” Bond reveals that it was an “emotional” day of filming, hearing her song come to life with such an exceptional group of players. “The energy was really cool,” she adds. 

Bond takes center stage with an iconic ’70s-inspired look: burnt orange leather pants and geometric patterned shirt to match. Accompanying Bond is Megan McCormick on guitar, Melissa Mattey at the piano, Elizabeth Chan on drums, Krauss on bass and Devonne Fowlkes and Emoni Wilkins serving up background vocals. “I have never played music with a whole group of women, so that was surprisingly a very powerful experience for me,” Bond expresses, citing them as “talented, beautiful and so kind.”

What makes the video particularly unique is the way Bond allows each person their moment to shine, the camera capturing each performer’s gifts and the way they light up the room, whether Mattey is grooving to the melody on keys or Chan is transfixed on Bond, while Fowlkes and Wilkins fall into a rhythm with the singer as they sway to the beat in synchronicity.

For Bond, it was important to give each person their moment in the spotlight. “I told Craig [Hill] that I really wanted him to focus on everybody. There are certain artists that really highlight their band members and I think it’s amazing – it’s my song and I’m singing this song, but the whole thing would not come together without each performer. So I wanted to highlight everybody, and they’re all so good,” she praises. “I love how I felt like each of them were so committed and connected to what we were doing in the moment.”

At one point, the camera crosses over Wilkins to find McCormick getting lost in the melody during her guitar solo, allowing the feeling of the song to take over her hands as she played. “I love that moment where she’s just grooving on the guitar. I’ve watched that quite a few times,” Bond says. “I get lost for a second. This was the first time hearing my songs with the full band, and so when there’s a moment that I’m not singing and it’s just the music and Megan is playing this gorgeous solo, I was able to sink in and lose myself for a bit.” 

Getting lost in the moment and overtaken by the music was one of Bond’s goals for the video, and it also reflects the ’70s and ’80s influences of her upcoming album, The Mess We Created, out February 25th. “We wanted it to match the way that the record sounds and feels. I wanted for it to feel relaxed, like a mix between a studio and living room thing where you feel like you’re in the room and hanging out with each player as they’re taking their turn on camera,” she describes.

She also wanted to bring a sense of solace to viewers after a chaotic couple years of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Life has not been easy for anybody, and the past two years have been pretty intense,” she says. “I’ve been very lucky in a lot of ways. I know people have had it much worse. I definitely need those times where I slow down and reflect and remind myself [that] it’s going to be all right. You’ve been through some stuff, you’re going to go through more, but right now, take it in and let go what you need to let go. So a lot of the songs on the record are like that for me, just accepting what has happened, letting it go and trying to move forward.” 

With a live EP to follow The Mess We Created on March 25th, Heather Bond is already looking ahead. She hopes listeners will do the same, while drawing a sense of tranquility and clarity from the song itself. “One of my favorite things when I’m listening to music is when I put on a song and it makes me feel nostalgic or makes me start thinking about my life and who I loved and who I’ve lost and I’m not even necessarily honed in on the specific lyrics, it’s just a feeling,” she observes. “So that’s how I hope that ‘Mirage’ translates – you’re listening to it and the feeling takes over and you’re able to reflect.” 

Follow Heather Bond on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for ongoing updates. 

Caitlin Sherman Faces Challenges Big and Small with “Up The Street, Diving Down” Video Premiere

For Seattle songwriter Caitlin Sherman, 2020 was supposed to be a transformative year for her music career. She’d just recovered from two break-ups—of her band, Evening Bell, and of her relationship that anchored that band—and recorded her transcendent debut solo release, Death to the Damsel, which she dropped like a Valentine to herself on February 14th, 2020.

Then, just as she was getting on the road to tour with her original psych-country album, the pandemic ended her release tour and forced her to turn back for Seattle.

“It was heartbreaking to be on the road and have to turn around after so much planning had gone into my album release year. And it quickly became very clear that playing music and performing was my coping mechanism for a long history of depression and past trauma,” she tells Audiofemme. After coming to that realization, Sherman decided to make 2020 transformative in a different way than she’d planned—she started addressing her mental health and really assessing the reasons she makes music.

“I was able to take a step back and reflect,” she remembers. “At the start there was this deep sense of dread. Why is music even important while the world is falling apart? Will people even miss live shows? Is art important?”

Setting out to answer those questions and determined to make the best of her botched release year, Sherman found ways to be there for others (and show up for herself) with her art. In that spirit, she’s releasing the never-before-seen video for “Up The Street, Diving Down,” a single from Death to the Damsel, with Audiofemme today.

“Up The Street, Diving Down,” which Sherman wrote after the end of her long-term relationship, is a story of doing the sensible thing and staying in—despite the urge to go out and do shots with your old flame.

“I really hadn’t been single my entire adult life. So at 34, I was learning how to navigate that and also process the two back to back romantic/creative partnerships I had,” she explains. “The joke is that when old ladies say they are going ‘sailing’ they mean they are going to garage sales. So when I say ‘diving’ it means going and drinking at dive bars [when] the subject of temptation is in your neighborhood at the bar.”

Characterized by Sherman’s cheeky vocals and moaning Telecaster, the song captures her tongue-in-cheek desperation: the lyrics cleverly describe pouring salt in the doorway and even locking herself “into her nightgown.”

The concept for the video is similar, showing Sherman “left to her own devices,” distracting herself from temptation. Videographer Ryan Jorgensen shows Sherman in several charming and relatable scenes—playing chess with herself at the dining room table, bouncing on her bed with a hairbrush microphone, embracing a plastic mannequin on a velvet couch.

Written before quarantine was in full swing, the song now holds even more resonance for Sherman and listeners—as we’ve all become masters of finding unique ways to stay entertained in our homes in the COVID-era. For the video, which Sherman filmed while housesitting for her friend Brent Amaker (of Brent Amaker & The Rodeo) in 2021, Sherman says they wanted to play with that shift in the idea of staying in.

“To lift my spirits at the year anniversary of my debut album, I asked permission to use his house as the setting for the video. And boy, did we use it as much as possible. [We did a] twelve-hour shoot [in] multiple rooms, and [with] costume changes,” she says. “Kate Blackstock painted the mannequins; they are meant to be my ‘companions’ while isolating. We shot some far more creepy scenes with them but that didn’t make the cut. Had to ask ourselves wait… is this weird? Our collective gauge on sanity may have been a bit off in early winter of 2021.”

Nearly two years since she first released Death to the Damsel, Sherman shares this video in celebration of the song, which never really got its fair shake—and of being recently named one of Seattle nonprofit Black Fret’s 2021 grant recipients. With the $5000 grant, Sherman is looking forward to the future and planning to use the funds to record her next album—which promises to be a doozy.

“I have songs that I’ve been collecting for the past few years for my next album. A different phase of life provided for plenty of inspiration,” she teases; she’ll perform old and new favorites when she opens for Chuck Prophet at Tractor Tavern on February 25th. “In the darkest moments of isolation and the craziness of the past couple of years, I managed to keep playing and writing. Not every day, and not without dry spells, but I pushed through as best I could.”

Follow Caitlin Sherman on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Sarah Elizabeth Haines Reaches Out to Reconnect with “In the Morning” Video

Photo Credit: John Carluccio

As a frequent touring musician, singer-songwriter Sarah Elizabeth Haines struggled to balance a professional and personal life. The seed for her new song “In the Morning” had burrowed into her mind, inspired by several “failed relationship attempts,” and eventually, its reflected lyrics offered her the space to “remind myself of some of the parts of long distance dating that weren’t actually too terrible.”

“It can be fun and exciting to miss someone, and to feel that longing of a relationship that’s young and tender and that you want to nurture,” Haines says. “You just don’t necessarily want that to be the great majority of the relationship or it starts to feel like a fantasy you’re making.”

“In the morning light everything would be alright/If you were here with me,” she hums over bouncing drums. “Every time that you’re around/Be it alone or in a crowd/You’re the only one I see.”

The music video premieres today on Audiofemme and finds Haines collaborating with long-time friend and director John Carluccio. “He and I did a few photo shoots out in Joshua Tree early this year, and we spent a lot of time talking about how we both were trying to hone our creative visions as artists and what that meant for each of us, individually, and there was already a lot of crossover there,” Haines explains.

After discussing how best to bring the song to life, the creative process itself was as organic as it could be. A strong level of trust had already formed between them; Haines even let Carluccio “choose which of the singles he wanted to work on, and then he sent me a few treatments,” she says. “We decided to go for this dreamy sort of David Lynch-inspired flashback sequence, and I’m so thrilled with the way it turned out.”

“In the Morning” comes on the heels of “Water,” both samplings to Haines’ forthcoming new record, Castaway, due February 25, 2022. Admittedly, the latest offering is “probably the least intense song on the record in many ways, but that’s exactly why I love the space it does take up,” she says of its placement on the LP.

Castaway deals in many themes, and among its central concepts is “how we as people, and I think, as female artists especially, are often expected to present ourselves in a neat little easily digestible box so that people always know exactly what to expect from us,” she says, “but that’s so far from anyone’s actual experience in the world. We all have messy, complicated, sometimes even contradictory feelings all the time; we find ourselves loving someone who’s hurt us or resenting someone who loves us or full of regret or making up an ideal of someone who doesn’t really exist the way that you want them to when you look at them in the light of day.”

“Sometimes we just need a mirror — and sometimes we’re allowed to just be gentle and loving and hopeful,” she adds. And that’s the vantage point from which “In the Morning” is delivered, an almost celestial performance emanating warm lavender.

But the song, ironically, sprouted and grew under intense conditions. In pre-pandemic days, Haines was well-equipped in spending long stretches of time without family or friends. Looking back, it took remarkable self-reliance to paddle through her days. “At certain points on tour, I definitely let the pendulum swing a little too far in the other direction of trying to convince myself I was fine being out on my own. That’s not to say that I’ve been completely cut off from friends—I’ve made some really great, lasting friendships on tour too—it’s just sort of like a weird traveling circus where you see each other every day anyway at work.”

When the pandemic hit, those feelings were further amplified. She eventually learned what it meant to simply exist in stillness, but it took time. “I wasn’t even moving around or working really at all so there were absolutely no distractions,” she says. “I definitely came out of that with a better understanding of myself and a greater sense of peace in stillness than I’ve ever had before. It also taught me that it’s really not so hard to pick up the phone and call someone just to say hello, and I’ve definitely been doing that a lot more recently.”

Such reflections evolved into deep inner work, and as a result, she unlocked her “own power” and now embraces “the messiness of being a human being” in ways she never imagined. “In spending so much time with myself, I found that there’s so much there that deserves to be nurtured, and that if you don’t crush yourself over your mistakes, they’ll end up being more fertile soil for growth.”

This inward journey soon cast ripples into her work, as well. “I learned a lot of new skills during the pandemic out of necessity. I ended up engineering part of my own record and co-producing on it,” she explains. She linked up with co-producer Kevin Salem during lockdown and began ironing out preliminary album details.

Aside from her solo work, Haines plays viola and violin as part of the touring company of Hamilton, as well as with chamber group Contemporaneous. When the world slowly opened up again earlier this year, the singer-songwriter was most surprised by how quickly she was able to settle back into the pre-pandemic routine.

“The first few shows back [for Hamilton] were a wild rush, absolutely, and it’s amazing to feel connected to an audience again,” she says. “But I do think at the end of the day, when you’ve played the same thing almost 900 times (it’s already been over 100 shows since I’ve been back), and since we’re in the pit so we’re generally hidden from most of the audience, it’s just refreshing to feel like it’s something almost completely normal.”

Solo shows are another matter, though. “The few solo shows I have played since the pandemic have definitely been a different story,” she concludes. “It’s like I’m learning to walk all over again in certain ways, and a bit of the performance anxiety that I had mostly gotten over in previous years has returned ever so slightly, but it’s been incredibly exhilarating after such a long time without.”

Follow Sarah Elizabeth Haines on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Jess Dye of High Waisted Explores “Shame” with Video Premiere for Solo Project Hello Lightfoot

Photo Credit: Michael Todaro

The complex emotion of shame, often unconscious or ignored, happens when cultural norms are violated or reckoned with. There’s a flipside too – the emotional aftermath of rebelling against societal expectations sometimes feels so good. Shame can be exhilarating and lead to us on the journey of life’s greatest lessons, while acting as a vehicle for the kind of catharsis needed to alchemize powerful music.

Jessica Louise Dye of High Waisted explores these varying reactions on her sophomore single “Shame,” released under the moniker Hello Lightfoot, a solo project that’s been nearly a decade in the making, Originally composed of down-tempo folk songs, Dye sidesteps the DIY surf rock chaos of High Waisted altogether to begin releasing intricate, industrial-tinged baroque pop songs. With a noir twist, the lyrics of “Shame” roll off the tongue like medieval riddles on a surrealist intergalactic quest. 

“I used a fun poetry method of blacking out lines in an old book to help start my story for lyrics.” Dye tells Audiofemme. “Being forced to work in a thematic box really drove the direction of the song and inspired a dark subject matter. Soundscape wise, Kyle McCammon [a.k.a. PLUS], who produced this track, was able to bring a huge gritty, driving, pulsating to the instrumentation. I love the contrast from intense bass and guitar to light, eerie samples. I think we were able to embody the complexity of what the emotion shame would sound like in the form of a modern song.”

A glitchy montage of found footage and saturated visuals, the music video, premiering today via Audiofemme, follows Dye in an alternate digital reality. She wanders through an urban dream sequence, bleeding into images of a younger self, distorted by digital audio sound waves. Dye dances on rooftops against the New York skyline, the subway her stage, as she commands the camera clad in a mod checkered jumpsuit. Through flashing images of ultrasound clips, the video embodies the evolution of self, and loss of innocence. The chorus rings out with undertones of melodic anxiety. Fast cuts embody a restless night of sleep, subconscious pressures and repressed emotion bubbling up to surface. Disguising her eyes under thick black sunglasses, Dye remains unaffected and dignified in the motion and stance of a 1980s aerobics junkie. A lady of the night, she embraces her shame, and praises the wisdom granted through her learned experience.

A self-proclaimed extrovert, Dye dives into the deeper complex lyrical meaning behind “Shame.” The song is meant to empower, and take back control over the crippling emotion, a feeling we associate with rejection, isolation, and the inability to experience or feel worthy of love. The song exists as an anthem for moving through the emotion, embracing rather than repressing shame. Society expects one to make a mistake and never repeat it, but we all know inner human programming doesn’t flip off like a light switch. Dye coos and delivers a cunning take on empowerment of our flaws and the wisdom we gain by living recklessly and making what society may deem as “mistakes.”

“Sometimes this shameful thing I’m doing becomes heightened and also enhanced by knowing it’s shameful. Self- awareness triggers pleasure, which is sort of naughty. The chorus of ‘Shame,’ it’s my inner voice saying, “you should not be doing this, but you are, and you enjoy it more because it’s wrong,” says Dye, recognizing that the most erotic love often presents itself within complex and debaucherous interpersonal dynamics.

Written when Dye was in her mid-twenties, “Shame” was not initially heavy or drenched with grit. Instead, Dye leaned into an operatic delivery, an almost religious performance coming to terms with her demons as a vehicle for creation. “It’s almost like you’re in church, surrounded by people praying and praising shame, as if it’s passed down on you. The guitars, the melodies, explain my complex relationship to the feeling,” she says. “Having to revisit these lyrics, and go through journal entries I began to figure out what was actually going on in the undertone of my experience. ‘Muzzle be damned’ is a reference to silencing your own opinions around others as a means to be more amicable. It’s very easy to lose yourself if you’re constantly catering to the likes and dislikes of other people.”

“‘Secure your namesake/Embellish to reclaim/What you choose to ignore will tear you apart’ are my favorite lyrics in the song,” she adds. “I don’t really think I realized how powerful it was until looking back at it ten years later.”

Dye describes the resurrection of these songs, now fully actualized for her current project, as a form of spell casting through writing notes to her future self. “I think in this sense, I was expressing the self awareness of the damage I was potentially doing, living recklessly in my 20s,” she admits. “Drugs are one thing, but hurting people feels like the real crime, whether it’s emotionally or physically. I think I definitely did a lot of emotional damage to people in that period of my life. Essentially a lot of people met a much different version of who I am today.”

“The hope is that one continues to change and grow, but I don’t think everybody does. Some people get stagnant, in a stage of arrested development, stuck at a certain stage,” she continues. “I think that’s why I chose to revisit these songs and reinterpret the meaning in context of the person I’ve grown to become.” 

It’s the little things, whether you’re dissecting a relationship, or looking inward, the micro glitches that you choose to ignore, or give permission to stay, that start to add up. Whether it’s excuses for bad behavior, patterns of negative thinking, or self destructive tendencies, often (and hopefully) this programming will one day implode and come to a breaking point. This inevitably becomes a catalyst for self discovery, change, and personal growth. As our culture evolves by holding space for difficult conversations surrounding mental health, shame, and creating new boundaries and formats for interpersonal, romantic, and sexual relationships, songs like “Shame” move the needle forward. Difficult emotions never live in black or white territory – rather a monochromatic spectrum of grey tone. 

As a rockstar, lyricist, empath, and community organizer, Dye continues to throw iconic downtown happenings like Home Sweet Home’s Femme Fatale, and create and share new multi-faceted introspective alternative music. As she steps into her next chapter, Dye explains, “I think I’ve made progress by not giving so much power to pleasing people who feel undeserving. That’s the trick – investing in the right relationships. I think without even knowing exactly what I’m ashamed of, the actual music, the guitars, the melody, explain it.” 

Follow Hello Lightfoot on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Composer Uèle Lamore Fans the Flames of Mass Appeal with “Breathe” Video

Photo Credit: Antoine Vincens de Tapol

On her full-length debut LOOM, Franco-American producer/composer Uèle Lamore tells a story that is actually as old as time; in eleven tracks, she charts a loose history of the primordial beginnings of life on Earth. Echoey percussion, enigmatic synth and spidery guitar kick things off on previous single “The Dark,” while spoken word by Parisian poet Gracy Hopkins narrates the potential evolution of humanity over aching strings on “The First Tree.” While the album, set for a January 28th release via experimental Sony Music imprint XXIM Records, is certainly cinematic, it’s never too dense or arcane.

“I just wanted to put together a record that I thought would be super fun to play live with an electro-rock band, with guitars and bass. And also I thought that it would be good to try to make a record that everybody understands but offers something different to everybody,” Lamore tells Audiofemme. “If you come from hip hop there are things you understand, but you discover some elements that come more from electronic; if you prefer neoclassical or ambient there are some tracks you’re going to like and I’m going to show you stuff that comes from rock. I wanted to craft sounds that would be interesting but accessible and enjoyable for most people. It’s a record for people that like music, basically.”

In fact, Lamore’s next single, “Breathe,” was directly inspired by skateboarding and indie pop icons like Phoenix and Air. “I was near a skate spot in Paris, doing some field recording – I do my own field recordings to insert into tracks,” Lamore says. “When I was recording them I was like, man, it would be so cool to do this track with guitars and everything. I was really thinking about Phoenix; I really wanted to be super ‘French touch’ about it. I only had the backbone of the track and I composed it thinking about that and putting the sounds of the skaters inside it. I just wanted something really fun and upbeat to contrast with other tracks on the record.”

The video, directed by Yannick Demaison and Alexis Magand of Biscuit Productions, takes these seeds of inspiration and sets fire to them – literally. Premiering today via Audiofemme, the black and white clip compiles stirring images of a girl gang of skaters (played by Camille Fleurence, Océane Pasquet, Joana Dumoulin, Tiffaine Voisin, Emmy Jardoux, and Elissa Karami) kick-flipping across a skatepark with their decks consumed by flames.

Lamore says she used to skate herself, but another hobby took precedence: music. Picking up an acoustic when she was only nine, she quickly moved on to electric guitar and then, via YouTube videos and how-to magazines, began teaching herself production techniques and how to make beats in middle and high school. She left France to study guitar at Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, then earned a degree in composition and conducting from Berklee College of Music in 2016, and since 2019 has been an associate conductor, orchestrator and arranger with the London Contemporary Orchestra. Her debut EP TRACKS, released in 2020, was inspired by train travel across Europe and Japan, some of the songs even named for specific locations, all of them imbued with a sense of romance and movement.

Forward momentum is intrinsic to the way Lamore builds her compositions. “I need to know where the song is going, from Point A to Point Z. So I sketch out the whole melody from the beginning to the end basically,” she says of the process. “Then I pay a lot of attention to sound design – that’s an aspect that’s often overlooked in production, all these little sounds that don’t have any importance but really add a universe to your song.” That’s where her field recordings – of skaters, birds, church bells, crowds, and more – come into play, adding richness and context into each of the songs.

With such dramatic world-building, it’s not surprising that Lamore also composes music for film (she just finished working on the soundtrack for a forthcoming British movie about young cannibal women with discerning tastes). But whether she’s composing for films or for her own albums, Lamore says she always has a visual in mind.

“One of the most vivid memories that I have, that made me want to do music, is that I was lucky to experience MTV when they still played a lot of these crazy music videos in the 2000s, where the budget was probably insane, with helicopters and real stories happening,” she explains. “That’s how I digested music at first, so I think that for me it has always been connected with the idea of telling a story and the very visual aspects of that, because I discovered music through music videos. For me, it’s super important to tell a story, and try to paint something, with sound. I don’t think I can do it any other way basically – it’s kind of hard for me to do super abstract stuff.”

Still, LOOM started out with an entirely different concept behind it, and a lofty one at that. Upon returning to Europe after college, Lamore said she had time on her hands and wanted to make a succession of “super nerdy” songs about “complex stuff… ecosystems and molecules and bacterias.” There was no plan to release it as an album, really. In the meantime, she made connections and collaborated with musicians like Moor Mother, Alfa Mist, Max Cooper, Etienne Daho, Silly Boy Blue, Drum & Lace, Yan Wagner, and more. But after signing her record deal, she revisited those demos.

“I was like, waaaahhh man, I hate this! It sucks so bad!” she recalls with a laugh. Lamore didn’t despair or start from scratch; she began re-working the material track by track without trying to communicate the scientific narrative, but kept things in the same order for continuity’s sake.

“The title of each track became kind of like a metaphor. ‘The Dark’ can be something that happened in your life and ‘Breathe’ can be a kind of feeling that you can have. They all become mirrors that everybody can relate to,” Lamore explains. “I purposefully didn’t want to give a true symbolic [meaning] to everything because I want it to become everybody’s personal object and interpret it the way they want.”

To make the songs even more accessible, Lamore took a cue from landmark 1998 Massive Attack album Mezzanine, which featured guest vocalists Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins, Horace Andy, and Sarah Jay. “There needed to be vocal tracks [on LOOM] because it’s the easiest way for most people to digest music,” she says simply. “I had this list of people that I knew from different projects or from word of mouth or I had seen them perform live, and I always kept in the beck of my mind that I would love to do something with them.” Besides Hopkins, these include the honeyed vocals of UK singer Cherise on hypnotic cut “Pollen,” a wistful Ana Benabdelkarim (a.k.a. Silly Boy Blue) on atmospheric album closer “Warmblood,” and her own manipulated vocal on “Currents.”

With the band she’s assembled, Lamore should have no trouble translating these kinetic, mesmerizing tracks on tour, even if they have to get creative with vocal features and samples. It’s how she originally envisioned sharing them, after all. Japanese video and performance artist Akiko Nakayama, who directed “The Dark” video, has created visuals for the show.

While LOOM positions Uèle Lamore as a genre-defying producer well worth keeping an eye on, she still has humbling moments. Recently, she attempted to show a young skateboarder some of her old tricks. “I had forgotten that I hadn’t skated in like ten years right? So I go, ‘Yeah kiddo, this is how you do this, let me show you,’ and I took his board… and I just like completely fall,” she laughs. “Him and his little friends started making fun of me and my friends. My ego just fell in the toilet.”

Follow Uèle Lamore on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Premiere: Mimi Oz Goes Under the Microscope In “Hate” Video

Photo courtesy of artist

Mimi Oz wrote her song “Hate” as a way to deal with conflicting feelings of being an outsider. The Toronto-based singer-songwriter thrives on “being alone,” she says, as a “highly creative” person. With a strong support system, she adds, “I can’t say that loneliness is a regular feeling that I experience.” And yet, when she was living in New York City from 2018-19, pangs of loneliness continuously ripped right through her psyche, inspiring her to write “Hate.” A visual for the track, directed by Dylan Mars Greenberg, premieres today via Audiofemme.

“I was hit hard by a lot of things that were adding up, one of them being that it didn’t matter where I went, I just kind of felt like people didn’t like me,” she tells Audiofemme. “That was a hard truth that wore on my mental health. Not fitting into my community was also part of it, and that was every area of NY that I lived in.”

The song appears on Oz’s third studio record, Growing Pains, released October 22. “All my life, I tried to live outside the hate,” she huffs in almost a dream state, then caterwauls, “I see the hate you feel for me,” as electric guitar intensifies into a rolling boil. Oz reaches her hand through space and time to appeal to our collective sadness and the pressures of modern living and dying. With drums played by Miles Gibbons and guitar from David Celia, Oz conjures up a “perfect hollow space where you can feel the intensity of the lyrics, and everything hits hard and together and pulls you along. There is also a sense of violence, and I wanted to somehow explore that in the video but it didn’t end up turning out that way.”

Instead, the accompanying visual plants Oz smack dab in the middle of a bustling NYC subway. Trains whizz by, and preoccupied people in suits shuffle off to their 9-to-5, desperation hanging in the background like gnawed-up cork board. Within this setting, Oz and Greenberg accentuate the heavy sorrow woven into everyday existence. “It’s true millions of people feel that sadness. I’ve seen a number of people pushed off the edge in New York, mentally,” says Oz. “Sharing my experience and writing music that is relevant is key. If I was living without passion or purpose, that would be a cause for concern.”

Reality-rooted imagery mingles with absurdism like floating heads and oversized eyeballs, a creative idea Greenberg brought to the table to illustrate “the world inside my mind and the real world, the physical world,” Oz explains. “I’m isolated and alone, telling the story with menacing floating heads above me. I think the CGI helps the viewer really clue into the storyline and focus on the lyrics more.”

“Dylan has this really renegade, hands-on approach to film-making that I admire,” she continues. “The original artwork I released for this single was a watercolor that I had painted of a black sheep with a psychedelic coat of fur. I recreated this by tying together bright pieces of scrap fabric into a long boa that I wore across my neck. The character is someone that people don’t understand, but are fascinated with.”

While her journey to acceptance “probably doesn’t matter,” Oz says frankly, the experiences that lead her to write “Hate” have at least given her some perspective. “Life is confusing, so just try to be a good person,” she says. “I think now I care less, and also try to have as much compassion as I can, while also taking care of myself.”

Follow Mimi Oz on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Cocktail Slippers Celebrate First LP in Seven Years with Rowdy “Say My Name” Video

On a recent Zoom call, Silje Hope and Sugar Cane are in agreement that “Say My Name” is Cocktail Slippers’ favorite song to perform live. “It’s a lot of fun to play,” says lead singer Hope on a Zoom call from her home in Oslo. It’s a dark song, she adds, the lyrics focusing on the proverbial devil-on-your-shoulder tempting you. 

“This song is quite tough,” says bassist Cane, whose joins us from Bergen, where she’s visiting family. The band wanted portray that toughness in their raucous new video, premiering today on Audiofemme. Cocktail Slippers filmed the clip themselves inside their rehearsal room, the band members dressed in purple sequins and leopard print. Their shadows dance along the wall behind them, where you can occasionally catch a glimpse of the horror classic Nosferatu. Cane adds, “We’re quite proud that we’re a productive band that makes everything ourselves.”

Last month, the Norwegian five-piece released Shout It Out Loud!, their fifth album (and their first in seven years), on NYC-based label Wicked Cool Records. “We wanted to make this album for a really long time,” says Cane. Recording stalled due to changes in the band, though they continued playing shows. Then, the release was delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It’s not that easy to make an album,” says Cane. The band wasn’t keen on the idea of releasing it when music scenes across the world had come to a halt. “We wanted to promote it, do gigs, not just release it,” she explains.

Instead, they chose to release singles until venues where they could fully unleash the full-length began to reopen. That turned out to be a good move. Cocktail Slippers have been able to play live a few times since this past summer, including a record release gig. It was a little different from their usual shows, though – the audience had to be seated and the tables were socially distanced from each other. “We’ve been living under very hard restrictions here in Oslo,” says Hope, noting that the rules have loosened up in Norway since then. 

“It takes time to get used to going to concerts again and everything, but we did have a fantastic release for the album,” she adds. “Even though people had to sit down for most of it, we were able to walk around.”

“It’s going to be great when people can stand and not have to worry about touching other people. It’s going to be very different. I’m looking forward to that,” says Cane. She adds that she was glad that the energetic rock band didn’t have to perform sitting down. “That would be awful,” she says. 

“I  can’t even imagine that – us sitting on stairs,” says Hope. “We’re not that kind of band.”

It’s true – sitting demurely is not Cocktail Slippers’ style at all. For 20 years they’ve been honing a garage rock sound that’s a little retro and a little modern. One of the standout tracks on Shout It Out Loud! is their cover of “Hush,” styled after Deep Purple’s 1968 rendition. They originally performed the cover as part of a television special in Norway. 

“We had so much fun doing it. This song is great,” says Hope. The band went on to incorporate it into their live sets and it did really well with fans. “Everyone knows the na-na part. Everyone knows the song,” says Hope. “People were asking us about it, so that was why we played it a lot.”

Still, they hadn’t recorded it, not until they intended to release it as a B-side for a 7” release of “She Devil (Shout It Out Loud).” They recorded it as if they were playing it live inside the same studio where they made the rest of the album. When they sent the finished product to Steven Van Zandt, who founded Wicked Cool Records and co-produced Shout It Out Loud! with the band, he told them that it needed to be an album track. 

Cocktail Slippers have collaborated with Van Zandt a lot over the years; Springsteen fans know him well as regular guitarist and mandolin player in Bruce’s E Street Band. “We’re not sure how he found our record,” says Sugar Cane, but it was sometime in the early ‘00s. “He picked it up on his radio station and we didn’t know that he was playing it for a year when he contacted us and wanted us to play on a festival in New York City. That was the first contact we had with him.”

In their two decades as a band, there have been challenges for Cocktail Slippers. It’s difficult when members move from Oslo; the logistics of touring gets complicated when band members have kids. “The success is that we’re having so much fun together,” says Hope. “I think that a special energy is created when we play.”

The pandemic made things especially tricky though, depriving the band of their income from performing. “How can we rehearse, release the album, get PR and do photo shoots and video shoots with no income? That’s a challenging thing,” says Hope. “But the success is that we are really, really proud of this record.” Now back and better than ever, Cocktail Slippers channeled plenty of pent-up energy into the video for “Say My Name” – and allow fans across the world to appreciate the explosive energy that’s gotten the band through it all.

Follow Cocktail Slippers on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Night Palace Premieres “Into the Wake, Mystified” Video

Photo Credit: Bảo Ngô

When Night Palace singer Avery Leigh Draut prepared to shoot the video for “Into the Wake, Mystified” with director Hanna Haley, she packed up her bags with the most “magical things” that she could find in her apartment before catching a taxi. That included a gold deer statuette, a few crafty fake birds that she used to wear clipped to her hair, silver garland, six different outfits and lots of fabric. “I really hoard fabric,” says Draut by phone from New York. “I basically dumped a bunch of tulle on her floor and it shows up in various places. We made backdrops with the fabric.”

That was back in 2019, when Draut and her bandmates were still mastering their debut album, Diving Rings, which is set for release next year via Park the Van. Today, though, the video for “Into the Wake, Mystified,” is live. 

The clip features Draut in what appears to be an enchanted world filled with hues of purple, blue and green and filled with small details. Miniature objects and a deck of cards lend an element of Wonderland to the video, while those fabrics that Draut collected help add an ethereal quality to the visuals. 

The video for “Into the Wake, Mystified,” is based on storyboards that Haley had made of winter transforming into spring, which ties to the themes of the song. Draut describes the song itself as being set in an “oceanic world” with lyrics that speak to changes in relationships, specifically those “relationships that we sustain throughout our lives and seasons that come and go with those, how we are maybe no longer in the same season with other people, but still connected to them,” she says.

But that’s not how the song began. The story behind “Into the Wake, Mystified,” goes back a ways before Draut recorded the song with Night Palace and made the video with Haley. In fact, it’s actually one of the first that she wrote. “We had played this song live for three years before recording it,” Draut explains. “It had totally different lyrics and a totally different situation and the chorus melody was different.”

With time, though, this early example of Draut’s work needed to evolve. “ I had it going on so long that I had then changed and wanted the song to change with me,” she says. After a significant overhaul, the band was able to record it. “It finally found its place.” 

Night Palace formed in 2016, first under the name Wanda, in Athens, Georgia. Draut, who grew up in suburban Atlanta, headed to Athens for college and, after finishing school in 2014, she decided to stick around town for a bit. She got a job at a boutique, began writing songs and started playing live with a few friends. When those friends moved, she connected with other local musicians who would become her bandmates. Eventually, though, Draut headed to New York.

“I was pursuing more classical voice stuff. The place [to do that] was in New York,” says Draut. There, she worked and continued taking voice lessons while also auditioning. Meanwhile, she was working on music with her bandmates back in Georgia. 

Draut now splits her time between Brooklyn and Athens. In 2017, she and the band began work on their forthcoming debut full-length. She would record demos using her electric organ and send those to the others. Then, when she was in Athens, they headed to the studio to record. Once those session were done, Draut continued the collaborations in Athens. She would head into the studio with producer and engineer Drew Vanderberg, who has worked with artists like Of Montreal and Toro y Moi, and record with Andy LeMaster, known for his early ‘00s band Now It’s Overhead, as well as an engineer and producer who has worked with Bright Eyes, Fischerspooner and Michael Stipe. “It was very much this growing living thing that got layered onto for a couple of years,” says Draut of the album, which was completed prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With Diving Rings, which is inspired by Draut’s grandmother teaching her how to swim, still a few months away from release, Night Palace’s founder has been focused on making videos. She says that there are a few more on the way, which are in various stages of completion right now. “I love that aspect so much. It’s really a fun part of it for me,” says Draut, who says that she’s always finding artists online whose work she admires and who might be good collaborators. “I delight in color and that entire world. It rules my world a bit.”

Follow Avery Leigh’s Night Palace on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

ANA Premieres Down-to-Earth Video for New Single “Vertical”

We hear it all the time: Protect your energy. Especially in the last year of crisis after crisis, mastering the art of shielding your heart and mind has been a frequent topic of conversation. But what does that really mean? For Ana Gomulka, a.k.a ANA, this means honoring her artistic output, giving as much to herself as she does to others, and loving oneself as a spiritual practice. Gomulka distills this sentiment through sensual melodies and unflinching lyrics in her new song, “Vertical.” The video, premiering today on Audiofemme, is a visual representation of Gomulka’s message of independence and self-love. 

ANA’s debut single “Fall With Me,” released in March, centered “radical expressions of pleasure.” Gomulka says that when she wrote “Vertical,” she was in the process of drawing boundaries in her relationships. “It kind of came out in this sassy, funky way, but the message still stands strong: We don’t have forever to allow our energy to be coming out of us, there has to be a balance in how much we give and how much we take.” This message undoubtedly resonates with anyone who, like Gomulka, identifies as a “giver.” The instinct to nurture and care for loved ones is pure and well-intentioned, but it can lead to self-sabotage if we over-extend ourselves to others without taking care of ourselves too. 

The video shows Gomulka in a state of bliss – one that is achieved when the ideal balance is struck between giving and taking, creating and resting. She explains that finishing “Vertical” was an integral part of maintaining the ebb and flow in her life. As a multidisciplinary artist, she often finds herself effortlessly starting projects in moments of inspiration and passion, and realizes that finishing these projects proves to be the more difficult but essential part. “It’s way more spiritual than it sounds,” says Gomulka. “All through life we have seasons, and those seasons need to be open and closed properly. Kind of like life and death – every sound, similar to every song, similar to every thought, has like a birth and a life and a death, and I want to respect that in music. So, finishing a song is a really big part of closing that cycle.”

Gomulka says that her spirituality is a guiding force in all of her creative practices. In an industry that can emphasize quantity over quality and trends over true creativity, she makes sure to check in with herself if she feels herself veering off course. “Whenever I feel a rush to put stuff out… it really is that time to tap back in spiritually and really re-focus on the purpose of it all,” she says. This down-to-earth mentality is palpable in the video, which follows Gomulka while she plays her guitar and sings boldly to whoever’s listening. The simplicity in both the setting and Gomulka’s honest lyrics (“Do you know what I need?/Are you matching my speed?/Feel like I’m always chasing after you/Leave me hanging when I’m in the mood”) evokes a much welcomed return to ’90s R&B/neo-soul. It’s just a straight vibe. 

As a producer, Gomulka aims to bring a human touch back into an electronically-saturated soundscape. Though she originally produced this song on her computer with live guitar, she says that she felt it was missing the soul that live instrumentation brings to the table. She brought in drummer Todd Watts and bassist Ian Griffiths to infuse that live touch that was missing.

“I think there’s something very human about live instrumentation that I hope begins to trend again because I think it would really help us. The vibrations of acoustic, or any analog instrument…those vibrations are so powerful,” Gomulka says. “I wanna hear people shred.”

Trending or not, Gomulka is focused on taking whatever approach to songwriting feels most true to her. In a similar way, she reminds listeners – and herself – to stay true to themselves and their boundaries. “The amount that we’re expending, what happens when we turn that around and decide we’re gonna take this energy and pour it back into ourselves, instead of pouring it out to a source that can’t receive it the way that we need?” Gomulka asks. “What happens when we can give and receive to ourselves and when that energy is focused? I feel like that’s when we can really bloom as people.”

Follow ANA on Instagram for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: Polly Scattergood Found Inspiration in Emojis for “Saturn 9” Video

Right before COVID-19 forced the world to lock down, Polly Scattergood had settled into a new recording studio. The warehouse space had been prepared to make and record music and, for the first time in a long time, her synths were all in one place. “It felt super exciting,” the British singer recalls on a recent Zoom call. “Literally, about a week later, lockdown happened.”

Fortunately, Scattergood was able to collect a few key pieces — speakers, a laptop, a keyboard and a guitar — before the U.K. shut down. As the pandemic closures persisted, she also released her third full-length album, In This Moment. While there was some promo to handle, it wasn’t the usual album cycle’s worth of activities, for obvious reasons. So, Scattergood retreated to her studio, now at home, and got back to making music. The result is her forthcoming EP, In the Absence of Light, out on September 15, made with collaborators Jim Sclavunos (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Grinderman) and Glenn Kerrigan. 

Today, Audiofemme premieres the second single from In the Absence of Light, “Saturn 9.” The title is a play on the word saturnine. “Saturnine means gloomy and so we decided to write a song about emerging from this kind of darkness, this kind of gloomy heaviness, looking forward into a bright, hopeful positive space,” Scattergood explains.

“I wanted the video to represent the music in a way that everyone would understand and there were a couple of key lines that jumped out to me,” says Scattergood. One was “The hieroglyphics of our soul/We keep on moving/Time evolves.” The lyrics stuck with Scattergood as she tried to figure out how to represent them visually. 

She found inspiration in an emoji. “The smiley face emoji came into my head,” she says. “That represents the modern day hieroglyphic. It’s what we all send to each other.” Scattergood also wanted to incorporate dancing into the video because it was a song written during the lockdown. “I liked the idea of a group of friends being out, having fun, dancing together and looking to the future,” she says. “That’s where I went with it.” The clip, which she also directed, interjects the smiley face emoji, a symbol that could also serve as a reference to the rave heyday of the early ‘90s, between scenes of aerobics dancers cutting loose to the bouncy, synthpunk track outside in ‘80s workout garb. 

The rest of the EP came together over Zoom sessions between Scattergood and Sclavunos. “We would log onto our computers and just leave them running. Sometimes, I would go get lunch or do things and we would come back,” she says. “It was the closest that you could get to being in the room with somebody.”

The method gave way to a fruitful collaboration. “We wrote it all by the power of the internet, which is just a crazy concept, but it fed into the sound of the EP, I think, because there were these kind of glitchy moments of frozen screens and awkward interactions where you accidentally talk over each other,” she says. “That all added to the feel, I think, of this record. “

Thematically, they looked out into the universe, drawing inspiration from astronomy as well as the mythology that’s related to the cosmos. They wrote more than the four songs that will appear on the EP and, in fact, are continuing to write together.  

As for the recording, Scattergood says, “It was quite DIY, but I tried to embrace that.” 

Living near the sea posed an interesting dilemma for recording vocals. “You have to time it right because seagulls make loads of noise in the morning and the evening,” she says.

But, the ambient sounds may have impacted the EP in subtle ways. Scattergood notes that part of her process is recording sounds on her phone to help generate ideas. “I’m not classically trained in any way. I think in textures and layers. I will hear the hum of the road and use that noise to build upon,” she says. “I love soundscape, and in many ways, if we’re doing a vocal and a seagull squawks it’s annoying, but in many cases, when we’re just recording, I love those sounds.”

Scattergood says that the EP isn’t a major departure from her last album, but the nature of the collaboration with Sclavunos, who co-wrote two songs on In This Moment, evolved. “For this EP, it was very much a project that we embarked on together just to see what would happen,” she says. 

The collaboration has been a learning experience for Scattergood. “I think that having his involvement was very key because I needed somebody to stretch me in terms of the language I use,” she says. “He’s like a walking thesaurus.”

She adds, “I think that was really an interesting thing for me, having his input on the language side of things.”

Follow Polly Scattergood on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Lesibu Grand Sugar-Coats “Not Sweet Enough” with Remix from The Punk Cellist

“Not Sweet Enough,” the latest track from Lesibu Grand, is a journey both audibly and visually. I don’t mean the song takes you on a journey as much as the Atlanta band does, offering multiple reimaginings of the song that all serve to emphasize the same point: from the grungier, contemporary original version of the song to the new Punk Cellist remix and accompanying Victorian-inspired video (both of which premiere on Audiofemme today), the oppression and mistreatment of women is an age-old problem. 

These collaborative remixes are nothing new to the band, having recently released a snappy Pls Pls remix of single “Hot Glue Gun.” As far as “Not Sweet Enough” goes, they originally wrote the song in response to draconian abortion laws drafted by the Georgia state legislature. “We thought it was perfect timing to speak out against that whole mindset,” explains frontwoman Tyler-Simone Molton. Their original take was more aligned with the band’s audible punk aesthetic, but they soon discovered a cello cover of the song on social media by Berklee College of Music student Ian Legge, who has been posting string versions of his favorite punk songs to YouTube over the past year as The Punk Cellist (he also takes requests via Patreon). Lesibu Grand reached out to him to collaborate, and from there this remix was born.

“The idea of doing it in a different genre and taking it kind of old school, but it’s still relating to a problem that’s very relevant today, is [an intentional] juxtaposition,” Molton says. The genre-spanning across centuries, from pop punk to a more classical style, is a means to drive home the agelessness of the problem itself. 

The video follows the same path. The original is a corn-syrup-soaked romp akin to Celebrity Deathmatch or Robot Chicken. Molton shapeshifts from her real physical body to a Barbie version of herself, imagery so fraught with societal expectations of women that the metaphor borders on satirical. She ruthlessly kills all the (action figure) men – “Obviously we’re not going around slaughtering men,” she says – that stand in her way. 

In the updated concept, she’s dressed in Victorian garb, almost like a character in an opera. “I’m supposed to embody a very proper, well brought up young woman who’s looking at the content of the video,” she explains. In a meta sort of way, watching the video is meant to radicalize her long in the past, and the realization that she “has this oppressive angst that she wants to get out” awakens.

In a recent interview with Afropunk, Molton said, “We call out the lawmakers, specifically in Georgia where we live, and warn them of our resistance – although they write state law and want to use it to control our bodies, women and their allies can organize, speak our minds, energize popular opinion which is still pro-choice, and ‘bring them doom’ by voting them out of office.”

Until then, she’ll keep revamping the fiery songs she directs at them so that they are constantly reminded of what’s coming for them.

Follow Lesibu Grand on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: Monique DeBose Marries Motivational Speech with Soulful Singing on “Human Condition”

Photo Credit: Lift Consciousness

Monique DeBose has graced the world many times over with music that has a social message. From empowering singles aimed at celebrating women to her 2018 one-woman musical Mulatto Math: Summing Up the Race Equation in America, she infuses the passion for social justice that informs her career as a leadership coach and diversity consultant into her music. In her latest single, “Human Condition,” she spreads her work’s central message of self-love with an eclectic mix of genres and vocal styles.

Collaborating with motivational speaker and coach Preston Smiles, DeBose created a song that doubles as an inspirational sermon. Using electric bass, piano, drums, and synthesizer, the track combines the warm, comforting sound of a show tune with the catchiness and dance-ability of modern pop. She also brought in a choir, which surprisingly only consists of three people whose voices were recorded multiple times.

“It feels insane/But you stay in the game/It takes all you got,” DeBose opens. “You run away/and look to blame/emotions got you caught.” The verses mix theatrical notes and keys with energetic electronic beats, escalating to the choir powerfully belting the chorus, positioning the daily self-love struggle as “part of the human condition.” During an interlude, Smiles speaks about self-confidence: “Today’s transmission is a reminder of how powerful, how beautiful, how amazing you are.”

The song is about “owning all the parts of ourselves,” says DeBose. “So often, we are presenting what we think people want to see of us, what we think will get us approval, and much to the dismay of our full humanity, we don’t get to express all of who we are. That’s been a big part of my life, trying to be for others what I thought would be acceptable… [but] the things we may feel embarrassed or ashamed or sad about are also things that make us more fully expressed.”

In accordance with the therapeutic aim of the song, DeBose is offering a complimentary accompanying three-day Human Conditions course, where she’s teaching people how to embrace themselves as they are. She also created a fun lyric video, premiering today on Audiofemme, featuring illustrations of herself, Smiles, and the choir.

A rich and varied educational and professional background gives DeBose her unique sound and perspective. She got a degree in mathematics at UC Berkeley, which inspired the premise of her show Mulatto Math. “I have math equations I made up about beauty — what does blackness mean in the US? — and the equation gets more complicated throughout the play,” she explains. “You can’t define it — you have to define blackness for yourself.”

DeBose opened Mulatto Math with her latest single “Brown Beauty,” a body-positive love letter to women of color. This song spawned a video featuring women from across the globe who shared images of themselves, as well as a social media movement where DeBose shares some of these photos and pays homage to women of color who inspire her. The song was inspired by DeBose’s own experience learning how to take up space as a mixed-race woman. “It takes such complex navigation to be a black woman or a woman of color in the world we’re in because we’re navigating double consciousness and navigating code switching,” she says. “It’s a celebration: I see you, I love you, I know you’re doing the work and I don’t want you to go unrecognized.”

“Human Condition” and “Brown Beauty” are included on DeBose’s upcoming LP You Are the Sovereign One, set for release in late August. She describes it as a celebration of women owning their full selves. Over the course of 16 songs, she sings about “owning that part of yourself that you’ve hidden in the dark, that part of yourself that you’re ashamed to bring out, owning the parts of yourself that you’ve been embarrassed or afraid wouldn’t be well received.” It’s been recorded over the course of the past three years; some songs were written over 15 years ago, some within the last few months.

DeBose also started a podcast this summer called MORE with Monique that aims to help women find true satisfaction in different areas of their lives, from their relationships to their careers. “So often, as women in our society, we are really asked (or kind of told) from a very young age to put our needs to the side, to put our desires to the side, to put what we want to really help us live the most full thriving life to the side,” she says. This was also the idea behind her 2020 single “More,” a jazzy ode to women going after what they want.

This is the magic of DeBose’s work: she takes a concept and turns it into so many things, from art to self-help to education. She ascribes this ability to reach people in many different ways and communicate about challenging topics to her cultural background. “I call mixed people bridge people,” she says. “That’s always been my lens and my focus: diversity, inclusion, equity, being wiling to have hard conversations by default, actually being willing to be in uncomfortable situations, and growing the nervous system to be able to be in that space. It naturally lends itself to that work, and it naturally lends itself to the music I write, too. All the things I do. I can’t do things not based on my own life. I cannot.”

Follow Monique DeBose on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Rozzi Takes Down Gaslighters with Video Premiere of “Mad Man”

Photo Credit: Oscar Ouk

Most women have had the experience of apologizing when they didn’t need to — or, in fact, when the other person should have been sorry. That’s why the first verse of pop singer-songwriter Rozzi’s latest single “Mad Man” is so relatable: “Damn right I’m upset/Why am I apologizing/You’re the one that fucked up/But here I am compromising.”

Rozzi wrote the song in collaboration with Liz Rose (Taylor Swift, Nelly Furtado, Jewel) and Jamie Kenney (Miranda Lambert, David Archuleta) about an experience with a man she worked with who would call her hysterical or tell her to calm down when she got mad. “The only way I could get what I wanted or get my opinion heard was if I cloaked my frustration or anger in a sweetness or innocence or a softer voice,” she says. “I found it exhausting because I wasn’t a raging bitch; I was frustrated for a justifiable reason.” In the song’s soulful chorus, Rozzi belts her reaction to the criticism: “No I’m not a monster/Sometimes I get mad man/And I won’t speak softer/Just cause I’m a girl and you don’t think a girl should get mad.”

“Mad Man” originally started off as a poem, which Rozzi saved until she could work with Rose, which had been a dream of hers. Kenney produced the demo and played keys, and a number of producers in London and New York worked on the track. “The song had a few lives and went through a few different iterations before we found it,” says Rozzi.

The song reflects the typical soul influences driving Rozzi’s music, using minimal production and a 6/8 mid-tempo in order to leave room for long notes. “I wanted to make sure we left space so we could hear my voice,” she says. “I wanted it to feel very musical and very soulful and really raw.”

In the video, premiering today via Audiofemme, Rozzi plays to women’s collective rage fantasies: she sits at a dinner table full of men, pleadingly singing to them, then jumps up on the table and knocks everything down. From a lover to an authority figure, all the men represent someone who has treated her as lesser over the course of her life.

“I was acting out this emotion I’ve felt a hundred times over,” she says. “It’s a feeling women, especially women in the music industry, have felt — a certain belittling feeling that someone’s not really listening to you — and I got to enact it on a really animalistic level. I felt anger while I was shooting, and it was really cathartic, and I hope it comes across as an artistic expression of the feeling women feel all the time.”

Her goal is that the song and video help others who have experienced gaslighting feel free to feel whatever they feel. “I would hope it makes them feel like their emotions are not wrong and their emotions are not shameful,” she says. “They are human, and there are plenty of reasons we should be mad, and that’s okay.”

Rozzi was discovered by Adam Levine at age 19, becoming the first artist signed to his label 222 Records in 2012 and touring with Maroon 5, as well as a number of well-known acts such as Owl City. She released her first EPs Space and Time in 2015, followed by her 2018 debut album Bad Together. She plans to release her third EP Hymn for Tomorrow on July 30, followed by an album featuring the seven songs on the EP plus seven more songs later this year.

The Hymn for Tomorrow EP deals with vulnerability, strength, and their interplay, asking the questions: “Does love have to be hard? Does love have to be painful? And in order to feel passion, do you also have to feel unsafe?” Rozzi doesn’t think so, and she made that the mission statement of her EP. “There is such a thing as passion and butterflies and sexiness while feeling safe and secure and really loved in a relationship,” she says. “I liked ending it on that note because there’s enough darkness in the world, and I like to give hope.”

She’s currently wrapping up the creation of her next album and gearing up for some live shows later in the year. She’s also recently been expanding her creative ventures into writing, publishing several pieces in Spin magazine on her own life as well as artists who inspire her. She also co-hosts the podcast Ugh! You’re so Good!, where she interviews people about what makes them good at what they do.

The key to her own success has largely been her ability to write from her heart, creating raw lyrics and vocals that speak to her listeners’ emotions. “I write very personal songs — I don’t know any other way,” she says. “I’ve tried to write songs I don’t connect to on a deep personal level, and I never succeeded, so all the songs are really personal, really intimate, really raw, and I think being vulnerable is one of the strongest things you can do.”

Follow Rozzi on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

New Zealand’s Georgia Lines Makes Directorial Debut with “Call Me By My Name” Video

Photo Credit: Nicole Brannen

“Once the tide has changed for us/Will you swim out and hold me up/No pressure,” sings New Zealand artist Georgia Lines on her latest single, “Call Me by My Name.” In a stylized split-screen video (her directorial debut), she stands knee -deep in the crystalline waters of the West Auckland beachfront, at turns playful, expectant, and unsure, reflecting the conflicted emotion held within the song. She tells Audiofemme that the song “is about the frustration I had felt trying to find my feet in a relationship, wondering if what the current landscape of the relationship was how it was always going to be.” She sings, “You’re under my skin/But that’s what I would miss from you,” a familiar emotion of dread in an uneasy relationship.

Georgia Lines teamed up with producer Djeisan Suskov to write the track; the two also worked together on her previous single, “No One Knows.” Though the pair worked through “many different versions” of the song, they eventually landed on the original demo version created the day the song was written. “[That] was actually one of our first sessions together back in 2019 after coming out of the NZ COVID lockdown,” she remembers. “The day before sending it off to mixing, Djeisan had reworked and added some more textural sounds and percussion to the chorus.” These last minute additions, she adds, really made the song come alive.

With the help of funding from NZ On Air, the video for “Call Me by My Name” came to fruition. “NZ On Air makes it possible for artists like myself to actually be creating music [and] videos,” Georgia explains. “This was my first time directing; I loved it! I think my inner bossy 12-year-old self came out when I was swiveling around in the chair, piecing all the footage together. I really enjoy the creative process with releasing music and it was really exciting to be a part of that process in the video too.”

Georgia has always put emphasis on tapping into universal experiences and emotions as a means of connecting with people. With her usual busy schedule, her empathetic nature pulls her in a million different directions, without hitting the brakes. Just before the pandemic hit, Georgia Lines released a self-titled EP, but as New Zealand entered lockdown, creativity took a bit of a backseat. “I had every intention, having all this time, [but] I didn’t have it in me [to be] musically be creative. I was sleeping and teaching online. I was baking every day – my processing was baking,” she says. But coming out of lockdown – which, luckily for New Zealand, was not as prolonged as much of the rest of the world due to low case numbers – that feeling of being in limbo changed, and Georgia felt herself moving forward once more.

“Coming out of that space, I had a lot of time to think and reflect,” she reveals. “You’re kind of stuck with your thoughts. It captures something a little bit deeper. Not that I’m afraid of digging deeper… but permission to articulate something deeper. [I have] a bunch of singles coming out this year. I was able to capture myself creatively.” She adds that she has more videos planned, too. “At some stage I’ll be working towards an album, but for now I am loving releasing singles,” she says.

She’s also excited about her upcoming tour with Deva Mehal, and will be playing a few headlining shows as well. She may not have a detailed map of where she is going, but that is part of her creative process.

“I feel like it was a combined of a bunch of little moments. In every creative industry, there’s no exact pathway to a career in creativity,” she says, noting that at first, pursuing a career in music felt daunting. “It took me a while to figure that out. Deep down inside me [I knew], if I don’t do this, then I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. It was a trusting of the internal conversation. I don’t know exactly what I’m doing, but I love the whole entire process – the initial ideas when you’re writing, and pulling everything together that you need for the release. It’s so fun, [and] I get to do this all the time.”

Follow Georgia Lines on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

Reni Lane Takes a Lush “Detour” with Premiere of Latest Video

Photo Credit: Oscar Zabala

Life doesn’t always unfold the way we expect. That’s certainly been true for Brooklyn-based polymath Reni Lane, who has had quite an unpredictable journey – taking her from New York, to London, to Paris and beyond as a touring keyboard player for British band Razorlight, contemporary composer, high fashion runway model, Ivy League dropout, and proponent of the slow conscious creativity movement. Though she’s been a creative force in numerous communities and varying scenes, the modern-day “Reni-ssance woman” always comes back to music, and today she premieres here latest single “Detour” exclusively on Audiofemme.

“We’re going on a detour/Show you everything you ignored/Going on a detour/All the magic outside of your door/We don’t need a map/Your heart is all you need to pack,” Lane coos with earnest sentiment and richness of tone, echoing influence from Aimee Mann, Chryssie Hynde, and Stevie Nicks. “Detour” is an upbeat, timeless ballad – rhythmic and existential, the song pushes us to reclaim our inner strength, when we seem to venture off track from our intentions. In an opulent video shot in Ecuador by Oscar Zabala, Lane dons mysterious robes and frolics through cinematic landscapes with the cool, calm, collected poise of an androgynous 1970s glam rock-era icon.

The symbolism in “Detour” will feel relatable to almost anyone, but Lane’s own meandering personal journey certainly inspired it. Born Reni Jablonsky in the idyllic college town of Corvallis, Oregon, she spent a lot of time in the woods as a kid, building forts and learning about indigenous cultures. Her childhood was mostly solitary; a sibling was diagnosed with autism, and their friendship didn’t blossom until their adult years. One of Lane’s friends began to study the Suzuki Method on the piano. Fascinated, this inspired Lane to start piano lessons, which quickly became a time-consuming passion.

“My study of the piano took up all of my time. My obsession didn’t seem weird or unusual to me or to anyone else, because in our town in Oregon, there were a lot of artists and creatives.” Lane remembers; she soon felt ready to break free of the structured Suzuki Method, and began writing and experimenting musically. Her parents were nurturing and supportive, buying her a thrift store piano, and allowing her talent to thrive through supportive teachers. The culture shock came when her family moved to a more conservative town Williamsburg, Virginia when Lane was eleven. “I had never had to think about what I wore to school, or what was going on in pop culture. My idols were people like Hans Zimmer, Jane Goodall and Frida Kahlo,” she says. “I remember starting my first day of middle school in Virginia and people thought I was strange because I had no idea who the Backstreet Boys were.”

Still a self proclaimed nerd, Lane admits this was a turning point in her personal development, and finding her voice and truth in music became a protective shield. “It set me apart. Sharing my music helped me fit in and find my place as a teenage adolescent. It really did gain me respect, in a traditionally vicious public school setting,” she recalls. “I stayed true to myself – I was weird, the preppy kids were still going to make fun of me, but they had nothing on how good I was at music. It was my thing.”

Aside from music, Lane’s extraordinary abilities in math allowed her to graduate high school early, and she moved to New York City and took a desk job at a real estate company while pursuing music professionally with the support of a management team. The following year she enrolled at the prestigious Columbia University, first as a Philosophy major before switching gears to Creative Writing. She began forming and embracing her DIY ethos, commuting downtown for gigs at Sidewalk Cafe. Around this time, she began throwing parties and putting on live shows in her dorm room around a makeshift stage; she independently released her album American Baby in 2007. “That record was like a really expensive business card and a litmus test all in one,” she says. A self-shot, self-edited spoof video called “Frontiers of Science” went viral, prompting major record labels to court the young performer.

Lane signed to Universal Motown, and began living the dream of jet-setting around the world to meet with one hit producer after another. The label pressured her to drop out of Columbia to focus on the release of her major label debut, Ready. Consumed with the expectations from her label, she began to feel disillusioned and isolated, with her image and visibility under lock and key. “I always saw myself more as a renegade, DIY type person, but I was constantly pushed towards the Disney model,” Lane says.

Then, after a solo gig in Los Angeles, Lane was approached by Z Berg and Tennessee Thomas to play keyboards in LA buzz band The Like, on their tour supporting The Arctic Monkeys. “Joining The Like was a contrast to what I was experiencing in my own career. There were a lot of handler-type people around me in those days telling me that there were certain ways things needed to be done,” Lane says. “Once I joined The Like and saw their ship was run completely differently, it took a bit of the credibility away from those handlers, which was both terrifying, because it meant I was more alone than I thought, but also liberating. They brought joy back into my life in terms of just having fun with music.”

Though nowadays playing in multiple projects is understood as more exposure, back then, Lane’s management saw her involvement with a band outside her solo work as a conflict. Warned by seasoned manager Jazz Summers that Universal Motown was likely to drop her, lacked resources to promote her as a unique entity, and would “screw it up,” the exposure likely to come from playing for The Like seemed tantalizing. “It was the first time someone really straight up told me what was going to happen with my record deal,” Lane says. “I had this moment where I was like, wow, I actually really agree with him, but I was only nineteen and I didn’t know what to do. It felt like the right thing to do was honor my commitment to the label.”

But just as Summers predicted, Lane’s label dropped her after all. “It took me a long time to bounce back from that trauma and learn how to regain control and confidence in my own judgment. It took time and healing to trust my gut again,” she says. “I was pushed to do things that didn’t feel right to me, and I just went along with it. It was the kind of low-grade emotional trauma that can really fuck with your sense of self.”

Still, Lane is still proud of songs from her major label debut, co-produced with “guardian angel” Sam Bisbee. Long before “left-of-center pop” rose into the mainstream, songs like “Place For Us,” “Even You,” “We Don’t Forget,” and “Never Be Another You” helped Lane carve out her own niche even under the constraints of the label’s so-called guidance, and helped her secure crucial licensing placements in series like VH1’s Secrets of Aspen and The L Word.

If “Place For Us” was a self-dialogue to gain reassurance and find secure footing for her career as a musician, then a decade later, “Love Too Soon” became its follow-up anthem, blasting a wisdom that comes only with experience. Released in November 2020, Lane sings, “You gotta get away from it all/You’re gonna try your best not to call/Cause no one’s on the other line/To help you figure out when it’s time/To cut ’em loose,” as though reminding her younger self of the dangers of rushing into love, collaborations, and life. Projected fantasies may not pan out the way we expect, and can be detrimental to our inner creative world. With mindfulness, we can move on quickly and gain acceptance.

That’s where “Detour” comes in; it provides a bit of that optimistic magic needed to get something fresh off the ground, while leaving the listener empowered, with the new found self awareness, an ability to let the feelings pass and go with the flow. The song doesn’t call to action; instead it empathizes, and reconciles the universality of disappointment. Lane’s effortless narrative lyrics and ear catching melodies come from the moral conscience and wisdom of a profound songwriter and gentle realist.

Though she couldn’t have predicted it at the time, leaving the major label freed Lane up to license songs and play in friends’ bands and projects. Notably, Lane formed synthpop duo Fever High (Sire Records) with Anna Nordeen and late songwriter/producer Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne). In her collaborative element, Lane contributed piano, guitar, bass, trumpet and trombone to the band.

“When we formed that project I had practically been killing myself working so hard, gigging with all these different bands,” Lane says. “Sometimes we have to let go of this perception that good things are always going to be really hard. Sometimes good things happen, and they’re actually really easy, you know? And that’s kind of like how things were a lot of the time with Fever High. It was just really easy, and fun and it was all kind of like a break and escape from our regular grind day to day.”

And Schlesinger had a big effect on Lane’s songwriting, too. “Adam basically combined all the things that are really hard about songwriting, with all the things that are the most fun things about songwriting. He had that dichotomy nailed down. He would always find the really wordy mathy theory kind of melodies, tweak those, and then he knew how to pull really silly lyrics out of you in the studio. Lyrics that were both silly and profound…” Lane says fondly. “He always said, ‘Listen, you don’t have to be the best singer, or the best songwriter, you just have to have fun and believe in yourself.’ I really, really miss him. It’s not going to be the same New York without him.”

Lane has been drifting between Virginia and NYC for most of 2021, Tidying up a slew of new songs. She recently traveled to the UK in April, doubling up as stylist and keyboard player for the post-pandemic reunion of Razorlight’s classic lineup for a livestream concert. “All of this privilege is pretty mind-boggling to me given the current trepidatious circumstance of the world. I’m lucky to be one of the ones who could keep going with my chosen career during the pandemic despite the monumental losses occurring all around me,” Lane says. “As lockdowns were hitting last year I was finishing an intense schedule of Razorlight tour dates and then my bandmate Adam Schlesinger died early on in the first New York COVID wave. It was like a kick in the head. I’d also just been through a breakup so I had to slow down and take every day one step at a time.”

“Detour” reminds us to let go of what we cannot control and try to enjoy our non-linear journeys to the fullest. And now that she’s gained some experience and perspective, Reni Lane has some more advice for her younger self. “Get out of your head and into your body as often as possible. Does it feel good? Then do it! Be brutally honest with yourself. Screw all convention and question what you’ve been taught concerning the ‘proper’ way to do things. You know a lot more than anyone who is profiting off of your ignorance wants to admit,” she says. “Trust your vision. It can be as simple as combining touches of things you find beautiful or hiring musicians you admire. We’re all naturally drawn to things we like but the key is to do them with your own twist. So keep the inspirational juices flowing and replenishing! The last thing you want to do is to copy someone else out of blind ignorance. Maintain a high standard for things coming into, whether it’s art, people, ideas, or food.”

Her career has been “a long series of breaks that never ends,” but “I still find myself in situations among incredible talent that blows my mind because of some random show I played or last-minute gig I took on. But to give myself some credit, I worked really hard to get to the place to even be able to take those opportunities and run with them,” she says. “It’s incredible that any of us are alive in the grand scheme of things, so why not try our best to enjoy it? And what I enjoy most is making music and being as vulnerable as possible with the art I create, so fuck it – as long as I’m not hurting anyone, that’s what I’m keeping on with.”

Follow Reni Lane on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Lisa Crawley Premieres Retro-Inspired “Looking for Love” Video

Photo Credit: Karen Anne Patti

New Zealand-born Lisa Crawley had stars in her eyes when she landed on US soil. Having lived in Melbourne from 2014 to 2019, after a bit of back of forth between New Zealand and the US, she ended up moving to LA in January of 2020 once she got the Artist VISA; those stars might have sparkled their way down her cheeks in tears though, since a year of quarantine sullied her plans for songwriting, performance and collaborative creativity.

Not all was lost, though – the resourceful Crawley initiated live streamed piano karaoke sessions three nights a week from her Hollywood confinement, attracting singers from around the world. No wonder, really. For homebound amateur stars with Broadway dreams, it was a dream opportunity to join in on sessions with the lead from the Auckland production of Tony Award Winning musical ONCE, Banff Centre songwriter-in-residence, and recording artist.

When she wasn’t live streaming, Crawley was writing her own music with the assistance of Grammy-nominated Rob Kleiner. He both co-wrote and produced on her upcoming EP, Looking For Love (In A Major) – due out July 23. Thus far, she’s released two singles from the project: “Clear History,” and “The Right Way.” Premiering on Audiofemme is “Looking For Love,” which explores the awkward – and frankly, sad and true – reality that many of us are not content with the one we’re with, imagining instead a more ideal partner. The promise of online dating, which presents much like a shopping catalogue, can fool us into a “grass is greener” belief.

Crawley and Kleiner wrote the song at his place with their friend Kevin Gibson, who was in a Chicago-based band called Tub Ring with Kleiner and can be heard in the song’s backing vocals. “We had a few people in mind who inspired us for the song – those people who are never happy. You’re so sure, and then you’re not really sure, you know?” Crawley says. “We wrote and recorded that song in one day. Rob’s a really busy guy, and he’s quick. I dwell on things when it’s just me writing at home, but he motivates me to get to work.”

The video is gorgeously kitschy – and Crawley’s part-time gig had a lot to do with the aesthetic. “The video is inspired by asking a date at the time to take me to a drive-in, but he never did,” Crawley explains. “I started working part-time at a drive-in cinema, which is the first time I’d been to the movies in America. All those retro ads – dancing drinks and dancing sausages – seemed to fit with the song. It also made me think that dating can be a bit like fast food, so throw-away, too.”

That dovetails with the lyrical inspiration for the song, as well. “I did a little bit of online dating when I first got here, then I realised that it’s a bit early for that. Being new to the country, I wanted to make friends. I did a bit of Facetime dating, but mostly I was observing other people doing it,” says Crawley. “The song is based on observing the dating culture here. I grew up in a pretty traditional environment [in Auckland, New Zealand], so it’s pretty eye-opening. It’s harder to get away with in smaller cities and countries, but here you think you want something – you have it – and then some tiny thing sets you off to the next option. It’s easy when swiping on dating apps to be so judgmental. Being ghosted, it’s never fun. It’s about that person that’s never happy no matter what they have, because there’s always something wrong no matter what.”

From the opening seconds of reverberating bassline, Crawley hooks you. The tropical vibe is all sunshine, cocktails and romance novels by the hotel pool. For any Audiofemme readers who were teenagers in the 1990s, or have schooled themselves in radio playlists of the era, they might find themselves recalling Swedish band The Cardigans when listening to Crawley. There’s something of the playful, poppy, ultra-feminine Nina Elsabet Persson in Crawley’s delivery.

That carefree execution belies the stress Crawley was under in her first few months of living in the States. The Artist VISA requires applicants to show that what they bring to the table is unique and that they have work lined up in their field – music, in Crawley’s case. It’s a lengthy, expensive process and Crawley didn’t want to set herself back since the VISA lasts three years and took multiple letters from colleagues to support her case. When lockdown happened, she was determined to stick it out.

“I’m in a tiny studio apartment in Franklin Village,” she says. “Something I enjoyed doing in Melbourne was improv comedy and I thought it would be fun to live around this area because I’m living next door to the Upright Citizens’ Brigade. I had to take an online improv comedy course with them even though they’re right next door!”

Crawley admits it was an extremely lonely experience to move to Hollywood and find herself isolated so soon. “It’s been really lonely, so I fostered a cat called Iris, because I’d had a cat in New Zealand and Australia for 20 years. In fact, I didn’t apply for a VISA until my cat was really elderly. She was like my child, but when she passed I applied.”

She only had two months to try to find work and meet people, and she did have a good run initially. “I got booked for some gigs and worked with other artists, but I don’t want this to be a ‘poor me’ story. I had help from Support Act in Victoria; they gave out grants which was definitely helpful since I was living off my Patreon. I had a placement on a TV show, Nancy Drew – a song ‘You Won’t Be There‘ played, and that helped, too.”

On fact, one of the draws of moving to LA was writing and working with TV and film. Five years ago, Crawley began networking in LA with film and TV insiders to kickstart the opportunities for getting her work on screen. A conference in Hawaii introduced her to a sync licensing company that began to set her up with writers and enabled opportunities to place her music on shows. It can be highly lucrative, however varied. “It is one of the few ways that artists can make money these days,” she admits. “Streaming…well, I’m sure you’ve heard the numbers.”

Crawley has scored her friend’s web series, Ex-Sisters In Law (still playing festivals, but not publicly available yet). She’d been a guest musician on Tuesdays@9, which organises test scenes between actors and writers; it was via that group that she was introduced to Ex-Sisters, co-written by Suzan Mikiel. It’s only one of the many collaborative projects Crawley is involved in, as much as it has felt like she’s alone. It reminds her of her first solo travel, post-school.

For four months, aged 19, she worked in a very isolated Japanese town, Atami, “with no internet, in the middle of nowhere.” She was working seven nights a week in a hotel, performing the same show – singing, dancing and piano – to entertain tourists in the hotel bar. Since 15, she’d played in bars at night and churches in the mornings while also writing her own music, so entertainment is in her blood.

“I became more of an introvert after that Japan experience,” she says. But with plans to venture out and explore America – Nashville, Austin, New York and New Orleans all beckon – it’s hard to imagine Crawley can maintain her introvert status for long.

Follow Lisa Crawley on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Mae Powell Savors Sensory Joys with “Scratch n Sniff” Premiere

Photo Credit: Grant Cluff

It already appears that summer 2021 will be unlike any that came before, in terms of the surreality of what we’ve experienced in the last year, the joy that it’s finally over, and the underlying anxiety of when the other shoe might drop. With that arises the need for appropriate new tunes, which is where Bay Area singer-songwriter Mae Powell comes in. Today she premieres the video for new track “Scratch n Sniff” on Audiofemme, off her debut album Both Ways Brighter, out August 20 on Park The Van Records.

Produced by Jason Kick (Mild High Club, Sonny and the Sunsets), the sunny acoustic indie folk evokes the feeling of someone like an Ingrid Michaelson, but updated for a more uncertain era, a little more akin to an Indigo De Souza. She wrote it when an ex sent her an unusual care package on a trip to visit her father in North Carolina a few years ago. “We were being pen pals, even though I was only gone for a week and a half, but we were just obsessed with each other,” she explains. “I think some people would probably [think] this is weird, but part of it was a piece of paper, and he had little circles on it and was like, this is my spit, this is my blood, this is my hair, this is a kiss. Literally had put pieces of himself on this paper.” It reminded her of scratch and sniff stickers, and the entirety of their relationship revealed to her the intimacy of analog communication. “Any time we were apart we would send each other postcards and shit, and it just felt like a piece of that person, because you’re like, oh you touched it! So even though it’s been in a bunch of hands since then, it’s still different than a text or a call or whatever.”

The song feels like the honeymoon phase of a relationship, but tempers it with a very current unease and the need to remain present, a certain brand of cautious optimism. “Clinging to the thought of unattachment because I know that everything will change/But clinging to the thought is still clinging to something/The way that works is strange,” Powell sings. She says this was intentional, that the album is as much about anxiety as it is about love.

“Normally when I play shows, I’m like oh my God, I’m putting everybody to sleep, because there’s a lot more slow songs, or I’ll write about anxiety. And sometimes when you’re at a show you’re like, do I want to hear songs about anxiety right now?” she says. “It’s the start of the second half of the record, and I feel like there’s a lot of contemplation and heavy themes and airing out the dirty laundry, and then you flip the record and it’s like okay, we’re happy! It’s chill! You have to have those moments of joy.”

What really sets it apart is the video itself, an animated short from Santa Barbara-based artist Emily Hoang. It’s all smiling celestial bodies and bright colors and flowers; the lens through which Powell observes her environment is somehow cute but not saccharine. The same way you can judge a book by its cover, you can judge Powell’s music by its visual elements, which adds an extra layer of thoughtfulness and intentionality to the whole package. “I don’t want it to just be an auditory experience, the visuals are super important to me,” she explains, “and I feel like I have a vision of rainbows and cute shit.” It coalesces to transport you further into Powell’s world, where the sun shines and mindfulness mutes anxiety about the future. 

Mae Powell plans to continue to experiment with animation on future videos, something she contemplates as she prepares for the album’s August release. After expanding her three-piece band to a five-piece, including a lap steel guitarist and a keyboard player, she’s preparing for her first show in eighteen months this Saturday, June 26 at the Red Museum in Sacramento. Besides that, she’s just easing herself into the new normal and “trying to figure it all out.”

All in all, she’s just excited for people to finally listen to these songs, a compilation of one-off tracks she wrote and refined over a period of years until she felt she had enough material for a cohesive whole. “Now it’s been two and a half years of the recording release process, plus the year since I wrote the songs, so it feels like old news to me, but I forget that most people have not heard these songs,” she says. “Things change when you share them with people, and I’m excited to have them exist in a world that’s not just like, in my head, or whatever.” Based purely off this small taste, it doesn’t seem like that’s such a bad place to be.

Follow Mae Powell on Instagram for ongoing updates.

313 Acid Queen and SickBoy Create Soundscapes from Skyscrapers on Buildings EP

Over the last ten years, Rebecca Goldberg – a.k.a 313 Acid Queen – has completely immersed herself in the city of Detroit. Unlike some transplants who come to the city to take, Goldberg, born and raised just outside of Detroit, came to learn, appreciate and contribute when the time felt right. Starting out as a student of Detroit house under the tutelage of legendary DJ Bruce Bailey, Goldberg cut her teeth spinning all around the city and slowly training her ear as a producer. Nearly a decade and five albums later, Goldberg pays homage to the city that has shaped her on her collaborative EP with Sardinia-based producer SickBoy (Stefano Piseddu), Buildings, out June 20 on limited-edition vinyl pressed at Archer Record Pressing. The record serves as a sonic map of the structures that portray Detroit’s beauty, oppression and resilience.

Today, Audiofemme premieres a video for EP opener “Guardian,” a bold and expansive track encapsulating the depth and complexity of the stunning, hundred-year old Art Deco-inspired skyscraper for which it is named, with its vast vaulted ceilings and tediously crafted mosaics. Goldberg and Piseddu use booming percussion to reflect the sturdy stone foundation and tie a rainbow of synth textures to symbolize the kaleidoscopic designs that gawkers can get lost in for hours. 

The project began to take shape when Goldberg responded to a call from Detroit Underground label founder Kero for producers to work on a “Detroit Map Series.” The series includes three other parts – highways, roadblocks and rivers – and prompts producers to make sonic representations of these staples in the form of Detroit house music. As a member of Detroit Underground, someone who spends a good amount of time sneaking into abandoned buildings to take photographs, and regularly takes friends on tours of the Guardian Building, Goldberg already had an intimate connection with the sights and sounds that accompany Detroit architecture. She says when she was assigned “buildings,” it was a no-brainer.

“There’s just something about Detroit and the creativity that comes out of here and it’s either in the water or the landscape or the people or all of it together,” says Goldberg. The main challenge was to communicate this magic across space and time to her Italy-based collaborator. Goldberg spent hours taking photos and videos of buildings that inspire her and sending them to Piseddu, who was deeply moved by the imagery. Though the two never met in person, they bonded over a shared obsession with Detroit techno. While the language barrier was considerable, the producers were able to communicate through Google-translate and an innate, shared sense for beats and textures. 

This wasn’t the first time that Goldberg made an unlikely connection through her passion for music. She explains that her foray into DJing was based solely on a love for the music and a desire to be around it as much as possible. “Like many people who are into stuff like this, I’m just a fan of this music. I’m a fan of dancing,” says Goldberg. She got her foot in the door by using her graphic design chops to create flyers and merch for Bruce Bailey, then later took matters into her own hands. “I was like, ‘Listen, if I’m gonna keep doing your flyers, I wanna be on the flyer. I also wanna play and I think you should put me on and give me a chance.’”

Then began what Goldberg describes as an apprenticeship of sorts, learning from Bailey and other well established Detroit DJs. “It would be me and all these house heads that had been in the game forever, and they loved me,” says Goldberg. “We loved each other, those people are my family. They wanted to teach me about the music and the culture of it and the history.” After years of collecting records, Goldberg decided it was time to contribute her own soundprint. “Eventually, you start hearing things that don’t exist yet, and that’s how music production started for me,” explains Goldberg. “I’ve tuned my ears now so well with DJing that I think I can play things that I would want to DJ and dance too, and that’s a whole ‘nother wormhole of obsession.” 

Buildings speaks to Goldberg’s years of soaking in sounds and stories from Detroit techno legends, while adding her own inspirations into the mix. After cascading through a series of dreamy soundscapes, the EP ends on “Renaissance,” a track that distills the futuristic aura that surrounds Detroit’s architectural centerpiece. “The Ren Cen is so crazy if you look at it,” says Goldberg. “It looks like a spaceship from the ’80s that’s supposed to be the future about to just take off.” The building’s corresponding track is full of laser-sharp synth sounds and swells of air, making it easy to imagine the entire structure blasting into space. 

The EP is as much of a love letter to the city as it is a testament to music’s power to transcend across oceans and bring people together. Just as techno has brought the people of Detroit together for years, it allowed Goldberg and Piseddu to make an entire EP together, even separated by an ocean.

Follow 313 Acid Queen on Instagram for ongoing updates.

PLAYING SEATTLE: Julia Francis Has a Fierce “Cinderella” Story to Tell

On the newly-released version of her single “Cinderella,” Seattle rocker Julia Francis repeats the phrase, “Getting intimate in my mind,” with rasping, smoky vibrato. Francis’ distinctive vocal performance—and the emotionally tumultuous content of “Cinderella”—brings to mind Janis Joplin and something she once said: “I’m a victim of my own insides. There was a time when I wanted to know everything. It used to make me very unhappy, all that feeling. I just didn’t know what to do with it. But now I’ve learned to make that feeling work for me.”

Francis, too, once had a difficult time facing the storm of emotions she had inside. This is evident in the lifespan of her single “Cinderella,” and its psychedelic new video that Audiofemme premieres today. She first wrote the song in the early 2000s as a way through divorce and addiction, but the new version of “Cinderella,” which will appear on Francis’ forthcoming Live at The Royal Room, is a powerfully re-contextualized comment on self-empowerment and Francis’ journey to “celebrating her grief.”

“’Cinderella’ was written in the early 2000s and I actually released it on my first album in 2005, an album called Five Challenges to Flight,” says Francis. “And the song, I feel like it’s a wonderful snapshot of my own internal journey in that when I wrote it I was going through a divorce, I was dealing with addiction and a lot of difficult things. At the time I wrote it because I was feeling like I was somehow trapped or I couldn’t get the love that I needed or deserved.”

There has been significant trauma for Francis to overcome in her life through music—and it started young, when her parents divorced, forcing her to split her time between her California birthplace and the remote island of Kodiak, Alaska, where she eventually went to live full-time with her father.

“My parents divorced when I was 12 and then when I was 14, my mother had a hard time dealing with me because I’m a very independent headstrong person. So, when I was 14 she sent me to live with my dad in Alaska,” remembers Francis. “He’s an alcoholic and very unavailable. So I spent my adolescent years really raising myself and navigating a lot of dangerous, largely sexual, situations without a lot of guidance.”

These dangerous sexual situations eventually led to an assault. “That’s where a lot of my anger definitely came from. And feeling anger towards my father as well, because he wasn’t available to protect me either,” she says.

This hard time—and the loneliness it brought—was what first prompted her to pick up music and express herself through art, a modality with which she felt she could be witnessed safely. Francis found a sort of magic in singing, much like the fairy-tale Cinderella of her song’s namesake, creating peace and love though locked in her own little chamber and denied her power.

“I think for many years I felt my artistic expression was the only safe place to express my emotions,” she says. “As a very young child I remember trying to go into sort of secret places and make sounds and sing. I always felt really connected to the Spirit when I made sounds and I often didn’t feel like it was safe to be heard by others.”

All of this early life trauma played into the writing of “Cinderella” in the early 2000s, as did her leaving a marriage and getting real about alcohol and cannabis, which Francis said she relied on heavily to mute her unprocessed grief. That’s when the “getting intimate in [her] mind” really started—and however salacious the line may seem, she says it’s not about sex.

“It’s more about trying to understand my own internal suffering and trying to dialogue with myself. ‘Why can’t I stop obsessing about people or things?’ ‘Why can’t I sit with my own emotions and feel them?’ ‘Why do I feel this way?’ ‘Where did it begin?’” she explains. “A lot of it is about struggling with having compassion for the self because those voices inside… are telling us ‘You’re not good enough. You’re a failure.’ I think ‘Cinderella’ was about actively acknowledging those voices and trying to find a way to lessen their influence over me.”

While all of these early struggles still color “Cinderella,” the song’s essence has taken on new life for her forthcoming album, Live at The Royal Room, slated for release in Autumn 2021. Francis says there is added fierceness in the new version, which she says stems partly from motherhood, something she left music to do full-time for a decade before returning to the scene in 2015, as a reason for the song’s renewed intensity.

“The experience of having a child was a big part of… owning my own female power. The ability to make a child, and birth a child, it’s a profound, life-changing experience. I was able to open up my voice more expressively to represent all of the different parts of myself inside, the more that I felt the courage to live by my instincts and to fulfill and pursue my desires,” says Francis. “Even though I love her more than anything on the planet, [and] I wouldn’t change any of it, I also think as I revisited the song in the last few years I realized oh, some of that anger is anger at myself that I chose to step away from my music and how unfair it is, [that] as women we often have to sacrifice and put our own needs aside for someone else and there’s a lot of rage in that.”

This newfound conviction also stems from the years of spiritual progress Francis has made through therapy, meditation, and learning about shamanic healing sound healing. Through that personal exploration, she has found a way to further express her pain through her music, in the hopes that it can help others make lemonade from lemons, too.

“If I could boil my work down to one theme it would be grief. That we all have so much grief. I believe we can’t fully move forward and heal ourselves and the planet until we actually express and share our grief with each other. So, I want to be a tool in helping facilitate others to move through and celebrate their grief,” says Francis. “In the 20 years since [I wrote] the song, I have done a ton of internal work and I have explored the unprocessed grief that was passed on to me by my parents and my ancestors, the sexual trauma that I experienced as a teenager… and [I] realized that the song is really more about feeling and channeling all of those emotions to help share my own healing journey in the hopes that it helps others.”

This message is all over the trippy yet simple video for “Cinderella,” as well. It’s in the way Francis carries herself as she performs live with her band in the video. As she “gets intimate in her mind,” she radiates confidence, self-love, and truth. Like Joplin, she’s learned to make the feeling work for her.

Follow Julia Francis on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: Tristen Takes a Psychological Lens to Love in “Wrong With You”

Photo Credit: Danielle Holbert

There’s a running gag that Tristen likes to close out her shows with: “If you need advice, I’ll be at the merch table.” As someone who studied relational group and organizational theories of communication in college, the parting line is less of a joke and more of a sincere offering to fans; Tristen is a devotee of psychology, admitting that she often plays the role of therapist in friendships. She even hosts a segment called “Dear Tristen” on Partners in Crime with The McCarltons, a radio show hosted by fellow Nashville residents Vanessa Carlton and Carlton’s husband John McCauley. Her interest in the human psyche is an extension of the thought-provoking paradigms she presents through her music, exemplified in her new song “Wrong With You,” from upcoming LP, Aquatic Flowers, out June 4 via Mama Bird Recording Co.

Tristen tells Audiofemme that she was intrigued by the concept of someone being attracted to a mess they can clean up, the cycle of “liking someone less the more they like you because you, underneath it all, have a self-hatred that makes you suspect something’s off if somebody would like you.”

The song’s defining line, “there must be something wrong with your for loving someone like me,” which reprises twice in the chorus, is inspired by a real-life argument from a friend’s toxic relationship. The line stuck with her for years, and eventually Tristen built a song around it – one that happened to align perfectly with the themes on her fourth album, the follow-up to 2017’s Sneaker Waves.

In the video for the song, premiering today exclusively with Audiofemme, the singer takes to the woods in a vintage wedding dress. With tear-stained cheeks, she walks alone in the lush green forest, her train dragging in the mud and getting caught on the branches as she slowly strays from the path. “So deep are the grooves/I’m sinking into/No love could ever wash away,” she sings, shooting dramatic looks at the camera all the while.

“I don’t necessarily try to define myself through my music,” Tristen shares. “I do take first person a lot because I see myself falling into the same mistakes everybody makes. I think that a song is worthy of writing when it’s something that I feel like people can relate to…and it’s common enough so you can distill some behavior or pattern or trait.”

The 11 tracks that comprise Aquatic Flowers resonate on varying psychological levels. The singer spotlights a frustrated emapth on “Die 4 Love,” while the character in “I Need Your Love” has taken many partners, yet longs for the feeling of falling for someone. Meanwhile, “Hothouse Flower” follows a comfortable and privileged artist who is ironically envious of others’ artistic suffering. “I do believe that everybody has these range of emotions whether we were taught to avoid them or we don’t acknowledge them,” Tristen observes. “Part of the enjoyment of writing, for me, is that you can relate to people by pointing out some kind of behavior pattern.” She will celebrate the release of Aquatic Flowers with a livestream on June 11 at The 5 Spot in Nashville. She’s also slated to appear alongside Kesha’s mother, songwriter Pebe Sebert, for a music and motherhood Q&A on Twitter Spaces on May 9 at 9:30 p.m. ET, where she’ll likely dispense more sage advice.

Tristen’s psychological approach to the music process has made for some interesting songs, but it’s also in her nature to want to help those who are struggling. “I feel like I have a hopeless optimist in me, like we can solve that – there’s a way to solve it with creativity,” she says. “The problems are fun. I think that there’s underlying patterns happening for everybody’s problems and there’s ways to pick them apart. For me, writing songs is a way to analyze things and put all that thinking energy into lines and soft words, and then the melodies and the music and all that is easy for me.”

In her daily life, Tristen dedicates herself to saving vintage clothing via Anaconda Vintage, the Nashville shop she runs with her sister. In her songs she captures characters with individual flaws that all embody the human experience in their own unique way. Both reflect Tristen’s desire to fix what feels broken. “I don’t really take a lot of responsibility for the writing and the music. I feel like it just happens and it’s a very natural, untouched thing for me. I have worked really hard to keep that untouched,” Tristen says of her artistic process. “I keep it pure.” 

Follow Tristen on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Lola Scott Teases 1/4 Life Crisis with a New Video for “I wanted to call her but I’m tragic and she’s overseas (8 months)”

Partying hard, getting evicted, breaking up and starting out on a new solo career – these are the earmarks of a Quarter-life crisis in the making. Sydney-based artist Lola Scott has been through it all, so it makes sense that she’d commemorate her tumultuous twenties by titling her debut EP 1/4 Life Crisis.

The lead single, “The Eviction Song,” is catchy, fresh and resonant. Melodically upbeat and brimming with sarcasm, it is based on a true story: after breaking up with a long-term lover, Scott moved back into a shared house early in 2021, where the non-stop parties and subsequent short-term flings provided ample fodder for lyrics. When the neighbours finally had enough of Scott and her housemates, they were evicted; it was Scott’s sixth move in four years (and she’s had two moves since then). Far from being disheartened, or learning from mistakes, Scott has moved in with several of her housemates from the original party house and their good times continue.

The latest single from the EP, “I wanted to call her but I’m tragic and she’s overseas (8 months),” was written with Scott’s co-producer Oscar Sharah, a founding member of electronic pop project Mel Blue. Scott is debuting the video, directed by Mel Blue band member Lewis Clark, exclusively on Audiofemme.

“It was written from [Sharah’s] perspective about a long-distance relationship, knowing that it’s not going to work but trying anyway,” Scott explains. “The lyrics are us playfully talking about the things that happen in a long-term relationship, like if we make it to payday, I’ll take you to Norway. The video is us driving on opposite sides of the road, like being on opposite sides of the world. We’ve got some cute choreography – we just imagined it while we were writing it. We shot it at 3am, and choreographed it on the spot.”

Before she was a party animal, living the rockstar existence of a 20-something Aussie girl with lots of dreams and little money, Scott was a guitarist. Growing up in the New South Wales highlands, her high school years were spent practicing the instrument, which culminated in a Bachelor’s degree in guitar, working as a session musician immediately post-high school throughout university.

“I was working with 4 or 5 bands, but I quit them all to focus on my solo career,” says Scott. “I’m not sure how I juggled being in that many bands at once, but I guess a lot were collaborations with friends, trying different styles of music. Studying guitar and starting out as a classical guitarist, pop was a dirty word for a while.”

Scott’s love of pop started out thanks to a bargain chair Tasmanian-born fellow musician Asta was selling on Gumtree (like the US version of Craigslist). “She saw that the boot of my car was full of busking equipment. She had just moved to Sydney from Tasmania, so she suggested we should jam and that lead to our collaboration and friendship,” Scott remembers. “Asta asked me to play keyboard. I did piano lessons when I was a lot younger, so I had that background.”

In 2018, immediately out of university, Scott took the creative and professional leap into her own solo career. Her early singles “Crowded Conscience,” “Cyclone Weather,” and “Take Me Back” combined indie rock and synth atmospherics. “Take Me Back” was a radio favourite on youth station Triple J, with its layered harmonies, rock-synth atmosphere and crisp, flawless production. But it was her track “4E Jobless” (or “forever jobless”) that really hit home for many young Australians. In 2020, youth joblessness in Australia rose from 0.9 percent to 15.6 percent, which equates to one in three young people in Australia being unemployed or under-employed. The pandemic has only worsened the situation nationally, especially for creative professionals and youth aspiring to careers in the arts.

“Everyone that studied music ends up in massive debt, but I was brought up in a family that wanted me to finish a degree,” says Scott. “I don’t think [a degree is] something you need to be a great musician. I met most of the people I ended up working with through going out and seeking collaborations.”

Scott wrote “4E Jobless” when she quit her day job. “A lot of musicians work in side hustles before music is your main gig,” she muses. “I would always joke about how it was a retirement plan for me, that music was a hobby. I know different friends would have rules, like if they haven’t made it before 30, they’d get a ‘real job.’ Quitting my day job wasn’t that I was suddenly stable, but I decided to put 100 percent of my time into this because if I don’t do it now, when will I have the choice to put all of my time into it?”

Scott’s approach to sustainability in the music industry is to expand her skill set, and to that end, she’s been working on strengthening her production skills. “I spend a lot of time observing and learning from producers. Joel from Eskimo Joe is a legend and I learned so much from him when we were writing together. I’ve also been hanging out with friends who are producers, and Oscar has taught me a lot. YouTube tutorials are also really great, too.”

Scott produced most of the 1/4 Life Crisis EP together with Sharah. “Often, we’d come into the studio with nothing and work together on guitars. We produced as we recorded, so everything you hear on the EP is the demos; we don’t produce a different track. I always think I can be a minimalist but then I hear all these bendy synths and I love a big chorus that feels like a lot of layers, drone and intense emotion. Whenever I put down one guitar part, we always joke that I can’t help but put down a ‘guitarmony.’ We work by throwing all the ideas in at once, then taking them out one by one.”

Scott’s musical influences take a similar approach – humour, authenticity, and genre-defying musicality define their work. “I’ve been listening to Phoebe Bridgers, I love how she writes lyrics,” Scott enthuses. “I feel like she’s stretching the genre wherever she wants to take it. I also love Caroline Polachek, who does some really interesting things with melody that I haven’t heard in pop music before. The production is insane and I love the concepts that she sings about. One song, called ‘Door,’ is like [sci-fi movie] Inception as a song. I also listen to Rex Orange County and I love everything he does. I grew up listening to The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan – [I was fascinated by] how she flips [the register] from chest-voice to head-voice and I think I mimic that a lot in my music now.”

The lyrical content on 1/4 Life Crisis is intense, and while there’s a comic, sarcastic edge to the delivery, the experience of break-ups, joblessness, eviction and loneliness are sadly relatable.

“I definitely believe that whenever something negative happens, there’s something positive that comes out of it,” Scott says. “I like to write about things [knowing that] it’s painful, but once I’m in a room with friends, talking about it makes it a lot easier to go through those kind of things. If I wrote by myself, it would be a lot sadder. Honestly, when I was writing, I didn’t think about how it would connect. I just wanted to be honest with my own experience.”

Follow Lola Scott on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Beth Whitney Contemplates Both Sides of Loneliness with “Moonlight” Video Premiere

Photo Credit: Eratosthenes Fackenthall

When asked why she makes music, Pacific Northwest songwriter Beth Whitney begins a story about a transient woman she met in Modesto with a ball of tangled fishing line.

“She sat next to me and she had a backpack and she took it off. She reached into her backpack and took out this big, basketball-size collection of tangled fishing line, and she started, with hands that were shaking a little bit, to unravel it and straighten it out,” says Whitney. “Finally, after 20 minutes I was like, ‘Do you want me to help you with your fishing line?’ And she said, ‘No, this is just something I have to do with my hands.’”

For Whitney, making music is the same way. The process of creating songs is a bit of an obsession, born from her desire to untangle the chaos of her own life into something more intelligible and beautiful to share. And Whitney’s newest album, Into The Ground, which drops May 28th on Tone Tree Records, does just that.

With her sense-making lyrics and familiar melodies, Whitney powerfully clarifies the meanings in her own nature-soaked life and provides listeners a way through their own internal chaos. There’s no better example of the grounding essence of Whitney’s songwriting style than her latest single “Moonlight” and its accompanying behind-the-scenes studio video, which Audiofemme premieres today.

It wasn’t long ago that Whitney wouldn’t have identified as musical. Growing up in the small rural town of Snohomish, Washington, a town she says is “all about school sports,” softball was the lens through which she looked at life for many years. She was a pitcher until she broke the index finger on her right hand; serendipitously, it was around this time that she was approached by a friend from church, who was holding a guitar. He simply asked her, “Could you use this?”

“I was like, ‘Yeah, I think I can,’ even though I didn’t play music or anything at the time,” remembers Whitney. From there, she started learning to fingerpick—which was all she could do with her broken finger splinted—and even wrote a song on a whim for her sophomore English class.

“I wrote this song and I played it for the class which was kind of nerve-wracking and I was just like, well, maybe it’ll get me a C,” she says. “But after I finished the song they all jumped up and gave me a standing ovation and I was like, what in the world? It made me think—this connects. I was like, ‘here I am.'”

In that way, music and songwriting were quite literally gifts Whitney was given and learned to use, and so she rarely refers to her music as hers. It’s about all of us. “Music has helped me hold this life itself with more open hands,” she says. “I think we as human beings are unbelievably more complex than we can measure, and also much more simple. We all know life is loaded with the brutal and the beautiful all intertwined [and] for me the search for poetry in there keeps me tethered.”

Listeners will hear the organic way Whitney creates, and how her songs are both personally and universally relevant, on “Moonlight.” The song begins with the peddling of two notes on guitar, and a gently ebbing vocal melody. Its major harmony coupled with Whitney’s poetic lyrics are both vaguely familiar and uniquely her own; Whitney has also intentionally inserted instrumental space, led by cellist Natalie Mai Hall, in order to activate her listener’s own musings within the framework of the song.

“The verses are so short and so straight. I definitely poured into them, but even when writing it, I thought, ‘Let’s just have this big instrumental section and we’ll come back in.’ The whole idea [was] to have this string section where the listener is talking with… and contemplating the moon,” Whitney explains.

As a result, “Moonlight” is one of the most grounding songs to listen to on Into The Ground, which is saying a lot, because the entire album has a clear, present, in-the-moment feel about it. And yet, “Moonlight” almost didn’t happen. It was actually not the one she had planned to record that day at Tacoma’s Mothership Studio – she was debating between three other songs, but found herself writing this one in the wee hours before the studio session instead.

“The song is somewhat inspired by my son. He looked up at the sky and he’s like, ‘Moon come down from there and play with me,’ and it was this sweet interactive thing he had with the moon and then that planted something in me,” says Whitney. “Years later I wrote this song [about] a profound loneliness that I thought was just mine. The older I get the more I realize how lonely a lot of people are in this existential way. People surrounded by others, people loved, gregarious and outgoing, and always surrounded by other people.”

While of course, loneliness is always inextricably connected to feelings of sadness and isolation, Whitney’s observance of the moon’s loneliness also welcomes the light side of alone-ness; the strength and presence of mind that being alone can afford. After all, this is a two-sided coin that Whitney herself flips everyday.

In fact, Whitney lives with her husband, Aaron Fishburn (who plays bass on the album), and their two kids, deep in the woods near the quaint mountain town of Leavenworth, Washington in a secluded rustic cabin Whitney’s grandparents built in the seventies, complete with wood-burning stove, a composting toilet and unreliable cell service and WiFi. There, they focus on immersing themselves and their kids in the natural world—an introspective, quiet way of life that unavoidably permeates “Moonlight,” and the whole of Into The Ground.

“You walk outside and the songs sort of write themselves,” she says. “You look at the moon and you’re like, how lonely is that, but how majestic is it, and how strong is it anyway, and it’s just getting its light from the sun and reflecting it back to us and it’s fine, it’s not jealous of the sun or something. You go out and the songs kind of write themselves. It feels like cheating.”

The accompanying video for “Moonlight,” created by Whitney’s friend Michael Krantz, who took footage of Whitney and her band while they recorded the song in the studio, often zooms in on Whitney’s profile, flanked by sunlight, then switches to her nodding along with the instrumental section against a dark, amber-lit backdrop. In that way, it also plays on her contemplation of the dark and the light in her own life, of the moon, and of loneliness, all the while highlighting the mystical experience Whitney had writing and recording of the album.

“The studio experience for this album was so incredible and life-giving and magical,” says Whitney. “Everything came in for that week and just fit beautifully.”

Follow Beth Whitney on Facebook for ongoing updates.

Gian Slater Segues From Jazz Cat To Synth Pop Siren On New LP, Premieres “Spider” Video

Performer, vocalist and composer Gian Slater could have limited herself to purely working in the jazz world – but why would she, when she excels at pushing boundaries? After eight albums of original music, and numerous collaborative projects, she pushes those boundaries yet again on her newest release, Grey Is Ground, out April 16th via Biophilia Records, with a small in-person launch show on April 17th at The Jazzlab in Melbourne’s Brunswick East. The album is awash in luscious synth-pop soundscapes that swirl, ebb, and twine around Slater’s spellbinding voice.

“The name was inspired by this sense of a neutral place, where you’re open to mystery,” explains Slater. “There’s colour all around you, amazing and exciting, but then there’s this neutral place that is my ground. Just because I feel uncertain doesn’t mean that I can’t feel the ground beneath me. That was the analogy I was trying to make, that there’s still ground. There’s honesty and truth to that neutral space.” Slater laughs. “I can describe feelings in songs, but trying to break that down in this conversation is really difficult!”

Gian Slater began composing Grey Is Ground when she was pregnant with her first child, and began recording when he was just six months old. This emotional atmosphere allowed her to question her priorities in life and in her work, and to sculpt soundscapes and lyrics that reflected her investigations. Rather than following her traditional methodology, Slater embraced the uncertainty that had previously instilled fear in her.

“It’s definitely a musical map of that time of my life. I really embraced the acceptance of mystery in the making of this album. I wanted to focus on listening, which as a parent is a continual lesson I learn daily,” she says. “The music itself, too, is really inspired by embracing the unknown. There’s great power in the vulnerability of not knowing the answer. With access to so much information these days, we feel like we should know the answers. So I found it cathartic to write this music.”

“Spider,” the intensely energetic opening track on the album, “cuts to the chase of what the whole album is about,” Slater adds. “’Spider’ is the centre of a web of mystery. I was interested in describing that knotted up feeling of uncertainty – the layers of doubt, questioning, anxiety, a search for truth underneath the superficial. ‘Spider’ is my metaphor for a truth that may be painful and dark – and a surrender to embrace the spider.”

Its unsettling lyrics (“Lift me up out of shell/Out of perfume-covered smell/Give me blood and bone/Give me essence not dilute/Give me wisdom over youth/Or give me just your eyes”) are brought to life by the “ambiguously rhythmic” dancing of Lilian Steiner and Melanie Lane in a video for the track, shot by Madeline Bishop and premiering today via Audiofemme. As Slater says, “The song rides on this rhythm, searching for the release of truth.”

“In the early stages of 2020, I reached out and asked if Lilian and Melanie would dance to ‘Spider’ in their homes, recording on their iPhones. Their improvisations reflected a duality of mystery, a truth in two perspectives; the shadow and the light, the flowing and the rigid,” explains Slater. “As soon as it became possible with COVID restrictions, we filmed the dancers together side by side, but still improvising freely.”

Slater says both she and Bishop were completely moved by the dancers’ interactions. “I was so drawn to way Lilian and Melanie improvised through ‘Spider.’ They embodied the power and vulnerability in the song in such an intuitively special way,” Slater says. “Then the very multi-talented label director of Biophilia Records, Fabian Almazan, edited the footage to create more texture, ambiguity and pace. He really added another layer of abstraction that reinforces the themes.”

In many ways, collaboration has become essential to Slater’s process. For Grey is Ground, she worked with Barney McAll, who has provided production and keyboards for Sia, Daniel Merriweather and Aloe Blacc, trumpeter Phil Slater, and drummer Simon Barker, with additional drum programming by EDM beatmaker ​Emefern​. ​Her collaborators are skilled in the art of merging classical instruments with a pop sensibility.

“I met Barney about 15 years ago in New York through mutual friends,” recalls Slater. “He’s an Australian who lived in New York for many years. He’d heard my debut album when I was in my early 20s and he was a very senior musician at that time. He’s been incredibly supportive, a mentor and friend. He’s one of my most significant musical collaborators. We made an album together in a band called Sylent Running. It made its way around, even though it was a pretty underground recording.”

Grey Is Ground took seed after Slater joined Barney McAll and Simon Barker for a performance at the Sydney Opera House in 2015. The trio found their groove, providing the impetus for Slater to start composing an album of music that played to their strengths, both individual and combined. “Simon is one of the most incredible musicians and drummers in the world. He’s got his own very individual rhythmic language,” says Slater. “So, I really considered that, and Barney’s world too.”

Slater says the first iteration of the album’s title track – the first written for the album – had a lot of improvisation in it, built on Barker’s layers of rhythmic ideas. “The verse has a straight, simple, floaty feel, and then it moves towards a chorus section. There’s three different rhythmic cycles; the keyboard part, the pulse, and the melody. They all meet and end at the same time, but they have different cycles occurring simultaneously,” she says.

The end of the track is a big “release section.” Slater explains that tension and release occurs when the song has been bubbling away, but then, towards the end of the track, the harmony remains in a loop without lyrics, as there is a surrender and letting go of the song’s tension.

Across the album, Slater’s mellifluous voice works organically with the instrumentals and patterns within the music. On lead single “Ocean Love,” she toys with timing so that her voice rides over and under the melody, playfully racing ahead or falling just behind its momentum, clever without being contrived. The synthesized drums hint at a slowed-down tropical house beat, the harmonised vocals layering like waves rolling in one over the other. Right at the end, like stars studding their light through a perfectly black sky, there’s a rain of snare drums, a patter of open hi-hat and cymbals enveloped in tinkling piano keys.

Internationally, in the world of jazz alone, Slater has swept up prizes galore and premiered new work at both the Melbourne International Jazz Festival and the Capital Jazz Festival in Canberra. She won the MJFF Apra Composers Commission in 2010, won Best Jazz Vocal Album (2010 and 2013) at the Bell Awards, and received the Creative Australia Fellowship in 2012.

When she hasn’t been creating and performing works for herself and in collaboration with other composers and performers, she’s worked as a lecturer in Jazz and Improvisation at both Melbourne and Monash Universities, the legendary Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and also The Manhattan School of Music. Inspiring her students to be brave and authentic comes naturally for Slater.

“I’m taking a year off from Monash this year, but I’m still with Melbourne University’s Victorian College of the Arts, as I have been for 15 years,” says Slater. “I’m passionate about teaching, particularly teaching vocalists and empowering them to make their own choices about the music they want to make.”

Likewise, Slater switched up her usual modus operandi when it comes to composing, which has typically meant finding the harmony, layering on the melody, then weaving in rhythm intuitively and finally. For Grey Is Ground, the rhythm provided the primary spark for each song, upon which Slater added melodies, interwoven with the synaptic-stimulus of synth waves.

“I think the electronic thing had been explored by Barney and I in Sylent Running. With this new album, I really wrote the music for Barney and Simon in an acoustic version, but it became clear really soon that the architecture of my compositions leant themselves to the electronic synth world,” Slater says. “I had been playing synth in other projects and using it in the composition process, so it’s a detour away from the other music I’ve been creating. None of my music neatly fits into a genre, but prior to this, it’s been definitely more jazz-influenced.”

The result treads beyond the everyday world into an ethereal wonderland, both familiar in its nostalgic references and intriguingly novel. “Barney and I were drawn to pulling apart this music, giving it a lot of love in terms of recording tracks with a sense of curiosity around trying stuff out and not just doing one or two takes. There were so many layers, we really tried to bring new things out us as artists and the compositions,” says Slater. “I can hear in each layer the enormous time and those magical moments that we found along the way.”

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