Nicole Mercedes Celebrates Uneventful Nights Out With “Filters”

If spending so many nights in has got you feeling antsy, let Nicole Mercedes remind you that you’re probably not missing much. The dream-pop singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist’s latest single, “Filters,” is about those nights when you go out and absolutely nothing of interest happens — which, she conjectures, is probably the way things turn out most of the time.

“I feel like that’s the real truth of it — sometimes, you’re just like ‘I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna get dressed and go out,’ then nothing happens and you kind of just go home,” she says. “There’s something kind of nice about that. It’s not even sad. It’s just kind of the regular single life.”
Synths set a fun, dreamy mood as Mercedes sings, “I’ll conjure up a small mess/A filter to see the rest/Of the night through until I’m undressed.”
The video, which shows a man in drag performing the song in front of an empty room, was inspired by a real experience Mercedes had at a karaoke bar drag night in Cape Cod during off-season, when she saw someone passionately sing Kelly Clarkson to almost nobody.
“I just thought it was the saddest, most beautiful scenario,” she says. “No one was paying attention to this person, and they didn’t care, and I thought, ‘Wow, that is such a beautiful moment.’ It seemed like that’s just what they do off-season.”

The song is on Mercedes’ second LP Look Out Where You’re Going — a title inspired by “I Know a Man,” a Robert Creeley poem about a man driving a car. “The poem in general just symbolizes thinking you’re in control and that you’re behind the wheel but then realizing that you’re not,” she explains. “I thought of it as a reminder to look out where you’re going, keep your eyes on the road, make sure you don’t drive off that street.”
The album, which comes out June 5, was largely inspired by the loss of a partnership and a close friendship. “I felt extremely alienated from a lot of friends that I had,” she remembers. “I think a lot of the songs were dealing with being a little weirdo out in the world and feeling a little bit detached and trying to navigate it.” This feeling dates back to Mercedes’ childhood and early adulthood, having been born in LA, moving to Israel at age 10, then living in Berlin before returning to the U.S.
Sonically, her goal with the album was to create “a sound where, even if you didn’t listen to the lyrics, you would understand the mood,” says Mercedes, who produces her own music and partnered with producer Joe Rogers for Look Out Where You’re Going. “It was very important to me for everything to be dream-like and a little bit eerie.”

Even though going out in any capacity is currently a challenge for most, Mercedes believes “Filters” offers an especially relevant philosophy: embrace the uneventful. “I do quite enjoy the feeling of loneliness, and I think it’s something to embrace,” she says. “It’s okay if nothing’s going on.”

Follow Nicole Mercedes on Facebook for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: Killer Workout Draws on Love of Campy Horror for “Figure it Out” Video

Photo Credit: Brady Harvey

About three years ago, Adrienne Clark and Anthony Darnell, bandmates in Seattle new wave dance pop group Killer Workout, replied to an ad from a man who had bought out the stock of a closed-down video store. Interest piqued, they rolled up to find a garage full of thousands of their favorite horror and sci-fi VHS tapes.

“The guy told us we had to take everything, but I didn’t realize how many VHS he actually had. He had a giant garage—well over two thousand VHS tapes—but we were in a 1998 Corolla, so he gave us 30 minutes to go through and grab as many as we could,” remembers Darnell.

This was the beginning of Clark and Darnell’s collection of campy horror, sci-fi, and action VHS, a passion and aesthetic which has spilled over into their music as Killer Workout—from the band’s namesake to their forthcoming 3-song EP, Four : Three, which references the 4:3 aspect ratio common in ‘80s and ‘90s VHS tapes and television. “The name Four : Three doesn’t tell you too much, but it gives you a clue of who we are. Like, we’re sitting in a room right now with a hundred VHS tapes of horror movies. We’re kind of obsessed,” says Clark, laughing. “We’re big cinephiles and whenever we’re collaborating, we reference films and visual art that could inspire the work.”

This inspiration is clear in video for the song “Figure it Out,” premiering today. It’s one of three music videos the band commissioned from @video_macabro, a popular Instagram personality who cuts up and collages obscure VHS movies and posts it with interesting music. “He’ll take some weird Japanese robot movie that you’ve never heard of and put dark dance music to it,” said Darnell. “It just really resonated with me, so we asked him to do all three videos.”

For “Figure it Out,” the director spliced together scenes from 1979 film The Driller Killer, a slasher flick about an artist who’s driven into insanity and begins killing people with a power drill. The effect is undeniably perfect for the song – the unison eighth-note bass and drum patterns have ’80s vibes, but with a twist unique to the band, which includes guitarist Reed Griffin, bassist/vocalist Jon Swihart, and drummer Bob Husak (who also collects and sells vintage vinyl, books and tapes).

“With some of the newer stuff we’ve been trying to play with structure,” said Darnell. “I thought, we’re stuck in a rut of emulating this [post-punk] sound, why don’t we try and play with some of these elements—make it darker than it typically would be, more haunting.” The EP arrives June 26 – they’ve already released its first single, “Too Late.”

On “Figure it Out,” Clark’s otherworldly keyboard line connects the straight-ahead post-punk vocals to some far-out dimension, while the heavy, reverb-y guitar conjures up a horror movie score – as they say, “Tangerine Dream-style.” Lyrically, this song began as a way to process Donald Trump’s election. Over time, Darnell says its morphed into more of a reflection on the balance between fitting in and standing out, which, against the backdrop of a misfit impaling someone with his drill, adds a layer of deliciously dark humor, a la Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.”

“It’s a song about realizing everyone is a big nerd like you are, so what does it matter [if you fit in or not]?” said Darnell. “I mean, I’m into weird horror movies and sci-fi stuff that a lot of people think is weird or too obscure.  But everyone has these fears and anxieties. So ‘Figure it Out’ has a hopeful message against a dark backdrop.”

Follow Killer Workout on Facebook for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: Lauren Rocket “Rattlesnake”

Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Lauren Rocket is the embodiment of the word “badass,” and that’s no clearer than in her latest single, “Rattlesnake.” In the video for the fierce, beat-driven rebel anthem, we see Rocket dancing around the house, ravenously eating sweets, and posing in an “Anarchy” shirt while singing lyrics like, “I like the pain because it keeps me awake / can’t sleep, don’t put on the brakes.”

Rocket signed her first record deal at age 18, toured with artists including The Child and The Pink Spiders as part of her pop-punk band Rocket, and has most recently toured alongside Rilo Kiley’s Blake Sennett and The Honorary Title’s Jarrod Gorbel in Night Terrors of 1927. As a solo artist, her music has included catchy, danceable, elecropop hits (like “Sharks” and her cover of Echo and the Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon“) that project a sassy, self-assured persona.

We asked her about the evolution of her music, what it was like to be in an all-female punk band, and what “Rattlesnake” means to her.

AF: What is the concept behind the song and video for “Rattlesnake”? What inspired you to come up with it?

LR: With “Rattlesnake,” I wanted to write a song about living life dangerously, doing what you want daily, and enjoying your limited time here while imposing a strong belief in trying everything at least once.  When I got in the studio with my co-writers Jason Bell and Jordan Miller (aka HEAVY), they totally got the vibe and concept, and we kind of effortlessly weaved our way through the song. I wanted “Rattlesnake” to not only convey that lyrically, but I wanted it to feel alive (“rattlesnakey”) in a sense.

Visually, my co-creater Zoey Taylor and I envisioned a video that really was pure, moving picture “mood,” capturing the essence of momentary youthful freedom and a strong amount of weirdness. We are both giant fans of Harmony Korine and love how his movie, Gummo, is a series of unforgettable vignettes that all work together to create a solid, visceral movie that you can feel in your bones and heart. He was our main inspiration, and our goal was to make it feel like the viewer is experiencing another life in little glimpses — maybe escaping into that world for a couple minutes, maybe questioning it, but maybe not.

AF: What does the rattlesnake symbolize to you?

LR: Snakes in general represent the obvious: temptation, danger, seduction, toxicity, etc. They can kill in one moment, which makes them super powerful beings. Rattlesnakes, to me, are symbolic visual representations of what I imply in the song with the line, “I wanna live like I’m dying today.”

AF: I know you’ve collaborated and toured with a number of accomplished artists and songwriters. Have they influenced your music? Who would you say your biggest influences are?

LR: I have learned so much from so many people on this journey, and I am grateful for every writing and touring experience I’ve ever had, as they’ve just made me a better version of myself as well as a better writer. I strongly believe that it’s pretty hard to grow without collaboration, because there is so much to learn from others. It’s kind of essential to creation.  I have a ton of influences, so it’s hard to only name a few and not bore everyone, so I would say Dolly Parton for her grace, innate talent, and authenticity; Freddy Mercury, no question; and Deborah Harry because there’s just no one cooler. And how could I not mention David Bowie?

AF: Would you say there’s an overall theme to your music? I know you once said you write about everything butlove — why is that?

LR: I guess I could write love songs all day long. It’s a go-to for me, and I could cry and write them for hours, so the challenge for me is to write about other subjects, like aliens and snakes and wizards. I only laugh and never really cry unless I’m laughing too much, so it’s a win-win situation.

AF: Pop-punk seems to be very male-dominated — what was it like having a female band in this genre? Were there particular challenges or stereotypes you faced?

LR: Just being marginalized as a “girl band” was limiting in itself. There’s a different psychology behind how people view all female bands, and it’s a whole thing. There was this weird underlying feeling of having to prove ourselves as a musicians and performers. It was yucky, but there was another side that was beautiful and amazing. We just did our thing and had so much fun playing shows all over the country. I feel so lucky to have had those experiences in life. We simply loved playing music and touring around in a beat-up van, eating chips. I love playing with women. There’s something magical that happens when we work together.

AF: In what ways would you say your music has changed since Rocket?

LR: I’ve grown a lot, experienced a lot, and learned a lot since Rocket. That band had a bevy of puppeteers expressing their opinions on what we should sound like and act like. We were super young and green. I’ve learned a lot about myself and dug real deep in these past few years while practicing a lot of internal and spiritual work, which my soul really craved. In turn, this project is definitely the most authentic representation of who I am creatively at this moment in my life and expresses my inner thoughts, sometimes obviously and sometimes abstractly.  These are the songs that I hear in my head when I’m just walking around, living my life every day.  I know exactly how I want them to sound. It’s been a really inspiring and exciting journey so far, and I’m excited for it to keep unfolding.

Follow Lauren Rocket on Facebook for ongoing updates.

PLAYING SEATTLE: Katie Kuffel Premieres Video for Recovery Anthem “Jelly Donut”

In 2013, Seattle musician Katie Kuffel broke out as a fierce-yet-tender songwriter, with artful piano skills and a husky, blues-imbued voice. She’s also made a name for herself as a community builder, organizing the Fremont Abbey Sessions in 2016—a community-driven music and video project—and striving to collaborate with and raise up local talent.

Kuffel is also a survivor. When the singer-songwriter was freshman in college, she was brutally raped and almost lost her life. With this new song and video, “Jelly Donut,” premiered with Audiofemme, Kuffel takes the time to look at her recovery in the big picture.

On “Jelly Donut,” Kuffel’s piano line repeats like the chime of a rusty church bell, and the lyrics “I don’t think about you,” also come up several times. This captures the “two steps forward, one step back” nature of her recovery, as she puts it, and the determination necessary for so many assault survivors to keep going. The video adds to this tone—a crew of roller derby skaters, the Tilted Thunder Rail Birds, glide around a dimly lit track. There are collisions and straightaways, smiles and grimaces. It’s an artful metaphor.

“I’ve been back to square one many times. That doesn’t mean I’ve failed. It means it’s a battle I’ve won before, and can win again,” she said.

Along with premiering this video, Audiofemme talked with the singer-songwriter about her recovery, why she cares about community, and how she sees Seattle’s musicians being sorely overlooked.

AF: Tell me a bit about your upbringing in Seattle — and what got you into Seattle music? Did you go see shows? How were you involved at a young age? Who/what did you listen to most in your early years?

KK: I had a pretty wonderful time growing up in the PNW. I was actually born and raised just outside of Seattle on Bainbridge Island. Small town vibe, very musically supportive family, and in a lot of ways fortunate in that I was encouraged to pursue music from an early age. I started cello when I was 8, played marimbas through middle school and high school, and also learned piano in that time as well. Music was a much needed sanctuary for me during my teen years, as it is for many.

I would often go to Seattle to see big shows at The Paramount (I recall seeing Regina Spektor, Sufjan Stevens, and Vienna Teng being among my favorites), or travel to eastern Washington to see musicians and attend festivals at The Gorge.

AF: You say it yourself—your music is a combo of a lot of different genres, and unlike anything most of us have heard before. Do you work to achieve this sound, or is it your natural output?

KK: It’d be much simpler for me I think, if I came at songwriting with any real goal in mind. I write what feels right for me, and try to be as genuine as I can. Music is my chance to be transparent, so it’s definitely something that just naturally flows from me, and because I embrace my oddity and I love change, that’s directly reflected in my output.

I have a pretty broad range of tastes as far as what I consume goes, and I love playing with others. I’ll often bring the bones of a song to my band, like lyrics and structure, then we workshop it together until it feels good to play. We all have different backgrounds, tastes, and I think it gets all mixed together to make something that I never could have arrived to on my own. We finalize songs by just performing them a ton. So in a way, our audiences also have a part to play in how it sounds in the end.

AF: Is music your full-time gig?

KK: I’m firmly in this weird, self-employed, gig economy that many twenty-somethings find themselves in. Music makes up the biggest part of my income, but I also do design work, I paint murals, illustrate, and will take random jobs as they come. Before this I was working an 8 to 5 office job for over a year, and I think it was the final push I needed to attempt being fully self-employed. I wasn’t fulfilled, I had no energy, I was running on fumes and feeling like I had no room to create. Happy to say it’s been over a year since then and I still have a roof over my head.

AF: What’s your songwriting process like? What sort of mantras do you have to help keep yourself on track creatively?

KK: It totally depends on the song. I’m definitely a lyrics-focused artist, so words are usually what I’m basing my music around. I’ve also started trying to write songs quickly, as a kind of exercise. Like… a few hours before a show quickly. It makes me less afraid of experimenting, and I think allows me to share a genuinely unique moment with my audience. I really don’t have a concrete process, but I do have some principals I like to create by.
Not everything is going to be good. But sometimes you have to unclog the drain to get started on the next thing.
No one else can create what you create. That’s both humbling and powerful. Own it.
Get out of your own way. And by this I mean, don’t put limits on the kind of songs you think you should write. In the creative arena you are all-powerful.
Not every song is meant to be shared. That’s okay.

AF: You are a very community-focused artist. Why is community important to you, and in particular, what are your goals for Seattle’s music community?

KK: I’m very thankful to the people in my life who support me, and I think I’m lucky to have landed in such a welcoming music community. Seattle’s scene is special, I believe, and people look after each other here. I think it doesn’t make sense to be competitive in music. I want to see others be successful, I want to play with people, I want to lift others up where I can, because it’s one of the few ways I know to help make the world a little more palatable. I believe music is a conduit for sharing our experiences, sharing space, and understanding that we are not alone.

AF: Many Seattle musicians are leaving the area because of cost of living and other struggles amidst the tech boom. What are your views on that? Why/how do you remain here?

KK: Seattle is choking out its creative community. It’s true, a lot of us are moving outwards, to Tacoma, or Olympia, or to new states all together. If housing costs aren’t addressed soon, if the continued indifference for protecting diverse communities isn’t addressed and the fight against Seattle’s extreme gentrification isn’t won, Seattle will lose all of its soul. I really believe this. It shouldn’t be our job to explain to a city why we matter. Why art matters. Why it is not just for your passive consumption, but a part of our collective cultural identity. Seattle used to be a city proud of its rich history in jazz and grunge, and now it feels like a lot of the tech community likes the idea of living in a “cool” city, but doesn’t want to put their money where their mouth is by going to local shows, supporting art programs, and rethinking Seattle’s archaic tax structures to serve the larger populace.

I stay because for now I can afford to. For now there are enough genuinely supportive folks and musicians here to let me forget about the overarching problems Seattle’s growth is causing. I also recognize as a white, cis woman, a lot of these issues won’t effect me as drastically as it does other minorities. This problem doesn’t just effect musicians. It effects families, it effects small business, it effects Seattle’s future. I wish I had an answer.

AF: Tell me about this new song, “Jelly Donut.” It is about recovering from sexual trauma. Will you share a bit about that context? Why did you decide to share your story?

KK: I think sharing my story played a large part in my recovery. When I was a freshman in college (before I eventually dropped out due to PTSD-related issues) I was violently raped, and nearly lost my life. Once from the incident, and once from being suicidal. It’s not something you get over, but it is something you learn to live with. Each story of rape, or recovery from sexual trauma, or abuse, is different. So know anything I say is based entirely on my own experiences, and shouldn’t be taken as a blanket statement for every survivor.

“Jelly Donut” was a song I wrote after I was able to have relationships again, after I’d gone to therapy for years, after I’d taken anti depressants, and had a toolbox of healthy coping mechanisms at my disposal. I wanted to highlight, yes that I’m alive and I’ve made it, but also memorialize in a way all of the downswings inherent in recovery. Flashbacks are common and unpredictable. Manic episodes don’t wait for a convenient time. Your brain is scarred, and sometimes those scars will flare up. In recovery I’ve lost my footing so many times, but I find my strength in knowing that those times will pass, that I have and I will be able to live to see another day, and find happiness and worth, and love. I will probably continue to stumble for the rest of my life. Maybe in moments few and far between, but that’s okay.

AF: You talk about the “cyclical nature” of recovery. What does that mean to you? How did you represent that musically on “Jelly Donut”?

KK: Recovery for many things is a two steps forward, one step back kind of deal. Or sometimes you have to start all over again. There’s a common misconception that recovery is a straight line, a linear process where the survivors gets further and further away from the incident, so they must be getting better and better in equal measure. This is false and dangerous thinking, and by refusing to acknowledge that healing is repeating the same behaviors, and understanding how your brain works, and failing then finding new ways to continue on with your life, we run the risk of punishing ourselves for an incident that was outside of our control. I’ve been back to square one many times. That doesn’t mean I’ve failed. It means it’s a battle I’ve won before, and can win again.

Musically, I love the repetition of the piano lick. It reminds me of when a record is scratched, and repeats the same line again and again. The beginning and ending also feature the same bell sound. I wanted the music to begin and end at the same place. I also repeat a lot of words over and over again in this song. Phrases like “I don’t think about you” or “I can say a lot of pretty words” and “Do you even know my name” also have that same scratched record quality. I wanted it to feel like I was struggling to even move on in the song.

AF: Tell me about the personnel on the track— where’s it recorded and who’s playing on it?

KK: So I recorded this with Johnny Bregar over at Brickyard Studios in my hometown of Bainbridge Island one sunny afternoon. It was then mixed and mastered by my two close friends Cody Kilpatrick and Hunter Rath. These three people are some of the most genuine, sensitive souls I’ve met and have had the pleasure to work with. I felt I could trust them all with a song that’s this personal.

I sang and played keys. But Jon Robinson plays bass on this track, and Jordan Wiegert plays drums. They’re part of my trio and we’ve played together for over two years. I wanted to record this song with familiar folks, friends, and peers. It was a cathartic process for me, and their support was important for the success of the track.

Kuffel and her bandmates.

AF: Will “Jelly Donut” be part of a forthcoming album? If so, can we expect that to drop shortly?

KK: “Jelly Donut” is actually a one-off. It’s a song I needed to get out into the world. It felt strong enough to stand on it’s own, so no, there will be no new CD featuring this track. That does not mean there won’t be a new CD come 2020 however.

AF: What’s the future look like for Katie Kuffel? What are some goals you have for your music career?

KK: Music has always taken me to places I never expected to be. My goals are kind of loose. I don’t really want to be a famous person. I know I would make music even if no one would hear it. As long as I’m allowed to keep growing, as long as my music feels true and genuine to who I am, then I will be proud of it. Then I will trust that it will reach the people who need to hear it. Monetarily, I really just want my music to be able to support itself. To allow me to afford to keep making it. To allow me to bring it to people around the world.

Follow Katie Kuffel on Facebook for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: Studio Session “Audience of One” by GKCB ft. Elliott Skinner

Gideon King & City Blog, the critically-acclaimed New York jazz/ rock fusion act, teamed up with Elliott Skinner of Thirdstory to release the beautifully painful single “Audience of One.” Skinner’s trademark wince and emotive vocals loom delicately over King’s grounded jazz guitar. In their video premiering today, a live studio session captures the pair’s passion and chemistry heard within the textured track.

Here, King talks about recording the song, working with Elliott Skinner and what’s up next for Gideon King & City Blog.

AF: How did you link up with Elliott Skinner for “Audience of One”?

GK: A great singer I’ve worked with, Grace Weber, said she thought Elliott had this beautiful and soulful style of singing. So I checked him out. Grace was right. The guy is unique in the way he approaches singing. [The] talented cat he is, he ended up singing on my first CD and I hit him up again to do this tune. He can always sing my stuff – makes me look better.

AF: You’re gearing up to release some new music. Will it be a full project or singles?

GK: Yeah, I have written a bunch of new stuff. I will probably release some singles. On the other hand, this paradigm of releasing singles sometimes feels empty to me, as there seems to be less of a premium placed on creating a full expression, a full album. Not sure what to do.

AF: With this video, we get to see an intimate live session of the song. What was recording it like?

GK: Just as you see it. The tune just flows. It’s not meant to be “in time” or perfect or anything. Just a passing declaration of some form of desperation.

AF: What else are you currently working on?

GK: Well, we are working harder and harder at becoming a unique live act, a differentiated kind of crossover music presentation. I’m certain what I just said means nothing. This is our problem – we lack meaning.

AF: You’ve created music with several acclaimed acts. What’s one thing you’ve learned from working with a variety of talented people?

GK: To listen to their suggestions and incorporate at the very least a touch of their bent into my bent.

PREMIERE: Beatrice Deer Returns to Her Inuit Home for “Immutaa”

Half-Inuk, half-Mohawk indie pop songwriter Beatrice Deer hails from Quaqtaq, a small village in Northern Arctic Quebec that’s only accessible by plane. There, she planted the seeds of what she would become—a television director, clothing-maker, mental health advocate, a mother and songwriter—and there she returned to film a heartwarming music video for her rendition of the traditional Inuk song, “Immutaa.”

Teeming with the children of Quaqtaq, bundled up to their noses in snow suits and dancing in their school gymnasium, the video for “Immutaa” is an upbeat and unadulterated view of this vibrant yet underserved indigenous community in Canada. Deer aims to shed light on her Inuk roots by spreading their traditional music, folk tales and legends—the Inuk cultural story—through her raw, joyful songs that oscillate between English, French, and the native Inuk tongue. She also carries on the tradition of Inuk throat singing in much of her music.

Recently, Deer caught up with Audiofemme to talk about her Inuk background, the filming of the Beatrice Deer Band’s sweet video for “Immutaa,” and her most recent album, My All To You.

AudioFemme: Where is this music video set and why did you choose this location?

Beatrice Deer: The music video is set in my hometown, Quaqtaq – the place I was born and raised and where I learned the song at school, in grade one with my auntie Louisa Kulula as my teacher. I chose this location because I wanted to involve my community and the children who love the song so much. Music is a communication between the musicians on stage and the audience and I wanted the video to be a part of the audience as much as it is ours as the band. I want the world to see the warmth of my community and the people in it.

AF: Who are the children? Why did you want them in the video?

BD: The children in the video are the children of Quaqtaq. They are my family. They are my friends’ children. They are the future of Quaqtaq and Nunavik. I wanted them to have fun and experience something different. I want them to see themselves on a music video and realize that fun projects like that are possible to do, even for a small town girl like me. They’re me when I was their age.

AF: Can you translate the chorus of “Immutaa?” What does it mean?

BD: The song is a very old song and no one knows the date of origin or the songwriter. It’s ancient. It’s a bunch of words without a real story line. Random – when I say random, like extremely random – words like “Harvesting walruses, fish spears, milk, his mittens, five” among other things.

AF: I love how playful this song is. What about the hand gestures—at one point you have your fingers over your eye and the children mirror it—what does that symbolize?

BD: I do that hand gesture where I have my fingers over my eye when the song says in Inuktitut “and his eyes” and the children watch me do it so they mirror it.

AF: Tell me a bit about your background. How did you get into music?

BD: Music is something that I’ve always enjoyed ever since I can remember. My father plays bass and guitar, my mother plays organ and accordion so I grew up around music at home and at church where my parents played. When I was maybe four years old, I remember liking a melody (that turned out to be Roy Orbison as I later found as an adult) and other ’80s tunes that my older sister was listening to. I loved songs in Disney movies and movies like Grease when I was kid. My brother and I watched Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker video cassette until the tape disintegrated pretty much. I always dreamed of being a performer on stage. I was 13 when I asked my father to show me some guitar chords but I wasn’t that serious about it as I mostly wanted to be a singer. As a teenager, I would blast music in my headphones and sing at the top of my lungs while my friends and I drove around town on a snowmobile or a 4-wheeler. I watched MuchMusic whenever I came to Montreal and recorded my favourite songs on VHS to take back home to Quaqtaq, as MuchMusic wasn’t available in Quaqtaq. I wrote my first song with my cousin Jaaji Okpik when I was 15. It’s called “Ilaapik.” We sang that song at a local hockey team’s fundraiser at the school gymnasium in 1998 in our hometown of 350 people. That was my first official performance.

AF: You seem to be involved in many different creative projects other than music—can you give me a brief synopsis?

BD: Right now, I’m fabricating an amauti as part of the upcoming Red Dress exhibition at the National Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec in memory of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls as the Inquiry is coming to a close. An amauti is a coat that Inuit women wear to carry their babies on their backs from birth to about two years old. Hanging a red dress outside your door has become the memorial symbol of the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada. I am honored and humbled to have been asked to fabricate this red amauti to represent the Inuit women of Nunavik who have fallen victim to the tragedy. Also, I work in television production full-time so that’s my day-to-day job. I recently finished recording a cute children’s song for a production company based in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Collaborating on songs with other musical artists happens on a regular basis. And of course, so does writing new songs with my band.

AF: How did you learn to throat sing? Can you tell me a little bit about the tradition and your exposure to it?

BD: I learned how to throat sing at 18 from friends. Throat singing has been around for centuries and it’s a simple rhythmic imitating game between two women. The leader of the two start off by making an imitating sound of, for example, the river, and the follower mimics the exact same sound half a beat after and they create a pattern. It’s quite challenging and technical which makes it a lot of fun. It was a pass time activity as women spent their days at the camp while the men went out hunting for the family. No one really throat sang in Quaqtaq and I only used to hear it from time to time on the radio or the Inuktitut TV when I was growing up. It is because it was forbidden by the missionaries in the early 1900’s so the oppression caused Inuit to think it was bad. Times have changed and many, many girls and women throat sing thanks to passionate people to encouraged and taught the songs before the practice completely disappeared. We as Inuit prefer to keep it within our culture since it is unique to us and it was something we almost lost due to colonization so we kindly decline requests to teach outside our culture.

AF: Inuit culture is not very well-known by most outside of the community. Why have you made it your objective to share Inuit culture and teach others about it?

BD: We were an oppressed people until recently. We are only 12,000 Inuit in Nunavik and 60,000 in Canada. That is a small number comparing to other cultures in the world. We have gone through so much atrocities as a people due to attempts of assimilation in less than a century. The media portrays the negative image of Indigenous people so that’s what the majority only sees. It’s a one sided story. No one really questions the why and just assumes that we are all homeless, uneducated, on welfare and addicted to something. We didn’t get to where we are on our own. So, I try to make a point in educating about the resilience of my people and the beauty of our culture. Our values, beliefs, and ingenuity. All [of the] things that brought us here today.

AF: Tell me about your new album, My All To You. I know that companionship is a major theme, and that you invoke the legend of “Atungak.” Why do these themes come up on your new album and what do they mean to you?

BD: My All to You is really about giving in. Giving in to a higher power, giving in to vulnerability. There is strength in giving in to the right things. Life’s challenges can make us feel alone and powerless but knowing and believing we are not alone in whatever we go through can give us just what we need to get back up. It’s empowering.

I don’t invoke the legend of Atungak in the album. I wrote [a] song based on the legend of the shaman that an Elder told me, God rest her soul, because I value the tradition of story telling in Inuit culture. Storytelling was a nightly ritual in igloos and tents during nomadic times as families were going to sleep and it’s a shame that it’s not something that many of us do anymore. I wrote it because it’s my way of continuing the practice of Inuit storytelling.

AF: Who’s in your band? Is it the same personnel that’s on the album?

BD: It’s always the same core members and sometimes we’ll have keys or another throat singer. The core members are myself, Christopher McCarron on guitars, Michael Felber on bass, management and producer of My All to You, Jordey Tucker, on guitars, and Mark Weathon on drums, who [also] produced My All to You. I usually have my friend Pauyungie Nutaraaluk as my throat singing partner and Parker Shper on keys.

AF: Anything else you want people to know?

BD: Fun fact: The “eskimo kiss” is not the touching of two nose tips, it’s actually pressing both nostrils on the skin and inhaling—as shown at some point in the video. Just clearing things up!

INTERVIEW: Ziemba Extends an Invite to Parallel World of Ardis with “Veritas in Terra”

all photos by Megan Mack

René Kladzyk has made it her artistic purpose to merge various media since the very beginning of her musical project Ziemba; her debut LP came with an incense made from flowers in and around her childhood home, and her live shows frequently feature the diffusion of scents she’s created to go along with the specific experience. Now, inspired by singing collectively with Colin Self’s XHOIR, feminist science fiction, Nabokov’s treatise on time, and the neofuturistic architecture of John Portman, Kladzyk has launched the first phase of Ardis, a high-concept three-part album that explores utopia from a human perspective.

Essentially, Ardis is a parallel version of Earth, with “necessary changes” having been made. Its creation was a direct response to Trump’s election, Kladzyk explains. “I felt really devastated by a lot of what I was seeing in America and I wanted to talk about it but in a way that didn’t just perpetuate me feeling devastated by it,” she says. “How can I talk about this in a way that’s not just dwelling on how upsetting it is, but instead thinking about possible alternatives and mobilizing in a way that’s fantastical and fun and uplifting? If you believe that cultural change is fueled by art and creative work, which I do, then people who are making work that envisions possible alternative futures can have a real material impact on the world we live in here.”

The first five songs from the LP, which comprise Part One, were released in February, along with a video for “Veritas in Terra” that brings Kladzyk’s concepts into the real world via John Portman’s architecture. His buildings have served as the inspiration for Delta City in Robocop, and appeared in sci-fi classics and recent blockbusters alike, from John Carpenter’s Escape From LA to the Divergent series. Kladzyk first encountered his work on a trip to New York City (which she now calls home) during her teens, when she ventured into the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. “Veritas in Terra” was shot in three Atlanta hotels; Portman’s architectural thumbprint is everywhere in his home city, characterized by the multi-storied arrangement of floors overlooking a towering atrium, often with a glass elevator that traverses it like a an electrical impulse running up a human spine. Indeed, this is the intended visual allusion, one which Kladzyk mirrors in relating humanity to the sprawling scale of a futuristic cityscape. “It’s an inter-scalar thing – it’s like, if you look at a building like a body, and a body like a song, you find the commonalities in the way we structure ideas to the way we structure our world on the macro level,” she explains.

The video was co-directed by Kladzyk, Megan Mack, and Allison Halter, and it wasn’t an easy shoot, considering they were forcibly removed from the Portman-designed Hyatt, Westin, and Marriott hotels. “We filmed in [the Hyatt] and almost immediately got in trouble… then I was like, okay, we have to be a little bit more careful. And then we got kicked out of another place,” she says with a laugh. “We were very cautious with the Marriott Marquis. We mostly filmed from like 4-6 in the morning. We got kicked out while shooting the last shot; I knew we would because it was right in front of the concierge desk.”

That shot became one of the opening scenes in “Veritas” – Kladzyk looks up through the atrium, wearing a bright yellow jumpsuit. Throughout the video she’s “simultaneously exploring but also a little hunted, but then also realizing that there are all these different versions of me.” She says that Portman’s buildings support an almost voyeuristic tendency that she wanted to highlight: “[The atrium] changes how you look at other humans – you can see people so far away and they look so tiny. They often aren’t aware that you’re looking at them, but you can’t help [it] because the nature of the space encourages you to look.” Overall, it was the fact that Portman’s buildings are like parallel universes unto themselves that attracted Kladzyk to his work, which has been both credited with revitalizing formerly desolate downtown areas as well as criticized for being too insular.

The two remaining segments of Ardis will appear in April and June, each with their own specific fragrance accompaniment. This March, Kladzyk begins a month-long residency at Red Hook artspace Pioneer Works, which will culminate in a musical version of Ardis on April 14. It will expand upon the excerpt she performed at MoMA Ps1 at the end of 2017, which featured herself and her sister Anna discovering, then destroying, a fragrant utopia before rebuilding it. “One of the narrative arcs [of the project] is me as a human, trying to open doorways to Ardis, failing and trying again, and in the process finding it in all these different places,” she says. The Pioneer Works performance, she adds, will feature “a number of other performers, there’ll be a large choir, and other musicians… I’m working with a really incredible set designer, and there’ll be wild costumes, but it will largely be the music interacting with visual signifiers of the world.”

Ziemba will also perform a handful of more straightfoward shows on the West Coast with Teeny Lieberson’s solo endeavor Lou Tides in the coming months, as well as some dates throughout the Mid- and Southwest. She’s performed some of the songs from Ardis in a live setting before – “Ugly Ambitious Women,” in particular, appeared on a 2015 EP, and Kladzyk says she has more material she’s interested in reimagining – and will do so again at Secret Project Robot next week. Ever prolific, she’s currently writing songs that are a little more grounded and personal, but whether she revisits Ardis in the future remains to be seen. “We’ll see what path it follows. Some of that may depend on how people respond to it, and the way that I learn from it after touring it,” she says. Though she hesitates to say that she makes therapeutic music, she does hope Ardis will offer others some catharsis, as it has for her to imagine such a place.

“[Someone asked] ‘What does Ardis look like? What’s it like there?'” recalls Kladzyk. “In short, I don’t exactly know. I’m still looking for it and I’m still learning from it. But that’s kind of the idea – maybe we need to reject this idea that we as humans can be certain, and instead focus on expansiveness, and listening and connection.”

PLAYING CINCY: Tour the Nation’s First Smart Recording Studio

Producer Evan “X” Johnson’s awards line the studio halls. Photos by Victoria Moorwood.

When CEO / award-winning producer Evan “X” Johnson and President Cameron Napier rebranded, relocated and launched Timeless Recording Studio, they had one question on their minds—how can we improve?

The two tech-savvy music professionals had already made names for themselves as innovative and reliable recording studio owners, but they were ready to elevate their craft. And so, the world’s first ‘smart recording studio’ was born.

“A smart studio is defined as a recording facility that has interconnected devices to make the experience for the client very unique,” said Cameron, explaining the concept behind their Cincinnati smart studio. “Specifically, imagine being able to book a recording session and create the environment you want to have—from lighting, interconnectivity from the Wi-Fi, and also having a sense of security for your data and your files, all being transferred all at the click of a button, all at voice automation.”

It sounds pretty complex, but it’s the future of recording technology. Everyday we use smart technology and voice automation to look up directions to nearby coffee shops, lock our doors after we’ve left the house and even order groceries. It makes sense that these technologies should infiltrate the artist recording process, and in Cameron and Evan’s studio, clients see the benefits that these advancements can have on their music.

Unlike analog studios, digital studios offer more flexibility in going back and making changes to recorded audio. A smart studio expands on that and integrates smart technology into the existing and versatile options that digital recording already provides. With the addition of the new tech, more doors are opened in terms of the artist’s recording experience, as well as data security and sharing. But, sometimes, artists just like to use the tech to flex in the booth.

“People book time just so they can come change the lights,” laughed Cameron.

It’s all about creating the most comfortable environment for recording, while using the latest technology to perfect your audio. And if that sometimes means voice-automated lighting color changes, so be it.

Clients and recording artists sign the booth wall after recording.

Of course, smart technology is experimental technology, and a smart studio is not immune to occasional technical difficulties. Whereas Evan seems to have the magical vocal tone that allowed him to change lighting and play music via Alexa, Cameron joked “We fight sometimes” when referring to the voice-activated virtual assistant.

The guys are glad to make Cincinnati the birthplace of this studio tech integration and they hope to expand it to studios nationwide.

“I think this has the potential to be the next big thing,” said Evan. “We’re the first to kind of start the infrastructure and hopefully it can be perfected.”

PLAYING DETROIT: Prude Boys Get Frisky in “Talking to Myself” Video

What do you get when you cross a water balloon fight and karaoke with one of Detroit’s most beloved dive bars? Well, you might get the latest video from garage rockers Prude Boys. The visual for their latest single “Talking to Myself” finds DIY babes Caroline Myrick, Quennton Thornbury and Connor Dodson delivering what they do best: curiously catchy, retro zombie rock whilst smoking in one of the most Instagram’d bathrooms in the 313, Hamtramck’s own Kelly’s Bar, of course.

Shot by the incomparable Noah Elliott Morrison, “Talking to Myself” encapsulates the typical midweek bar malaise of a tipsy Motor City. From an American Beauty Mena Suvari rose petal moment featuring a bearded, intoxicated patron to fence climbing, backyard wrestling and local karaoke superstars, Morrison’s visuals make a perfect marriage with  Prude Boys’ sound. It might be the shiny guitar licks or Myrick’s shimmering warble, but “Talking to Myself” delves into a fun kind of lonely. The track would feel just at home on the soundtrack for the film Clueless as it would on an episode of Netflix’s Millennial dating diary Love. Prude Boys channel montage pop with “Talking to Myself” – crafted masterfully to fit all shapes and sizes of crises.

Sing along, alone (of course) to the latest track from Prude Boys below:

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Ben Talmi “Play”


Lyric videos aren’t always the most captivating or memorable, but Ben Talmi’s video for “Play” is one that’ll entertain and impress. On top of that, it’s an overall fun, catchy song that’ll be sure to get stuck in your head.

The video follows an artist creating the same image over and over: a series of straight lines meeting at a central point. It gives viewers the feeling of looking at a sun setting or rising on a horizon, creating depth and dimension to the flat surface. Throughout the video, these lines flicker and waver alongside the upbeat music, disappearing or multiplying in accordance with the tempos. While this happens, the words also seem to play with the music, twisting and turning as the vocals increase and decrease in pitch.

“Play” plays with your mind and engages you in the way we wish more lyric videos would.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Infinity Shred “Choir VI”


At first, you might think the video for Infinity Shred’s single “Choir VI” is a video game demo or a preview of an upcoming trippy movie. It pulls you in with its fascinating 3-D graphics and captures your entire attention, to the point that you won’t even realize that it’s been three minutes since you began watching it. The entire track tells a story of wonderment and intrigue, as you follow an adventurous skateboarder into a church in the woods where he has an ethereal experience as he warps and twists and floats away after skating around a bit. The song features chills-inducing drums by Clara Warnaar and entrancing synths, all of which work together to create this piece full of nostalgia and innocence. It’s the first single off Infinity Shred’s upcoming full-length Long Distance, which is due out on October 14.

VIDEO REVIEW: Kids of the Apocalypse “Better Life”


There isn’t enough thought put into what happens to the children once the apocalypse hits (step up your game, The Walking Dead), but Kids of the Apocalypse took the idea and ran with it, particularly in the video for their single “Better Life.” There’s symbolism for a world run by capitalism, it addresses love in an apocalyptic way, oh, and it also features astounding Gorillaz-esque graphics. It’s a chill rap song full of melodies and gloom with the cartoons to match that mood, the brain child of producer/musician Stefan Storm and animator Ernest Desumbila.

Sit back and watch this fascinating video—it’ll disturb you a bit, but it’ll also definitely resonate in a way that’ll have you wanting to watch it over and over again.

VIDEO REVIEW: Ex Reyes “Bad Timing”


Beautiful cinematography, chill vibes, and impressive Mardi Gras costumes and makeup are to be found in Ex Reyes’ recent video for his single “Bad Timing”—meaning, it’s a video worth watching. It gives a dark spin to the otherwise celebratory NOLA holiday, with standoffs and groups of people chucking guns into a burning police car as Ex Reyes hangs out in the periphery the entire time. Oh, and there is a lion mascot and baton twirlers that probably dance better than most people you know, too.

Mikey Hart, aka Ex Reyes, showcases his smooth falsetto vocals in this relaxed out single alongside crashing cymbals and an entrancing saxophone breakdown. It’ll have you wanting to hang with the cool kids (pretty much every single person in this video) while also inspiring you to head to New Orleans ASAP to see these festivities for yourself (as if you need further encouragement, though).

You can catch Ex Reyes on tour through October this year with How to Dress Well. Watch “Bad Timing” below.



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

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

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

VIDEO REVIEW: Phantogram “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore”


Phantogram’s latest video for “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” is an empowering blast that’ll have you ready to cut that lingering crush out of your life for good, while leaving you deeply unnerved. The video is dark, a bit disconcerting at times, and full of bondage. Like we said, it’s empowering as hell, and it’s also going to send more than a few chills down your spine.

Frontwoman Sarah Barthel leads the charge (and wears the bondage), her vocals packing a punch while also coming across as incredibly tantalizing. The video and song are enough to put you on the edge of your seat and get your heart racing, but it’s a feeling you’ll want to keep chasing. In fact, the rush from the video is so addicting that it’s almost ironic given the title. Keep an eye out for their upcoming album Three, which is expected to drop on October 7, and then get your fix and watch the video for “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” again.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: It Was Romance “Hooking up with Girls”


Looking for a unique spin on the whole #ThrowbackThursday craze, or perhaps a new way to interpret 90s nostalgia? Well, It Was Romance is five steps ahead of you with the new video for their single “Hooking up with Girls.”

The video pays an homage to Fiona Apple as a shot-by-shot remake of Apple’s 90s hit “Criminal,” which frontwoman Lane Moore went above and beyond to recreate. She sought out similar clothing as to what Apple wears in her video, and aimed to find a matching setting as well. And on top of this already diligent fangirl tribute, it was also recently the 20th anniversary of Apple’s album Tidal. If that’s not dedication to a release, I don’t know what is.

Similar to “Criminal,” “Hooking up with Girls” is emotional, raw, and vulnerable. “I’ve always been obsessed with 90s music videos, and Fiona Apple has been a musical inspiration to me since I was a kid,” Moore shared. “The ‘Criminal’ song and video are both so sexy and frustrated and angry and conflicted, all of which were themes in ‘Hooking up with Girls.” It’s the sort of video that inspires emotional purges and can serve as the track that plays in the background of your own personal documentary as you come to an epic love life realization.”

On top of acting in the video and providing the spine-tingling vocals, Moore also directed “Hooking up with Girls” with a diverse crew, including many LGBT folks. It’s the true definition of a passion project, one that Moore has been working on for over a year. “I love the original video so much, so to be able to take that original and add a queer element, and then tie it to this song that I’ve been dying to release as a single forever feels wonderful.”

Check out the official video below, then head over to It Was Romance’s Bandcamp or Spotify to hear more of their captivating tunes.

VIDEO REVIEW: Ryan Egan “Finest Hour”

Ryan Egan

Ryan Egan

Ryan Egan’s new video for his single “Finest Hour” showcases some groovy dance moves, hypnotizing falsetto vocals, and an overall air of mystery.

The video sees Egan decked out in a white turtleneck showing off simple yet perfected dance moves. Once the chorus hits, some shadowy background figures shimmy out from behind him and bust into their own more fluid moves. It’s the perfect contrast between black vs. white, light vs. shadow, simplistic vs. ornate. And Egan’s airy falsetto only reinforces the video as a mysterious yet enticing piece.

The New York songwriter will be playing a show at Rough Trade on June 16 with Coast Modern. Make sure you check out the video below before catching him in person!

VIDEO REVIEW: Von Sell “I Insist”

Von Sell

Von Sell’s official video for the track “I Insist” can best be described as strangely beautiful—and yes, that is absolutely a compliment.

The video follows a man who appears to be living in an abandoned building as he attempts to write, trying to please his companion, a stone-faced mannequin. As a seasoned explorer of abandoned buildings, so much of me envies this man’s lifestyle while being simultaneously terrified by it. And that’s a feeling the entire video radiates: It gives you chills, but in a good way.

The man takes breaks from writing to dance around his abandoned building home in a simple choreography that aligns perfectly with the synthy sounds of Von Sell. Each breakdown shows the man dancing it out, seemingly waiting for inspiration to strike. And it does, only once he breaks apart his mannequin friend and throws him piece by piece out the window. With that, the song really picks up its ethereal pace and both video and song become more trippy.

After discarding the mannequin, the man really gets into the zone and is able to finally relax—and can you actually blame him? I don’t think many people would be able to write well with an unblinking face always lurking in the shadows, appearing mysteriously in doorways and just…watching.

Check out Von Sell’s video for “I Insist” above, and keep an eye out for an upcoming tour!

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: The Saint Johns “Lost the Feeling”

You can pretty much tell The Saint Johns vibe well together once the first guitar chord is struck in “Lost the Feeling,” and this is just further confirmed when you hear the way their voices swirl together in perfect harmony. Upbeat yet ethereal vocals come from singer Jordan Meredith while Louis Johnson provides a more savory sound as well as crisp guitar riffs—like I said, they really just complement one another so well. Their newly released official video for “Lost the Feeling” starts off a bit reminiscent of “Spring Breakers,” the rush and excitement of a successful robbery fresh in the air as the Americana duo plays in what appears to be a small town bar. Tension mounts and ultimately dispels, following the ebbs and flows of the song just perfectly. It’s the type of track you want to know the words to immediately so you can sing along to it—maybe a bit loudly, but who’s judging?—in the privacy of your bedroom.

Luckily The Saint Johns are currently touring, so you have the chance to watch their dynamism live. And for those of you who are also in the New York area, maybe I’ll catch you at their show at Gramercy Theatre on March 31.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]


Braids music

Canadian art rock trio BRAIDS collaborated with animator Stephen McNally on a music video for their track “Bunny Rose”, off their record Deep in the Iris, released in April.

It’s impossible not to be entranced while watching the veins of a person gradually metamorphosing from dust to water.  The animated likeness of frontwoman Raphaelle Standell-Preston gracefully makes her way through the city before finally making it home in human form.  Dense beats along with Standell-Preston’s delicate vocals seamlessly carry the character through the scenery.

The stunning animation conveys the lyrical meaning of the track with ease, which as described by the band themselves, is: “the desire to be loved yet a longing to be whole on one’s own.”

Check out the video here:

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: The Bulls “Come Unwound”

The Bulls - photo by Josh Giroux

Happy day after Thanksgiving. Let’s fade away from sweaters and forced family relations and return to head-in-the-blogosphere normalcy with a viewing of Los Angeles duo The Bulls “Come Unwound.” Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll is a cliché for a reason, the trio go together like turkey, stuffing, with a dollop of gravy. Stick with weed and red wine for this one, as far as this video is concerned sex and rock ‘n’ roll are a delicacy to be savored rather than substance to be abused. Yet speaking of abuse, the bondage-themed video uses shibari (the ancient Japanese form of rope bondage) to illustrate the ethereal sounds of Anna’s voice paired with Marc’s strumming. An anonymous woman dressed in a ghostly white body suit and dominatrix black heels sways to the lovely music as beautifully intrinsic knots tie across her body with bold red rope. Laced through the bondage scenery is Anna, singer and multi-instrumentalist and Marc the guitarist in leather jackets in an empty warehouse that just as easily could have been used for a shoot. Like that time I wrote about group sex while wearing a gingham sundress and my hair up in a bun, the video uses (my favorite) artistic technique of meshing the traditionally beautiful with the perversely taboo. In The Bull’s case, it’s a blonde playing the violin with arms tied in scarlet bondage ropes. The soft shoegaze yings as BDSM imagery yangs. Take a break from Black Friday online shopping and watch the video below (then talk dirty in French).

LIVE REVIEW: Weeknight @ Mercury Lounge

Weeknight Mercury Lounge

Darkwave, coldwave, new wave, no wave, disco-punk, dance-punk, synthpunk, post-punk.  As the music industry strives to coin new terms that will effectively pigeonhole each and every grouping of human beings making sounds with instruments, these vague definitions start to sound like some twisted Dr. Seuss book.  Enter Post-Everything; it’s not a genre, but a cleverly-titled record by emerging Brooklyn duo Weeknight, aimed at obliterating the lazy classifications so often used to explain what we think we’re hearing.

Weeknight Mercury Lounge

It’s not that Weeknight don’t fit in to any of the above-named genres; in fact, they borrow heavily from more than a few.  They don’t seem particularly concerned with crafting a wholly original sound, nor are they attempting to reinvent any wheels.  In the two years they’ve been bouncing around the Brooklyn music scene, they’ve established something much more compelling.  With Post-Everything, Weeknight have crafted something bigger than genre itself; they have curated an entire atmosphere.  This is music that takes on a life, splashing through wet neon reflections in gutters or echoing through misty caves rimed in crystal formations.  Ethereal synth washes, hollow drumbeats, and distant, hazy guitars unfold layer by layer, revealing the dual voices of Holly and Andy (who have withheld their last names, perhaps in keeping an air of the mysterious about them).  The two share a beautifully removed method of delivery, almost always singing in breathy unison.  Andy’s voice is not unlike the somehow spacious deadpan of The National’s Matt Berninger, while Holly’s laconic, whispered counterparts are a bit more feathery and harder to pin down.  The lyrics read like a nihilistic but earnest love letter – tragically cursed scrawlings inspired by fatally unrequited adoration, less desperate but more impatient.

Those dark elements are conveyed as successfully live as they are on the record, which comes out March 4th via Hand-Drawn Dracula subsidiary Artificial Records.  In support of its release, Weeknight are heading out on a two-month tour that kicked off last night at Mercury Lounge.  Moments of fuzzy ecstasy, like their rendition of “Tonight”, were tempered with lush comedowns like “Whale”, each track perfectly articulated by deft synth patches and taut movements.  The band’s sultry first single, “Dark Night”, offered just the right kind of slow build, bathing the rapt audience in a swirl of bleary reverb.  Andy and Holly have toured tirelessly in the time that it’s taken them to piece together their brooding tunes – both headlining and supporting acts like Phantogram and Besnard Snakes – and in so doing have honed a perfect choreography, a seamless give-and-take.

The band’s moody aesthetic extended to the bill’s supporting acts; sets from BK dream-pop duo Courtship Ritual (who invited black-clad belly dancers to the stage), the slithering glitch of Certain Creatures, and carefully culled goth gems from DJ Mar Bar of Rituals NYC, all longtime friends and collaborators with like-minded sensibilities who helped Weeknight celebrate the past year’s successes and transport Mercury Lounge into another world.  It happened to be the 20th anniversary of the East Village venue but the party was solidly for Weeknight.  Post-Everything is poised not just to become one of the most talked about albums of the year, but also to redefine the way we talk about music in the first place.

LIVE REVIEW: Teen Girl Scientist Monthly @ Mercury Lounge

Teen Girl Scientist Monthly

Teen Girl Scientist Monthly

Perhaps some of our older readers will remember the NES/arcade game classic Paperboy, in which you, as a blob of bike-riding pixels, are tasked with throwing papers at houses painted a certain color (denoting their subscription status) while avoiding rabid dog-shaped pixels and mini-tornados and dudes exercising in the middle of the sidewalk.  If you manage to do this and successfully deliver newspapers to all the white houses, the red-painted non-subscribing houses change color and you have more subscribers in the next level.  There’s almost nothing simple about this game; it has frustrated generations.  That little ol’ lady waving her shoe came out of nowhere.

Teen Girl Scientist Monthly isn’t an actual print magazine, it’s a Bed-Stuy based six-piece that plays invigorating rock songs.  They are the Paperboy of Brooklyn bands – hardworking, perfect aim, and maybe a little vandalism.  They’ve built a tremendous fan base in the few short years they’ve been performing, in part because their songs are so vibrant and catchy its impossible not to tap a toe to them, and also because their live shows are more like spending time in an arcade than reading a stuffy research journal.  The band released their excellent debut album Modern Dances last year after a successful indiegogo campaign.  Many of their hilariously-described perks included songs written specifically for their supporters – enough that funding the first record made recording a 10-track follow-up a necessity.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][bandcamp width=100% height=142 album=3949137841 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small]

And so we have We Run With Gangs, TeenGirlSciMo’s exuberant victory lap/thank you note.  At the release party at Mercury Lounge last Monday, the band’s devout fans shimmied to the new songs as though a high score depended on it.  Vocalists Morgan Lynch and Matt Berger bopped around the stage, humbly dedicating the set to everyone who had ever supported the band whenever they were able to catch a breath.  Pete Scalzitti wielded the most serious key-tar I’ve ever seen on stage, while Daniel Muhlenberg pummeled his kit and Matt Gliva thumped out elastic basslines.  Melissa Lusk’s bright keyboards and vocal harmonies were also a nice treat, as was her turn as lead vocalist on We Run With Gangs standout “These Days” (no, it’s not a Nico cover).

Fans of Teen Girl Scientist Monthly subscribe (see what I did there?) to a simple formula (the puns come so easy!): F + U + N.  They have a great sense of humor, a winning catalogue, and energy to spare.  Their relatively frequent live shows are highly recommended, and in the meantime, We Run With Gangs is available for free via TGSM’s bandcamp – you don’t even have to paint your house a different color to jump on the bandwagon.


LIVE REVIEW: Angel Olsen @ Glasslands 5-19-13

The first twangy strains of Angel Olsen’s “Lonely Universe” drift over a packed crowd at Glasslands.  The girl next to me goes breathless.  She swoons, gasping this is my jam as though we’re teenagers and Rihanna just came on the radio, but Olsen’s measured, sorrow-tinged crooning is far from club jam, and the girl standing next to me is actually Sharon Van Etten.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

Angel Olsen at Glasslands.
Angel Olsen at Glasslands.

This is how you know Angel Olsen is the next thing in indie folk – her biggest fans are the heaviest hitters in the same genre.  Whether it’s Bonnie “Prince” Billy asking her to join up with his Cairo Gang or Marissa Nadler posting a lilting version of a Richard and Linda Thompson song the two covered together on soundcloud, Olsen is poised to follow the same trajectory.

The singer-songwriter honed her unique vocals by recording homemade tapes as a teenager in St. Louis before relocating to Chicago.  It was there that she perfected her warbling, soulful wail, channeling something at once mournful and powerful.  She released a six-song EP, Strange Cacti, on Bathetic in 2010, and it managed to grab the attention of the right people.  Soon after, she was introduced to Will Oldham through Emmett Kelly, and her work with the pair taught her the joys of singing with a full band, learning harmonies and traditional folk songs while writing the material that would appear on last year’s stunning full-length debut, Half Way Home.  Jagjaguwar is set to release her next offering, having signed her in April of this year, so at this point there’s pretty much nothing stopping Angel Olsen.

Whether her confidence is innate or bolstered by the reality of impending success, Olsen is far from a shrinking violet onstage.  Lyrically, her songs are intimate and confessional, even seeming forlorn at times, but she infused them with an unflinching fierceness during her set at Glasslands last Sunday.  Comprised mainly of familiar material, the live renditions were fleshed out by a full band that even included lush cello.  It was a pleasant surprise to hear these usually sparse songs transformed, but the most poignant and heart-wrenching moments came during an encore in which she performed solo, calling on the same unabashed strength she’d displayed with four other musicians behind her.  It was impossible to keep my eyes from welling up, and I imagine that this was the case for many other attendees.

Olsen might be billed as singer-songwriter but in a way she’s also a hypnotist, able to project a compelling electricity into a crowded room; the show that night was sold out but there were moments when I could have been the only person there.  Part of that is in the revealing nature of the stories she is willing to sing, but there is also magic and seduction in the space she creates just by singing at all.  With that voice, names from a telephone book might sound just as devastating.  Instead, she casually delivers lines like “it’s known that the tiniest seed is both simple and wild” and it comes off simultaneously as winsome musing and a kind of warning; simple and wild are the perfect pair of words to describe Olsen herself.  What comes next from her could be totally unexpected, but it is sure to possess all the timeless allure that’s captivated fans and her musical contemporaries alike.

[/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][jwplayer config=”AF01 YT” mediaid=”2642″][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]