Berlin may have a reputation for hard-hitting techno beats, but from that smoke and noise emerges German singer-songwriter THALA (pronounced TAH-LAH). Her dreamy shoegaze pop evokes genre mainstays like Mazzy Star, particularly in THALA’s vocal style, alongside more contemporary classics like Tamaryn’s 2012 record Tender New Signs.
THALA shared her latest single “contradictions” on Friday, September 3; it will appear alongside previously released songs like “diditagain” and “bad blood” on her debut LP adolescence out September 17 via Philly’s Born Losers Records and Berlin’s Duchess Box Records. The pastel-hued track makes everything slightly effervescent, as though you’re wearing those sunglasses that block out blue UV light.
So how did this sunny songwriter arrive from the high-BPM intensity of Berlin’s music scene? THALA says she’s “always been a fan of guitar-made music, organically made music, more than electronic music, or any other music for that matter,” attending large festivals since her early adolescence. She’s been seriously writing for the last two or so years, a late start she attributes to a lack of life experience.
“Maybe I had to experience some more things to actually be able to write about them,” she says. “I feel like that’s what the songs are about: my life. [If] I hadn’t lived or experienced the things I’m talking about, there wouldn’t be stuff to write about.”
adolescence reveals a sentiment that is both tender and jaded, nostalgic but knows better, capturing what it feels like to look back at your adolescence from an older, wiser perspective. When it does look forward, it’s at times dispirited, articulating the feeling of time slipping away, looking for answers about the future in the past. “contradictions,” in particular, crystalizes that sense that you can both still love someone and recognize how wrong they were for you all at once. Though THALA doesn’t call out the ghosts from her past by name, she says, “I think that people that listen to the song will know that it’s about them, and that is the most I can ask for.”
Over the course of 2020, THALA released three singles, including Bearcubs collaboration “Something in the Water;” she’s kept it up in 2021 by slowly rolling out adolescence song by song. Her confidence is justified, if somewhat surprising; though her parents discouraged her from pursuing a career as a musician, “that was the dream,” she says, continuing: “I never had any lessons or any course or anything whatsoever in that direction, but the more I was denied, I wanted it even more.”
She began writing in earnest after a three year stint living in the Canary Islands, though it wasn’t always smooth sailing. “I remember being so frustrated I almost threw my phone out the window, or my guitar at the wall,” she says. But she persisted, returning to Berlin to perform at open mics and quickly becoming well-connected in that scene. Eventually she quit her day job and busked for a season, moving forward until music became her sole focus. “I really wanted to make up the time I had lost, in whatever sense you could say that,” she explains.
She picked up some opening slots on bigger tours, capturing the attention of Duchess Box and then Born Losers. Having two record labels suits her, she says, as she desperately wants to reach an American audience, who she thinks will be more interested in her sound. Like the rest of the record, “contradictions” is deeply confessional, sourced from THALA’s personal experiences.
“I wrote it because it needed to get out, and then I feel like once it was finished, the people I showed it to, it reached them in a way. And then they told me their stories, and I guess if it does that then it does a good job,” she says. “I wanted to get it off my chest, things I carried with me for such a long time.”
With her load lightened, she’s ready to hit the road. THALA is booked to play a few European festivals in the coming months, but besides that, she’s already started writing another album. “I am not standing still,” she says. “I’m still working working working working. I want to become even better.”
Follow THALA on Instagram for ongoing updates.