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Crying with Katharine Seggerman: A Chat with Lunch Duchess

I sat down with Katharine Seggerman of Lunch Duchess to talk about her forthcoming album, Crying For Fun, out August 16th on Heavy Meadow Records. We talk about Britney Spears, relationships, and of course, our feelings.

Photo by Chloe Krenz   . Lunch Duchess is:    Katharine Seggerman (she/her) - drums, vocals    Nicky Steves (he/them) - synths    Sam Frederick (they/them) - guitar    Matthew Sandstedt (he/him) - bass

Photo by Chloe Krenz. Lunch Duchess is:

Katharine Seggerman (she/her) - drums, vocals

Nicky Steves (he/them) - synths

Sam Frederick (they/them) - guitar

Matthew Sandstedt (he/him) - bass

So how did you decide to start singing and drumming?

People kept telling me to do it for years and I was always resentful of that because it’s kind of hard. And I think there’s some weird gender aspects of me wanting to prove that I’m a good musician and not just a singer. And then I bought myself a headset microphone and that was a game changer, and it still took years to get competent at it.

I feel like the natural progression of “what can I do in addition to singing?” is playing guitar. So drums is different, were you already interested in it?

That was my starting point actually. I started drums when I was 12 and played in a band with my friends in middle school, and played in jazz band in middle school. I did a teen program kind of similar to She Rock, and then my own bands in high school and college. It wasn’t until I was in this band, BOYF, now defunct (RIP). That was a hilarious band and I played drums in that and then started singing on the headset mic. 

I just really wanna see you with an early 2000s Britney Spears-esque headset mic. That’s my dream Lunch Duchess set.

You’re giving me such a good idea, I don’t know what to wear for the release yet. Maybe like the red latex one she wore in “Oops I Did It Again.” Ponytail and hair extensions. 

You describe your voice as “Disney-esque.” What’s your vocal background? Are you a trained singer?

My only musical training is percussion so I can read percussive music, but never got beyond middle school choir for vocals. Although I did sit down with Sam’s mom, who’s actually a well known singer in the Twin Cities and got some tips from her, because I’ve been trying to learn a little bit on my own as an adult. 

In the press kit you sent me, a lot of the sentences end with “this may sound like a lot- it is.” Which I think is an interesting choice of words, can you define “a lot”?

I think of the songs as being very distilled, and not even distilled to simplicity but really intense elements taken from each component of the song. Like the emotionality, the lyrics, the instrumentation. There’s not really a lot of fluff. I think the intensity of the songs themselves and the commitment to going all out when I easily could’ve alluded to an idea. Like the part when everybody in the band is singing “lala lala lalala,” it’s so unnecessary... it’s a lot. I think a lot of bands might have a similar idea, but with less intensity. 

Ok, well obviously I follow Lunch Duchess on Twitter, and I saw one of your tweets where someone was very confused by you defining your band as grunge pop. But then in your press kit you’ve articulated the sound of each song to a tee. So do people not “get” your sound, is that a problem you come across?

Photo by Chloe Krenz

Photo by Chloe Krenz

I think that particular tweet was about a really interesting conversation I had with someone who doesn’t really listen to music. I mean the way he was talking about it like “I use hip hop at the gym.” Which was really eye opening because I’m surrounded by people who live and breathe music.

The album is very cohesive but the songs shift from each other. Like “Chicago” is more rock in feel than most of the other songs. How does that come together? 

That’s a good question. I think it goes back to the way that I write each song. So for some songs- well they all start with vocal melody. Probably something is bothering me and a melody pops into my head. And then I will find stuff to go under that using either a banjo or a piano, sometimes a bass. And then flesh it out as best I can for the structure itself. And after that I bring in bandmates. I think it’ll change based on who kind of takes the lead instrumentally, if it’s gonna be more guitar driven or more synth driven. A mood is really important to me, so using the instruments to convey a certain mood of like doom, or excitement, anxiety… I think a lot of it has to do with the developmental process, writing with the band once the structure is done, and what the mood of the song needs to be. 

It’s interesting that you drive things based on how it comes together rather than creating a formula for what you want the album to be and then bringing people in.

And even having different people be involved on the album in different parts. Like the song “Better” originally was played with a different guitarist. And some of these songs were played by Matt on guitar who now plays bass, some of them were played with Ranelle on bass, who now plays synths. It’s fluid.

I actually did want to walk about “Better.” It has this playful, bouncy sound. But there’s that line “just kidding, that wasn’t me but only cause society is extremely unforgiving of female sexuality.” It has me wondering how much of that song we should truly read as a joke?

I think they’re serious issues, but I’m trying not to burden myself by taking it so seriously and being so angry about it, even though at different times I am definitely super angry about some of that stuff. On one hand “Body” I’m talking about “I get naked anytime I like” and that line kind of bothers me because it sounds like I’m talking about having sex but I literally just mean I like being naked. I’ll probably spend some time in a nudist colony at some point, I don’t know. I don’t understand societal norms around that and why bodies have to be sexualized, that really pisses me off. And that goes into the territory of possession too and reproductive justice, so that’s stuff that I’m angry about. And not prioritizing partners’ sexual needs, especially if the partner is a straight cis guy, they could be doing a little better. Which is why the song is called “Better.”

That’s funny because I have a question about “Body.” I’m very much a believer that having a body is weird and that I’d be ok being sentient haze.

I wish. What are you, an Aquarius or something? 

I’m actually a Capricorn! But because of your points on autonomy it becomes arguably the only political track on the album. Because you said you try not to let it burden you, was that a moment where you wanted to touch on something more specifically?

In writing that song I had started out wanting to do something really silly and was just playing around. The first two verses are about really inconsequential things like allergies and being sensitive to drugs. And then I was asking myself “why am I even writing about bodies if it’s just a joke?” and realized I could say something I actually do care a lot about in it. Which is not usually how a song works for me. Maybe I’m adding little bits here and there but it’s not “let me bring in an entire issue that’s important to me.” So kind of explaining to myself why I wanted to write about that in the first place. And the other ones definitely aren’t political, I think they mostly deal with boundaries and relationships. And sometimes that’s in a societally gendered way, kind of a stereotype of like women are supposed to save men and men are stereotyped as not being responsible for their behavior, not taking accountability, needing to be mothered. So I think some of the songs are push backs against that mentality.

Especially on “Lust/Love,” a lyric I really attached to is “don’t recall how to be alone, it’s making me angry that you do.” Thematically I did want to ask you about the concept of boundaries throughout the album because it does undercut most of the songs. This idea of what am I on my own? What am I with another person? How do I not overextend?

That’s one of the only songs on the album that’s about an entirely different relationship. I don’t want to get too specific and make the subject feel bad. But a lot of the songs on the album are about a specific relationship and a specific type of relationship that was pretty co-dependent. And trying to figure it out, usually from a self-empowering kind of way, during those rare moments in a co-dependent relationship where you question what you’re doing. But this relationship [portrayed in "Lust/Love"] was so far from that and purely physical. And then kind of acknowledging that I don’t know how it feels to be in a relationship where we’re so much more independent- to the point of excluding emotions. And just really having my thinking changed by someone who was a lot more detached, which at the time was really healthy for me. It was just a reset.

Going off that, Crying For Fun definitely has some difficulties defining love.

Yeah, especially going back to that one very co-dependent relationship and just feeling moments of total doubt in myself. Like is this love? Do I know how to love? Is this how I want to be loved? And am I loving this person the way that they deserve? So I think there is a lot of anxiety about that on the album. And then other moments that are kind of taking a break from that, like “Chicago” is a new crush, and “Lust/Love” is a whole different thing. So kind of exploring different avenues and trying to answer those very basic questions about love and capacity to love. 

I really like the word “capacity” in this context.

I guess, damnit I thought I had grown, but a song on the previous EP is called “How You Love” and towards the end of the song it keeps repeating “is that how you love?” and “did I love well?” So I guess I’m still asking that question in a way, but starting to use more outside sources for getting feedback than relying just on myself. Your own internalized narratives can get so twisted if you keep telling yourself the same thing over and over again. 

So is it safe to assume that you’re someone who’s comfortable being seen as openly emotional?

Yes, definitely! And even then I still am a little nervous about it. There is a part of me that really enjoys confrontation because I think it’s healthy for people to be stating their needs instead of the Minnesotan tendency to gloss over it and not talk about it. So sometimes I still am scared to bring things up. But it’s a lot scarier to me to not be feeling emotions at all. And I think I was feeling that way for a long time when I was a lot more depressed and medicated, and coming out of that I think I’m really grateful that I have the capacity to be really sad or be really upset or be really happy. So I kind of think Crying For Fun is a little bit about that, about getting back in touch with my emotions.

And it’s, in a way, easier to not feel.

But if you’re not feeling you’re not getting signals from life about where to go. You’re not gonna end up in a happy place when you’re finally ready to confront your emotions. And I keep using ‘you’ language but I know it’s not universal, it’s personalized.

Talking about Crying For Fun versus My Mom Says I Have a Rich Inner Life, we have “Cry II” and the single “Ride or Die” appears again. Is Crying For Fun an expansion of the EP or do you view it more as something totally different that has a track that’s been refurbished? 

I think the answer to that is more technical than anything else. I wondered should we re-release “Ride or Die” and I asked a friend of mine and he was like “well it’s probably gonna expose more people to it so it’s good to include it again” and it’s a good song, I still like it. But thematically, if it’s an expansion? I think so. I’m asking that question about love again and defiantly talking about crying, which is not something people are usually proud that they do. And there are other themes that still carry through too, I think about independence. Some of the stuff on “Unable/Unwilling,” I think that song is a lot about coming out of depression and people putting their assumptions on you about your motives for doing certain things. I think in that one a boyfriend assumes music is something I do as a hobby. But in fact it’s mostly emotional exorcism. That’s the reason why I write songs. So unfortunately when I’m doing really well and I’m happy, like I am right now, I don’t do a lot of writing. But I try to not worry about it. I don’t really understand the point of art that is not necessary to the maker. If I don’t feel the need to create then I’m not gonna make myself do it, I’m not gonna do like an inspiration exercise. Which maybe I’ll change my mind on that, but at the moment I’ll fill my time with something else. Like going to grad school.

Are you? Congratulations!

Thank you! I’m going to be a talk therapist. So doing some more emotions and dark secrets and analysis. So kind of fulfilling that need in a different place, I guess. 

It would be cool to find out your therapist is in a band. Though probably just for the patient, not for you.

I’m so nervous about that. Like “yeah she’s in a band and writes some really forthright lyrics about sex and I know way too much about her sex life now.” Yeah, I’m probably gonna have to change my name.

There’s something very subversive about Crying For Fun. There’s a sweetness in some of the instrumentals but the lyrics are darker; I think it’s part of what makes the album sound so distinct. How do you create that kind of juxtaposition?  

I think it’s maybe a mirror of how I’m thinking about some of these things, which truthfully it’s not the healthiest way to deal with things. But a lot of these songs have been in the bag for years, “Better” is a really old song for example. In kind of just stepping back and looking at this collection of songs and other things going on in my life I feel like the angst comes from thinking that I have to keep my dissatisfaction about things secret. So not being able to openly discuss when I’m dissatisfied, which is nobody’s fault, I think it’s more an existential problem. You only have one life to live and you have to be brave enough to do it. I think freedom of choice can be a really terrifying thing for people. Sometimes you wish someone else would make the choice for you. So you go with the flow and you stay in things that you don’t like but you sort of pretend that you do like them and then it ends up just making you resentful. And I think I’ve been feeling resentful about different situations just out of my own fear to do what I want to do. But if you don’t know what you want to do for a long time, you just end up kind of stuck in a loop. 

How does that lead into creating these very saturated songs?

I think that I’ve been really selective in what to put on the album. There are a lot of other songs out there but at some point it feels like it’s not clicking or it doesn’t need to be said. It feels redundant compared to something else in the catalogue. And then I’ll decide not to develop it any further. I feel a little bad about this, but I really don’t like performing songs that I don’t feel to be emotionally true anymore, which is probably frustrating for my bandmates. It’s like “oh yeah I just want you to learn this song” and then six months later it’s like, “no I don’t feel that way anymore.”

Are there any songs specifically that you’re not playing right now?

There used to be one, I was just listening to a demo of it on my way here because it popped into my head, it’s called “Friend/Lover/Fuck Me Over,” and it’s being just really frustrated with someone even outside a romantic relationship and feeling like they’re just not respecting you as a person no matter where you try to meet them. It has some really cutting, mean lyrics, some of my songs do. At the end it says “bad people they have a way of being bad friends” which is literally calling someone a bad person, that’s pretty mean. So sometimes I’ll shy away from songs that are overly attacking of someone without taking enough share of the responsibility.

You say it yourself that Crying For Fun is full of “earworms,” which is almost an understatement. I think it’s funny with the subject matter that you work with that it ends up being really catchy. How intentional is that?

The only songs that I end up developing are the ones that are banging around my head for a long time. That phrase and melody is just going through my head constantly until I think of some other parts to go along with it. So I’d say it’s pretty unintentional but I like the fact that a lot of them are darker subject matter and are catchy. I think everyone could take some time to reflect on their emotions and relationships and other stuff that maybe they wouldn’t hear about in a normal pop song. I feel like there is such a trend about that lately- pop songs about anxiety that you hear on Top 40 and you’re like “what? This is really dark stuff.” That Julia Michaels song that’s like “I got issues and we got issues.” Unexpected. 

A lyric that’s really imprinted on me is “I love you like I fight a war” on “Makes Me Love You More.” Could you tell me a little more about it? 

I think that song is coming to terms with a complicated romantic relationship, and I think right now our culture is quick to dub things abusive or toxic, but even in those relationships you’re getting something out of it or else you wouldn’t be in it. I’m sorry, I mean that in a nuanced way, obviously in an abusive relationship there’s not much you can do to defend a truly abusive person. But there is something lovable about every person and you can’t just pretend that you never loved the person, even if it was a kind of love that felt like going to war everyday. And that’s with yourself and with that person. With yourself just in terms of it’s not actually healthy for you but you make yourself do it or you’re trying to make yourself get out of it. I don’t think that fighting in a war is the ideal way to be in a relationship, but even in those relationships there is still something that you love about that person and that’s still a valid love. And definitely admitting guilt on that too. Like should you be in a relationship with someone? Maybe you’re doing some harm too or I was doing some harm in feeling like it was a war. It’s two sided. 

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Pre-order the digital album here and cassettes here and catch their album release party on August 31st at Mortimer’s Bar and Restaurant.

A Chat With: Together Pangea

LA-based band Together Pangea has been crafting catchy garage rock since 2009, delivering four full-length albums and a handful of EPs that each explore different sounds and offer a little something for everyone. Over their years together, the band has also become known for their infectiously energetic live presence—no Together Pangea show is ever quite complete without a mosh pit or some crowd surfing. In the past, Together Pangea has shared the stage with acts like Alkaline Trio, Ty Segall, and The Black Lips, just to name a few.

Most recently, the group just wrapped up a headlining West Coast tour run in celebration of their EP Dispassionate, and they are now gearing up to embark on the East Coast run, which kicks off here in Chicago. Ahead of the kick-off show at Lincoln Hall, I spoke with Danny Bengston of the band, discussing their recording process of the latest EPs, their music video for “Dispassionate,” and how they plan to spend their time in Chicago. Tune into our chat with Together Pangea below!



Your new EP Dispassionate just came out about a month ago now, which was a quick follow up from the Non Stop Paranoia EP released last year. When working on the two EPs, which have been described as opposites of each other, did you already have that theme in mind and write them in tandem? Or was Dispassionate more of a reflection after the fact?

We went into the studio and we recorded nine songs, plus some acoustic songs that we put out before the EPs. So I guess in total we did about fourteen songs all at once. When we went in to do it, we weren’t sure what it was gonna end up being because we had enough songs technically to do a full length, if we wanted to. But it just sort of happened that once we got into it and started getting mixes back and seeing how things were shaping up, there were four songs that made sense together and five songs that made sense together. So that’s how that happened.

Totally, so they just ended up as two halves of a whole piece. 

Yeah, there was no intention going in to make two separate EPs that had separate vibes, we just had a group of songs that happened to have two distinct sounds so we split it up that way.

Nice, then the four songs on Dispassionate are definitely more laid-back compared to some earlier material and sort of have that 50’s, 60’s vibes. What were some factors that influenced that shift?

We made the decision specifically to sort of go ahead and put out songs that we felt really good about, not necessarily songs that were reflective of our previous catalog so much. I think with Non Stop Paranoia there’s definitely a little bit more recognizable aesthetic sounds that are in the vein of Badillac or some of the older stuff, but all in all I think it was more of a choice that we made this batch of songs that we felt really good about. I think that was it! Even if it sounded different than before, it’s still us. We felt they were solid songs.

Were there any influences you can pinpoint? Maybe other art forms, like films, or other music you were listening to around that time? 

I know that the song “Moonlight Lately” specifically I wrote that one, I was listening to a lot of 60’s girl groups like The Shangri-Las or The Crystals…The Ronnettes. I was listening to The Crystals a lot when I wrote that song, and I wanted to make a song that sounded like one of those old girl group classic songs. So that’s why that song sounds that way. We also had just never really done anything like that where we just sort of went for it that hard. Like chose a sort of genre or style and just went for it. It started out just guitar, drums, and bass and then we ended up having more time and resources. I was just like fuck it, we called Max Kuehn, he’s the drummer for Fidlar, and he came in and played. We had two drum kits in the studio and he and Erik played together. Our friend Killian from the band No Parents did a bunch of hand percussion. The percussion take is two drums and also a lot of hand percussion. I told Danny, the producer, what I was going for specifically and we just went for it. Somebody at our record label knew somebody who played saxophone, so the saxophone was on it and I was like I want to add some piano…some glockenspiel, you know. It just spiraled out of control.

Yeah, that sounds like a fun recording session with lots of guest appearances.

Yeah it was a lot of fun. It was the first time we’ve ever done anything like it, where we got two drum kits in the studio at once.

I also really liked the video for “Dispassionate,” the EP’s title track. And speaking of No Parents, I laughed at the part with their t-shirt in the video. So as far as this music video concept, did you all work together to come up with the idea, or did you work with a specific director who had this concept in mind?

For the music video that was our friend Derek Perlman, he’s a photographer based in Los Angeles. It was his idea and he’s actually a really close friend of mine, we hang out fairly often when I’m back home. I know that he had sort of dipped his feet in the idea of wanting to make more music videos, and he had started this music video for this friend, but it never came out for other reasons. We were just looking for someone to do a video, and we were like why don’t we see if Derek is interested in trying it? And he totally killed it.

Wow so this was his first official music video?

Yeah! It’s technically his second, but the first one wasn’t 100% finished and never came out.

Wow that’s still impressive though! Shifting gears to your live shows, I know you’re in the middle of a huge cross country tour at the moment. What have been some highlights of it so far, or some favorite places? Maybe some places you’re looking forward to hitting soon?

I’m still pretty excited that Chicago is the kick off of the east coast run. That’ll be great. This first half of the tour has been pretty amazing, like every show. There hasn’t been a bad show...LA is always good because it’s our hometown. Yesterday we played Sacramento, which was very fun, aside from it being no air conditioning and being extremely hot. Denver is an amazing place for us...another tour highlight. We’re definitely looking forward to Chicago, that’s the first one of the second leg.

So as far as Chicago, is there anything you guys have plans to do outside of the show? Anything on your Chicago list?

Well we toured with Twin Peaks a couple years ago and we’re still very good friends with those guys. I was talking to Cadien about hopefully going to swim in the lake. He was saying it might not be warm enough. We’re also on tour with another Chicago band, Dehd. I’m just excited cause we have a lot of friends out there like Twin Peaks, Dehd and Lala Lala. If it’s warm enough we’ll go swim in the lake!

Yeah I think that might work out now! It’s been like 80 degrees this week, although yesterday it hailed a bunch, but it was sunny about ten minutes later. So hopefully the lake plans will follow through.

Yeah I’ve always wanted to do that. 

Are there any new bands or any albums that have been on heavy rotation while you’re on tour at the moment?

The No Parents record, which isn’t out yet, that’ll be out in September. Been listening to that a bunch. Lala Lala...Dehd. There’s always a lot of really good Chicago stuff. The new White Reaper song is really good. 

Nice, lots of good stuff! Anything else you guys are looking forward to this year besides the tour and new EP? Anything else coming soon, like videos or potentially even more new material?

Probably! As of now we just have these tours to wrap up and then we go to Europe…and maybe some more touring throughout the year. We’ll probably get to recording at some point in the next year, I’d imagine. I have a feeling we’ll be hitting Chicago at least twice this year though.

Together Pangea makes their Lincoln Hall debut on Thursday, July 11th. Get your tickets here.

Keep up with Together Pangea on Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

A Chat With: Zuli

As a songwriter and creator, Zuli has never shied away from exploring different genres and styles with his music. His multi-faceted debut album On Human Freakout Mountain gave listeners glimpses of rock, pop, psych and folk textures back in 2017. Now, Zuli has returned this year with his first bit of music since his debut record, giving fans another taste of something new. Released June 21st, Zuli’s latest single “ur mistaken” contains the same rock and pop undertones of his older material, but it also twists in sprinkles of soul and R&B.

Drawing influence from some of his favorite music released by other artists during the past two years, Zuli was able to tap into a different side of his creativity and refresh his sound without straying too far from his roots. While there’s still plenty more to come as far as new material goes, I recently caught up with Zuli the week that “ur mistaken” dropped to talk about his current artistic inspiration, the growth in his writing process, and what he hopes to deliver with his live performances.  Tune into our chat with Zuli below!

Photos by Kimberly Young Sun

Photos by Kimberly Young Sun

What was your first musical memory?

There’s a lot! My mom is a singer, and when I was growing up she was always singing and playing gigs. I was always going with my dad. She’s a country singer. So that’s probably my first memory of music, just hearing her sing Dolly Parton and things like that. In terms of me being affected by any kind of music, I guess some of my earlier memories was I was a huge Stray Cats fan when I was a little kid. I really loved like Brian Setzer, I wanted to be Brian Setzer when I was a little kid. I also feel like when I heard “Tommy” by The Who for the first time I wanted to pick up a guitar and just start writing songs and doing my own thing. Those are the memories that come to mind firsthand. I grew up in a musical house though so it’s always been a big part of shaping who I am.

That’s awesome you have that connection with your family going way back! So now you have your new single out, which is your first release since 2017. How does it feel to have “ur mistaken” finally shared with the world?

It feels great, honestly. I was lucky enough...I don’t know if lucky is the right word, but I was testing out the song with some shows to see people’s reactions and people have been really positive about it. After it came out, the love and the output from people has been really inspiring. It’s just great to be back and have it out and I’m excited to keep the ball rolling. I’m glad people are feeling a new direction and this whole new chapter. 

Yeah it seems like a lot of good responses on social media so far! Lots of people were sharing on release day. Then as you mentioned, it definitely pulls in a new soulful sound and new approach compared to some of your older material. What was your process with “ur mistaken” and creating this song versus some of your earlier material?

I think that at its core, it shares some resemblances of the older material and that I still always try to do my best to write a song with the intention of one instrument and a vocal, and making it feel good at its core. Then once you put the production on top of it, you’ll only make the song better. I think that when this song came about, and when I was digging deeper and going in this new direction to express myself and create, it kind of just came from a place of a little bit of melancholy and feeling down about where I was in my relationship with everyone. It just kind of felt like a more longing type of approach. My voice didn’t feel the same. I just wasn’t expressing myself in the same kind of way. With On Human Freakout Mountain, as a record, it was my first experience recording and releasing a full length album. When I was finished with that I learned so much and I had all these new experiences that came along with it but also was tending to all of these experiences that led up to that point, and once I reflected on where I was going and where I’ve been, it just kind of felt like there’s certain aspects that I’m gonna take and I’m gonna expand upon and keep in my toolbox. But there’s this whole other side of me I feel like that hasn’t really seen the light yet. It wasn’t even an intentional thing but this new idea and new direction felt so right and like the best method for me to continue expressing myself.

Nice, it sounds like it’s an accumulation of everything you learned when approaching the new music. So between the time of your debut album coming out and now releasing this new single, what would you say is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned about yourself, either personally or as a musician? Anything you tried to apply from those experiences you had?

I think as a musician and as an artist, my main focus and a big part of what I do is going with your intuition and feeling. I think feeling goes a lot deeper than thought. However, I do feel that was such a big crux for me in a lot of ways, just the music feeling right to me and how it kind of came out. I think when I was approaching this stuff, I was coming from more of an introspective space where I was really reflecting on everything, and I feel like right now with my creating, I’m trying to find a balance of keeping my heart and my brain in the song. And letting the thought process behind the song help shape not only the narrative, but the direction and some aspects of the aesthetic, but then also not forgetting that at the end of the day, my intuition of how the song feels and how I feel about the structure...Say I want to write a song about this, but then I’m working on a melody, a string of words comes out that not only resonates with me but feels good, I shouldn't deny that because my intention was different. I feel like that was my biggest difference or growing moment between the two, was just learning ok like, I can take this part of me but I also want to be more concise with what I’m saying.

Yeah that’s a great way to look at it and approach it. Like making sure you still have the heart and soul behind the song and not losing that, but still focusing on your intention. I’d say that’s a good way to work.

I think so! I mean I tried to do that.

I think it came across with this song. So kind of along those lines, what were some albums or maybe other art forms that you consumed during that past couple of years that may have influenced you with the new material?

I kind of narrowed it down in my head because I thought about this a little bit. There’s been a multitude, there wasn’t just one thing that I was like oh man, this is what I have to do now…But I have to say, On Human Freakout Mountain came out, and it was maybe a week to a month after and I had heard Control by SZA for the first time. And yes it has the R&B and the soul, and that kind of flavor to it, but I feel like the thing that resinated with me so much was how deep and personal and unapologetically herself [it was]. It felt so refreshing. And plenty of different singers talk about sex and love and all of these things that are so relevant and relatable to everyone, but something about her take on it and just the way her music made me feel, it was like wow, this is special. This is something that really really made me feel so good. I’m so grateful for all of my experiences and the opportunities I’ve been given, but it just kind of gave me this feeling like wow there’s so much more I could be doing. Just how much I could improve. So that was huge, if I had to give it to one [influence], I’d say that. Then that kind of started the whole train of all this other stuff I started listening to and pulling from when I was creating.

As far as when you play live, I saw you at Schubas in 2017, and even two years later I still remember how intense your energy and stage presence was. Are there any performers that you look to for inspiration and influence in that sense?

Yeah definitely. There’s the classic ones, like you can throw in the David Bowies and Freddie Mercurys. I think at an early age I caught the music bug and saw a lot of performances that just really moved me. I feel like that’s another aspect to this whole artistic side of making music. There’s a lot of current’s hard to think on the spot, but I really love the new Tyler, the Creator album, and I feel like the whole performance element that he’s added to it is really clever and engaging. Fun to watch. I’ll go with one more...Even like BrockHampton. I don’t think that’s a perfect example in terms of who I am, but it’s being able to perform in a high energy type of way that can really grab people but also using elements of the stage space more than just room for a band. Like being able to explore it as a set. Something that really resinates with me and my background, but also being able to shape the world and make it more engaging for the audience.

I see the next show you have announced is at Elsewhere in September. Do you have any plans for a tour later this year, or anything else you can kind of tease?

Nothing definite to tease right away, but the agents are always looking out for me and letting me know some opportunities. For me, right now I’ve been super lucky that people respond to the music so well and love coming to the shows and get really into it, but I’m also still at the moment tweaking some of the songs for the record and getting that all ready. I’m hoping to be on the road as soon as possible, but for now I want to focus on the record. But the summer is still going, there’s still some time before the Elsewhere show. There’s a chance something might come in the fall, but the record is the priority. Once the live shows and tour start happening, it will be well worth the wait though.

Can fans expect some new material at the September show or any other potential upcoming gigs?

Yeah, I think the new show will be debuting a lot of new songs and a whole new structure. As well as some of the classics but with a little bit of a twist to keep everything in the same world. It will be a nice mix of a lot of new stuff as well as some of the songs that helped get me where I am today.

Nice! Then how would you sum up the newer material that we haven’t heard yet in three words, just to keep it vague and not give too much away? You can say more about it if you want, or keep it at three words. 

I guess if I had to say three words to explain the music...introspective, abrasive soul. That’s so like music-based.  I think that another direction is playing with the themes in terms of the songwriting. I think that’s the best because I want the record to speak for itself, and I want to have the whole body fully-formed and realized before I give anything else, but sonically, it will be some sort of avant soul that has a little aggression, but ultimately lies in this smooth world too. 

That’s a great one-sentence tease and should get people intrigued! Anything else you want to share that’s in the works?

Working on the record….there’s gonna be some more music coming out this summer. We’re getting some more visuals ready too. In the meantime, my whole creative collective that I associate with is also releasing new music, so just supporting them and ready to take over in 2020 I guess. To the best of my ability.

Keep up with all the Zuli news on Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

A Chat With: Black Belt Eagle Scout

Black Belt Eagle Scout is the creation of singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Katherine Paul. Paul first got into playing music at a young age as she grew up in the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and experienced native drumming, singing, and arts. Now based in Portland, where she moved in 2007, Paul started writing music for her own project after becoming immersed in the city’s music scene by playing drums and guitar for numerous other bands.

As an indigenous, queer woman and self-proclaimed radical feminist, Katherine Paul has worked hard and paved her own path to share her voice and her journey with the world. Paul’s debut album Mother of My Children clearly paints a picture of her stories, remaining transparent and honest from start to finish, and her stage presence possesses the same authenticity and composed intensity as her songwriting. Paul’s genuine nature and boundless talent as a creator continues to connect with listeners from different corners of the world, and this month, she will be joining Julia Jacklin on a tour across the country.

A couple of weeks ago when the tour was just beginning, Paul took some time to chat with me over the phone during a drive through the east coast. We talked about her current sources of inspiration, her new single “Loss & Relax,” elevating the underdogs, and what we can expect from her show at Schubas this Wednesday, May 8th. Tune in below to my chat with Black Belt Eagle Scout.

Black Belt Eagle Scout is Katherine Paul // Photo by Jason Quigley

Black Belt Eagle Scout is Katherine Paul // Photo by Jason Quigley

I wanted to start off talking about your early days. I know that you grew up in a small Indian reservation and you’ve said “Indigenous music is the foundation for all of my music.” In addition to your background and the music you learned with your family, what are some other sources of inspiration that you look to when writing now?

I’m currently in a van and we’re driving to New York City, and we’re playing shows. So I feel like at the moment, I’m inspired by the people that I meet and I’m inspired by this life that I have, where I get to drive all over this beautiful country. Right now we’re in Maryland I think. It’s so green and there are these really beautiful purple flowers that kind of look like cherry blossoms, but they’re purple. It’s just so beautiful here and I think that having this life is an inspiring thing for me right now. I feel really happy on tour and sometimes that doesn’t always happen to people. I don’t always feel happy on tour, but right now I’m having a really great time being on the road. And I think that having a healthy and happy tour life is really important for your mental health, and being able to keep your creativity flowing.

Yeah totally. Then in April you just shared “Loss & Relax” from the forthcoming 7” [out April 26th]. What was that creative process and your frame of mind like for this single, and how does it compare to the songs your wrote on your debut album?

Well “Loss & Relax” was written during the time I was recording Mother of My Children. I started writing the first guitar riff, and I wanted to put it on the album, but I just felt like it wasn’t finished and it wasn’t to a point where I wanted to share it. So I kept it in my back pocket and throughout the next year after recording Mother of My Children, I started playing with people and having a live band. I played with a bunch of friends and they helped me realize what that song could be and its potential. It was really interesting being able to play and flesh out a song in a live capacity. In terms of the intensity— I feel like that’s why the song is so intense is because I was able to have that experience of playing it with people. The song also was about the journey home to record Mother of My Children. It’s kind of a perspective song about what that was like and why I needed to go record that album. I think that the way the song is now in its recorded version, I’m very proud of it. I put a lot of effort into figuring out what parts go where and what additions need to be. Basically producing the song.

Yeah, it sounds great now. I’m glad it’s getting a proper release in its own time.

Yeah and that’s kind of why it’s on the 7” It was a lingering element that I don’t know if it would fit on an album in itself.

The music video [for “Loss & Relax”] is a perfect visualization of returning home, and what you’re describing in the song. It’s very cool to see you return to Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and to see you in your element.

I talk about my home a lot and I talk about where I’m from. I feel like besides people who I grew up with there and maybe my close friends who have gone back to visit with me, you don’t really know what that looks like. I wanted to be able to share that and to give a face to the name.

Yeah I think it definitely does that! I also wanted to mention while we’re on the subject of recording Mother of My Children, you played every instrument on the record. What were some of those challenges that you felt while recording and wearing so many different hats during the process, and what motivated you to continue down that path of being a multi-instrumentalist?

Before Mother of My Children, I had done this little demo where I also played all of the instruments, but it was done pretty much in a couple of takes per instrument, and it was very demo-ish sounding. So I already had this idea of “If I can do this myself, I can create an album myself.” I had that mentality going into Mother of My Children that I want to be able to do this myself… I know how to play all these instruments. I know how to put together songs. It’s something that I have knowledge about. So I was like why not just do it? I’m gonna do it!

Yeah I’m sure it gave you complete creative control then, which is important with a first release. And each instrument will come across on the record how you wanted it to.

It definitely is, but it’s also hard because you don’t have someone who you can bounce ideas off. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut and rather than feeling validated about an idea, which that sort of thing can be hard for me— Just being able to be like oh, I’m not sure about this part, and then not having anyone to have that conversation with. I don’t work with any producers, so it’s basically just me and a recording engineer. I would do it all myself if I knew how to record, mix and master, and have it sound nice. That’s definitely a goal of mine down the road. The way that I work is I like to record into the night and I like to take breaks, and that doesn’t always work when you’re paying for studio time and you have a time limit. That was one thing that was difficult— being on a budget and trying to record the instruments by yourself. I paid for the whole thing all by myself and went in every day and played every instrument all by myself. At the end of every day, I was exhausted. I was trying to get as much done as I could. It’s not cheap to record in the studio, so I had my little savings and was like this is as much as I can spend, so let’s try to get this done in this amount of time.  I was fortunate enough to stay with my parents because I recorded in Anacortes, WA, which is where I was born and then I grew up 15 minutes outside of there at Swinomish Indian Tribal Community. So my mom was really helpful and she fed me and gave me food to take to the studio, and then I came home and could relax. If I didn’t have that, it would have been a lot more difficult having to create that album from scratch.

So speaking of your hard earned savings, I saw that article in Vulture where artists talked about their side hustles. You’ve worked in Portland in music venues as a talent buyer and in production. What’s something you’ve learned from being on both ends of the business as a performer and someone who books talent, or advice you’d give to other musicians who maybe haven’t been on the other side of it?

I’ve been working there for a long time. I still work there but not in the same capacity that I did before I decided to embark on a really long tour. I started working at Mississippi Studios after I graduated college. It was my first job out of college and they liked me enough that I’ve worked there for seven and a half years. I’ve done so many jobs there...I was production manager, then I was box office, then I’ve done ticket managing. I was the talent buyer, and then I was just like an office manager. So I feel like I’ve sort of lived the life of being in music venue production, and having that experience and while also being a musician….One of the things with Mississippi Studios is that it was established by a musician, so I was able to go on tour in other bands that I was in, and they let people take time off of work to go on tour, and then come back and work. They’re very understanding of that. Being a musician and also working at a venue, it feels like you get to be some sort of superhuman musician at times. Like you know what’s going on for your job side, and also you know what to do for being in a band. Being on the road, I’ve been advancing all of my shows. I’m essentially like my own tour manager— I have been putting in a lot of work to make sure the whole project is going along the schedule. So it’s an interesting thing to have this knowledge. I think that some people when they get to a certain point in their music career, they go on to tour and they go on album cycles, so they understand what it’s like. But as a musician that’s first starting out, you might not always have that knowledge. I don’t know what sort of advice I’d give in terms of your question.

It’s interesting still to hear your take on the benefits of knowing what’s going on from both sides. It’s good to be knowledgeable.

Yeah it just takes a huge amount of work to be a musician. It’s also interesting going around to different music venues. Sometimes I realize that not every music venue is the best venue to work with. Some sound engineers suck to work with. Some isn’t always perfect. So it’s always an interesting thing to realize.

Totally, then talking about your stage presence, I actually got to see you at SXSW this year for the first time. I loved your set and how there would be more mellow moments followed by you just shredding on the guitar. Who are some performers that you admire their stage presence or maybe look to for inspiration?

That’s a hard question! These questions I always have to think about them for a while, and I feel like I’m gonna have a good answer in like an hour. But I will say this— I love energy. And if there’s something that has energy, no matter what it is…it’s a certain kind of energy though. It’s this intensity. It’s like this love and this passion. I’m so drawn to seeing somebody who’s performing and they’re just getting so immersed into their performance because they’re feeling what they’re putting  out there.

Yeah like a genuine energy, and you can really tell when someone has that genuine energy, versus them just trying to put on a show.

For sure, and that’s my most favorite kind of performer. Exactly that. Someone who’s genuine, who’s putting out passion and energy. I love intensity, especially I love intense drummers who just get into it. One person that pops into my head, when I brought up drumming, is Janet Weiss. Her drumming intensity is what I’m totally into… that sort of element. Sleater-Kinney was one of my favorite bands growing up, and they definitely had a very intense stage presence and performance. So bands like that, I’m super into. I get bored when I see bands that are just kind of standing there not really feeling it. Coming from my music venue side, I’ve seen a ton of shows, I’ve worked a ton of shows, so I feel like there are certain shows where I’m like eh, not really into it. But then some of them, I’m like this is really amazing.

So this might be kind of another question that’s difficult to answer on the fly, but I’ve seen you’ve been asked a lot in other interviews about your identity as a queer, indigenous woman, and you’ve said “Having this identity—radical indigenous queer feminist—keeps me going.” You’ve also said how important it is for you to use your platform to elevate other voices in a music space that still is predominately male and predominately white, which I think is great and very much needed. What are some actions that you would you like to see from maybe venues or other artists moving forward to also help elevate these voices that are still seen as the “minority?”

One thing that really annoys me is when white indie rock musicians just don’t realize the importance of people of color. I think that more people need to be lifting up indigenous voices and queer voices if they don’t identify that way-- if they’re like cis, white, heteronormative people, I think that’s really important. It’s something that should be done a lot more. However you can… in the most respectful way of course. One person who is actually on my label, who I really respect and who I consider an awesome ally and accomplice is Elizabeth from Land of Talk. She is constantly in support of indigenous people and is showing that on social media and at her shows. She’s the kind of person where I feel like white people can learn by example. They can see her and see what sort of things they need to do. I don’t know…pay us more money too I guess!

Totally, just being more aware. I think that there are definitely some people that would want to help and be an ally, but they might not be sure how to take the first step, so giving that example of Elizabeth is a great start.

I mean also, first and foremost, just educate yourself. Like if you don’t know any people of color musicians or queer musicians, get on that and support that. And help uplift those voices if you have a certain platform, and if you see somebody that is doing an amazing job at whatever, just help raise that up.

Yeah keep sharing and supporting. Wrapping up then, you’re currently on tour with Julia Jacklin, who is also great! There’s a lot of sold out shows on this run and I’m excited for the Chicago show. What can we expect as far as your live set up? Will there be any new songs?

Yeah so tonight is our first show with Julia Jacklin, and I am so excited! I’m very excited to meet her and her band and to embark on this really long tour together. We are gonna be playing a couple new songs. “Loss & Relax” will be on the setlist, then we have another song called “Half Colored Hair” that’s the b-side of the 7-inch. We’re incorporating that into the set as well. Then for this tour, I have a 4-piece band, we have two guitarists and a bass and drums, so it will sound a lot more full. I’m really excited about that.

Black Belt Eagle Scout’s show with Julia Jacklin at Schubas on May 8th is sold out— but check out the rest of the tour dates here.

Keep up with Black Belt Eagle Scout on Facebook // Twitter // Instagram and tune into Mother of My Children below!

A Chat With: Jungle Green

Originally the moniker for solo songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Smith, Jungle Green is now a six-piece collective that creates timeless and genre-fluid music. Listening through the more than twenty releases on Jungle Green’s Bandcamp page, it’s impossible to pinpoint a specific style for Smith and his bandmates’ sound. There are some songs that sound like they were plucked right off a 1960’s hits compilation, while others play upon more modern elements; Some songs have a hint of twang, while others have a trace of jazz. Some of the recordings are more layered with a full band sound, and some are lo-fi recordings of Smith and his piano. The members of Jungle Green are jacks-of-all-trades, and their discography definitely reflects that. The extensive catalog also gives an insight to Smith’s boundless creative energy as a songwriter.

While I’ve been seeing Jungle Green’s name on bills around town for months now, I finally got my first chance to see them live earlier this month, when they opened up for Shy Boys at the Beat Kitchen. After their set, they took some time to chat with me about their evolution as a full band, touring with The Lemon Twigs, recording with Jonathan Rado and what’s next for them. Tune into Jungle Green and check out our conversation below!

Jungle Green is Adam Miller, Adam Obermeier, Alex Heaney, Andrew Smith, Emma Collins and Vivian McCall // Photo by Mitch Mitchell

Jungle Green is Adam Miller, Adam Obermeier, Alex Heaney, Andrew Smith, Emma Collins and Vivian McCall // Photo by Mitch Mitchell

So I know Jungle Green originally started as a solo project of Andrew’s, and now it’s evolved into a big old collective of six people. Can you talk a little bit about how that evolved and how you all met?

Andrew: Yeah totally! I first met Alex in an acting class. We became great friends and started kind of picking up shows every now and then. He would play guitar and we would do comedy bits. It was really not very good, but it was fun. And that’s what it’s all about, having fun! Then I just gradually met everyone else through school and you know, in 2015 and 2016. I just wanted to get shows and have a fuller sound, so I recruited people who were cool and I thought were talented and fun to be around.

Adam O: I met Andrew at a party, the same night I met Adam M. We hit it off and I got his number, and we had plans to see Angry Birds the movie— the Summer 2016 blockbuster. Shout out Angry Birds. And yeah he blew me off, and then I didn’t see him again until September and we got tacos together. I had the large popcorn cause I thought we could share…

Andrew: That’s true, but now we’re friends. Now we live together. It’s funny how things can start one way and fate will turn it another way.

Then Andrew, I know you’re not from Chicago. Is anyone originally from here?

Andrew: Yeah, I’m from Massachusetts.

Vivian: I’m from Texas. Everyone’s from all around. Texas, St. Louis, Kentucky….

What would you say is your favorite part of creating music in Chicago, versus your hometowns?

Andrew: These guys right here!

Adam M: It’s nice to be in a city where there’s just lots of people who are into music and lots of venues.

Andrew: I like the amount of venues. It’s nice! I like that I’ve met these guys.

Definitely! Then in the Fall you toured with the Lemon Twigs. How was that experience?

Andrew: That was really fun! That was in October.

Adam M: It was just really amazing that they asked us to play. We have mutual friends, but we didn’t know them super well. And they kind of just took a risk.

Andrew: You’re taking a big risk asking a band you’ve never met to tour cause it’s like you’re stuck with them for a month, they could be assholes.

Adam M: But it ended up going really well, and they’re great people. It was just a good time.

Andrew: It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.

Adam O: It just kind of came out the blue too.

Andrew: Yeah and we got really tight too, on the tour. We got our stride.

Yeah, I wanted to ask about your live show, and how you all switch instruments at different points and mix it up. When you were putting together the live show, is that something you decided to do from the start or is that more recent?

Andrew: That kind of came about because--We switch instruments, and we do it a lot cause we kind of play multiple things and people want to have a take on an instrument. It spices things up and also makes everyone happy.

Alex: It started more almost because we were forced to. It started with us recording different things cause we just did different stuff. Then when we went to make it a live show, we were like how are we gonna do this? So we just had to switch every song. It was kind of fun to do.

Andrew: I really like it! It’s really fun, and it keeps every song really unique.

Adam O: When we arrange, it’s kind of just like Oh, I sat down at this instrument when we were arranging this, so I guess I’m just gonna play that. It’s a fun, organic way to arrange.

Vivian: Yeah, everybody has a really different take from everyone else on each instrument. If you just mess with those combinations, you don’t really have to try that hard to get something that doesn’t sound like what you’ve done before.

Will you ever mix it up from show to show, or is it pretty much set at the current rotation in your live show?

Andrew: It’s set every show.

Yeah I saw you play a solo set last week, but I haven’t seen the full band until today.

Andrew: This didn’t really directly influence it, but there’s a band I like called Palberta. They switch every song--granted there’s only three [of them] playing guitar, bass, and drums, but they’re switching every song. I saw them and I was like oh, this is really cool. That maybe had some play in it.

Adam M: It helps when everyone is a Jack of All Trades.

Adam O: We all put a lot of effort into the instruments we’re not as good at.

Yeah it’s kind of like a band buffet.

Andrew: Yeah, a continental breakfast.

Emma: I think it also helps Andrew’s persona as the frontman. It makes what he does more exciting. He’s able to nail the drums and be the lead singer kind of hanging back, and then he comes forward.

Yeah, it’s very dynamic and interactive! And it’s not like you’re just going through the motions.

Vivian: It used to be, in comparison to what we do now. We all used to stick to one instrument and never ever switch, and Andrew was always behind the drums.

Andrew: It’s kind of boring [to stick to the same instrument]. It’s boring the way we did it. It’s not boring for every band.

Vivian: It was just missing out on how Andrew is a really good frontman and brings a really cool energy up there. It was like a waste when he was just at the drums.

Andrew: I’m trying to get to the point eventually where I’m just not really playing drums.

Yeah your stage presence is great! When you came off the stage and you were wandering around, it’s very much in your face and breaks the fourth wall. It felt very present. Is there anyone else besides Palberta that influences your stage presence or that you admire?

Andrew: Sure, yeah! There’s a lot. I really like people like Sam France of Foxygen. My favorite guys are like Sam, and David Yow of Jesus Lizard, who’s like the best. I like a lot of punk frontmen, I feel bad I don’t know his name, but the guy from Bad Brains who does back flips. I don’t know the band too well but I love that. I think a lot of punk frontmen, which I guess makes it kind of interesting cause we’re not really punk music.

Adam M: We’re not very tough at all.

Andrew: I have straight up run away from someone who looked remotely scary.

Switching gears to your recorded music, you’ve recently worked with Jonathan Rado as a producer. How did that experience go?

Andrew: Yeah that was a year ago, that was great! It was really fun.

Adam M: It was amazing. This probably goes for everyone, but I feel like my life is sort of pre-recording with Rado and post-recording with Rado. Just the way he approaches recording and he just keeps a really good attitude the whole time. He’s very encouraging but also it was just really inspiring to see how he works a song up from the beginning.

Vivian: He did really keep a lot of positivity— cause it’s hard when you have six people and everybody has their own opinions. You have firm opinions when you’re making final decisions about the arrangements and how these songs are supposed to sound [on the record]. Then you’re doing it for 12 hours for a week and a half.

Andrew: It’s hard to do but I think it was as smooth as it could have been.

Cool, then the last thing I wanted to talk about was the music video that Vivian mentioned you were recording over the weekend. Can you talk about it a bit?

Andrew: It was really fun, Alex directed it and he did a great job.

Alex: I went to film school, and I did really lame projects, but everyone was nice enough to let me take some creative liberties with it.

Andrew: He did a great job and he’s available for hire!

Alex: We’re editing it now and it’s gonna come out pretty soon.

Vivian: We just had a lot of fun with it.  I think we kind of tried to do a little bit of what we do onstage and keep it fun.

Andrew: It’s for a song called “Cryin’”

Photos of Jungle Green at Beat Kitchen, April 2019

Catch Jungle Green at our first showcase of the Summer with Jude Shuma and Fran at Sleeping Village on 6/25— tickets are only $5 and the beer is just $1.

Keep up with Jungle Green on Facebook + Instagram

Catching Up With: Ten Fé

Way back in 2017, shortly after ANCHR was just starting, I talked to the duo Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan of Ten Fé over a spotty FaceTime audio connection in honor of their first full length album, Hit The Light. During our first conversation, I learned about their early days of busking in the London Underground, who some of their favorite bands were at the moment, and how they collaborate together.

Recently, Moorehouse and Duncan, along with their bandmates Johnny Drain, Greg Katsantonis, and Rob Shipley, made their first stop ever in Chicago to perform to a sold out Schubas Tavern. I sat down with the full band this time to catch up face-to-face and chat everything from their newest album Future Perfect, Present Tense to performing on JBTV and what they do to stay entertained on the road. For all that and more, catch up with Ten Fé below!

Ten Fé is Ben Moorhouse, Johnny Drain, Leo Duncan, Greg Katsantonis, and Rob Shipley (Left to Right, from standing to sitting)

Ten Fé is Ben Moorhouse, Johnny Drain, Leo Duncan, Greg Katsantonis, and Rob Shipley (Left to Right, from standing to sitting)

You just put your second album, Future Perfect, Present Tense out at the beginning of March, so first of all, congrats on that! What would you say are some of the biggest differences stylistically or as far as the process goes between this one and your first record?

Leo: The biggest difference is we did the first record completely just me and Ben. Rob played on a bit of it [the first one]. It was mostly me and Ben and then when we came to do this one, it was the five of us, although we had a different drummer. Greg’s just joined us. The process was different because it became more about capturing five people’s energy you know? Sometimes that works and sometimes we had to work in a way that we’d done on the first record. I think stylistically we wanted to make it a lot more rootsy and honest and less electronic, and break down any distance between the listener and us. I don’t know, can you tell that?

Yeah, I think so! This past week I was listening to Hit The Light and the new record, and I can definitely see that. Anyone else have anything to add about their mindset or stylistic goals going into this second album?

Ben: Yeah, I think we had just come back from tour, sort of what Leo was saying. We were back from tour and thinking of that in the time we had as a band and playing on the stages and the sound we were making. I think we were sort of excited by that and the prospect of then doing it again and making it grow and getting bigger. I think that was quite a driving force behind this album. We wanted it to sound more live and more kind of visceral I think. It’s like, it feels like it’s an ongoing thing is we want it to get more live and rootsy. We’re still sort of developing that now.

Yeah, there’s definitely that energy of being together and playing live that comes across. What would you say was your favorite moment or memory during the process of recording or writing this new record? Anything you look back on with a fond heart?

Leo: There’s been plenty of highs and lows during the making of it. We ran out of money. I lost my voice totally. So it hasn’t been the easiest to make, but the highs definitely outweigh the lows. My favorite memory probably is during the summer when we were coming to the end of it in London. We finished it in London and we collected everybody in our studio in Tottenham and we recorded a choir of about twenty of our friends. The football was on, it was the World Cup, and we had the BBQ on the roof the studio. Then we all went downstairs to record the vocals of the song “Superrich.” There’s loads of people singing on that song in the chorus, sort of a hard knock life style singalong. That just felt really good. It was a very hot day.

Nice! Then this is actually your first time in Chicago right? How has Chicago been treating you so far?

Rob: Well we haven’t had much time to explore. We sort of skimmed Chicago on the way up to Milwaukee. We went to Illinois state beach is it? It was coming down from Milwaukee about half way to Chicago, there’s like a strip of green and you get right up to the shore on Lake Michigan. Which was pretty wicked, we don’t really get horizons like that-- well you’ve got to go to the sea. That was pretty special. Last night we didn’t really have that much time to explore. We just sort of had to grab moments when we can.

Leo: We went to Greek Town. We went to a really nice restaurant. Greg is Greek.

Greg: Yeah we had really nice Greek food. I approved.

Then today you played JBTV in the afternoon, which is a staple in the music community here! How’d you like Jerry and the experience?

Leo: So cool man! It just seems like he’s got this thing that he believes in. And he’s just surrounded by all these interns, you know. He was saying he hasn’t been well lately, but he’s got so much energy. It’s just unbelievable so that’s amazing to see.

Yeah, he’s still always there despite having cancer. He’s a fighter!

Rob: Yeah he said he had his operation two weeks ago. He’s bouncing around still.

I know, his energy is great. So the show tonight is also sold out, which is pretty great for a first show here!

Leo: It’s amazing! To come so far away from home and have it sold out is the best feeling.

Do you have anything special planned for this show or this tour that people can look forward to?

Leo: Like Ben was saying, it’s a real process still. You know, it’s hard work but it’s also exciting. We’re really trying to do more with the vocals on this tour. It’s taking a bit of time to get it as right as we want it to be, but hopefully that will come through.

How was the rest of the tour been going so far? Have there been any other stand out shows?

Leo: Montreal was a real favorite of mine. It was like an oasis in a desert of America and Canada. But all the shows have been wicked in their own way.

How have you guys been staying entertained on the road? Any favorite podcasts or albums or shows you’ve been watching or listening to?

Greg: I’ve been watching loads of “Only Fools and Horses.” I don’t know if you know what that is. It’s a British sitcom.

Leo: Yeah, “Only Fools and Horses” has been keeping Greg happy, and the rest of us are just trying to keep--there’s a big bag of prunes in the back of the car. We’re trying to avoid eating too many of them.

So then the last time I interviewed you, which was just over two years ago, you talked about how you’re into Kevin Morby and Twin Peaks and some other Chicago bands. Are there any other new bands that have been on your heavy rotation lately?

Leo: Amen Dunes has released a great album. We listened to Delicate Steve’s new album in the car. The same people really, there’s no one really new that’s come along that I can think of. Kevin Morby, Whitney--

Oh some of the guys from Whitney were here yesterday for Stella Donnelly’s show.

Leo: Stella Donnelly played here last night? No way! Ewan Pearson, the person who mixed our first album mixed her album as well. That’s mad! So she’s touring the states at the moment?

Yeah, just missed her! It was a sold out show last night too, so a good weekend at Schubas.

Leo: Did you see her?

Yeah I was here! It was really good. It was one of the best shows I’ve been, so you have a lot to live up to. You know how you can get jaded, or maybe it’s just me, from going to shows all the time? But her show was so great, I just forgot about being tired and it being long week and the mood of the room was just so positive.

Leo: Oh so we’ll blame Stella if you haven’t got any energy tonight. But how come there seems to be a lot of bands [coming out of Chicago], like Whitney, Twin Peaks…?

Yeah there’s something in the water in Chicago. There’s just so many bands coming out of Chicago that might not be at the level of Whitney or Twin Peaks yet but they’ll sell out shows here and a bunch that went down to South By.

Leo: Oh can you give us a few names so you can check them out?

Well so I actually put on an ANCHR Magazine showcase at SXSW, so a few on that were Blue Dream, The Evening Attraction, Thompson Springs, Uma Bloo….I’ll just send you guys the flyer. There’s a lot of great local bands that play here at Schubas too. So wrapping up, anything else you guys are looking forward to this year or hoping to accomplish on this album cycle?

Leo: Stay in one piece by the end of this tour!

Don’t eat all the prunes in one day?

Leo: Finish all the prunes by the time we reach the west coast!

Rob: Hopefully we’ll be back out here in the autumn. We’re still quite early on with this new album. We’ve got this tour, we’ve got another big tour straight off the back in Europe. Then we’ll hopefully be back here as soon as possible.

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A Chat With: Native Sun

NYC’s Native Sun promises to play every show like it’s their last. A weighted promise, especially for a band who signed on to play more than seven shows over the course of a few days at this year’s SXSW, but one that they not only live up to, but exceed. If you’ve ever seen Danny Gomez, Jake Pflum, Alexis Castro and Mauricio Martinez play a show together, then you’ve undoubtedly felt the surge of energy that they release each and every time they get on a stage, and you’ve walked away knowing that they just poured everything they had into that performance. At least, that was my experience when I saw Native Sun play to a packed house at Cheer Up Charlie’s indoor venue on the final Saturday night of SXSW. It was a performance that inspired a crowd surfer (despite the venue’s low ceilings) and ended with Gomez on the floor of the stage.

Despite the exertion of Saturday night’s show and all those prior, when I met up with Native Sun the following afternoon, the band seemed anything but worn down as they got ready to play their final show of the festival. Perhaps it was the spiritual awakening of Austin, Texas that Pflum experienced that kept their spirits high (more on that later), but when talking to Native Sun, I got an immediate sense of their gratitude and appreciation for being able to create, play, and share their music. If you’re not yet familiar with Native Sun, get to know them more as we discuss their favorite musical discoveries of SXSW, their place in the NYC arts scene, a wild night in Nashville, and more!

Native Sun is Mauricio Martinez, Jake Pflum, Danny Gomez, and Alexis Castro (Left to Right)

Native Sun is Mauricio Martinez, Jake Pflum, Danny Gomez, and Alexis Castro (Left to Right)

Now that we’re on the final day of SXSW, and it’s been a long week with lots of shows, what has been a personal favorite memory or highlight from one of your shows this week?

Danny: We played Spider House yesterday after this ridiculous band called The Sloths. They had a lot of moves. They covered “Gloria” at the end. But after the show, we stole a Link Wray poster that they had from the venue. We thought that was kind of very part of our DNA to do that. I don’t regret it. We did it for the love of rock’n’roll.

Alexis: Yesterday we played at Cheer Up Charlie’s and there was someone in the crowd that knew lyrics to a song that we haven’t put out yet. We’ve only played it live maybe four times. They were singing along and I was confused.

That’s amazing. They came to all the shows this week so they know it now!

Mauricio: I feel like that’s the same [highlight] for me. I was confused—I don’t even know those lyrics! Someone was singing them. So that was different and cool.

Jake: Hi I’m Jake—

And you’re watching the Disney Channel?

Jake: And you’re watching the Disney Channel! I’m a huge fan of Fugazi and their refusal to use a setlist and how they just kind of call it based on feel every time that they play. That’s something that I had hoped to get to with this band some day, and we had just been playing so much leading up to SXSW and during SXSW, and the last couple shows we didn’t have enough time to write a set list. So finally we were just locked in and sharing the heart beat. Calling songs out during the show. We all look at each other like “what are we doing?” and we just launch into it. That was a personal victory.

Nice! Were there any new bands that you discovered this week?

Danny: Yeah, I liked the Fontaines D.C. guys. We got to hang out with them and play pool and see some of their shows. They were really nice.

Jake: We’re gonna have a shared answer [himself and Mauricio].

Mauricio: We saw Haiku Hands. They were so fire.

Jake: I’ve never seen a band that loud. Ever.

Mauricio: They’re like Beastie Boys meets Missy Elliott.

Jake: It was a really great experience. I loved their performance. Not to mention that every bass hit was like shaking my entire skeleton.

Mauricio: Black Midi was super interesting also.

Alexis: I didn’t even have time to focus on any other sets. We were just running around for our shows.

Danny: Those were the main ones.

Your stage presence was really great at the Cheer Up Charlie’s show I got to see yesterday. People were vibing and crowd surfing—

Danny: People really react at our shows, which is something we’re thankful for. Cause you never know, sometimes where you’re doing something more intense, it doesn’t get the same reaction.

So as far as stage presence, is there anyone you look up to or really admire in that sense? Or anyone that inspires you when you’re performing?

Jake: I love Jimmy Page. I don’t think I’m as sexy, but that’s definitely maybe a starting point. I think for my own personal stage presence, the inspiration comes more from outside of music. Just life in general and what it’s like to live and how it can be frustrating and emotional and there’s a lot of pent up feelings: positive, negative, neutral, that go from when you wake up to before you can play. It’s definitely…I’ve said once before, that when I play, it’s like my body is trying to jump outside of itself.

Danny: That’s the best way to put it. Locking into the ethereal spirit of it all. Those are the entertainers that I like.

Mauricio: We’re lucky because we’re doing what we actually love doing.

Danny: Yeah, we have to fight for it so we’re gonna give it our all.

Mauricio: Exactly! If there’s two people in the show, we play like there’s a thousand.

Jake: We play like it’s not gonna happen again.

Mauricio: It’s my favorite thing to do in the world.

Danny: We’re always gonna give it 200 no matter what show you come to.

Nice! Then as far as your music, you had an EP come out at the end of last year. What can you tell me about the process behind those songs?

Jake: [The EP] was written a while before it was released. We started recording that right after the one before it came out. So our first EP was done, and we were already working the day after on recording. So they had been written a while. We kind of took our time to slowly build it from the ground up from a recording standpoint. And you know, New York City band, it’s like who’s got their basement free for two hours? How much can we get done?

Alexis: We recorded at my house.

Jake: We recorded at his house...we jumped around a bunch of different studios. We recorded saxophone in one studio, keyboards in someone else’s apartment, that sort of thing.

Danny: It was interesting, out of those six songs, four of them we went in dead set, and then “Sweet V” and “Modern Music” we kind of just decided on the spot. We had just written those maybe a couple weeks before that and just decided to go for it. So like those takes you hear of “Sweet V,” that’s the first time we made it through. It’s a very live experience in that sense. You hear him [Alexis] say “Fuck” at the end of it.

Do you guys do your own producing too or do you work with somebody else?

Danny: Not yet, hopefully soon!

Alexis: We’ve been doing demos by ourselves.

Jake: I think from like the technical definition of producing, a lot of it does land on our shoulders. We definitely have people engineering for us, and as far as like the ownership of the equipment. But it’s not like we’ve gone into a studio and we’re like here’s our song and someone’s going “I’m actually thinking we should restructure it.” None of that. We’re definitely owning it.

Danny: We’ve been working with this dude upstate called Kevin McMahon, who’s like a guru. He’s worked on a lot of records we like, like Fat White Family. Swans. He’s a weirdo. We love that.

As far as your collaboration as a band, how do you handle times when you might disagree? Or do you typically just agree to each handle your own parts?

Danny: I think we state our opinion and if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

Alexis: Most things instinctually kinda work out. It just kind of works.

Mauricio: Now after a moment of playing together for a year and a half, we know how we should play for the sound we want to do. So I play the bass and I’m not gonna try to be super technical. I know how the song should sound, and what I should do. We now know our strategy.

Jake: There’s plenty of times where an idea will come into the practice space or the writing room or wherever we’re working on something, and someone will float an idea, and maybe it doesn’t land 100 percent. So yeah there’s disagreement, but just because it doesn’t make sense or it’s not a fully formed idea yet, it’s when we all figure it out together. There’s a song, ”Oedipus”…

Alexis: I used to hate that fucking song. Now it’s my favorite.

Jake: We just put it out on a 7 Inch, which we just put out here [during SXSW]. We just couldn’t figure it out. We couldn’t get on the same page, the tempo didn’t feel right. It’s not that anyone was playing incorrectly, it’s just that we were like out of sync. Then one day--

Danny: Oh, we did this kind of like art experiment, where they had us play for eight hours straight without stopping. And they documented the whole thing. On the breaks, they wanted us to jam. We started jamming on that song, and I remember Jake took a dump and came back and was like I got it! I figured out what was missing. We jumped into it and you see the process of how it all evolves.

Jake: Definitely a come to Jesus moment on the toilet.

As far as more new music, you mentioned there’s a newer unreleased song you’ve been playing here. What else have you guys got cooking for release this year?

Danny: Album!

Mauricio: It feels like its time.

Jake: We’ve got the two song 7”. Those songs will likely be on the final product of a full record. We recorded a bunch of songs with Kevin McMahon a few months ago, which we figured would maybe be like the starting point for that album, and we have a bunch of songs that we’ve been demo-ing ourselves.

Danny: Jake’s computer is the vault.

Jake: Exactly, I’ve got to lock it up. Alexis has the back up. So now we’re demoing the remainder of the songs we have and we’re just trying to fit the pieces together and see what makes the most sense as a complete project

Danny: We want something that’s a cohesive body of songs.

Nice, so you’re definitely more into full albums that sort of have a theme?

Danny: This could go there! It’s not gonna be like a wizard theme or anything like that. But we want it to feel like a body the whole way through. The records that I think we really love, be it from all different genres, are bodies of work that you know in their own respective rights.

Jake: 100 percent an album guy, start to finish, no shuffle. An album that’s ten singles that don’t really fit together has never been my sort of thing. So a cohesive piece-- sequencing is really important to me.

Danny: We want it to sound timeless. Like this record could have been from twenty years ago or that band still could be making this music in twenty years.

Cool, and then as far as the New York music scene, we were chatting a little bit earlier about bands like Gnarrcicists and Stuyedeyed—which they’re actually playing an ANCHR showcase on Friday back in Chicago.

Danny: Where’s that at?

Thalia Hall!

Danny: Nice that’s a big one! Hell yeah. Who else is playing?

Varsity, Rookie and Pool Holograph!

Danny: Oh sick, we love Rookie! We played with them—

Jake: Oh my god! I’m so glad you brought them up! Haiku Hands, I love you! Like next time I’m in Australia, I will find you, but Rookie was the best band that I have seen! God I love them!

Mauricio: Yeah they were fucking sick.

Jake: You know how South By goes, you play at 3PM and maybe that’s just not where everyone’s at right now. They played to like I think me and Rachel, our friend. And they were just SO good. They brought it, just like their energy. They brought it like they were playing to a huge crowd.

Yeah they played the ANCHR showcase here too and people were coming in off the street cause they heard them outside.

Jake: I think that like we’re purists and appreciators of classic rock-- those are classic rock students. Those are dudes that like Rock n’ Roll!

Ok so, we’ll have to do a show with you two in Chicago at some point is what I’m hearing! As far as the New York scene, though, what are some of the best and worst parts of the scene at the moment, in your opinion?

Danny: I think it’s very privilege and image obsessed. You know what I mean, some of these bands put on a front of this griminess, but once you really know them, that’s not really them. So we try to be honest about who we are cause we’ve had to struggle for it. So that’s my biggest thing with people in New York.

Jake: The best part of New York for me is that there’s so many opportunities to play, there’s so many venues to perform at. I’ve lived in a smaller town. I grew up in South Florida where there’s one venue and you can’t play at the one venue with the same three bands every week. It’s just like at some point people aren’t gonna come. So [In New York] you’ve got so many different places you can go. There’s so many different scenes that exist and I’m on a constant personal journey of trying to figure out what’s happening that I don’t know. Cause I know the world I run in, but what’s happening somewhere else, there’s all these other different bands. I see the SXSW list of all the bands coming from New York that I’ve never heard of, and it’s like who are they? What are they doing?

Danny: Actually a great band that we really like from New York is called Yaasss.

Jake: I really like Miranda and The Beat. There’s a lot of soul in those songs.

Danny: We played with them when they did a full Shangri-Las set at this fake prom show we did at Baby’s All Right.

Jake: There’s a lot of non-musical things that sort of revolve in our world that are really cool and make it a really fulfilling place to be and to be working on music and art. We’ve got friends who are unbelievable film makers and unbelievable photographers and poets. Our friends Rachel and Natalie run POND Magazine, which is an institution. There’s so many different things that are multimedia happening that it’s really inspiring to be around.

Danny: I’d get bored if I was hanging out with musicians all day, I like stimulation from other art.

Jake: From people making zines...there’s just stuff happening all the time!

Danny: That’s why we love Chicago!

Yeah that’s very similar in that sense. Then last thing I wanted to mention, Danny you said earlier that the ride down from NYC to Austin was interesting. What were some top moments from the road trip?

Mauricio: Yeah yeah, it was fun! We stopped in Nashville to sleep there. So we went out just because we’re in Nashville, so we’re like let’s have a beer at least. We go to this dive bar/trucker bar. We played some pool, had some disgusting tequila shots.

Jake: Grossest tequila I’ve had in my life. Why does Nashville have sweet tequila?

Mauricio: It was intense. So we went back to our hotel and wanted a little more. So we got to the hotel bar and they were closed, but the lady was like I’ll open the bar for you if you play a few songs.

Danny: So we got up there and did a few songs acoustic, but then she opened up the bar. Then she liked it so she invited us on this country tour bus, and we chilled with a bunch of different people that we don’t usually get to. It was great! You get to see all different paths of life when you’re sitting there with a kid with no teeth.

Mauricio: I held a knife.

Danny: He held a knife! This woman wanted him to hold her knife. I think that’s a sign of affection.

Jake: That’s really just how you say hello in Nashville I think!

D: Me and [Mauricio] did another song and that kid was like “Is that The Stooges?” And he smiles and you just see no teeth.

Mauricio: We didn’t think they were into that shit.

Danny: Yeah he was playing like “Wagon Wheel” and then he’s like I love The Stooges! Us too, dude.

Anything else you want to shout out, or let the world know as we wrap up?

Jake: I’d like to shout out the city of Austin, TX. I’d never been here before. This is both my first time at SXSW and in the state of Texas and the city of Austin. That being said I feel like I’ve had a personal spiritual awakening while being here. There’s been a door of a room shut inside my soul and the door has been kicked open and the lights been flicked on. And I feel like I am now me again. A me that I forgot that I was. I’m not being tongue and cheek. I feel like the keys are back in the ignition and I am revved. I’m ready.

Danny: He got that oil change.

Jake: My oil has been changed.

Alexis: The van’s oil has not been changed.

Jake: I got new windshield wipers. I got new headlights, I can see!

Danny: I just want everyone to pay attention to this year. It’s a crucial time, there’s a lot of people in this country that are being disserviced right now. I just want everyone to keep their eyes open and not shut off the doors. Right now is the time to do something.

Keep up with Native Sun on Instagram and Facebook, and listen to their latest EP below!

A Chat With: Roman Lewis

Photo Credit: Hollie Fernando// Courtesy of Fancy PR

Photo Credit: Hollie Fernando// Courtesy of Fancy PR

London based singer-songwriter Roman Lewis just released his debut EP on January 25th, via Bright Antenna Records. In honor of the release, we chatted with Lewis about his favorite moment recording the seven tracks, selfies with celebrities, the London music scene and more! Tune in below.

Congrats on releasing your debut EP Heartbreak (for now)! What’s your favorite memory or moment from the writing and recording process of these songs?

Thank you! Yeah I’m just happy it’s finally out. My favorite memory from the recording process was definitely playing the tambourine on "Heartbreak.“ I had the best time playing that goddamn tambourine… you have no idea. Catherine Marks produced the EP and she’s a genius and just the biggest joy to record with, so we had a lot a fun with this. From the writing process it was probably writing "Midnight in Paris.” It was one of those songs I was just really really really proud of, and I still am. Any time someone asked me to play a song, I would play that one, which rarely happens with me for a new song. It was just one of those things I wanted to say and that song did it just right. 

You’ve said that your song “Rose” from this EP was inspired by William Blake's 1794 poem "A Poison Tree.” What was it about this particular poem that inspired you, and what are some of your other favorite poems or poets?

I just really liked how Blake used a tree to symbolize his hatred and wanted to do the same with a rose and a girl. I would love to say I know a lot about poetry but I really don’t. We studied that poem in English class, that’s the only reason I know it. 

Besides writing a song about it, what’s your go-to activity for getting over heartbreak?

[Laughs] Writing a song about it. Not the biggest fan of wallowing in my own sadness, so writing a song gets it out and creates something beautiful with it. Thankfully it doesn’t happen on a daily basis so I don’t really have a ritual or anything else I do. 

Who are some of your biggest influences when it comes to your stage presence?

 Damien Rice was one of the first singer-songwriters I really got into and he plays acoustically so I when I first started performing I took some inspiration from him I guess. The energy of Jack White when The White Stripes would play live would always amaze me, so him too I reckon. 

You’re based in London and there’s always so much great talent coming out of London. Who are some of your favorite fellow London musicians and favorite places to see live music in the city?

King Krule, Wolf Alice, Blaenavon, Marika Hackman, Matt Maltese, Shame and Idles are some of my current faves from the UK, but I couldn’t tell you whether they’re from London or not if I’m honest. Omeara and Koko are probably my two favorite venues in London. I was lucky enough to support Blaenavon at Omeara recently which was great fun!

I love your music video for “Ways,” and you’ve mentioned it was inspired by the video for "Once In A Lifetime" by the Talking Heads. What was the experience like filming in front of a green screen for it and working with director Matt Robertson?

 I just saw David Byrne dancing and I thought to myself I just wanna do that. The song’s about the aftermath of a good time so I just wanted to dance and have a good time. Filming it was great fun! None of the dancing was choreographed obviously so I had no idea what was coming out but enjoyed witnessing the madness of it all, and dragging my brother into it was fun too. Post-production on the other hand made me want quit music altogether. Matt is a talented guy, but we were on very different pages with the green screen so I ended up just taking the footage off this stock video website I found. It ended up looking great though so I can put the trauma behind me. 

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would you want to work with?

 Doing something with Snail Mail would be cool. Her music is great!

What are three songs that you can’t stop listening to lately?

 Going through a big Elliot Smith phase right now and can’t get enough of “Say Yes.” Also loving Fleet Foxes, especially “Helplessness Blues,” and Pavement “Gold Soundz” and “The Spark That Bled” The Flaming Lips. Loving all four albums those songs come from.  

 Besides your EP, what else can fans expect this year, whether it be touring or more new music?

Another EP! Going into the studio to record the next one and it’s very much a continuation of "Heartbreak (for now).”

Your Instagram bio mentions that your mum got 11,000 likes on a photo of your sister with Selena Gomez. If you could take a selfie with any celebrity, who would you want it to be and why?

Great question! I would also get one with Selena Gomez and I would get 12,000 likes and rub it right in her face.

Keep up with Roman Lewis on Twitter + Facebook + Instagram

A Chat With: Gully Boys

Based out of Minneapolis, Gully Boys are a neo-emo band blazing the way for non-male bands in the DIY scene. I sat down with drummer, Nadirah McGill to discuss boy bands, “diversity,” and shifting the dialogue on local music.

Photo courtesy of Gully Boys

Photo courtesy of Gully Boys

Tell me a little about how you got started.

I started playing the drums about two and a half years ago. My ex-boyfriend had a drumkit and I would just fuck around on it. I finally saw these two drummers, Ben and Drew from POLICA. I saw them live and I was just like.. deceased. And it inspired me to start drumming. I always wanted to drum but my mom wouldn’t let me, she said it was too loud. So as soon as I was old enough, I got one, and it kind of happened like fate. My ex-boyfriend broke my TV and so he gifted me the drumset as payment.

Wait. Your ex broke your TV?

He was like “you can have this drum set, I was gonna sell it but I broke your TV. So.” And I was like “that’s fine”.”

Ok, Continue.

And so that’s kind of how Gully Boys started. Kathy came over and we covered “Boyfriend” by Best Coast. And then she showed me one of the songs she had and it was called “Hymen Honey.” She invited her best friend Natalie, and we jammed together one time and we became a band. It was nice because none of us had really played our instruments before so there wasn’t a level of power difference or hierarchy. We all learned our instruments and grew together. We all have a musical background in different things, so it’s really fun to kind of take that and smash it into a different instrument. Our first gig was in 2016, and we had started playing like maybe a month before that. We said we wanted to be a band, and came up with a name, and then just never practiced because we were like “we know how to do this.” And then we booked our first gig and we were like “oh shit we need to figure this out.” We pulled it together. And it’s really funny because my friend brought my mom, and I didn’t know but she recorded our first gig. My drumset was next to the stage, it was so awkward. We were so nervous and were just shaky little babies in the video. It’s kind of embarrassing that it’s on the web. My sister was actually at our second gig where we covered ‘Burning Up’ by the Jonas Brothers and she posted it on Facebook. Now it’s always there.

Music is undoubtedly dominated by men. The drums are especially an instrument we don’t often see non-men play. What’s that like for you?

So when I was on tour in Chicago this last New Years Eve, this guy walked up to me and he was like “you’re actually a good girl drummer! I see all these good girl drummers online, but when I see women drum in person they’re never that good. You’re actually amazing!” And I know he meant that as a compliment but it was so fucking rude because I know that people don’t say that to men. It sucks. If you’re femme-presenting or just not a dude and you play the drums, or are just in a band in a predominantly white male setting, it’s hard. But with my drums people patronize me in small ways. They don’t assume I know what a drum kit is or how to set it up. Someone told me once, when we were backlining the drum kit, I was like “oh what do I need to bring? My pedals and my breakables?” and they were like “oh you know what breakables are? Usually we have to say cymbals and snare.” I’m not an idiot. It sucks so hard to exist in this space and to just have to not take it personally. I know I have to have tough skin because. I had a girl come up to me and tell me that she wanted to start a band because of our band, and she had never played an instrument before. And that’s all I want to do. Because I never had female rockers to look up to, especially queer rockers of color. And I don’t play the drums to show off, I do it for me. Drummers were always my favorite in bands. And Katherine from Lunch Dutchess is like, my idol. Every time I see her band play I’m so inspired. It’s just so good to see women drumming, and she’s such a badass, so when men do question her about stupid shit she can just tell ‘em to go fuck off.

Have you ever had that chance?

Yeah! It was so funny. So we had a gig at this space, and right before I was shooting a music video for someone else and I was playing the drums in it. And in this one part of the music videos I was purposely getting frustrated with one part on the drums. And this guy walks up to me and goes “if you just raise your snare stand, just a quarter of an inch you’d get it every time.” And I just looked at him and said “you fucking asshole, I’m doing this on purpose, I know how to play the drums. Thanks even though I didn’t ask.” He was so confused, and I’m like dude, nobody asked. Why do men think they can just insert themselves and give me unsolicited advice?

Do you get that “advice” a lot?

All the time. And it’s so annoying. It feels like they’re trying to hold my hand and go “oh, silly girl you don’t know what you’re doing.” But, I love when they do that before I actually play and then I play and they’re like wow, you know what’s up.

You recently posted a meme on Instagram with you and other non-male bands in the Twin Cities as the Breakfast Club. Which was hilarious. But do you find that you all get lumped into one category?

I just ranted about this recently. As non-men bands, we get compared to each other All. The. Time. Especially in write ups. Like, when we played the main room we got compared to Scrunchies. And we don’t even play the same genre of music. In write ups, if there’s another girl band on the bill we get compared to them. Whereas there will be like eight boy bands and none of them ever get compared to each other. But there is some solidarity because when we [other non-male bands] do play with each other, we’re all like fuck all this, it’s ridiculous. We get tokenized, guys literally ask us to come on the bill and open so they could check their diversity quota of being diverse like “we have one girl band.”

Is that tokenizing or belittling behavior is pretty blatant?

A lot of it is micro-aggressions. Just small little pokes. Like when people say we’re so good for a girl band and not just… a band. Boy bands don’t get that. Or after our sets they’ll be so surprised that we make music that men like. It’s stuff like that.

I notice you’re using the term “boy bands”, which is great. Is that a term that comes up or do you consciously categorize all male bands as boy bands?

That’s what’s really funny. I don’t know when we started doing that ‘cuz everyone’s like “all male bands” and we’re like, no they’re boy bands. They’re not grown men. They’re boy bands. But, we also want to fit in that space too. We’re boy bands. We make different kind of boy band music, and we’re actually girls, but we’re a boy band. Also all of us were fucking weird tomboys when we were kids. And now we’re all hyper femme and reclaiming that aspect of our dirty, reckless childhood in boy bands. But all the local male bands are boy bands to us. They would be offended if we said that, I’m sure.

I like that. So Metallica is a boy band, Led Zeppelin is a boy band? Big Black is a boy band?

Yup, we call ‘em boy bands who make “butt rock”. Butt rock music. We have a boy band butt rock song. But we look at Led Zeppelin and we’re like yeah, that’s butt rock. It’s a genre of music.

Has Women Bands(™) become a genre?

Yes, and it sucks. That’s why I feel we get compared to other bands. Because even though we make music that’s completely different from Scrunchies and other local bands, we get compared to them because Women Bands is a genre now. It’s baloney sandwich and I hate it. Because we’re girls we get pinned against each other, and you can feel that misogyny in the music scene. And then it gets kind of fucked up because I’ll be honest, I find myself comparing myself to other female bands because of my own internalized misogyny. But then I’m like, “why?”— I want them to succeed and I want them to have good things, and I want to support them as much as I can and as much as I want them to support me. But we’re lumped into one genre; if we’re women and a three piece, we’re a “Punk Woman Band.”

Do you feel safer or more confident when you’re on bills like tha-

Yes. When we get to play bills of just non-boys, it’s so good. It’s definitely just more safe and more fun hanging out backstage, and just naturally clicking. We both do this really hard thing for this thing that we love and have to go through more B.S. than boy bands do.  

You just played First Ave, a big historic venue. So there’s no denying that we’re seeing a shift in who makes music. Do you feel like we’re seeing an influx of more non-men in the scene?

Yeah! In some aspects, yeah. Recently I’ve been seeing more calls for non-men. There’s a DIY festival for non-men that we’re playing in Fargo, North Dakota. But I feel like we’re also very supported in this scene. During our tour we talked with other women and their DIY spaces. It’s hard for a lot of people to find their space and acclimate. A lot of spaces are male heavy. But there is definitely is a wave of non-men coming. Stephanie Jo Murck [a musician in the Twin Cities] is kicking down doors and making space for women in DIY spaces. We’re seeing non-men take up space they should have and not be confined to being a Girl Band Playing in a Basement. There’s so many DIY bands now that are comprised of mostly women, or at least fronted by them. It’s becoming more normalized and more accessible. And it feels good and welcoming, like we’re moving away from tokenization because it’s not something unnatural. It’s not super groundbreaking anymore to have women in music and rocking. There’s also so many non-binary artists. There is space for non-men musicians to just exist and do what they do best, and get supported!

If you were dictator of a venue, what would the rules be, what would it look like?

It would be a mixture of touring bands and baby bands. Bands who just started and want to make music, and just picked up instruments for the first time. I’d want space for them to open up for bands on main stages, just making space for young people of She Rock. There would be a lot of space for non-binary folks too. I feel like there’s a lot of space for women. But queer and trans folks, especially trans women, get the short end of the stick when it comes to DIY and that doesn’t sit well with me. There’s so much space and so much room for everyone to succeed and everyone to do well and support each other. I wouldn’t have it be a competition. It would be more of a collective, co-op type thing. I would like more of this. We’re like thinking of opening up our own space in a friend of ours’ house. And that space would be run by musicians with disabilities, and musicians of color, and non-male musicians. It’s in the works. There might be that utopian space coming soon.

What kind of conversations do we need to have to create more inclusivity in the DIY scene?

One thing I don’t like is people who claim to be woke and have all these inclusive thoughts and then just take up space from the people they claim they’re fighting for, that’s what drives me absolutely insane. It’s the well intended white people. They inadvertently take up space they talk about giving back. I’m black, and queer, and in punk music, and making music that is predominantly run by white males. We need to remember that that music came from black people. Inclusivity for that would be having those conversations and realizing where you stand and how much space you take up. You need to ask yourself if what you’re doing is uplifting and making room for more people or if it’s self serving. I would just like a space where I could feel safe at all times and make music at all times. It’s, y’know, simple things.

Is Minneapolis an especially white city to play in?

Oh yeah. When we went down to New Orleans it was cool to see that space because everywhere there were just black musicians owning that city. But here it’s… really white, yeah. I have to tell my brothers that sometimes I do struggle being in a band with two white people, because sometimes small microaggressions will happen and they don’t notice it. Like on tour we went to Birmingham, Alabama and I was a little nervous being a queer black woman in the south, and Trump is the president right now, so it’s dangerous to exist. And I was trying to explain that to them and they just hadn’t considered it. There’s those times where I can feel that their bubble is only so big. And sometimes my realities exist outside of their bubbles. And that’s within the whole scene as well. But I am starting to see POC come into the scene too. And when I see them it’s like, I’ve been waiting for this. It’s good to see people who look like me playing this kind of music.

Re: creeping on your Instagram, I notice you hashtag “women in music.” Is that for irony? Just in case people search that tag? Or is it how you would describe yourself?

I do that because it’s how I found bands on tour. I mostly do it so other women bands can find us. I go on it and reach out to bands on tour and make friends with other women in music and find solidarity. Sometimes I do do it as a joke, but I’ve just found that tag to be useful for networking with other women. And of course it’s ironic too because we do call ourselves a boy band- we’re all brothers.

Do you feel like this wave of non-male bands is paving the way for the baby bands out there?

I feel like that bit of credit is true for most female bands. Any non-male bands have had to go through some bullshit so the next wave of musicians can have a smoother ride into the space. One of the things I always try to say at our shows, to whoever needs it, is to just start a band if you wanna start a band. Just pick up and instrument, because we need it. There are so many non-men and POC who have such amazing things to say but nobody has pushed them to say it or made them feel safe enough to just step into it. And I know I needed that. If I hadn’t have seen Tony Peachka, I don’t know if I would’ve been inspired to just do it. All of these bands kick down a door so someone else can walk through it.

Keep up with Gully Boys on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram

A Chat With: Patrick Damphier

Singer songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer extraordinaire Patrick Damphier is on the brink of releasing his first full length album as a solo artist; Say I’m Pretty, out February 1st via YK Records. With eleven tracks, the debut record takes listeners on a winding journey that combines breezy melodies and jangly guitars with dreamy vocals and pop infrastructure. Featuring collaborations with the likes of Molly Parden, Nicole Atkins, Jessica Lea Mayfield and the late Richard Swift, the album nods to Damphier’s chameleon-like ability to work with an array of artists, while also putting him in the spotlight for the first time. There’s a refreshing and eager energy that threads through each track, but it’s mixed with the touch of a seasoned musician—Damphier has played in The Mynabirds and Paper Rival and makes a living songwriting and producing for other artists.

Ahead of Friday’s release, Damphier took some time to chat with us about the journey behind the record, including his experience with the different collaborations and the stories that inspired the songs. Tune in to our chat below for more!

Photo by Satellite June

Photo by Satellite June

What was your first musical memory either as a fan of music, or when you started creating?

I’d say the Ghostbusters 7” single from my grandmother. I was, I wanna say maybe four years old and I was just absolutely obsessed with that movie and that song and I listened to the b-side, which was the instrumental. I flipped it over and just recorded myself singing the lead onto a cassette tape, like on a boombox. That was my first real creative musical memory.

Nice, that’s a good one! It’s a classic. So you’re about to release your debut album as a solo artist. How are you feeling about the release date being so close and just generally about putting this project out into the world?

Well in general I’m just super excited about it. This particular group of songs has been written for so long that it feels good to just have them out into the world. I’m really the only one who’s heard them for so long. I have a ton of other stuff written, so that’s sort of where my headspace is now. It feels ok to move on, now that these songs are going to be out. Like it wasn’t all for nothing. It felt weird--it almost felt like cheating when I was working on other stuff before, knowing that this was gonna come out. Now that I know it’s coming out, it feels good to move on.

On Say I'm Pretty, you worked with collaborators like Jessica Lea Mayfield, Molly Parden, Nicole Atkins and Richard Swift. What were some highlights from your experience of working with them as songwriters and musicians?

Swift was a really, really good friend of mine for years. I met him in 2010 through The Mynabirds. I was in that band touring, and I worked on the last two records in the studio, fully producing the last one. Working with Richard was great. His contributions were done both in Nashville and in his studio. His stuff was done a couple years back, just in between tours. Just sort of hanging out, like hey we’re bored, do you feel like putting some keys on my stuff? Sure, let me put some drums on your stuff. That kind of thing...That was really, really natural.

The other three artists all lived in Nashville, so that was a lot more planned. Like Jessica, Molly, and Nicole you’re in Nashville, can you show up to my studio at this date, this time and do some vocals for me? That kind of thing. Swift also did the artwork for that 7” that came out for “Under My Door.” He contributed artwork for the inside insert of the 12” vinyl that’s about to come out.

Oh that’s awesome, and I’m so sorry for your loss with Richard.

Thank you, yeah he did a whole, whole lot. He actually contributed these ideas for this about a year and a half ago. It just feels good that it’s gonna come out and people are going to hear it.

Yeah, and his memory lives on with this project. Then as far as your overall contribution with the album…you wrote the songs, recorded and mixed it, so you had your hands in all aspects of it. What would you say was challenging about that, and what was the most rewarding part of being able to wear all these different hats and work on each part of it?

I’d say the most challenging part of it was just the time aspect to it. Because I make a living writing and producing for other artists, so the challenge was sort of finding the time to do all of that. I don’t know, I mean it’s not too different from what I do already. A lot of the work I do with artists is multi-instrumentalist work. Where I’ll work with one artist and I’ll be the band, you know. So it wasn’t all that different from that, except they were my songs and then I had to be the one singing them too. The challenging part was finding the discipline to actually do it.

Going off of that, when you’re working with other artists as a co-writer, producer, or instrumentalist, do you tend to take a different approach when you know it’s your music versus working with somebody else? When you’re writing, do you ever think ‘oh I should keep this for myself,’ or how do you dictate what to keep for yourself or put towards another project?

You know it’s about half and half. There have been things that I’ve written for myself but then I’ll get an opportunity to write with someone else and I’ll be like man, this thing that I wrote with myself in mind a month ago would be perfect for X,Y, or Z artist. Then I’ll bring it to them and see what they think about it. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. I guess more often than not when I write with other people I am writing with their unique, or at least what I perceive to be their artistic take, in mind. My approach to producing and writing is to sort of be a chameleon and serve them. So I can go a few different directions as far as the aesthetic, the arrangements or the production and the final presentation. So to answer your question, it’s super fun doing my thing because it’s all mine. It’s 100 percent my vision, 100 percent what I want to say. I don’t have anyone over my shoulder. It’s how I want to say it, and how I want to present it and I don’t have to keep anyone else in mind.

Cool, so you usually get in a certain mindset before working on a different project, versus working on your own.

Yeah there’s just no limits to it whatsoever. It’s not that I feel limited working with other people. I’m really lucky in that I get to work with artists that I really respect and I’d say that 95% of the time, any ideas that are thrown out, are tried. I tried all sorts of stuff that didn’t get used on that record. That was another thing--I had unlimited time. I just tried all sorts of crazy stuff that I probably wouldn’t have tried on a record that had a time limit to it.

Yeah you get that total creative freedom when you’re on your own schedule.

It definitely yielded some pretty interesting results, in my opinion anyway.

Who would you love to work with who you haven’t already collaborated with, from a writing standpoint or featuring on a song?

I’ve wanted to work with Aaron Lee Tasjan for a long time, but now I’m going back in February. I actually just got this opportunity a couple of weeks ago, so it’s gonna happen. I’m going to do production stuff with him so it’s actually coming true. He and I had written a song together before all of this. I’ve worked with a lot of mutual friends of his over the last few years in Nashville, and I’m really excited to see what comes of that. I’ve wanted to work with him for a couple of years now, so the fact that it’s happening is very exciting to me.

Very cool! So kind of circling back, when you were writing the songs for Say I’m Pretty did you ever look outside to any non-musical art forms like movies or visual art to inspire the lyrics or where you were coming from with certain colors and tones of the songs?

You know, on this record all of the words were written before there was any music. And that’s something I’ll do a lot. I don’t always do that, sometimes the music is first. I think more often than not when it’s just my songs, the words will come first without any sort of music in mind at all. Then when I have the words in a place where I like them, then I’ll start writing music arounds those words. And then it becomes musical. It pretty much starts with, whether it’s a linear idea or not, it just starts with some sort of emotion. I don’t really write in a country music story-telling way, but there’s definitely a thread that you can run through it, with a common emotion. It all starts with that. So on this record in particular it all starts with words, so there wasn’t really any musical inspiration, it’s just where I was at emotionally. I think more often than not, it’s more about instances that happened to people in my life. As opposed to happening directly to me. More just sort of keeping my ears open when someone is telling me about something they’re going through or something that happened to them. Then I guess I would try to take whatever resonating feeling that anyone could relate to and write it down that way. So I’m not getting so specific that this person would know I wrote this about them, but that’s definitely the emotion that expired it all. Like that would have never been written if I didn’t have that conversation with my friend at the bar last Thursday.

Totally, so like a characterization of that story you were told, and you elaborating on it.

Yeah exactly. I’ve definitely done the exercises where you turn on the TV on mute and you write about what you’re seeing. I write all the time, and I like to write just for fun, but as far as this record goes, it’s more about these are very real things that happened to actual friends.

Nice! What would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself from your years of playing music in different projects and touring. Or maybe the best piece of advice you’d give your younger self or someone who’s just starting out?

Just keep doing it. You know. It’s so easy to get jaded and let down. There’s so much rejection and if there’s anything I would say to myself when I was 22 it would be just keep doing it, make the music you want to make. Just keep releasing it. No guarantees that anything is going to “happen” with it, but I think there’s a lot to be said for just continuing to do it. I have no idea where I’m gonna be a year from now, but I’m still gonna be doing this, I know that.

So now you’re based in LA, but coming from Nashville who would you say are some of your favorite artists, outside of the ones that you worked with on this record, based in Nashville? Anyone that we should keep on our radars?

I’m usually really good about this! I probably have 15 people I could say, but now that I have to think of it….I would definitely put Molly Parden on that list, but you’re talking about people I didn’t work with?

It could be people you worked with, or anyone else you’d like to shout out.

Specifically Molly, I’m really excited for her because we just finished mixing a record that she’s gonna put out this year. Nobody’s heard this yet, and I don’t know who is going to put it out, but it’s gonna come out this year. It’s so good and I’m really proud of her for making this record, so I’d like to give her the shout out because I just think it’s a matter of time before the rest of the world catches up with her.

Yeah, we’ve covered some of her shows here. She’s great!

Yeah I just saw her play the other night, and we literally just wrapped up mixing a couple of weeks ago, so that one is super fresh on my mind. There’s someone I’m going to work with, who has played in my band, who I’d like to give a shout out to. Charlie Shea of Charlie and the Evil Mothers. That is a Nashville project.

Then as far as live shows, do you have any plans for some shows or a tour that you can hint at?

I’m definitely going to be playing shows in Los Angeles and Nashville, but I don’t have plans for a tour because I’m still in the process of transitioning to LA and moving the entire recording studio set up out there. So that’s a pretty involved move. If the right opportunity came along for a tour, I would do it, but I’m still sort of geared more towards producing others.

Cool, any other goals or plans for this year besides the studio move and more production work?

Well I’ll be working on more of my own solo stuff this year for sure. That’s a big part of this move for LA. I’ll have more time to dedicate to my thing than I did in Nashville.

There you have it! Preorder Say I’m Pretty and keep up with Patrick Damphier on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram

A Chat With: The Britanys

Based out of the Bushwick neighborhood in Brooklyn, The Britanys are a band that conjures up memories of New York City’s rock scene circa 2001. By mixing bright, punchy guitar melodies and candid, storytelling lyrics with a refreshing and earnest outlook, The Britanys deliver carefully crafted songs that set them apart and continue to catch the ears of new listeners. With their latest release, a mixtape called 1-833-IDK-HTBA, the band provides commentary on the technology obsessed culture we all live in an participate in, while still managing to nod to nostalgic influences.

Surrounding the mixtape’s release, the band created an actual hotline you can call (the number is just the name of the mixtape) and built in an old school bot on their website that visitors can chat with; Not only introducing a new take on this older technology, but allowing for the fans to have a more interactive experience with the new material. The bonus content that rolled out with 1-833-IDK-HTBA showcases the thoughtfulness that The Britanys put into their art, which extends past their music itself. As the band winds down from a busy year that saw them playing SXSW, touring the UK, and being invited to play at the Velvet Underground Experience, drummer Steele Kratt took some time to chat on the phone about their mixtape, fan interaction, and what’s next for them. Tune into our chat with The Britanys below for more.

The Britanys are Lucas Long, Lucas Carpenter, Jake Williams, and Steele Kratt // Photo By Aysia Marotta

What was your first musical memory growing up?

Well my dad was a musician so I think my first proper musical memory, at least that I can remember, is playing along to “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by Tears for Fears. My dad handed me a pair of drumsticks and put some newspaper down on a chair in our living room and I’d just sort of bang along to that. That became something I did pretty much every day. That’s my first proper musical memory I guess.

That’s awesome. Then you just released 1-833-IDK-HTBA [I Don’t Know How to be Alone] back in October. Where did that idea to do a mixtape instead of a traditional album stem from, and what were your favorite parts of doing this project?

I think that a lot of bands put a collection of songs together and say that’s an EP. It’s not quite an album but a lot of the songs don’t really connect. So we we kind of wanted to have something that had our songs, but had some sort of thread that connected them all together. Then also just sort of like being in a digital world, so many artists release mixtapes. It was more of a casual thing between a full album and an EP so we just figured we’d do it. It’s not something that a lot of rock bands do and it’s kind of the way that a lot of songs are being released these days. We figured it’d be fun to make our own and put our own spin on it.

Yeah it sounds like a good chance to be able to experiment with something new.

Yeah it was nice, and we worked with one of our really good friends on it. Our friend Dylan Chenfeld, so it was nice to have the collaborative effort.

There’s definitely that new element to it, but the mixtape still sounds very true to The Britanys’ style. It doesn’t sound like a new band or anything drastic, but like you said, it’s not typically what a rock band would do. Was there anything outside of your typical inspirations that you looked to when writing this set of songs?

I think we just sort of looked at modern culture and how technology influences life and sort of isolates you from real life, human nature and humanity. Just that whole thought. When we were on tour for that mixtape, we were flying back to New York from London, I remember I was at the airport and I looked around at a restaurant and every single person in there was on their phone. It’s just kind of bizarre like you just walk through a public area and everyone is just staring down at their screen. I think since releasing the mixtape and speaking about that concept, I sort of see instances of that a lot more. There’s a lot of stuff to write about with that because no one really knows where technology is gonna go, what’s happening with it, how it properly affects our psyche and our humanity. And I don’t know, it’s one of those things where it can be used for good, but isn’t really. So there’s a lot in there to sort of experience and write about.

On that same note, I love that along with the mixtape, you had the functioning hotline and the Eliza bot on your website. So there was all these different interactive things to go along with the release, which goes hand in hand with needing stimulation and interaction at all times. What was the process like building all these different platforms for fans to interact with?

Well for the Eliza bot, that was something that Lucas was thinking about. He was thinking of wanting to have a chat bot, and a lot of businesses use bots on their social media pages now. So we were gonna make a bot like that, that you could have a conversation with. Once he got researching, he found out about the Eliza bot, which is like the precursor to Siri and stuff like that, cause it was done in the 70’s. So we just sort of decided to pin it to that sort of throwback and that piece of technology that’s relatively primitive, but became a huge influence in that sort of tech culture. The basis of the Eliza bot is a sort of virtual therapist, and it’s sort of you know, we figured it’s relevant and needed now. There aren’t many-- you can’t talk to a robot to just sort of help you.

Cool, and then how did the hotline come together?

When we were writing the songs about technology and how it isolates you, so it was a similar thing to the Eliza bot. It’s another hotline thing, and there’s a lot of hotlines or self help lines that people call. We made it relative to the band, but with that sort of idea like here’s something you can call with a toll free number that can give you advice or something else to entertain you with. It’s also just sick. It’s fun to be like oh, we’ve got a phone number.

Yeah totally! So kind of on the flip side of that, where’s one place you go to try to escape the outside world and your phone? Where you can shut everything else out.

My mom’s house! My mom lives like 10 minutes from me. So if I’m like particularly stressed or you know, just want a break, I’ll go chill there in my room with her and our dog. That’s mostly where I go to unwind. I don’t really get out of the city too much so that’s my little oasis.

Nice! And then another place where fans can interact with you and the band is the new Instagram page that you have called Millennium Club, which is trying to build a community amongst fans and breaking the boundaries between band and fan. What’s been your favorite part of that experience?

It’s funny cause originally we were doing a show and I was thinking it’d be cool to have some sort of Instagram where people can post things that are happening at the show and everyone can have a password. Then we took it one step further and said what if it’s just always on, and so we figured it’s just a way for everyone in the community to have their own collective anonymous Finsta or whatever. I think my favorite thing so far is we didn’t think that anyone would start posting on it and then relatively quickly people started throwing shit up there, and for a minute I just thought it was us. Like ‘oh wow Lucas has posted like 40 posts,’ but it’s not him. So it’s a lot of people doing their share of posting whatever they want. So it’s fun, but it’s so weird cause sometimes I’ll get like a DM from that account and I have no idea who wrote it. So I’m like is it someone I know, is it someone I don’t know? How do I respond to this? So that’s kind of funny. It’s interesting to get story replies from an account that you created.

[A scrolling feed of the Millennium Club Instagram is shown below]

Back in October, you played the Velvet Underground Experience in New York. What was that experience like?

We decided that we were gonna go in a style of the Velvet Underground and instead of playing our own set, we kind of just jammed through it. Like a couple sets that the Velvet Underground did in the 70s...they just started onstage with about eight people and they’d turn that into a segment, and they’d just sort of jam through everything. So we wanted to do something that was freeform and unstructured like that. So we just played like a quarter of our songs and just jammed through, and then started up with the new ones. So it was all improv. It was nice. We got Jake’s brother to play with us. My dad was in the audience and I was like hey, just come up. So my dad played like tambourine onstage with us. Lucas’s girlfriend just sat and scrolled through Instagram sort of like as a nod to Nico, who sang a little bit but mostly just hang out onstage for most of those performances. Then my friend Alexis was onstage videotaping. So it was kind of fun to play around with an idea that they did in their museum.

Very cool! So I also heard that you’re going to be recording this month again. What can you tease about the new songs and what we can expect?

I guess you can expect a lot more of inclusion and leaning on the community. I think we’re gonna have a lot of friends play sections. So it’s still really our thing, but we want it to be more collaborative. We want to have local bands from Bushwick or neighboring neighborhoods come over to the studio and make guest appearances with us.

Speaking of that, who are some of your favorite local bands from the Brooklyn area?

One of my roommates is Alexis, who is the drummer of a band called Native Sun and we’ve known them since we were probably 19 or 20, so they’re very good friends of ours. This band called The Muckers who we play soccer with, and play shows with and go play pool with and stuff like that. They’re really good. This band called Been Stellar, who are a bit younger than us, but we met them sort of through Instagram. All these bands come through and record in our house because Lucas records in our rehearsal studio. So we always have just bands coming through, which is nice. We get to meet a lot of good bands.

Awesome, then you guys went to the UK a couple months ago, so where else are you looking forward to playing next year? Anything on your bucket list?

I guess just where they want us! We played Mexico City a couple years back and that was really great. It’d be nice to explore that whole country and also just go further to central and south America, and see all that and play there. But anywhere that will have us, we’re excited to play.

Nice! Any other goals for 2019?

Just have fun. Basically. Maybe we’ll get a Nike or an Adidas sponsorship. That would be sick to be a band sponsored by athletic wear, so I don’t have to buy athletic wear.

Keep up with The Britanys on Facebook + Instagram + Twitter and listen to 1-833-IDK-HTBA in full below.

A Chat With: The Total Bettys

Based out of San Francisco, California, the four-piece band The Total Bettys just released their sophomore album This is Paradise on November 16th of this year. The album follows up the debut record released by singer songwriter Maggie Grabmeier (she/her) and guitarist Reese Grey (they/them), the founding members of The Total Bettys, who have both since joined forces with bandmates Chloé Lee (she/her) on bass, and Kayla Billos (she/her) on drums. With their catchy pop punk sound, The Total Bettys have garnered all sorts of attention in their hometown and shared stages with the likes of Palehound, A.W., Jay Som, Hazel English, and Oso Oso.

Just one week after they put out the second album, Maggie Grabmeier took some time to chat with me on the phone from Cleveland, where she had been visiting her family for Thanksgiving. In our chat, we talk everything from the musicians who inspired This is Paradise, the band getting booked to play Treefort Music Festival, and pushing for a more diverse music scene. Tune in below!

Photo by Kelly Sullivan

Photo by Kelly Sullivan

What do you remember as your first musical memory?

It’s kind of funny, I think I remember growing up, my parents had this big like speaker system thing. You know, you always needed a lot of technology to make music play in your house, so I remember sitting in front of it and listening to Green Day CDs and I also really liked A Very Special Christmas 2, you know that compilation CD? That album—I just really loved it! I remember barely knowing how to use a CD player but putting in Green Day and that CD.

Nice, and that’s timely now with The Holidays coming up!

I know right? I’ve been thinking about it!

Nice! Well you just had your second album with The Total Bettys come out last week on November 16th—

Yeah it’s one week old today!

Awesome, so as far as the writing process on the album, how collaborative is it between you and the other band members and where were you coming from writing these songs?

I’ve been working on these songs since we recorded our first album. Once that was over, I started writing right away and I wrote the fill of the song with the lyrics and the chords and all that. And then usually I bring it to Reese our lead guitarist and they usually add the--I usually like it a lot more once I hear it with the lead guitar. They help it a lot. Then Chloe writes her own bass parts as well and it just flushes out the song. What’s interesting is Kayla, our drummer is brand new to the band. So she joined and we had like two months or something until we had to record, which is just not a lot of  time to learn 10 songs, plus we wanted her to learn all of our old songs too so she was hustling and we’re really grateful she was able to learn everything so quickly and she wrote these parts that were awesome. Our previous album had really like present, loud drums, and she just totally picked that right up and added--she just had a really good sense of how it should go. It just seemed really natural when we started playing with us. So I’m really impressed with her. She was able to learn everything so quickly and so well. Lots of props!

Once the songs all came together, what was the recording experience like?

We recorded with Grace Coleman, she engineered our recording and mixed it and mastered it. We worked with her our last album Peach as well. We went to a new place, Secret Bathroom in Oakland…and I don’t know if they’re still around under that name. They’ve kind of had a brief life as far as I know. But we recorded in The Secret Bathroom and then mixed at Different Fur, which is where we recorded our first album, and working with Grace is amazing. We already knew that we really loved her but that first album recording was my first experience with professional recording. So I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into and I was extremely nervous but she just has a special way about her of being like if something takes time to get it right, we’ll take the time. And it’s not like roughed or scary and she’s just very patient with us and lets us hear stuff as many times and as many ways as we want. It felt a lot easier this time and not quite as scary because we already knew we had someone we really trusted leading us on the way.

That’s always a better environment to work in when you trust someone and they don’t make you feel uncomfortable. Then as far as the songs I’m sure it changes day to day or week to week, but what song on the album are you most proud of or do you consider your favorite?

Yeah that does change a lot! But I think I really loved “Dark and Stormy.” That song just felt really real to me and it’s also structurally a little different from the other songs that I’ve written, so I was proud that I was able to kind of try something a little different. I also really love “So Much Better.” That song emotionally feels really real to me now. It’s one of the more recent ones that I wrote for the album so I’m still kind of like…the emotions of writing it are still kind of fresh. And that one’s about being able to give advice but not being able to take your own advice. I think that for me that’s just like really how I’ve been feeling. When my friends are going through something, it’s like ‘oh my god no you don’t need to worry about this’ but when it’s myself I’m like no you’re useless.

Yeah that’s everyone. I think we’re all our own worst critics and it’s impossible to take our own advice.


So you’ve cited Charly Bliss and Diet Cig as influences in the past, but what else inspires you when you’re writing? And this could not necessarily be music, but other art mediums.

Interesting. I think with writing music, the first thing I jump towards are other musicians. And stylistically I really get a lot from those pop punk bands and I really love like the amazing women and queer people that are making music in the scene right now, but I also as I was writing these albums, I went through a huge Lorde phase. So I think what I love about pop music in general is it’s okay to say exactly what you mean and exactly what you’re feeling. It took me a long time to get to this place of just saying how I felt without having to try to make it more poetic than it is. That’s what I love about pop music and that’s something I really love about Lorde.

Yeah totally. It’s just so straightforward. So as far as your live shows, I saw you’ll be playing Treefort Festival which is exciting.

Yeah I’m so excited!

What other plans do you have for tour next year? Anything you can hint at or anything in the works?

Yeah so we also just announced we have a show January 17th-it’s gonna be our tour kickoff show with Remember Sports in San Francisco. I’m so excited. I really love Remember Sports and I’ve seen them live a couple times and I’m so excited to be able to play with them. I think it’s the second week in January, we’re leaving on our tour and going to Nevada and Southern California and Arizona. That’ll be a 10 day tour. We’re really really excited for that. I don’t have all my ducks in a row for announce yet but that’s in the works.

Awesome. Then what are some other bands in the San Fran scene you would recommend, or do you have any venues or DIY spots you’d like to shout out?

Sure! I really love Pllush, they’re a local band that’s really super great. I love Scrim. We love playing with Difficult Objects. There’s a really awesome scene of like queer people especially who are totally making amazing music. In the city, my favorite venue I don’t know that’s a hard one! Maybe Bottom of the Hill. That’s where our album release show as. El Rio is a queer bar that has shows and they have really great stuff. I wish there were more like house venues and DIY venues but it’s really hard for venues to stay alive. I just heard news about a club, The Mezzanine, in San Francisco closing. And the Hemlock which was a great club just closed a month or so ago. So people are a little freaked out that our venues are gonna start disintegrating but hopefully that means more people are gonna step up and start something new.

Ah but that’s the worst! Losing a live music venue and all the memories attached!

Yeah it’s really sad. It’s really sad.

I was also gonna mention you already send such a positive message of inclusivity with your members all either being female or non binary. And you just shouted out the queer music spot, El Rio, but what else would you like to see from the people in your music scene or promoters in general to help promote more inclusivity? What else would you recommend or like to see more of?

Yeah I think that it’s really exciting to be a part of a queer music scene and I feel like really lucky to be in San Francisco where theres so many musicians who are doing amazing things. And so many venues that are willing to host us. I think that’s really awesome and really special but I think that there’s still not quite as good representation of people of color in our scene and I’m trying to think of ways that my band that can help support bands that have people of color and also just uplift the music of people who we love. My big piece of advice to people is just to start a band. I didn’t really know what I was doing when I decided I wanted to be in a band. And I think it’s fun to do it. I’m also kind of working through the different ways that I as a person can help and that the Total Bettys as a band can help make the scene more welcoming and more inclusive. But I think it’s something that we’re striving for and we hope other bands in San Francisco are also trying to do better

Yeah if more people work together, things can finally change! So besides the tour and including people in the scene, what are some of your other goals for 2019?

I think I really want to keep writing. The last couple songs that I wrote, I felt pretty proud of, and I’m kind of doing some different interesting things so I’m excited to keep on writing and keep writing with my band. I want to tour more so we’ll see how that goes. And just kind of keep going and keep playing lots of shows and meeting new people.

Keep up with The Total Bettys on Twitter + Instagram + Facebook

A Chat With: Flasher

Taylor Mulitz, Daniel Saperstein, and Emma Baker have known each other since they were teenagers, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that the three got together to form Flasher. Since the trio’s inception they’ve released a self-titled EP in 2016 and followed up with debut full length, Constant Image, released June 8th of this year via Domino Records. With its mix of genres ranging from punk, shoegaze and pop, the diverse yet straightforward record has been very well received. Flasher has toured these songs relentlessly this past year, sharing stages with the likes of Ought and The Breeders throughout The States, and recently completing a European run.

This Tuesday, December 4th, Flasher will play The Hideout as one of their final tour stops of 2018, and before the show, the band took some time to chat about their debut album, their music video for “Material” and the DC music scene. Check out our chat with Flasher below, and go see them on Tuesday night.

Photo By Amy Breesman

Photo By Amy Breesman

Congratulations on the release of your debut album Constant Image earlier this year. What was the writing process like for this set of songs?

Thanks! We wrote almost every song on the record in the month leading up to our time in the studio. Out of the whole record we had only played one song (“Skim Milk”) live before going into recording.

How was it working with Nicolas Vernhes as the producer?

Traditionally we've strictly recorded ourselves with the help of our friend and collaborator Owen Wuerker- in Owen's and Daniel's DC studio, Lurch. We've never seen recording as a matter of transcription or a production of representation. Recording for us has always been approached as a process of writing and a production of new ideas. When searching for another engineer to collaborate with, we wanted someone whose records sounded like they appreciated a similar approach. We also wanted someone who was conveniently located (somewhere on the east coast). Out of a list of a handful of engineers Nicolas' records stood out to us. At once, his body of work is so eclectic in style and yet there's an attention to form across all of them that sounds as if the techniques of engineering and production are foregrounded in the songs themselves. We don't want to just make unique songs, we want to make unique sounding records and Nicolas was instrumental in helping us do that with Constant Image.

You definitely have a versatile sound that blends different genres together, so who and what are some of your influences from a writing standpoint, and who inspires you as a performer?

Some touchstones for the writing of a Constant Image were My Bloody Valentine, The B52s, Juana Molina, Broadcast, Stereolab, and Blood Orange. Some of the most inspiring live shows I saw this year were by US Girls, The Breeders, The Funs, and Beach House. Beach House do an amazing job of getting a huge sound with just 3 musicians on stage (with the help of their FOH engineer and samples, of course). Figuring out a creative way to introduce some of those elements into our live set on a much smaller scale is a goal moving forward.

Although your first release as Flasher was only in 2016, you all had known each other and been into music since you were teenagers. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about each other since you started playing music together?

It’s been a steep learning curve of trying how to be more sensitive with one another. Feeling safe and understood by each other can feel like a moving target, but communication and checking in with one another is key.

When it comes to the band’s visuals and your music videos, how hands-on are you all with the concepts? Specifically with the “Material” video that came out earlier in November, who came up with the YouTube parody/videos-inside-videos idea, and what was the experience like filming all the different clips used in it?

So far, Taylor has handled most of the artwork and design for the records, t-shirts, and posters. Music videos have been much more collaborative and often begin with a director submitting a treatment and then workshopping it with us. For the Material video, the entire concept came from the mind of the director, Nick Roney. Filming it was intense but really fun and well organized. It was shot over two 14 hours days in LA, which began the morning after we had driven from DC to LA in 4 days. When Nick first submitted the treatment we were all like, “This is brilliant but I don’t know how the fuck we’re going to pull it off,” but we decided to go for it anyway. Nick was super organized, had a strong concept and vision, and had a great team of people working with him, so things went surprisingly smoothly.

What were some of your favorite moments or highlights of your November European tour?

In terms of the shows we played, Glasgow and Paris were standouts. We had days off in both Hamburg and Amsterdam and it was such a treat to have extra time to explore those cities. In a dream world we’d have a day off in every town.

Do you have anything special in store for your last few shows on the year?

Why yes, I’m glad you asked! From December 1st - 7th we will be touring the east coast and Midwest with two incredible bands, Public Practice from New York and Gong Gong Gong from Beijing. In honor of this super tour we will be selling a tour-exclusive 3-way flexi split featuring a previously unreleased track from each group.

What are some of the best things about the DC music scene, and who are some local bands you’d recommend?

Growing up in DC we really took for granted having access to all ages shows all the time. It was much easier for us to get involved in the music scene at a young age because of the all ages culture in DC, and it’s a huge bummer that it isn’t the standard everywhere. There is a ton of exciting music coming out of DC. It’s hard to narrow it down but just to name a few: Clear Channel (new project of Mary from Downtown Boys, Carson from Merchandise, and Ahmad from Vasillus), Knife Wife, Mock Identity, Bad Moves, Des Desmonas, and - *shameless plug* - everything on Sister Polygon, a label Taylor runs with his former bandmates in Priests.

What are your goals for 2019?

Write more music , make more art, spend more time with friends and family.

Grab your tickets to see Flasher at The Hideout on December 4th here and keep up with them on Facebook + Instagram

A Chat With: Mallrat

Australian singer, songwriter and producer Grace Shaw has been making music under her moniker Mallrat since 2015, releasing her first EP, Uninvited, in 2016. Inspired by an eclectic range of rap, pop, and indie music, Mallrat shares her honest and clever narratives over refreshingly diverse beats and melodies. Since her first release, Shaw has gone on to collaborate with one of her biggest influences on 2018’s In The Sky EP and tour the world.

At the end of October, Mallrat played Chicago for the first time during a support tour with Maggie Rogers, and she took some time to chat with us before her set. Tune into the conversation below to hear about what first inspired Shaw to start writing, who she’d like to mentor her in freestyle rap, her tips for eating vegan on tour, and what she’s planning to conquer next in her career.

Photo Courtesy of Mallrat

Photo Courtesy of Mallrat

What was your first musical memory, either as a fan or wanting to play music yourself?

The first time I was like maybe I can do this was at a concert for a guy called Allday. So that was the most important one.

What was your first memory as a music fan?

I’ve always loved music. When I started listening to my own music, and got my first CDs, they were like Lana Del Rey and Florence and the Machine. And Azealia Banks!

Awesome! Speaking of Allday, when I was doing my research I saw that you said you were inspired to start writing after seeing him in concert, so how did that feel to be inspired by him and then end up collaborating with him on your second EP?

It was cool! It wasn’t maybe as sudden as it seems, because we became friends and toured with each other. He’s literally my best friend. I’m so protective of lyrics— [the sound of Mallrat’s Tamagotchi cuts her off] That’s my Tamagotchi, I’m sorry! I just got it today.

Nice! Where did you find it?

Just at a comic book Store! I saw it in the window and I was like everyone stop! We have to go in here. I forgot what I was saying…

Oh you mentioned touring with Allday and how you are protective of your lyrics…

Oh yeah, but cause we’re so similar and he’s my best friend, he’s kind of the only person that I feel like I can trust to speak on one of my songs.

Cool, and then you just had your second EP out this year, so what else do you have planned as far as new music goes?

I’ve got another EP almost finished, but I don’t know when that will come out.

Nice, so we can expect another EP instead of a full length?

I’ll probably do an album after that.

Do you have any teasers you can give or any new sounds you’re exploring?

Every song sounds very different to all the others.

Are there any themes you’ve noticed between the songs?

Not themes really...I just do a song. I don’t think like ‘this is gonna be part of a concept album.’ I want to make this song sound like the best version of that song, and then I’ll make another song that sounds like the best version of that song, and then another song that’s the best version of that song.

Cool, so your writing is more of TV show with episodes instead a movie?


I also love how a lot of your songs already have such a different sound from one another, where you fit in with the indie pop world, but then you also have that cadence and influence from rap music. So who are some of your favorite artists of the moment that have a unique sound as well?

So many! Like Kanye and A$AP Rocky...and Lana and Florence still. Billie Eilish. She’s so good! I love her new song “When The Party’s Over.” I like this producer called Sophie, who’s like— I was describing it to someone earlier and I said it’s like electronic music from 50 years in the future. It’s really cool and I like my friend’s band Cub Sport. The Jungle Giants. I love Ariana Grande and Charli XCX.

Nice, that’s a good mix of different genres. So as a fan of rap music, if you could pick one person to face off in a rap battle, who would you pick?

I don’t think I’m a rapper. I wouldn’t want to challenge anyone. I love rap, but I don’t think I’m a rapper. Some people are amazing freestylers. I’ve never tried it. Maybe I should try it..

Who would you want to teach you or mentor you? Kanye?

You know, Kanye is my favorite artist. But I don’t think he’s got the best bars. Probably, like…I love Lil Wayne’s style. I don’t know if he freestyles. But you know he never writes down any of his lyrics. He doesn’t want someone to take them. So he memorizes even when he’s recording. So maybe him!

Nice! So being over here in the states, what would you say are some of the biggest culture shocks, both as a musician with the different audiences, and then just generally? Any crazy food or anything you’ve experienced?

Nothing has been shocking, but I always get weirded out at the gas stations. Like all the different snacks, all the meats that are in the fridge just gross me out. Everything has been pretty chill or normal. Even when we were in Texas, I didn’t see anyone carrying a gun around.

Yeah, none of the Texas stereotypes actually happened?

Yeah I kind of expected to see that. It was definitely a lot of people wearing stereotypical things like camo and trucker hats.

Any cities that have stood out as favorites?

There haven’t been whole cities, it’s been more like different things that we’ve done that I loved. When we were in Phoenix we went to The Butterfly House. That was my favorite thing, like this big green house filled with butterflies. Chicago, so far I’ve loved! We’ve only been here a few hours but I got a Tamagotchi, had a vegan Chicago style deep dish pizza.

Oh did you got to Kitchen 17?

Yeah we did!

Oh yeah I’m vegetarian and I love that place. There’s another place called Kal'ish that’s not far from here, and they have really good vegan food.

That sounds sick! Thank you for the tip! Just like things like that, food usually is what sticks with me. I remember the other day we had really yummy bagels…

What are some of your tips for eating vegan while on tour?

Get Happy Cow. It’s an app that shows you vegan places nearby. The only time it’s annoying is like when you’re doing long road trips, there isn’t much stuff at gas stations. You can go to Chipotle or Subway or you can just get corn chips. I don’t eat much in the car and just have a delicious meal when you get to the city. Happy Cow is the bomb!

You already kind of mentioned this about collaborating, and you said All Day was one of the only people you’d let touch your music…but in the future, who else would you love to work with?

Well I really want to write and produce for other artists. So like Kanye is my number one. And also I’d love to write some really cool pop stuff for like Dua Lipa or Camila Cabello or Little Mix. Or produce something for A$AP Rocky. Stuff like that!

How do you feel about Kanye’s rants recently?

I feel like I always want to say something and then I check Twitter and I’ve missed all this new stuff. The last interview we were talking about Kanye and she said you know about half hour ago he tweeted and said he’s not doing political stuff anymore, and I had no idea.

Yeah I can’t keep up with him.

So it changes so quickly, but my biggest thought and feeling from all of this is just headlines, just clickbait headlines. People don’t actually watch the whole interviews. That’s my biggest thing, cause he actually hasn’t said that much outrageous stuff. He’s said a few things, but he’s made some really good points. Like Trump is the president whether or not you like it, so he’s said why don’t we try working with that instead of against it. I’m not a Trump supporter at all, but nobody thought that he would win because the media only presented what they wanted people to see. Like, this is crazy, but that’s why he did win. Because the media is not realistic.

Yeah, especially in a city like here we’re in such a bubble! Sorry to get all political on you.

Oh that’s ok. I’m no expert, but I just hate seeing Kanye taken out of context. I definitely don’t agree with everything he’s said either. I’m mostly…70% support.

Nice, anything else you want to touch on? I know you mentioned the new EP and you’re finishing up this tour with Maggie Rogers, but anything else you’re looking forward to this year?

I’m just trying to be a better producer as well as songwriter. So just practicing that a lot and being in LA a lot. I miss my dog!

What would your advice be for someone trying to produce their own music and having to critique your own work from that producer standpoint?

I’m still very new to it. I’ve only finished one song so that’s a good point. It’s hard, for me, to finish things, especially when I’m trying to do it all. But it’s also more rewarding when you finish it. And there aren’t enough girls as producers so I was like why am I just sitting here being annoyed about it? Why don’t I just start calling myself a producer? That’s the biggest trick! If you want to be a producer, just say you’re a producer.

Right, fake it til you make it!

With anything, if you want to be a singer, just say you’re a singer. If you want to be a journalist, just say you’re a journalist. You don’t have the job yet, you just have to create that reality.

Grab tickets to see Mallrat at The Bottom Lounge on January 26th here, and keep up with her on Instagram + Facebook

A Chat With: Caroline Rose

With her monochrome outfits, quirky stage props, and straightforward stage banter, it’s impossible to forget a Caroline Rose show. Rose’s latest album Loner, released in February of this year via New West Records, creates its own little world in which Rose feeds listeners pop hooks and personal stories in an outlandish fashion. With this record, Rose establishes herself as an all around artist, not just another singer songwriter. It’s this passion, vision, and authenticity that has continued to catch the ears and eyes of music fans and led Rose to be on the road touring for the majority of this year. From playing multiple showcases a day back at SXSW in March to headline runs and support stints for Maggie Rogers and Rainbow Kitten Surprise, it’s been a whirlwind of a year for Caroline Rose.

Now, Rose is in the midst of another headlining national tour, and she’s stopping in Chicago tonight, November 8th, with And The Kids. Ahead of the show, she took some time to chat with me about finding her sound for Loner, her favorite movie directors, Kanye West’s mental breakdown, writing songs for Lana Del Rey and more. Turn on the record, tune into the full conversation with Caroline Rose below, and get to the gig tonight!

Photo Credit: CJ Harvey

Photo Credit: CJ Harvey

What do you remember as your first musical memory?

Oh that’s a good question! Well…ok yeah yeah yeah here’s a good one. When I was four or five, my funcle Randy, my fake uncle, he brought me a little acoustic guitar, and I remember jamming with him. He was playing piano and I was playing guitar to Dave Brubeck Quartet “Take Five” and that’s still one of my favorite songs. Of all time.

That’s awesome! So fast forwarding from that, you’ve since put out a few records, most recently Loner, in February of this year. I just love how straightforward and fearless you are on this album with satirical lyrics. I’ve seen you live too and when you talk about the songs, you just say it how it is. So what were some challenges you’ve faced with being so transparent and fearless with your writing? And then on the flip side, what do you find rewarding about not holding back at all and being honest?

I think being personal in music is something I’m trying to push even more. A lot of times I’ll use personification or blend stories together to make something new, but I’m always inspired by other artists who are even more personal in their music. It’s definitely something I’m continuing to push further. But I do think that the more personal the music is, the easier it is to relate to it, so that’s something that I find rewarding. When I’m listening to other artists, it’s the first thing that I gravitate towards, if someone’s being really open and upfront about what they’re trying to say. And at times being vulnerable. I think there’s a line to be drawn with being vulnerable, especially as a female songwriter. I think there’s a lot of stereotypes about female songwriters with guitars that are using their songs as a diary. It’s a stereotype I’m trying to break down a bit.

I definitely think you do a good job at keeping it fun and not sounding like it’s just another singer songwriter. You put a different spin on it. I’m sure that you find people voice their appreciation more when you’re honest in your songs.

Yeah and I think the more honest you can be, it pays off in the end. So it seems scary at first, but it does kind of pay off. It’s like if you’re being honest about who you are as a person even if you’re afraid of opening up, I think once you do it, you quickly realize that more people are gravitating towards it.

So I’m sure you’re somewhat sick of this kind of question, but there was a shift in your sound between your past albums and Loner. What growth did you see personally or what experiences did you have that helped you explore a different sound?

Well you’re right, I am sick of this question, but I also see why it’s important to bring it up. I think the first thing is five years passed between me making that album and this one, which is a long time. I was 21 when I made that last one, and it’s just been a long time. I think over the course of those years, I have just grown musically and my tastes have changed. I’ve kind of become more honest with myself, with what I want and what makes me happy. I think that kind of takes some time to figure out what you want and for me personally when I first started I really just wanted to write songs for other people. And be free and not be so much in the limelight. I just wanted to write a good song. Period. And I think once I started in that realm I realized that’s definitely not all I want to do. I have this boundless creative energy sometimes. I think that would be really limiting to me to just do that. It’s more challenging to me--I’ve realized over the year it’s way more challenging and I enjoy the challenge of creating my own world. Rather than creating a song, you can you know create the visuals and try to do something new. Instead of just trying something good. It’s just more interesting to me to maybe push the boundaries a little more. It’s definitely something I’m gonna do on the next record. I’m not gonna let that much time pass again, and a lot of that was really out of my control. I just hit a lot of roadblocks trying to get this album out. There’s a lot of material that never even came out because of label issues and switching my management and all the stuff that people don’t really know, or care about.

Yeah, all that behind the scenes stuff. I also read that for Loner, you met with a lot of different producers before ultimately deciding to co-produce it. What was the experience like producing your own work?

When I first started I had just signed with a new label and I wanted to get in the studio immediately and I had a short list of producers that I really wanted to work with. I was just gonna let them do it because at that point, I had all these songs but I didn’t really have the direction that I wanted to go in. Then I had all these kind of setbacks with producers and there was just so many setbacks and failed opportunities and not quite getting the songs right, or the label not liking what we did. Eventually a year passed and cause it takes so much time to schedule everything—it just takes months and months to schedule stuff—and by the end of the year I had really developed what I wanted to do, like a voice and narrative and the kind of direction I wanted to take it in. I’d gotten a lot better at using software and I was pretty well versed in Pro Tools so I was just teaching myself different formats to write and create string arrangements and all this stuff. By the time I found another producer, I was pretty much already producing a lot of it myself and all I really needed was help with a very specific set of things. That ended up being very useful to me because now I feel like I can do all that stuff that I once didn’t have as much confidence in. But now I’m pretty solid on all of those voids I’d had starting this record.

Circling back to your creative vision, you wear a monochrome wardrobe and your stage set up isn’t just you on a stage; You have that cat on your keyboard, you’ve had piñatas and flowers everywhere…Is there anybody that you found inspiring when you were trying to come up with your vision, or anyone else you think does visuals really well as an artist?

Oh yeah! I think most of the aesthetic is inspired by films, and I have a handful of directors that I’m obsessed with. Pedro Almodóvar is probably one of my favorite directors ever. And I’m inspired by his writing as well and you can kind of sense a lot of it in my own writing because there’s an element of whimsy in it, but all of his films are really serious. It’s very serious stories that are 9 times out of 10 really violent or there’s some sort of trauma that is experienced by the characters. But it’s also filled with these really bright, fun colors and the characters are very quirky and whimsical but they have a dark side to them, and I am hugely influenced by stuff like that. And David Lynch and a lot of the Coen brothers using drama and comedy, blending drama and comedy.

Yeah like that sense of dark humor.

Yeah, sometimes even blending horror with comedy. I love horror movies, like B horror movies that are one second terrifying and the next second they’re hilarious. I’m really inspired by stuff like that. I think you can tell when you go to see the show, especially our headlining show where we can decorate the stage however we want and I like that there’s kind of like a seedy porno vibe to it, but it’s also fun. I want people to walk away feeling like they experienced something special and you know blending that drama with whimsy is important I think.

Yeah totally, and I actually planned on bringing up David Lynch if you didn’t because I saw another interview when you talked about him and Wes Anderson specifically. Going off of that, what are some of your favorite films from either of those directors or other ones you’ve mentioned?

Well I think one of my favorite Almodóvar films, it translates as The Skin I Live In, and there’s another really great one called Bad Education. Volver is another one that people are probably familiar with. All of those include some sort of just like bizarre story line, just completely bizarre. The Skin I Live In is probably my favorite because it is just grotesque and completely unique, but the story is about this plastic surgeon whose daughter is allegedly raped by this boy. And he gets back at the boy by kidnapping him--this is like an insane story, but by kidnapping him and surgically altering him so he looks like his deceased wife. So the boy transforms into this plastic surgeon’s dead wife, and it turns out he didn’t actually do anything to the surgeon’s daughter. So it’s all this crazy fucking story, it’s an insane story, and it’s obviously really serious, but it’s whimsical. It’s so bizarre, so unique. So is David Lynch…Blue Velvet or Mulholland Drive. It’s like these really serious horror stories, but then there’s always this goofy character that comes out of nowhere for no apparent reason and is like wearing a cowboy hat in a casino. I think Tom Waits is a big influence too for that same kind of reason.

Yeah, just throwing in absurd references in a very serious plot line. I can see that connection for sure. Is there anything recent, like any new films or anything else as of late that’s inspired some new material?

Yeah! I’m really inspired by Kanye West’s mental breakdown in the public eye. It’s extremely inspiring.

Well I’ll be on the look out for the song or songs about that.

I’m also inspired by Britney Spears’ mental breakdown.

You should do like a parallel between the two!

I should! That’s a good idea.

Well I’d love to see what you’d do with it. So talking the headline tour, you mentioned you’ll have more control of the stage. Past times I’ve seen you, you’ve had a piñata and you’ve busted out a recorder to play some tunes. What kind of shenanigans can audiences expect this time around?

We’re gonna be playing some new songs! I may or may not have a new instrument on my pedal board next to my recorder. I actually broke my recorder yesterday so I have a new one.

Oh good, I was gonna say we’d have to bring one to you if not! So a little while back I interviewed Naked Giants and they were saying it’d be fun to start a New West Records super group with you and Ron Gallo…Besides your label mates, is there anyone you’d love to form a collaborative group with?

Oh man! Well besides Lana Del Rey or can I say Lana Del Rey?

You can say Lana!

I’m obsessed with her. I think she’s a genius.

Nice! Anyone else? Let’s say you had to pick at least two people for your hypothetical super group…

I can’t say that. Ok, I just wanna write a song for Lana Del Rey. I actually have written songs for her, but she hasn’t heard them yet. I haven’t sent them to anyone.

But they’re ready and waiting?

They’re ready! They’re pretty good though. So I might use them, but I would love to write a song for her one day. Supergroup though...that’s hard to say! That’s like putting myself on the same level as a lot of the people I admire.

Oh yeah, well don’t even think about it like that, it can be your dream collaboration!

I would say definitely Mitski and St. Vincent.

Oh, that would be amazing.

They really create their own little universe when you see them live, it’s very uniquely their thing.

Very true! So just wrapping up, anything else you’d like to share about the tour coming up or anything else you have planned for the rest of the year?

If there are people who have seen us--we’re just finishing up an opening tour this month--I guess I’d say if anybody hasn’t seen our headlining set, it’s a different experience. We add a lot to it. I’d encourage people to come to the headlining show if they haven’t seen it yet.

There you have it! Keep up with Caroline Rose on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram and snag tickets to the show at Lincoln Hall tonight here.

A Chat With: Madeline Kenney

Nowadays, with all of the behind the scenes work and promotion leading up to an album release, it’s become more and more rare for an artist to release a record two years in a row. But for singer songwriter Madeline Kenney, the feat of releasing her sophomore album just one year after her debut falls into place among an array of creative interests and achievements. Besides touring her first record, Night Night at the First Landing, and sharing stages with the likes of Wye Oak, Soccer Mommy, and Jay Som, Kenney also managed to run her own record label while writing Perfect Shapes and recording it with a new collaborator and producer, Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak.

Full of complexity on both a lyrical and sonic level, Perfect Shapes takes listeners on a comprehensive journey while weaving together layered and experimental sounds. It’s an album that showcases the creative triumph that can stem from stepping out of your comfort zone and challenging boundaries. When you hear more about Kenney’s background, like the fact that she studied dance and choreography for years before moving on to study Neuroscience in college, it’s no surprise that her songwriting and composition remain so intricate and thoughtful. Kenney’s unique range of passions blend together to form a multifaceted and diverse outcome on this record.

Shortly after the release of Perfect Shapes, Kenney took some time to speak with me on the phone as she prepared for her current headlining tour. “I’m in Austin and I just got real danky dank tacos,” she tells me at the start of our conversation. Although we joked about keeping the interview solely about tacos (“Talking Tacos with Madeline Kenney” does have a nice ring to it…), we spent the next half hour discussing her background, her different creative endeavors, how she manages her time, and what we can all do to make concerts a more diverse and safe space for everyone. Turn on Perfect Shapes, tune into the full conversation with Madeline Kenney below, and then come see her perform the new songs at Schubas Tavern this Friday, November 9th.

Photo By Cara Robbins

Photo By Cara Robbins

Your sophomore album Perfect Shapes just came out last Friday, so it’s been about a week now. How are you feeling at this point and what have been some of your favorite responses?

Oh boy, you know it feels good to have it out. It feels good that the wait is over. There’s a lot of fear and anticipation associated with an album rollout...Singles start to come out and you’re like oh god, is everyone gonna hate this? But yeah it’s been good. Favorite response is a strange question maybe because press responses are just so nerve-wracking. Pitchfork reviewed it. That’s fine, that’s cool. As any sort of fearful musician I sort of hate them a little bit. They’ve reviewed my friends’ records badly. Like leave my friends alone!

Yeah it’s like hey, if you don’t like it, just leave it alone!

If you don’t have anything nice to say...But no, I think my favorite response is it’s really nice to get texts from musicians and friends of mine, who I really respect their opinions. For somebody to just be like I listened to your record and the sounds are great, or the drums sound great…

Totally, a fellow musician telling you means the most?

Yeah, people who have done work that I really admire...I’m just like oh man. That’s been nice. Mostly I’m just like ok what’s next?

So for the album you worked with Jenn Wasner from Wye Oak. How was that experience working with Jenn and how did that feel to work with someone new as a producer, compared to your last record?

It was great! She’s an angel upon this earth. Just a boundlessly creative person. We were both trying a lot of new things. She’d never produced someone’s album that wasn’t her own and that she wasn’t a part of, like Flock of Dimes or Wye Oak. So there was a lot of experimentation, there was a lot of mistakes. Not a lot, but some. But we were all learning together and I think it was a really forgiving environment. It was-- we were very free to experiment and try new things. Just working with somebody different you know? I didn’t stop working with Chaz [Bundick] because I hate Chaz it’s just--

New ears?

Yeah, new ears! Exactly. We made this thing that was great, and what would happen if I made a thing with someone else, what would it sound like? And it sounds like Perfect Shapes.

Do you think you’ll continue then in the future to try other producers and partner with other musicians to keep the sound fresh and in a new perspective for each album?

I think that I’m ready now to produce my own. I think I needed to work with a woman and I needed to work in the space that we worked in to realize hey, maybe I can do this! I mean, I would work with Jenn any day again, of course. But I think it’s important for whatever I do next to maybe trust myself a little more. I just learned from this experience that I think I do know what I like. Yeah again, some really sweet people reached out after hearing the record and just made me feel like maybe my intuition can be trusted. I think that’s a skill to learn that about yourself.

Yeah sounds like this was overall a positive learning experience! Which is awesome, not everyone can say that! So you actually recorded in Durham, North Carolina right? Were you writing in North Carolina as well?

No, all of the songs, I wrote in Oakland. I wrote most of them like right after or during the roll out of Night, Night. The record came out in September of last year and then I was on tour in that month and I ended up sending demos to Jenn in December. Then I recorded them in January.

Nice, so no time off?

No time off! Why have time off when you could be making things? No, time off is actually important. Don’t learn from my workaholic tendencies please.

Do you think that the vibe of recording those songs in the new surroundings of Durham affected you when you were making the album?

Yeah for sure! We were out in the woods in this house that was converted into a studio by Sylvan Esso. I was like recording guitar tracks and looking outside at cardinals, which I’d never seen before. I’m a west coast girl so I was like wow cardinals! Oh my god! And yeah I think that the space that we were recording in made it into a little softer feeling, even though there’s some like distorted guitar, louder drums, I think the general vibe is you can kind of feel that it’s not made in a regular studio or my apartment in Oakland.

Yeah, it’s very layered and you can feel the thought and intention behind it, like it wasn’t recorded in someone’s bedroom.

Yeah and it also doesn’t sound like a studio which is strange. Which is another thing I’m interested in. I made a record in my bedroom. I made a record in a house studio, and now I’m kind of interested what would it sound like in a real studio.

Yeah to just keep experimenting?

Yeah I think that’s so important. It’s important to grow and learn.

So as far as taking this into the live show, has it been difficult to translate what you recorded on the album? Have you had to get creative with certain arrangements?

Heck yeah! It’s been super hard! I was like what did I do to myself? All these new sounds! I’m used to just having a regular band with two guitars, bass and drums. So we had to get kind of creative, but I’m excited. It’s really fun you know translating things onto different instruments. We’re using a lot of samples. Camille plays drums and does the samples, she’s just a multitalented force of mature. Her bandmate--they have a band in Austin called Dead Recipe which is incredible and you should listen to their music--

Oh I haven’t heard of them, but I will check them out!

Yeah, I run a very tiny label and we put out their EP. I say we, but I don’t have a staff, it’s just me.

That’s how I am with ANCHR so I can relate!

But yeah, Kyle and Camille are my rhythm section but they also multitask and do a lot more. There’s a guitar part on one of the songs that Kyle has translated onto bass and he does it with an effect that sounds cool and wacky. Mostly it’s just gonna be really fun. I’m very well aware that the record doesn’t have like one cohesive style. There’s a couple songs that are out there and different and that’s fine. It makes for a really fun set to play!

Totally, if you wanted to just hear the record, you wouldn’t go to the show. It’ll be fun to see how you come up with it and how it comes out on stage. So kind of switching gears, I read that you grew up dancing and you thought you were more geared towards doing choreography in your future. When did you decide to focus more on music? Was there a certain moment that it clicked?

Not really. You know, the dance world is kind of messed up. I was gonna go to college for choreography. I had applied to Columbia College-

In Chicago? That’s where I went!

Oh really?

I went for music business though.

I remember seeing one of their performances and I was like man, I would really like to do that. I applied and everything and I just realized I love eating a lot...And I don’t think all dance culture is that toxic, but a lot of it is. A lot of academic dance when you have to do crazy amounts of ballet, that’s a body negative environment. So I just realized that world wasn’t for me. It’s still something I’m interested in.  When I decided not to go to college for it, and I went to college for neuroscience, I was teaching classes at the college. Teaching modern dance. I’m still really interested in choreography and I try to incorporate it into music videos, but yeah it just wasn’t for me.

Yeah I was going to ask then when you’re songwriting, do you think you pull in your dancing-- like picturing yourself dancing to the melody you come up with?

Probably not. I think with anything, like when you’re writing if I can use you as an example. Like whatever your experiences and education or whatever you’re interested in in the moment or even what you’re reading or listening to, it’s such a subconscious amount of influence.

Yeah, like you don’t even realize it.

Yeah, so I think that--I get questions sometimes about neuroscience and I’m a baker too, so people are like do you think about bread when you’re writing? And I’m like well no, unless I’m hungry. But maybe in a way! I spend a lot of time doing really repetitive motions to make this one thing, so subconsciously I think that definitely contributes to how I think about music.

Like all of your different creative passions fuel into it?

Yeah if you can allow me to be a nerd for a second...I did study neuroscience. Neuroplasticity is like the most amazing concept; it’s the concept that thoughts physically change the layout of your brain, they really do. They can strengthen some connections and weaken others, so just the science behind Neuroplasticity that whatever you’re interested in or doing at the current moment is kind of changing your brain, so it’s changing you. So in that way, in that molecular way, it affects how I write!

Oh wow this is the most informational interview I’ve ever had. I didn’t even know about the label that you run when you’re not busy with your music and I didn’t know you studied neuroscience, so I’m just learning all kinds of things.

You know, I’ve got problems. I think I’m diagnosed ADD. It’s fine though!

So with the label then, what kind of artists are you looking for to help do a release?

I just helped this band--they’re kind of out of The Bay, kind of out of Japan. One of them lives in Japan and one of them lives in The Bay. They’re called Curling. My record label’s called Copper Mouth Records, you can go look it up if you want to. That record that they made is really good. Really amazing sounds, they are very dedicated to this idea of recording and mixing in mono to tape. It’s a very Beatles kind of thing in a way. So we just put out their record in August and what else? What’s next for Copper Mouth Records, I don’t know, but I kind of have a side project that I have yet to unveil at all. I might do something with Copper Mouth with that. I’m trying to get more production work. I’m producing this woman’s record in December and I think I might help her put out just the tape release. I want to work with more just not white dudes. I think I gotta take a little break from that demographic.

Totally! Kind of on that subject, I was going to ask you about, when I was researching you, I read that Billboard feature and one part that really stuck out to me was when you were talking about Perfect Shapes addressing certain expectations that are placed on women. You said that you’re placed on bills with other women who also have bangs and play guitar...simply for that reason that they have bangs and play guitar. I think you totally hit the nail on the head, so what would you like to see from venues and promoters and other music fans in the industry that can help stop those kind of patterns and the promoting mostly white dudes in bands?

Yeah, white dudes or white women... Like I’m part of the problem and I realize that. I think that everyone’s awareness helps and I don’t pretend to have the answer because I have one aspect of oppression, being a woman, but that stops there. So I think that what I would love to see is people getting creative with their bills. Like not being afraid to mix genres. Not being afraid to mix comedy and music. That’s a show that I would love to see. I did that when I played in Durham last year and I met the whole crew that I would be working with. It was a college and they were down to do something kind of weird, so I was like can you book a comedy act, preferably a woman? So they booked this female comedy duo that was totally goofy. It was such a fun night. I think it starts really small, and DIY venues are the answer a lot of the time cause they’re doing things that I think are really meaningful and maybe less commercially accessible but emotionally--

Like they’re able to be more creative, it’s not like a set venue. DIY venues can make their own rules.

Yeah, and I get it, a venue is a business and they need to make a profit. This is my first headlining tour and I’m terrified to play to empty rooms, not really for myself, but to let the promoter down or to let the opening band down. Like there’s so much pressure. But that pressure is absent in DIY venues because the point of those venues is not to make a profit, it’s to create a safe space to consume something important. I really think that thinking small is the key.

I really like your suggestion to either have comedy on the bill, or like you said, don’t be afraid to mix genres because yeah, some people might not or might not think they’re into comedy and they just want to go for music, but that kind of broadens the audience and they have draw from all sides.

Yeah, I would love to see a show that’s like a lady MC and a dude rock band. I listen to so much dude rock, I love it. I’m obsessed with that shit, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like other genres or I think that they don’t influence each other in ways.

It’s cool to collaborate with different genres and have them learn from each other.

Yeah, just like you said, you might not know that you like it a lot. I went to a show in New York, it was Palm’s album release and they had, I wish I could remember her name, I feel kind of like a piece of shit for forgetting it, but she was like this sci-fi rapper. She wore a fake bionic arm and rapped about saving the planet. She was talking about onstage how you don’t often see women of color loving sci-fi, like it’s a very niche interest. She was just breaking all that down and that was before Palm! Which I would not associate with that genre at all, and it was so good. I was really taken aback by that combination.

I think everyone, like audiences too, can play a part in that. Being willing to check somebody out that you might not have gone to their show. Don’t miss the opener. Openers are people too!

Exactly! I love being an opener because there’s no pressure to sell tickets, but I know the pain of people being like, hey, missed your set but I’ll check you on Spotify! Like, sick, dude, that did nothing for me.

Yeah, I promote shows too through ANCHR and I’m actually doing the second anniversary show at Schubas where you’re playing. I totally can relate to the anxiety of selling tickets, like thinking no one will show up because there will be 5 tickets sold in advance. Everyone just wants to buy at the door.

Yeah with clubs this size, that’s what I’m hoping for that people will buy at door. I’m scared!

Yeah don’t worry, Schubas will have a lot of door sales.

I think that’s kind of the MO of clubs that size. So I’m taking a deep breath that people will show up.

I have faith! People will be there. So wrapping up, what are some of your self care tips, which I’m sure you don’t have too much time for with everything you have going on….But how do you stay sane when you’re traveling and now trying to do production for other artists and running a label while promoting your own record? Any tips for time management and not going completely insane with your to do list?

Oh man, yeah…First of all on tour, I have a couple key secrets. Witch Hazel and blotting sheets will save your face. We keep blotting sheets and witch hazel spray in the van so like halfway through a drive we’re like “ok we’re all gross we just have to clean up a little bit.” Baby wipes, you know you gotta keep laying around to keep yourself clean. But also, it’s easy to eat really poorly. So just being aware of that, and drinking water...As far as in general, I have a crazy amount of things that I’m doing, but I think for my personality that helps me stay sane. If I don’t do a bunch of things I start to lose myself a little bit. I have to find a balance cause I have workaholic tendencies and will overwork myself easily. But I think that if you’re balancing a whole bunch of things—Oh there’s this great book called You Are a Circle. It’s about being a creative person and making art. It’s a minimalist book where each page just has one or two sentences. Like little quips, little bits of advice and inspiration. I wish I had it on me and could read it, but if I can recall it, there was this one bit of advice that was like “have three things going for you. One to pay the bills, one that doesn’t pay the bills right now but could in the future, and one that is completely passion based.”  And if can balance these three things you can have a fulfilling life. Like you’re not needing money but you’re also creating and making things that matter to you.

Oh wow that’s great advice!

I hope I got that right! It’s You Are a Circle and then the follow up to that is called You Are a Message, which is about making your creative endeavors a business. It’s not like concrete advice like first make a spreadsheet. It’s like think of your audience and who are you trying to reach. It’s really good!

Keep up with Madeline Kenney on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram and grab tickets to Friday’s show here.

A Chat With: Stuyedeyed

With just one EP under their belt, Brooklyn’s Stuyedeyed has already made their message crystal clear; They’re not just here to make great music, they’re here to do it with intention and a strong sense of conviction. They’re here to use their voices and their platform along with their music to try to bring change to a society littered with systemic issues.

During the band’s Saturday afternoon set at Audiotree Music Festival back in September, they used their time onstage to talk about important issues. “Black lives matter,” lead singer Nelson Hernandez-Espinal addressed the crowd, also asking the audience to look out for each other at the start of their set, making it clear they wouldn’t tolerate anyone violating the safe space of the festival. Their song “Mr. Policeman” from 2017’s Funeral EP details the band’s stance on police brutality and misconduct, and when speaking with the group after their show, they say the brutal honesty in their music won’t be disappearing on their next projects. In their upcoming EP and eventual full length album, Stuyedeyed will continue to address the uncomfortable in order to find growth and change, and they say they aren’t afraid to start introspectively. Tune into our chat with the full band below to hear what else they have to say about using their platform for good, the TV show Sábado Gigante, Ozzfest, and more!

Stuyedeyed is Nelson, Humberto (Bert) Genao, George Ramirez , and Luis Ruelas

Stuyedeyed is Nelson, Humberto (Bert) Genao, George Ramirez , and Luis Ruelas

What were each of your first musical memories?

Nelson: My first musical memory is my cousin came home stoned one day and he was just blasting records, and he played “Whole Lotta Love” followed by “War Pigs.”

Luis: I guess my first musical memory was finding Pantera “Cowboys from Hell” on tape in my garage. It was my brother’s tape. I found a tape player and put it on, and I was like woah, this music! Yeah that was it.

Nelson: It’s all finding everything by accident you know?

George: I grew up with my parents watching this show Sábado Gigante. It was like this television variety show that was going on for a hella long time, hosted by a guy named Don Francisco and they would have like performers sing and do an audition. I was always impressed by the music, but what I loved the most was that for people who didn’t make the cut and got heckled the most, there was a guy named El Chacal, who was this like executioner who played a trumpet and he’d go [imitates horn] and yell “FUERA!” Then a lion would come out from behind the curtain—

Nelson: Out of context this is fucking ridiculous, but you have to go home and watch. Sábado Gigante…Saturday Giant.

Bert: I think my earliest memory of music was me finding a a James Brown tape where he goes and shows us how to dance. There’s a Youtube of it. When I was three, four years old, there’s an embarrassing video of me as a child dancing to James Brown and I just started playing around with drums. Then I picked up the snare as a kid at 8 years old. I never really developed much around that but then I picked up stringed instruments that derived from that genre, like James Brown, Marvin Gaye. I was living in Brazil at the time so like that music was just carrying through. If you think about American media, it has so much output. It has so much influence in other media. The Brazilian media caught on to a lot of the soul, Africana, you know all of that memorabilia. Marvin Gaye, Black Sabbath...etc...hence why you have all these different varieties of music that are parallel. So we were getting the James Brown, Marvin Gay when I was growing up, in a sense that I remember that was my first discovery.

You recently posted about having some days off and working on the new record. How far are you in that process?

Nelson: I think what we’re doing is...we got back from tour and we actually recorded most of our full length LP. What we recorded this past time was just a short EP, four songs. But we got back from a four month run, and we were like man, we’re saying something with like “Funeral” and “Believer,” the shit that we have put out, and then with the LP we’re saying something, so there needed to be something that bridged the gap. So the name for the whole thing is called “Moments of Terribleness” and it’s like, four less-than-two-and-a-half-minute long songs. Like Jesus Lizard kind of chilled out, like one-two-three-four just like a punk band.

Bert: The way that I like to attribute it, is the songs come about in a very unique way. All songs come about differently.

They all have their own journey?

Bert: Yeah, and these songs specifically, Nelson has been formulating, layering dynamic for the songs and themes. The lyrics. The theme essentially. But the way that we all perceive it is very important, and I think that at the end of the day, you know like the moments of terribleness are the things that we need to start hearing nowadays. It’s so easy to do the things that are safe, but it’s so hard to look introspectively. Whether you want it to be or not, we’re in a position where we have a platform now, and we’re gonna speak about it. And the things that need to be talked about. Like you’re in media, you understand how it’s very hard to feel as a woman to have your voice heard. We’re gonna speak about you in a song.

Thanks, guys! I appreciate that!

Bert: We’re gonna speak about moments of terribleness. Like oh fuck, I’m a woman and I have to stand in line now because some dude wants to take pictures. Like no! You need to have that moment of terribleness so that you can understand that all of this, the conversation needs to move forward.

Nelson: The biggest theme in the record I think is pretty much just like we’re all a Latino band. We grew up having been taught sort of “machismo.” Like thematically the record really explores like me tearing myself down. The opening lyrics to one of the songs is “I need to cut off my hair because I need to stop pretending.” Just doing that kind of’s a very introspective punk piece. But we’re just like saying--

Luis: It’s very much so a very raw, minimalistic version of ourselves where we’re trying to express ourselves in a way that this is us, stop being a fucking asshole. We’re all fucking people. We’re all in this together. We just want something to shove in people’s faces and be like yo, stop being an asshole.

Bert: The most important thing is like I said, it’s very hard to look introspectively. So writing these songs and experiencing the music naturally kind of gives you like a mirror to look at yourself. Like there’s a saying that’s like don’t judge unless you’re ready to be judged yourself. So in that sense it’s like writing these songs and saying society is fucking shit, we look at ourselves like oh my gosh, I’ve been shit so many times you know. Deconstruct it. Deconstructing every single thing that has caused pain, and working backwards. Like literally whatever it is that does it, that’s what applies.

Nelson: The songs speak for themselves. Like Bert’s not sitting there on the mic and breaking down these themes, but I mean we like in the most simple form, in 59 seconds of a song, you’re getting that it’s funny but it’s also ok to be wrong. That’s what the whole thing is about. Moments we all have experienced… moments of terribleness. But let’s talk about it, let’s talk about being a dude. Hold yourself accountable and what we’re expected as men. Like what’s expected of women.

I was reading your bio and one sentence that stood out to me was something like finding comfort in the uncomfortable

Nelson: Yeah there’s growth in the uncomfortable.

Yeah, so having to get uncomfortable to shake things up. You already kind of touched on this, but what are some of the challenges of being blunt like that with your writing?

Luis: I think it’s a constant thing of trying to improve yourself every step of the way. Because no matter what you’re never gonna be at a perfect point like ‘I fucking figured everything out.’

Nelson: That’s like to say you can never be wrong.

Luis: It’s something we’re always working on. Like how we were talking about the machismo thing, it’s like we’re all for the most part first generation or as far as how we grew up in that sense of like breaking down that old stereotype. No matter if it’s gender or race or someone being in power….I think this is a great EP for us to put out as far as getting our voice out a little more.

Bert: It’s so simple. As far as it goes, everyone has their own choices. And again the platform runs very deeply. You can choose to do what you wish with your platform but for us it’s very important that we do what we do. As we’re talking right now, we’re smoking a joint. We’re drinking a beer. All of these things are natural to us, but people don’t really see the other side of us or our dynamics. We’re just trying to push our mentality in a way that feels a little more natural. It shouldn’t be… it’s modest. There shouldn’t be like a manual. We’re not born with anything and here we are in society with no context on how to live. Given all of these scenarios that are not necessarily right and there’s these archetypes that we have come to agree with. And it’s not ok, but the best way to do it is like hey you make yourself feel uncomfortable so you can reach a point of truth.

Exactly, so stepping out of your comfort zone, right?

Bert: One of best things is finding that peace within yourself. Like no one can affirm that for you. Like yeah we can sit here and talk about oh yeah society this, society that, but we’re looking for ways to improve ourselves when we bring these conversations up. Nobody has the answers for anything but we’re here like hey look, Mr. Police Man go fuck yourself. But we understand we also do some things wrong. We have to deconstruct. Moments of terribleness are happening everywhere.

So then you have the full length done already you said?

Nelson: Yeah we have to revisit, we just got done recording. Now I think the LP is definitely gonna take a little bit of a different shape. Now the bridge is formed and we’re like ok cool so we can now do all of these other things. Just different avenues.

Luis: I think as far as time wise we’re trying to put this EP out by the end of November, December.

This run of shows is just like an end of Summer stretch for you right?

Nelson: Yeah we’re gonna take time off I think the next couple shows are gonna be like our release or a Halloween show. Then we’ll tour for another three weeks after the release. Probably east of the Mississippi.

How do you stay entertained on the road? Are you podcast people? Or mostly listen to music?

George: We listen to music.

Bert: It kinda shifts each tour. It’s all contextual. Like we did this tour around two festivals. So essentially pretty much we’ve been pretty easy riding this tour. Nobody’s driving, we’re all kind of like hanging back doing the Nelson will be doing the business stuff on the backend . All of us like doing individual things. There are other tours that involve just having fun or buckling back and doing your work. It all kind of comes down to figuring out where you gotta be and how you’re gonna show up. Sometimes it’s cool to get drunk and sometimes it’s cool to do the job.

Nelson: For me it’s music. And writing. Listening to a lot of fucking music.

While we’re at a festival, do you have any best or worst festival memories?

Nelson: I don’t really go to festivals…

Luis: I remember Ozzfest when I was like 14. I got trampled in the mosh pit. No one picked me up.

Bert: The craziest shit that I’ve ever seen at a festival— Do y’all know Rock in Rio? So that’s like 100,000 people festival back in Brazil. But like Brazil doesn’t have a lot of festivals, so obviously like 100,000 people show up… everyone from the country goes. Black Sabbath was playing and my brother Phil snuck me in. There was a whole fucking mosh and Phil was just like yeah it’s about time you learned, you’re 13 and he throws me into the mosh. I’m like 4’11 in a fucking mosh...but after that, I knew what I wanted to do.

Stuyedeyed at Audiotree Music Festival

Stuyedeyed at Audiotree Music Festival

Wrapping this up, anything else you’re working on this year?

Luis: We’re working on a little video series for the EP coming out. They’re so short, the songs, so we made them specifically like bangers. We wanna do like a four video thing.

Nelson: Jonny Kapps….When we did the LP we documented everything, just like gathered some film. He’s the dude. He does good work. Shout out to Jonny Kapps. Great work, great human.

Anything else you want to mention. You had some good wisdom during your set!

Luis: 311. Never forget

George: Black Lives Matter.

Yeah, I loved that you said that in the beginning of your set and said to look out for each other.

Bert: There’s a lot of dumb things going on. Just read a little, listen a little bit, hug each other. You know. These bros right here put in hard work for the things that are right. Ain’t nobody trying to do things in the way that it’s perfect. It’s just you gotta reach for excellence. Nobody’s perfect but you can reach excellence for sure.

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A Chat With: CYN

Singer songwriter CYN may not even have her debut EP out just yet, but with a handful of her first singles each reaching over 1 Million Spotify streams and a slot supporting Years & Years on their North American tour, she’s already got a lot of eager listeners and supporters hanging on for her next release of new music. Not to mention, among those supporters stands pop superstar Katy Perry, who signed CYN to her label Unsub Records. When you listen to CYN’s ethereal vocals and her catchy melodies, it’s easy to understand exactly why she’s garnered so much positive buzz early on.

Now based in LA, CYN grew up in Michigan before moving to Chicago to attend DePaul University, so when I met up with her ahead a sold out show at The Vic Theatre with Years & Years, she was getting ready to perform to a room that held some of her best friends and family members. During our chat, CYN talks about her full circle moment performing at The Vic, what she reads while on tour, what kind of direction she’s taking on her new music, and more. Tune in below!

Photo courtesy of CYN/ High Rise PR

Photo courtesy of CYN/ High Rise PR

What was your first musical memory?

I remember listening to Jewel on the radio. I was so young...I think her first album came out in 1995 and I was born in ‘93. So I must have been tiny, who knows! But I just remember singing [sings] Dreams last for so long… “You Were Meant For Me.” Sometimes I just have to sing it to remember the name of the song. And when I heard that, my parents were going through a divorce at the time so for whatever reason I always thought I was feeling emotions or going through something emotionally that was too much as a child, just because you know, not everyone handles those types of things in the most mature way. I think that I was kind of in some situations with certain adults, I was in situations that were too emotionally stimulating for a baby, I think. So I was basically feeling the heartbreak of my parents as a child.

Oh wow so you just had that sensitivity back then?

Exactly, but then back to the music, it was almost like Jewel was speaking about this heartbreak that I didn’t have the the words to speak about. So just listening to her, I just understood my feelings and my heartbreak over my parents’ divorce because she did it perfectly. And because I was better able to understand my own personal experience through music, I always from that point forward used it as a point of therapy and used it as way of getting through things.

Yeah and it’s cool how you can take a song and pinpoint it to a certain time in your life when you look back at it.

Exactly! I also think that people can aspire to be like songs. Like whereas we’re using songs in the present you can also think like...For example, Alicia Keys “If I Ain’t Got You.” That song I’m like oh my, oh my god, I want to have a love that incredible!

Like vision boarding but with a song?

Yeah! To me, that song is the epitome of knowing that you love someone. So I think you can like strive to be like songs too.

So you’re a Midwestern girl, growing up in Michigan and then you went to DePaul right?


So this is sort of like a homecoming show in a way!

Yeah, it is.

What are some of your favorite spots in Chicago then, like to see live music, to buy music, to shop, to eat, etc…?

It’s been some time since I’ve been here and I had all of my go to spots--

Oh yeah I’m sure there’s so many new places now.

Yeah a lot has changed! I’ve been gone for 2 years. I used to love to go to Wicker Park...what is that one venue there?

The Subterranean?

SubT. Yeah! That was awesome. I loved that venue. I just loved hanging out in Wicker Park in general. When I first came here from Michigan, I was really intrigued by like Lincoln Park and Lakeview, all of the basic girl stuff. Then you’re like ooh, I’m cool in Logan Square, like I know where I can get some local beer. But yeah Wicker Park, Logan Square. I was such a huge Chicago advocate when I first came to LA. I was like what am I doing here? It was not easy to adjust.

Anything special you’re planning for the show or is it mostly that you’ll just have your friends and some family here?

It’s more so just a feeling. I don’t have anything special planned for only Chicago. I will talk about how I came here [The Vic] as a fan and I saw Sam Smith and Kiesza.

Oh no way I was here!

You saw that show? I was here too! I was just like damn, I can do that.

That’s so cool you came here when Sam Smith was playing and now you’ll be on the stage yourself!

Yeah I was really like, I thought I could be like Kiesza. And now I’m at the point where I’m touring with Years & Years and I’m like I can be like them. I don’t always have to be the opener. I have a few hurdles to overcome first though.

So I really love the newest single “I’ll Still Have Me.” I love how it’s different from your usual dancey, bass heavy kind of sound. Is that kind of a sneak peek at what your debut is going to be or how are you approaching that EP?

So the producer who I wrote “I’ll Still Have Me” with, he is executive producing that whole EP. So just the emotion and the character in that song...even though I’m sad in “I’ll Still Have Me” it doesn’t really make an appearance in the EP because I’m in a happier place at the moment. It’s definitely like that richness in character and when you listen to it you can feel what I was feeling. There are moments on the EP where you can feel what I was feeling, in another light. But it’s all guitar driven. More alternative but still very pop.

Very true to your roots?

Yeah. Still “consumable”. Even though that’s not the most sexy word to use when you’re talking about your own music.

Yeah but you still gotta consider that and take care of the business side.

Exactly. It’s really a struggle finding that balance. And being aware of it. But I’m so excited about the EP. I feel like my truest version of myself so far, and I’m not paying too much attention to trends.

Nice, you’re doing you!

Yeah, I’m not like, this is what all the pop girls are doing. When we’re like putting a snap, I’m like maybe we shouldn’t. There’s so many out there! I’m really just trying to pave my own individual path

Ah well I think you already are! So the video for that song [‘I’ll Still Have Me”], how did that come together? Were you involved in the process of choosing it or did the director come to you with a story line?

Basically, to give you the most honest version of how that went...It started with me. We wrote a couple of treatments, which is when we write down all of the lyrics, we write down what we imagine happening during certain lyrics. I wrote one--actually I wrote a couple. My manager wrote one. We reached out to a few directors. We had a few come in...but we ended up going with my A&R’s idea for the video. She came up with interviewing elderly people.

Yeah they were all so cute!

It was really special because it was their version-- we didn’t script it. They came in, did their thing. They’re literally wearing the clothes they walked in wearing. We didn’t put any make up on them. It was a very authentic thing to match what I think is a very authentic song. Then one of my best friend’s mom said “Oh I really love this song, I listen to it all the time. I feel like the woman dancing alone is me.” Cause her husband recently passed away.

Oh no! But it’s kind of comforting in a way for her to have this song then, right?

Exactly! And that’s the most you can hope for with your music. Like what I said in the beginning, like going through an emotional experience and then understanding it more through someone else’s art. Like that’s all you can hope for.

Right, like you’ve done your part as an artist. So switching gears a little we talked about your music before this new EP is very dance driven. So what are some of your favorite songs that you like to put on and dance to? What’s on your dance soundtrack?

I recently have been getting back into Elvis. I went to the Rock‘n’Roll hall of fame yesterday and I was listening and just thinking I love how bluesy it is. You know?

Yeah it’s just got that groove to it.

Yeah that’s something that I’m gonna let influence me as I keep going forward. I really love soulful things. So Elvis...I like Stevie Wonder. I love Carol King. I love a lot of 90s, sweet girly pop. I love “Kiss Me” and “Love Fool” and like [sings] There She Goes… Basically, if it’s in an Amanda Bynes movie. Every time I get on a plane, I’m like there I go again [sings again]

Anything else that you’ve been listening to on this tour? Are you podcast people?

I’m not, but today I read the whole Wikipedia page of Ted Bundy. So there’s one thing I did while on tour. I don’t know why! People who lack empathy are fascinating to me. I’m like how can you not give a fuck about somebody else? That is the weirdest thing to me! It’s so crazy! So I was reading that.

Have you heard of the podcast And That’s Why We Drink? Probably not if you’re not a podcast person, but there’s two hosts, and one of them does ghost stories and the other one does true crime. And their episode with Ted Bundy creeped me out! I just moved into a garden apartment, and he used to always break into basement/garden apartments, and I was so scared after hearing that one.

Yeah, it’s absolutely terrifying! So terrifying.

But yeah I would recommend that podcast if you are ever looking to get into them!

I can’t, I can only read those things. If I hear someone say them or watch it on a movie or TV, I can’t sleep at night. But then I’ve also been really into Rosalía. She’s a Spanish singer, she’s incredible.

Awesome! So wrapping up, anything else that you’re looking forward to this year? After this tour or anything else on this tour?

This show! And I just love meeting everyone but obviously this is like a full circle moment. I told you about coming here for that show. I’m just so excited to release another single. I’ve got another lined up like nearly right away. The art direction is insane!

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A Chat With: Clearance

Earlier this year, Chicago four piece Clearance followed up their 2015 debut with their sophomore full length: At Your Leisure. Released July 27th via Topshelf Records, the record combines bright, buoyant tones with easy-going melodies, creating the perfect laid back summer soundtrack. In recent years, the group has spent time touring around the country and even branching out to Brazil, all the while sharing stages with the likes of Widowspeak, Slowdive, and Alvvays. Although they’ve had their fair share of triumphs as a band, Clearance’s extensive history of DIY tours and the common hardships of being in an indie rock band trying to make sense of the industry is a subject that lead vocalist and principle songwriter Mike Bellis doesn’t shy away from in the songs of At Your Leisure.

The album’s release kicked off yet another tour for the band this past August, but now the band is back home and this week, they’ll play their first Chicago show since the album release show on August 3rd. Ahead of Wednesday’s show at Subterranean, where they’ll play with Hypoluxo, Goody Gel, and our pals Pool Holograph, Mike Bellis took some time to sit down and talk with me about the journey behind the album, Clearance’s place in the Chicago music scene, the metaphorical meaning to the band’s name, and more. Check it out in our chat with Clearance.

Clearance is Mike Bellis, Arthur Velez, Kevin Fairbairn, and Greg Obis // Photo courtesy of Clearance

Clearance is Mike Bellis, Arthur Velez, Kevin Fairbairn, and Greg Obis // Photo courtesy of Clearance

What was your first musical memory?

I grew up with The Beatles probably first and foremost. My parents had a lot of CDs around the house, but I think as young as three I was just kind of fixated on The Beatles, as many people are. I was very encyclopedic about it from an early age. By the time I was in first or second grade, some of my friends and I had actually made a fan zine about The Beatles, called The Beatles Hotline, which was fan lyrics and fan fiction. We were like six or seven. That was my first punk moment, making a zine.

Nice! Did you start playing music around that age too then?

Yeah I took piano lessons when I was five or six, but I started playing guitar when I was seven and just kind of stuck with that primarily ever since. There was an episode of The Wonder Years where he got an electric guitar and I finally got the nerve to be like mom, I’m getting an electric guitar. If Kevin can get a guitar, I can.

So when we first started talking about doing an interview, the Clearance record had just come out, and now it’s been a couple of months. Can you talk a little bit process behind the record, like the songwriting and where you recorded?

We recorded the record a little less than 2 years ago at this point. It’s our second LP at this point. We’ve been a band for five or six years at this point, and wee recorded with our friend Dave Vettraino.

Oh yeah, everybody works with Dave!

Yeah we’ve been working with Dave for four years now and he’s recorded the last three or four of our recordings. And he used to be roommates with our guitarist Kevin Fairbairn when Public House was still physically a thing in Logan Square. We’re comfortable recording with him because we did our last album with him and a couple singles. We recorded this record with him in a studio called Minbal, which is now called Jamdek near the West Side. We recorded at the end of 2016 and it took like a year and 9 months to come out after that. We went on tour a lot last year. We went to Brazil and supported our friends Widowspeak for 6 weeks and did a couple DIY tours. Playing it a lot, and looking for labels. Topshelf was looking to put it out this summer. It was kind of a long time coming, but sometimes you just kind of have to play the game, as it were.

I know you just did a tour in support of the album, but what have been some highlights generally of the last year or so of touring?

Brazil was certainly a highlight. We played a couple festivals. We opened for Slowdive in São Paulo, which was incredible. We’ve gotten to play-- when we book our own tours we just play with our friends in different cities. We’ve played with EZTV in New York City, our friends throughout the midwest. A lot of international bands when they come through Chicago, like Ultimate Painting and a lot of those Trouble in Mind bands. We’ve opened for maybe a dozen of their bands. Playing with Widowspeak for 6 weeks was really fun. We did a full US tour with them about a year ago now.

Nice, what would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve learned since you started Clearance about five or six years ago? Either a life lesson or a music business lesson.

Don’t put too much stock in other people handling things for you. Because for better or worse, my experience has shown me that I’m gonna be the only one that really cares too much about it. So don’t wait for other people to validate what you’re making, just keeping moving forward. Be confident in what it is that you’re doing, and it’s a weird kind of moment with indie rock. It’s certainly not a big money maker to be playing guitar pop and guitar rock these days, but if it’s what you want to do, just kind of look to yourself and don’t put out too many external signifiers for validation. You’re not gonna get them, probably.

So how does the songwriting process between you an the band generally work? Is it you who does most of the writing?

Yeah, I write the songs and then I’ll demo them or whatever with a four track or on my own. When I bring them to the band we kind of interpret them as a group. This time around, I ended up playing a lot of the music on the record. I played the bass on the record and I played a lot of the guitar. We’ve done more live stuff in the past, but Greg Obis wasn’t in the band at the moment when we were recording this record because he was touring with another band at the moment. So I ended up doing bass. Usually when I’m bringing songs to the band, it’s just a matter of I have an idea of what the song should be, and then I bring it to them and they kind of color it in.

Basically you do the outline and they fill in the lines?

Yeah, I think especially in the last year and a half, since the time that we started recording this record and the time that we’ve spent putting it out, we played well over a hundred shows. We really sound like a four piece now in a way that we always hoped to.

Yeah, it’s evolved as you’ve played more together right?

It’s a little more automatic now and when we record again, it will be a little more reflective of that. I won’t be leaning so hard on my own ideas of how these songs should sound. Certainly when were making this one, the guys filled in the gaps of what I’d written.

I’m sure it’s different for each song, but as far as influences go, do you usually prefer not to listen to other music and kind of do it all as personal experiences, or do you ever go outside of yourself for inspiration?

I just went to New Zealand and Australia right before recording this record, and I’ve always been a fan of New Zealand indie rock from the 80s and 90s, the current crop of Australian indie rock bands, which I think is the ground zero of guitar pop at the moment. So many good bands coming out of Melbourne in particular. So I’ve always been influenced by that, and I think all of us in the band have, but I’m not…I’m certainly guilty of being influenced by the things that I listen to, but I also don’t let that weigh down too many things in the end. It’s always gonna end up sounding like you or the band anyways. You can get fixated aesthetically on some kinds of things and try to hit them, but I think in general we were more influenced by making a pretty straight forward guitar pop record. A couple of the songs are more straightforward like a band like Ultimate Painting or Omni that we’re friends with, something like White Fence and Tim Presley making more retro throwback, 60’s Brit Pop stuff. But a little bit off, like more influenced by Faust and interesting krautrock elements. It sounds very straight forward, but it’s influenced by more out there sounds.

Do you ever find yourself looking to books or films, where you read it or watch it and think oh I should write a song about that?

I think just in terms of like a mindset or an approach. I’m really influenced by Ray Davies and his skepticism not only towards the music industry, but just convention in general. His kind of irreverent attitude, no one’s really been better at doing that than him. But when we were writing this record, it was a lot about our experience of doing this as a band. Indie rock and touring and kind of like a dispatch from the DIY world we’ve been participating in and taking an irreverent look at that and star making machinery that the indie rock world is not immune to. I think Ray Davies has been someone I’ve always looked to. People like Stephen Malkmus are good at that too. Just kind of thumbing their nose at the pageantry of it all, even though you’re still beholden to all of the forces. But you can’t take it too seriously.

So I recently interviewed your friends Pool Holograph, and I asked them to compare their music to an inanimate object. They said Pool Holograph is a closed a Urban Outfitters store in 2008. What would Clearance’s music be?

That’s very specific! I don’t know, we kind of have a ready made capital image. Every time you see a sales rack, you see a clearance sign. That certainly was in mind when we came up with the band name, cause it’s pretty ubiquitous. It’s everywhere, but it’s also just like, it shows the absurdity of how we value things. Something that would have full price like a week ago is now 80% off so it’s kind of that contrast is something that resonated when I was thinking about that band. It’s all about context and what you bring to something. To answer the question directly, though, I would say literally any clearance section. There’s a negative capability there that you project value onto something you know. Or you’re beholden to the value that capitalism or the system gives it. So it’s like you know I think there’s a mirror going on there.

So talking more about the music scene then, there’s a specific conversation going on after The Orwells disbanding about making the scene safer in general. So what would you say are your goals as a band to make sure you play a part in that?

Yeah totally. Everybody that we’ve surrounded ourselves with have always been inclusive and progressive and everybody that we know and play with sort of has a zero tolerance for that shit. If you would have asked me four, five, six years ago what I thought about The Orwells, it probably wouldn’t have changed. I think most people had them pegged for what they were a long time ago. Obviously now that people are speaking out about it, they need to be heard and it’s pretty horrifying.

What would you like to see as a band here going forward or what do you think venues can do to make sure shows remain safe spaces?

Speaking personally, we always prefer to play bills that have women or non-binary people. It’s boring when it’s an all white male bill and it’s like you’re playing into an echo chamber at that point. It’s not as good of a show. There’s something to be said for having more voices on a bill every time. With the exception of maybe two or three bills in my memory of at least 100 shows that we’ve played, there have been women on the bill or trans individuals. It makes for a better show. It’s not a box we’re trying to check, it’s a better show. It’s objectively better when you are drawing upon a larger group of people. It includes more people in the audience, it gives the audience more people to listen to, and it’s a better experience for everyone. Performers and audiences. There’s no room for exclusivity.

Yeah, I put on ANCHR showcases occasionally, so that’s something I’ve been trying to be more conscious of. I’ve had so many all white male bills and I need to change that. Last night I had a showcase with Seasaw, a female duo from Madison, and it just felt so much better to have that diversity.

We deal with that very personally, cause we’re an all white, straight male band. Very cookie cutter, very traditional, and there’s more responsibility as someone that is like that. We embrace that responsibility. We absolutely should be people that are leading that change from within that traditional framework. This is what our band happened to be, fully realizing that’s not the most vital voice that needs to be heard right now. We’re just doing our thing and while we’re in this world, we’re gonna be extra conscious that we’re including as many voices as possible.

That’s awesome. While we’re on that subject, anyone that you want to shout out like any new artists you’d like to put the spotlight on that we should all check out?

Everyone in Chicago is doing really good stuff. Lillie from Lala Lala put out a great record yesterday. She’s phenomenally talented. OHMME just put out a new record. I’ve been friends with Sima for almost twenty years now, I grew up with her in Chicago. I think the Chicago music scene has become a little bit different in the past few years. It’s not quite as vibrant a house show scene as it was a few years ago, with some prominent places closing. But that’s just kind of the nature of it. It always changes and as people like us get older, we’re gonna get out of touch with what’s going on. There are great new houses that have been popping up. There continues to be incredible music being played everywhere. Marbled Eye from Oakland is a favorite of ours. Some Melbourne bands like School Damage… Trouble in Mind continues to put out great stuff. Nap Eyes...Omni. Ethers. They’re friends of ours! There’s tons of great bands on our label Topshelf, which is based on the west coast. Ratboys is a Chicago band on that label.

Lots of great recommendations there! Do you frequently DJ too? [Mike had just wrapped up a DJ set at Big Star]

It’s more like a side hustle.

What are some of your favorite records to spin?

It depends where I’m at. We’re at Big Star right now, full disclosure, so you play a little bit more country rock or country adjacent stuff. Like Arthur Russell or weird Neil Young records. I try to play like the obscure records from major artists. Like a weird 80s Dylan record or like 80s Neil Young. Just play things that I think are interesting. And then I throw in things like The Feelies or like a weird Alex Chilton single. I typically play all that stuff plus some early post punk, late 70’s stuff. Just the stuff that I listen to in general. Gang of Four. Wire. A lot of new records too. I’ve played some Omni here, a live Ultimate Painting record…

Where’s your favorite place to shop for records?

I used to live around here, so I would shop at Permanent when it was still Permanent Records. It is now Joyride Records. I live in Pilsen now. But Reckless is great. Any good mom and pop record store, and there are a lot in Chicago.

So wrapping up, what else are you looking forward to throughout the end of the year?

We have a couple of local shows in November and December. I’d like to start working on another LP. We’re not touring a lot at the moment cause we’ve done the DIY tour grind like 10 times now. It’s hard to keep pushing that boulder up the hill. So we’re gonna be a little bit more deliberate about when we tour and what opportunities we take. In the meantime, just working on new material and getting our shit together at home.

Cool, any last closing comments?

Support local artists. Believe survivors. This has been a weird week. I think that’s been on the mind of everyone. Speaking personally it’s just a matter of reaching out to those survivors in your life and take stock of all that, and value their voices.

Grab tickets to see Clearance on Wednesday night, October 24th here and keep up with them on Facebook + Twitter + Instagram.

A Chat With: Hudson Taylor

Hailing from Ireland, brothers Harry and Alfie Hudson Taylor have been garnering attention all over Europe since releasing their debut album in 2015. Earlier this year, the pair made their North American debut, touring with Gabrielle Aplin, and this month they'll be returning with singer-songwriter Hozier as he makes his long-awaited return to The States. Ahead of their show in Chicago on September 21st, get to know more about Hudson Taylor as they talk their early days of busking, their favorite fellow Irish musicians, and new music!

Photo Credit Brandon Harrell

Photo Credit Brandon Harrell

What do you remember as your first musical memory when you were younger? 

Our first musical memory was probably a nursery rhyme but can’t remember which one. What first came to mind when we read the question was traditional Irish dancing music from our years spent as young Irish dancers. 

You’ll be heading back to The States soon to support Hozier on tour this month. What are you most looking forward to during your time over here? Any cities you’re particularly excited about?

We are so excited altogether for the North American tour with Hozier! It’s a huge step up from anything we’ve done over there before and we’ll be playing in lots of new places supporting Hozier and on our own headline tour. We have fond memories of playing New York, Seattle and Chicago.  

What’s the biggest culture shock you experienced when first playing music in America?

There’s not much of a noticeable difference onstage or in venues but when you travel around you do notice things and how munch bigger a country it is to Ireland. 

How would you describe your live show in three words for anyone who might be coming to one of the shows? 

Energetic, eclectic, harmony. 

As I understand it, you used to busk a lot before you started touring. Where were some of your favorite spots to busk and do you have any interesting stories about your busking experience? 

We started busking on Grafton street in Dublin when we were 15 and 16. We grew up watching buskers there. Every Christmas Eve loads of Irish musicians make their way here to raise money for the homeless, it really inspired us. We used to stand up on street bollards, bins and signs with our guitars to catch people’s eyes whilst playing covers. We had and still have a lot of fun busking and met some wonderful people doing so. 

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned since releasing your debut album in 2015?

The biggest lesson was simply making and releasing the album. We had never done that before so everything was new to us and like most things it involves a lot of trial and error before you find out what you like or maybe don't like.

Following your latest EP “Feel It Again”, which you put out earlier this year, can we expect any more new music from you this year? 

Following our EP "Feel it Again" we’re releasing a new album called Bear Creek to Dame Street featuring four new tunes we recorded in Bear Creek studio in Seattle and four tunes we recorded live at our hometown gig at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin.

After selling out shows back home and getting to tour internationally, what else is on your bucket list to achieve as a band? Any certain venues you’re keen to perform in or any collaborations you’re hoping to make happen? 

When we started would have never imagined we would get to the level we are at now, of course we have dreams but overall we are very happy and grateful to be in the fortunate position to be touring, writing and doing music full time.

Lastly, who are some of your favorite new Irish bands or musicians that we should check out? 
So much great music coming out of Ireland a the moment. Would highly recommend checking out fellow Irish band The Academic. Lovely lads, great tunes and brilliant live show.

You can pre-order Hudson Taylor's new album Bear Creek to Dame Street here and keep up with them on Facebook + Instagram