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Artist Feature Interview

A Conversation with Left at London About Pain, Pride, Loss, and Soulja Boy

Nat Puff, known to the world as Left at London (/@/), has made a significant name for herself as one of the most prolific creative minds of this generation. A singer-songwriter, producer, poet, activist, and visual artist based in Seattle, Left at London has received constant airplay on the legendary Emerald City radio station KEXP, and has been featured in NBC News, Forbes, American Songwriter, The Fader, and Vice. She first broke out on the indie pop scene in 2018 with the release of her second EP, Transgender Street Legend Vol. 1., which quickly surpassed a million streams and became her most successful project to date. This was closely followed by Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2 in 2020, and her critically-acclaimed debut album t.i.a.p.f.y.h. in 2o21.

Left at London’s discography is a genre-bending catalog of confessional bleeding-heart anthems. Her no-holds-barred approach to songwriting—with soul-baring lyrics that tackle heartache, mental health, addiction and recovery, political upheaval, and queer joy—has resonated with millions of people and earned her an extremely loyal and devoted following. Erica Lubman, another songwriter with a strong online presence who makes music under the moniker Boy Jr., counts herself among Left at London’s most devoted fans. “I believe the stuff that Nat is making right now is genuinely groundbreaking,” they tell me. “It’s genre-defying, it’s introspective, it poses important questions [about how society affects people emotionally] and what it means to be known as an online presence and a serious artist.”

Now, Left at London has unveiled the third and final installment of the Transgender Street Legend series. And with each new song she masterfully weaves chaos and sensitivity, unraveling various transitional periods in her life. The silky R&B-laden opener, “I’m Not Laughing Anymore,” tackles mental illness and sour luck in the form of a fictional comedy sketch about a man getting into a drunken spat with his off-duty therapist. The following track “Shh!” is angsty, dissonant, and almost jazzy, with a killer verse from R&B songstress COOKIE. that would put Mariah, Brandy, and Toni Braxton combined to shame. “My Old Ways” tackles the inconvenience of backsliding into negative habits, and the final track, “Will My Alters Go to Heaven?” is a wistfully earnest psalm about Puff’s experience living with OSDD-1b. Then there’s “Make You Proud,” with TYGKO, the penultimate song on the EP, which was inspired by the anticipatory grief that Puff experienced during her father’s illness and eventual passing. 

My conversation with Left at London goes in various different directions. One minute we’ll be discussing grief, politics, and mental health, and the next we’ll be sharing embarrassing ringtones, discussing Chris Fleming’s comedic yacht rock parody, and waxing philosophical on the legacy of Soulja Boy. We also discuss the evolving significance of the Transgender Street Legend series in her life and why she’s ready to slowly wean herself off the internet.  

It’s great to be catching up with you again. How have you been? 

I’ve been better, but I’ve also been worse. Considering the last couple of months, I’m hoping things are on the up and up now. I just got a face tattoo and I love it. I’m not really excited for summer weather. Seattle basically has no air conditioning. I synthesize hormones, so I already get constant hot flashes as it is. If there’s a heat wave I’ll normally end up covering all the windows in aluminum foil so the sun reflects off of it. I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbles in a climate crisis.

Everything going on [politically] right now is so fucking depressing. I hope someone in a position of disproportionate power dies soon. During Trump’s presidency I would spend every waking moment wishing he would choke to death. Imagine if Trump died by choking on an entire rotisserie chicken by himself. That would be hilarious! 

God, I wish. Except in my version he has an aneurysm and a brain hemorrhage while giving a State of the Union speech. And of course he’d make a huge deal out of it and claim it was “the biggest aneurysm anybody’s ever seen!”

Yeah. The only problem is that we’ve already experienced a State of the Union aneurysm with Biden. I saw a clip of a reporter asking him what he would say to Kim Jong-un, and he said, “Hello… Period.” [Laughs] It honestly reminds me of Nancy Pelosi going, “Hello… Good morning… Sunday morning!”  

Before we get into the serious stuff, I wanted to start with some fun questions. When you walk into a record store, what section are people most likely to find you in?

Probably the new arrivals in hip hop. I’ll have already looked through the entire rap section, because it’s usually pretty small and I’m most likely to find pretty interesting modern records or repressings in the new arrivals section. I think the last time I went to a record store, I saw a new pressing of Outkast’s ATLiens: Extended Edition, which I really wanted, but didn’t end up getting. I think the last physical record I bought was KIDS SEE GHOSTS at Rainy Day Records in Olympia. 

What is the most hilarious song in your library? 

If I wanted to be classy about it, I would probably say something by Sparks, because they have a lot of humor in their music. But the thing I’ve laughed the most at in my library is probably something by Beef Hutchins, which is Chris Fleming’s alter ego. He’s kind of like this yacht rock parody. It’s like two steps removed from Jimmy Buffet. Like if Jimmy Buffet was shouting at you from a very close distance. There’s one particular song called “Wet Dream (About Winnie),” which is an entire song about him calling his dad to ask him what his wet dream about Winnie the Pooh meant. He has another song called “Frenchin’ the Bat,” which is a song about him making out with a bat while shooting koosh balls through nerf hoops. 

My ringtone’s kinda silly too. It’s the instrumental to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s “PONPONPON” with Nate Dogg’s verse from “The Next Episode” by Dr. Dre. I should probably change it though, cause every once in a while I’ll get a serious call and I’ll be like, “Oh, christ.” Maybe I’ll make my own ringtone. [Laughs] I should create my own ringtone rap! Remember the era when ringtone rap was popular, with “Laffy Taffy” and “Ms. New Booty”?

Oh, lord. Just hearing you say “ringtone rap” reminds me of Robert Christgau giving that Soulja Boy album a near-perfect score, and now I’m triggered.

To be fair, Soulja Boy is probably one of the most influential artists of the past twenty years. The way that the internet and music works nowadays, that was all Soulja Boy. That was his empire to build. He’s not the most technical rapper, but he laid the foundation for the way we consume music nowadays.

At this stage in your life, what does the Transgender Street Legend series represent to you? 

When it started, the songs were just throwaway tracks that I still wanted to release. I really didn’t want to do the singles thing, because a project where everything fits together is much more convenient for me. I released TSL Vol. 1, and I don’t even remember how it started blowing up because I didn’t advertise it at all. Either way, having that EP out at a time where I was trying to perfect another album I have in the works, You Are Not Alone Enough—which I’m still doing now—the first TSL tracks were meant to be fan service, and then a lot of people became fans because of it. 

I actually started working on Volume 3 a couple months after the second one came out. I was waiting on features and trying really hard to pitch this new EP to labels, but nobody was buying it. People kept saying it was “too sad.” I also have two other albums I’m trying to finish, so I eventually decided to stop sitting on Volume 3 and just release it. I feel like now I’m in a much different headspace than when I released the first two volumes. I was much more casual about the first two, but this one is my favorite. I’m extremely proud of these four tracks, and it’s given me a new outlook on how I view this series of EPs. I love them all for different reasons. 

What was your reaction when COOKIE. and TYGKO sent you their verses? 

The person I originally wanted on the song “Make You Proud” couldn’t contribute a verse because his life was too hectic at the time. So I asked TYGKO to contribute a verse because he lost his brother, so he understood the grieving process I was going through at the time with my father. A similar thing happened with COOKIE.’s feature. I wrote a bulk of the song with somebody else who couldn’t do the feature, so I got referred to COOKIE. by Chuck Sutton.  

I’ve always loved Kevante [TYGKO] and knew what he was capable of as a rapper, but before I heard his part I was still a bit disappointed that the person I originally asked wouldn’t be able to contribute to the song. So when Kevante sent me his verse, I was floored. I truly believe he gave one of the best-written verses in the entire Transgender Street Legend series. He knew exactly what I was going through in the early stages of grieving my father, and he offered the post-grievance perspective. 

And there’s just something in the water with COOKIE… I don’t think any of the pop girlies have sung like that since the ‘90s. If you put COOKIE. on the charts, she would be one of the best singers, if not the best singer on the charts. Hearing that reflected in something I helped write… it was unparalleled. Both of their features are very appreciated and so fucking good. It’s funny too, because this is one of three projects this year that have both COOKIE. and TYGKO as features. It’s me, William Crooks, and Moore Kismet’s new project. COOKIE. raps on William Crooks’ album and sings the fuck out of her lines on my song. Her and TYGKO are both very versatile and I think a lot of people are gonna get to see that in the coming years. 

“I’m Not Laughing Anymore” reads as some seriously damning commentary on the mental health industrial complex. Was that your intention while writing it? 

It’s actually funny you say that, because one of the first people that I showed it to after writing it was my girlfriend at the time, and they said a very similar thing. I’ve been very much intertwined with [the mental health industrial complex] throughout my life and the power dynamics that lie within it. But I actually didn’t intend to make a commentary at all. The lyrics about a man running into his therapist were originally written from my perspective. But I was just so bored with autobiographically chronicling my own mental health journey. So I decided to write that song as a comedy sketch with both spoken word and singing parts. 

I was essentially writing a joke, but didn’t know what the punchline was going to be until I got to it. I basically improvised the entire story. As I approached the end of the song, I just randomly had the thought: If I died on the day I was supposed to go to therapy, would they still charge me a late fee? And that kind of tickled me in a pretty dark sense. So I decided to add it to the end of the song, and it fit perfectly. It’s funny, because most of those vocals were recorded at 3 AM. I actually had to send the vocals to somebody else, because you can hear the sound of my cat’s automatic water feeder and a fan in the background. I thought I was just recording scratch vocals at the time, but I was never going to get a better take than the first time I recorded them. I played it at my old place, which was a community house and one of my housemates I played it for screamed “FUCK YOU!” and stormed out of the room, because they were so stunned impressed by the song. That was the highest compliment I have ever received. I really value the song and I really value the fact that I kept that creative momentum going as I worked on it. I really want to be able to do that more. 

Which of these songs is the most personal to you?  

Probably “Will My Alters Go to Heaven?” That was something I started asking myself shortly after realizing that I had OSDD-1b. I had already come to terms with how the disorder affects my life. I remember coming up with the melody first, and I just repeated it over and over again. I already had the phrase “will my alters go to heaven” in my head, so I just added that in and the song was finished. There’s a sample of a very interesting record that isn’t copyrighted, where there’s talking in the background. It’s a record from the Record Disc Corporation from the ‘50s or ‘60s. It was essentially this thing people would do where they’d record themselves talking to somebody at 78 rpm on a metal disc and mail it to a person as a voicemail. I got it at a record swap for free and realized I couldn’t play it, so I took it to a friend’s and recorded it on his 78 rpm player. I thought it would be perfect to insert all the different voices talking in the background to reflect the nature of the beast. 

What does it mean to be an artist online? 

Honestly in my life right now, I’m trying to figure out what it’s like to be an artist offline. After this release I would love to be online less. It takes up way too much of my life and it’s really done a number on my ability to stay sane—or be sane if I ever was. It feels really forced and performative. I really don’t know what it means to be an artist online. I’ve experienced what it’s like to be an artist online, and I don’t have the greatest reviews of it. I’m still trying to figure out what it all means and what I want to do. That’s all I can really say. 

Losing a loved one is never easy. If you feel comfortable sharing, what is the general statement you wanted to make regarding your family on the song “Make You Proud”? 

I wrote the song shortly after finding out that my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I was staying at his childhood home that he inherited from my grandparents, and I decided to use the place during the pandemic because I really needed a break and wanted to be with my girlfriend. The song started on my grandmother’s piano, and I decided to have it start with a triplet feel and then switch to a more straightforward beat to reflect that sort of change. Once the song was finished, I played a version of it for my family over Discord. I think my dad heard the song maybe three times mid-treatment, one time when the family was spending time at the house, and then one more time on the day before he died. 

My dad and I had a pretty complicated relationship. But he’s shown me that people can change for the better; that people can change their love to be accommodating. That was something I’d become pretty disillusioned with at that point. So seeing him grow, despite his age, was inspiring to me. The lyrics “Do we really got to go this route/To be honest, kinda freaks me out,” was just about family changing over time, whether it be the birth of my niece and nephew or the death of my father. It’s scary stuff, because it changes the dynamic. The whole section about scrapbooks starting to run out of pages is about the inevitability of mortality and our memories becoming less pristine over time. But that’s the reality. I wanted to make a song that reflected that reality in a non-tragic way. I think the song is very uplifting despite the subject matter, and I prefer it that way. If it were a sad song, my dad wouldn’t have wanted to listen to it. 

Has seeing your father’s transformation over the years given you a glimmer of hope? 

I’d like to think so. There are many things I would love to change about the world. But I have faith that people who aren’t diluted by power still have a fighting chance. I think my dad definitely gave me hope in that sense. And I’m hoping that hope lasts. 

Thank you so much for your time. I always know that I’ll have a lot to think about whenever I chat with you. 

Thank you for having me. You’ve been a very kind support, so it’s always a pleasure. 


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Little Monarch on Touring, Talking Heads, and Artistic Evolution

Little Monarch is a project spearheaded by Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Casey Kalmenson, along with keyboardist Lanita Smith and guitarist Nick Setter. Known for breezy self-reflective anthems like “Strike,” “Treading Water,” and “No Matter What,” Little Monarch’s eclectic catalog masterfully fuses elements of indie pop, disco, house, and R&B into uniquely expansive soundscapes that feel like inhaling the California sea air.

Their latest single, “For a Moment You’re Mine,” finds Kalm directing her gaze inward in a far more slow, lush, and textured dream pop soundscape.

A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents caught up with Kalmenson to discuss the new single, the evolution of Little Monarch over the years, and her recent tour with Gracie Abrams.

Where did you grow up and what sort of music was playing in the house? 

I grew up in West Hollywood. Musically, my parents are a bit older so my dad was into Bing Crosby and Sinatra, and mom was a big Rolling Stones fan so there was a lot of Rolling Stones playing in the house along with other classic American standards and some musical theater. I got super into Talking Heads as a teen. I was so fascinated with how music could sound like that and how lyrics could come together that way. I was also into a lot of Reggae. So it was a mixed bag of everything, really. 

What came first for you: teaching music, gigging, or songwriting? 

Definitely writing. The teaching just came along as a way to support myself and continue to be inspired by encouraging others to chase their dreams. The touring came later, and it’s been great to tour as an instrumentalist with younger artists. 

How did the Gracie Abrams gig come about?

The 360 touring company who manages her actually reached out to me initially and it was a great fit. The tour was fantastic too. Everybody was just so happy to be around people who wanted to hear music, and her fans are awesome. It was like a big slumber party. 

What are some key influences on your band’s beachy house sound?  

That one definitely circles back to Talking Heads. I’m very drawn to esoteric themes cloaked in this fun pop package. There’s some really great hi-fi lo-fi producers like Ethan Gruske who worked with Phoebe Bridgers, and I love how textured his work is. I love Beach Boys too. I can’t talk about music I love without talking about California bands like the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and Beach Boys. I have a very wide spectrum, and it’s kind of like my diary. 

Your latest single “For a Moment Your Mine,” is very different from your other singles, almost like a dream pop ballad. What made you decide to veer in that direction? 

That definitely came out of a slower period throughout the pandemic and it felt great to make a song that was very lush and layered. I initially didn’t intend to release it at all, but I just really thought it was beautiful and ultimately came to the conclusion that it would be such a waste to hide it away. I think it’s definitely a one-off for my sound, I don’t think my signature dancey sound is going anywhere, but it was still nice to put out something that sounded a little different. 

How has your collaboration with your bandmates evolved since you first formed? 

We’re definitely a lot like family now. Obviously, they still write and collaborate on stuff but it’s not as much of a traditional band structure as it once was. It was just a little hard to maintain as people were getting older and families were happening. But I still wanted to keep this alive, which required me to spearhead a lot of the management. It’s definitely evolved for me as a space to showcase everything that I’m working on. 

How has your creative direction changed in the past few years? 

I think I really used COVID as a time to reset and share what I was doing in the studio without overthinking. And that opened up a new mindset for me that I never had before. So I’m definitely grateful for that period. I don’t think I slowed down, but recognized that I had an opportunity and a window of time to improve on my craft. Now I feel like I’m finally in a place where I’ve processed a lot and am ready to really hammer down on the ethos of my music, which is all about brushing it off and picking myself back up again. 

What was the most recent show you went to? 

Jungle. They played the Greek and they’re one of my all-time favorites, so it was incredible.  

How many guitars are in your collection? 

My first electric guitar was a red Gretsch Electromatic that was really great tone-wise because I was super into jazz. Now I have a D’angelico XL which is also red. I have an older Strat that’s kinda cool, a baby Taylor, an Italian parlor guitar that’s been refurbished with a rubber bridge. And then there’s the main acoustic which is a road-series Martin. I also randomly have a Jackson that my grandma got me when I was a kid. I think I’ve invested enough stock in guitars, but I can ALWAYS use more pedals. Pedals are like my love language. 


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Thelma and the Sleaze on Pride, Self-Empowerment, and Keeping Local Venues Open

“Having lived through these cultural shifts in society where how you get music has changed so much, I think it’s crippling to artists that people will spend money on cryptocurrency and NFTs, but they won’t buy records… Venues and DIY shows are becoming extinct… so get the fuck out to shows and support these bands! You don’t have to like the band playing, so grab a beer and hang out with your friends outside. That these rooms even still exist is so important.”

– Lauren “LG” Gilbert, “Sounding Out with Izzy”

In the latest episode of “Sounding Out with Izzy,” Lauren “LG” Gilbert from Nashville-based queer blues rock outfit Thelma and the Sleaze stops by to discuss recording a live EP at Muscle Shoals, her band’s award-winning hometown touring documentary Kandyland, the But I’m a Cheerleader soundtrack, and the importance of keeping local venues alive under the ominous shadow of late capitalism.


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Interview Live Music

Catching Up with Bad Static at Arlene’s Grocery

In less than a year, the Brooklyn-based riot grrrl quartet Bad Static has rapidly captured the attention of the local scene with their abrasively acidic thrashers inspired by horror films and biting she-punk legends like the Runaways and the Anemic Boyfriends. In less than ten months, the band has already received thousands of streams and even won the emerging artist award from Deli Magazine.

Bad Static’s debut EP Cherry Cyanide explores the duality of the sweet and the sour with hair-raising screams and descending power chords. The name Cherry Cyanide comes from a chemical compound found in cherry pits called hydrogen cyanide, which is so poisonous that ingesting as little as 0.1 grams can kill a person.

On June 9th, Bad Static took the stage at Arlene’s Grocery on a bill with Friend, Public Circuit, and Midnite Taxi, where they packed their set with several of their hard-hitting singles, including the anti-creep anthem “Peach,” the invasive and violating “Ectoplasm Nightmares,” and covers of the Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” and MARINA’s “Bubblegum Bitch.” Lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Nicol Maciejewska sported a white tank top, ripped fishnets, and an aqua-blue Jackson strapped across her chest with the words “ABORT THE COURT” emblazoned on it in silver lettering. Bassist Kelsie Williams and lead guitarist Mario DiSanto provided the noise factor that bolstered Maciejewska’s blood-curdling screams, and Squelch’s Amanda Fortemps filled in for Demetrio Abikkaram-Ricardo on drums.

A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents caught up with Bad Static, along with their playwright collaborator Mo Zelle, to discuss their joint project The Cherry Pit Demos, as well as the band’s response to the overwhelming support they’ve received in such a short period of time.

You started in 2021 and have already been labeled a “buzz band to watch” by several publications. What is it like to process all that attention so soon?

Nicol Maciejewska: It was definitely surprising, especially since I’m very new to music. We didn’t even get to play any backyard shows before we went straight into playing venues.

Kelsie Williams: It’s definitely really cool that we’ve gotten such amazing feedback from the start.

Maciejewska: I was expecting a lot more people to be really mean. It just comes with the territory. People are just always so critical of music, especially in punk. People always have something shitty to complain about, whether it’s the sound of the recording or the vocals, but we haven’t really gotten much of that. We’re still waiting for it.

What made you decide to repackage “Bubblegum Bitch” as a punk song?

Maciejewska: I honestly just wanted to scream the word bitch! I’ve always liked MARINA and I wanted to sing a song that wasn’t traditionally punk. We’re used to covering “Cherry Bomb,” which is more aligned with our sound and we thought it would be fun to do something unexpected.

Williams: Even the way that we grew up in the Tumblr sphere, the people who were more alternative might have narrowly missed MARINA and gone straight into Arctic Monkeys. We often get really mixed reactions when we play that song live because the punk kids don’t really know it and the pop fans are totally bamboozled that we’ve stripped the song of its original melody, so it’s always interesting.

Nicol, I’m so used to seeing punk kids with Strats. What made you decide to go with the Jackson?

Maciejewska: It was actually a Christmas gift. I would have either gotten that or the Fender Squier, cause those are the cheapest ones. But everyone already had the Squier and I think it’s fun to stand out, even with gear. I like playing punk on a classic metal guitar. I also went with it because of the whammy bar, which I barely use, but I think it looks cool!

Are there any influences on the ‘Cherry Cyanide’ EP that people might not expect?

Maciejewska: It’s funny you say that, because a lot of people assume we were inspired by ’90s riot grrrl bands, but we were actually looking a bit further back. Our two major influences were The Runaways and Anemic Boyfriends, which is a much more niche band. I found one of their 45s at a record store called Rebel Rouser, and I became obsessed with their vintage rock vibe. A big influence on our horror-themed songs is the band Jack Off Jill as well.

Williams: We’re obsessed with horror, especially old horror. Our name is a Frankenstein reference, so it all circles back to horror.

Speaking of horror, “Ectoplasm Nightmares” is one of my favorite songs off your EP. What can you tell me about writing it?

Williams: I came up with the lyrics “exorcise my brain, perform a lobotomy,” after a breakup. I was going through the stage where it’s impossible to remove the other person from your thoughts, even when they’re not physically in your life. It feels like the only cure is to stab an ice pick through your eye and forget it all.

Mo, what inspired the two songs you wrote for the band on the Cherry Pit Demos?

Mo Zelle: I wrote a play in my senior year of college, and I interviewed 34 different drag artists across the country for research. I wanted to talk to everyone about who they were and how they wanted to perform, and it opened up my eyes up to different forms of performance art that I wasn’t exposed to before. I really started to think about the idea of queer people being on display for other people to look at, similar to the concept that George C. Wolfe explored in his play The Colored Museum. I collaborated with a variety of different artists who could really deliver the sound I envisioned for those songs. One of the songs is called “Dirty D. Ike,” which is based on an experience I had in high school where my ex-girlfriend’s mother violently dragged me by the ear and called me a “dirty fucking dyke.” It was a really traumatic experience, but I’ve reclaimed it as a namesake for myself whenever I perform. Nicol and I are very close and it was really special to see and hear Bad Static give that song the life it deserves.

What else can we look forward to from Bad Static in the near future?

Mario DiSanto: We have an album coming soon, which I’m producing. The sound is going to be very gritty and reminiscent of early punk, so stay tuned for that!


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Artist Feature

The Inflorescence Navigate Growing Pains on Debut LP ‘Remember What I Look Like’

Helmed by Tuesday Denekas (guitar/vocals), Milla Merlini (drums), Sasha A’Hearn (bass), and Charlee Berlin (guitar/vocals) San Diego indie pop quartet The Inflorescence are bringing an inimitable blend of pop punk-infused riot grrrl anthems to angsty Gen Z-ers around the world with their debut LP Remember What I Look Like, out today on the legendary pacific northwest indie label Kill Rock Stars (Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, Bratmobile, Fitz of Depression). Combining the emotionally-tangled ballads of modern indie powerhouses like Mitski with the irresistibly saccharine melodies of pop punk virtuosos like Saves the Day, Remember What I Look Like weaves punchy guitar riffs with candid lyrics about navigating the harrowing psychological turbulence of being a teenager.

While most of these songs could be classified in the realm of teenage angst, they still have the ability to strike a chord with every listener, regardless of age. Being a teenager might be temporary, but what adults almost never tell you is that those feelings never actually go away; you just get better at concealing them. That’s why older millennials of the TRL generation never really stopped listening to their favorite emo deep cuts from the early-to-mid 2000s. In fact, older millennials have actually been the biggest champions of newer iterations of that sound popping up on Olivia Rodrigo records.

My personal favorite song on Remember What I Look Like is “Tomorrow Night,” because of how well Denekas’ lyrics illustrate the process of overthinking. Their brain is perpetually trapped on the hamster wheel of self-doubt and co-dependence, with lyrics like “Why can’t my brain just stop spinning/Stop pretending it’ll ever work and try to make it right/I guess I’ll find a way to fight it off tonight/But I guess I’ll try again tomorrow night.”

A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents spoke with bandleader Tuesday Denekas over email to discuss the writing process for Remember What I Look Like, how supporting your local music scene can help uplift women and queer people, and much more!

I understand that three of you, minus Charlee, were in a previous band together before you formed the Inflorescence. How has your music evolved since reforming?

It’s almost evolved in every single way. I’m really grateful for the band I was in before because Milla and I would have never have met otherwise, and without Milla this band literally wouldn’t exist. Songwriting wise, I think it’s still evolving for us, being so young it’s nice to switch up the writing process and start thinking more deeply about what we want to express through the sound and lyrics.

You recently signed to Kill Rock Stars. How did that initially come about?

My mom had known Slim for a long time and after we finished up recording the album we thought it would be a waste to not try and send it to people. My mom sent to to Kill Rock Stars first because she said it was by far the coolest label and a label she thought would really fit us. Slim emailed back saying he loved it and the ball just kept rolling from there (aka talking about this and trying to get the paper signed for almost half a year).

As a follow up to the previous question, who are some of your favorite legendary bands affiliated with Kill Rock Stars?

Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill personally have a special place in my heart from my childhood. I always grew up around music and my mom always told me about riot grrrl bands growing up, so going from listening to them on the car ride to school in 5th grade to now, being on the same label as they were? It’s pretty insane and something I can’t think too hard about before I start crying, hahaha.

What would you say is the main thematic through-line on a song like “So Much of Nothing”?

“So Much Of Nothing” is about me and my relationship with depression. For me, my depression just feels like absolute emptiness and an overwhelming feeling of no emotions. There would be days of laying in my bed staring at my phone and feel absolutely nothing. Not a single feeling. It was really scary sometimes to feel so empty and that song is mostly about that. The overwhelming feeling of nothing. This was the first song I wrote after a very long time of writer’s block. I had nothing to write about because I literally felt nothing. One day I was like, “Okay, well I’ll just write a song about that!” and it finally got me out of my writer’s block.

What has songwriting taught you about yourself?

Songwriting has always been one of the most difficult but also rewarding things I do. Songwriting has been a great way for me to get out my emotions in a way that felt productive. A lot of the time I sit and do nothing about how I’m feeling because the thought of changing your situation is so overwhelming but songwriting always helped me heal whether the situation was resolved or ongoing.

What gravitated you to the melodic and guitar-heavy sound of pop punk?

I grew up on Pop Punk and throughout the years I’ve definitely stepped back from listening to the genre but bits and pieces always continue to be put in my songwriting. I’m a sucker for pop melody’s and Smashing Pumpkins guitar so I kinda just smashed it together.

What’s one record in your collection that is guaranteed to give you comfort every time you listen to it?

Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge literally means everything to me. My Chemical Romance was my whole childhood and listening to it now brings me heavy good nostalgia.

Was there any point in the process of putting this album together where you surprised yourself with how far you took something?

OMG! I love this question. Writing “Tomorrow Night” was the most difficult songwriting challenge I’ve ever had and it literally took me months to finish the lyrics for it. The first verse sat in my notes app for months before I did anything with it. When I finally sat down to finish up the chorus, the part which took the longest to write, I started just randomly singing and suddenly “Just try your hardest and stare right at me, and break my heart like you have already” came out and I had never written a line down so fast in my life. I just sat there and was like, “damn thats literally so sad, WTF??” I guess in that moment I finally realized how much “Tomorrow Night” would mean to me as a song.

I really related to the final track “Board Game.” (And I have to admit, you guys really got me with those iPhone messaging sound effects, my eyes kept darting to my phone, haha). Did it feel cathartic to write about?

“Board Game” was super fun to write! I had the idea of using the metaphor of a Board Game to describe how it felt to be used and manipulated and the entire song came out in like 10 minutes. I took a lot of inspiration from “Your Best American Girl” by Mitski, especially with the climax of the song. Board Game wasn’t originally the last song on the album but after seeing everything put together it made sense for it to be the final conclusion to “Remember What I Look Like”. Something I realized after we put it at the end of the album was that the last line is “I don’t know why, but I can’t recognize you anymore” and with the album name I think it just wraps it up very melancholy which I really like.

What advice do you have for young girls and non-binary AFAB folks looking for music by likeminded people?

GO SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SCENE AND NOT JUST THE STUPID WHITE BOY BANDS!!!!! There’s enby and woman artists everywhere, look in your local scene for it, support them, buy their shit, stream their music. There’s so many bands who are underground that deserve so much recognition for their art and it’s so easy to discover the ones near you.


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Interview

Discussing the Art of Not Giving a F-ck with Jessica Louise Dye (High Waisted, Hello Lightfoot)

High Waisted is the band that everybody wants at their party. Based on their beachy psychedelic sound, one might assume that the indie surf quartet are from California, but they’re actually based in New York. Their 2016 debut album, On Ludlow, is chock full of dancey love letters to the Big Apple’s gritty Lower East Side. Frontwoman Jessica Louise Dye’s powerful singing voice blends with vintage drum sounds to create an irresistible elixir, mixing jangly ’60s surf rock with effortlessly catchy pop melodies and encouraging listeners to involuntarily bust a move on the dance floor. High Waisted have been named NME’s “buzz band to watch,” and have also received praise from Nylon Magazine, Consequence of Sound, Refinery29, Paste Magazine, and Sofar Sounds.

Since the release of their sophomore album Sick of Saying Sorry in 2020, the quartet has finally kicked off their long-anticipated return to the stage this year with a new single, “This Year I Won’t (IDGAF)” and a performance at TV Eye in late May with Damn Jackals and Jelly Kelly.

A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents caught up with High Waisted frontwoman Jessica Louise Dye to nerd out about musician gear, discuss the writing process for their new single, and the philosophy behind her solo avant-pop project Hello Lightfoot.

You just made an appearance at TV Eye to promote your new single. How was that? 

It was such a fun night. We played with Damn Jackals and it was my first time playing there. I really love Jonathan Toubin’s vinyl nights, so I’ve gone out dancing at TV Eye a million times but had never performed there before.

Last week was the two-year anniversary of your 2020 record Sick of Saying Sorry, and I understand that you were pretty distraught to have your plans for that record stalled by the pandemic. What are your feelings about the record now?

Yeah, the two-year anniversary kinda snuck up on us. We have a bunch of unreleased songs stockpiled right now, so the new plan is to do an EP release this year and kind of have it double as a belated celebration for the 2020 record that didn’t get the party it deserved, almost like a memorial. After that I’d like to move on to celebrating the new without looking back anymore. 

Once it got to be moderately safe to see other people again, I was lucky enough to pod with my new guitarist, Dan Rico. We wrote a bunch of the new songs ten feet apart in a room while we were double-masked and muffling out lyrics. We tried to stay consistent. Obviously, the motivation was hard. But the transition didn’t feel as drastic as it might have for others. We were really eager to get back on stage. In a way we felt left out, because some bands were immediately ready to go once things reopened, so it felt like we were a little late to the game. But I’m so much more relaxed now. 

You can definitely get swept out to sea trying to keep up with all the promotional trends of the music business and almost lose the excitement of the writing aspect. I think a good way that we’ve found balance is by segmenting what we want to focus on into stages.

– Jessica Louise Dye
Photo by Michelle LoBianco

We seem to be caught up in a whirlwind of change every ten years in the music industry. How do you keep yourself grounded navigating it all?

We had some pretty good luck early on as a band because we’ve been together for so long, but even just the way we navigated press and promo in between the first two records was so different. Even just the pandemic had forced so many bands to pivot. Nowadays we might as well throw out everything we previously knew, because now everyone’s told they should be on TikTok and only release singles. You can definitely get swept out to sea trying to keep up with all the promotional trends of the music business and almost lose the excitement of the writing aspect. I think a good way that we’ve found balance is by segmenting what we want to focus on into stages. It’s a waste of time and creative energy to try and wear all those hats at once. I’m obviously no expert, but we’re still creating and I like what we’re putting out. 

Yeah. Even major label superstars are being forced to make something go viral on TikTok before their labels will allow them to release an album. 

Yeah, I saw the Halsey thing, that was crazy. I love TikTok. I watch it every day, but I was not motivated enough to be creating content on TikTok. That’s just not where my brain was at that time, but I was definitely enjoying it as entertainment. But I have seen smaller bands go viral on the platform and get signed overnight. It’s a fast-tracked path to have success and reach goals without bias, which was previously unheard of in the music industry. So I’m all for it, but any good platform eventually gets overrun with the wrong motives once the money comes into question. We saw it with Livejournal, Tumblr, and Instagram. The good can’t last forever. 

I love your latest single, “This Year I Won’t (IDGAF).” Can you tell me about the process behind that song and that incredible sock puppet music video? 

They say you have your whole life to write your first record, but I don’t feel like I used that time preciously. The first record I put out was like, “Here’s some chords, here’s some funny lyrics, BOOM, I made a song!” I wasn’t really overthinking or overanalyzing. And with record two, I feel like there was an enormous pressure for it to be great. There were also a lot of cooks in the kitchen, and because of that I think a lot of things got overcooked because they were too precious. So the new model coming out of the pandemic is getting back to the roots of not caring so much. 

The song itself was a list of New Year’s resolutions that I found from a few years back while cleaning every nook and cranny in the house. I thought “Man, that would make a really funny song!” The lyrics are basically that list, verbatim. And we did it in a day! Once you take the pressure off, the product ends up being great on its own. So staying true to the chorus of the song, we truly did not give a fuck and just pushed forward. The sock puppets were made from crafting materials lying around in my house. I think because I had just come out of a very busy month touring, DJing, and putting out my solo record. So making the puppets was like my own form of tangible therapy. I just got to zone out for two days and get creative with trash. And it made my bandmates laugh, which is always nice. 

You play a vintage Fender Jazzmaster. What are your favorite things about that particular guitar model? 

Yes! It’s a 1963 original, so it’s pretty old and very coveted. Fender basically had a factory change in 1965, so the way they manufactured the interiors of their guitars had completely changed. Anything that came before 1965 is just worth more because the electronics are different. My 1963 Jazzmaster is probably worth more than anything else I’ve ever owned combined. At this point my collection’s up to about twelve guitars. I have another orange guitar with a reverse headstock, like the upside-down kind Jimi Hendrix played. It’s a pawn shop supersonic with a ‘60s curve. I also have two Danelectros that I’m obsessed with. One of them’s a twelve-string with purple sparkles that I got on an eBay bid. 

I grew up in Phoenix and was raised by my grandparents, so I grew up listening to surf rock. A lot of Dick Dale, Beach Boys, Beatles, the Ventures. I love California, I love the beach, I love surfing, and I love dancing to that music.

– Jessica Louise Dye

What I love about your records is that you’re journaling about New York life with a California surf rock sound. What attracts you to that sort of duality? 

Yeah, it’s very Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I grew up in Phoenix and was raised by my grandparents, so I grew up listening to surf rock. A lot of Dick Dale, Beach Boys, Beatles, the Ventures. The Ventures have one of my favorite Christmas albums of all time. Even some weird stuff, like Captain Beefheart, because it was so loud and inappropriate. I’ve always loved surf music. I love California, I love the beach, I love surfing, and I love dancing to that music. I remember going to a soul ‘60s dance night in my late teens, and all of the ‘90s alternative rock that I was trying so hard to like just flew out the window. I realized that I was focusing on the wrong era. I wanted to make music I could dance to, and making surf music comes naturally because I know it so well. 

I hear you’ve been getting back into a lot of early-aughts pop and playing it during your DJ sets. Who are some acts from that era you’ve been listening to a lot recently? 

I’m vibing on Britney so hard right now. A lot of Mariah, Xtina, Jessica, Mandy. All the aughts bubblegum pop divas. And I’m finding new and interesting things about those songs every time I play them, because I’m listening with musician ears now. 

I understand that you really started throwing yourself into music to stave off post-heartbreak depression. When did it click for you that music had bigger plans for you?

Oh my god, that feels so long ago! But yes, this whole project was sort of a middle finger to a breakup. I put in everything I had and sort of ran with it. It’s escapism. That’s what all art is, or at least good art. You’re either running from something or to something, but either way you’re still running. Nowadays I can just write for the joy of writing. I don’t need to be manically happy or depressed in order to write. 

I moved to Washington, DC because I have a very unnatural obsession with Ian Mackaye and Fugazi, and the ‘80s hardcore scene. I specifically chose a college in DC for that. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties when I realized that I could be the creator as well as the consumer. I was really surrounding myself with so many friends who make music, and I wanted to be able to have an activity where we’d be able to create something together. That’s just magic. That’s what witchcraft is, to know what’s going on in somebody else’s brain and be able to make this tangible thing together. 

What is your relationship to music history and the rock and roll pantheon of New York? 

I’m definitely super appreciative of landmark places tied to music. That’s a huge reason why I was drawn to New York, because it has continued to prove itself to be the mecca for new creation, whether it’s art, film, theater, or fashion design. It’s all happening in New York. Even if there’s not a swelling bubble for the industry here, it’s still happening in another industry, so to just be around the energy of that creation is really powerful. I live behind the Chelsea Hotel, I walk by it all the time. I’ve been to all the landmarks. When we wrote On Ludlow, I was always hanging out on the Lower East Side because I loved the Beastie Boys and the Ramones. I loved CBGB and the Bowery. I always like to say that New York is my fifth bandmate, because the city’s been so integral to my writing. 

You have a really cool solo pop project called Hello Lightfoot. What can you tell me about that? 

I just put out a Hello Lightfoot solo EP a month ago. It’s completely different from High Waisted. I sort of see it as my avant-garde pop project. It’s dark but dancey. I was super inspired by Metric, Björk, and Kate Bush. It’s somewhat accessible, but I also wanted to make a musician’s record. So there’s a lot of found sounds and weird manipulations in the mix. 

What else have you got coming up that you’re excited about? 

I’m doing some fun DJ sets at Primavera Sound this month. In the fall High Waisted is likely going to do a re-release of the 2020 record and then get ready to release some new singles we’ve been sitting on for a while. Lots of exciting things to come, so stay tuned!


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Live Music Review

Live Review: Grace Cummings at The Sultan Room (June 3, 2022)

It’s the late afternoon in Brooklyn on Friday, June 3rd. Bianca Bafitis, the Marketing Director at ATO Records, has posted on her Instagram story a backstage photo of Australian blues folk singer-songwriter Grace Cummings, with a caption that reads: “Grace Cummings is about to melt faces at the Sultan Room tonight!”

It’s been five days since that show and I still have yet to plaster my face back on.

Grace Cummings has a quality to her voice that’s startling, yet affirming. If you ever wanted to know what the voices of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and PJ Harvey combined might sound like, listen to Grace Cummings and you have your answer.

Throughout her performance at the Sultan Room, Cummings traded the intricately-woven acoustic arrangements of her studio recordings for some pedal-heavy rock and roll shredding, bolstered by a three-piece band. In the middle of her set, her band left the stage and she performed the next few numbers on piano, including “Sweet Matilda,” a crushing hymn reckoning with the loss and destruction of the Australian bush fires, and a cover of The White Stripes’ “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet).”

As a performer, Cummings is serious in stature and wildly unrestrained. The tension and release of her androgynously ragged and gruff vocal delivery is riveting and corrosive, unfurling layers of pain and longing that permeates and embeds itself into the listener’s conscience as her voice walks a tightrope of carefully crafted blues rock riffs. Near the end of one of the final numbers, “Heaven,” her and her band broke out into a prolonged jam session that was punctuated by climactic, ear-splitting drum hits that would put John Bonham to shame.

To see and hear Grace Cummings perform live is to understand how the scientists at NASA must have felt after catching a supernova live on camera for the first time. It’s thrilling in a way that language simply cannot articulate. You can’t walk away from the experience without feeling dumbfounded and too stunned to speak.


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Music TV & Film

Vicarious Euphoria: Ranking Favorites from the ‘Heartstopper’ Soundtrack for Pride Month

“I loved seeing these queer teens live out their love stories on screen. But at the same time, I also felt so sad that I never got to do the same. That time in my life is gone. *POOF.* It’s disappeared, it’s over, and I’ll never get it back. So it also makes me deeply glad that we have shows like Heartstopper to show the beauty of the queer experience.”

– Hanna Smith, “Sounding Out with Izzy”

In the latest episode of “Sounding Out with Izzy,” Izzy is joined by special guest Hanna Smith, a journalist and child psychology expert, to discuss the beloved webcomic-turned-Netflix-teen-romance Heartstopper, and why it’s the perfect representation that they never got to have as teenagers.

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Izzy’s Favorite Songs from the Heartstopper Soundtrack:

  1. Baby Queen – Want Me
  2. Wolf Alice – Don’t Delete the Kisses
  3. Frankie Cosmos – Sappho
  4. Orla Gartland – Why Am I Like This
  5. Smoothboi Ezra – My Own Person
  6. Rina Sawayama – LUCID
  7. CHVRCHES – Clearest Blue
  8. Shura – What’s It Gonna Be
  9. Matilda Mann – Paper Mache World
  10. chloe moriondo – I Want to Be with You
  11. Sir Babygirl – Flirting with Her
  12. Sunflower Bean – Moment in the Sun
  13. Chairlift – I Belong in Your Arms
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Artist Feature

Jess Jessica Steps into a Paradise of Her Own Making with ‘Streaming Music’

Hailing from Colorado and the Sunshine State, hyperpop/house virtuoso Jess Jessica has been weaving together unique sonic textures from a very early age. Jessica picked up a pair of drumsticks and began experimenting with Ableton on the family computer at the age of ten, her early influences ranging from classic rock to metal, 70s funk, and psychedelia. However, it wasn’t until her gender transition in her early twenties when she discovered the full extent of her musical potential, embracing her affinity for disco, house, and saccharine early-2000s pop. 

Jess Jessica’s latest album, aptly titled Streaming Music, is predominantly influenced by the online landscape in which music is consumed today, with most of the tracks condensed to a minute and thirty seconds. A clear reference point for her sound is the world-renowned 21st-century musical pioneer SOPHIE, with songs like “Magic D” and “Drip,” closely emulating the watery, oscillating textures and the sounds of snapping latex and fizzing liquid that have become hallmarks of SOPHIE’s signature sound. 

But at the same time, the sonic landscape of Streaming Music remains entirely unique. “I love SOPHIE, but I’m not trying to be her. I’ve seen people who are clearly inspired by her doing really cool things and I’ve also seen some pretty distasteful imitations that almost feels like grave-robbing,” Jessica tells me, making it clear that she is much more interested in carving out a path of her own. Her songs are not quite as violent or corrosive as SOPHIE’s. They’re much more chill and pulsing, evoking the lush tropics of a queer utopia in Ibiza. 

A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents sat down with Jess Jessica to talk about what she wants to say with this album, how she fell in love with house music by catching a DJ set at her first festival, and the intrinsic ties between music and personal identity. 

To start, what are your main priorities at this point in your career? 

It’s tough, because there’s a bit of a divide between the career side of things and the musician side. Right now I’m really focused on the direction I’m headed in musically. I’m trying to hone in on this space between house music and hyperpop with an asterisk, since hyperpop means a lot of different things to different people. I kind of regret my first release from a brand standpoint, because it’s totally incongruous with the rest of my work. My musical interests are so wide and disparate, so I eventually came to understand that finding a niche is kind of necessary in order for other people to understand what you’re doing. I might not get to shoot in all different directions, but I at least get to hone in on a sound that I really find interesting and can utilize to find my own place between these two worlds. As a person with ADHD, I kind of detest the idea of hyperfocusing on one thing, but I also see the necessity of it. 

That’s interesting. How does this idea of finding a niche affect your art? 

I think with this new album, attention and focus are really big themes. I basically wanted to make an album that was influenced by the medium of streaming. When you think of records like Dark Side of the Moon, the music is extremely shaped and each song only fits within the context of the rest of the album, so they don’t work as standalone tracks. If that album had come out when CDs were a thing, it would have been an entirely different album. 

In that regard, I’m very consciously allowing the medium of streaming to shape the music. I’m really challenging myself to see if I can tell a fully fleshed out musical story with an interesting buildup and some sort of payoff in just a minute and a half. I’m fully aware of how people are consuming their music through streaming. That thumb is right over the skip button. I do it all the time. So I guess it could also be a strategic way to game the streaming monetization system. 

You started producing at quite an early age. How have you evolved as a producer since you started? 

In terms of the resources available, things are entirely different now. I guess in a way you could look at it in terms of everything being the same or everything being totally different, especially with electronic music. The technology has gotten a lot more advanced, but the basics of synthesis are still pretty much the same. A big difference for me is that I’m actually paying for Ableton now, instead of pirating all my music software like I did when I was thirteen. I think the biggest change is this massive proliferation of free resources that are extremely high-quality, even just professional-level advice on YouTube walking through the intricacies of producing and creative ways to utilize the technology.

When did you first discover house music and what drew you to that particular sound?  

That definitely came in stages. I was really into electronic music when I was twelve and thirteen. Some of those musicians from back into the day are people I kinda cringe at now. I came from a classic rock and metal background which is what I played on drums back in the day, which is a little embarrassing. I think the first time house music sunk its claws into me was the first time I attended a music festival. I think I was a sophomore in college, and I ended up at the house stage for most of it. This was the Sunset Music Festival in Tampa. I saw Claude VonStroke there, and the Dirtybird Records sound became extremely influential to me. The context of a long DJ set is very different from hearing a singular song in isolation. And hearing it on a massive system where the bass is actually moving with you is unparalleled. It was the trippiest shit I’d ever seen. Hearing house music live in the context that it’s built for–the dancefloor–was what really made me passionate about it. 

I also went to a queer nightclub event in Ibiza called Glitterbox, and that really opened up my brain to early house and disco pioneers. I can’t wait to go back. The last time I was in Europe was for business school. Side tangent: I strongly regret going to business school. At the time I thought I was choosing something practical that would guarantee job security, but it turned me into a full-on Marxist instead [laughs]. 

What are the themes that tie Streaming Music together? 

It’s basically me conducting a survey on everything that influences me, but also trying to hone in on something that’s mine. I’m still very much in the process of figuring out what I ultimately want to sound like. I think this is just another step on my musical journey through the sounds I want to explore. I’m at a point in my career where I still have a lot to prove. 

SOPHIE once said “I just don’t have so much fun looking back. The future seems more real.” Where do you see music going in the future?  

In terms of sound, I think SOPHIE was very on top of things. She was one of the most forward-thinking sound designers, even just in terms of texture and timbre. She was just out on her own in open water, doing stuff that was entirely unique. The direction she was heading in continues to be incredibly influential. 

In terms of where I see music going, that’s a tough one. I’m almost a little bit scared of it. I recently found out that OpenAI has Dall-E 2, which you can give any text prompt and it will produce infinite variations of an image in any style. I see the same sort of thing happening to music. I see it quickly turning into something that completely devalues all the hard work that goes into the craft of making music. Even most of the arrangement process isn’t that complicated, and if we can get AI to do that as well, that terrifies me. I’m all for democratizing access to creative expression, but how far are we willing to go, and at what cost? 

How is the way you present your personal identity reflected in your music? 

Once I actually started embracing my transness, I started creating and consuming music more honestly. I had always loved girly, bubblegum pop music, but I was always very secretive about it because of the way I was socialized growing up. In the same way that I presented a masked version of myself to the world—pretending to be somebody I wasn’t—I wasn’t being authentic and that was reflected in the music as well. Since transitioning, my music has become more honest.


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Live Music

Live Roundup: Dehd, Hinds, Anika, Spellling (May 24-28)

Dehd @ Bowery Ballroom 5.24.2022

Chicago indie rock powerhouses Dehd never disappoint live, always delivering bombastic high-energy sets to match their brightly-toned power ballads. The trio played at Bowery Ballroom on May 24th to an enthusiastic live audience, who wasted no time moshing and shoulder shuffling around the room as the band played through their beloved hits and new material. Frontwoman Emily Kempf’s unrestrained howls and guitarist Jason Balla’s nimble fancy footwork was a joy to behold, while drummer Eric McGrady played it straight, delivering precise percussive hits that bounced off the walls of the venue.

Hinds @ Music Hall of Williamsburg 5.26.2022

Beloved Spanish indie rock quartet Hinds played at Music Hall of Williamsburg last Thursday, and their unparalleled energy and fun-loving spirit was contagious. It was so refreshing to have a break from serious crowds with their arms folded and dour-faced post punk boys, and instead watch a group of women joyfully play their hearts out while the diverse crowd passionately belted the words to every song. The most poignant moment of the night was when frontwoman Carlotta Cosials plucked a young woman from the audience and handed them her Gibson SG for the next song, a heartwarming olive branch that shattered the invisible fourth wall between performer and audience. What followed was a fiery declaration from Cosials encouraging “every young girl to pick up a guitar!” As the show came to an end, the crowd started chanting “¡Viva Hinds!,” growing louder and louder until the band inevitably returned to deliver two more numbers. It was one of the most enthusiastic demands for an encore I’d heard in a while, and the most high-spirited rock show I’d been to in years.

Anika @ Knockdown Center 5.28.2022

As part of the Sacred Bones 15th anniversary showcase at the Knockdown Center in Queens, German singer-songwriter Anika gave a spellbinding performance that grabbed the audience by the throat and refused to let up. Bolstered by a three-piece backing band of all women, various tools were utilized to replicate her unique studio sound in a live setting including slide guitars, cosmic synths, and a variety of different percussive instruments, from foam mallets to wire brushes. When the lights came up at the end of her set, I felt myself being violently jolted back to earth, like I had been held in a trance by a hypnotherapist for the past hour.

Spelling @ Knockdown Center 5.28.2022

Spellling was the inimitable highlight of the Sacred Bones 15th anniversary showcase with her lush, dreamy compositions and captivating Kate Bush-esque vocals. She utilized every square inch of that stage with elaborate choreography, swaying gently from side to side and gracefully waving her arms like an enchantress in a fairy tale casting a spell on the audience while drawing celestial sounds out of her mini KORG synthesizer. The only thing I would have changed about her set was making it at least an hour longer.