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Artist Feature Interview New Music

Being the Cowgrrrl: A Chat with Sofiiak About Their Eclectic Debut

Seattle-based punk virtuoso Sofiiak’s debut EP Cowgrrrl (the revolution demos) is slated to come out on November 26 via Riot Grrrl Records. The project is a genre-bending fever dream that spans country, jazz, dreampop, and riot grrrl. The best way I can describe sound of this EP is if Le Tigre and Dolly Parton were catapulted into the 1930s to play at a jazz lounge in Kansas City with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

Sofia Krutikova is the brains behind Sofiiak. They grew up in the mosh pit, which opened the door for them to work at local Seattle venues as a sound engineer. There, they quickly fell in love with the intricacies of producing, which led them to enroll in KEXP’s 90.TEEN public radio program in high school. Krutikova has also made a name for themself as a journalist in The Stranger and as a co-founder of the Riot Grrrl Records label, which publishes monthly zines modernizing the riot grrrl movement.

On this EP, Sofiiak combines the searing bite of Bratmobile records with the serene tranquility of Mazzy Star and the cracked-out production glitches of hyperpop records.

I sat down with Sofiiak to chat about the EP as well as their favorite bands, their love of Rico Nasty, and the punk essence of Charlie Parker. We also talked about their obsession with the omnichord, a portable synthesizer with preset string-rhythms and bass lines that has the ability to produce otherworldly sounds.

What is the most important statement you are trying to make with this project?

That self-care is really important. It’s super easy to get burnt out in the music world and in general. I touch on this in the song “online school during covid,” but daily life can get super repetitive. Continuing to live from project to project and shift to shift is really unhealthy. It’s a really big anti-capitalist statement in favor of self-care. With the production I was really exploring pushing the boundaries of how many weird sounds I could make in Logic while sharing the invasive thoughts in my head about injustice and physical and mental burnout.

Who are three people who make up the Holy Trinity of Riot Grrrl for you?

Well Rico Nasty is up top. I love her. I think that her ethos is the most hardcore Riot Grrrl mentality I’ve ever witnessed. I would also say Bam Bam because they are grunge pioneers, and I believe that Riot Grrrl and grunge go hand-in-hand. And of course, I’m gonna have to go with the classic, Bikini Kill.

How did you cobble all of your versatile influences together for this EP?

I would say that jazz is a big influence, especially Charlie Parker and bebop jazz. I took a jazz history class during the making of this EP and the history of jazz is just insane because none of them were doing it for profit. They were playing music just for the sake of playing music. When you really think about it, the first punk bands were 100% jazz. They weren’t trying to appeal to mass audiences. They were tinkering and improvising. And I took a very similar approach in making this EP. This is music for me. If audiences like it then that’s just a bonus.

I was very inspired by Hannah Jadagu, a bedroom pop artist who signed to Sub Pop this year. I was also influenced by a lot of Russian darkwave and goth, being Russian and Ukrainian myself. There’s this one song called “Disconnexion” by La Femme. It’s a club track with a banjo, and that’s the type of chaos I’m going for. I was also highly influenced by a lot of country music, especially Dolly Parton. I’ve been loving everything that Lil Nas X and Orville Peck have been doing as well.

I’ve always been attracted to the STEM field of music. I’m an engineer at several venues in Seattle and I love being in control of live sound, so being able to utilize that background in my own music gives me the freedom to create the exact sound that I want.

– Sofiiak
Photo by Anya Kochis

How important has your background as a sound engineer and mixer been to your own music?

I think it’s super important. I’ve always been attracted to the STEM field of music. I’m an engineer at several venues in Seattle and I love being in control of live sound, so being able to utilize that background in my own music gives me the freedom to create the exact sound that I want, rather than other people dictating what I get to sound like. Producing has also been beneficial to the way I operate as an engineer because it gives me more knowledge of how to apply effects correctly, depending on the setting.

How’s that search for an omnichord going?

I’m so glad you asked, because I couldn’t stop talking about the omnichord in the latest article I wrote for The Stranger. I’m still looking for one. One of my friends has one, so I might go over to their house and jam. I believe the omnichord will arrive in my life when the universe deems it fit.

What does Dolly Parton mean to you?

I love Dolly. I was Goth Dolly Parton for Halloween. I love her aesthetic, her sound, and what she does with her platform. She’s the picture of humility. She basically funded the Maderna vaccine and it feels nice to know that my vaccine is Dolly-approved. The amount she was able to accomplish in such a male-dominated field like country music is incredibly inspiring. I would love to do a goth-inspired synth cover of “Jolene” at some point.

What influenced the vocal techniques on this EP?

A lot of it has been riot grrrl approaches to vocals. I did choir for two years when I went to Russian school, but my choir teacher was hell. A lot of my vocal style comes from trying to match pitch with the records I listen to while incorporating theory into it to make sure my voice stays in key. And I’m addicted to reverb. I love how it envelopes the vocals in a blanket of echoes. I think there’s so much you can do with vocal effects that a lot of people in mainstream music don’t utilize cause they’re afraid of sounding weird.

Daily life can get super repetitive. Continuing to live from project to project and shift to shift is really unhealthy. It’s a really big anti-capitalist statement in favor of self-care.

– Sofiiak
Photo by Anya Kochis

Your lyric on the final track about dickheads who question your music taste was really cathartic to hear. Dudes who musicsplain are the absolute worst. What drove you to write about it?

I’ve worked at record stores since I was sixteen and I’ve literally had men come up to me and ask me, “Do you even buy records?” at my literal job! Like, YES I buy records sir, I’ve been collecting since I was twelve. Whatever. If these men need to believe they’re introducing me to Nirvana in order to feel special, then that’s not my problem. It’s actually pretty sad.

Did you really break your guitar while singing Angel Olsen?

Yes! I was playing “Shut Up Kiss Me,” and I broke the whammy bar on my guitar. They couldn’t get it fixed at Guitar Center so I ended up having to buy a new one. That’s okay, I still love you, Angel Olsen!

What are some of your favorite music discoveries you’ve made this year?

I love this one song called “Autopilot” by russian.girls. I’ve become a big fan of Vegyn’s production, especially the work he does with Frank Ocean. I fell into a Billie Holiday rabbit hole after watching the Billie Holiday biopic. I just love the way she wrote about her personal life in her lyrics and her vocal style. The new Snail Mail record is incredible as well. I really wanted to book an interview with her for the zine, but she’s literally been on the cover of Rolling Stone, so I never expected her people to get back to me. I’ve been listening to so much Regina Spektor. She makes me feel seen as a Russian-American musician and that Soviet Kitsch album is just incredible. That one later Miles Davis album – I think it was called Doo-Bop – is also great. That was basically a hip hop album.

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New Music Review

Mae Krell Wades the Waters of Recovery with “phantom limb”

After a two-year hiatus from music, queer folk singer-songwriter Mae Krell returned this year to continue tugging on the collective heartstrings of their devoted listeners and fans with the singles “are you sure,” “colorblind,” “rest stop,” and “snow.” Their newest single “phantom limb,” was released last week.

“phantom limb” swells with crisp acoustic plucking and echoing walls of reverberating piano. The soft instrumental accompaniment and melancholy tonalities of Krell’s voice evokes the style of Big Thief and Phoebe Bridgers.

Throughout the song, Krell unravels their shortcomings in the process of recovering from addiction. “You’re still here like a phantom limb/An itch I can’t scratch cause I’ll tear off my skin,” they sigh in a sorrowful lilting vocal delivery over scintillating production.

“People often expect me to be ‘healed’ now that I’m sober, not realizing that my disease will continue to trail behind me for the rest of my life,” Mae revealed. “‘phantom limb’ speaks to my recovery, and what it’s like to choose to carry something difficult with you instead of letting it go untreated.” 

I know what it’s like to love someone who struggles with addiction, and this song is a stab-in-the-heart reminder that no matter what a person does to help their recovering loved ones, there really is no way to understand a person’s relationship to substance abuse unless you’ve lived through addiction yourself. Krell has lived that experience, and their transparency in “phantom limb” is honest without diminishing the struggle nor overstating it.


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Artist Feature New Music

Chatting with Sub*T About Their Debut EP ‘So Green’

Despite not releasing a full-length project yet, bi-coastal duo Sub*T has already captivated a sizable audience around the world, with heaps of praise from Atwood Magazine and an Alt. Press feature to boot. Their debut EP So Green is slated to come out on November 19th. Produced and mixed by Bully’s Alicia Bognanno, So Green is a buzzing and infectiously melodic body of work that unapologetically tackles relationship naiveté, vulnerability, and the act of looking at the past through rose-colored glasses.

Pulling from alternative rock staples of the ’90s like Liz Phair, Tiger Trap, and Sleater-Kinney, bandleaders Jade Alcantara and Grace Bennett’s cutting lyrical humor and deft poetic zingers perfectly meld together with their charming lo-fi soundscapes and hair-raising riffs.

I sat down with Alcantara and Bennett to talk about their self-taught/DIY grassroots approach to music-making, writing songs with found words in Marvel comic books, and prioritizing safe environments at their shows.

How did the two of you initially meet?

Bennett: We were internet friends and we met IRL at a 1975 show at MSG four years ago.

What’s it like making music on opposite sides of the country?

Bennett: A lot of voice memos and texting back and forth. We sometimes do a zoom meeting, but that isn’t always effective in sessions. We’ve seen what can happen with the echoes and the lagging feedback, so that would not be ideal.

Alcantara: Yeah, definitely. That said, writing apart is definitely not as challenging as you would imagine.

What were some of the most memorable parts of writing the EP?

Bennett: I think we need to talk about “Bruce Banner.”

Alcantara: Oh absolutely! The first song on our EP [“Bruce Banner”] was a classic case of me being bored at work and coming up with lyrics or a melody. In this case it turned into a song based on Bruce Banner [aka the Incredible Hulk]. I’m a huge fan of Marvel so I have all these superhero comic books in my house. We sort of threw ourselves into a writing session where we set a timer and started blowing through all the books to find ideas for lyrics. We do a lot of songwriting when we’re apart, but that was a cool way to work on writer’s block and engage in a creative activity together.

Being “green” [is] a metaphor for the naive childlike perspective. When we wrote “Bruce Banner,” we brought in our personal experiences with first relationships, where we misunderstood the ways we were being treated in those relationships.

– Sub*T

What were the first songs each of you learned on guitar?

Bennett: The first one I learned was “Octopus’s Garden” by The Beatles. That was the song that my teacher gave me to learn when I was eighteen, so it wasn’t really my choice, but that was my first.

Alcantara: Probably some adapted form of “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys.”

How did each of you initially become fully devoted to music?

Bennett: My mom used to take me to shows as a kid. I would always get so mad cause she would take me to see like, Norah Jones and I would be so bored. But looking back, I think that was what made me a genuine fan of the live experience. When I was thirteen I started going to concerts by myself. I was fully obsessed with One Direction at the time.

Alcantara: Oh yeah, me too. That was the first time I got on an airplane to go to a show. When you become old enough to travel and create your own experiences through music and the internet, it totally consumes your life in the best way imaginable.

Your sound strongly reminds me of Rose Melberg and the work she did with Gaze and Tiger Trap. What would you say influences the sonic architecture you craft in each of your songs?

Alcantara: I think we’re very inspired by a lot of the music from that era, but we also strive to make something different from what we’re used to hearing in popular music now. Even when you look at what’s classified as “alternative rock” there are a lot of similarities. And we wanted to have those undertones but also make sure it sounded fresh and new. We are also very inexperienced with making music, so we’ve never felt like we’ve had to follow certain rules. We just like to experiment with our sound and see what sounds good to us. For the most part, we’ve formed our sound by sharing sonic and visual influences with each other. We don’t necessarily [emulate bands from the past] intentionally, but it often shows up when we sit down to write and record it. And it’s really nice to hear [the Tiger Trap] comparison, so thank you.

I would say we focus way more on [sonic elements] in the music. I’m much more drawn to emulating the sound rather than the lyrics.

– Sub*T

Was the color green a symbolic choice for the project, and if yes, what does it signify?

Alcantara: When used in a song being “green” [is] a metaphor for the naive childlike perspective. When we wrote “Bruce Banner,” we brought in our personal experiences with first relationships where we misunderstood the ways we were being treated in those relationships. But it’s more about the newness and the freshness. We don’t feel like everything we’re doing has been done with certainty, but sometimes it’s fun to have no idea what you’re doing. So we’re talking about being “green” not just as a metaphor for being inexperienced, but also being able to enjoy the process of growth.

What are your thoughts on the riot grrrl revival?

Bennett: In my experience [riot grrrl] never really went away. Only those who don’t look for it would know that the movement was always around and [it’s constantly being updated]. I think what frustrates me is that in the last 5-10 years, I’ve seen feminism get commodified just to sell products, and unfortunately the riot grrrl aesthetic seems to have fallen victim to that as well. Regardless, it’s still an incredibly powerful way for women to express themselves and unleash their anger. It’s a very raw and personal form of expression and that’s what makes it so attractive to young women who have no other outlet to express themselves or have that type of urgency in their emotions. I think it’s awesome to see, and whoever wants to take part in it should.

Alcantara: Definitely. It’s really cool to be included in something like that, but that mentality is just a way of life for us. We’ve had to live with it our entire lives and we will continue to do so as we move forward. We always want to make sure all of our shows are creating a safe environment and we always strive to work [in parity] with other women.

What would you say are the most important themes on the EP?

Bennett: In these songs there’s a desperate form of escapism and wanting to get unstuck from the physical and mental places that we’re in. On the second song “Cozad,” we sing about the physical aspect of movement. With the third song “Fur on Porcelain,” we sing about being stuck in one place mentally. “Table for Four,” which closes out the EP, is about remembering. In each song we reconsider our identities and find new ways of looking at personal memories, which is a common thread among most of the songs on the EP.

Alcantara: Overall, it’s about escapism but also adventure. It’s about coming to terms with reality, moving forward, and not running from the past, but being at peace with it as we move on to the next chapter in our lives.

I found “Cozad” to be the most interesting part of the EP because it sounded very bright and fun, but the lyrics had certain undertones of rage. What can you tell me about that song?

Bennett: I was on a roadtrip with Kenzie, our manager. We drove from the East Coast to Oakland to be with Jade. That song was written in the car in the town of Cozad in Nebraska. We finished it at Jade’s house.

Alcantara: We thought that “Cozad” was such an interesting-sounding word, so we looked into the name of the town and found out that it was named after a man [John J. Cozad] who murdered someone [and was never tried for it]. I think the song stems from our newfound freedom to do exactly what we want, but there’s also layers of rage that speak to what it’s like to be a woman, where we often feel unprotected and unsafe on a roadtrip, so we end up having to protect each other. Overall the song is a buildup of raw emotions related to adventure, independence, and tongue-in-cheek ways of expressing our anger.

In these songs there’s a desperate form of escapism and wanting to get unstuck from the physical and mental places that we’re in.

– Sub*T

What predominantly inspires your lyric writing?

Bennett: I would say we focus way more on [sonic elements] in the music. I’m much more drawn to emulating the sound rather than the lyrics.

Alcantara: I agree. But if I had to pick a person who I strongly relate to lyrically, it would definitely be Kim Gordon. Other than that we’ve never followed a pre-determined formula in our lyrics.

Bennett: I remember when we started out we thought we had to follow a formula, but once we started caring less and stopped taking ourselves so seriously we had a lot more fun with it.

What are some of the most memorable shows you’ve been to in recent years?

Bennett: I had the most amazing time at a Hinds show in New York pre-covid. I also saw Dehd at the Market Hotel and I thought the floor was gonna collapse, it was insane.

Alcantara: I did Hinds’ makeup on the road for a while, and that was a lot of fun cause their fans are so cool. I also had a lot of fun at a Twin Peaks show in Chicago. The Bikini Kill reunion show was also incredible.

How did you end up getting that Hinds gig?

Alcantara: I went to most of their U.S. shows and we became fast friends. I did some Florida shows with them and all of their California shows and it was a lot of fun. I’ve always loved their energy. They’re so down-to-earth and their fans are incredible. This was at a time when a lot of people were anxious about the current political climate and there was a lot of talk about really shitty environments at shows with stumbling drunk dudes harassing women and mosh pits getting out of hand. Carlotta started crying at one of the shows because she couldn’t believe how incredible it was to tour America and see all of their amazing female fans who drove for 6 hours just to see them. And that’s exactly what we aim to do as a band. We want to create that type of environment at our shows where it feels cathartic and we have the upper hand in controlling the situation and making it as safe as possible.

What was it like to work with Alicia Bognanno on this EP?

Bennett: It was the best. I don’t think I can put into words how awesome she is as a person and an artist. She was an incredibly supportive mentor and collaborator, and it came from a place of genuine love for the music that we had sent her. She was really invested in what we wanted to do, which made for a super awesome and productive environment in Nashville. It was the best experience we could have possibly had. It was extremely validating.

Alcantara: She knows a lot about engineering and mixing, so she instantly understood the kinds of tones we wanted on our songs, not just from her personal background as a musician, but because our tastes align very closely with hers. I’m still in disbelief that she made time for us even though her schedule was packed. It was pretty insane to get to work with someone I’d looked up to for so long, and now she’s like our sister. She really understood our vision from the beginning and believed in it.

What else would you like to plug?

Bennett: We’re playing two Brooklyn shows, one one on November 21st at Elsewhere in Brooklyn with Been Stellar and another one on December 3rd with Razorbraids.

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So Green will be available on streaming platforms November 19.

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New Music Review

Anne Bennett Ascends with “Hell Couldn’t Keep Me”

Combining downtrodden bluesy lyrics with western gothic acoustics, Salem-bred singer-songwriter Anne Bennett’s new single “Hell Couldn’t Keep Me,” was released on October 28th, closely following her previous singles “Heavy Hand,” “Deep in the Shadows,” and “Highway Boys.” Despite being new to the game, Bennett has already managed to carve out a distinctly unique musical identity inspired by her roots in Witch City.

Inspired by Bennett’s ongoing fight to rise above her opponents, the song came just off the heels of Bennett being forced to rebuild her online presence from scratch after her Instagram account was targeted and hacked by online scammers.

“I wrote ‘Hell Couldn’t Keep Me’ because I was tired of being knocked down by certain people in my life. This song is my way of giving them the middle finger. No matter how hard you try to push me down, I will push through, because I never give up. I am more relentless than Satan himself. So powerful that Hell can’t even keep me underground,” Bennet explained.

As the song progresses, Bennett’s towering vocals glide over menacing acoustic strumming, tunnels of ominous feedback, and rattling percussion. Her domineering vocals strongly emulate PJ Harvey (who is one of her definitive influences), specifically To Bring You My Love and Is This Desire.

The way the release of this song aligns with Bennet’s fight to regain what she lost after being taken advantage of only makes the calculated anger in her breathy vocal delivery almost prophetic. But if anything’s certain, messing with Bennett will not bode well for anybody.


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War Honey Release Critically-Acclaimed EP ‘Shard to Shatter’ on Vinyl

War Honey, the multi-hyphenate five-piece band from Brooklyn, have blown every other promising young band out of the water with their debut EP Shard to Shatter, and their most recent single “Skinless,” a rumination on the past, present, and future blurring together as a result of the mind-numbing monotony of the pandemic.

Shard to Shatter was digitally released in December 2020 and was physically released on vinyl today via Handstand Records. I gave it a listen for the first time this past week and all I can say is Man. Was I late to the party.

This EP is an unpredictable amalgamation of sprawling ambient slowcore jams and bluesy existential shoegaze psalms that were recorded during the most stringent Covid lockdown periods of 2020. The titular opening track immediately draws the listener in with its spaced-out echoing soundscapes. Frontwoman Gabrielle Dana’s haunting melodies evoke the soulful passion of Ella Fitzgerald and the darkly desperate warbles of Chelsea Wolfe, enveloping the listener in a ghostly rapture as she croons and belts the lyrics “Not one more inch of my skin/Not one more piece of dream/Not one more shard to shatter.” Ben Fitts’ weeping guitar solo at the end sounds like it’s been submerged under water, heavily drenched in reverb.

“Even Sleep is Exhausting,” equally showcases Dana’s unrelenting passion and fury on the lingering traumas of sexual assault (“Invaders raging around my fortress/I don’t notice, I don’t notice.”) Her elongated vocal runs evoke the well-trodden vocal traditions of American soul against distinctly Western Gothic instrumentation by the band. Her ability to unwaveringly hold on to each note for an extended period of time is extraordinary.

The instrumental interlude “Psychopathic Performance Art,” is a terrifying intermission with cavernous psychedelic walls of sound. It sounds like the band is playing at a drug party in a lavish mansion shortly before descending into hell, ending with a sample of Tennessee reverend Jimmy Snow’s 1950s sermon where he claimed that rock ‘n roll was part of the devil’s plot to corrupt America’s youth.

On the final track “Landmine,” the vocal harmonies and guitar feedback cross-pollinate to create an almost suffocating sonic atmosphere. Rife with existential pandemic-wrought anxiety, Dana laments the gutted futures of generations to come whose oppressors use religion rationalize their behavior (“Oh what a cruel game/We all seem to hold to religion/It’s all just a scrimmage.”) It’s the perfect eulogy for a slowly decaying earth, an equally unsettling yet strangely comforting reminder of the impermanence of all forms of life.

Shard to Shatter is now available on vinyl via Handstand Records.


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Atlantic Canyons Navigates Personal Growth on ‘See The Hue’

Last month, New Hampshire-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andrea Levesque unveiled her latest EP, See The Hue, under the name Atlantic Canyons. Recorded with session musicians who Levesque met in online chatrooms, the project is a collection of creepily enchanting psalms with rippling synths on tracks like “Sorry,” and “At Sea,” as well as cavernous string-layered soundscapes and lyrics that unravel Levesque’s personal trauma throughout the EP. “Breathing’s easier underneath the surface/Rushing waves fall, soaked in endless sky,” she desperately trills on the titular track.

“[See The Hue] bears witness to feelings of fear and loneliness, and there is catharsis in acknowledging unpleasant emotions,” Levesque reveals. “By allowing myself the freedom to experience these feelings without judgment, I became unburdened by them.” 

Shortly after its release, the project rapidly took the #1 spot for most EP adds on the North American College & Community Radio Charts, and it’s easy to see why. Not many recent dreampop projects I’ve heard pack the same punch as See The Hue. The project is incredibly dynamic and all-encompassing, combining elements of trip hop, dreampop, and shoegaze. On no track is this more evident than “One More Minute,” with its rumbling tribal drum patterns and echoing guitars coupled with Levesque’s ethereal vocal melodies. “Everybody’s moved on/With the exception of you and me,” she urgently croons on the track.

“Haunted World,” opens with a menacing gothic organ wheeze that calls to mind The Marble Index and Desertshore-era Nico. Levesque’s breathy vocals emulate the likes of Portishead and Curve, with static drum-machine patterns that eventually build to a heady climax with skull-shattering bass breaks. I wouldn’t be surprised if the sound engineer had dismantled the entire soundboard and jammed a screwdriver inside while it was plugged in to achieve that impact.

The overall sound of See The Hue captures the state of Levesque steering a ship that is lost at sea in a hurricane. The final track, “Life At the Top,” which includes soulful guest vocals and playful ad-libs from Star Smash, offers a sense of humility and a state of calm after the worst of the storm has passed, clearing a path in the sky for Levesque to see the fractals of a glittering sunset reflected in the murky waters, yet wary of the storms yet to come.


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Stice Unleash Absurdist Hedonism on ‘Stice’s Satyricon’

Helmed by lead vocalist and lyricist Caroline “Crab” Bennet and producer and multi-instrumentalist Jake “Jark” Lichter, digital hardcore dance punk duo Stice require no introduction. Dubbing themselves “dial-up netscape nightmare fodder” and “zolo-horrorcore for the TikTok generation,” the duo rapidly accumulated a cult following in 2019, combining the abrasive fever-dream production stylings of Machine Girl with the bizarro green-screen visuals of 100 gecs, their cracked-out lyrics ping-ponging off of sinewy walls of honking synths, clanging percussion, and PS2 video game samples. 

Starting off this past summer with a bang, the duo struck while the iron was hot and announced a new album titled Stice’s Satyricon–which was just released yesterday via Ramp Local–unleashing the album’s chaotic lead singles, “I Need Cash!!!” and “Touch the Cloth.” The latter is a pulsing, chirping synth-laden rumination on suffering from explosive diarrhea, a perfect representation of how the group can take a song with grotesque lyrics full of low-brow potty humor and–thanks to Bennet’s melancholy vocal tones and Lichter’s ethereal fever-dream production–spectacularly transform it into an oddly beautiful psalm where Bennet laments her “suey guts” (“Gimme piece of the cloth/gimme all that you ought/gimme shit gimme piss gimme moss”).

The album’s third single, “Boogie on My Funky Grave,” accompanied by a Blair Witch-esque nightvision visual, is another standout moment on the album. Lichter’s off-the-wall Zach Hill-like production is accompanied by sirens and buzzing bass, glitching drum machines, and Bennet’s high-pitched yodeling vocalizations.

On “I Need Cash!!!” Bennet sardonically delivers the opening lines in a mock valley-girl accent, “Big pussy/Big ass/You know that I need cash!” On the surface, “I Piss Myself” may sound like a silly MySpace-core rager, but a closer look at the lyrics will reveal just how sinister in tone the song actually is. Bennet calls out rape, murder, racism, and addiction within the first three lines of each verse, equating “pissing yourself” with the visceral paranoia of constantly being reminded just how close everyone is in proximity to the evils of the world.  (“When I think I’m thinking/I piss myself, I piss myself”).

The album as a whole is a melange of sprawling, violently confrontational digital hardcore pop. And need I mention the lyrics, the lyrics. On “Satyricon,” the group combines urgent desire with bodily functions with lyrics like “Every time I pee, I cum religiously.” On “Honk If You’re Honky,” the lyrics go “Sucking a stump and calling it maple/Look whos fucking me under the table.” It’s hedonistic and transformative, right on par with Black Dresses’ Devi McCallion declaring that her “pussy’s like a bulldozer.” Enter the wonderfully unhinged universe of Stice, if you dare.


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Album Review New Music

‘I Want the Door to Open:’ Lala Lala’s Artistic Victory Lap

Listening to the latest album by Lala Lala–the brainchild of Chicago-based indie rocker Lillie West–is like listening to a once-cynical adult reverting back to their childlike wonder and learning to play again. It’s a manic trip of bombastic synth-infused ballads that transports the listener to another dimension, with lyrics that traverse tragedy, mortality, and joy and despair with intricate gospel choirs, wigged-out production, and lush vocoder-layered harmonies.

Lala Lala’s previous album’s The Lamb and Sleepyhead, were introspective bare-bones indie projects that West had recorded with a three-piece band. Her forthcoming album, I Want the Door to Open, is a much more sonically adventurous project with a lengthy personnel of collaborators including Yoni Wolf of WHY? on production, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya on drums, Benjamin Gibbard on guest vocals, Adam Schatz of Landlady and Sen Morimoto on saxophone, and many others.

The record is a loose concept album that tackles mortality, the labor of living, and the occasional highs we garner from being alive. On “DIVER,” West invokes the greek tragedy of Sisyphus of Ephyra, who was punished by the gods for wanting too much, forced to push a boulder up a mountain from Hell for eternity. It sounds like every instrument is battling each other for domination in the mix, production that’s guaranteed to leave every listener reeling. “Lava,” “Castle Life,” “Beautiful Directions,” and “Bliss Now!” each contain enchanting vocal loops and ethereal gospel choirs reminiscent of the styles of FKA Twigs and Kate Bush, both of whom West cites as major influences on the album.

“I want to be the color of the pool/I want to hold the fire part of fuel,” West yearns on the cinematic “Color of the Pool,” illustrating the violent desire that most humans feel to control the ways that they are perceived. “How can anyone else know who you are?” West asks. “How can you know who anyone else is when all these different avatars or personalities or performances are happening simultaneously, in different places.” Featuring an unhinged layered saxophone solo by Adam Schatz, the sonic landscape that West built around the song is just as urgent as the lyrics themselves, if not more.

This desire to mold one’s self-image into an avatar that doesn’t fit them is echoed on “Photo Photo,” where West traverses the pervasiveness of online digital spaces and social media. “There it is again, A flicker of pleasure/I didn’t take a picture, I guess I’ll have to remember,” she laments.

The closing track, “Utopia Planet” is a four-minute otherworldly pop opera with cavernous synths, amorphous production, and a blossoming saxophone solo by Sen Morimoto. The song closes with a voice-recording of West’s Grandma Beth, closing off the album on a lighthearted note.

“I tried to imagine a great expanse, abundance, an open door. It’s an invitation to surrender. I used a recording of my grandmother to take you further into another world.” It is the quintessential album closer, illuminating how acceptance of one’s circumstances is the only way one can truly reach a sense of peace. The door may never open, but we all must learn to fall in love with the labor of pushing the boulder up the mountain.

‘I Want the Door to Open’ will be released on October 8th via Hardly Art.


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New Music Review

KEANA Relinquishes Emotional Stagnation with “Teardrops”

If Alison Goldfrapp and Portishead conceived a baby while Björk watched, the end product would no doubt be rising dream pop virtuoso KEANA. Based in Los Angeles, KEANA is best known for her delicately fluid and imaginative universe of trip hop and electronic ambience; a crystalline dream sequence-like universe she carefully crafted as the sole writer, producer, and sound engineer of her work.

Her previous singles “Lilac” and “Sway” received critical praise for her hard-hitting atmospheric soundscapes and mystic lyrics, garnering praise from respected publications such as Earmilk and Atwood Magazine.

Now, with her newest single “Teardrops,” KEANA tackles the importance of self-love and positive affirmations in relationships against the backdrop of dynamic percussive sounds and ethereal vocals cushioned in layers of lush synth-lines and subtle horns.

“‘Teardrops’ speaks about realizing someone can only love you as much as they love themselves,” KEANA reveals. “The story is about being in a relationship with a “Fixer-upper,” this person seems put together on the outside but deep down they’re filled with insecurity and fear which often gets taken out on the partner. Eventually I take comfort in feeling my emotions and wish the other person would do the same.”

The lyrics brilliantly blend poetic sincerity and endearingly melodramatic stanzas. “Earlier today, I bathed myself and caressed my skin, pretending it was you,” she cheekily confesses in the opening line of the song. It’s a hilariously relatable and gorgeously windswept ode to allowing tears to flow freely in order to experience the full spectrum of human emotion.


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Interview New Music

Chatting with Alex Sepassi of Silver Relics About Their New Single, Distant Planets, & Trent Reznor

Blending elements of ‘60s British classic rock, post punk, grunge, and psychedelia, New York-based art-rock outfit Silver Relics have never been the type of group to paint themselves into a corner.

Silver Relics was formed in 2017 by Alex Sepassi and the group’s former drummer Justin Alvis. Sepassi started singing and writing songs at the tender age of ten, and has an uncanny ability to incorporate his unique assortment of influences into his writing while maintaining a distinctly modern post-digital sound.

On their newest single, “Tails”–a brooding ode to primitive animal instincts produced by Brian Young (Fountains of Wayne)–Silver Relics echoes the grittiness of Alice In Chains while pushing themselves far down the Nine Inch Nails spiral (Trent Reznor is a personal hero of Sepassi’s). The song marries the psychedelic overdrive of Spacemen 3 with undulating guitar riffs that sound like a B-side off of Throwing Muses’ The Real Ramona.

I spoke with Sepassi about the recent single, working with the evolution of the band, his most omnipresent influences, and much more!

What is the first song you can remember learning to play when you started out as a musician? 

“Tom Dooly” by The Kingston Trio. It was the very first song in this vintage guitar learners guide book I had. I think there are about four chords in that tune. I still remember it.

What was it that initially drew you to the psychedelic realms of classic and indie rock? 

When I was in college I started to understand what psychedelic music really meant to me. After listening to bands like Pink Floyd and The Zombies, I knew there was plenty of space to experiment with tonality along with expression and composition. After that, there came a point where I just started to define it for myself.

I’ve grown attached to the late ‘60s and the ‘70s. There were so many new bands sprouting in America and the UK. It’s all encompassing when you think about the number of genres that were created during that time.

– Alex Sepassi
Photo by Gail Thacker

Not long after your first European tour you’ve worked with legendary talents like Mark Crozer and Brian Young. What was collaborating with them like? 

Brilliant! We’re in the process of working on our sophomore album together. It’s been an amazing experience honestly. We all work well together. We have gone through a big and lengthy adjustment period, but Mark, Brian, Hitomi and I have all aligned on the soundscape, which has allowed for a great deal of fluidity in and out of the studio. And I’m thrilled to work with such strong talents.

What are some of your favorite periods or eras in music history? 

So many. I’ve grown attached to the late ‘60s and the ‘70s. There were so many new bands sprouting in America and the UK. It’s all encompassing when you think about the number of genres that were created during that time. I believe that template is still prevalent in music today among rock bands. It’s a history lesson any way you look at it. Punk is a great example of what evolved/unfolded towards the back end of the decade. What’s not to like about that?

Your music echoes many of the great periods in rock history, but it is also very modern and current with the digital elements you incorporate in production. Would you say that maintaining that balance is a strong priority for the band? 

First off, thank you. That’s exactly it. Brian’s production style is strong and unique. We bind the two together and put the emphasis on the songs. In other words, the songs dictate the style and production. And yes that does call for modern and digital elements at times. Especially in post-production. 

“Tails” explores the possibilities of forming an understanding of another individual/person/animal/stanger through our own and unique body language.

– Alex Sepassi
Photo by Gail Thacker

If you could collaborate with any artist (living or dead) who would it be? 

I would absolutely love to write with Trent Reznor. I’ve always appreciated his style and the way he approaches his songs and production. And how they tend to have a prevalent cinematic quality to them. Anyway, just let us know, Trent! 

In “Tails” you explore the abilities that humans have to identify “the instinctive aspects of humanity and the nonverbal communication we use daily.” I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit more about this concept and how it unfolded in writing sessions? 

“Tails” explores the possibilities of forming an understanding of another individual/person/animal/stanger through our own and unique body language. It’s important to have the lyrics and music interact and also fit in the same space, and it became a collective effort rather quickly once the lyrics were finished. Mark’s bass articulates the depth of what the bottom end can really be. And Brian’s emphasis on certain phrases truly accentuates those moments. 

If you were to go on a trip to another planet and could only bring one record what album would you take with you? 

Ah! I’m glad you asked. I’d like to take The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” to Neptune if they’re accepting visitors. Thanks so much for having us!


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Listen to “Tails”