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Interview New Music

Catbells Transforms Uncertainty into Conviction on “It’s Not Hard”

Taking her name from the children’s book, The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle by Beatrix Potter and a fell of mountains in the Lake District of England, dreampop singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Catbells invites her audience to immerse themselves in her wistful world of mature introspection and childlike wonder. This was on full display with her first single, “Fade (Rainy Day Demo),” which juxtaposed the melancholy fatigue of heartbreak against sullen detachment with velvety-smooth vocals and lush instrumental soundscapes.

On her newest single, “It’s Not Hard,” Catbells delves into the deepest recesses of human emotion to explore the pensive nature of escapism, comparing her life decisions to boarding a flight; once you’re on the plane, there’s no getting off of it.

I was fortunate enough to chat with Catbells about how the song came to fruition, utilizing her mysterious aura to keep the focus on her art, and finding solace in her childhood memories of New England.

What was the biggest thing that gravitated you to the dreampop/shoegaze space?

I have always loved music that makes you feel something, a feeling of nostalgia or something familiar that brings back memories. Dreampop and Shoegaze are both genres that put a listener into another world and really overtake the senses.

I’ve always loved when artists build a mystique around their persona and output, and I was wondering what made you decide to take a similar route as Catbells?

The mask and Catbells kind of found me, I can’t say I had great foresight or a plan into things. But the name Catbells really resonated with me when I first heard it as a name of a beautiful mountain in the Lake District of England. And then honestly I just felt that the cat mask would give me the artistic freedom I was longing for… I have always loved when an artist is an artist for arts sake, where the focus lies on the art they are making rather than focused on themselves as a person. I have loved too when artists and musicians transform into something that becomes art in itself, like Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, or the amazing magnetism and mystery of Orville Peck, or the creative cartoon genius of the Gorillaz. And it’s a lot of fun too!

When is the earliest you can recall having an inkling of wanting to pursue a career in music?

Music as a career was never my focus, music as a life choice is more the way it is, I am not sure I can say it is a career in the sense of a job, but more so a life path and just a part of who I am. And that probably was something that was there as a young child and just took time to develop.

How did “It’s Not Hard” first come to you and what was the creation process like from there? 

Many songs come to me in the form of one phrase or lyric and then build from there. “It’s Not Hard” started with the verse and the memory of a strong urge I had once sitting on the runway with the plane moments from taking off… in that moment being trapped, unable to turn back, no longer able to get off, no longer having any control, not wanting to go where I was going, but also not wanting to go back to where I’d come from… and seeing the rain pouring down outside the window and wanting nothing more than to literally break out the window and go lie in the rain and be free from it all… But ultimately the plane started rolling and then it took off and that was that. And that is how the song came to be.

What is one record that never fails to alleviate frustration and angst for you?

I think Split by Lush is a record I could listen to over and over when I am feeling that way.

I read that your vocal stylings and sound were inspired by the likes of Hope Sandoval and Nico. Would you like to tell me a little more about what they mean to you, and any other musicians that you really look at as pioneers? 

Hope Sandoval brings goosebumps when I hear her voice, she has such a calmness and sadness when she sings, and well. Nico brings a sullen yet matter of fact almost emotionless or numbness tone to her vocals that really makes me stop in my tracks whenever I hear her voice. I also love, like I mentioned above, Lush and the harmonies between Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson. And lately I have been listening to lots of Portishead and just enamored with Beth Gibbons’ voice. 

Something we have in common is we’re both New England kids. I was wondering how your songwriting has allowed you to reflect on your childhood hometown memories and how that has been beneficial to you?

Ah New England is such a special place!!! I think being from a place so amazing, with all the seasons and the scents and images that go along with each of them, makes feelings like nostalgia and longing something easier to tap into when I am writing. Thinking about the way the air feels there, and how the trees look, or the smell of the first snow about to fall, or the muddy fields after it rains, all of that really fuels my lyrics. Every month has its own special characteristics that feed the senses. I miss it terribly.


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Interview New Music

Cassie Marin Traverses the Digital World on New Single “Busy Body”

Today, indie electronica mastermind Cassie Marin debuts her new single, “Busy Body,” which explores the voyeuristic thrills and pitfalls of being the watcher and the watched in the digital landscape of social media.

Photo by Sergey Nikitenko

On “Busy Body,” Marin’s melodically ethereal vocals coast along effortlessly wavy synths, delivering reflective stanzas unpacking our culture’s obsession with with follows and likes in a time where social politics have become hyper-digitized, reducing one’s social life to a hollow shell of what it used to be.

I was fortunate enough to speak to Marin about the single, her initial forays into electronic music, social media, pushing boundaries with her production, and much more!

How did you initially get into making electronic-pop music and what was it that gravitated you to that specific field of music?


I think electronic-pop music is a genre I’ve been listening to since I was very young. The sonic direction I’ve taken over the years has been entirely unintentional. Ultimately, I think I blend many of the genres I listen to regularly into my music. It happens somewhat naturally. 

You seem to have a serious knack for tackling hard-to-navigate experiences throughout modern life? Would you say it comes from both personal experience and people you’ve observed as an outsider? 

I mean, I do like a good challenge! My life, like anyone else’s, has had various ups and downs. I think it’s important to learn from every experience and make the best of every situation so you can help others who may face similar challenges in the future. 

If you could cover any song throughout music history, what song would it be and why? 

“Moonriver” by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer. This song is very special to me because it transports me to a time (before easily accessible technology) where music was all a person could need. It wasn’t about fame or a successful career path, it was about feeling good in your own company with music to aid you.  

What is the process of sculpting these unique soundscapes in your songs like?

Each process is different, depending on whether I’m starting the song from scratch on my own or collaborating with another producer. But, usually my mood defines the atmosphere of the song as well as the musical elements I choose throughout the writing process. 

Do you model your vocal stylings after any specific influences or would you say that you came up with your style of singing on your own? 

I’ve admired and learned from many vocalists growing up. Most notably I would say, Hayley Williams, Anthony Green, The Weeknd and Jesse Rutherford.  

What is the most difficult part of having to live in a world where it’s nearly impossible to have a social life without having an online presence? 

I think the most difficult part is the lack of real connection. Communication and behaviors can be easily misconstrued while interacting online. You never know what a person could be going through based solely on what they reveal to you on the internet. 

What was one of the most valuable and useful discoveries you made when you first taught yourself to produce?

That I could push myself beyond my own boundaries, surprise myself and experiment to my heart’s desire with my own sound design. 


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New Music Review

DEVORA Sets Arizona Ablaze with Debut EP “Outlaw”

If western goth chanteuse DEVORA isn’t on your radar yet, it’s inevitable that she will be. In July, the Arizona native released her debut EP, Outlaw, an apocalyptic western oeuvre that tells the tale of a vengeful murderess on the hunt, hightailing her way through the desert wastelands of her hometown and leaving a trail of blood in her wake.

Photo by Marcus Kaasinen

Ariel Levitan, the brains behind DEVORA, has described this project as a liberating coalescence of her unruly style and spontaneous output. “As an innate lover of dark music and country music, I’ve always wanted to fuse the two in some way,” she told Atwood Magazine last month.

On this masterwork of lawless ghost town pop, DEVORA packs zero punches with sharp bass licks that perfectly sync up with the percussion on the simmering opening track, “Fist Fight.” The lyrics on this EP teeter on the edge of self-destruction and the most delicious forms of vengeance. DEVORA sings about putting her traitors in body bags, dousing motels in gasoline, and setting fire to her hometown out of sheer boredom.

Each track is an event all its own, bolstered by DEVORA’s husky, domineering vocal deliveries and lyrics that are packed to the brim with crimes-of-passion narratives that echo Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads and a dark country edge that mirrors Johnny Cash’s Live at Folsom Prison tapes. The twisted subject matter and spontaneous industrial production feels like a modern western parallel of Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral. “I wanna put you in a body bag/How’s that for a comeback,” she sneers on “Body Bag,” against swells of layered guitar overdrive, arpeggiating at lightning speed. 

The anthemic title track, “Outlaw,” is the sonic equivalent of the SYFY hit show Wynonna Earp, a western thriller about a badass feminist demon assassin who takes no prisoners. I could easily picture this song soundtracking a murder sequence in the show where the leading lady massacres a flurry of demons in a drive-by shooting after dousing her liver with moonshine at the local saloon.

The distorted and devilish riffs on “Not Dead Yet,” draw from the post-Sabbath hard rock of 1976. If this were the ’80s and we were living through the Satanic Panic, there’s no doubt that this song would be on multiple lists just for that killer riff alone, which makes it even better. The stripped-down closing track “Elvis,” is essentially a dream pop song with a country twang, combining the reflective storytelling of Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton with the production stylings of Mazzy Star – a combination that works surprisingly well – complete with airy, layered harmonies and simple reverb-soaked strumming.

The soundscapes on this EP are distinctly imminent, alarming, and even cinematic. It’s the sound of a David Lynch surrealist thriller set in the scorching deserts of the Wild West. The mood board, the visuals, and the subject matter are all a product of DEVORA’s own vision, pulling from harrowing personal tales of trauma and rage, and heaps of poetry she’s written throughout her life. Wherever she’s headed in the future, there’s no doubt there will be watchful eyes anticipating her next move.


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Interview New Music

Roo Makes a Stunningly Chilling Debut with “Glo”

Today, California-based indie songstress and self-proclaimed “technological maximalist” Roo debuts her first ever single “Glo,” which she co-produced with JJStewart. “Glo” is an experimental dark pop tale about toxic relationships and the struggle to navigate queer romance.

Opening with frosty coldwave synths and static white noise, the track envelopes the listener in a ghostly sonic embrace that could easily go toe-to-toe with Portishead’s Dummy. Before Roo herself even utters a word, the song will already have the listener hooked and stopped dead in their tracks. Roo pulls absolutely no punches in this grandiose artistic introduction to the world, and what an opening statement it is.

The lyrics show Roo laying bare her emotional vulnerability and pleading with the subject of the song to do the same. “How could I be enough,” she keens in the second verse with a Bjork-style cadence over eccentric production, distorted and accentuated telephone-filtered vocals, coarse basslines, and spiky 808s, adding a distinct R&B groove to this experimental synthpop masterpiece.

I had the privilege of chatting with Roo about her artistic introduction to the world, how her computer science degree has been a valuable asset in her experimental production, and what she anticipates for future career moves.

“Glo” feels like an amalgamation of trip-hop, neo-psych/soul, and dream pop, which I loved. How did the process of building a sonic landscape for the single come about?

My approach toward production is about play and intuition rather than rules, which is what gives me my genreless sound. My genius friend JJStewart created the original composition, then we went through transforming pieces to achieve the feeling we wanted. I did some pretty off-the-wall vocal production on this one, trusting my ear and pushing things further and further out of the box. It was a blast.

Photo by Jailyn Duong

How has your computer science background and affinity for technology informed your music?

A lot of experienced producers I’ve met don’t understand the nitty gritty of how their plugins work – but I do. And I’m pretty nimble with signal routing, which is how I achieve some of my more experimental sounds.

Also, I taught myself to produce over the past year. So much of coding is teaching yourself new skills, so I’m good at that – especially because production/mixing is really technical.

I process experiences through songwriting that I couldn’t hope to in my journal. It’s a direct lens into my intuition.

– Roo
Photo by Jailyn Duong

I ask everybody this because I’m always curious to know; what are some records that you’ve heard throughout your life that changed everything for you?

I’m very inspired by Vōx; Swim Good is one of my faves. The vulnerability and use of emptiness contrasted with the heavy bass and grit – it’s something I’ve never heard before.

Reconstruct by Photay is another one that ends up on repeat all the time. His composition is so off-the-wall, so clean, so effortless.

And all of Miss Anthropocene by Grimes. She was hugely influential to me before I learned about her relationship with Elon. The dystopian techno-fantasy universe she built completely blew my mind.

I process experiences through songwriting that I couldn’t hope to in my journal. It’s a direct lens into my intuition. Sometimes I won’t even understand what I’m feeling until I sing about it, or I’ll figure out what to do next through the creative process.

Glo is about toxic love that I experienced while learning to navigate queer romance. My journey into queerness is a huge driving force in my music. I can’t wait to share more of that with my audience.

I did some pretty off-the-wall vocal production on this one, trusting my ear and pushing things further and further out of the box. It was a blast.

– Roo
Photo by Jailyn Duong

What is your current number-one played song on Spotify or Apple Music?

This is my first song out, so “Glo!”

What artist–living or dead–would be your dream collaboration?

SOPHIE. Rest in peace. A true visionary. Her enormous, mind-bending sounds with my haunting atmospheric flavor – a tasty futuristic blend.

Since Glo is your first single, what is the number-one thing you’re anticipating once it’s finally out to the public?

I’m really just excited to get on the map. Expectations will certainly be created based on this one project; I can’t wait to break them.

Glo” is now available to stream and download.

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New Music

ROSIE Unravels Emotional Turmoil on New Single “Sad Sad Sad”

If the output of New York-based pop singer-songwriter ROSIE could be summed up in one word, it would be tenacity. She first picked up songwriting at the age of 12. Now 21, her ability to take on her personal demons and spin them into songwriting gold is uncanny.

This is no more present than on her newest single, “Sad Sad Sad,” the first single off her forthcoming EP slated to be released via Arista Records, which explores the five stages of grief. “The song represents acceptance and how, after a full year of healing and growing, sadness can still creep in,” she says. “This feeling is a reminder that sometimes there are certain scars that never go away, and when sadness is accepted it can serve as a lesson to never repeat the same mistake twice.”

The track gorgeously embodies melancholy dark-pop bombast with booming bass-drum machines and vocoder-coated harmonies, complemented by reverb-soaked guitar plucks that keep the song tethered to earth. It doubles the impact of ROSIE’s painstakingly desperate lyrics (“Twenty milligrams of happiness/But when I do the math, it doesn’t add up/’Cause I’m still sad sad sad sad sad”).

One particularly fatal emotional blow delivered in the song is the line, “It’s been the best year of my life, but it doesn’t add up,” proving that no matter how many amazing things an individual has going for them, stability, praise, and even success will never absolve anybody of grief. And she’s okay with that. “The scale of emotions that everyone feels is such a spectrum,” she said in the single’s press release. “The bad days are equally as important as the good days. Be strong when you’re feeling strong, be vulnerable when you’re feeling vulnerable.”

Sad Sad Sad is now available on all streaming platforms.

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New Music

SONG OF THE DAY: TARYN Sheds Old Skin on “Brand New”

Indie pop singer-songwriter TARYN just dropped her first single of the decade, “Brand New,” a hauntingly melodic song about letting go of the past.

The song opens with percussive finger clicks and TARYN chanting the refrain with an ethereal Norah Jones-y cadence: “Wash my mouth of all the little things/Clean it out, and begin again, brand new.” The song progresses over an equally engaging mix, courtesy of producer Joey Burcham. TARYN’s layered harmonies glide smoothly over interconnected drums, guitar, and a whirring, fuzzy bassline.

“There was a simple message I wanted to convey lyrically and the instrumental did the rest,” TARYN explained in a press release. “I’ve carried my past around and let regrets fuel decisions without justification. ‘Brand New’ let me realize our past is not something we have to correct, but it helps us understand our growth. We’re here to learn, experience, and explore. It’s a gift to be vulnerable, to feel comfortable expressing experiences in sonically harmonious ways.”

We are currently living in the golden age of dark pop that often romanticizes personal plight and struggle. TARYN’s positive affirmations on “Brand New” – promising that is indeed possible to move on and start anew – is an incredibly refreshing perspective that pop music needs now more than ever.

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Album Review Music

Pretty Sick Ventures Into Shoegaze Territory on New EP

Singer-songwriter, model, and bassist Sabrina Fuentes wears many hats. She started the NYC-based new age grunge band Pretty Sick when she was only thirteen, capturing the attention of audiences all around the globe with her darkly sardonic vocal range, dirty grunge-laced basslines, and songs about being caught up in toxic relationships, with heavy instrumental accompaniment from a multitude of rotating band members. This time she is joined by Wade Oates of the Virgins on guitar and Austin Williamson from Onyx Collective on drums.

Last year, Pretty Sick released their debut EP, Deep Divine, through the UK indie label Dirty Hit. Earlier this week, they released their follow-up EP, Come Down. And if Deep Divine was meant to encapsulate being caught up in the intoxicating rapture of self-destructive youth and toxic love, then Come Down represents the dreary hangover of the aftermath.

Fuentes’ uninhibited lead vocals, Wade Oates’ crisp, feedback-heavy guitar solos and Austin Williamson’s tom-heavy drum fills are guaranteed to grab every listener by the throat. Songs like “Bet My Blood” and “Devil in Me”—with their crunchy guitar solos and vocals that sound like they’ve been run through Courtney Love’s blender—are heavily contrasted with slower cuts where Fuentes emits these soft “ooohs” over pedal-heavy distortion.

“I have a real taste for pop music, and my songwriting style has a real pop music sensibility,” Fuentes said in a recent interview with Alternative Press. This is no more apparent than in the lead single, “Dumb,” an infectious earworm with a hook that is eerily similar to “Hanging Around” by the Cardigans.

Fuentes’ vocal range alternates between the airy, mystic coos of My Bloody Valentine’s Bilinda Butcher on “Pillbug” and “Bare,” the unrestrained trills of Babes in Toyland’s Kat Bjelland on “She,” and the grating screams of Mia Zapata from the Gits on “Self Control.” “Pillbug” could easily pass for a B-side off of My Bloody Valentine’s Isn’t Anything, which is the last thing I would have expected from a grunge band. And that only adds to the EP’s allure.

Come Down as a whole is an amalgamation of reflections on love lost, and what it’s like to grow up in New York—a laborious and emotionally-draining undertaking that both prepares you for the crushing weight of heartbreak and simultaneously leaves an even nastier bruise when a relationship doesn’t work out. And it sounds magnificent.

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Album Release

Add to Queue – New Releases: Sizzy Rocket “ANARCHY”

Emerging alt-pop powerhouse and Vegas native, Sizzy Rocket, deserves to be on everybody’s radar. Her unique soundscape of rebellious, punk-tinged dark hyperpop is a bold combination that music consumers like myself have been starved for.

Her sophomore album, Grrrl–one of my absolute favorite releases of 2019–was a trap-infused dark pop album about self-discovery, heartbreak, and sexuality. The title was influenced by her love for Riot Grrrl and the production invoked shades of modern hip hop acts like Travis Scott and Denzel Curry. Her iconic raspy falsetto, and the emotionally-wrought soundscapes of each song coupled with her messy and unfiltered lyrics that detailed her life of excessive partying, touring, and fleeting romantic relationships with men and women was awe-inspiring, gritty and fresh.

Her newest album, ANARCHY, is a much more bold, definitive, and liberated body of work. Rocket has described the album title as “a nod to [her] punk roots and [her] own personal chaos… [Anarchy] is a state of disorder due to non-recognition of authority. Nobody can tell you what to do or who to be.”

Recorded in an “eight-day creative outburst” last winter, ANARCHY is the chaotic, messy, and unfiltered soundtrack to Rocket shedding an old skin after a breakup, obliterating old ideas of who she thought she could be. If Grrrl was the product of a star emerging from underwater, ANARCHY is her bursting to the surface.

Her punk attitude and unapologetic rockstar bravado on two of the album’s opening tracks, “That Bitch,” and “Running with Scissors,” is contagious. The repackaged trap-punk instrumentatals are also extremely fresh and gritty. “& It Feels Like Love” is an ode to the ’70s and ’80s, complete with nods to “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and Janis Joplin. The distorted bass also sounds like it could easily be a riff that was plucked from PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me.

Her dark humor is another massive highlight. The most reviled type of person in our society is often a woman who acts out for attention. “Crazy Bitch” sympathizes with this archetype and unpacks the spectacle of the “crazy bitch.” The song is told from the perspective of the “crazy bitch,” allowing her to control her own narrative outside of the horrendous jokes and comments people make at her expense. The lyrics take shots at the people who claim to hate her, when in reality they are the same people who depend on her antics for entertainment (“I would die just to be someone/Ain’t that exactly what you want”).

The sonic outbursts on the album’s closer, “Queen of the World,” perfectly mirror the pure chaos in the chorus as she paints a picture of herself hanging out the window of a speeding car, screaming at the top of her lungs “I could live forever in this moment!” Her mission statement for this album was to take back her power, to be reckless, and unapologetically own her stories without having to water down her identity. And it’s very clear that the process was extremely cathartic for her.

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