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Chatting with Guyville About Their New Single, Beatles Songbooks, and Liz Phair

Upon first meeting each other at a writing session and instantly clicking over their shared love of music, Kat Hamilton and Emily Huslander of the LA-based country rock duo Guyville immediately knew that they would be working together for a while. Taking their name from the iconic 1993 Liz Phair album Exile in Guyville, the duo formulated their very own unique blend of roots rock and country.

Now with a steady supply of songs in their arsenal, Guyville is ready to unleash their magic and take the world by storm. Their debut single, “Nothing,” a powerful condemnation of toxic relationships and ode to self-love, flaunts the group’s effortless knack for seamlessly blending the cutting razor-sharp wit of Liz Phair with the twangy sass of early Shania Twain.

I chatted with Huslander and Hamilton about their songwriting roots, their undeniable chemistry, and their forthcoming debut record.

You two have very palpable chemistry. What would you say it was that made the two of you click during your initial sessions?

Kat: Absolutely! We connected in this natural way almost immediately and the songs came just as easily. That’s really rare, especially in LA. When you find that kind of collaborative ease with someone, you hold on for dear life! 

Emily: I think Kat and I just have incredibly similar taste in music and songwriters. We just “got it” and our sessions had a great creative flow between us. One of us would bring in a melodic or lyrical idea and the rest of the song just  worked itself out seamlessly and easily, always resulting in a finished song.

What were the first songs each of you learned to play on an instrument?

Kat: I consider guitar my first instrument even though I was in piano lessons many years before. The first one I learned to play was “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd.

Emily: I was singing songs from “Les Miserables” as a three year old in the bathtub lol. I taught myself guitar at 13 with a Beatles songbook that had little pictures of the guitar chords in it, and I was so familiar with the songs because they were always playing in my household. My first violin song was probably “Ode to Joy” or something in the Suzuki book.

What are each of your top 3 Liz Phair songs?

Kat: “Why Can’t I,” “Fuck and Run,” and “Extraordinary.”

Emily: Oh man! Only 3??  “Go West” from Whip-Smart, “Dance of the Seven Veils” from Exile in Guyville, and “Only Son” from WhiteChocolateSpaceEgg. I got to meet her at a book signing/ concert for her Horror Stories memoir.  

How did “Nothing” initially come together, and what were each of you listening to when you started composing the single?

Kat: The idea for the chorus and the concept kind of fell out of our brains. We wrote most of our record together over FaceTime and the rythymn of the chorus “Na Na NA NA NA NA Nothing” was the start. 

Emily: I think in a session we were talking about how amazing it feels to be over an ex. Not just over, but truly indifferent. I started strumming out “I feel nothing” over an E chord and it just started to come out. We are super fans of Maren Morris and her first album ” Hero” is a big favorite of ours. I think we wanted “Nothing” to feel like an upbeat/rock-country tune off the bat. 

How has working as a duo allowed each of you to develop as writers? 

Kat: I’ve learned a lot from Emily. She has a knack for melodies and is a real perfectionist around the work. She’s always listening critically to make sure the melodies flow and nothing is awkward. I can be overly verbose and less attentive to the shape of a melody.

Emily: Kat challenges me in the best ways possible. She gently nudges me out of the proverbial  “pop box” of “everything must rhyme, simplify etc.” and pushes me lyrically to tell a story no matter if it rhymes or not. She’s an amazingly talented songwriter and her lyrics have such an emotional gut punch to them.  Co-writing is like dating. The chemistry is there or not, and with Guyville we just captured lightning in a bottle and I’m so grateful for our collaborations. These songs are some of the best I’ve ever written and I’m really excited to release them. 

What are you most looking forward to with your introduction to the world as a band? 

Kat: Playing shows! We got songs on songs.

Emily: I’m just really proud of our upcoming record. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone. 90’s inspired grunge rock, alt-country/roots rock, beautiful singer/songwriter balladry with acoustic elements, etc. it  just runs the sonic gamut yet in a cohesive, focused way. Our voices blend together really well and we ‘re really in tune with each other as artists when we perform and in the studio. Our producer/engineer Mitchell Haeuszer was such a gift to work with and with the addition of Taylor Robinson on drums, we played every single instrument amongst Kat, Mitchell and myself. I can’t wait to play it live!

What are your favorite additions–old or new–that you’ve made to your record collections this year?

Kat: I’ve paused building my collection a bit, but my most recent was “Same Trailer, Different Park” by Kacey Musgraves!

Emily: Oh man, I listen to almost everything. I love the latest Sarah Jarosz album World On The Ground. There’s a wonderful Danish jazz duo named Bremer/McCoy whose album Utopia has been on loop. One of my favorite records of all time is Flutterby by Butterfly Boucher. I’m constantly adding music to my collection. Always getting inspired by other artists! 


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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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