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Interview Music

Interview with Thomas Clark of Divingstation95

Memphis indie pop act Divingstation95 just released a collection of emotionally-wrought and meticulously produced songs that delve into topics ranging from death to revenge, body image, and mental illness. The album borders on art pop, post-punk, and even dark wave, with lyrics that ruminate on grim places ranging from funeral homes in Memphis to the remote wastelands off 1nterstate Highway 45 in Texas, also known as the Texas Killing Fields.

I was fortunate enough to chat with Thomas Clark, the creative force behind the project, and we discussed a myriad of topics ranging from the pandemic, to learning to play the violin at three-years-old, Radiohead, and the new album, Fear is My Constant Companion.

Q: So my first question is how would you personally describe yourself as an artist? What is your style, and would you classify your music in certain genres or do you believe you transcend genre? Who are your biggest influences?

A: I’ve been calling myself “doom pop,” which might be a bit pretentious but it’s the best description I’ve been able to come up with. I’m making pretty bleak music most of the time, especially with this last album, and even though it goes into abrasive territory sometimes, I usually try to make sure there’s a fundamentally catchy pop song underneath it. I think a lot of artists limit themselves by setting out to make rock, or hip-hop, or electronic music rather than just letting the ideas flow. For the most part, I don’t actively try to make any genre of music – I just use ideas I think are interesting regardless of where they come from. That’s part of why Radiohead are such big heroes of mine, I feel like they look at music the same way.

Q: I totally agree, and that’s a perfect segue into my next question. I have really enjoyed how you regularly post mini journal entries about your influences, like Xiu Xiu, Nicole [Dollanganger], and Perfume Genius. Would you say that Radiohead was the first act to disrupt the way you looked at music as a whole and your approach to songwriting, or were there others?

A: Definitely – Radiohead was the first really big one. I wanted to be a writer as a kid, and then I heard “Creep” in the video game Rock Band when I was 10 or 11 and that basically changed everything. I dug deeper into their catalog as I got older and it blew my mind.

Burial also changed the way I looked at music, the things I could do with vocal manipulation – initially I didn’t want to use my own voice, so I applied the pitch shifting and autotune techniques he used.

Xiu Xiu was another revelation for me, and the most recent one I think. I first got into them though their album Angel Guts: Red Classroom and was amazed by how it was both brutally harsh and deeply sensitive and empathetic. This was extreme and shocking music, but it wasn’t just trying to push buttons. There was this really sensitive soul to it underneath the harshness, and that set it apart from a lot of the very abrasive music I’d heard before. I had long been obsessed with the epidemic of sexual abuse in our society, the way it’s covered up and treated like it doesn’t happen at all (especially pre-#MeToo), and Xiu Xiu opened a door and provided me with a blueprint for tackling such horrible subjects in a way that was neither preachy nor insensitive.

Q: That was another thing I found extremely refreshing, the way you unabashedly tackled this bleak subject matter–whether it be sexual violence, body dysmorphia, or death–and I was wondering how important it is for you to purge those feelings in your songwriting. How do you feel you are able to find a balance in your life while tackling such harsh subject matter. Do you ever feel that you need to take breaks and decompress?

A: It’s definitely really important to get it out into music. I have obsessive-compulsive disorder, so I don’t let go of bad feelings easily. My life is pretty great compared to a lot of people, but I spend a lot of time struggling with internal problems. I don’t really need to take breaks because there’s nowhere to run, as bleak as that is. We live in a time when things are very, very bad, and to me music and art is a reason to keep going, even if the subject matter is awful. I feel best when I can listen back to a song and go, “yes, that’s exactly what I’m feeling.” It validates those feelings in a way.

When I hear a song like Giles Corey’s “I’m Going to Do It” (“it” being suicide), it doesn’t depress me. It makes me feel like someone else understands. That’s what I try to aim for.

One thing I do try to be careful about is desensitizing myself, because if I’m writing about Junko Furuta and I don’t feel anything, that’s a problem.

Q: I actually wasn’t aware of the Junko Furuta and Nikki Kuhnhausen cases until I heard the songs you dedicated to them on the album, and I remember being in disbelief at what happened to these women and also feeling guilty for not knowing their stories. Did you feel it was almost sort of a responsibility for you to put those songs out for listeners who may have not been aware as well? I would also love to hear your thoughts on the concept of “revenge” since the legal system that had a responsibility to deliver justice to these women is so fucked up globally.

A: Yeah, I’m never sure how to say this without sounding self-important, but I do feel some obligation to write about these things, because it seems like so often people just don’t care. I have conflicting feelings about true crime as entertainment, because I found out about several of the deaths on the album through the unresolved mysteries sub on reddit, so I’m likely as guilty of indulging in that as anybody else. But it bothers me that these things get turned into pure spectacle for people to gawk at and get a thrill from. I feel like people respond differently to music than they do, say, a podcast – there’s a more visceral emotional response there. Songs can get under people’s skin.

As for revenge – I’m kind of an angry person in a lot of ways, and the idea of merciless justice is pretty appealing to me as an idea even if real life is more complicated. The way things are set up now, there’s no real way to make sure any kind of justice is delivered – our system of dealing with sexual abuse is so broken that the only resort victims have left is to rely on public accusations via social media, which comes with its own issues. I liked the idea of a pure revenge fantasy where everybody responsible gets what they deserve with no ambiguity. I wanted people to feel the hate and rage in the Junko Furuta song – to deliver a reminder of its realness in a way that hits harder than just reading the facts to spook yourself.

Q: How did growing up in your hometown [Memphis] shape your music? What sort of scenes, if any, were you surrounded by and do you remember what age you started playing?

A: I’m from Memphis, but the internet was more formative to me than any live scene. I used to go on this long-dead streaming service called Grooveshark and just devour hours upon hours of new music while I did my homework, from The Smiths to Aphex Twin. I had a friend who knew more about music than I did, and I got a lot from her as well.

A ton of great music has come from Memphis but at the moment the only type of music that thrives there is hip-hop, a genre I love and respect but obviously don’t belong to. Every other scene is kind of backward-looking, like at the moment the feeling is “well, we had Elvis and the blues, so I guess we don’t really need to try anymore.” It’s cool that all that history has been documented and preserved, but turning an entire music culture into a shrine for the past doesn’t seem healthy to me.

I was about three years old when I first picked up an instrument – I played violin – and was composing my own pieces within a few years (though obviously they were all terrible, because I was a small child). I never had any interest in following it as a career until I discovered Radiohead, though. They changed just about everything for me.

My mom died when I was young, so I was a disturbed kid – getting into physical fights and things like that. I was depressed from a very young age, I just didn’t know that’s what it was. Music became an obsession because I saw myself in troubled artists like Thom Yorke – they made me feel like I wasn’t alone. It was like having a friend.

Q: I love what you said about musicians feeling like long-distant friends cause that’s exactly the same way that I felt about the third-wave emo of the early 2000s, as corny as some of it was, because those bands were accessible and singing about mental health in ways that felt real and not sensationalized or mocked like it was in mainstream media. 

The glitches and distortions on the production with the track “Me and My Fucked Up Body” felt like they obscured your vocals. I was wondering if that was intentional, since being vulnerable and laying bare a lot of those thoughts can be a lot sometimes.

A: Part of why the vocals are mixed like that is because I just think it sounds good. But you’re right that that’s another part of it – it can be really uncomfortable exposing those feelings to people. And it’s not telling strangers that makes me uncomfortable, it’s family members who might listen to it and think of it the next time they see me. This is probably the furthest I’ve come out of my shell, though – I could never have written “Me and My Fucked Up Body” or “Suicide Forest” a few years ago.

The next album is even more upfront, though it isn’t quite as bleak. I’m trying to be more confident in how I write about sex, which is maybe the absolute most awkward thing for family members to hear me sing about, but it’s kind of unavoidable – I have a complicated and tortuous relationship with my own sexuality, and for a long time I’ve wanted to get to a place where I can comfortably dissect that in my work. Nicole Dollanganger has been a big inspiration there.

Q: With “Overseas” in mind, I was wondering how you feel like the current political climate has affected your work with all that’s been happening globally?

A: “Overseas” wasn’t supposed to be the first single, but I ended up releasing it that way because it looked like we were about to invade Iran and start World War 3. I deliberately wrote it so it would be dated to a specific time – the narrator was born in 2003 and turns 17 in 2020 – as a way to capture the way things were at that moment.

Outside of that, I would say the political climate has influenced the music a great deal but mostly indirectly. The perpetual fear referenced in the title might not exist if our civilization weren’t hurtling toward destruction. I spent about a year paralyzed in terror over climate change, smoking as much weed as possible to squash the feeling, and though the album was written after that period was over I think it came out the way it did because I was in such a dark place for so long.

Q: Lastly, I noticed that you also have another project in the works and I was wondering how being in lockdown has changed your approach to creating. Has it made you more productive, or vice versa?

A: Honestly, my process hasn’t really changed much at all, because I’m kind of a hermit. If not for work, I would go lengthy periods of time without leaving the house. It’s an unhealthy habit, but I isolate when left to my own devices. I’m trying to get better about that, though at the moment I don’t have much choice but to stay in my old ways.

The new album is coming together way faster than any of the previous ones, and I’m not sure why, but I’m not complaining – it feels good.

Fear is My Constant Companion is available on all streaming services.

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Music

Queering Gerard Way Part I: Lola’s Pronouns

Queer people are often forced to grow up in isolation and watch people who look like us get pathologized and cast as outsiders because they are different. So when we see somebody who looks like us cross over into the mainstream, it can feel like a victory.

This was how I felt when I discovered My Chemical Romance. I certainly wasn’t old enough to be deconstructing queer theory and gender roles at thirteen, but I definitely see the band as an early indicator of my queerness, even though none of the members identified as queer.

Gerard Way was a rebellious, non-conforming individual whose entire career was a deliberate act of social transgression, from the the way he acted and dressed to the way he treated his fans. As a student of rock icons like David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Nick Cave and Brian Eno, he was able to emulate what they did so well by constantly reinventing his image. Each album cycle was accompanied by new eras of storytelling and elaborate character-building that he was able to pull from his previous career as a comic book writer.

In the same vein as Bowie adopting a myriad of personas throughout his career like Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke and Major Tom, Way created his own characters like The Patient and Party Poison. Picture Ziggy Stardust getting massacred and revived as a zombie. That was Way in the era of “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge.” For “The Black Parade,” he cut his hair and bleached it and covered his face in white powder, becoming The Patient; a person dying of cancer who crossed over to death in the form of a parade.

When MCR fans started referring to the Danger Days character Party Poison as non-binary, Way welcomed that interpretation with open arms. It made total sense that Party Poison was a superhero in a post-apocalyptic future, because Way has been that person for so many queer, trans, and gender nonconforming kids who feel like we are living in a world that doesn’t want us to exist.

A perfect example of Way queering the music scene is the song “You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us In Prison” off of “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge.” The title and the lyrics are unmistakably homoerotic (“We’re just two men as God had made us/Well I can’t/Well I can”), and he had a ritual at every show where he would get all the men in the audience to undress, taking control of a situation in a scene that normally objectified young women and flipping it on its head, making a spectacle out of it.

Way has always been an open book. He’s opened up in interviews about his lower-middle class upbringing in New Jersey, and he’s always been drawn to unconventional beauty and those who embraced the unsavory aspects of life. He was an art student who regularly went to school in drag, and when MCR started to take off in the early 2000s he used his platform on a regular basis to speak out against misogyny and homophobia in the music scene, going out of his way to portray women and girls in his music videos and comic books as human beings without exploiting or sexualizing them. He would later open up in a reddit AMA about how he “always identified a fair amount with the female gender,” albeit not on the same scale as somebody who identifies as trans or non binary.

When My Chemical Romance announced their reunion in 2019, I fell into a tunnel of nostalgia. I combed through their entire discography, re-watched their earliest gigs on Youtube playing in New Jersey basements with less than fifty people, and returned to those thirty-second clips of Gerard Way and Frank Iero making out on stage, which provided those breadcrumbs of representation I was craving as a closeted teen in a small town.

I will never forget the first time I ever saw Way writhing and wailing incoherently to the point of having a nervous breakdown. My cousin and I used to binge watch music videos on AOL, and that was how I first saw the “Helena” video. His long wavy hair that flowed down to his shoulders and red smokey eye had me completely awestruck. I would have walked to the nearest Sephora or Hot Topic just to get my hands on that Urban Decay Gash eyeshadow he used to wear. He was the first person I ever saw present as gender fluid, and it resonated with me for reasons I didn’t have the language to unpack yet.

When people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up as a kid and I would tell them I wanted to be the lead singer of My Chemical Romance, they would get visibly uncomfortable or laugh nervously like it was a joke, almost like they thought I should feel shame for relating more to Gerard than any of the hyper-feminine icons I saw growing up.

But their revulsion only made me latch onto Way more, because it genuinely felt like he was the only person who understood me. He was unapologetically flawed and being a “freak” was his superpower. Songs like “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” taught me that it was okay to be angry and vulnerable when the rest of the world advised against it, and joining the MCR fandom showed me that there were a million other kids out there who felt exactly the same as I did.

When MCR disbanded and Way started working on solo material he made his debut album’s mascot, Lola, non-binary, and would always correct reporters who used the wrong pronouns on them. Not everybody took it seriously because Lola was a fictional character. But the fact that the genesis of Lola coincided with Way touring all around the globe and taking time out of every show to let his trans and non-binary fans know that he was in their corner, was no happy accident.

A love for the transgressive and going against social norms are inherently queer acts, and Way’s entire career was defined by these qualities. His song lyrics, the stories he crafted through concept albums, illustrations and comics, and his outspoken nature made him a mouthpiece for the outcasts, the disaffected youth, and anybody in the middle who felt “different” or “other.”

My Chemical Romance attained longevity even after disappearing for seven years because their message remained–if you are uncool then be uncool; embrace every part of who you are to the fullest and live your life unapologetically and without shame, because trying to be somebody you’re not is a waste of a life.

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Artist Feature New Music

Lily Arminda Talks New EP “DTR (Define the Relationship)”

Lily Arminda is making the type of endearing indie pop that enfolds the listener in an atmosphere of soft pink lighting and black lipstick as she spills her innermost secrets over darkly serenading dreampop instrumentation. Proclaiming herself as a “soft-spoken songstress” early in her career, Arminda migrated from making intimate folk songs on her first two EPs The Hourglass (2016) and Mismatched Poetry (2017) to effervescent bedroom pop on her 2019 sophomore project, Neighborhood.

Photo by Alec Ilstrup

Now with her forthcoming studio EP, DTR (Define the Relationship), which she worked on with Dan Alvarez and Jordan Dunn-Pilz of the beach goth band TOLEDO, Arminda continues her onward trajectory of embracing bolder, more ambitious sounds. Combining the echoing guitars of Galaxie 500 with the sweet and sour lyrical vignettes of Soccer Mommy, Arminda unfurls the incessant self-questioning that comes with being in a relationship where other party isn’t as invested as you. “It hurts to think I love you when you don’t see me like that/I can’t afford to spend my life wide-eyed,” she laments on the title track.

I spoke with Lily Arminda about this exciting new chapter, signing to an independent label, obsessing over pop stars, and finding comfort in the familiar.

If you could sum up this project in one word what would it be? 

Intimate.

What sorts of records have you listened to over the course of recording DTR?

My listening is always all over the place – I listened to a lot of indie rock/pop which definitely translates over to this project (albums like Clean by Soccer Mommy and Pang by Caroline Polachek) but I also listened to country albums (lots of Glen Campbell and Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, and Dolly Parton’s Trio II album) equally as much. There’s a moment on “I Miss Knowing the Extent of Goodbye” near the end where I sang something that one of my producers Jordan Dunn-Pilz deemed my “Kacey Musgraves moment,” so maybe the country influence comes out a little bit. I was also really caught up on Guerilla Toss and Kate Bush as well as Roméo Elvis who is this great French rapper. 

I haven’t put out any music since 2019 and my sound has definitely evolved a lot since then so I’m excited to put out a project that feels much more “me.”

– Lily Arminda
Photo by Alec Ilstrup

What was it like working with TOLEDO on this project and how did you initially link up with them?

A couple friends of mine went to college with Dan so I met him and Jordan through them right before the pandemic. We put the recording part of the project on hold until September 2020 but I sent them songs over the summer so once I got to the studio they already had so many ideas for production. Dan and Jordan are best friends so it was cool to see them play off of each other while we’d collaborate and they were super welcoming to me as well. Their studio was right near me in Bushwick so I got to walk over there a few days a week for a couple months and work for a while. Since we were working long hours we would always go get deli sandwiches and just hang out in between recording.

From what I’ve read, this record sounds like it’s been years in the making. What part of unveiling this project are you most excited about? 

I’m excited that this EP is my first studio project. I’ve put out a lot of bedroom projects which are special in their own ways but I like that this one feels more polished. I haven’t put out any music since 2019 and my sound has definitely evolved a lot since then so I’m excited to put out a project that feels much more “me.”

My favorite part of this project was the lush and dreamy instrumentation. How did you and your collaborators initially arrive at this stylistic touchstone?

I was listening to a lot of indie rock and pop around the time of making this project so I was just really inspired by what I was listening to. I feel like my soft vocals are supported well by the kinda dream pop sounds we incorporated into this project. 

Songwriting for me is usually done to process something or memorialize something, so writing these songs helped me work through lots of feelings.

– Lily Arminda
Photo by Alec Ilstrup

Who are some of your most seminal vocal inspirations? 

Sophie Allison of Soccer Mommy has been super inspiring to me in many ways and I especially love her voice. Her vocals can be kinda soft like mine and that’s cool to see because I used to be a bit insecure about the power of my vocals. There have been so many times when audio engineers at venues have begged me to sing louder when if I do it makes my voice lose its unique tone and magic. It’s reassuring to see her be so successful as someone who sings like me. I’m also inspired by Adrianne Lenker and particularly the cry to her voice – it’s inspired me to play around with singing more.

How do you feel that your personal growth has been showcased in this project? 

Songwriting for me is usually done to process something or memorialize something, so writing these songs helped me work through lots of feelings. I’ve been writing songs my whole life but it’s cool to see that I am always improving at expressing myself and understanding myself. 

Something that I’m always curious to ask artists about is how the pandemic has expanded their record collections. Were you able to take advantage of the extra time at home to discover more music, and if yes, what are some of the most valuable new discoveries you’ve made?  

There are so many artists I could list but to name a few, I got really obsessed with pop stars like Mariah Carey and Katy Perry (in her Teenage Dream and One of the Boys eras). I found this disco inspired duo called Ultraflex that I’m still super into. I found a lot of specific songs that I fell in love with like “Sorry You’re Sick” by Ted Hawkins, “Onie” by The Electric Prunes, and “Blue Flower” by Mazzy Star. My favorite album to come out during the pandemic was Death of a Cheerleader by Pom Pom Squad. I listened to a lot of old favorites during quarantine as well because I think, like a lot of people, I wanted to feel comforted by the familiar. 

What artist (living or dead) would be your dream collaboration? 

I’ve always wanted to make a country album so I think working with Glen Campbell (if he was still alive) would be my dream collaboration. He has one of my favorite voices of all time.


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DTR will be available to stream on all platforms September 17th, 2021.

Categories
New Music Review

Amyl and the Sniffers Strike Gold on Sophomore Album “Comfort to Me”

With their raw energy and vibrantly humorous and introspective lyrics, Aussie rockers Amyl and the Sniffers have always put their own exciting spin on multiple pastiches of early hard rock, punk, and riot grrrl, which was on full display with their 2019 self-titled debut. 

Now, the group is back with an even stronger follow-up, Comfort to Me, which they worked on with Dan Luscombe, who has produced the likes of Courtney Barnett and The Blackeyed Susans. Accompanied by a scuzzy garage-rock sonic atmosphere and a multitude of flashy solos by guitarist Dec Mehrtens, frontwoman Amy Taylor rips and roars her way through every track. It’s incredibly transparent that Taylor is much more self-assured on this album, promising she’s got “plenty of energy,” on “Guided by Angels” and waving her freak flag high and mighty on bold and beefy cuts like “Choices,” “Don’t Fence Me In,” and “Freaks to the Front.”

Throughout the record, Taylor stands in stark defiance against the self-righteous dickheads who stand in her way, chiding a bouncer at a club for judging her based on her appearance on “Security” (“You look at normies different to me/You look at them with trust”). “I am who I am/I said what I said,” she spits on the equally venomous love song “Maggot.” On “Capital,” a rapid speed-metal ode to bodily autonomy, Taylor channels the feisty rage of riot grrrl touchstones L7 and the sharp and witty commentary of Wendy O. Williams from the Plasmatics (“It’s just for capital/Am I an animal?”). “Out comes my knife/Out comes my knifey/This is how we get home nightly,” she rages on “Knifey,” railing against the unsettling fact that many women often cannot even go for a night walk without their safety being threatened by creeps.

“Hertz” is a taut rumination on the state of the world and the mind-numbing boredom of sitting through a global pandemic in an urban setting with nothing to do but “stare at the graffiti on the walls of the gray walls.” “I wanna go to the country/I want to get out of here!” Taylor wails against buzzing synths and distorted riffs.

“It’s hard to know what was the pandemic and what was just my brain,” Taylor revealed on Apple Music. “Even though you can’t travel and you can’t see people, life still just happens. I could look through last year and, really, it’s like the same amount of good and bad stuff happened, but in a different way.”

The best records of all time are often born out of chaos and uncertainty, but what always makes them so great is the solace of community. As far as I’m concerned, this is a massive victory lap for Amyl and the Sniffers. 

Favorite tracks: “Hertz,” “Capital,” “Choices,” “Knifey,” “Don’t Fence Me In,” “Knifey,” “Snakes”


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Interview New Music

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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Categories
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 preens 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.

How has songwriting helped you traverse your individual experiences related to romance and identity?

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

Annabel Gutherz Laments Lost Friendships on New Single “Remnant”

Hailing from Montreal, Canada, retro soft rock musician Annabel Gutherz has received heaps of praise for her introspective songwriting and warm vocals that echo legends of Laurel Canyon and folk rock giants from Fleetwood Mac to Crosby Stills Nash & Young.

Yesterday Gutherz released her newest single, “Remnant,” an Americana-influenced coming of age track lamenting the loss of an old friendship. In a press release, Gutherz says that she wrote the song to reflect on “the evolution of a friendship from childhood to adolescence, and how the dynamic between two people can change as they grow… And sometimes grow apart.”

Photo by Marla Gutherz
Photo by Marla Gutherz

Gutherz reminisces over vivid childhood memories, from molding clay and finger-painting to nocturnal drives to nowhere in particular. “Now you’re just a remnant of a dear old friend, stuck in the body of miss pretend,” she softly croons over twangy acoustic guitar plucks. It’s a gentle yet painful reminder that while the loss of former lovers can certainly cause a lot of anguish, severing ties with your closest friends can often feel like losing a part of your former self.

After spending the past few years at Berklee College of Music refining her craft, Gutherz is preparing to release her debut album Loose Ends later this year, which she co-produced with Dominique Messier, the owner of Studio Piccolo in Montreal, Quebec and a long-time member of Celine Dion’s band.

“Remnant” is now available to stream on all available platforms.

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Interview New Music

Caroline Romano on New Single “The Hypothetical” & Being The Loudest Sort of Introvert

Raised on a diet of Taylor Swift and Shania Twain, pop punk powerhouse Caroline Romano, a self-proclaimed “loudest sort of introvert,” has had a whirlwind of a past few years. She first caught the attention of the public with her debut single, “Masterpiece,” in 2017, combining the iconic lyrical zingers of Taylor Swift with the dark anti-pop drawl of early Lorde. A year later, she achieved a Top 3 hit on Radio Disney’s chart with the commanding and ultra-magnetic single “Ready,” and later went on to work with one of the most in-demand producers in pop music when she teamed up with DJ R3HAB for a remix of her song “I Still Remember”—all at the tender age of 20.

And while it may seem shocking to some that she’s already achieved this level of notoriety at such an early age, it’s only natural; Romano has done this her entire life. The Mississippi native first picked up a guitar at the age of nine and started playing at open mic nights in Nashville—the songwriting capital of the country—when she was just 13. One of her most recent singles, “PDA of the Mainstream,” has received critical praise for her witty, cerebral songwriting that captures youthful Gen Z angst with a distinct pop punk flair.

Today, Romano unleashes her latest single, “The Hypothetical,” a gritty tongue-in-cheek punk-pop banger where she ruminates on her innermost fantasies involving a romantic interest. “I wanted to capture that feeling of being so infatuated with a crush that it’s borderline a state of psychosis… even if it’s only in your head. It’s just hypothetical,” she said in the press release.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Caroline about the new single, as well as her upbringing and her first trip into Nashville.

Was there anything specific (an artist, a song, a movie, a friend, etc.) that initially sparked your interest in starting to play the guitar?

I’d definitely say my affinity for guitars started with my love for Taylor Swift and Hannah Montana. “You Belong With Me” and The Hannah Montana Movie both came out the year before I turned 9, and I was physically addicted to both. Particularly, I think my interest in guitar stemmed from the “You Belong With Me” music video. It was one of the first music videos I remember ever really watching. It was unlike anything I’d heard before, and I think it was the first time I realized that Taylor Swift was just a girl too. I wanted to make noise like that, and I knew a guitar was what I needed to do so. I remember holding my first real guitar for the first time. My hands were too small to fit around the neck, and my arm was cramping from trying to strum. Despite my inability to reach the E string, it still felt inexplicably right. Even though I had no idea what I was doing, 9 year old me knew exactly what she was doing with that guitar.

What are some of your most vivid memories of your very first trip to Nashville and how have you grown as an artist since then?

I’m convinced no trip or vacation or beautiful place will match the wonder I experienced my first time in Nashville. I begged my parents for weeks to take me on that trip. I made a PowerPoint presentation to try to convince them that I was ready. I researched all of the best places to try to play, and I planned our entire week around trying to do as many shows as possible. My mom and I would wake up super early in the mornings at our hotel to call different venues and try to secure a spot for that night. The first night we got there, I played an open mic night at this little outdoor college bar. I was the youngest person there by nearly a decade, but I felt so certain that it was where I needed to be. With my mom and dad and little brothers in the audience, I got up there and played one of the first songs I’d ever written. It was called “Chase Your Dreams” (very creative title), but that’s what I knew I was doing in that moment. I was literally chasing after my dreams. It was happening. I played shows every single day that week, while exploring the city I’d one day call home. One of my favorite memories from that trip was when I played the Bluebird Cafe. That was the big one, the place I’d dreamed about since I first heard the name Nashville. While I was there, I happened to be in line behind a kid and his mom. He was very kind and he shared that inexplicable, silent fire that I also felt for music. It was a silent understanding that we were both going to give this all that we [had]. I played a show later with him in the week, and I told my mom that he was going to be a star. [That kid was] Jack Avery from Why Don’t We. I hold those memories close.

Photo by Alexa Campbell

I don’t like rules, and alternative/rock pop feels like a giant F-you to the rules of musical genres.

– Caroline Romano

You seem to have found a sweet spot between extremely catchy pop hooks and head-banging rock instrumentation. Has combining pop and rock sensibilities always felt natural to you?

I’ve always felt a natural inclination towards the punk-pop space. It’s what I listened to to get me through middle school, and I find it’s the genre I turn to in the most intense of my feelings. I don’t like rules, and alternative/rock pop feels like a giant F-you to the rules of musical genres. I’m all about words. I simply cannot get enough of them. When I write, I often just word-vomit onto my paper. I like things unedited and raw and far from perfect. What I love about punk-pop is that you work to fit the music around the lyrics, instead of the other way around. The less edited and manicured, the better. There’s so much passion to it as well, combining pop and rock. I am not a lukewarm person. I often want to feel the extremes of everything I experience. Punk music is so dramatic and I love it. It’s always the end of the world. I can scream and whisper and jump up and down and lie on the floor all while performing the same song. It’s awesome.

Do you find that songwriting can be like having a conversation with yourself?

Songwriting started for me as writing journal entries after I’d get home from school in the 6th and 7th grade. I’d write about my day, or whatever 6th grade tragedy was occurring. I could always understand it better if I wrote it down. Once I started putting those journals to guitar, there was songwriting. I spend a lot of time in my head. I can’t say I like it there, but I’ve yet to find a way out of it. The only way I can really cope with my brain is talking to it through music. I’m always having a conversation with myself, whether that’s a good or bad thing. I am incredibly self-aware and self-conscious. I’ve never grown out of that feeling like when you’re twelve or thirteen and you’re at the popular kids pool party. You feel like everyone is staring at you, and no one likes you, and you definitely should’ve worn a different color swimsuit because everyone is judging you. In reality, none of that’s true, but I think a lot of us go through life like we’re still at the 8th grade pool party. Though it’s terrible, putting it into words makes it so much less terrible for me. It makes it kind of pretty in a way. Through me publishing these internal narratives I have with myself, I’ve come to find that most of us feel the same way. I don’t have much to write about when it comes to love or parties or kissing a boy behind the bleachers. Those things are not my field of expertise. But, I’ve been with myself for as long as I can remember, so I thought I might as well write about it.

I’ve always said that I’m not much for reality. It’s just not as fun there. I’m fascinated with the scenarios and romances we create in our heads.

– Caroline Romano

How did the collaboration with R3HAB first come about? Was he the one who reached out to you or vice versa, and what was it like getting to work together?

I had written “I Still Remember” back in 2018 with some friends of mine. I knew it was a special song from the moment it was written, and I knew an opportunity would one day come along to do something special with it. I had the opportunity to reach out to R3HAB in late 2019, and I was ecstatic when he said he was down to remix the song. However, this was occurring basically at the start of lockdown/quarantine, so we basically sent him the song and said “do ANYTHING you want to it.” The first mix I got back from him is extremely close to what ended up being the final product. He’s a genius, and it was such an honor to get to work with him.

Photo by Alexa Campbell

There are people out there who understand what I’m trying to say through my music, even when I didn’t at the time of writing it. It’s the loudest form of communication, often to people I’ve never spoken a word to. 

– Caroline Romano

What I really loved about “The Hypothetical” was how relatable the subject matter is. It’s very common to have a fantasy play out in our own heads, and I was wondering how the song initially came about?

I’ve always said that I’m not much for reality. It’s just not as fun there. I’m fascinated with the scenarios and romances we create in our heads. You can imagine an entire wedding after an interaction with a hot stranger at a Target. In these little worlds our brains create, the only thing impossible is impossibility. I love that, and I try to take a bit of that mindset out into reality with me when I’m there. I wrote “The Hypothetical” with two of my good friends in Nashville, Michael and Chuckie Aiello. They are both well aware of how my brain works and my aversion to the limitations of reality. Michael came in with the idea of letting me build a hypothetical world for a song. We had way too much fun, as again, the laws of reality simply did not apply to this song. We took it to the extremes, in a psychotic Barbie sort of way, and I love it.

What is your favorite part of being a songwriter that you wouldn’t have been able to find anywhere else?

Sometimes I still can’t believe that what I write in my lowest moments, or through tears in my childhood bedroom, is heard by people. I get to tie up my experiences and views on the world as they occur in little bows of poetry and ugly emotions and guitar strings. And sometimes, crazy things happen, like when someone reaches out and says that my words have helped them in some way. There are people out there who understand what I’m trying to say through my music, even when I didn’t at the time of writing it. It’s the loudest form of communication, often to people I’ve never spoken a word to. The thing I hate the most about myself is that I’ll never be able to put it into words. Words don’t exist for that innate whisper of a calling deep down in my bones that begs for me to make music. I must sit at my piano and thumb through my brain for words, or I will simply die. It is as simple and complex as that.

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