Beyond The Stage Magazine - September 2021

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Amanda Restaino Ben Pagani Blake Charles Connor Barnes Ivy Sandoval Lauren Klonowski Marissa Sandoval Nathan-Jay Collantes

Alyssa Buzzello Audrey Battis Blake Charles Chelsea Gresh Emily Nava Joe Hernandez Maggie Montgomery Marlowe Teichman










32 jxdn 46 Tai Verdes 50 Maisie Peters

06 renforshort 12 rence 17 Surfaces 23 Weathers 29 Lollapalooza Music Festival

04 Omar Apollo 05 Green Day 10 PVRIS 11 All Time Low 21 Greta Van Fleet 22 Phoebe Bridgers 27 Fitz & The Tantrums 28 Emblem3 36 Kings of Leon 37 Local Natives 44 Drive N Drag 45 Lindsey Sterling












renforshort: Exploring Teenage Angst In The Modern World Photos: Marlowe Teichman Words: Blake Charles BTS


Canadian singer-songwriter Lauren Isenburg – who goes by the stage name renforshort – is a 19-year-old force to be reckoned with. A guitar-heavy blend of pop, alternative and punk sits beneath her soft yet powerful voice that delivers every word she sings with conviction. Her raw, angsty lyrics depict a teenage girl living in a complicated world where sadness follows her like a shadow. While the odds may be stacked against her, and while she might get in her own way from time to time, she refuses to back down. Since the beginning of her career, renforshort has presented a distinct point of view that’s central to her art. Her songs radiate with intent and atmosphere as they explore what’s going on in her world. Even the album artwork for her debut project – teenage angst EP – helps tell a story; it shows renforshort in a messy, graffiti-tagged room that’s faded to look like an old record sleeve. It conjures an immediate feeling that perfectly sets the scene for the stories being told. However, before she started telling these stories, she spent her childhood building and flexing her musical muscles and loving every second of it. “My parents put me in piano lessons when I was literally two years old, which is insane,” she said. “I always loved it, and I just kept picking up more and more instruments. And then I started singing. I did musical theater for a long time when I was a kid, and I really fell in love with performing and singing. I hated the acting part, but the singing part I loved. And just from there, I was like, ‘This is the only thing I want to do.’” More so than just enrolling her in piano lessons and getting her started with musical theater, renforshort’s parents provided the soundtrack to her youth. The array of rock music she grew up on was foundational in forming

her specific taste and undoubtedly helped shape the artist she is today. “When I was a kid, my parents would play me Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder and Amy Winehouse. They were my first inspirations. I would watch concert tapes of Amy Winehouse, and it made me want to do that. And then, as I got older, I started discovering music on my own. The earliest people I discovered were Jake Bugg and Bon Iver. I listen to them when I’m really sad, and it brings me back to a time when I was younger. There are 100% elements of them in my music.” One of renforshort’s biggest strengths as an artist is her constant willingness to say exactly how she feels without concession. “i drive me mad” – a standout track from her teenage angst EP – is a perfect example of this. On the track, renforshort describes a time when her battle with anxiety caused her to hyperventilate and have a panic attack. She describes losing sleep and feeling panicked during the song’s mellow start, which rages into a chorus where she exclaims, “I drive me mad!” over a thrashing instrumental. She’s highly vulnerable on the track and later notes that she finds writing songs and singing about emotional subjects easier than simply talking about them. “I have trouble talking about it one-on-one with people, but it’s different to write it down, sing it, and put it out into the world. You’re not there face-to-face with someone while they’re listening to the song, you know what I mean? You don’t have to deal with that discomfort of being so open, but that openness is really helpful to people. If I have a platform of any size at all, why not use it to talk about the stuff that I have trouble talking about or don’t see a lot in mainstream media?”



Her vulnerability as an artist and songwriter is one of her most impressive qualities. This openness has helped not only countless fans that relate to her lyrics and find comfort in their shared experiences, as it’s also helped renforshort herself. She’s always found writing to be her favorite part of the creative process and has learned to use it as a way to care for herself and improve her mental health. “I love writing. It’s so cathartic — It’s like a therapy session. BTS


It’s really the best feeling in the world. Everyone should write, in any capacity, even just on their phone. Talk about what’s wrong and just let everything out. I do that, too.” In early June, renforshort released her most recent project – a second EP titled off saint dominque. The six-song project shows her expanding upon the sound she established on her teenage angst EP while creating an impressive piece of work in the process. Inspiration for the EP came from how

While the EP still has plenty of renforshort’s signature guitar-driven angst, she embraces a broader array of sounds on the project as a whole. She teams up with hyper-pop-associated artist Glaive on the track “fall apart” for a perfect melding of Glaive’s sound with renforshort’s grungier style. On the other hand, the folksy guitar on “exception” gives the project some twang and another sonic texture that demonstrates renforshort’s increasing versatility. One of the EP’s standout tracks, “virtual reality” was inspired by a specific time in renforshort’s life where she knew she’d had enough: “I was in a session with JESSE FINK and Pom Pom, who I make a lot of my music with, and I was at my breaking point. I wasn’t leaving. I wasn’t having people over. I was just isolating. I would be on my phone for hours, and there’d be nothing left for me to do. I’d already watched everybody on the internet, I watched every movie in existence, and I felt so trapped.” Lyrically and sonically, “virtual reality” is among renforshort’s most poignant songs. The track opens with quick, plucky guitar that welcomes her sweet vocals into the mix. “Self-diagnosed with self-sabotage,” she sings in the first chorus before the track quickly roars to life. The explosive, pop-punk-inspired chorus paints a portrait of renforshort’s addiction to the internet and her desire to find something real – something outside of the online bubble she had created for herself. “I don’t wanna live my life on the internet / I just wanna go outside like a kid again,” she sings. “That song to me isn’t just about quarantine because it completely applies to my life before. Like I’m inside, but I have no desire to leave, but I know I would be better if I just left and saw my friends. It’s that feeling of not allowing yourself to leave.” While “virtual reality” touches on feelings that many people can relate to, renforshort writes about those feelings in a way that cuts right to the bone. Her ability to capture the nuance and depth of a feeling is profound and is a major aspect of her songwriting.

drastically her life changed when she turned eighteen and moved away from home. “I left my parents’ house and was far away, and you know, meeting new people; you meet so many people in different cities, and you kind of have to go through a little bit of an uncomfortable time. It was kind of just about that experience and being alone and all the shit that I realized after a period of time.”

“I write my songs so that people can relate to them. I talk about things that aren’t talked about enough. We’re all growing up together. We’re all getting older together. We’re all experiencing new things together. We live in the same world, you know?” Through the trials and tribulations of growing up in a complicated world, renforshort has created music as a way to make sense of it all. Her childhood passion has only grown stronger and become an even bigger part of her life. As her journey into young adulthood continues, there’s no doubt she’ll continue sharing her world, telling her stories, and making an impact on those who listen. BTS










The Mature Youth of Rence Photos: Marlowe Teichman Words: Connor Barnes



There is just something fresh about Rence. At Chicago’s iconic music festival Lollapalooza, Beyond the Stage got the chance to chat with him. The young artist surprised his audience with an unannounced performance of the theme song to Disney’s animated series Phineas and Ferb during his set. It only took milliseconds after Rence sang the intro lyrics “There are 104 days of summer vacation” until the crowd caught on. The audience, made up of primarily twenty-somethings, many of which were at their first live show since the beginning of a pandemic where lives had been regressed or entirely put on hold, this song is an ode to simpler, younger days. Youth, to a certain degree, is Rence’s brand. After scrolling through Rence’s various social media channels, it’s clear that the singer possesses an air of eagerness and excitement which resembles child-like wonder. As seen with his Phineas & Ferb performance, he isn’t afraid of leaning into his youth. Instead, he uses it to his advantage. Being young and in the know of current trends gives him seamless control over his socials, the main form for any artist to interact with fans. Compared to other, usually older celebrities whose content suffers from over-production, Rence manages to transfer authenticity through the screen, only heightening his likeability. But perhaps Rence’s most compelling feature, ironically, is that he isn’t childish. There’s a developed maturity underneath his outer child, and his ability to live as the two — he child and the adult — is where his success lies.

to come out of a child’s mouth, no one is quite sure what to expect from the Washington-native. Take another of his TikTok videos where he goes up to strangers and asks them to listen to his music cold. However, Rence is not only fun and games. What makes Rence a fascinating individual is even with his head in the clouds, there’s still ground underneath his feet. Beneath the fun-loving exterior, there lies an extremely emotional, raw soul. Sometimes, a double-take is needed. Did the boy, with an affinity towards the color purple and White Claw, really just sing “Type 2” or “Expensive” or his newest single “AWOOO”? For those unfamiliar with Rence’s sound, his music focuses primarily on love and loss. He fits snuggly within the realm of his influences John Mayer and Harry Styles. As aforementioned, Rence hosts an impressive discography of gut-wrenching tunes. The song “Type 2”, Rence says, is basically the exploration of the result I got from [the ENNEAGRAM test] and trying to learn what that meant for me. And what it meant was I was spending a lot of time listening and not a lot of time prioritizing myself in relationships and situations.” For those unfamiliar, the ENNEAGRAM test essentially describes the type of person someone is (there’s an ENNEAGRAM test offered on Rence’s website for anyone interested). “Type 2” demonstrates a vulnerability within Rence. Obviously, he’s a person who cares deeply for others once his other music is listened to.

Rence’s journey to his current hybrid self began in Seattle, Washington, where he was born. Roughly 18 years later, when it was time for college, he packed up and ventured east to New York University. On his college experience, Rence says, “It was definitely crazy. I was at NYU at the time trying to finish school as quickly as possible without dropping out, which I did.” After graduating, Rence found himself in a position that most straight-out-of-college kids only dream of: signing to a major record label. Rence signed to Epic Records, whose lineup of heavyhitting artists includes Camila Cabello, Travis Scott, Jennifer Hudson and past BTS cover star AJ Mitchell. After Rence signed and moved to Los Angeles, he found himself in an identity crisis. “I was certainly grateful [for moving to LA], but it was certainly a whirlwind trying to get my feet underneath me and be who I wanted myself to be, also who a lot of other people wanted me to be.” Rence should not be mistaken for a Peter Pan type of boy. He is not someone who refuses to get older. As a person, his excited presence leaves room for surprise. Like how no one is quite sure what to expect BTS


His newest song, “AWOOO,” encapsulates the LA artist. This song, for him, was “the hardest and easiest” to write. He said, “It ripped me apart to write it because of the subject matter. It was very sad at the time, and I was writing to get those emotions out basically about a relationship that had ended. But, because of the love I had for that person, and still do, it turned into a love song rather than a breakup song.” Even at the lowest of points, Rence demonstrates a high level of emotional intelligence. It’s too easy to give in to negativity, but Rence never surrenders. He can’t. That’s not who he is. Perhaps Rence’s Type 2 tendencies, however, are best displayed when he talks about his fans. He is not shy about saying that he owes all his success to them. “I think my message to my fans after this past crazy year and a half is to remember that you’re not alone. I was at Miley [Cyrus’] set two nights ago, [Rence’s song “Expensive” features



Miley’s sister Noah Cyrus], and one thing she said that really resonated was, without fans, the artists are nothing. Without playing to people that you know, absorb and bring the music into their lives, we really have nothing. So, I am indebted to my fans and will always be there to support them.” Rence, who’s currently at an age between childhood and adulthood, chooses to be both. His enthusiasm for his craft and his fans alongside his expert navigation of social media uses his youth for his advantage, but his heartfelt lyrics and mature sound make him more than just a boy. Everything he does, he does for other people, which promotes an important message. Maturity is not defined by interests or even age. To be grown is to think of other people before thinking about yourself. For Rence, as seen through his music, all he ever thinks about are other people.





Surfaces: More Than Meets the Eye...or Ear Photos: Marlowe Teichman Words: Amanda Restaino



You may look at pop duo Surfaces and think that’s all they are – two guys creating music that’s meant for radio, but by looking under the surface, you realize they are truly much more. Originating from College Station, Texas, in 2017, Forrest Frank and Colin Padalecki quickly invented their own unique sound – a blend of pop, reggae, jazz and hiphop designed to feel light and airy. Surfaces say they are inspired by nature, friendship, storytelling and the likes of musical luminaries Elton John, BTS


Jack Johnson, Stevie Wonder, Medicine and James Taylor. They describe their music as a vacation. “It’s like a mental escape. It’s upbeat, but it’s also introspective. It’s peaceful, it’s calm, it’s wavy, it’s sunny, it’s all of the above. It’s just us. We’re not trying to impersonate a genre or impersonate another artist. It’s like a melting pot of all these genres, experiences, influences and it all just came out in our music.” What could seem like a lot thrown together always manages

With a constant stream of accomplishments flowing in left and right since then, the pair has created quite the name for themselves, earning them spots in some of the biggest festivals in the world of music. Prior to hitting the road for their “Surfaces: Good 2 Be Back Tour” that kicked off earlier this month, the vocalists and guitarists got to perform at their first festival ever – Lollapalooza at Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois – the first of many more to come before the end of the year. Preceding their Sunday set, Padalecki shared that on top of it being the first festival they’ve performed at, it is also the first festival Frank has even attended, and just making it to and not even on the Lolla stage is already a hard-enough feat. “We’ve never played festivals. This is the first time Forest has ever been at a festival, and now, he gets to play his first one. It’s crazy. We love the energy, and we want to match that energy. Everyone else is excited to be here, so it makes us excited to be here.” At the time, Surfaces’ newest single, “Sheesh” with Tai Verdes, who found his way to fame with his hit song that went viral on TikTok, “Stuck In The Middle,” was not yet released. Knowing new music would surprise the audience, it became the song the twosome was most looking forward to performing on the famous Lollapalooza stage; they would share it with some of the biggest names in music like Miley Cyrus, Post Malone, Megan Thee Stallion and more. “We got this new single coming out soon with Tai Verdes,” they said before their set. “We got to perform it last night at our late-night show, and it’s a little energy bop. The crowd doesn’t know the song, so it’s probably going to be a shock. If it’s anything like last night, we think the crowd will enjoy it.” Fans sure did enjoy it live and via their streaming devices, which helped catapult it to a whopping four million streams in just 11 days post-release. Its massive success follows just months behind the release of the duo’s fourth album Pacifico that was brought to life, of course, next to the Pacific Ocean.

to be a perfectly crafted, magical compilation, which is why the band has especially blown up since their US Double Platinum and Switzerland and Australia Platinum mega-hit “Sunday Best” from 2019. The popular song is an obvious example of Surfaces’ genre-bending nature, with hints of a slow, spoken rap seeping through the heavy piano verses in an almost Chance the Rapper-like fashion. Met with a fun, upbeat, pop rhythm, it’s no surprise that it was so wellreceived to the point of peaking at number 19 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number nine on the US Billboard Mainstream Top 40 weekly charts.

Created in a house in Malibu, it encapsulates the most honest form of music by getting to the hearts of bedroom creators. “This is the first album where we rented a house in Malibu, and for two weeks, we did nothing but wake up and record the whole album at this house with home equipment. It was getting back to the roots of what we used to do because we’re bedroom producers/writers at heart. We wanted to tune into ourselves.” In diving into themselves, they dove right into the hearts and minds of millions of people by providing a realness that many crave in music to feel connected to others. The opening of a car and the ending of a car, the drive to and from the beach house symbolizes the beginning and end of the record. “At the beginning of the album, you can hear the Jeep that we drove up to the house. BTS


Then the album’s sonics are just us trying to capture the energy of that beautiful ocean sunset on the hillside. At the end of the album, you can hear the Jeep taking off.” The middle is where the true essence of the album rests, filled with moments of beauty inspired by the landscape it was written in. Like the waves of the ocean they watched, the songs flow effortlessly from one to another with a mature sound that makes Surfaces say this is their best album to date. “Wave of You,” the album’s lead single and most popular song, specifically allows waves of happiness, love and calmness to wash over its listeners for three minutes and 33 seconds, making for the perfect summer feel and putting them right there in Malibu with the artists. In fact, the song’s music video, the first of four total for the album, had just surpassed three million views on YouTube before Lollapalooza and is designed to do just that. “The whole concept of Pacifico was to take our listeners and our fans on the journey with us,” said Surfaces. “So, we wanted to exclude ourselves from the video to make it about others. We had a gang of actors that got together and we took them on a journey. The videos are all different colors and themes that all tie together to tell one big story; they’re almost like different episodes from one season.” Possibly leading to more music videos to add to the series, just five days before hitting the road for two months, Surfaces added three more songs to the show mix with the release of the Pacifico (Deluxe). Adding four extra songs to the original album, including the popular collaboration single with Tai Verdes, the deluxe record allows listeners to hear some different voices outside of the duo like Thomas Rhett (“… C’est La Vie”), Benny Sings (“June”), and Kid Indigo (“Famous”). These four songs add a new surge of excitement to the impending shows, fans are now left contemplating the possibilities of these artists becoming surprise guests for their dates. After embarking on the almost 40-stop tour on September 8 in Phoenix, Arizona, the guys continued along, and by the



completion of the journey, they will have hit 23 states overall, as well as Toronto, ON, all before the end of November. Despite the long haul, Surfaces is excited and most looking forward to the various festivals, including Austin City Limits and Music Midtown, that they will be performing at along the way. Before its cancellation, they were also supposed to take the Bonnaroo stage in Manchester, Tennessee, on September 4, which would have been the original first stop on the voyage. The blip in plans won’t throw them off their game, though, as the rest of the tour is still set to go on as planned, thankfully. While things might have started going wrong early on in the tour, we sure know many things are going right for Surfaces. Other than touring, Padalecki and Frank have a lot coming up before the new year, including some completed songs they teased us with. “We have some of our, probably, biggest songs that are done, and they’re waiting to come out – they’re with some pretty big people. We have a lot of good stuff in the vault.” Perhaps, the songs they hinted at are those we can now listen to on Pacifico (Deluxe), but let’s hope there are even more coming soon. Then, in February 2022, they will head across the pond for a UK show at the Electric Brixton in London, showing that they’re not only a national success story but also an international one. As we said at the beginning, Surfaces has much more to them than what we can see with the naked eye. Like an iceberg, only the very tip of themselves peaks out above sea level, but when you look beneath into the depths of their music, you find so much more than your average pop. You find passionate, inspired, genre-defying, soothing, and natural sounds that are a culmination of Padalecki and Frank’s inner thoughts and feelings, along with their lived experiences. With a rawness and vulnerability in their voices and lyrics, it is easy to see why people have latched onto their music, turning them into hitmakers and stars.








Weathers’ Pills & Therapy is the Best Medicine Photos: Alyssa Buzzello Words: Ben Pagani



Since forming in 2015, four-piece rock band Weathers has kicked up a storm from their native Los Angeles to the alternative charts and stages across the United States. The band’s success began with the hit single “Happy Pills” in 2016. It was the band’s second single, propelling them into cult-like status by peaking at number 21 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. In 2018 the group’s members, Cameron Boyer (vocalist/ guitarist), Cameron Olson (guitarist), Brennan Bates (bassist), and Cole Carson (drummer), released their fulllength debut album Kids in the Night. The whole record was written and recorded in one continuous process. On August 13, they came back with their second album Pillows & Therapy. Unlike their previous release, the new record is both brand new material and a callback to the past.

disease that has already claimed the lives of over 650,000 people. And so, the recording process for Pillows & Therapy was different. It was so different that it features songs that were just written recently, and ones that were recorded in the last few years. What fans are left with is an album that treats like a bag of trail mix featuring both new sounding Weathers, and the same Weathers they fell in love with in the past five years. That is a recipe for some good trail mix. The kind with more M&M’s than peanuts, and not too many raisins.

Now, in case you have been asleep for the last 18 months, we are living in a seemingly never-ending global pandemic. Everyday has been a complicated navigation of careful choices and compromises. No one is safe from making decisions like whether you should go to the grocery store without a mask or not.

“Yeah, it’s very different,” said Boyer. “We have one song on there that’s up to like five years old. A couple are two years old. Some other tracks are brand new. We wrote the last album at the same time. Everything was written right then and recorded immediately, all at the same time, which was really awesome. I would love to do that again. But this one was definitely a lot more sporadic. I think COVID had a huge effect on that. It still felt good, because we were pulling stuff from a while ago, and then writing new stuff. So, it’s a fun mixed bag, it’s still going to be very energetic, and emotional and all that stuff.”

Weathers’ COVID-19-related complications pondered upon how to release a new album in 2021. Really, every artist who has dropped new material since spring 2020 has had some difficulty. Music and the creative process have fallen victim to the logistics of getting a group of people in a small setting to record, all at the risk of contracting a

“Last time, it was the same producer for the whole thing,” added Carson. “This one was like, four or five. Every song is also different. Yes, sir. There’s one guy who did like three or four of them. I think we were all a little worried on how to work together. But I think it worked together great. Like, you can’t really tell that it was different people. You know,



it’s like it all worked out.” Ideology was key to getting the sounds they wanted on Pillows & Therapy. The group wanted some songs to capture an 80s and 90s vibe, while they wanted the more electronic songs to be specific to the “Weathers sound.” “For example, ‘Karma’ is very Pixies inspired,” said Boyer. For the first track, “Hello,” we were literally like ‘Let’s write something that sounds like “Close to Me” by The Cure.’ And then “Strange Dayz” is like, electronic but then also sounds like people or a producer going ‘yeah that sounds really cool.’ We were like yeah, let’s do it, and let’s see what happens. And then other stuff like “Rehab” which sounds just like a full-on dark pop record, but I think it’s cool.” While the boys talk amongst themselves and spend time discussing the best environment for fans to listen to Pillows & Therapy, you just can’t help but wonder what it is that makes these guys tick. After all they have made something of a name for themselves for their outstanding live performances, which have been seen on the road while opening for fans of bands like Saint Motel and Nothing But Thieves. On top of that, Boyer even co-directed the music video for the new track “Talking is Hard.” They are a creative bunch. But at this moment they are still distracted on figuring out the best listening environment for fans to listen to Pillows & Therapy. “I don’t think you can ever go wrong with just driving and listening,” said Boyer. “Yeah, but I’m seeing more daytime drive,” argued Carson. “Maybe sunset drive.” “Bedroom,” concludes Boyer. “In your room alone sitting on your bed and dance up and down. There’s a lot of that too. With colored LED lights.” That settles it. Anyway, the creative control. That is something new to the group. In the past they felt like certain aspirations and videos failed to strike the target they were looking to hit. Things did not achieve the messages the band desired. Recently they have taken matters into their own hands and are pleased with the results. “It’s kind of nice,” said Carson. “We have a savings on the piggy bank. It’s like, are we gonna do it in-house or outsource somebody else?” The group is especially excited for their headlining tour across the United States that kicked off at the beginning of September after being delayed due to the pandemic. Their trademark lighting and excitement for walking around the stage makes for an authentic experience for all parties involved. They are especially excited to perform Pillows & Therapy’s lead single “C’est la vie” live.

A group with minds as creative as Weathers can be put to good use beyond writing hit songs and putting on a show. In fact, they are using their brainpower to help other people’s minds too. These four guys did not expect to become champions of mental health awareness. They wrote about what felt natural to them. On Kids in the Night, fans took the message they heard and began looking up to Weathers as a group that had good relatable lyrics. The band continued to discuss those ideas in their songs and its even part of the reason they called this new record Pillows & Therapy. Now they are going even further by partnering with the non-profit organization, The Jed Foundation, which specializes in mental health and emotional support for young adults. “They have lots of outlets for young people,” said Boyer. “But it’s also for everyone. People need help. The more stuff we do with that, the more we like we’re doing something important.” There are few ways to broadcast a thought-provoking and meaningful message than through music. Most Weathers songs have a feel-good shimmer nestled inside every BTS


moment. Even the ones with broody lyrics and song titles. They have an inspiration that guarantees struggling listeners that there are indeed better days are on the horizon. After two albums and several hit singles, this band is inspiring their own future to be even better too. Pandemic aside, life is difficult. Mental health matters. Everyone faces a challenge that is relevant to their situations. None is smaller than another. Musicians are eager to get back on the road and share new tracks with fans. It’s a challenge for them to assemble records. Some, like Weathers, were successful in the effort. Fans are ready to be in public, dancing to familiar tunes and return to



normalcy. Even on those difficult days, try and try again. Just like Weathers’ new record, find ideas you like and stick to them. Even if you have to compromise your strategy, you will make good things for this world you are living in. If you need self-care and a pick me up, go ahead and grab a bag of trail mix. You know, the good kind with more M&M’s than peanuts and not too many raisins. Then put on Pillows & Therapy and go on a sunset drive. Maybe dance in your room. It will make you feel better. Just don’t forget the colored LED lights.








Lollapalooza Music Festival Photos: Marlowe Teichman










Pop-Punk’s Newest Rockstar: jxdn Photos: Marlowe Teichman Words: Ivy Sandoval



The first time anyone attends a music festival will always be memorable. For pop-punk singer Jaden Hossler, professionally known as jxdn, Chicago’s iconic Lollapalooza music festival was definitely one to remember. Not only was it his first time attending a music festival, but he was also hitting the stage in front of thousands of people. Just a 20-year-old kid excited to be on this musical journey, and having the opportunity is thrilling. He says, “The energy from the fans is unreal. Last night at Reggie’s, it was so unexpected to see that many people there for me, you know?” A rising star and enjoying every moment, “I think people are starting to see me as the kid that’s about to be next, which I’m totally good to wait for my turn because being the biggest is a really big responsibility and opportunity. So, right now, I’m just ready to show people what I can do.” The pop-punk artist that is, perfectly put by Jxdn himself, “a very good representation of what’s old, but making it new again.” Although he doesn’t have as much experience as his peers, it’s what makes him unique and a growing artist. “I think that I have a really fresh perspective on pop-punk because I didn’t grow up with it and listen to it growing up. I’ve been really immersed in it for the last two or three years. I think it gives me that edge that most people who have been absorbing it since they were a kid don’t have because I’m okay to be ‘wrong.’ And I think that a big part of pop-punk music is being able to fail.” To be at Lollapalooza was a full-circle moment for Jxdn, as the singer has always been inspired by, and looked up to, Chicago native Juice WRLD. “It’s funny because I’m not just a fan — I’ve only been to one concert in my life and it was a Juice WRLD concert — That was the night that I decided to make music just because of the way Juice WRLD was so vulnerable,” he said, unironically wearing a Juice WRLD shirt. In awe, that might of how much music brings people together, saying, “It literally was unifying thousands of people that probably would maybe hate each other if they weren’t inside the same scenes or listened to the same music.” “I promised myself that night, if I ever got in front of this many people, I’m going to do what he did.” And that’s exactly what he’s accomplished. Continuing saying, “So the coolest part is today, in my set, I’m going to sing my music that is super inspired from Blink-182, Juice WRLD and a bunch of different things. And then, I actually put ‘Armed and Dangerous’ at the end of my set, so we get to give respect to the Legend, which is in Chicago, which is a dream.” jxdn has been on a rollercoaster that only goes up since is debut 2020 single “Comatose” and most recently a goldselling single with “Angels & Demons.” “It’s been a super humbling experience learning that what BTS


I think is best isn’t always best.” With friends and mentors like Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker, he’s destined for success. “I got really, really blessed with [Barker] — He gave me the golden ticket. [Barker] signing me gave me the confidence I needed to be who I am right now because my initial goal was literally to be signed by Juice WRLD, as far-fetched as it sounds.” With so much adoration, he says, “[Barker] is that same energy, and he just never stops — He’s so creative. And because of that, the music itself, I think every song that we’ve made is just continually grown because my career started with the first song I ever made — it wasn’t like the tenth song I made.” Not only is jxdn friends with and mentored by Barker, but he was the first signee to DTA Records. “He’s taught me so much about just life in general. He’s really stepped in as a figure in my life, like a mentor — really like a dad.” Now with his debut album TELL ME ABOUT TOMORROW out, the rollercoaster continues to go up. Taking a year to create and originally very pop-centered, Hossler finally found his sound in music. “I realized that’s not my strong suit. I fit really well in the pop-punk genre. And as soon as I realized that and felt comfortable with it, I just went for it. That’s really when it all changed.” BTS


With Barker by his side, every session and song added more and more to Jxdn’s love and confirmation of his sound. “I think ‘THINK ABOUT ME’ when we made that song, that’s when I was like, ‘Oh shit... I think we could do this.’” With each song having a special meaning for jxdn, representing different moments and emotions in his life, “ANGELS & DEMONS PT. 2” is his favorite. “‘ANGELS & DEMONS PT. 2’ is such a cool story because like first, ‘ANGELS & DEMONS’ is about having your highs and lows. And it really represents when I got arrested and how it was the lowest point in my life. The lyrics are really powerful — ‘Hang me on a wall / Take a look and tear me down / ‘Cause that’s all you want’ because that’s how the world is.” It’s a statement that he’s here to stay, saying, “Being able to say that and then say ‘fuck it’ and just like, go crazy and be like ‘I’m still a rock star’ whether other people think it or not.” Knowing he could make a mark in music, “I said that before I ever made my first song, and I’ll say that until I die because I know I was born to do this stuff. I don’t need people’s approval because I’m not here to change your mind. I’m

here to make you feel something because that’s all I want.” More than anything, his fans are the biggest part of him, always encouraging them to follow their dreams. He gives them a special message: “To my fans, you have so much more of a purpose than you think you do. I didn’t think I was going anywhere, seriously. I didn’t even know I had talent, and I did. You’re not alone with me. If you listen to music, you’re not because I know if you feel that, just know that I felt it, too. And that’s really comforting to know. I just hope that they understand they have a purpose. And if they want to be like me up on stage, they can.” Fans will get a lot more of that this year and finally be able to see him live as he goes on his first tour with Machine Gun Kelly. One thing about jxdn is that he doesn’t take this journey for granted and is always looking to learn and grow, “I’ve just been trying to learn and take advice when I can because I don’t know everything. I think that the reason that my music keeps getting better is because I am willing for it to be better than what I could make myself.” jxdn is showing the world what he is capable of and is so much more than what people may assume. His willingness and hunger to learn and grow, along with his passion and humility, are what makes him an incredible artist.











Cautious Clay is Blazing His Own Path to Success BTS


Photos: Marlowe Teichman Words: Nathan-Jay Collantes

Music is something that Cautious Clay, also known as Joshua Karpeh, was born to do. The singer, songwriter, producer, flutist, saxophonist -- the list could honestly go on -- is a star in the making, and he’s doing it his way. The Cleveland native had an interest in the fine arts since he was a young kid. “I’ve been playing music since I was seven years old. My mom really encouraged me. She was always like, ‘Go do that,’” he says. And “do that” he did. He took it to heart and did everything. No, seriously. Clay can not only sing, but he can play the flute, saxophone, guitar, and saxophone (and probably more). He took lessons and even played in concert and jazz bands when he was in middle school and high school -- and not to mention that he used to be a pole vaulter and a track athlete. Clay is a zealous person who loves to try new things. Even though he learned to play all those instruments, he didn’t start making his own music until 2015. “I guess I would say it started in D.C. I started making beats and producing on SoundCloud around 2015. I basically took that and started writing music, and it eventually became what it is now.” But even then, he didn’t consider actually pursuing a music

career. He instead picked up a job in New York City, working as a real estate agent while still producing and sharing his tracks on SoundCloud. Then all of a sudden, JBL reached out to him about licensing one of his songs. This offer took Clay by surprise because he never thought he could get paid for making music. That’s when a light bulb clicked in his head, and he made the conscious decision of doing music full-time. People began noticing Cautious Clay when he released a remix of Billie Eilish’s “Ocean Eyes.” Both of them were just beginning their journey and this collaboration helped give each other a major boost in their careers. It’s something that he’s truly grateful to be part of and has nothing but love for Eilish. Then he had his big break when he quickly rose to prominence in 2017 when he released his hit single “Cold War.” It quickly amassed over 1 million streams in the first month of its release and is currently his most-streamed song. “Cold War” was featured in the 2019 coming-of-age film, Booksmart, and the HBO Original Series, Insecure. Not only that, the song was interpolated on Taylor Swift’s song “London Boy.” Oh, let’s not forget that he also got to work with John Mayer — and it all began with a follow. Clay noticed that Mayer had followed him on Instagram and thought it was



crazy. They got in contact with each other. One thing led to another, and they collaborated on “Swim Home,” featured on the Netflix Original Series, 13 Reasons Why, and on Mayer’s song “Carry Me Home.” It’s easy to see why people like Clay. The way he envisions music and his production work is unmatched. He brings something new and fresh to the table. Clay has a voice that’s just silky smooth; it is both dreamy and soulful. When it comes to songwriting and producing, he likes to mix R&B and soft rock to make something emotional. On top of that, he incorporates his classical training in jazz and concert music in his songs which adds even more texture and layers. It’s unlike anything heard before. When it comes to the music he wants to make, he doesn’t want to be put in a box, nor does he want to force things. Clay has an organic and natural style of songwriting. He BTS


writes and produces music off of what feels and sounds right in that moment. “It’s very fluid. I rely on my intuition a lot.” His lyricism is one of his most intriguing aspects because it’s poetic. He’s able to paint a vivid picture with words beautifully. There’s so much thought and emotion in his songwriting. Where is it all coming from? For the most part, it comes from his personal experiences. It’s easier to write about things you know and have emotional connections with. But it can also come from other things. “I get inspired by things that my friends show me and the things that I sort of stumble on. The relationships that I have inspire my music. With the movies and things that I watch, things I also consume very much influence what I end up putting out.”

To get a taste of what type of content he’s been consuming lately, we asked him about a favorite song that’s been in his rotation. “This artist, Dora Jar, that I really like. She has a song called, ‘Polly.’” As for his name, he gets asked about the origin and story behind it a lot. There are a couple of meanings. The obvious one being that it’s a play on Muhammad Ali’s birth name, Cassius Clay. But it also holds a much deeper connection than that. “It’s my take on the kind of music I make in particular. I feel like it’s hard to share my emotions and my personal life — It’s never been the easiest thing to do. I think music has always been the easiest way for me to discuss my emotions. I guess in a lot of ways, I’m always ‘cautious’ about everything, except for my music. That’s where the sentiment comes from.” Clay is having an amazing year so far as he released his debut album, Deadpan Love, back in June. The 14-track project is filled with highlights such as “Wildfire,” “Shook,” and “Roots.” It is a magnificent performance from beginning to end as he continues to show off his raw lyricism and intricate production. The project’s development had been years in the making, and he wrote a lot of songs for it -- think hundreds. “The process was very fluid. I started it three or four years ago and had been holding songs back and re-thinking certain songs. It was a challenge for myself to place it all together — it was a lot of work. I wrote over 100-200 songs over the last three years, and to go over those and figure out where those fit was the biggest challenge, but also the most rewarding when it came together.” Aside from songwriting and producing, he’s also interested in putting on the director’s cap. Clay said that he’s always loved music videos. It’s another way for him to get creative and present his songs in a whole new light. “I’m sort of in a place where I’m wanting to direct and create more. I co-directed some of my own videos for my album, so that was fun — It’s still something I’m interested in.” He has a huge drive and passion to create wherever he can, even sparking an interest in fashion. We asked Clay about what has been his favorite accomplishment this far. Is it the streams? The fame? The money? Not quite. It’s actually something much more. “Being able to maintain my vision without giving up any of my rights as a musician — I’m fully independent. I think it’s cool that I can be that. I can release whatever dog shit I want if I want to.” In a world where streaming services are taking over the music industry, the dream of being an artist has never been easier. Music platforms like SoundCloud and Spotify have opened up so many doors, and opportunities for people





to easily share their music with the world without signing with a label. Clay has taken advantage of that. He’s enjoying having complete ownership and full creative control over his music career, which is every artist’s dream. Despite this, he’s not ruling out the option of signing with a label entirely. “I’m only interested in signing if it’s with someone who really believes in what I’m doing and wants to cultivate a way to grow what I do in a meaningful way. If that’s not what you want to do, I don’t care. That’s sort of my philosophy.” But he knows that he’s got a good thing going. He’s gotten this far on his own. Why change what’s working? Plus, he’s fully embraced the responsibilities and challenges that come with being an independent artist. So what’s next for Cautious Clay? When we got to talk with him, he was just getting ready for his performance at Lollapalooza. Right after that, he’ll be appearing at several festivals in the next coming months, like Austin City Limits. Then in 2022, he’s embarking on his own journey with the Karma & Friends World Tour. He has quite the schedule coming up. But that’s not stopping him from working on music. “I’m working on a small EP. I’m also working on some cool live visuals. More live performances, too.” This has been an outstanding year for Clay, and the upcoming year will be even bigger as he’s running with crazy, hot momentum. The future is bright for Clay, and he’s just getting started.











Tai Verdes: The Real Artist Photos: Marlowe Teichman Words: Lauren Klonowski



Some people you just know have charisma and talent the very first time you see them. Spoiler alert: Tai Verdes is one of them. Verdes or Tyler Colon has managed to unlock the secret to success. He says just be yourself and aim to make music that makes yourself feel good. “Tai Verdes is someone who’s trying to do some dope shit. That’s all I’m trying to do.” Regarding his stage name, he says, “The inspiration behind my artist name is, my name is actually Tyler, but people call me ‘Ty.’ I took ‘Ty’ and made it ‘T-A-I.’ I added the ‘I,’ and made it sexy. And then ‘Verdes’ because I lived in Palos Verdes for a little bit.” Well, get used to hearing that name because Verdes is already making a name for himself. He’s proven that spending less time worrying about stream numbers and just diving into songwriting and making music he’s passionate about has been his focus recently. Well, that method sure seems to be paying off. Verdes has skyrocketed in popularity thanks to TikTok, where his track “Stuck In The Middle” went viral. “It still doesn’t feel real.

Everything has been ‘imaginary’ in a way because I’ve been away from it — It’s all been through screens. Who is really counting the numbers on Spotify? I don’t really know what that means, but I do know that people have messaged me saying they’re connecting to the songs. That’s the best part.” In a global pandemic, people messaging about connecting to your music is essentially getting a big hug from a fan saying how much they enjoyed the show. Verdes has managed to connect with his fans virtually but is ready to meet them in person. “The biggest thing is probably shows. Nothing can replace meeting someone in person. I just want to make sure that every time I meet somebody, that they feel like they matter.” Beyond The Stage chatted with Verdes before his first live festival performance at the always-amazing Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago, Illinois, last month. “This is my first time playing with a band,” Verdes says. “Particularly, this band is going to be the band that I go on



the Quinn XCII [Stay Next To Me] tour with. It feels really good. I think the best part about this is we made sure that I was the worst person on the stage. I want to be with people that inspire me. I always want to be learning from people. And I want to compete with the best, so we have to hire the BTS


best.” Well, if he’s the worst person on stage, it’s sure to be an impeccable show, that’s for sure. On top of his killer talent, part of Verdes’ success comes from a dating show and a love of marketing. Yes, a dating show is what launched the singer-songwriter’s career. “It was to do things that I liked just to try stuff. I did standup comedy, podcasts, modeling, acting — I did that for

all relative, right? If you’re complaining about not being big enough, then you need to market. If you’re complaining, figure it out and be creative all the time; otherwise, you’re not going to be able to compete with everyone else. I’m going to be trying to help other people who want to be creative and promote. “Are you trying to connect with people? That’s the biggest thing. I want to make it so that when I put out a song, any of my songs, they all have a chance to connect. I want my ideas to be shared,” he says. Marketing can always be tricky as a new artist. You want to grow your fan base but don’t want to come off as ingenuine. Verdes will be a great mentor as he has managed to balance that from the very start, and his following has only grown more and more. “I really want to do everything that I can because it’s all fun. I just want to do things that make me feel. I have a very short attention span, and I don’t like doing shit that I don’t like.” Verdes isn’t afraid to try new things in life, and he’s lent this to his writing as well. He names Childish Gambino, Kanye West, Brent Faiyaz, Dominic Fike, Billie Eilish, Tyler, The Creator as strong musical influences for himself. He says, “Anyone who keeps a personality over the years like you know who they are, but they’re also comfortable with changing their style or sound — That’s awesome. I want to be like that. I am going to be like that.” He definitely has put in the work to be like that and has been working hard for his career since he was young. “I played piano for 13 years. And then, after piano, I picked up the ukulele when I went to college — I was trying to be the ‘douchey ukulele guy.’ And then I’ve been playing guitar and learning for the last three years. I think I’ve had a lot of experience with different types of music, listening to everything and playing instruments that I don’t really play just to see what I can do with it.” His experimental style is exactly what has elevated his music so early in his professional career. Earlier this year, Verdes dropped his debut album, TV. The album’s breakout single, “A-O-K,” was met with critical acclaim and currently has nearly 70 million streams on Spotify alone. On the recording process, he says, “TV was like a year and a half project that I tried to tell a story with. It was a hard process because I didn’t know how much music I wanted to put on the project, and then I ended up at 13 songs telling my entire story as a diary from front to back. I hope anyone who listens to it just feels okay to have and feel the same thoughts that I do.” $50,000, and I lived on that shit in a living room for four years. I documented it, so you can see it happening. So, whenever my documentary comes out, it will be kind of crazy.” That documentary is sure to be a hit if it ever sees the light of day. Verdes has always been vocal about the fact that solid marketing is crucial for up-and-coming artists. “I think it’s

Some people just have such strong charisma and talent it’s impossible to ignore. Spoiler alert: Tai Verdes is one of these people. Verdes or Tyler Colon has managed to unlock the sacred to success. He says just be yourself and aim to make music that makes yourself feel good. “Tai Verdes is someone who’s trying to do some dope shit. That’s all I’m trying to do.” BTS


Maisie Peters on Mastering Songwriting Photos: Marissa Sandoval Words: Lauren Klonowski



Pop singer-songwriter Maisie Peters gained initial popularity on YouTube before releasing two original EPs and going on tour all over the US. She signed to Gingerbread Man Records, the record label headed up by none other than pop icon Ed Sheeran, and just released her first debut album, You Signed Up For This, last month. We sat down with her just before the album release to talk about You Signed Up For This, her work on Trying, one of the latest Apple TV+ binge-worthy shows and of course, her viral TikToks. Beyond The Stage: What has it been like working with Ed Sheeran now that you’re on his label? Maisie Peters: It’s been amazing. [Sheeran] is obviously ridiculously talented, and he’s also the most generous, down-to-earth person in every way. Besides being generous, he is so courteous and amazing. I’m a onewoman Ed Sheeran promotional team right now [laughs]. He’s just amazing, and it’s really amazing and inspiring to watch and learn from him. Working with him has been really so easy. He’s really supportive and wants me to make the music that I want to make. BTS: When you wrote the soundtrack for season two of “Trying on Apple TV+ did you have full rein on the music, or “did Apple have inputs in the music, such as the collaborations? MP: That was a really cool process, one of my favorite things that I have done, actually. I worked really closely with the director, Jim O’Hanlon, and Catherine Grimes, who was the BBC music commissioner. It was myself and Joe Rubel, the producer with whom I made the soundtrack. We had a couple of long Zoom meetings with [O’Hanlon] before we started, and we talked through the themes and the general story and the universe it was in since it was season two. Then I read all the scripts, and I made notes, and I was very methodical with it. But when it came to writing the music, we just went away, and I think we spent about two weeks doing four or five songs and we just sent them to Apple. Luckily for us, they really liked them. I think it was “Helicopters,” “Mail House,” “Funeral” and they loved what we did. I had to change a couple of timing things like there was a song called “Office Christmas Party” that just became “The Party” because we wrote it around Christmas time so I was obviously in the festive spirit. We realized that we couldn’t have something called “Office Christmas Party” in a TV show that was set in autumn. It was really easy and definitely a different experience. Apple was wonderful to work for. They really trusted me and my vision. I think it all worked out really well. BTS: Did you feel like the songs you wrote for “Trying” were still your music, or did it feel more like you were doing something for a show?

MP: No. It’s interesting, even though a lot of it was in a different character’s shoes and the show is not really my life, the show was still set in London and it was about these young people figuring out how they wanted to live their lives. I actually was writing my album at the same time, and a lot of these songs, even though they’re written for something else, there’s so much of me in them. They feel super close to me. I think it’s music I could make in my sleep, almost. I’ll always make songs like that. It was really fulfilling and magical to get to write like a whole album basically that was twisty, smart, folk-pop songs. And it’s funny, they’re all love songs really in some way, shape or form, which is hilarious for me, the girl who never writes love songs but I think it’s interesting. They’re all love songs, but there is also nuance to them and it really looks like love through a lot of different eyes and not a stereotypical bunch of love songs. BTS: Did you have to set aside time to specifically write for Trying and then specifically write for your album? MP: I think it only happened once where I wrote a song and thought it could work for either. I wrote a song called “Trying,” not actually linked to the show, but that song we started for the Trying soundtrack. It ended up not really BTS


working, we only did the first verse and chorus, and we were like, ‘That doesn’t really work for Trying, but it could work for me,’ and then it ended up being on my album. The soundtrack was done in such a concentrated time like we literally did those first four songs in like a week or less, and it was [Rubel] and me being like, ‘We have a deadline,’ and we wanted to get these done by Christmas, and it was October. So we just got the writing done very quickly. With recording and producing, though, there were definitely some crazy days where I would be in [Rubel]’s studio until 1 am every day, and I would go on the weekends for a few months. We had a joke with my manager because he actually had to ban me from going to the studio because I would just go all the time. He was like, ‘Maisie, you need to stop. Stop going to the studio.’ I’m the only artist ever to be told not to go [laughs]. We’d be working on a song from my album and then a soundtrack song and then a song from my album, and then we had to check mixes for songs from my album, but then the soundtrack, and it was all very chaotic. BTS: How did you start making your TikToks what they are today? You’re sharing music and carving a space out for yourself there. MP: I think the same as everyone. It was the lockdown, and everyone was like, ‘What do I do?’ I actually think TikTok is the best social media app. It’s so funny, and I got really into it. I’ve discovered so much new music from TikTok and so many artists that I think are incredible, especially songwriters. It’s such a perfect platform for songwriters,



and I’m someone who really likes sharing my music in quite a casual way, and TikTok is the perfect place to do that. I just put all these little snippets up and these little jokey things, and it’s become a fun little thing. And now it’s super important as well because everyone is being told to do it. I really feel like songwriting has had a comeback with TikTok, and I’m constantly blown away. Every day I stumble across someone singing on my For You Page, and I’m like, that is insane, that’s an amazing song. BTS: Do you think that hearing all the songwriters on TikTok and elsewhere has changed how you’ve been writing at all because you hear so many different voices? MP: I think it’s just really inspiring. It’s wonderful how many talented people there are out there and how many people are writing amazing music all the time and most of the time, they’re just teenagers in their bedrooms, and I just think that’s so cool. BTS: How did you decide what collaborations you wanted to do and who you wanted to do them with? Do you write songs before or after you decide who to collaborate with? MP: On my album, there aren’t any features, but there are collaborations with James Bay, Bear’s Den and Griff on the [Trying] soundtrack, and all of those songs were different. With Griff, we’d written the song, but I knew I wanted her voice to be on it with me, and it reminded me of Folklore. We’d just done that cover together, so I sent it over to her and explained what the TV show was about and what the

song was about, and I said, ‘Feel free to write, produce, whatever you want.’ She ended up writing this amazing verse and did all these vocals that sounded so good and sent it back to me. But also, I wrote with JP Saxe, we did ‘Maybe Don’t’ together, and that was done very collaboratively. We met in the studio right before lockdown, and within five hours, we had written this song. It was very collaborative and came out of us just sharing our experiences and lives at the time, joining forces. BTS: How is it getting back to doing live shows? Are you thinking of touring for this album? MP: Yes, I’m excited. The festival was amazing. It was really fulfilling and inspiring. I am definitely going to tour for this album. I’ve announced some record store dates, which will be really fun. I’m really excited to play these songs live, and I’m hoping next year, for sure, I can do some touring. BTS: Was it weird to get ready to go back on stage after this long? A festival seems like a big way to jump back in. MP: It was kind of crazy. There was definitely some worry that I had forgotten how to do it, which is, I think, a very valid worry because I hadn’t been on stage for like a year and a half. But I actually think the time away made me much better, and I was never really a natural performer, but doing those shows at the festivals really made me realize the sort of performer I want to be. I think I’m getting closer

to the performer that I’ve always wanted to be. It’s really cool. It’s coming from just growing up and gaining confidence and writing songs and knowing how to make songs work live, and I have a really amazing band as well. It was kind of daunting to go on stage. I wasn’t sure I knew how to do it, but I sort of stumbled back into it. BTS: How do you feel about this new album? How does it compare to previous EPs and singles? MP: I’m really excited for this album to come out. Once it comes out, it’ll be weird because it’s all I worked on for arguably all my life but at least like a year. I think it has the same heart as my EPs. There are veins and rivers that run through all of them that help carry each one to the next. ‘Dressed Too Nice for a Jacket’ led to ‘It’s Your Bed Babe’ and then to this album; I like to think they’re all stepping stones. They’re like the little baby siblings of this album. I think [the album release] will be weird, but I think it’ll be good. I’m really proud of it. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it. Since we sat down with Peters, You Signed Up For This debuted at number 2 on the UK Album charts. She has performed her latest single, “Psycho,” on Jimmy Kimmel Live! She also has announced U.S. tour dates for early 2022. She’s got a busy year ahead, and we can’t wait to see what she does next.





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