Penny 2.1: The 2021 Year-Ender ft. Wolf Alice

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FEATURING

Wolf Alice


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Who is Penny? Founder & Editor-in-Chief Erin Christie

Assistant Editor Morgan Hooks

Contributing Writers Janine Bensen (6) Erin Christie (34) Isabel Corp (56) Morgan Hooks (70) Marianna Kaimakliotis (26) Dylan McNally (48) Carly Tagen-Dye (44) Zachary Troyanovsky (22)

Contributing Photographers Caroline Daniels (12) Alexandra Santos (6) Nina Tsur (62)

Contributing Graphic Designers Erin Christie (6, 26, 54) Hannah Forsyth (22, 48) Shannen Hulley (34, 55) Eddy Lopez (56) Julia Tricolla (11, 44 Nina Tsur (12, 28, 62, 70) Itzel Quintana (Cover, 2)

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Letter From The Editor Hello again, First, happy new year! I am so grateful to everyone that has taken a chance on Penny this past year, including our lovely readers, contributors, and artists/publicists that have worked with us in the past. I can’t explain how much it means to me! As of December 9th, it has officially been one year since the launch of this humble publication, which, personally, is an incredibly exciting milestone. This issue, Issue 2.1, isn’t only exciting because its the first addition to series 2, but because it celebrates a huge personal jouralistic achievement: being able to work with my favorite band on something I kickstarted on my own. Wolf Alice has been my favorite band for quite some time now, and it means the world to me to have been able to speak with Joff for this new issue, something that has been a goal of mine for quite some time. Blue Weekend is a truly remarkable album, and I highly recommend everyone check it out, if you read the piece or not! I look forward to hearing what you think about this new issue and can’t wait to share even more content and watch Penny progress in 2022. Talk soon!

Erin Christie Penny Founder & Editor-in-Chief

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Paper Lady’s Alli Raina Discusses Finding Her Voice, The Tourist Trap, Boston’s Music Scene, and More Interview by Janine Benson Photography by Alexandra Santos

Boston artist Paper Lady’s music is a mix of dreamy strings, catchy but clever melodies, enigmatic lyrics, and strong vocals. Their music is not easily defined. When I met the Paper Lady front person Alli Raina at the Boston Hassle Benefit at O’Brien’s Pub, we discussed how “indie” basically means anything now-a-days, and that people apply so many labels that it kind of loses relevancy. Later, we continued our chat over the phone. We started the conversation talking about the area codes of our phone numbers. Alli is from Florida and moved to Boston to go to Berklee College of Music.

When did you start making music? I started writing when I was really little. I would make little songs and poems. As I got older, I wasn’t really that confident and didn’t play guitar or anything like that. But in the last few years, I’ve found my confidence on guitar and have been writing songs. What are some of your fondest music memories? The first song that my dad taught me was “Mustang Sally” [by Wilson Pickett]. That, and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” by The Beatles. I remember he would feed me the lines and make me sing them back to him at parties and stuff because he thought it was funny. What were your favorite artists as a kid? I liked Amy Winehouse a lot, and Neil Young. I listened to a lot of what my dad liked. We have a music room at the house, not to play instruments in, but my dad loves music — he goes to festivals and stuff. So growing up, I was into a lot of classic rock, reggae … but yeah, I’d say Neil Young, George Harrison, and Amy Winehouse would be my top 3.

What are some pros and cons of going to Berklee? The best thing about Berklee has definitely been the people, the people I’ve met and been able to work with. Like, everyone in my band went to/goes to Berklee. I just think there are so many talented and special people, [and] that’s definitely the biggest benefit I’ve got from going there. The community too, with the house show scene – like I live at The Tourist Trap. I do a lot of the booking and managing. That’s something I wouldn’t have been able to if I didn’t go to Berklee. Have you had challenges with hosting a house show venue where you live? Yeah, well, being a venue that’s not technically a venue is hard because people don’t give your space the same respect they’d give O’Brien’s, or Great Scott when it was around. Because they’re going there like “I’m going to see a show.” It’s very specific. And The Tourist Trap is that for them, the basement is that, but I think sometimes people can get too comfortable. We’re really doing it for the people who want to play live music in the community and the people there for the music. I don’t know what it is about our house, but I think sometimes we draw people who are just looking for a party, but it’s really for the music. People can forget it’s our home. How did you end up living at the Tourist Trap? I moved in not this past September, but the one before. Before that, when I was sophomore, I had a lot of friends living at venues, and I lived in a tiny apartment in Back Bay that I hated. I knew that next, I wanted to either live at a venue or live in a place big enough to start one. I had mutual friends at the Tourist Trap, they had rooms available, and I moved into one. At the end of the year, everyone else was leaving, they were showing it to frat boys and I was like, “This sucks, it can’t be it.” So I found 6 other people, got a whole new group of people, and it seems like they’re staying next year, too. At this point, it’s been the Tourist Trap for three years, but it’s been a punk venue in the past and frat, too. It’s a super old house. Do you have a favorite performance memory? Well, Paper Lady’s been a lot of different groups 7


of people playing, kind of just dependent on who’s been in town and the only constant is me. We played a few shows before the pandemic started, obviously it halted, I went back home, wrote a lot and came back. The band was me and the current guitar player Rowan, and two of my roommates then they moved out, went to New York. Somebody who was originally in the band came back, our bass player Will, my good friend Kenzo came back, Will’s roommate Alex is on drums. We actually got an email to play at Brighton Music Hall which was a huge deal. It was our first show with that exact line-up of people. It was just the coolest feeling, we all agreed “okay this is the band, at the end of the day it’s the five of us.” It was really special since it was a huge show and I feel like we all just had an understanding that this is the group. What song are you proudest of and why? Recorded, the song “Eve” off our upcoming EP… what I wrote about is very close to my heart. I wrote the song about Adam and Eve but from Eve’s perspective, and the lyrics feel very cutting. But to perform live, the song “Violet.” I wrote it about this dream I had where this giant space lady kissed me and I knew all the secrets to the universe. When I woke up, I was super sad it wasn’t real, so I wrote a song about it. It’s a five minute song, it builds a lot to the end, then I do this dolphin screech and it feels fucking crazy. It probably feels the most cathartic.

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Is there a way you want your listeners to feel when they listen to your music? I think I want them to feel a sense of familiarity and comfort. I think the feeling that my music gives is like this yearning, nostalgic weird familiarity. I can’t really place it but it feels comforting, so I want people to feel that. I also write about my dreams and how I think of things in general, so I want it to transport people. Who would be on your wishlist to collaborate with? Probably Grouper, this ambient artist. She just makes beautiful, textural, ambient pop, [and] she’s also a visual artist. [She’s] just a huge inspiration to me; it would be really surreal to work with her. Or Chad Van Gaalen; he’s sick. He builds his own instruments, does a lot of weird shit…he just seems very free. I'd love to be a part of that. What are your biggest dreams for yourself? Probably to keep playing with the people in the band now. We’ve all talked about moving to remote farmland, being self-sustaining, getting some cows, and writing a bunch of music in the woods. That would be really cool; I’m gonna try to make it happen. I’m not extremely concerned with being well-known but I would love to support myself with music and be able to do the other things I like to do. I paint, do herbalism,


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and jewelry. Do those other interests ever inform your music? Yeah, I spent a while trying to figure out if I had to separate those practices. At Berklee specifically, I’ve taken some classes about how to brand yourself, how you’re supposed to come across. But I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all me, it’s all the things that I create. Being a musician, I feel like people want to know you, to understand your music to the best extent. So why not show them a lot of different parts of you? So I’ve been selling herbal smoke blend things at shows at merch. Once I have more time, I’ll make more jewelry and put that on our website as merch, too. Like first and foremost, I’m a musician, but I have all these other little things about me and I’m trying to bring them all together. Paper Lady is a gem of the Boston DIY scene, I highly recommend listening to the music and keeping tabs on her art via socials at @paprlady. Paper Lady is Alli Raina, Will Davila, Kenzo Divic, Rowan Martin, and Alex Castile.

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2021 in CONCERTS

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NOV. 7 2021 // LYNCH FAMILY SKATEPARK PHOTOS BY CAROLINE DANIELS 12


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the world is a b place and i am afraid to die ILLUSORY WALLS Reviewed by Zach Troyanovksy

Philadelphia-based emo revivalists The World is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die have always made music for dewy-eyed nostalgics. Somewhere in the mix of their fuzzed-out guitars, Casio synth leads, and strings and horns utilized for texture, they struck gold. That was 8 years ago when their debut LP Whenever, If Ever was making its mark. In 2021, many of the bands they had come onto the scene beside (Modern Baseball, Empire! Empire!, Snowing, etc.) have parted ways. While many of the remaining bands from the emo revival have comfortably settled into either straight forward indie rock or reverence to the classic twinkly emo sound, TWIABP have forged their own path with their latest LP Illusory Walls, and in doing so have seemingly created a new genre: prog emo. The album name and artwork are inspired by Dark Souls, an RPG that vocalist David Bello is a big fan of. “Illusory walls are surfaces that appear solid but are in reality illusions,” explains Bello, “and illusory walls serve to conceal entrances or objects such as chests or bonfires — a player can go through that fake wall to reveal what lies behind him.” The band used this title to refer to the wall they felt against them as a creative entity. After years spent touring with a rotating cast of musicians, the death of their founding member Tom Diaz, and the sense that they had lost their creative spark, it almost would have been easier for the band to break up. But instead, they saw this wall as the illusion that it is and decided to push through. In the liner notes they’ve inscribed “We Never Broke Up and We Never Will.” 22


beautiful m no longer On album opener, “Afraid to Die,” TWIABP acknowledge the comfort they’ve allowed themselves to settle into before cutting out their classic space-rock atmospherics and exploding into wailing multi-tracked riffs and furious drumming. Although they’ve shed two members since Always Foreign, TWIABP have never sounded bigger. “We’ve built a cage in getting old,” sings Bello, “remembering can lock you in.” The second track and single “Queen Sophie for President” comes closest to the warm and scuffled indie-pop sound the band has coined. For fans who have been waiting around since their last release in 2017, this song conjures a certain nostalgia as Katie Dvorak’s bubbly vocals and the band’s fuzzed-out instrumentation is reminiscent of the 2010s jangle/twee pop revival. While the album is ultimately hopeful, it isn’t blind to its surroundings. Twin interludes “Blank//Drone” and “Blank//Worker” give the listener room to breathe as Bello’s understated vocals lament the hardships of life under a failing system. Although the band has always had a somewhat apocalyptic political message resonating through its music, the personal loss that the band reflects on in these interludes adds such urgency and sincerity to what once may have seemed to be utopian idealism. The resentment and exhaustion which seeps out of every line in “Blank//Worker” makes the explosive anti-capitalism of Always Foreign’s “Faker” look starry-eyed.

On “Died in the Prison of the Holy Office” and “Your Brain is a Rubber Maid,” the band once again harks on themes of generational struggle under capitalism with oscillating synths and gracefully layered-in strings set against driving distorted guitars and percussion. The album’s third single “Trouble” is the band’s ode to their native Philadelphia and the blurring boundaries between personal and professional life. Bello and bassist Josh Cyr’s anthemic vocals paired with Chris Teti’s progressive guitar work spiritedly carry the listener into the monumental final two tracks. In many ways, Illusory Walls is about trying to reconcile the past with the present. It is the band reconciling their past idealism with the reality of their experience. Moreover, it is also about the ways in which this reconciliation can warp our memories. The first of these two songs, “Infinite Josh,” is over fifteen minutes long, but it lulls the listener into such a trance with its repetitive lyrics and soaring crescendos, you’d only know it if you checked. “Our dreams get drowned in a river of present needs,” chants Bello, “the years float by like fallen leaves.” For the dewy-eyed nostalgic fans I mentioned earlier, this track is quite devastating as it centers around the notion that time will pass us by and as Dvorak reminds us over and over, “you can’t go home again.” With its searching arpeggios, “Infinite Josh” is the grueling hike up the mountain, and the 19-minute album closer “Fewer Afraid” is the view from the top.

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“Fewer Afraid” opens with a spoken word piece from Christopher June Zizzamia, the poet who the band collaborated with on 2014’s Between Bodies. “Some things I once swore were etched into my brain,” says Zizzamia over an array of harmonious strings and bells, “have disintegrated like tape decay.” I will admit that this phrase is overused in music writing, but it is difficult to describe this sprawling multi-genre encapsulation of the band and their role in the world as anything but an opus. In the second verse, Bello turns his attention away from his musings on the state of current affairs and addresses you, the listener, directly. “What have you given just to be able to get closer,” asks Bello, “to being alive with nothing left but this song and the end of it?” In their reflection on the past and their own journeys, Bello explains that this song “places the band in the context of the rest of the world as if we’re listening to everything that came before.” They address the listener directly because they are acknowledging the listener as an instrumental part of their artistic process. Guest vocalist Sarah Cowell’s bridge at the tail-end of this track dives into the messiness of the world we live in with a back-and-forth of ‘you’ and ‘I’s. “You believe in something watching over,” sings Cowell, “I think they have a sick sense of humor.” The band is more clear-eyed than ever, but they are still searching for the words to guide themselves, their friends, and their listeners out of the darkness. Then, they find them. In the song’s final refrain, Dvorak and Bello’s voices reunite with lyrics pulled from 2013’s “Getting Sodas,” the band’s unofficial theme song. When they originally appeared at the end of the band’s debut, they were drowned out by the band’s four guitarists. But at the end of Fewer Afraid, these idealistic starry-eyed musings on community are front and center.

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photo by Adam Peditto

“The world is a beautiful place, but we have to make it that way/ Whenever you find home, we’ll make it more than just a shelter/ If everyone belongs there, it will hold us all together/ If you’re afraid to die, then so am I”

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Photo by Tom Ham


IDLES' 'CRAWLER' Not Necessarily a Hit or a Miss Written by Marianna Kaimakliotis

The British-Irish group IDLES released their fourth album CRAWLER this past November. On the record, we see a turn to something heavier, something gloomy. The opening track, “MTT 420 RR,” a grand star of the album, leads listeners in with control and patience. The synth utilized is exciting, building, and unexpected, while the lyrics allude to gruesome, dangerous images without conveying anything specific: “The swell of heaven on my dashboard/I can see my spinal cord rip high/Hey, hey, hey/It's raining glass like a fever storm.” We see a strong build of tone and atmosphere as the song breathes, creating something almost western. Imagine a starry night, a long highway, warning lights flashing, something building to a crescendo. Patient, complex and clean, complicated in a grand way, mostly out of IDLES’ control over each build and fall. The line, “Are you ready for the storm,” is a bit on the nose, pointing toward the storm that the album fit with a sensual name, recalling imagery of someone on their knees, is; something the album seems to exude in its slow raspy vocals. The record really shines when IDLES leans into a more post-punk sound, seen on “MTT 420 RR”

and “When the Lights Come On.” Vocalist Joe Talbot’s sultry vocals tied to smooth simple bass lines feels almost Bauhaus or She Wants Revenge. Leaning into this sound works for CRAWLER, mostly because the experimentation with sound creates interest and suspense where the lyrics seem to miss. Songs like “King Snake” seem to give a bit of sarcastic edge (take the line “The deputy manager's assistant's assistant's assistant's assistant's assistant's assistant's assistant's assistant's assistant”), and later, with “The New Sensations” (“Shimmy real hard like you're Richard Pryor”), but overall, CRAWLER carries a lot of anger that comes without a clear sense of direction or source. We find allusions to capitalist drudgery, collective dissatisfaction, and being “fed up,” but all comes without anything new to say, especially in a genre as political as punk rock — though Talbot denies being in a “punk” band. In a world so political, especially amidst the global struggles with the pandemic, with health-related government interception (or in many countries, a lack of interception), the album doesn’t seem to convey this fit of raw anger that it has earned and that people seem to be yearning for in its lyrics. In some cases, the music is repetitive and leaves you nowhere to go, too, with is seen in songs like “Meds,” “The New Sensation,” and “Stockholm Syndrome.” It’s a formula that doesn’t seem to work when utilized so often in a 14 track album. Other tracks, “The Beachland Ballroom," "Progress,” and interludes of “Kelechi” and “Wizz,” bring intense highs and pauses, controlling the album and steering it in specific directions of desperation and need, something that underlies most of the songs on CRAWLER. The production is clean and strong and the songs are dynamic and exciting, but the simple drum beats and empty class analysis leave something to be desired. IDLES’ small steps toward advancing their sound as a band are exciting and the potential seems vast, which is something to look forward to in the future.

"Imagine a starry night, a long highway, warning lights flashing, something building to a crescendo." 27


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Twin Plagues Wednesday

RELEASED AUGUST 13 VIA ORINDAL RECORDS

The somewhat cring-

Simple as a Sunset Cal Fish

ey Spotify-coined

I was lucky enough to

term “Bubblegrun-

see Cal Fish perform

ge” would describe this multilayered al-

RELEASED OCTOBER 12 VIA CALL WAITN

at a small venue in Western Massachu-

bum. It features heavy guitar droning rock

setts shortly after the release of this album

rhythms that pair with catchy sweet vocals

and I instantly knew I was witnessing some-

as the vehicle of melancholic lyrics. Some

thing very special. Utilizing synths, pedals, a

songs are pure rock and roll while other tracks

flute, and a plastic mat that somehow pro-

have a softer folk tone. The guitars turn from

duced sounds when stepped on, they created

gentle fingerpicking to psych-rock fuzz. Some

a hypnotizing soundscape unlike anything

songs start rocky then turn folk or vise versa.

I’d heard before. The show seemed largely

Wednesday masterfully plays with genres that

improvisational but never disorganized; every

meet into a sweet, cathartic grunge. An out-

little addition to the songs was spur-of-the-

lier song on this album, “How Can You Live

moment but clearly intentional. As soon as

If You Can’t Love How Can You If You Do,” is

I got home, I listened to both of Cal’s 2021

a comforting existential folk anthem for the

albums, Simple as a Sunset and Plastic Flag,

true romantics.

and was blown away. The bright, bubbly

—JANINE BENSEN

tracks on Simple as a Sunset are addictive.

Change Anika

They’re unpredictable but unified in a way that showcases Cal’s talent as an artist and

If Nico catapulted

makes the album just plain fun to listen to.

into the future and

My favorite tracks, “Summer Fun” and “Rain

covered the Vel-

Falls,” feel like modern tributes to Brian Eno or

vet Underground’s

The Durutti Column in that their atmospheres

Loaded, this is what

are so rich they’re almost palpable. Even if you

it would sound like. Every second of Change

don’t have the chance to see Cal Fish perform

is awe-inspiring from the skittering drums to

live, listening to this album is an experience

the earthbound synths and cathartic push-

that you won’t regret. —CLAIRE RUSSELL

RELEASED JULY 23 VIA INVADA / SACRED BONES

and-pulls of tension and release in Anika’s vocals on towering tracks like “Naysayer’’ and “Rights.” But even more compelling than her poignant poetry is her refusal to let go of her optimism for a better world. A beautiful and intuitive gem of a record. —ISABEL CORP

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New Long Leg Dry Cleaning

RELEASED APRIL 2 VIA 4AD

bestselling memoir Crying in H Mart, Jubilee marks a double win for the singer-songwriter:

New Long Leg, the

no matter the medium, she is a master at

full length debut from

tearing our hearts out and putting them back

Dry Cleaning, was an

together again.

—CARLY TAGEN-DYE

unparalleled release

Sympathy for Life Parquet Courts

this year. It was a

bit darker, more refined, and less dreamy than their previous EPs but nonetheless cemented their juxtaposed talents of apathetic

Parquet Courts have

nonsensical lyricism and full-bodied textured

a knack for con-

distortion. With it, they managed to provide

structing kaleido-

the perfect escape to anxiety-ridden brain

RELEASED OCTOBER 22 VIA ROUGH TRADE

fog plaguing us all. —HANNAH FORSYTH

minds of their own. Originally structured

scopic grooves with

around long jam sessions and inspired by

Jubilee Japanese Breakfast

dance and club music, the New York quartet’s

Much has been writ-

each aural quirk with care, allowing every

ten about Japanese

synth and distortion to spread until it fills up

Breakfast’s Jubilee,

the negative space. Lyrics articulate collective

which dominated

anger, disillusionment, and isolation, even

both the indie and mainstream charts this

though it was written prior to the pandemic.

year. Frontwoman Michelle Zauner has cre-

On Sympathy for Life, Parquet Courts delve

ated an intricately emotional record, mixing

into their endless bag of tricks to deliver slick

orchestral openers with contagious dance

and bouncy tracks that meet the moment.

RELEASED JUNE 4 VIA DEAD OCEANS

tracks, electronic earworms with lo-fi guitar ballads so signature to the band’s beginnings. Released just months apart from Zauner’s

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first album in three years is led by wandering melodies and adrenergic riffs. The band layers

—GILIANN KARON


Glow On Turnstile

the album feels massive and somewhat outof-time. Her compositions are both beautiful

If you haven’t lis-

and dissonant, making the listener feel dizzy

tened to Turnstile

while drawing them in. Her lyrics on tracks

before, I highly rec-

such “Jesus and the Living Room Floor” are

ommend diving in by

both dark and playful. While based on her

watching Turnstile

personal experiences and created with a lot of

Love Connection, the short film directed by

logistical planning and hard work, I’ve listened

frontman, Brendan Yates. The film accom-

to this record over and over and have only

panies the EP of the same name, which pre-

come out with more questions and wonder,

views four songs off their 2021 album, Glow

but I believe Haley Dahl is one of the most

On. I felt exhilarated after watching the film

talented composers of our time.

RELEASED AUGUST 27 VIA ROADRUNNER

—SARAH ZIMMER

for the first time and couldn’t get enough of Turnstile after that. With the release of Glow

soul, R&B, and funk to punk and emo-pop.

You Signed Up For This Maisie Peters

Glow On feels fresh and exciting from start

Maisie Peters’ full-

to finish; it’s full of life and flows well, even

length debut arrived

On, Turnstile have been praised for making “genre-fluid” hardcore with influences from

with all the different influences. It is a punch

at the perfect time

of energy, just like the group’s live shows, and

RELEASED AUG 27 VIA GINGERBREAD MAN

is well worth a listen!

time for sunset drives with the windows down.

—SHANNEN HULLEY

— late summer, the

The pop newcomer’s album is full of clever lyrics and just the right amount of heartbreak.

RELEASED NOV 5 VIA SADDEST FACTORY

Madison Sloppy Jane

You Signed Up For This is probably as close to

Recorded in a West

length release (I’d even argue it’s a release

Virginia cave, Haley

with no skips). The album’s title track is one

Dahl’s chamber rock

of my favorite album openers, and easily one

project is a master-

of my favorite songs released this year.

piece. With natural

pop perfection as one can get in their first full-

—ALEIAGH HYNDS

reverb and the occasional dripping sound,

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Mood Valiant Hiatus Kaiyote

For The First Time Black Country, New Road

The third studio album released by Neo-Soul supergroup RELEASED JUNE 25 VIA BRAINFEEDER

Hiatus Kaiyote, Mood Valiant, is an explo-

Whoever said too RELEASED FEBRUARY 5 VIA NINJA TUNE

many cooks spoil the broth probably

ration of frontwoman Nai Palm’s experience

didn’t listen to this album; if they had, they

with breast cancer. Nearly every song on

might have changed their tune. Black Coun-

the album was written during her treatment,

try, New Road themselves are comprised

cataloging a whirlwind of emotions and an

of seven members and For The First Time

ever-changing perspective on life. Her soulful

seems to want to try and cram as many genres

melodies and emotional lyrics pair perfectly

into its six songs as possible, encompassing

with the virtuosic group of musicians who

everything from post-rock to klezmer. It is a

compose with her. While it is an album rooted

restless album, at times anxious and frenetic,

in the hardship of dealing with an illness that

all the while never providing a clue as to what

is fatal for many, Mood Valiant is a colorful

may lie ahead. For The First Time captures a

and inspiring work of art to be enjoyed by all.

band that doesn’t want to stay still, producing

—CAROLINE DANIELS

an album that reflects these wishes. What is created is one of the most compelling and

Little Oblivions Julien Baker

unique albums of this year, an album that takes you for a ride that doesn’t stop until it says so.

—DYLAN MCNALLY

Little Oblivions is a

Nedarah Leeyuh Neptune

capsule of powerful, RELEASED FEBRUARY 26 VIA MATADOR RECORDS

feeling-filled tracks that tug at your deep-

est emotions and says “look here.” The record

Leeyuh Neptune is a

features a full band, a new addition to the

criminally underrat-

previous ensemble on her two other albums. It

ed artist that com-

serves as a source for honest feelings — bad

RELEASED APRIL 13 VIA DANIEL MURILLO

feelings, good feelings, and feelings you can’t

soulful R&B and it’s MAGICAL. This album

quite name. Little Oblivions is a thrilling and

has gotten me through a lot. I am not great at

unmistakably Julien Baker album.

descriptions; it’s just pure vibes. Everything

—JULIA TRICOLLA

bines techno with

from the album art to every single track is genius. Love it. 10/10. —AUBREY CALAPP

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WolfAlice’s 34


D N E K E E W E BLU

WRITTEN BY ERIN CHRISTIE

PHOTO BY JONO WHITE 35


As the days in December became fewer and fewer, the web’s most reputable music publications, from Pitchfork to NME and The Line of Best Fit, began to unveil their anticipated year-end lists, summarizing what they dubbed the most notable albums released this last year. Across most, if not all, Wolf Alice’s third record, Blue Weekend (released June 4, 2021 via Dirty Hit), made an honorable showing, and it would have been surprising (and criminal) if otherwise. With the help of Markus Dravs (master producer, songwriter, programmer, engineer, and mixer with credits including Arcade Fire, Coldplay, Björk, and Hozier), Wolf Alice mapped out their latest project, their most cinematic record to date, complemented with a color-drenched visual translation of the tumultuous, emotion-heavy weekend it describes, helmed by director Jordan Hemingway. Throughout the album’s tracklisting, soaring orchestral sequences meld with punk-inspired guitar solos, grinning with bared teeth, creating a heavily dichotomized, but still cohesive epic and testament to the British foursome’s gradually matured artistry. Tracks such as the Amyl and the Sniffers-reminiscent “Play the Greatest Hits” and grit-heavy stomper “Smile” call back to their jagged, noise-heavy roots, while inclusions such as the angelic yet slow-burning “Delicious Things” and soft, sweet, and shoegaze-y “How Can I Make It Okay?” clearly give way to their expanded pool of influences and emphasize their emotional depth. Evidenced, too, with the pair of BRIT Award nominations that followed in the wake of the project’s release, Wolf Alice has cemented their status as one of the most notable bands working today, propelled forward with a sense of daring, unmatched heart, and awe-inspiring

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vision. Blue Weekend is yet another thesis statement in support of their greatness, and a sign of their continued ingenuity seven years since their raucous introduction. At the close of Wolf Alice’s returning run of dates in the U.S. this past November, I spoke with bassist Joff Oddie over Zoom, and we discussed the thematic basis of their latest release, the creative process that ensued while they had been holed up at ICP during the early months of quarantine last year, and the butterfly effect. Hey Joff, how are you doing? Good. Yeah, I’m good. It’s the penultimate show tonight so yeah, just feeling a little bit tired [laughs]. How does it feel to be back on your first tour in the States, but also your first extended tour in general after quite some time? Has it been difficult to adjust to the accelerated lifestyle and the constant traveling, or has the excitement kind of overshadowed that aspect of it? Yeah, I mean, you’re right. This is the first extended tour that we’ve done. We did a small warm up in the UK that was like a week of playing really small venues, but this is the first proper stint in a really, really long time, since December 2019 I think, where we’ve got to be on the road and play shows every night. And it’s been fucking brilliant! I mean, I had no idea how much I’d missed it to be honest, because, you know, we’d gotten used to being in record mode and then in promo mode. And then, obviously, we couldn’t do anything because of Coronavirus. And humans are very good at getting used to stuff. I think we’d gotten used to the fact that we didn’t tour and that was not something that was a part of our lives. And then getting to do it again,


it was almost a huge shock. It was like “Oh, yeah, this is what was missing.” The connection with people every day being able to go out and play to people, and that kind of intense interaction that you have with the crowd and an audience is just something else. It’s really hard to put into words, really. And when it’s going well, it’s one of the best things and the best feelings in the world to be able to do that again. We’re just totally, incredibly lucky and I’ve felt such gratitude to be able to do that as a job and be able to do it day in and day out as we’ll be doing now for the next year or so. So lucky to be doing it and kind of pinching myself going, “This is your job.” It also must be cool to finally be able to see people interact with the new material you guys have put out, especially since a lot of the songs are almost a departure from what is typically associated with Wolf Alice. Did you guys think about that when assembling the setlist?

and being able to kind of go, “Alright, we’ll throw some energy in here, and then we’ll take it down for this bit, and then we’ll kind of ramp it back up to this peak,” is something that we’ve been really enjoying kind of building the set around. So yeah, it’s different. And going between those two extremes, it’s also a new challenge for us, as well, because it requires a lot of control to be very uncontrolled and loud and visceral, and then come back and be very measured. It’s definitely pushed us, and it helps that we’ve got Ryan with us, and Alex, who is on the keyboards now and doing some backing vocals. At least for me, it means that I don’t have to try and play guitar and keyboard at the same time [laughs]. It was fun on the second record for about five minutes, and then it just got fucking annoying [laughs]. So I can stay in my lane, which is nice.

Yeah, I think this set that we’re playing at the moment definitely requires a level of control and poise that maybe some of the earliest stuff didn’t. I think probably on the first record especially, and then kind of slightly departing from the second record, you could really lean on energy and you could make loads of noise and jump around. I think we got fairly good at that. But then, like so many aspects of Wolf Alice, we’re never really satisfied doing that one thing, and I think you’re right to say that this record has probably more mid-paced tunes more kind of what you would call “classic,” more poppier compositions that require things to be more precise, that require things to be more measured. So it’s definitely a different kind of mind frame when playing that. But, you know, having three records

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With regard to change, you also took a different route in terms of visual materials with this record, as well. Was it kind of interesting to venture into a longer format, as opposed to the more standalone videos and things you guys had done previously? Right, so we stream the film at the Grammy Museum, and then we did a similar thing in the UK. And the film is, obviously, a song for every music video that has a kind of semi-narrative form as it goes through a night out in London. But, yeah, it was good for lots of reasons, really. I think the pandemic afforded us more time to look at kind of creative visual solutions to the possible problem of not being able to tour to promote a record And it fit in kind of nicely with an idea we’d had every record, where we’d go, “Oh, it would be cool to do a music video for each song.” And for it all to link up, it’s a kind of thing we’ve been playing with for a while, so there was a nice opportunity to do that.

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How well or not we did, I think it looks absolutely stunning. And Jordan Hemingway did a really great job with pretty limited resources. I mean, it was done over a week, maybe a little over a week, so we’re talking about shooting 1.2 music videos a day or something that — I can’t do the maths [laughs] — so, it was a really tall order. We’ve also had a bunch of lockdowns in the UK, so when we shot those, it was what came to be called Lockdown 2, so we kind of hadn’t seen anybody in a really long time. And we got to the venue the following fall to start recording, it was just one of the most joyous things in the world to be in a group of people that were doing something together. Everyone was absolutely lovely and were so buzzing to be out and doing stuff and interacting with people. It was a really, really special thing to do. Speaking of isolation, you had kind of been forced to hole up at the same place where you recorded Creature Songs a super long time ago when working on the


album. How did it feel to be in a situation where you’re almost forced to have all of your attention on this one thing, and be with like this one group of people for an extended period of time? How much do you think that affected the way that things came about? Yeah, that was interesting as well, but it’s hard to kind of try and work out what the counterfactual would have been if it was any different, really. Because it was just the way it was. But yeah, I mean, like you said, I think there just wasn’t anything else to do. You know, you could go out for a walk every day and otherwise, you were living in a recording studio, and you had something to do. In many ways, I think it was a way of dealing with it. Dealing with the uncertainty of the whole situation in throwing yourself into a project. I think that’s something we relished, and I think it kind of became very tiring, and at times, it became very arduous. But, ultimately, the thing that came out the other end was, I think, one of the best pieces of work we’ve done. So

I can’t begrudge the process, although I don’t think it was particularly easy. Then, who’s to say it has to be easy, you know? Sometimes those difficulties make for really good art. Do you remember, when you all started conceptualizing the record, if there were any ideas floating around that ultimately fell to the wayside due to the circumstances you had to make the record in? And which ideas do you think came strictly out of the way things ended up? I remember talking to Markus [Dravs] about that. Because, I feel like the situation did impact on the process — of course it did — and speaking to him, we’d go, “Do you think it would be different in any way?” and he’d go, “Now, of course it wouldn’t.” We were in there regardless of circumstance, you know, we wouldn’t have come out until it was finished and done to everyone’s satisfaction. That’s something that I have to give Markus a huge amount of

PHOTOS BY JORDAN HEMINGWAY

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L VICTORIES AL SM OF S ND SA OU TH OR DS RE ND HU I THINK A RECORD IS RIOD OF TIME, REALLY. ” PE A OF E AC SP E TH ER OV UP D AD OF D KIN AT TH

PHOTO BY ANDY DELUCA

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kudos and credit for. He was the most committed person to the record — not the not that any of the producers we’ve worked with in the past haven’t been committed, but they’ve been under different kinds of restraints. Markus is at a point in his career where he can go- you know, he hasn’t made a record since our’s. He kind of picks and chooses what he wants to do. He could be making three or four records a year and making a lot of money doing that, but he goes, “No, I just want to do what I want to do, making really good records.” And for him, it was a case of, “Until it’s absolutely finished and done, I’m not watching the clock,” and he wasn’t. So maybe if Markus was a different producer or we had different kinds of circumstances, maybe if he needed to go off and do another record at some point, that would have been different, but I think it’s a testament to him that the record would probably be the same, or similar.

the ideas that were coming out, and just experimentation with different instruments and different ways of playing instruments, and different waysways of approaching songwriting, were really, really exciting. There are loads of instruments in ICP that they kind of have there; they have a big storage room where you just kind of dip in and dip out. And for me, it was really exciting because there were loads of odd acoustic instruments and things like that, things that I’ve not really played before like different variations of guitars and stringed instruments. So making odd sounds with those kinds of things was really cool. Kind of going, “Just give me half an hour I’m gonna have a play around,” was really exciting and invigorating.

I think there were lots of small moments. I think a record is hundreds or thousands of small victories that kind of add up over the space of a period of time, really. And those may be a lyric change, or they may be a new structural idea, or they may be, you know, a sound that somebody has.

A moment that really sticks out for me is when we took “The Beach II” in not as “The Beach II,” but as a kind of different song. And, usually, we go in with more songs than we actually end up recording, and it was kind of on the fence. It was like “This is kind of okay” — it was actually called “Okay” [laughs]. But, yeah, it didn’t feel like one of the stronger ones and Ellie went off and was doing a bit of writing in another room and she came back and goes, “I’ve rewritten the song,” and it was “The Beach II.” It was just one of those “Oh shit, this is brilliant” moments, as the whole rewriting of that song was really spontaneous.

There was a period of time I think of after about a month in the studio, where we listened back to everything we had and we were pretty disheartened. I think we went “this isn’t good enough,” and we really needed to up our game, and everyone really stepped up. Some of

And in terms of some of the stuff that I really love, that kind of noise rock stuff, it was really exciting. It felt like a bit of an intersection between that and some of the folkier things that I really enjoy, and soundscape, and all that kind of stuff. So, that was a really exciting thing to record.

The record’s pretty amazing, to give both you all and Markus tons of credit! Are there any aspects of it that you feel most sentimental about or proud of?

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Where do you think the final product fits in terms of the entire Wolf Alice discography in relation to everything else? I almost feel like it kind of sits as an older sibling to the last two records, if that makes sense. Oh, no, I completely know what you’re talking about. I think it’s a case with a lot of bands. I think the first album is always the greatest hits record — it’s the best songs you’ve written from birth to that first period of time. But, you know, you’ve only started working with people maybe for a couple of years, and we’d been together as a whole band for maybe two or three years before that first record came out, so we were working stuff out. We were working out the dynamic, and what made us tick, how we work as a group. I think I always love first records. I think first records are overrepresented in my music collection, because I love that kind of energy and the spontaneity of when you’re younger. I think that’s an energy that is really unique, especially in rock music, to a period of your own life. It’s hard to replicate that as you get older, I think.

When you said eight-minute jams, it made me think of how Taylor Swift just put out a ten-minute version of one of her songs. If you were to pick a song of yours to extend like that, which one would you choose to give a ten-minute moment to shine?

...for me, this album is all songwriting and is all about those emotional themes and how, as a musician, how we support Ellie in communicating those sentiments.

I think the second record was a lot more experimental. I think it had a lot more going on, even though there were some kind of poppier songs on there. I think that’s a record that we really tried to push ourselves on, in terms of the difference between things, and working with JMJ, he was really supportive in that. But with this record, I think, the overriding theme in terms of putting it together, for me, was the importance of

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preserving the song. So I think on the first and second record, there were a lot more moments of musical exploration in terms of what we could do, what kind of things we could try and achieve musically. But when you work with a songwriter, and you get songs like the songs that are on this new record, I think all of us were less inclined to go “Okay, let’s try and work these songs into an eight-minute jam.” It was like the songs are so strong, Ellie’s written such strong songs, and how do we communicate these in the best way as possible, in the most emotive way possible, and in the way that sticks to the kind of emotional themes of those songs? So yeah, for me, this album is all songwriting and is all about those emotional themes and how, as a musician, how we support Ellie in communicating those sentiments.

Oh, God, I don’t know! I think if we felt that was appropriate for any song, it would have been 10 minutes already, but I’m gonna just to pay the question some respect [laughs]. Sometimes, I go back and listen to the old stuff, but very rarely, to be honest. But I listened to “Heavenward” the other day, and in terms of the sounds on that record, I could just listen to those gauzy guitar sounds for a long time. So maybe we’d make an extended like, five-minute intro and outro, but keep the song the same.


And to begin to wrap things up, is there anything that you’re looking forward to with the little bit of the year we have left? Well, there’s not a lot of year left, so Christmas, obviously. Can’t wait to go and see the fam and hang out. We’ve not got a lot in the calendar, to be honest. And I know, already, that next year is absolutely rammed with stuff. So the thing that I’m looking forward to is to get over this month, get my affairs in order, to be all ready to be away for a long time doing this next year.

Keep up to date with Wolf Alice via their socials (@wolfalicemusic) @wolfaliceband and check out

Blue Weekend on any of your favorite streaming platforms.

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Say Hello to Silvertwin The Seventies Band Transported to 2021

If you’ve been looking for a new band to satisfy all of your ABBA cravings and Almost Famous fantasies, Silvertwin is the group for you. The London quintet — composed of Isaac Shalam (lead vocals/bass), Dan Edery (lead guitar), Alicia Barisani (rhythm guitar), Antonio Naccache (keys) and Lauric Mackintosh (drums) — creates music that would feel at home on a turntable in 1975, and which whisks listeners back to the decade as well. Their debut album, Silvertwin, released on July 16, is the ultimate introduction to everything this group is capable of: catchy piano riffs, ripping guitar solos and love ballads that might just make you cry. The band first caught my attention when I heard their single “Ploy” in a ten-second Instagram story that Hinds posted when Silvertwin opened for them at London’s Shacklewell Arms this past fall. Their likeability is infectious. Despite a long string of sold out hometown shows, and a wide trajectory set for the new year, Silvertwin’s ultimate goal is to create music that brings people together, to dance and have a good time, no matter the era. I had the chance to chat with frontman Shalam about the band’s first record, the influence of Electric Light Orchestra and the strangeness of the London indie scene.

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IT’S SO NICE TO MEET YOU, ISAAC! AS AN ICEBREAKER, I’M CURIOUS AS TO HOW YOU SPENT YOUR QUARANTINE. DID YOU PICK UP ANY NEW OR UNEXPECTED HOBBIES? READ OR SCREEN ANYTHING INTERESTING?

CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR DEBUT ALBUM! WE LOVE IT HERE AT PENNY! COULD YOU TALK A BIT ABOUT THE PROCESS OF WRITING IT? WAS THERE ANYTHING THAT PARTICULARLY INSPIRED YOU WHILE DOING SO?

In the first lockdown, I think we all did what the rest of the world did: watch Tiger King and pretend that everything was going to be fine! I seem to remember playing a lot of ping pong with Alicia at the start, but once we were bored with that, I decided I was going to try and write as much new music as I could.

Thank you! I’m so glad you like it.

HOW DID SILVERTWIN GET STARTED? DID YOU ALL KNOW THAT YOU WANTED TO GET INTO MUSIC PRIOR TO JOINING THE BAND? Alicia and I knew each other first. We met Dan and Lauric for the first time at uni. Anti was a friend of Lauric’s, and he brought him into the group. We all loved music and were always playing and singing. It was only when I started to take writing more seriously that I decided to put a group together. I think we all knew we were going to do music in some fashion — Silvertwin just happened to become the vehicle for that. I remember the first time the five of us played songs together. We all just knew it felt right (at least I certainly did!).

Writing at the piano was slowly becoming the norm for me, and being able to figure out both chords and bass lines was definitely inspiring. I was also listening to a lot of pop music that was essentially piano-led and backed by guitars, which was something I didn’t see being done much in and around the London indie scene. I aimed to write songs that, when you stripped away the bells and whistles, left you with a memorable melody and good chords. YOU WORKED WITH PRODUCER JONATHAN RADO (THE LEMON TWIGS, WEYES BLOOD, THE KILLERS) ON THE RECORD TOO, WHICH SEEMS LIKE THE PERFECT FIT FOR THE KIND OF MUSIC YOU MAKE. WHAT WAS THAT PROCESS LIKE? DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING ABOUT YOURSELVES AS A GROUP AND/OR INDIVIDUALS WHILE WORKING WITH HIM? Working with Rado was great! We all learned a lot. The process itself was a fun, albeit chaotic, three-and-a-bit weeks studio masterclass. Rado has so much experience making records and a lot of confidence in trying to push boundaries and trying out any and all ideas. Listening back to the record, I can hear every moment that was a result of Rado suggesting, “Hang on! Let’s try this.”

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Photo: Neelam Khan Vela 46


YOUR MUSIC HAS A VERY DISTINCT AND CLASSIC SOUND TO IT, AND HAS OFTEN BEEN COMPARED TO THE LIKES OF PAUL MCCARTNEY AND WINGS, ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA AND OTHERS OF THAT ERA. YOU’VE TALKED BEFORE ABOUT TAKING INSPIRATION FROM ‘60S AND ‘70S SINGER-SONGWRITERS. WHAT ABOUT THESE INFLUENCES IS PARTICULARLY IMPACTFUL FOR YOU?

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE 2021 RELEASE? WHO SHOULD BE ON OUR RADAR?

The songs and songwriters of that era were, and continue to be, so important to me. [Those songwriters] were truly masters of their craft, spotting good ideas, ditching bad ones, and allowing the in-betweeners to present themselves. Their music is so ingrained in me, and I wanted to try and produce the same feelings through my songs that theirs had given me and countless others.

LASTLY, IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE US TO KNOW?

We’ve been listening to the new Parcels record, Day/Night, a lot. The songs, production and harmonies are great. The last album from the band TOPS is also cool. Benny Sings has been in heavy rotation for a while as well. We think he is brilliant!

We can’t wait for what’s to come. Follow us on Instagram (@wearesilvertwin) to see what we get up to in 2022!

By: Carly Tagen-Dye

There was also a great relief for me, as a writer, when I learned that songs that might be sad didn’t have to sound sad. ABBA’s Benny & Björn did this, Billy Joel did this, ELO did this. I found a great deal of inspiration from their songs and the way they sounded on records. WHAT’S NEXT FOR SILVERTWIN? WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR THE NEW YEAR? I want to get back into the studio — album two is whispering in my ear. We also want to [book] gigs as much as possible. We’re hoping for new music both onstage and in the studio!

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leeds: BY DYLAN MCNALLY

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a new hub : of british music? Like m a n y Northern English cities, Leeds has produced some great bands (such as Gang of Four, The Wedding Present, and Scritti Politti). But it, like all other cities in the area, has consistently been overshadowed by Manchester as the historical hub of music in The North. And whilst there may be similarities between this current explosion of British post-punk and the one that occurred in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, Manchester being the epicentre of music up north is not one of them. This is because Leeds is currently producing the seemingly never-ending number of bands coming out of London. Yard Act, English Teacher, and Eades (to name but a few) are producing some of the most exciting and interesting music not only in Leeds, but the UK as a whole. They’ve also all released relatively new singles just waiting to be reviewed:

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“Payday” Yard Act

Yard Act are one of those bands where it seems inevitable that they’ll become big. Their Fall and Sleaford Mods-inspired minimalist brand of post-punk has already resulted in praise from Steve Lamacq and somewhat surprisingly, Elton John, among a whole host of others. Their recent single “Payday” continues a run of exceptional form that the group started in lockdown. Continuing the politically charged lyrics and sprechgesang delivered vocals, there is an ever-so-slight disco edge to some of the guitar parts, even with frontman James Smith shouting “take the money” over the top. Whilst there is less of a narrative on this track than some of their previous singles, it continues their penchant for clever, anti-capitalist lyrics, and combine that with simplistic yet effective guitars, bass, and a drum machine, and you have a recipe for success. “Payday” is set to feature on their upcoming album, with a release date set for January 2022, so get with it now before they take off.

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Photo by Sophie Jouvenaar

“Good Grief”

English Teacher’s biggest song features frontwoman Lily Fontaine singing about COLOR shows and KEXPs, yet on “Good Grief,” they tackle our digital society, lockdowns, and love, showing the excellent variation in their repertoire. The track finds English Teacher becoming tighter as a band, yet more expansive with their sound. There is more groove and bounce to it than their previous releases, in part thanks to Nicholas Eden producing one of the best basslines you will hear all year. And much like the aforementioned Yard Act, there is a playfulness to the societal critique Fontaine’s lyrics contain, exemplified by the line “children do the renegade whilst the world goes up in flames.” But if Yard Act strive to remain minimalist, English Teacher do not confine themselves, building up in a wall of feedback and screeching, squirrelling guitars before dropping out, leaving bass and vocals standing. Very smart songwriting indeed.

h Teacher

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Eades not only share a home city with English Teacher, they also share band members, or more specifically, a band member — Lily Fontaine, who contributes synths and vocals. Eades are at the more conventional end of the art-punk spectrum (or as conventional as you can get with art punk), drawing from a wide range of influences, both old and new, from the guitars of Television and Parquet Courts, to vocals reminiscent of Shame. However, this is not some lazy rip-off; they do manage to carve their own sound at the same time that they flex their inspirations, the result being “Ever Changing,” a fast-paced, jolting anthem about burying your head in the sand at big decisions. I was lucky enough to see them live down here in Bristol, which gives their music an extra dimension, and is an experience I’d highly recommend. They have a new album out in March 2022, so they’re another band to jump on quickly, because much like the city they’re from, they are going places.

Photo by Sam Joyce

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C


“Ever hanging” Eades

These three singles are only a snapshot of each band’s discography, and these three bands are only a snapshot of Leeds’ buzzing music scene. There are a number of other new and exciting bands I could’ve mentioned, but these are three of the best Leeds have produced, although I’m sure countless more will emerge, through the likes of the Brudenell Social Club and the number of other influential grassroots venues dotted across the city. I’m not even from Leeds, so if outsiders are hearing about it, first through whispers that are increasingly getting louder, then there must be something good happening. After all, Leeds has everything needed to be a creative hub and is one of the most prolific areas for great new music coming out of the UK now. If it remains this way, then it may become the new de-facto home of music up north.

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Songs With Which to Welcome the New Year 01. Isabel Corp: “It’s Alright” - ESG 02. Aleiagh Hynds: “Caroline” - Briston Maroney 03. Giliann Karon: “Lilac” - Porridge Radio 04. Carly Tagen-Dye: “This Land Is Your Land” Chicano Batman 05 Zach Troyanovsky: “Volunteer DJ” - Fishboy 06. Morgan Hooks: “Where to Now” - Hippo Campus 07. Erin Christie: “This Year” - Beach Fossils 08. Miranda Nicusanti: “Disco Kitchen” - Gardens & Villas 09. Dylan McNally: “Dance Yrself Clean” - LCD Soundsystem 10. Claire Russell: “Power Freaks” - Jean Dawson 11. Julia Tricolla: “Friday Night Big Screen” - GIRLI

Beach Fossils (Evan Tetreault)

Chicano Batman (Al Sieb)

Porridge Radio (EL Hardwick)

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Briston Maroney (Alexandra Castillo)

A Playlist of 2021 New Year Anthems by the Penny Staff


3/3 3/4 3/5 3/7 3/8

AMSTERDAM HALL | Minneapolis, MN

3/12 PHILAMOCA | Philadelphia, PA

A&R MUSIC BAR | Columbus, OH

3/20 THE SECRET GROUP | Houston, TX

THALIA HALL | Chicago, IL

HORSESHOE TAVERN | Toronto, CA BAR LE RITZ PDB | Montreal, CA

3/10 BROOKLYN STEEL | Brooklyn, NY 3/11 DC9 | Washington, DC

3/14 THE BASEMENT | Nashville, TN

3/23 PABELLÓN CUERVO | Ciudad de México, MX 3/25 THE WISE | Vancouver, CA

3/26 SUNSET TAVERN | Sea le, WA 3/27 VMAC | Por and, OR

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Neverends the

Live at Debonair Music Hall

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PHOTOS BY NINA TSUR 63


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On the Road Again with Tour Photographer

Brit O’ Brien

WRITTEN BY MORGAN HOOKS

LA-based tour photographer Brit O’ Brien has made herself a household name within the music industry, often recognizable as the mastermind behind intricate and innovative documentations of indie rock outlet Hippo Campus’ various tours, but, also, a familiar face with an impressive setlist of artists. As a creative with an ever-expanding and moving studio, the pandemic put O’ Brien at a halt, one that, after the fact, she has shockingly found herself thankful for. We sat down with O’Brien for a quick Zoom chat in-between filming a cozy cabin-staged live set from collaborators and close friends, Finish Ticket. During said conversation, she touched on moments of photographic and personal peace throughout the past two years, her undying love for The Strokes, and reflections on her career and her role in the industry post-pandemic.

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Hi, Brit. Can you provide a bit of background

influence for your work, but I can see that

on your career as a music photographer for

inspiration now.

those who aren’t familiar with your iconic

Oh, yeah. She was huge when I was a kid.

work?

I was obsessed with her, obsessed with her

My work is based heavily on the idea of doc-

work in Rolling Stone. And then Pooneh

umenting little everyday memories that we

Ghana, as I was actually getting into music

might overlook or wouldn’t think to capture. I use that heavily in my work with artists. I like to not think of my work as an idea of mass content, [but] more as something that is viewed over a long period of time, versus something that you just consume. But I really started doing this and wanted to shoot because I was inspired by music photography from the ‘70s and ‘80s and Annie Levowitz with her tour work in Rolling Stone in the ‘90s, and the idea of capturing short form memories for a long period of time. I’ve always loved music-art books and tour photography and long form work — I think it’s so interesting to see people out on the road being captured for print. That’s kind of the inspiration and where my work is drawn from heavily: nostalgia, I guess is a good word for it. And I like to think of it as an ongoing learning project. I’m always learning through other tour photography and my own work, so it’s kind of fun to be in a career where I’m constantly molding, and learning, and trying new things, pretty much every day. That’s kind of the basis of why I

photography, became another big inspira-

got into this field and where the inspiration

tion, how she captured tour work. She’s a

comes from. Kind of the feeling of nostalgia

current photographer that tours and she’s

or something you can always find yourself

just incredible.

looking at in the future. Awesome! I didn’t know that Annie was an

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Penny came to prominence as our editor Erin’s college project, eventually blossoming


into a staffed music publication during the

fecting live music on a large scale and did

pandemic. It began detailing the changing

a cool project, and now book, around that

music industry during the pandemic, but

same idea. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking

we still are hustling to highlight the evolu-

in this space, and it affected my personal

tion that the music industry is undergoing

career because, as you said before, I lived

post-pandemic.

a life pretty much on the go, and basically, having to sit still was a healthy reflection period for me to realize how much I needed the stability of home life. Now, it’s honestly a lot harder to be on the road than before and I’ve grown in a way that I like the sameness of being at home. I never had any routine on tour and now I know what a routine is like. I realized I really like that. I talked to a lot of crew members over the pandemic who felt similarly — some people are having a hard time getting back onto the road after being engrossed with friends and family for long periods of time and not having to leave everyone behind so often. I think we all went through this period of reflection, which was probably very mentally healthy for a lot of touring folk who don’t know how to stop and are constantly moving. On some levels, the pandemic was a mental reset in a healthy way — I know that’s the opposite for a lot of people — but it was a chance to sit down for a minute. It definitely affected my career in many ways,

How did the pandemic impact someone who is often on-the-go? And how did you remain creatively stimulated in isolation? I remember watching your Facetime photoshoot and self portrait projects unfold on Instagram. Yeah, that’s awesome. I also dove into a similar realm of how the pandemic was af-

some positive. I reflected and worked on other projects, such as the FaceTime portrait projects, and focused on myself a little bit and self portraits. I also wanted to dive into street and nature photography, which were things that I never took time to do. I feel like I grew a lot

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ries about photographing multiple shows in one night — it seems that you are back in full force! Which artists had you spent time with throughout those three months that you toured? And how does life on-the-road now compare to how it was before COVID-19? Yeah, that’s a good question. I was luckily able to tour with some great artists this year, [including] Hippo Campus; Flight Facilities, who are a Daft Punk-esque band from Australia, they’re two great guys; Half Alive, another indie band who were opening for Twenty One Pilots, which was awesome; Pinegrove, who I work heavily with now, I love them dearly…I also worked with COIN and Sure Sure, who have made their return. as an artist throughout the pandemic, being

I’ve had the privilege of working with a lot of

able to experiment in [these] different me-

artists this fall, but four have taken me with

diums. As for the music industry, it jumped

them on tour.

back to life a lot faster than I expected it to

It is definitely very different right now.

— everyone was so eager to get back out on

There are a lot of COVID-19 safety protocols

the road, and I did end up touring for three

in place. I was tour managing for a chunk of

months this year, which was unexpected en-

this fall, which is a new world for me. Enact-

tirely. Everyone has such packed [touring] schedules next year. I think that the industry is trickling back to normal, or some sort of normalcy. I am grateful for

ing the rules: no one

I am grateful for this unexpected year of learning about myself and getting to focus on caring for me instead of always moving.

backstage, don’t go

It was almost as if it was a gift.

tour that are [now]

this unexpected year

go out to museums –- those things that you’d love to do on off limits. There are a lot of protections in

of learning about myself and getting to focus

place to make sure nobody gets sick, [such

on caring for me instead of always moving.

as] no fan interaction, masks on even when

It was almost as if it was a gift.

we’re backstage (unless you’re in the green

Recently, you shared on your Instagram sto-

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out to dinner, don’t

room). It is different, and a little scary –-


there’s a huge element of risk with being

your contest during Finish Ticket’s 2019

on the road. But the people that I work with

tour where you invited winning photog-

all took serious precautions to prevent any

raphers from across the country to be

COVID-19 cases, and we didn’t have any on

mentored by you and then shoot the show

any of the tours that I was on. But, you know,

themselves. I recall the group that I was with

that comes with a lesser experience on the

standing in a circle in Atlanta, eager for your

road, for sure. It is not quite as fun, but you

guidance. If you were able to provide men-

still get to be out there making music.

torship and guidance to other creatives in

You mentioned tour managing…I joined

the industry, such as our readers, what’s the most pivotal piece of advice that you

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would share with them?

the moment is huge, but I think it adds to it

I like to use the idea of setting intentions

when you are in the moment having ideas

before you start your day of shooting in music

and things you could try or things that you

and tour photography, not necessarily in a

might want to mess with. Trying to catch

self care sort of way, but in a learning and

something completely new, especially if

growth sort of way. What I still do every day

you’re someone who is shooting often and

when I shoot is try to think of something that

who needs to keep things fresh, having those

is maybe unconventional or something that I

intentions for the moment is a fun thing to

want to try and [have] never done before, or

set yourself up with.

a setting that I want to use to underexpose or overexpose some shots — just tryingnew things. I like to make a list, either on my phone or on paper — I like to write out things — of things that I want to try or intend to do with my shooting that day. I think it helps to create images that are special, because when you go into a headspace of what it is that you’re looking to shoot and you set specific thoughts, [whether it is] focusing on the guitar strings or how someone’s moving their feet, intentions help to guide images later that afternoon or that evening. Take in what you’re going to be doing, and if you have time in a space before the shoot, learn the room. Learning the space you’re in, if you have the opportunity, is special, to decide if you’re going to shoot from a balcony or from front of house or from a weird chair. Putting intention behind your shooting day I think adds a level of work.

I like to use the idea of setting intentions before you start your day [. . .] in a learning and growth sort of way. On the topic of thinking of things fresh, as this will be within our New Year’s issue, the aim is, always, brand new year, brand new music. What are your thoughts about the direction that the music industry is heading? Any wishes or wants for what’s to come? My big thought/hope/wish for the industry next year is that, obviously, all of these touring plans will happen. I know it’s harder to plan things with definice, to make sure things are happening for sure these days, [but] I hope that all of these tours get to follow through. Another is that I want the industry to pick up the pieces — it’s a mess right now as far as what is what in terms of venue rules,

I’m in awe hearing how much thought goes

mask mandates, and vaccine policies. If the

into these photos. I feel as if audiences

industry could unify on whether you need to

don’t know how much intent goes into it,

come to show the vaccinated, or if you can’t

but rather think that photography is purely

get vaccinated because of a medical issue,

in the moment.

this is how you are able to go. I feel there is a

I think it’s important for both. Obviously,

lot of confusion around which venues require

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masks and vaccines. A universal program

While it’s easy to speak on these scarier

for the world we’re living in that would be

parts of 2020 and this cautious return to

useful within the music industry, especially

tours with regulations intact, what are some

those performing — to have some sort of

of the most peaceful or the happiest mo-

definite rules and regulations going forward

ments you experienced in the past year?

— would be helpful for everyone, to feel safe

I have been able to have some nice mo-

at a concert moving forward.

ments. I have family up in the Redwood Forest and being able to go up there and stay in the Redwoods and reflect and chill up there. [They] have three dogs, blackberry picking, and mushroom hunting. Connecting to nature has been mega huge for me the past year –- it’s given me a whole lot. That emcompasses the peaceful moments that I have had, being up in the Redwood Forest and being a part of the trees for lots of months this year. Where (country, state, city, venue, street, even) has been the best place to photograph for you? Is it there? You know what it is? I was on tour with Kay Flay and Imagine Dragons in Banff, Canada, a national park up there. It is probably one

How about for you — any wishes, wants, or

of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen

goals for 2022’s Brit?

and being able to photograph people wan-

Personally, I’m hoping to get back to Europe

dering around the Canadian wilderness in

with Hippo Campus. I think it’s happening.

the almost-winter was special. That, or, I

Shooting in Europe on tour was one of the

went to New Zealand with Hippo Campus

coolest things I have ever done, and I think

and we stayed in a cabin. It is the most beau-

next year will be part two to that. I’m hoping

tiful place. There’s no joke how on different

that I get to do that. Also, I am supposed

a level New Zealanders are on in terms of

to go to Japan next year, but they haven’t

beauty. Those two places stand out as my

opened their borders yet. I am throwing

favorite places that I have photographed in.

that out into the universe that I can go to

I love being outside, anywhere.

Tokyo, because that is a big, big plan that I’m dying for.

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I know that with your dive into nature pho-


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We were all wrapped up in tour blankets from our bunks, standing in the middle of the cold in our pajamas, wondering what was going to happen next. tography, you utilized film often. What’s your go-to film to use? I experiment with tons of film. I’m definitely not a loyalist to any film, and I know some people are. It’s hard for me to pin one down, but the one I always tend to go back to because I know it always has such rich, awesome colors is a classic: Portra 400. That is definitely something I will always pick up if I see it in the store. I like ‘cheap’ film. I think it’s fun, and you can mess with it a lot [and] create light leaks with it. I like to open up my camera and let light into it and see what happens, and that’s best to do with ‘cheap’ film. Any albums/artists/songs that have been therapy for you throughout the past year? Yeah, my favorite record that was released in 2020 was Bombay Bicycle Club’s latest record, Everything Else Has Gone Wrong. For me, it was a throwback to 2008 and 2009 indie rock, which is my favorite era of music, so that record was a real gift to me. There’s this one track on it, “Good Day,” which was therapeutic for me lyrically, because it is so much of what we went through as a world. The Adults are Talking by The Strokes was my other go-to.

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I know you’re a devoted The Strokes fan and I must know what your thoughts, feelings, and everything in between were after seeing them live. They are my favorite band. I love The Strokes. I’ve seen them a couple of times but this was the first time I’d seen them as their own headline show. It was incredible — they’re such incredible musicians. I talked about this a lot with my friends, but The Strokes are the only band that can get away with coming on 20 minutes late and leaving 15 minutes early, and no one is mad about it. I don’t know how, but they are the only band that gets away with it. So, in classic The Strokes fashion, they came on late, left early, and they only played for about an hour. It’s hilarious. It’s hard to be mad at them for it, because it’s a treat getting to see The Strokes. Because they do it so irregularly. It was special and


I’ll never forget it. There was musicianship and they were tight with each other which was cool, too, because they’ve been through a lot. It was a great show. Funniest, most unexpected, or most memorable tour experience? Oh, yeah…I’ve got a couple of those. On this last tour that I was doing with Pinegrove in October, our bus driver was brand new, because it’s hard to get a bus driver right now. It was three in the morning, and we were texting about it, asking “What’s happening? Why does it smell so crazy in here?” Eventually, since I was tour managing, I had to make the call to go up to him and tell him to pull over and that we thought he broke the bus. We pulled over in the middle of nowhere in West Virginia — there was a sign nearby that said ‘Welcome to West Virginia.’ We were all wrapped up in tour blankets from our bunks, standing in the middle of the cold in our pajamas, wondering what was going to happen next. I had to find an emergency hotel at four in the morning. I, basically,

Follow O’ Brien on tour in the New Year on Instagram @britobrien. Additionally, you can see O’ Brien’s photographed longform memories yourself in her newest book, Last to Open, which details the experiences of those those behind the scenes at your favorite show, available on her website: britobrien.com.

tucked my children into bed in a hotel while our bus driver figured out how to fix our bus and get us to our show. It was memorable to be wrapped in blankets at four in the morning in the middle of nowhere with your friends and try to find somewhere to sleep. That’s a fresh memory.

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