Penny 2.2 - Now Spinning

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Table of Contents EDITORIAL Reflecting on The State of Live Music After Catching Kim Gordon in Jersey City — 18 Gender & Music — 34 Nostalgia Notes: Songs and the Places They Take Me Back To — 40 I Saw The Egg Crack, It Was You — A Review of Battle Ave.’s I Saw The Egg — 48

INTERVIEWS Just Mustard: The World’s Greatest Not-Shoegaze Quintet Making Waves Abroad — 6 “Maybe We’re Unique Because We Sound Like Us” - An Interview with Honeyglaze — 14 An Interview with Hatchie — 24 Sunflower Bean: Synthesizing a Schizophrenic Headrush on Headful of Sugar — 50 Vundabar Take A Look Inward on Devil For The Fire: A Conversation In Lockdown — 60

PHOTO Live Photography by James Lore — 20 Live Photography by Elaine Tantra — 32 Live Photography by Erin Christie — 46


Who is Penny? EDITOR-IN-CHEF Erin Christie

WRITERS Erin Christie — 6, 60 Dylan McNally — 14 Melody J Myers — 24 Isabel Corp — 18, 50 Caroline Daniels — 34 Morgan Hooks — 40 Zach Troyanovsky— 48

GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Jolie Asuncion — Cover, 6 Aubrey Calapp — 44, 60 Erin Christie — 18, 20, 24, 30, 31, 46 Eddy Lopez — 14, 48 Nina Tsur — 50

PHOTOGRAPHERS Erin Christie — 46 Caroline Daniels — 34 James Lore — 20 Elaine Tantra — 32 Cover Photos (TL-BR): Milly Cope, Driely S, Phobymo, Holly Whitaker, Lisseyelle


Letter from the Editor Hey again! Long time, no write! It's been a busy 2022 thus far, and sadly, as my work life has kicked into gear, Penny has fallen to the wayside a bit (such is the life of a somewhat recent college graduate balancing passions and paychecks), but I'm looking forwarding to picking things back up, especially with this new issue finished and out in the world! For Penny 2.2 I decided it would be fun to not have just one featured cover artist, but several, with an emphasis on artists who have put out new content recently. That said, this issue features five stellar artists who have each released a record recently (though Just Mustard's comes out this Friday!). Thus, this issue is a true celebration of the amazing new music we've been appreciating as of late, and it's a theme that is sure to trickle down into future issues, as well. One extremely cool part of this particular issue is my chat with Brandon Hagen of Vundabar — we originally sat down and talked via Zoom in April of 2021, before their new record was even announced, and this issue contains that conversation. Part 2 will be posted on the blog sometime soon! Enjoy reading out newest issue, Penny 2.2 - Now Spinning, and let me know what you think! I'm excited to share this with you all and can't wait for what is to come xx

Erin Christie Editor-in-Chief



undalk, Ireland’s nightlife and social scene are winning attractions of the small, rural town, especially with its venue The Spirit Store being one of the country’s top music venues in business. As local rock five-piece Just Mustard’s frontwoman Katie Ball noted in a 2019 interview with Loud and Quiet, “It’s either music or Football in Dundalk; you’ve got to choose one or the other.” With music being their pastime of choice, Just Mustard made it one of their goals, early on, to play and sell out The Spirit Store — as written in the stars, their upcoming stop at the venue has been sold out since last year, when tickets went on sale. To add to their success, they’ve recently signed to New York City post-punk tastemaking record label, Partisan, with the help of which they’ve completed their long-awaited sophomore album, Heart Under (due May 27).

By Erin Christie Setting the stage, Just Mustard’s impeccable debut album, Wednesday (released May 2018 via Pizza Pizza Records), took their version of sludgy shoegaze-adjacent melodies abroad. With tracks such as “Pictures,” “Deaf,” and “Curtains,” they introduced audiences outside of Dundalk to their perfect combination of gothic synth-laden hysteria and marching-drum-heavy sonic mastery. In their off-season, the band additionally shared earworm-inducing singles such as the somber and cutting “Frank” and the ethereal, feedback-ridden “Seven,” each of which simply kept fans champing at the bit.

Photo by Olof Grind


Their forthcoming sophomore album, Heart Under, clearly exhibits their continued knack for creating hypnotic bliss while toting a totally realized vision of technical precision. Where guitars wail and shriek and airy vocals contrastingly levitate, everything blends together beautifully. It’s this balance between chaos and calm that establishes Just Mustard’s greatness, both as masters of spooky brilliance and upbeat, mosh-worthy bangers. Additionally, avoiding being pigeon-holed by sticking to the hallmarks of classic ‘shoegaze,’ Just Mustard keeps things sounding utterly their’s with the benefit of a sound that draws imagery of an intimate house show, as opposed to a preciously organized studio session. Their recordings contain the raw energy of their live performances, the synergy and energetic balance that takes place when all five members of the group enter a musical playing field. This unabashed space is where Just Mustard hit their sweet spot, making it no wonder that greats of the genre such as New Order have given them totally deserved praise.

To begin, you guys had your first

Prior to the release of Heart show in the United States last Under, and the day following their night — how did it go? first gig in New York City, I spoke Good. Yeah, it actually went with Katie and David of the band Katie: really good. Our first New York show, about everything ahead, including and it went good! their tours of Europe and the US Awesome! So, aside from introducing with Fontaines D.C., and went new audiences to Just Mustard in a live over how they tackled their soph- setting, as you did last night, going into a sophomore release must feel kind of omore record with full force. intimidating. Did you feel any pressure, especially with Partisan being attached, or did you try your best not to think about that?

Katie: Basically, think there was a little bit of pressure just having more people involved. On the first album we did, there was no one else involved, so we only had to please ourselves. And now that there's more people involved, there's more people who have you think about. David: Partisan didn't put any pressure on us, anyway; we felt really comfortable about that. I think we probably all felt a bit of pressure but I think, because of lockdowns and stuff, I think that kind of stopped us from thinking about the outside world and stuff. There was a vacuum.



In regard to choosing singles, as well, was Katie: It definitely informed the writing that a conscious decision, and if not, how of those songs, because they both start did you choose the first tracks that would off with a drone that's in the same key. introduce this new project? How would you say that that Katie: I think the main singles and the next one different circumstance — not only [“Mirrors”], they were decided fairly early on. "I in terms of what is going on in the Am You" was a bit of a surprise situation because world, but in terms of the experiwe were just like, "We should put out a song." ence you guys have now — affectDavid: It felt like the one that was the best bridge ed the holistic writing process, gapper [laughs], as it kind of showed the new especially in comparison to writing direction and how the album was going to sound, Wednesday? but it was more similar to some of the older stuff.

Katie: All the songs on the record were actually written ages ago, too, and we toured them and were playing them in 2019. Since the shows, we just changed like, one guitar tone. David: Yeah, if we didn't like it, then we stopped playing it then. We also just changed some things, with different adjustments and small parts, and we changed some names. We also came back to everything in the context of the new music, and gave it a new life. But yeah, ["I Am You"] was chosen as kind of an introduction to the album, more so than a leading single or something.

With this album, I found myself very entranced by the cohesiveness of it and the way everything flows together very evenly. The sound picks up and falls, but not in a way that feels choppy. How was the tracklisting determined? Katie: With the tracklisting of the record, there were a few different ideas floating around. I recently listened to the tracklisting the way it ended up an I was like, on paper, that doesn't make sense. But then I listened to it again and it was like, it literally can't be anything else, just the way it flows, which is so good. And when you listen to it in other ways, it's just not- like, if you want to listen to it in full, that's the way that it was intended. The way it ended up is just perfect.

Katie: Yeah, I think not being able to play live definitely affected it because, usually, we write songs while playing live, and then, you know, adapt them to suit a live set. So, we weren't able to do that. We demoed them a lot instead; we'd just make demos constantly and listen to them and see how it sounds on the recording. And I think it also took longer, as well. We had a lot of time, thankfully. We did most of the writing in three months, and then we went to studio, and we thought that, going into the studio, we'd come out with the album — that was the plan — but we didn't. Well, we did, but we were not too happy with it and didn’t mind making a few changes, and luckily, we had time to make the changes we wanted to. David: Yeah, I think it was good because we were writing in such a short space of time. Over the space of a couple months, all the songs kind of informed each other a bit as well, as opposed to Wedensday, where it was spread out over like a year or a year and a half of writing. Because it was written all at once, there's a lot more cross-pollination, like stuff from different songs influencing other songs. It made it feel like it was more together.

David: It was interesting, as well, I just remember we had the opener around closer of the album decided before we even finished writing some of it. That was very early on I think; we were like, "We're going to open with this and end with that." So, with the flow of things, we kind of knew where to start and where it was going to end, so we kind of set up a boundary or something. I don't know how much that informed the process, but I just remembered that we did that. Photos by (T) Megan Doherty, (B) Milly Cope


Do you think that there's a general theme that runs throughout this album, or that everything exists more in its own separate world? Katie: There are similar themes in a lot of songs — like water. There are references to water in the lyrics, and we kind of let that influence the instrumentation, as well. And as David was saying, I think those themes are due to the fact that we were writing [the songs] in such close proximity. David: I definitely think there's slightly more of an overall theme throughout the whole thing, as opposed to more separate songs. And they may be tied together with the production or something. But yeah, it's definitely more altogether. I'm also curious as to what a studio session with you guys looks like — when you get into the studio, do things tend to morph from your initial ideas, and were there any songs on this record that kind of had a long journey to get to where it is now? Katie: In the studio, I think everything was set. Like, we just wanted to record the sounds that we knew we wanted. In the writing process, things changed sometimes, but we always ended up back with the original idea. David: Yeah, definitely, because we demo a lot and a lot of our writing process is through demoing, as well. When we get to the studio, it's just trying to get those finished and things done in the right way, and then some things will change. Like, obviously, if there are any little things that happened that everyone likes, we just stick with it. But yeah, a high percentage of it is pre-planned and it's up to executing the idea. And then afterwards, maybe there might be some post-recorded tweaks, more so trying to mix the things we recorded, like maybe to layer on some texture or something like that. But yeah, for the most part, it's very ‘in the session.’

And how does it go, balancing the chaos and the calm with a record that travels between such extremes? Does that take a lot of control to manage that? Katie: Most of the time, the songs, as we're working on them initially, they lean one way or the other. And then as the writing process is finishing up, maybe if it's a softer song, the more noisy or chaotic elements will be used to arrange the other songs, to bring it dynamically upward, to stretch it out so it's not just one short piece of music but something bigger. I think we did spend a lot of time trying to keep that balance. Like if there's a noisy part, and because my voice is quite high, we'll have the higher register just be 'Katie' and then keep everything else on it really low, just to stretch it as far as we can. And then, we might have another high guitar but it'll be back and forth between myself and the guitar. We spent a good bit trying to maintain that balance.


Continuing on the theme of sonic elements, it's easy for people to compare Just Mustard to different artists, but if you weren't given the opportunity to accurately try to describe your sound so as to avoid pigeon-holing, how would you guys do that? Katie: Yeah, it's something I definitely struggle with trying to explain. [Our sound] is definitely not this new thing, but I just struggle to describe it. I think, usually, we just say 'rock music.' Just like, we play rock music. And, you know, it's maybe not that true, but it's hard to describe. We fought against the 'shoegaze' title for a while because we were like, "It's not shoegaze," but now, I think it's probably a bit of shoegaze. I think we also take a lot of influence from electronic music. David: With most of our references, we actually don't sound that much like them, almost like they're not actually references or influences. Our records come out as part of a lot of different stuff, so it's hard to define what it actually sounds like at the end.

It's definitely easy to notice little speckles of different sounds in there, but Just Mustard is its own thing, like you said. And on this record, since you had to adapt to a new situation and grow as artists circumstantially, are there any tracks on this album that you're particularly proud of, and feel particularly attached to?

Katie: Definitely "23" and "Blue Chalk," but shit, I'm just gonna name the whole album [laughs]. I think, probably, a lot of the lyrics that I'm proud of, as well, come from "23." David: For me, maybe "Blue Chalk," just because it was a song we were talking about as if it existed, but it didn't. While we were writing it, it was just like a drone song, and then it kind of got to a point where we were like, "Maybe this isn't actually ever going to be a song; it's just a guitar drone." But then, we did some stuff with it. Katie did a little vocal thing, and then we put a bass on it, and then, we kind of just let it come together. Katie: Yeah, we put a bassline on it just to write over, to write vocals to, and David wrote his own bassline. And then like, immediately, I was able to write. And I was struggling to write vocals for this song because it was just a hum, so we put a bass on it so we can write the vocals and then take the bassline away, but the bassline ended up making the song so much better, so we kept the whole lot. It was such a mess; it was not a song, but a hum. David: But we did actually make it song, and it almost wrote itself once we found all the parts.

Photo by Megan Doherty


Going back to sounds, too, your music is obviously very intricately layered, so, in-studio and with production, how did you balance retaining the DIY noise sound, but still utilizing the new methods that had been granted to you, given the less-DIY process you could take on? Katie: It was something we wanted for this record, wasn't it? With the first record, it was like an intention of band-in-a-room production style, so that was what we were going for. With this one, we wanted a bit more clarity, especially in the vocals, and we wanted everything to sound a lot closer. So yeah, I feel like we probably spent less time on the production with this album. I feel like, with Wednesday, it was a long process. David: Yeah, with Wednesday, when something didn't sound right, we'd just re-record it. Whereas with this one, we spent more time in pre-production. But yeah, it's hard to come up with 30 different processes that are going to go into effect. I think we started getting very hands-on after the main recording session, by getting really zoned-out and dialed in on little smaller parts and stuff, and trying to get them sitting right. So, in that way, it was still kind of similar to Wednesday. Katie: Like, I recorded all the vocals at home, in my bedroom, and that's exactly how we recorded the vocals on Wednesday, as well. I think it's just where I'm most comfortable, doing them at home.

The most complicated part about a sophomore record is keeping the genuineness and the heart of a first record, while also being able to take advantage of like new things you've learned and new opportunities that have presented themselves to you. Was that ever in the front of your mind, wanting to keep that band-in-a-room sound but also wanting to be able to do new things with this record?


David: I think we wanted to go even further away from that sound, in some ways. Initially, we were just like, "Let's go completely really clean, really direct,” but then, I think our approach changed. I think, once we started actually recording, we really liked the sound of natural-sounding drums, so that just started creeping back in. You can't really fight it, so it wasn't really a conscious thing, to try and keep it, but at the same, I think it just naturally happened. We weren't trying to distance ourselves or keep [the same sound], it was just a fairly natural progression, I think. It was also actually quite a while since we made a record when we were making this one, so I think it didn't feel like we were following it up. It just felt like a new thing. But yeah, it wasn't in my mind at all. I was never really thinking of how it was going to sound in relation to Wednesday. It's just its own thing, and I think it's a good thing to do, just keep trying to go forward, I suppose.

Yeah, you don't want to like rest on your laurels and just be confined to one single thing. And speaking on your influences, where you come from is a huge influence on what you make, I'm sure. How would you say coming up in a scene as small and intimate as it was in Dundalk was different from the more competitive environment you’ve experienced, abroad?

Katie: Initially, when we started, I was only ever thinking very locally, like my dream was to sell out Spirit Store, which is our local venue, and then see where it goes, just pushing the boat out. But, especially in our scene, it's weird because everyone plays different music. Some music scenes in North Ireland end up with a similar sound, but in Dundalk, it was like everyone was doing something different. And so everyone was really supportive in that way. There was no real competition, because everyone was in their own lane. David: It's definitely a strong DIY scene in Dundalk. Like, with Wednesday, I wouldn't necessarily say it was DIY, but rather, 'do the thing yourself and don't try to do things that you think other people will like.' In some ways, it's been the same now, and we've also been living in Dundalk for the most part. I think with the pandemic and stuff, being home, it kind of feels like we're still there. It doesn't feel like much has changed, y'know?

As you said previously, playing things live impacted the way that you would write and workshop the songs. And the pandemic kind of threw a wrench in that, but now that you're getting back to playing live, are there any tracks that you're excited to see performed and introduced to new audiences? And how has that experience been thus far?

Katie: Me and David and the drummer Max's face at the end is just so funny! We're all just trying to keep in time with each other.

With regard to whatever else is on the horizon for the next coming months, is there anything that you're particularly excited about? Katie: We're excited to tour and to see a lot of places, you know? We're doing a tour of Europe and going to places we've never been before, and we're doing a tour of America and seeing places we've never been before, too. David: I mean, America is obviously huge, but we get to see a lot of this summer, which I'm really excited about. Katie: It’s such an amazing opportunity to see so much of the world, and I wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t for the band. Just to see so much, and to play music at the same time, it just feels so lucky. I get a postcard for my mom, for every place I go to. I don’t post them to her, I just bring them home [laughs].

Keep up to date with Just Mustard via their socials and catch them on tour in a city near you. Heart Under is out May 27 via Partisan.

Katie: Yeah, we actually played a song for the first time last night, and it was class because it's just exciting to play and hear them live, yourself. And we're really excited to play "Blue Chalk" live; we've never played it before. It's actually a little scary because we don't actually know how to play it, currently. Like, we do, but we just need to put in a little work. I think there was always a plan with that song, for the first time for people to hear it to be on the album. That was what we were thinking, anyway. David: I really enjoy playing "Still." It's just really hard, but it's rewarding because it is really difficult. So it's like, when it goes right, it's great.






Reflecting on The State of Live Music

After Catching Kim Gordon in Jersey City


Live Photos and Words Isabel Corp Cover Photo by Craig McDean

I first discovered Kim Gordon’s work at a nonprofit bookstore in the Chelsea art district when I was nineteen. One of my college courses had taken a trip there to discuss the text of prominent feminist art, and the first book that caught my eye when I arrived was a plain pistachio-green paperback with a title etched in black Times New Roman font that read: Is It My Body? Selected Texts. Aptly named after the Sonic Youth song of the same name, that book was a collection of Kim Gordon’s many musings on conceptual art, art criticism, and the performance of gender roles on stage. That was the first time Kim Gordon came on my radar. The second time was also at a bookstore, this time at The Strand, with her poignant memoir, Girl in a Band. Despite knowing nothing about Sonic Youth or any of her side projects like Free Kitten, Body/Head, or Glitterbust, I brought home her memoir and devoured it. The minute I read her infamous quote, “People pay money to see others believe in themselves,” I was hooked. I fell in love with her unique style and prose as a writer before I had even heard her music. Flash forward five years and I’m standing in the pit at White Eagle Hall in Jersey City where Gordon was stopping on her long-awaited solo tour. But that span of time did not feel like five years. It felt like it had been decades, especially since the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic swept the east coast smack dab in the middle of my junior year of college. I never thought I would have the opportunity to see live music again. As I leaned against the edge of the stage at the 800-maximum capacity venue, I felt myself release an involuntary gasp as I watched Gordon emerge under soft purple lighting with footage of road signs and highways projected behind her. I watched in awe as she moved effortlessly through her setlist along with her backing band — guitarist Sarah Register, bassist Camilla Charlesworth, and drummer Madi Vogt. Gordon alternated between lunging on the edge of the stage as she shouted into the audience on harsher cuts like “Hungry Baby” and “Air BnB,” and swaying with abandon to the rhythm of mellower tracks like “Cookie Butter” and “Paprika Pony.” She even performed a cover of DNA’s “Blonde Red Head.”

Gordon ended her setlist with “Grass Jeans,” closing off the show with a screeching drone of guitar feedback. As the song came to a close, she handed her Fender Jazzmaster over to the audience, and several of us at the front eagerly strummed and plucked at the strings, basking in the towering wall of noise that we were lucky enough to contribute to. To say that nobody weaves chaos and sensitivity quite as well as Kim Gordon would be an understatement. Living through the dark days of being shut in during COVID-19 had completely overhauled the way I navigated the world and also changed nearly everything I consumed, including the music I listened to. Kim Gordon was the exception. I loved her during my bubblegum pop and riot grrrl phases, my gothic post-punk phase, and even my short-lived early 2000s bloghouse obsession. Seeing her live served as an equally euphoric and sorrowful reminder to myself to never take live music for granted again. Because, unlike my undying love for Gordon herself, there is no guarantee that it will last forever.


Photography by James Lore


Sloppy Jane




Bambara 22



An Interview with Hatchie

Words by Melody J Myers Photos by Lissyelle


After a long drought on the Hatchie front, Australian electro-pop singer-songwriter Harriette Pilbeam is back with her newest album Giving the World Away (released April 22, 2022 via Secretly Canadian). Prior to releasing her debut album Keepsake (2019), she released an EP entitled Sugar & Spice in 2018. As early as that first release, Hatchie became known for her dark lyrics and contrastingly upbeat music that makes you want to dance your anxieties away. Listening to Giving the World Away, these hallmarks remain, but you can’t help and notice the growth she has undergone, with increased technical precision, an even greater affinity for beats that call back to the days of disco, and a revamped personal aesthetic that's truly striking. From hits “Quicksand” to my personal favorite “The Key," I believe there’s nothing Hatchie can’t do.

Shortly after the release of Giving the World Away, Away, we spoke with Hatchie about the record, her inspirations, and her headlining tour.


So much has changed since you’ve released your debut album in 2019 Keepsake! As I went through Giving The World Away, you can tell how much you’ve grown seen then as a musician, was there anything that triggered that growth?

So I listen to and the type of sounds I prefer to create. I’m trying to write as truthfully as possible and sometimes what comes out is pretty brutal, but ultimately I love bright, glossy sounds.

I had so much time between releases to really think about what I wanted to do moving forward with this one. I wanted the recording to reflect the energy I wanted to get out of the live show so we built the album from that perspective. I had much more time to work on lyrics and concepts during lockdown too, so I tried to keep editing them for a few months until I was satisfied. It was great being able to focus on it for a chunk of the year rather than scattered in between tours too, I think that helped with consistency.

My favorite track on Giving The World Away is “The Key”, especially the lyrics! You’ve written them with a sense of honesty, but also vulnerability. The lines “lost sight of who I’m supposed to be, but within the chaos I can see, I’m not me. Am I supposed to feel complete? Shouldn’t the keeper of the key be free?” Can you touch on that part a little bit more? How did you come up with these lyrics specifically?

While listening to some of the tracks such as “Quicksand” it has a different vibe from your earlier music, was the process of writing and making this track different from the others? That song took months of re-demoing because I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to take it in. I wrote most of it in late 2019/early 2020 but it had completely different lyrics and was too pop for me for a while, so I worked on the structure and lyrics more with my partner Joe. Then we tweaked it with Dan Nigro in LA in February 2020, which helped give it a more specific dark pop sound. We finished the production with Jorge over email later on in the year so it matched the rest of the album better. One of my favorite things about this album, and your music in general is how it’s so upbeat, but when it comes to some of the lyricism it’s dark. Is there anything that draws inspiration from you to have upbeat music, but with dark lyricisms on certain tracks such as “Quicksand?" I guess it’s just a mix of my honest thoughts with the influence of the music


I’ve struggled in the past with understanding my identity and where I fit in the world. I am often fuelled by self-doubt and guilt, which can be damaging and exhausting. It can be a weird paradox to be working hard towards a goal and feeling less fulfilled the more effort you put in to be happy. What was the writing and creative process like for the album? It was spread over a year, starting with some demos in late 2019 to a few writing sessions in February 2020 in LA, one of which was with Jorge who we then picked to produce the album. Joe, Jorge and I spent a few months working on those tracks and starting more new ones at home, then finishing mixing it all in December 2020. I started a lot of the songs by myself but others were collaborations like I mentioned, which meant I could really focus on getting the best possible version of each song with the help of Joe and Jorge rather than trying to write alone. I worked on the lyrics mostly myself because I wanted to push myself to be more honest and vulnerable.

Would you say being from Australia inspires you as a musician at all? Did it inspire you at all while making this album? Not really, I think the only influence it’s had is making me have bigger dreams, like making a name for myself overseas in places I’ve never been before, because I don’t fit as well into the music scene in Australia. So I had dreams that felt quite unlikely when I was younger, which makes them even more satisfying to reach. You’ll be going on tour performing songs from Giving The World Away for the first time, which is so exciting! Which songs are you the most excited to perform live? I’m most excited to perform "The Rhythm" and "Giving The World Away." What would you say was the hardest song to write this time? Which one was the most fun to write? "Quicksand" and "The Key" each went through so many re-evaluations because they handle

such delicate subjects that I wanted to make sure they felt right. I wasn’t super keen on putting The Key on the album until I wrote the outro, which really rounded it out and made it feel much more complete to me. The Rhythm was definitely the most fun, because we threw all the Hatchie rules out and just made it as confident and sassy as possible. Two tracks that really caught my eye were “The Rhythm” and “Thinking Of” was the writing and creative process different for these tracks? "The Rhythm"was mostly written in one night, starting with Joe working on the intro and verse before I added the melody and played around with lyrics. We just loved trying all sorts of different sounds like rhythmic voice samples (later replaced with orchestral hits) and a siren chopped up. "Thinking Of" was a demo I wrote that I initially planned on extending into a fuller song but later decided the short, simple version was exactly what the album needed to balance it out. Jorge and James added all the percussion on their end and extended it with repeats, but otherwise it’s pretty much exactly the same as my demo You’ve been in music for quite some time! To quote your own song (haha), how did you “find the rhythm” for yourself as a musician, but also a songwriter? I guess just through a decade of experience and trying every different version of songwriting. I write songs from all different angles so it doesn’t get boring and I can figure out my strengths. I’ve learnt it’s important to remember everyone has different skill sets and just because you’re not good at every aspect of something it doesn’t mean you’re not talented or your voice isn’t important. While creating the album, did you listen to any bands or artists that sparked any inspiration for you at all during the creative process? I love MBV, Cocteau Twins, Kylie Minogue, Saint Etienne, Curve, Madonna, Stereo MCs, New Order, The Beloved, Curve…


There’s so much to love about Giving The World Away, especially how every single track is different and keeps you wanting more. How do you keep from sticking to something you’ve done previously? Do you think it has to do with growth as a musician? It’s personal growth and understanding what I want better. I try to approach writing from different angles to keep things fresh and exciting for myself. I don’t want to get too stuck in one corner, so I try to experiment. “Sunday Song” is such a sweet song. The vocals, and everything about it adds such a great volume to the album. I felt like it was one of the slower songs to Giving The World Away, can you give us a little more insight on this track? Joe and I wrote it with Zach Fogerty in LA on a day when I wasn’t really feeling inspired to write and was losing my voice, which I was really bummed about, but ended up lending itself to the track’s mood both because of my energy and vocal delivery. I know "Giving The World Away" is a track on the album, but what made you want to name the album that? I felt it suited the album as a whole because it’s all about being more careful with your heart and your sensitivity because they’re precious. This album has songs that are meant to be performed on a big stage due to the upbeat jams, but also the lyrics that will be sung back to you! Is that something you envisioned while creating it? For sure, it was part of the plan. You’ve really reinvented yourself on Giving The World Away, not only as a musician, but as a songwriter as well! What do you think will come next after such a wonderful whirlwind?


I’d love to make an album that’s a bit more gentle and laidback after so much emotional turmoil in this one. I just want to continue to grow and experiment.

Keep up to date with Hatchie via her socials (@hihatchie) and listen to her new album now!


Songs for Moving On and Moving Along A Playlist in Celebration of Graduation Season and the Coming of Summer

Advice for the Graduate - Silver Jews American Teenager - Ethel Cain Big Vacation - Dressy Bessy Blood - Grapetooth Ceremony - Deftones Crazy Town - Velocity Girl Cruel Summer - Black Marble Delicious Things - Wolf Alice Demarest- Pictoria Vark Eternal Summer - The Strokes Falling Forward - Sweeping Promises Fate Is… - Wednesday Generation Why - Weyes Blood GIRLKIND - Sinead O Brien I Know It’s Over - Jeff Buckley Immaterial - SOPHIE Into Strangeness - Fear of Men June - Natalia Green Knife Fight - Trophy Wife Spud Infinity - Big Thief Summer in a Small Town - The Cleaners From Venus Surf’s Up - Famous Twist - Body Heat Where Do We Go From Here - Goat Girl Young People - Fish House


Penny's Release Radar 2022 Albums We're Looking Forward To

Fear Fear Working Men's Club (out 7/15) Blue Skies - Dehd (out 5/27)

Household Name Momma (out 7/1) Big Time Angel Olsen (out 6/3)

Sometimes, Forever Soccer Mommy (out 6/24) Versions of Modern Performance Horsegirl (out 6/3)


Live Photography by Elaine Tantra



By Caroline Daniels


as long as history can account for, artistic expression has facilitated the deconstruction of the gender binary. Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, a Black and queer blues artist who signed to Paramount in 1923, shamelessly projected her identity to crowds across Southern America.

Alana Amore

She sang blatantly of her lesbian and bisexual identity with lyrics such as, “I went out last night with a crowd of my friends/It must've been women, 'cause I don't like no men/Wear my clothes just like a fan/Talk to the gals just like any old man.” The moxie it took to challenge the patriarchy in this way paved a path for queer musicians everywhere. Modern nonbinary and trans musicians like SOPHIE, Arca, Anohni, Dorian Electra, and King Princess have followed in her footsteps by fearlessly challenging the male-dominated business of music. While these artists have changed the way we view music and gender, cisgendered men still widely dominate the music industry and hold a disproportionate amount of power over the process. Young artists have taken on the fight that those before them have started, and continue to envision a world where music is truly equitable. I recently spoke to two musicians studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston about their personal experiences and feelings toward the dynamic they’ve been exposed to as Black queer musicians.


Damali Willingham

ALANA AMORE (SHE/HER) SINGER/SONGWRITER, GUITARIST, MULTI-INSTRUMENTALIST, ACTIVIST @alanaamore on Instagram How has the male dominated music industry affected you and your work? So, before anything else, I'm a Black woman and a Black woman from Cleveland. Cleveland has a fantastic music scene, but it is very white. I mean, Cleveland doesn't necessarily have a lot of money, like, you either have money or you don't. And so, growing up, a lot of the surprise was like, ‘look at these Black kids playing these instruments.’ And they were playing Led Zeppelin and stuff like that.

Everyone I would ask questions to sort of over explain all the information in a way that I noticed the boys weren’t getting. For example, with one of my guitar instructors, who was my instructor for the entire time, I told them that I wanted to start studying jazz. And he took that as though I wanted to be a “Berklee Jay-Z.” I really kind of struggled with spending a lot of time with him, just kind of trying to make me this image of what a jazz guitarist is, rather than allowing me to explore elements of it, which is really what I wanted. And that’s sort of been my experience at Berklee. I had an ensemble director who wouldn't criticize me,

It wasn't until we did the High School Rock Off when I was 16 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where someone came up to me and basically said almost verbatim, ‘I'm not going to let a girl be better than me.’ And I remember being like, ‘Okay, that's fine with me.’ I felt like I was a better guitarist already, so I felt like the fight was kind of good. But that was the first time it was blatantly in my face. I didn't really experience that any more and hadn’t really given any more thought to it until I started going to Berklee in the guitar department. I think, at the time that I entered Berklee, the guitar department had about three to four Black women guitar principles, not to exclude singer-songwriters or anything like that. But I will say, point blank, I just knew three or four. But there's this weird sort of dynamic at Berklee and I haven't really been able to decide if it was because of my race or my gender. But I was very coddled in all of my experiences there.


but he seemed to always have a personal issue with my presence in the ensemble. And I'm at the point now that I was the only one who was ever prepared with the proper lead sheet that we were making ourselves. I wasn't late. I was always the first person there, always the first person set up, always the only person who was super solid on the music. I was picking up pieces of music that our pianist wasn't learning because he didn't want to be there, you know. But, one day, I was directing a piece and the teacher got so frustrated that he had stepped out of the room for a period of time and the rest of the ensemble was like, “What is going on? Why is he talking like this?” And I was like, “I don't know. But I'm going to have a conversation about it.” And so, I went after class. I waited until everyone else left and said that we need to have a conversation. I told him that I was prepared and I always learned my music, and the dude told me I look like I don't know what I'm doing. He was like, “Yeah, you're staring at the ceiling, you're looking at the floor. You don't really seem to be here.” But speaking to me the way he was speaking and acting the way that — once again, I can't stress this fact enough — someone else felt the need to intervene or comment on the situation...And so I said, “Well, what are you hearing? I'm playing the music. Is that what I'm getting graded on? The way that I appear to be participating instead of the music I'm actually playing?.” And he was like, “Oh, I didn't mean to offend you or anything.” And I was like, “Yeah, that's fine. I just think you should take that into account.” At that point, I was so flabbergasted by the initial statement. I was leaving the room, and he was like, “Wait”. And I remember hesitating and I turned around and he was like, “Is this a race thing?.” And I was like, “What? No, it's not a race thing, it's not for me.” But yeah, that's just been my experience. I'm very done with guitar culture at Berklee.


Who is your LGBTQ+ role model in the artistic space and why? [James Baldwin and maybe Angela Davis, who somewhat recently, I would say, in the last couple of years, kind of came out as queer in a more public manner. But James Baldwin, because in his writing, I feel very, very, very seen and represented in a way that I don't really feel anywhere else. Not only was he exploring his sexuality and all these things and managing that aspect of his identity very publicly through his writing in Giovanni's Room and so forth, but he also was a civil rights activist. And for all the queer Black people out there who understand exactly what this is, that we often have to choose between one or the other in spaces, and he didn’t. And you can tell in his writing that these are things that he thought about, maybe more so in passing. But it's sorta forgotten that he was also involved in the LGBTQ community. He's always viewed

as either a writer or civil rights activist. Another person is Marin Lepore. She is an Asian-American film director and writer from Colorado. She and her friend Dana, who I love dearly, have a production company called Sad Girl Films, and they have a lot of content revolving around people in the LGBTQ community. They have a show called I Put The Bi in Bitter, which is online, it's on YouTube. And she also does a lot of stuff, because she's adopted,

DAMALI WILLINGHAM (THEY/THEM) BASSOONIST, COMPOSER, CONDUCTOR @catherine.damali on Instagram How has the male dominated music industry affected you and your work?

revolving around adoptees who are of color, as well. I love her very much.

Well, it's definitely something that's always ever-present. But, how has it affected me? It continues to affect

What advice would you give to your younger self?

me to this day, you know, being Black and also being non-male, being nonbinary. I'm in a classical music

I would just say. You do not need to pack yourself away to make room for other people, because you

space — I play the bassoon, I'm studying conducting, and I really want to conduct, like, that's my thing. And, you know, even when I got into Berklee, every single

have shit that you want to say, you have things that you feel, and you have things that you want to put on display. And none of those things belong in a box, maybe the way you speak to people. Me and my younger sister are very good with words. Sometimes

person who I saw also doing conducting were all men, were all white men at that, and they can be “buddy buddies.” I work hard and I do what it is that I do, but there is just a break in connection that you have. And

we get carried away, but you do not pack yourself away for the comfort and space of other people. And when you choose to put yourself first that does not

it's that lack of being able to connect with someone can really affect the way that the winds play out.

mean you are a bad person or a selfish person or a

I'm currently the conductor of the Berklee Motion Picture Orchestra, which is a club on campus. And I learned after I got the position that the person who

selfish friend for doing that. And Jesus, you're a human in which you're packing away something very powerful and very solid in what it is like. I've been the same person since I was born and it's never really changed. I just sort of decided

held the position before me, who was in charge, was friends with this other guy who was also auditioning for the spot and had told him that he would get the spot. And then when I ended up getting it, he got

not to present it. And you will, in that, start finding a place for yourself and people who support that and you will continue to consciously make the decision to

really, really upset and then started lashing out at me. And this is someone who I was supposed to be working with. So, it's like that kind of thing really just

or to not open that box into your 20s.

affects the way you go about everything that you do in this industry. I feel like for me, at least being at Berklee, the thing that it has really taught me is how to be able to stand your own and how to walk through these spaces where, you know, you're the only one. You know that you're there to get a job done and you know that you can do it despite everybody. Even just the feeling in the room being people questioning me like, “Are you good at things? Are you going to be able to do this?” And it's like having to walk with an authority that is so


visible because, if not, then people are automatically just going to kind of step on you.

think there is a lot of power in that because these are people that I can talk to. I don't think that having a role

And it's like, does it suck? Yes, because no one should

model needs to be something that's so far away. Role

have to put more effort into how they express

models should be people that are in your everyday

themselves in order to do what it is that they have to do. But, at the same time, it's taught me a lot. It's taught me a lot about my own confidence, my own

While I see a lot of my community as role models,


projection of self and expression, and how that is

thinking a little bit bigger, there's a conductor/com-

important, how it affects me, and how I can be affected by the people around me. And so, it's definitely toughened me up a lot. And, you know,

model because, you know, the thing with gay people

poser Leonard Bernstein. I mean, he's a preacher, he's a Jewish man. I would definitely consider him a role

up to the determination of each individual person.

where you just know you're gay, it’s just like this underlying hint of queerness that just kind of expresses itself in the things that you do, but straight

But it's hard. It's always nice to find community with

people can't really catch on to it. When I grew up

whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, I guess, is

people who understand that same experience. And when you do find community with those people, I feel like the bonds that you create are so incredibly tight knit. That's not going anywhere because we're literally having to fight to exist. That is something that people who don't carry these identities do not have to do. You have to go through your own mental trenches in order to come out and do what it is that you do. You know, it teaches you a lot. It can be very painful. And, you know, being able to bond with people who have also had to face that similar experience is really powerful and really healing, as well.

Who is your LGBTQ+ role model in the artistic space? Honestly, I have a lot of friends that I would consider role models. It's funny because I came out as nonbinary last October. And then, after that, I met my partner, who is also a Black, non binary lesbian, which is very, you know...that's an identity that, when I came into it, I was like, “Oh, yes, I'm here.” And then I met them and got introduced to this whole community of people that also live under these identities. A lot of them are artists, like my partner is a poet, and I was able to meet a local Boston artist who is a visual artist — their name is Mithsuka — and other musicians.


So, I would see a lot of my friends as my role models. I

playing classical music as a kid, the Beethovens, the Mozarts, they're all great. But then, when I got to Bernstein, I was like, “You got a little spice to you.” It's like there's something about his music that just makes me feel so much more deeply. And he was also this amazing conductor. He ended up being the principal conductor of the New York Philharmonic for years and held that position with authority and conviction, honestly, at a time where queerness was not necessarily something that was widely accepted in the world at large. And to talk about classical music as a whole, he was holding a lot of that space. And I mean, of course, this is, again, a white presenting man. So, my access to queer people of color in this space is very difficult to find, which is also a big reason why I do the stuff that I do, because I feel very pushed towards doing this. I know that there aren't a lot of Black people who get involved in classical music, and there aren't a lot of queer people who get into it either. There are a lot of people who like classical music, but Black people and other people of color typically don't have that kind of access. And then, when you're queer on top of that, and you have the layers and layers and layers, it’s really hard to navigate a space like that where you are literally the only one everywhere you go. And so, I have a lot of motivation to enter this space. So, to answer the question, my homies and Leonard Bernstein.

What would you say to your younger self? I think the first thing that I would say is, despite the things that have happened to you, despite the things that you have done, it's okay. I just want to give myself permission to feel and have emotions and, you know, to be sad and upset about things that feel bad. So much of my childhood was just trying to draw on that. Like, “No, look, you can't be this way.” And again, being the person with identities that I hold, it's like, the people I'm surrounded with don't understand the experiences that I'm having as I walk through a day to day world. Just being able to tell myself it’s okay and that, at the end of the day, everything happens for a reason and it's all going to work itself out. I think it's always something that I felt as a young, queer, Black child. But I am choosing not to act in scarcity; I'm choosing to look for abundance. I have reason and I have that space and the access to be able to feel and to move through things in the way that I need to. And it's all gonna work itself out at the end of the day, and no matter how deep the trenches can get, you know what's important. And another thing that I tell myself — ask for help. Ask the people that you feel connected to, ask them for help. And, you know, don't be so afraid — address your needs in the moment and feel joy in the moment. Don’t be so consumed with like, “I have to do this and I have to do this and I have to do this” because I really think

the real revelation of the self comes when you start walking in abundance as opposed to scarcity and just choosing to do the things that are going to bring you joy on a daily basis.


designed by @baddesignerr


nostalgia notes

songs & the places they take me back to

Compiled by Morgan Hooks 40

now playing: girl of the year - beach house


now playing: rearview - bad suns


now playing: babe ruth - coin


now playing: alone with me - vance joy


now playing: warm glow - hippo campus


Wolf Alice in Hamden, CT March 25, 2022


Unedited film by Erin Christie




Synthesizing a Schizophrenic Headrush on Headful of Sugar Photos by Driely S


By Isabel Corp

New York indie rock trio Sunflower Bean has been hot on the trail of success since releasing their sophomore album Twentytwo in Blue in 2018 and being labeled the city’s “hardest working band” by a local listing site. After facing their existential doubts and fears during the pandemic, the band is returning with a vengeance on their most confident and eclectic record to date, Headful of Sugar. 51

Produced and mixed by Unknown Mortal

sprawled against an already

Orchestra’s Jacob Portrait and engineered

overwhelming wall of noise as

by the band’s drummer Olive Faber, Headful

Cumming and Kivlen chant, “I

of Sugar trades the dream pop textures of

just wanna win, win, win, win,

Human Ceremony and straight-edge indie

win, win, win, win!”

rock of Twentytwo in Blue for a rapturous

of Sugar to explore “fast pleasures, the sugar

like “Post Love” and “Beat the Odds,” the lat-

of life, [and] the joy that comes with letting

ter being a feedback-heavy synthetic cut that

go of everything you thought mattered.” Pen-

sounds like a modern update of Depeche

ny recently sat down with Sunflower Bean

Mode’s “Never Let Me Down Again,” with

to discuss the very timely themes touched

guitarist Nick Kivlen on lead vocals doing

on in the album, embracing their zillennial

his best Dave Gahan impression.

musical sensibilities, and why live music still

The opening track and lead single, “Who Put You Up to This,” opens with lead singer/bassist Julia Cumming’s ghostly ethereal vocals coming into the fray before pounding the listener over the head with a slick drum groove interlocked with a bassline distorted to high heaven. Kivlen’s starry-toned guitar solo in the middle of the song is the cherry on top. A long-running theme on Headful of Sugar is the trouble with navigating contemporary American life and the perils of late capitalism. On the spectral acoustic cut “In Flight,” Kivlen takes the lead on vocals and sings about feeling disillusioned and isolated in his hometown before Cumming joins him on the refrain, “Life is short and the cliffs are high/I don’t have to close my eyes/To see us in flight.” The most immediate song on the record, “Roll the Dice,” is a savage takedown of the American dream inspired by the Game Stop stock market debacle, with clashing piano and static guitar feedback


The band wrote Headful

psychedelic dancefloor menagerie on tracks

matters. To begin, how are you today? NICK KIVLEN: Pretty good! We’re at our practice space in Long Island right now. We were recently on tour and then we hadn’t seen each other for a week, so we’re just ecstatic to be together again. This album seems to mark a real artistic breakthrough for the band. Would you agree? KIVLEN: Well, it definitely broke our brains to make it! JULIA CUMMING: It’s definitely the hardest project I’ve ever worked on. It’s funny because, as we’ve been doing press for the album and talking about it more, I’ve realized how much of a lifeline it’s been during the pandemic. The band has always been the core of our focus — our dream, our passion, our career — and that’s never changed, but since the pandemic, we’ve

sort of experienced an identity crisis after

had continued at the pace we were going

losing the ability to tour and perform. But it

before the pandemic, even though there’s

all ended up pouring into the album, even

not necessarily a silver lining in that, it’s just

though we never knew when or how it would

kind of what happened.

come out. We spent the past year and a half

KIVLEN: Also, being upstate didn’t exact-

writing everything we wanted to write, and

ly influence the album in the ways people

no ideas were off the table. And at the end of

might expect. It’s not a very acoustic or folky

that journey, we ended up putting together

record. It almost felt like we were reacting

what became Headful of Sugar. So, I’m glad

against the domestic setting we were forced

that aspect of the album is coming across.

into while living in this very quiet house up

Were you mostly together or apart during the writing process? CUMMING: We spent the first three months apart and moved upstate to the Catskills together for six months in May 2020. From that point on, we operated as a pod, where our lives only revolved around each other, so that we could maintain that writing streak. It gave us a great way to work. I’m from New York City and Nick and Olive are from Long Island, so we’ve always utilized being outside of the city to work. And we’re extremely grateful that we had that chance to allow each other to develop as writers. There was a lot of artistic development that wouldn’t have been able to happen if we

in the mountains. All of the songs were extremely influenced by city life, where you always have somewhere to go, people to meet, places to be, and things to do. So, it’s not a very rural record even though it was recorded upstate. CUMMING: The song “Post Love” was heavily inspired by these DJ club nights I used to frequent in the city. I really wanted to make a Sunflower Bean song that you could dance to at the club. And a song like “Stand by Me” is what I would imagine playing at a festival. So, both of those songs are how I hear these live experiences with people. And with songs like “Who Put You Up to This?” and “In Flight,” there’s the theme of breaking away and finding a sense of freedom. So,


we used these themes and genre tie-ins to

a record that provided relief in such bleak

sort of play into where and how we wanted

times. We went through so many songwriting

these songs to be heard.

phases and what made it onto the record

That’s so interesting. I remember writing in my notes while listening to the album that “Post Love” sounded like ESG and Carly Rae Jepsen had a baby.

CUMMING: Honestly, that is my favorite description of the song so far!

ended up being the most fun. This is the first record we’ve made that truly feels like living in the now and looking towards the future, rather than hacking away at nostalgia. OLIVE FABER: I agree. We’ve definitely re-

jected the vintage aesthetic. CUMMING: And we never wanted to be a

It feels like you’re bringing listeners to the

vintage band, but when you are in a band,

dance floor on this album. What pushed you

you’re still upholding a vintage concept.

in that particular direction?

KIVLEN: Exactly. Confession: I was OB-

CUMMING: We definitely wanted to make

SESSED with the ‘60s and ‘70s when I was 21.


CUMMING: As we all are. And I think one

the local Brooklyn indie scene. We played

thing I’ve also realized since making this

at Death by Audio, 285 Kent, and all these

album is that we’re the true zillennials. We

venues that aren’t around anymore. And that

spent a majority of the first leg of our career

was like peak millennial hours, the boom of

trying to fit in with the millennials, but we

Brooklyn indie music. And we always did

never succeeded. And we were also in the

things that were considered “uncool” by our

first age group who started listening to iPods

peers because we simply had our own code

before transitioning to streaming. People

of things that we liked. We thought it was

have always kind of looked at us and said,

cool to dress up for the stage, we thought it

“How do you transition so effortlessly be-

was cool to promote ourselves, we thought it

tween mediums?” And it’s kind of just what

was cool to play guitar solos. We loved classic

we’ve always done, it’s kind of a no brainer.

rock and we loved the type of songwriting

So, this record is sequenced like a mixtape or

that was considered uncool at the time.

a playlist that you would give to a friend who

The culture around us was very much a

you want to share this thrilling experience

DIY, flannel shirt-wearing, only playing noise

with. I didn’t realize it until we put the record

music with ambient vocals type of scene. You

together, but then it dawned on me that it

weren’t going to score any points with any

mirrored exactly how my listening habits

musical references that were considered

fluctuated as a child, and that’s something

dated or corny. It was ultra-cool indie hipster

that Gen Z does extremely well. A lot of older

time in Brooklyn. And no disrespect to that

people around the world always look at Gen

culture — we’ve always loved that music

Z and wonder, “How do they do it? How do

and learned a lot from it — but it just wasn’t

they so effortlessly adopt all these differ-

who we were. We wanted to do stuff that was

ent cultures, tastes, and styles without any

more based in glam rock, punk, or classic

judgment or stress?” It always felt natural.

rock. And now, so many of those things that

It’s just pure fun.

were considered cringeworthy when we were

KIVLEN: And also a little schizophrenic.

younger are considered cool now.

CUMMING: Exactly. Fun and schizophrenic.

FABER: But embracing the cringe is usually

And we’ve realized that we’re far more con-

a good thing. Because if it’s getting that re-

nected to that than any of the millennials

action, then it’s making you feel something.

whose approval we were constantly chasing.

KIVLEN: And now, we’re at a point where it

Why do you think you felt so much pressure to earn the approval of your millennial peers? KIVLEN: Olive and I started out playing in

feels like people are embracing it wholesale. I feel like, even in 2012, it would have been considered cringe to say that you like Nevermind. Can you imagine that? Nowadays people can say things like, “Blink-182 is the




greatest band of all time!” So, you think we may have overcorrected a bit by embracing the cringe? KIVLEN: [Laughs] Yeah, maybe a little bit, but I’m still glad we’re at a point where people feel more comfortable embracing the things they actually like.

album where you surprised yourselves? CUMMING: I think the whole thing was pretty surprising. FABER: I think “Who Put You Up to This?” was the first time we realized that we had outdone ourselves. I feel like that’s the type of song we’d been trying so hard to write

Olive, you co-ngineered this record. What

for so long.

did that process look like for you?

CUMMING: “Baby Don’t Cry” and “Beat

FABER: Yeah, I didn’t exactly have much

the Odds” were major breakthroughs as

formal experience with mixing and engineer-

well, especially with drum sounds. We were

ing. But after we finished touring with Beck

experimenting a lot and it was great that

and Cage the Elephant in the summer of

we had that time to really learn about what

2019, I suggested trying to write and demo

we liked. We worked on it right up until the

the songs as we went along. I made a little

moment we turned it in.

recording set-up and it kind of snowballed from there. When the pandemic kicked into

That definitely shows.

gear and we were writing at least one song

CUMMING: Thank you! One thing I really like

per day, it became an opportunity for me to

about this record is that we could never go

record one song per day and try to improve

into one studio and recreate it, especially the

on what I had done the day before. It was a

back-and-forth rapport we had with Jacob

really great learning experience, having to

Portrait, where we would add something to

pick up all these new skills at a really fast

a song, and then he would take it and flip it

pace. Each day was a new day to try some-

upside down. It’s the compounding of sound

thing new, because there’s nobody else in

that makes it really special for me. There’s a

the room with twenty years of experience

lot of sound effects from upstate that made

trying to pigeonhole me into doing some-

it onto “Roll the Dice,” like sirens and pots

thing “the right way.” As a result, I might not

and pans.

have ended up with what I wanted, because I would have been doing what I was told to do. For me, the process was about trusting my ear and the ears of the people around me, and letting that guide me through it all. Well, you definitely succeeded. Was there


any specific moment while recording this

On another note, what are your thoughts and feelings on the state of live music at the moment? CUMMING: We’re definitely very grateful to be playing shows again, because it was a major loss at the start of the pandemic,

especially for acts like us. Touring was our

CUMMING: I really like this band called Hel-

main source of income and it also was a great

lo Mary who’s opening for us on a few of our

source of happiness and identity. I think the

East Coast dates. They do really jazzy rock

state of things is extremely confusing right

and you should definitely check them out.

now, especially since a lot more of the fair

FABER: I’ve been listening to Frost Children

weather fans haven’t returned to live music,

a lot. They just played a show at Elsewhere

which is fully understandable. We were just

and they’re extremely innovative on the elec-

in the UK where everyone is vaccinated, and

tronic side of things.

in the U.S., things are not like that.

KIVLEN: I haven’t been listening to much

We’re all about discovering new music here.

music since we’ve been on the road. I went

Who are some of your favorite acts at the

to see Frost Children with Olive at Elsewhere


and they were amazing, so I would definitely recommend them as well.


Vundabar Take A Look Inward on Devil For The Fire: A Conversation In Lockdown by Erin Christie



Boston-born rock outfit Vundabar may have risen to increased prominence with the recent TikTok virality of their 2018 track “Alien Blues,” the group has been making waves for years prior, namely, in the city they once called home. Characterized by quirky yips and adlibs, a jangly indie-pop/art-rock sound, introspective lyricism dripping with sweeping metaphors, and a true homegrown feel, the band has struck a chord with listeners, landing amongst their peers in the sought after “undercurrents” Spotify crowd. More than just another Northeast rock band, though, Vundabar is in a lane of their own, on a path that weaves in and out of popular convention while ducking into uncharted territories of indie-rock cool. That’s the gist of their story — Vundabar is just plain cool. A fate that many were dealt that year, the band’s 2020 album Either Light sadly came out during the most inopportune times, and as a result, it, and many other spectacular records released at that time, wasn’t grantethe amount of attention it rightfully deserved. While watching the world crumble before their eyes — in addition to facing the disappointment that came with not being able to

adequately celebrate a record they intensely labored over and canceling a tour — the band still managed to keep afloat while in isolation and after a move to Northampton, resulting in another new full-length, Devil For The Fire (out April 15). Aside from worldwide stressors, another primary influence on the new album’s direction was a personal hardship frontman Brandon Hagen endured amidst the months spent in quarantine: his father suffering a stroke. While coping and caring for his loved ones — in addition to reading heavily about the secrets of the brain via books harbored by his social worker and psychologist roommates — he didn’t stop writing, and as a result, Devil For The Fire is Vundabar’s heaviest and most emotion-laden record yet, an introspective look inside the mind and at the tumultuous time between now and the release of their

last record, a period that has proven elemental in the band’s creative arc. Thematically vulnerable and driven toward existential musing, the album is drenched in lush production and speckled with various genre’d influences, including an air of surf-rock glamour (see “The Gloam”), swirling fuzzed-out jangle-pop (see the record’s title track), and even rollicking folk melodies (see “Listless Blue”). With a tracklisting that bounces from end to end, but remains cohesive, the record is a true mixed bag and also a headstrong stride toward technical mastery for the group, an especially impressive feat noting that the project was helmed solely by the band themselves. With a beating heart that isn’t afraid to bleed, Devil For the Fire contains some of the greatest tracks of their career thus far, and points toward a new era of Vundabar, one 61

that’s truly and fittingly wonderful. One year prior to the release of Devil For The Fire, I spoke with Brandon Hagen about the album, its real-world inspirations, and how he was feeling given the state of the world at the time. ______ To start, how's your week going? Brandon: Ah, my week is good. We have an IRL socially distance show through Amherst College, so, we're practicing, which is just really strange. That's cool! Aside from working on getting back out there with live shows, have you guys been working on anything new in the off-time? Brandon: We just recorded another project. And, I mean, we can't say, but basically, it's gonna be an album that we're not announcing that it's a record until the third single. We're gonna do it as like A-side/B-side, so four A-sides/B-sides, and the third one, we announce it's a record and then we're announcing dates with the third single. But yeah, so, next month, we're dropping some new music and people can figure out it's a record as we're dropping. So, are you guys like gonna be experimenting with playing any of that live yet, like at this upcoming show?


Brandon: Yeah, at this show, we're playing two songs from that and getting that squared away. But I think it

will be strange. I think it's not just a show, but an event that people mill through. But it'll be fun. It's just nice to have to prepare for something, you know? Speaking of, new stuff on the way, what did that creative process look like, given the chaos of the past year? Brandon: I wasn't really writing anything, but it was really fast. I feel like we wrote and recorded it in three or four months, and usually, it takes us about a year to get it from something we can play together to something that is a finished, recorded song. I mean, I always have a bunch of ideas, like 1,000 voice memos, so we needed some pressure and just booked studio time. We're like, "Okay, we have to do this now." It was a lot quicker and definitely less precious. On the first record, I think we were only in the studio for a week and a half, and on the last record, I think we were there like, in total, probably about a month, and it was self-produced. We recorded Gawked at the same studio — it's just like a tape studio — so, in a lot of ways, it's a more live-sounding collection of songs. I also started getting into composing for films and documentaries and stuff like that, because I don't have any work anymore. I mean, it's just something to do since I know how to record and mix and master and also write songs. So it's like a progression of like, "Oh, if you want music for your thing, I can do that for you." And then I honestly think that once this next album starts rolling, I

think we're gonna start on another record. And with the process of conceptuallY figuring out where you wanted the new record to go, what did that look like? Was it a lot of individual ideas coming together, or was it mostlY cohesive? Brandon: It was kind of this insane coincidence where I live with three different social workers/psychologists so they have all these books in the house about neuroplasticity, which is essentially how everything you do changes the shape of your brain and, and how most of your sense of reality and self is a matter of habit. So, I was reading a lot about that and a lot of the studies that have been done on that are from stroke patients, because they're people that have had a portion of their brain die, and they have to rebuild. And I mean, the notion before the '90s was that your brain isn't plastic, like you are who you are and you're stuck in that. And then with stroke patients, if your language part of the brain is knocked out, people can still figure out how to speak again, or if a part of the brain that operates your left arm is knocked out, you can learn to move it again, so it's basically like saying a lot about the malleability of reality and perception and how pliable it is. And then, in the middle of starting on the record, my dad almost dies and has a stroke and is diagnosed with aphasia, which essentially knocks out the language center of your brain. And so, he basically had to relearn everything. It was like all those

things I was reading about and thinking about and writing about just suddenly became much more visceral, and I was seeing it play out in real-time. So it was this mindfuck, and it sort of created an immediacy. I think it's a really emotional record, because I was literally at the hospital, at the studio, at the hospital, at the studio, and then also just getting COVID, and COVID being a thing every time I went anywhere….So, I mean, it's definitely a cathartic record in that way. And a lot of it is about things warping as you're moving through them, I guess. Then also, there's a hopefulness to it, because there's that possibility that you can change and create a new sense of reality for yourself.

Yeah, definitely. It sounds like there has been a lot of sensory overload going on. Brandon: There's a lot of that in it too, yeah. It's called Devil For the Fire, so it's sort of like a play-off of like, 'can't see the forest for the trees,' which is like, so much how I was feeling [laughs]. I feel like I've been having a lot of interviews with artists who weren't able to write and record in person during this time, and having to do that must feel like having an email conversation where you're writing and not reallY able to mesh everything together seamlesslY. How did the separation work out with you guys with regard to this album?

Brandon: Well, Drew and I lived together, so we used that and the pod for the entire time, so there's not that distance and that didn't really affect us that much. And then with our practice space, it's just us in here, so that hasn't really impacted us. I think our [last] record came out the week that lockdown happened, and as it went on and people started to continue to put music out, people got their footing, like, "Okay, how do you work a record?" But we tried to do what we could, and it was kind of this weird thing where you just have to say, "Okay, that's just how that is." Obviously, you can't anticipate something like that happening, and it's like, “How do I celebrate something I made and feel proud of right now?” Brandon: Well, that's the thing, too. It sort of all takes a backseat, as so much was happening that was so much more important.


That said, a year and some change later, you guys are going to be pushing a new project forward. How do you think you'll approach this new project and putting it out in the world? Brandon: In a lot of ways, it feels like a turn. I felt like Either Light was, for us, sort of left field. And this is a lot more — I don't know, we're definitely sort of relying on instincts a lot more, sonically. I mean, there are new sounds. But, in terms of the release, I think touring will come back by the time the songs will be here, and we're announcing dates for February, so, hopefully, by February, we can just go on tour and drop some videos and do a little this and that. I wouldn't say we're the most technologically inclined band. If you could just put a record out and tour on it to promote it, that sounds good to me, you know? It's like you need to make the Vundabar TikTok account at this point. Brandon: Well, funnily enough, one of our songs ended up getting picked up by all these teens on TikTok, recently. It's super random, but it makes sense to me in a way because I wrote this song when I was a teenager and teens are feeling these teenage feelings. And, you know, there was no effort on our end; it just sort of happened. So it was like, "Oh, cool. This thing is happening." But yeah, the TikTok game...I just feel like I feel old [laughs].


Yeah, it's something I truly don't understand. Like, the

whole TikTok marketing's ieveryone's home, you know what I mean? So yeah, I think it works for that. I really liked Bill Callahan's Gold Record and the way he did it, where he just dropped a new single every three weeks until the whole record was out. Yeah, that makes sense. It's definitelY true that our attention span, especiallY in this time where everybody's home, has definitelY been a little decreased. And circling back, you kind of touched on this a little bit, but sonicallY, where would you say this new record fits into Vundabar's history? Brandon: It sort of reminds me of the energy of some of our earlier stuff. It's definitely a lot rawer than the last record, but it's definitely not like Back To The Shack by Weezer [laughs]. The energy feels older, or just like a return to instincts. We also changed a lot up, using a lot of synths and sub-base, and a lot of stuff we haven't done before. Do you think the sound was partly inspired by the fact that it really was more homegrown, that it was solely a Vundabar project without outside influence? Brandon: I think we created a lot of pressure for ourselves on the last record, and the tour that would have gone with it, and seeing it as a big step. And then that didn't pan out. With the last record, if I had a critique of it, I think we were critical to a fault where maybe some of the

spontaneity got weathered out of it. And with this one, we just saw this whole thing fall apart, and we were like, “Well, we like doing this, so let's just make another one.” But also, I sort of fell out of love with guitar on the last record and wrote a lot on piano, and this record, I sort of got excited about guitar again, and I think that was definitely a contributing factor to how it came together. Did you have like any struggle getting motivated to work on something new given the circumstances, or like you said, did it start coming together based on sheer willpower? I feel like we've always been pretty resilient. I mean, I just don't have expectations for things anymore. I think it's a good rule of thumb, or just a good way to not get jaded. I think if you put all this pressure and expectation on yourself, and something doesn't do what you want it to do, you're crushed, but if you go, “Well, I hope people like it,” then that's great. But yeah, I'm kind of always writing, so that's never been an issue. I'm always jotting and putting down ideas. It's more like I've always had a

hard time with — once it's record-finishing-time — committing to seeing all of those ideas through, and I'll run away from that all day. So, for me, it was a matter of routine and clearing away the mental space, and it's always been that, for me; it's not unique to the pandemic. Holding the mental space and creating the environment you need to make that happen. You know, I think the hard thing with the pandemic is that your routine and all those boundaries you create for yourself are self-enforced for the first time. I mean, my life prior to the pandemic was nowhere near as structured as a lot of people's lives are, just by way of like what we do, and how every hour is accounted for when we're traveling or working. But yeah, it’s just down to being strict enough with yourself and figuring out how you can get to a place where you can actually finish something and be in a creative zone that can bear fruit, I guess. Yeah, that's definitely a process, having to create your own deadlines during this time must be such a rough thing because it's one thing having a ton of ideas and then executing them. Brandon: My sister and my

Keep up to date via Vundabar via their socials, and listen to Devil For the Fire, out now. AdditionallY, catch Vundabar on tour at a city near you!

dad would tell me this all the time, and I never did it, but I started doing it during the pandemic — they're just like, 'Write down every single thing you want to do in a day and then just have that be your day.' And yeah, that has been what I've been doing, because if I just floundered through every day, I'd feel like a massive piece of shit. But I try not to beat myself up. I feel like everyone's sort of having to reckon with that, like, “Oh, work is home now and home is work and outside is danger.” In general, what do you think is the light at the end of the tunnel, or at least this specific tunnel, right now, for you? Brandon: I love going to the movies, it’s my favorite pastime. So, going to a movie and just getting to play a show will be great. I’m just excited for when it will return, what it’ll look like. For everyone, it’ll be like primal scream therapy. Yeah, holding on to that! Have you been watching any good movies latelY? Brandon: I’ve been watching a lot of film noir and that played heavily into the album — just the way they use light, and fog, and steam, and the way they compose the movies, it’s really mind-bending, and that played a lot into the imagery of the record in terms of reality-warping. That was definitely my favorite thing about Boston, too, just the theaters like Brattle, Coolidge, Somerville Theatre…and there was always something good playing.



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