the team editor in chief gabi yost creative director jared elliott public relations ava butera & ashleigh haddock photography coordinator heather zalabak photography assistant caleigh wells production jiselle santos & hailey hale social media nina marshall & maegan stapleton editor erin christie marketing mallory haynes, mckayla grace, & rachel albright
the contributors writers
amelia zollner, caylee robillard, carly tagen-dye, christianne gormley, erin christie, hailey hale, katie upchurch, katherine stallard, mckayla dyk, susie mckeon, sydney wisner
caylee robillard, eva dorsey, haylee finn, sarah rodriguez, susie mckeon, sydney wisner
georgia moore, becca burroughs, sydney wisner, kendall wisniewski
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A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Hi everyone! It’s been a minute! Heart Eyes is back and we’ve missed you! We’ve got a killer issue for you guys featuring Noah Kahan and amazing artists such as Saint Motel, Avenue Beat, and Billy Raffoul! 2020 has been amazing for music so far we’re only 2 months in. We’ve got some exciting things in the works for SXSW, and for the rest of the year! We love you all that’s for sticking with us!
gabi yost, editor in chief
interviews the aquadolls saint motel billy raffoul janet devlin noah kahan avenue beat mirei
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reads beach bunny review spotify vs apple music year of the strokes
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playlist for every mood
female photographer representation
photography angel olsen rex orange county local natives joy again weathers joseph echosmith
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Angel Olsen Photos by Heather Zalabak
Women Are Metal
an Interview with The Aquadolls
PHOTOS AND INTERVIEW BY SYDNEY WISNER
Happy Valentine’s Day to me because I got to share some love with The Aquadolls, a badass punk girl band based out of the LA area. On February 14, 2020, I sat down with The Aquadolls before their set at Stubb’s BBQ in Austin, TX to talk about musical inspirations, the struggles of being broke, and their upcoming tour. The Aquadolls consist of Melissa Brooks, lead vocal and guitar, Keilah Nina, vocals and bass, and Jackie Proctor, vocals and drums. These lovely ladies carry a powerful sound that leaves audiences with whiplash from headbanging, out of breath from dancing, and feeling empowered from impactful lyrics. I walked into the green room at Stubb’s and was greeted with open arms. The following conversation ensued... HEM: How did The Aquadolls come to be? Melissa: It was the project I started my senior year of high school, and I always wanted to start an all girls punk band, and after different life changes over the years, I finally found my all girl punk band. And now we’re touring together and making music and trying to play as many shows as we can. HEM: How long have you all been together? Keilah: A little over a year like probably almost a year and a half. As of July I think it’ll be a year and a half. Or as of July it’ll be two years. Sorry. Jackie: This line up, yeah. Melissa: Yeah, The Aquadolls started in 2012. HEM: How many different line ups have there been? Melissa: I can’t even tell you. Too many! Jackie: But this one is pretty solid, I have to say. Me and Keilah were fans of The Aquadolls and we kinda saw the rotations. Keilah: I think I saw at least three different rotations in my time of The Aquadolls. Jackie: But we’re pretty here to stay. Melissa: This is the best we’ve ever been. HEM: Who are some of your biggest musical heroes? Jackie: My hero is Dave Grohl. He’s my hero, he’s the one who made me quit hospitality, well
I wanted to do hospitality, I was going to do that for college, and then yeah, I saw him on MTV and was like ‘F that! I’m gonna do music!’ That’s me. Melissa: I like Gwen Stefani, she was my first concert in 4th grade. I love her voice, I love her style, I love No Doubt, I love her solo stuff. And yeah, she’s just an overall badass queen. Keilah: Mine is Patti Smith. I love her so much. Any kind of music from the 70s punk era is kind of what got me into it. Growing up I didn’t listen to anything cool. Both of my parents are deaf so I only got to listen to Radio Disney and Christian music so when I found other music… I just love Patti Smith so much. She’s one of my favorite people of all time. So she’s probably my biggest influence. Ever. HEM: Yeah, then I was gonna ask you if your heroes influence your music and how you write and things like that. Keilah: A little bit. Going back to Patti Smith, I have her pin right here [Keilah pulls out her backpack to reveal a big button with Patti Smith’s face on it], I just think the way she writes about things is so, like she’s so passionate about everything… Jackie: Yeah that’s how I feel. Keilah: Yeah it’s just like really inspiring seeing someone be so passionate about something that you love as well and I think that’s why I relate to her so much. And like she just didn’t give a fuck. Like, I just like her a lot and I think she’s the best. Melissa: I like Gwen Stefani because I think a lot of No Doubt’s, especially, lyrics are honest and
true and true stories and I like to use that with our song writing and make stories that are pretty relatable and people can be like ‘ooh I felt this way’ and I feel like Gwen does that a lot. HEM: I guess that kind of leads in to where I was going next. How do you find your inspiration in your writing? Like with your heroes… Keilah: Could be in the shower… haha. Could be having conversations, could be... Jackie: Experiences. Keilah: Journals. Jackie: It’s really... I mean honestly, the best songs to write about are relationships because first of all they’re probably one of the easier things to write cuz songwriting is hard already, but it’s easy
because it’s, like, it’s a natural thing. That’s what I mean by easy. Stuff comes to your mind because it’s something you went through personally. Relationships, like you talk about that, you write about it. And people relate! Keilah: Speaking for me, like, songwriting is probably the hardest thing. I personally... It’s really hard for me to write about stuff. I don’t know why. Like, if something happened to me I feel, like, really passionate or angry about it it’s really easy for me to write, but it’s kind of hard for me to kind of come up with an original concept. I have a lot of trouble with it, so I’m not going to take credit for any of that. But it’s a lot easier for me when the girls come up with an idea and building on it, I feel like I’m better at.
Jackie: Cuz then you can relate to those ideas. Keilah: Yeah. Cuz then it’s something I would’ve never thought of. Jackie: That’s how I feel it goes, too. HEM: Is writing usually a collective effort? Keilah: As of lately, yeah. HEM: So you all are going on tour. Keilah: Today’s day one! Of many. HEM: How long is it? Keilah: Almost two and a half months. We’re gonna be gone on and off until the end of April going into May. So we’re going to be gone for a while. There’s a few days where we’re home, but mostly we’re going on the road. HEM: Have you done that before? Melissa: Well we did a US tour in October and a mini tour in December but this is the longest that we’ve gone out. All together those were about one month, and maybe two weeks. HEM: Are you looking forward to it? Melissa: Well yes, I’m excited to go away from home and play shows and travel to places we’ve never been and back to places that we have been and play music. Keilah: This is our first tour I think where we’re not headlining. Except for this first show. But every other show we’re actually the main support for another band so I’m really excited to see how that is different to, like, when we headline. And just, like, how backstage things kind of go cuz usually we have a lot to do, like, maybe it’ll be some pressure off and we can just rock. Jackie: And it’s sick cuz we’re all girls and we’ve got an all girl crew. And it’s us three and our tour manager Lizzie, she’s in the back. Say hi. Lizzie: Hi! Jackie: But yeah, I just think it’s cool that we’re all girls. Keilah: Going on tour with all guys. Jackie: Haha yeah, though it’s kind of empowering and it’s good that we’re all friends.
Melissa: It’ll be good to represent. Jackie: It’ll be challenging but it’ll be really fun. HEM: I appreciate the rock girls…women. I feel like that’s a part of the industry that sometimes gets overlooked when you are just as powerful, if not more powerful. Keilah: Childbirth!! HEM: Exactly! Those birthing hips [laughter] Keilah: Yikes, not me. Jackie: Yeah not me [laughter] HEM: Women are metal. Keilah: That’s my next t-shirt. Jackie: Oooh, I like that. Melissa: I’d wear that. Cute. At this point in the interview, we took a quick break to discuss the TikTok where a girl got a tattoo that says “Dan Devito” with her knee separating “Dan” and “Devito”, thus completing “Dan KNEE Devito”. We all thought that was pretty badass. Then we talked about all our tattoos, which collectively include a snail, a vagina (for Jackie’s other band, Vag), and a pair of red lips. HEM: So I read a little bit about Aqua Babe Records, so that’s your [Melissa’s] company, that you own? Or… Melissa: It’s more like when I put [music] up on Spotify, it said ‘Enter record label name. If you don’t have one, make it up’. And I was like, okay, and I didn’t really know what to do, so I was asking everyone, like ‘Oh what do you think is cute? Is this cute?’ And I went with Aqua Babe Records because when I would send out our DIY merch I would write ‘To Aqua Babe Sean, or Aqua Babe Whoever’ and so I kinda thought that was a cute little thing and sometimes we call our fans Aqua Babes. So yeah, it’s a little extension.
HEM: My final question, what can we expect to see next from The Aquadolls? Keilah: New music! Melissa: Yeah! We just recorded with Fat Mike from Noah Fucks. We did three songs with him. Keilah: And Baz! Melissa: Yeah, and Baz, the composers. The songs are like, really awesome. One of them sounds very old school Aquadolls-y. The other two are a little more left of center than is expected of us. But I think it’s all three really cool songs. I’m not really sure when we’re going to be putting them out. Hopefully sometime this year. Keilah: Someone sign us. If you’re listening!!! Jackie: We’re broke bitches. But in the best way. Melissa: So yeah, stream our music and buy our merch. We have new merch through Stupid Rad Merch. We’ve been DIYing our merch for years. I did screenprinting and iron on and stuff and now we have a professional company that’s making everything for us. We’ve got our new merch at our show today so that’s cool. You can also find it on our shop. Buy our mech, it would mean a lot and help us continue to travel and tour and make art. Keilah: And someone should get my face tattooed on their butt. Melissa: Yeah, anyone who gets an Aquadolls tattoo gets free concert tickets for life. The Aquadolls all at once: PERIOD! Austin was the first stop on The Aquadolls tour, where they will be the main support for White Reaper and Beach Slang for the next two months.
HEM: Do you see it growing to be something to help other bands? Jackie: You [Melissa] helped me with mine. Melissa: Yeah, I helped record Jackie’s first band and that’s how we met and became friends. But yeah I don’t really know. I’m open minded to it. You never know.
REVIEW: HONEYMOON BY BEACH BUNNY Carly Tagen-Dye
It’s insane to see how big Chicago indie rock outfit Beach Bunny has gotten recently. If you wanted to get in touch with the band a year ago, all you had to do was shoot a message to their Gmail account; their guitarist, Matt Henkels, would reply within hours, more than optimistic to personally give away guest list spots and photo passes to their shows. They were an underground favorite around the Windy City, opening for names like The Front Bottoms and (Sandy) Alex G at local venues, and playing the smaller stages at Riot Fest and Lollapalooza. Though 2020 has barely begun, Beach Bunny already has much to be proud of. They are embarking on a major headlining tour this spring, getting featured in renowned publications like Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, and are still reeling over a new contract with NYC indie label Mom + Pop Records. The release of their first full length album, Honeymoon, on February 14 is just one more achievement to add to their steadily growing list.
That unabashed introspectiveness is what made us fall head over heels for Beach Bunny in the first place. It’s Trifilio’s lyricism and perceptive nature that is truly relatable, her words feeling like our own. Fan favorite “Dream Boy’’ is an anthem for those trying to find “the one,” all while being buried under the unrealistic expectations of that fantasy. Trifilio emphasizes the importance of her heart and boundaries, telling that hypothetical boyfriend, “if you’re gonna love me, make sure that you do it right.” It’s a wake up call in many ways. For all the emo vibes, Beach Bunny reminds us that there is still good in giving your heart to someone else. These songs are a push forward, the light at the end of the tunnel that lets us know whatever lies ahead is for the best.
For lead vocalist Lili Trifilio, being honest has never been an issue. She’s been releasing confessional-like songs under the name Beach Bunny since 2015, years before moving towards a full band, now featuring Henkel on guitar, Anthony Vaccaro on bass and Jon Alvarado on drums. It was her 2018 EP Prom Queen, though, that truly introduced the world to the songwriter who just gets it: all of the angst and turmoil of being young and in love. She’s quickly become the unofficial queen of heartbreak. Trifilio’s wallowing, raspy voice hits people where it hurts, and her solemn soliloquies have led many to question whether or not she is our generation’s Liz Phair or Alanis Morissette.
“Now I’m trying to write more empowering songs,” she states. “Maybe talking about the same things, but I have a more healthy mindset.”
The “sad girl” mindset can only go on for so long, though. In the aforementioned Rolling Stone profile, Trifilio hinted at her uncertainty about the new release at hand.
Trifilio is already thinking about her own future as well, hoping to continue progressing as a songwriter who creates material that matures as she does.
Honeymoon remains an album to latch onto nonetheless. It’s an auditory manifesto for anyone trying to gain control over themselves; an ode to the people we are, the people we were, and the people we hope to become. Honeymoon knocks down the walls we’ve put up around ourselves. Within these songs, we see the reward in expressing our frustrations, in validating our vulnerabilities. Though we may make mistakes—whether in love or artistry—we are also allowed to grow from them. Like Trifilio sings to her lover on “Cloud 9,” “you will always be my favorite form of love.” Beach Bunny, with their constant retrospection, will always be ours too.
“The majority of Honeymoon was written in 2018 and recorded in 2019, and I feel like [during] those two years, I was going through a lot of life changes,” she admitted. “At the time, I didn’t really know my worth and had lower self-esteem, so a lot of the Honeymoon songs are dramatic, sad ballads.” Honeymoon definitely feels like a downer at some points. It probably stems from the album’s ironic title, most of the songs feeling more appropriate for break-ups than a post-wedding party. Still, Honeymoon stands for a moment in Beach Bunny’s career that deserves to be explored in depth. It is the band’s ability to create those relatable, mosh-worthy songs that has gotten them this far; Honeymoon does not disappoint in that respect. Opening track “Promises” is the power punk anthem that is sure to open the pit later this year, even with its intense insight into insecurity and paranoia. “Rearview” speaks to constantly feeling inadequate alongside a soft acoustic opening, before erupting into a cacophony of guitar. Songs like “Ms. California” are the closest thing Gen Z will get to grunge. Trifilio is witty with her lyrics, poking fun at the hypocrisy and unrealistic expectations of Hollywood (“Everything’s better in California,” she practically sings with a sneer).
Photos by Sydney Wisner
SAINT MOTEL Interview by Katie Upchurch • Photos by Sydney Wisner Los Angeles-based band Saint Motel is currently on a tour of the United States in support of their new album, The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Pt. 1. The album is a visual, cinematic, and musical experience tied up into one album. The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Pt 1 is reminiscent of old Hollywood. Everything, from the visualizer videos that accompany the album to the songs themselves, depicts a cinematic feel. We had the opportunity to speak with Saint Motel’s frontman and lead singer, A/J Jackson, about the inspiration for this new era in Saint Motel’s sound and look. HEM: What was your biggest musical and visual inspiration for The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and the theme behind the album? A/J: The concept happened on a plane. I remember reading a magazine— and I was sitting next to [Aaron] Sharp—and there was an ad for a movie so we started talking about how that would be a fun idea for an album. We were already talking about a different concept for an album but then we were like “Oh, yeah that’s perfect!” And that’s it. We didn’t know how it was going to work or anything. HEM: You created visualizer videos to accompany every song on the album. What inspired you guys to make those? A/J: We wanted to do something that wasn’t just a thumbnail of the album cover, we wanted something that was kind of cinematic and unique for each song and something that could progress through every song. We wanted something that was clearly not a music video but something that was better, more intricate. Something with cinematic quality. That was kind of a challenge because we only had a small budget to get it done. We worked with the same cinematographer that made the trailer for the album and we shot it at a friend’s soundstage so we made it work. HEM: Which visualizer video was your favorite one to make? A/J: I mean, I like them all. The one we did for “Old Soul” definitely surprised me. I feel like it represents the cinematic aspect really well. But they all have really cool parts. I love the intro part in “Diane Mozart” where you kind of see the ballerina getting ready. “Van Horn” is so upbeat and has so much fun stuff going on. “Sisters” was really cool because it was the first
one we shot so it was kind of ‘the experiment.’ [With] “Save Me,” it was tough to figure out what to do for the dance because it was a more emotional song but I think it actually came out really well. HEM: My favorite song on the album is “Sisters;” I am a big sister so I feel like I related to it in a couple of ways. What’s the story behind this song? A/J: I have a big sister myself but the song is based around an old sample from the Shepherd Sisters. I kind of put it together and kept the idea of the Shepherd Sisters in my head while making it. HEM: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Pt. 1 consists of only 5 songs. Can you tell us a little about what is coming next with the project? A/J: Part 2 of the album is coming pretty soon and I think it picks up pretty well where we left off. “Save Me” [the last song of Part 1] is kind of a call-toaction in the storyline of the album. I think Part 2 goes to some interesting places and uses some sounds that are different. Part 2 is the conflict part of the album series. HEM: You guys are on tour in the U.S. right now through March. What sets this tour apart from others? A/J: The Motion Picture Show tour is unlike anything we’ve ever done before. The idea was how to make the audience feel like they’re inside of a movie without just staring at a big screen behind us. We do it in a pretty interesting way. It’s an immersive experience that the audience is apart of and we take them through a couple of different scenes that flow like one giant movie. HEM: Looking at photos from this tour it seems like you guys have been wearing some pretty cool outfits. Can you tell us a little about your looks? A/J: We have a few wardrobe changes throughout the night. It’s been a little hard to plan out the time we need for each change so everything needs to be easy on and off. They’re all fun; each wardrobe change is enjoyable. HEM: If The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was going to be the soundtrack to an actual movie what movie would it be? A/J: The movie we’re creating right now. The soundtrack comes first and we’re creating the movie bit by bit.
Saint Motel’s newest album is out now. Stream it and check out the band on tour!
Photo by Jesse De Florio
Interview by Hailey Hale In the world of rock and soul, a new artist emerges into the spotlight. With a deep, soulful voice that makes you feel every emotion to the plucky guitar that is always at the forefront of the songs, Billy Raffoul proves time and time again that he is a musical genius. I got the opportunity to sit down with him in late 2019 and ask a few questions about all the ins and outs of creating beautiful music, touring, and everything in between.
released the Running Wild EP earlier this year and usually after an EP comes out, an album follows soon after. Is there anything we should be looking out for? Absolutely! We’re doing our own version of it, so we’re just slowly going to put out more and more songs that are eventually going to culminate into an album and ‘Easy Tiger’ is one of them.
Nice! Speaking of music and putting out a lot of I want to know what some of the best moments stuff, I’ve noticed you’ve put out a lot of acoustic have been so far and which dates you’re most covers of your songs and you’ve done a lot of looking forward to? acoustic performances, so I want to know if you Well, we only have a handful left. It’s been a long prefer doing the more acoustic style compared to tour, it’s been a lot of fun. We’ve had some great having a full band and why? nights and with some of the cities you expect to have I like them both for their own reasons. Right now really great nights like New York and Los Angeles, I’ve been playing this entire tour by myself, so but we’ve also had some great nights in unassuming I don’t want to say I’m used to that but it’s just and smaller cities. Fairfield, Connecticut has been nice to change it up every once in a while. I don’t one of our favorite stops. We just had a fun night in know, sometimes we chose to do it with a band and Bryan, Texas the other day so there’s been some that sometimes I’m by myself but I always want to be are unassuming. Something that we take away from able to do both. I don’t know if I have a favorite. each show that’s been great for us. Yeah, that’s awesome! Speaking of touring, you It’s always good to have something versatile! played the Troubadour not too long ago, which is Something that I think is pretty cool is, you played huge! It’s a lot of people’s favorite venue to play, Rachel Ray’s SXSW showcase. I was wondering maybe even dream venue, so I want to know what how that went and how you would compare SXSW your dream venue is? shows to regular touring shows? Oh it’s for sure up in Canada. It’s under renovation It was super cool, the crowd was super awesome! right now in Toronto called Massey Hall. They were very responsive. I’d never played at Stubb’s in Austin before, it’s been there forever That’s fun! You just put out a song called ‘Easy and it’s very popular so it was cool because on the Tiger’ which if I’m not mistaken was inspired by a outdoor stage beside us there were some pretty big bakery in Austin? acts playing! Bleachers was there, you know Jack The artwork was, it was less inspired and more like, Antonoff, so we were in some really good company. we had stumbled upon it, saw that it had the same It was a lot of fun. name and were like “well we should take a photo”. Well that’s pretty cool! So, since that song is kind It seemed like it! Well, obviously, you’ve done of inspired by a place, I want to know if you could some really amazing things this year and played take all of your songs and combine them and make some really big shows, released some really good them into a place, what would it be and why? music, but what is your one biggest goal you want Oh jeez! Well, I’m sitting in a coffee shop right now to achieve before the end of 2019? so it’s easy to say it’d be a coffee shop. The song I just want to be touring the rest of the year to be titles would be different kinds of brew. I don’t know honest. We’re going to be announcing some more what the name of the shop would be though. tour dates very soon, and my goal is to have some That’s ok, it’ll be a work in progress. So, you more music out and to interact with more people. 27
That’s a good goal! So, with the touring, what are some places you really want to hit on this next tour? Well we’ve been going over a lot of things about these dates pretty extensively, which I love because you see familiar faces and you see more people than you did the last time, which is always good. I would love to get up to Canada, to where I’m from. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to tour Canada as much as I’d like so I hope on the next tour we get some more Canadian dates. That would be really awesome! Last question, because I figure you’re a pretty busy person, if there was anything you’d like to share with your fans and the readers of Heart Eyes Magazine, whether it be about the future of
your career or just something that’s been on your mind what would it be? Well, I’ve been working on a whole bunch of music for a very long time and we have so much that I want to put out and just to expect, if you’re a fan of the music and you’re wanting more music just know that it’s coming and there’s a lot of it. I know that’s not very exciting but it’s really the only thing on my mind right now. With so many big plans for the future and so many goals already achieved, it’s safe to say that Billy Raffoul has a bright future in front of him. Make sure to look out for more amazing singles and catch him on his A Few More Hours At tour starting this February.
Photo by Frank Ockenfels
INTERVIEW with JANET DEVLIN
By McKayla Dyk
HEM: Hi Janet! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat! Where does this interview find you? JD: Not a bother! It finds me on the outskirts of London, preparing for my last online shows of the year. HEM: You’ve released a great deal of Christmas music, so I’m assuming you celebrate the holiday. Any special plans for this time of year? What does a Devlin family Christmas look like? JD: I do indeed. I don’t have any special plans this year. My head is going to be planted in a book revising from my theory driving test! The day itself is rather simple. My family and will attend mass the night before, where I’ll sing a few hymns for my local congregation. We wake up early on Christmas day and open presents together. Have a massive family breakfast. Everyone branches off to visit relatives, call friends etc. We then have our dinner around 4pm - with copious amounts of food and crackers for well, the craic! In the evening usually sit down and watch a movie together, play monopoly or go visit some more family. HEM: For those who aren’t as familiar with your history as an artist, walk me through your journey up to this point. You competed on The X Factor UK in 2011. How have you grown as an artist since then? Do you still get nervous performing? JD: I would very much like to think that I’ve grown as an artist, yes. Well the pain point of growth would have to be actually releasing original music, as I hadn’t done so before the show. I believe that I’ve also grown as a performer too. Because yes, I still get nervous however it’s not to the same degree. When I was younger my nerves derived from a place of self hatred and lack of self belief. A few years ago I started to work really hard at accepting myself and being kind to myself. Since then, my nerves have become much more manageable. As they are less about my capabilities and more about making sure everyone in the audience has a good time and gets their money’s worth!
HEM: Most recently, you released “Saint of the Sinners” in November. This seems like a deeply personal project. What inspired it? Did you pull from your own religious background or is it more a social commentary? JD: The song was inspired by a time of a lot of self loathing and self sabotage. Though the track sounds as there is a muse, the track is actually written to me. I grew up very catholic. To this day I still find incredibly beauty in the language and terminology they use. I wanted to make the most of the part of my past but also, doing it in a respectful manner as this isn’t a religious album at all. HEM: What do you hope your listeners take away from the collection? JD: That its okay to be honest. It’s okay to be flawed, broken or damaged. You can create art from even the most painful and shameful parts of yourself. HEM: Since your time on The X Factor UK, your sound and look have both matured. (As a fellow redhead, I love your hair!) Do these changes signify a new chapter in your life? What’s the next step for you personally and professionally? JD: Thank you very much! The blonde is only temporary, but it was a reflection of a different point in my life. I moved back to Ireland three months ago with the intention of staying until March. I was born a blonde so it felt odd to bring my “showbiz” persona with the fiery red hair. My next step I suppose will be moving back to London in the spring and preparing for the launch of more songs and subsequently the album and the book! HEM: What can we expect with Confessional? JD: Honesty bathed in metaphors with a Celtic pop sound. HEM: The X Factor UK seems like a dream come true. What’s your next dream? JD: My next dream is rather simple really. Continue to create and release music. With the dream being that hopefully more people will hear it.
Photos and graphic by eva dorsey
A A PLAYLIST PLAYLIST FOR FOR EVERY EVERY MOOD MOOD By Katherine Stallard
Music makes moments. It’s as simple as
Sometimes it feels like there’s not enough
that. Whether it’s a night spent driving down
music in the world to capture what I need to hear
the highway, a high-energy throwback jam
in a moment. But by making playlists with distinct
session or a moment of reflection, music is
sounds and moods in mind, the opportunities to
there to define moments. For me, music is
make something to suit any situation are endless.
fundamental to the memories. Times may
On the days when I wake up to a sunny sky, I
change and so may my music taste, but
can put on my “Buenos Dias” playlist. And when
every phase of my life is illustrated by those
I’m feeling like grooving to some funky hip-hop I
songs, genres, albums or playlists, that made
can press play on “BOUNCE”. Or when I’m feeling
them special. That’s why for many, creating
on top of the world I can blast “invincible” from
playlists that embody these moments and
my fourth-floor level windows. It doesn’t matter
feelings are almost as important as the mo-
what you’re trying to capture as long as when you
put on your themed playlist you can feel whatever
While playlists may seem like just a placeholder for your favorite songs of the month,
it is you’re trying to feel. Another great thing about creating playlists on
playlists can go far beyond just a compilation
music apps like Spotify is that your playlists can
of your month’s favorite tunes. When you
become other people’s soundtracks too. It doesn’t
realize that creating playlists can become an
matter how personal; if someone looks up a key-
art rather than just a way to organize your
word and finds your playlists, something that was
music library, making playlists can allow you
personal and for you can suddenly become some-
to craft a soundtrack that is uniquely yours.
thing that might give someone else a different ap-
Playlists, (a level up from its mixtape prede-
preciation of their moment. Maybe your moment
cessor) with limitless themes, genres, moods,
can become theirs. Making specialized playlists
etc., can be paired with nearly any situation
can give you the unique opportunity to let music
for any reason.
speak for you when words can’t do it justice.
When it comes to making a specifically themed playlist, it all begins with picking a sound. Curating a sound for a playlist can take a bit of effort to get right, but the best thing about the process is that it’s all up to what you want it to sound like. Whether you want a compilation of songs that make you feel sexy, a playlist of songs that make an excellent pairing for a midnight drive, or a selection of songs that aid you in getting over a heartbreak—those songs you choose for your playlists are yours.
INTERVIEW + PHOTOS BY CAYLEE ROBILLARD
Noah Kahan is a 23 year old singer songwriter originally from Vermont. Last year, he released his debut album Busyhead, which was met with praise and deep relatability to the human experience. We had the chance to speak with him about inspiration, loss, and the beauty of home.
How was the experience of this headlining tour? How did it differ from being an opener to knowing people came to see you? Noah Kahan: The Busyhead Tour was the single greatest experience of my life so far. It felt so rewarding to see the results of putting so much of my soul and spirit into this album and show. The love and supportive environment in each and every room was so breathtaking; just the pure surreal-ity of it all boggled my mind. The band and I have spent three years traveling the country as the opener, grinding out for thirty minutes each night just trying to catch the attention of the folks who show up early, so being in that bigger green room with that later time slot felt like a hard-earned victory. It felt like we had truly hit our stride as performers. What was your favorite moment or stop on tour? What’s one thing from this run that you’ll remember forever? It’s difficult for me to choose one specific moment or city that stuck out as a clear favorite, simply because every day is different and every town brought something really unique every night. Atlanta was the first show of the tour that indicated that we were in for a really special tour with the wonderful energy that crowd brought. It was the first time we had folks singing every word, completely engaged. It felt like a movie. I took my jacket off and some kids in the front row were legitimately fighting over it. Shit was hilarious.
Playing in Boston and Burlington and seeing the overwhelming local hometown support for me was another moment that felt really special. Webster Hall in NYC, the first sold out show of the tour, was unforgettable too. One very organic moment that I’ll always remember is when we played our second sold out night in Burlington at Higher Ground (the venue where I used to go see concerts growing up). The House PA [all the sound] went out during “Young Blood,” which was our encore. I panicked and froze, as the crowd started to become restless, wondering what was going on. We decided to just play it acoustic, without any of the sound working, just to finish strong. We began singing and the entire crowd sang every word back. It was such a special moment, watching a sold out crowd sing the lyrics to a song I wrote about playing open mics. Crazy night. Busyhead is seemingly a voice for a generation of young people who are navigating what it means to feel, cope, and love within this world. What does it mean to you that your art has found a home in the minds and hearts of your listeners? Seeing this music connect with people and find a place in their hearts is the honor of my lifetime. I wrote a lot of these songs [while] feeling scared, alone, and depressed. It took a long time to document how I was feeling, and I can safely say putting these intimate stories into the world was the most terrifying endeavor of my life, so seeing them connect with people in such an intimate way has made all the hardship so worth it. It is just so incredible to know that I have helped people get through things. It’s what I always loved about music, that feeling of connection, so creating that for folks is just so important to me.
Being so young when you signed your record deal, how do you find the best way to stay grounded and not take yourself too seriously? Staying grounded is something I really emphasize in my life. I constantly try to remind myself that this is all absurd and to never let it feel pragmatic or routine. Allowing myself to stand back and appreciate how weird it all is lets me write like an outsider looking in. It’s easy to get bogged down by all the hierarchy and comparison in the music industry, so I really pride myself on being able to remain the person and professional I set out to be. You’re from a small town in Vermont; what impact did growing up there have on you? What do you think is the most valuable lessons the town you grew up in taught you? I think growing up in a small town nurtured imagination and thoughtfulness. It’s kind of like The Shining out there in Vermont, especially during winter time. There is a lot of time for self-reflection and introspection and that lent itself to a really vivid imagination as a kid. Knowing the same people my whole life, seeing the same things, being surrounded by the overwhelming same-ness of forests and hills and local roads forced me to escape into the unknown of my psyche, which I tried to explore in my songwriting. I think a lesson this town taught me is understanding how to withhold judgement from folks. I’ve felt supported and loved by the members of my community my entire life, and I haven’t always been an angel or a golden child. I’ve done stupid shit, I’ve messed up, and to always know my town has my back regardless is something I’ll always cherish.
“Carlo’s Song”, an ode to a friend from your childhood that you lost, made me choke up the first time I heard it live; the raw emotion of loss within the song is both devastating and beautiful. How difficult was it to write that song or was it a means of coping with grief? That song was very difficult to write for a few reasons. Writing a song that is a memorial, as was the case with this tune, is a tightrope walk. You want to share the sadness you feel, but you also want to do justice to the memory of the person in question. Carlo was a wonderful, warm, kind, and adventurous person, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t portray him or the effect of his loss in a way that felt too negative. Losing him has been the test of my lifetime, and has taken a piece of my soul from me, but I wanted to be sure his wonderful qualities came across in a positive and redemptive way, and that the tune wasn’t all about me. Finding that balance was difficult. I think the song has been a great way to deal with my grief because every night I play it, I make sure I think of a happy memory of Carlo during the break and allow myself to truly remember him. It’s a great way to keep his spirit alive. How have you come to terms with emotional vulnerability in your songwriting? Do you find it easier to open up through your lyrics? Being emotionally vulnerable is hard. It forces you to confront uncomfortable truths within yourself, and it forces total honesty. I can’t write what I don’t truly feel, so when the stream of consciousness-oriented process that I use to write songs is at work, I have to face a lot of ugly feelings and thoughts. Songwriting allows me to face my fears and to speak them into reality. Seeing these things I carry inside all day down on a piece of paper makes them seem smaller and less scary. I really love that about songwriting; it’s a little like therapy.
On a lighter note, what have you been listening to lately? Any new artists/bands that we should know about? I’ve been listening to a ton of JS Ondara. He’s this incredible singer songwriter from Kenya who moved to Minnesota to pursue his dream of being an artist. He has a timeless, heartbreakingly beautiful tenor voice that will stop you in your tracks. His recent album, Tales of America, documents his journey so far as an immigrant in a far away place, and really speaks to a feeling of self-discovery. I’ve enjoyed it so much so far. You’ve put out some incredible collaborations, from Gryffin to Julia Micheals. What do you find most valuable about working with other artists? Do you have a dream collaboration? Working with other artists and collaborating with other writers is great because it allows you to broaden your horizons musically. It can be so easy to get stuck in genre and style. Forcing yourself out of your musical comfort zone can be great for your songwriting perspective. I love that I am able to do different things and broaden my horizons as an artist. I know you’ve just finished up a major tour, but what are you looking forward to next? I’m looking forward to getting back out on tour as soon as possible, and writing new tunes and sharing them with you all.
We can’t wait to see what Noah does next, because it is sure to be driven by his immense talent and ability to make vulnerability accessible through his l yrics.
Avenue Beat is a country-pop trio comprised of 21-year-old friends Sam Backoff, Sami Bearden, and Savana Santos. Before their show supporting Mason Ramsey on November 15th in Charlotte, NC, I sat down with the girls: we discussed their eponymous EP released this past July, how their background in musical theatre has influenced their songs, and what it is like being young women in the music industry.
Sami: See, I would have cried at any Broadway show, based on the volition that it’s a Broadway show. But that one—that hecked me up so good. Sam: It really did! Sami: I listen to the soundtrack still, all the time!
So you’re all trained in musical theatre? What are your favorite plays & musicals? Sam: I wouldn’t say trained…we did it for fun! My favorite play is “Rent.” Sami: Mine is “Dear Evan Hansen.” Savana: We just saw our first Broadway [show] together, “Dear Evan Hansen”—cried the whole time. It’s a tearjerker.
How has the tour been? How’s Mason Ramsey? Sami: Oh, I love that little man so much. He’s our pal. We hang out with him backstage before the show and play theatre kid games that we teach him. It’s been really cool. We did a run with him in the spring, so it’s cool to see his fan base get more engaged. Like, the people who are there are there because they enjoy the music and love him.
You guys are from Quincy, Illinois, which is the same town as Jonathan Van Ness from Queer Eye. Have your paths ever crossed? Tell me about yourselves! How did you all get Savana: No, but they will. It’s bound to happen. your start and how did you meet? Sami: Yeah, Kathi Dooley, who they went back to Sam Backoff: We all grew up in the same small town makeover—she was our old choir teacher [and] that in Illinois, and Savana and I have actually known was our high school. Seeing it was so, so weird. We each other since we were babies. We met Sami all watched it together. It was a whole thing. probably around fourteen [while we were] doing musical a musical theatre camp in our hometown, What is it like being young women in music? and then we all just started singing together. Yeah, Sami: I mean...it definitely drops you in the deep end there were lots of things that happened in between, really quickly—making sure that you have to have much like life… and now we’re here! a really strong position. You have to have a thing or something that you really want to do, or else people What is everyone’s position in the band? will try to mess with that. So, it definitely is a lesson Sam: I produce and sing and play guitar. in becoming a self-affirming person at a very young Sami Bearden: [I play] Ukelele and beatbox. I sing as age. well. Savana: People are so quick to see a young female Savana Santos: Guitar and singing. artist and immediately be like, “Oh, I know who you are…you’re gonna sing about this and you’re gonna How did you come up with the name “Avenue sing about love and you’re going to style yourself Beat?” like this,” so you have to differentiate yourself. Savana: An online band name generator when we Sami: Which kind of sucks! There are so many were fourteen. different perspectives that women have, too, and Sam: We were doing a local talent show or there are like, six being played right now. So. it’s something in our hometown and we just went like—it makes it even harder to have a different online, clicked it once, and here we are! Never thing because there’s only six other people to changed it. compare it to… but it’s chill! It’s cool. I’m having a Sami: I feel like we sort of grew into it! good time.
What are the crowds like? Sami: All college kids, like our age, which makes it terrifying because [they’re] peers. Savana: It’s college kids and also young kids. Sami: It’s so weird but also, like, awesome.
You released your self-titled EP this past July. What has that been like, and what are everyone’s favorite songs? Savana: It’s crazy because we’ve just been friends fo forever, and I don’t think any of us thought that we’ make it this far when we started. We were just doing Any specific, memorable tour experiences? crappy YouTube covers in Sam’s kitchen and now w Savana: Just being able to make fans! have music that people are listening to! Sami: After, we’ll go and hang out and then we’ll swap Sami: Oh yeah, and, like, responding and reacting Instagrams and make friends. One time, there were to. We’ve gotten some really, really nice messages two girls who saw us on the first run and they became of people saying that they had a bad day or went friends that night [while] going to that show and then through a breakup and [one of our] songs helped, a they drove two hours to come and see a show this that’s just… everything! run. Savana: And then you’re just like, “Oh! This is why I d Sam: We found them after the show and gave them it!” many hugs. So, so wonderful. What is in store for the future? Another EP, a full Who are your biggest musical influences? Who length? What is 2020 looking like? would you most like to tour or co-write with? Savana: We’re definitely going to be putting out new Sami: Kasey Musgraves. music in 2020. Sam: Hands down. My yeehaw queen. Sam: Maybe hopping on another tour, but who Savana: One day, I want to do a song with Brandi knows! Carlile. Sami: We’ll probably stick to opening for now, Sami: Oh my, we just met her recently and so I’ve growing our audience… getting the lay of the land. been fangirling since that happened. Savana: I was quaking in her presence—an icon. And lastly, what is the best advice you have ever Sami: We all [laughs] we all have this shared love of received? Thomas Rhett so much and we say that if you’re not Savana: To be authentic and to speak your truth. In t Thomas Rhett… what are you doing? He makes some beginning, we were trying to do whatever we thoug good jams! everyone else wanted to hear and when we started Savana: He’s been so nice! Every time we’ve talked to writing stuff about our life, that’s when stuff started him, he’s been super nice. popping off. Sami: It would be cool to tour with him, or Kelsea Ballerini, or Brett Young, or someone. Oh yeah, people that have, like, fire shows. Sorry for saying fire [laughs].
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Photos and interview by
Interview by Christianne Gormley
Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, MIREI is a 23-yearold powerhouse making moves with her first English debut, “Take Me Away” (which shares a name with her forthcoming EP). The rising star’s music consists of dream-pop elements with R&B influences in collaboration with EDM songwriters and producers, Zak Leever and DJ Shiftee. MIREI is a singer and dancer not only making a statement, but also a mark on the world in addressing mental health and feminism, which she says are usually taboo subjects where she resides. We spoke to her about her journey and what she wants to contribute to the world with her music. HEM: I know you started producing your own music at 12-years-old—how did you get your start and what inspired you to start dancing and singing at such an early age? MIREI: I was a shy kid growing up, so dancing and singing was my way of expressing and communicating how I felt. I remember begging my parents for a MacBook Pro when I learned you could make a song on the computer. The rest is history; I’ve been making songs ever since. So at 13, you had moved to NYC and performed with a gospel choir. What was that like? Does that type of music play a role in your musical process today? Who are your inspirations? It was amazing! I initially came to New York because I wanted to improve my skills as an artist. When I arrived, I was blown away by all of the city’s talent. In a way, moving to the Big Apple helped me find myself. Once I joined the choir, I met other teens who, like me, were experiencing the woes of teenage-hood. And for us, singing was a form of healing. I learned that it’s more than just a skill—it’s an emotion that I, as an artist, tap into on and off the stage. Much like Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, and Mariah Carey, some of my inspirations, my process is to always evoke emotion and feeling in whoever is listening.
You caught your big break in eighth grade after being discovered and signed by your first major record label by winning first place at Amateur Night at the Apollo. How did you feel, and what happened right after that? I had an array of emotions that day. On one hand, I was incredibly happy, but on the other, I felt a huge wave of dis satisfaction because there was still so much that I wanted to do and explore as an artist. Not much changed after that. My life as a middle schooler and choir student resumed as normal. Around that time, you started working alongside talented producers such as DJ Shiftee and Zak Leever and you still work with them (and even drop by to work with them in Brooklyn from time to time). From New York to Japan, did you have to make any adjustments, musically, when moving back? There wasn’t any adjustment musically since I get a lot of my inspiration from New York, (and more specifically, Brooklyn). I love the city. Plus, Shiftee and Zak make work not feel like work. It’s always a good time when we’re making music/magic. I watched your “Take Me Away” video and was inspired by the beautiful aesthetic, including the hustle and bustle of Tokyo nightlife. In contrast, the lyrics include the reality of the pressures that come from living in a big city. When people watch or listen, what are the top things you want listeners and viewers of this intense video to take away? That you’re never alone in how you feel. Sometimes, living in a big city like Tokyo, it’s easy to feel like you’re going through the ups and downs of life all by yourself. So, I hope “Take Me Away” empowers and uplifts people. I read that in 2018, Japan’s youth suicide rate reached the highest it’s been in 30 years. And you said in your music you really want to touch on 57
mental health. Why is the subject of mental health so important to you? It’s important because mental health isn’t an easy topic to talk about, even with the people closest to us. In Japan, there are people who still carry the idea that “mental health is bad” and its thinking like that that discourages people from wanting to talk about how they’re feeling. Through my music, I want people to know that they don’t have to be ashamed, nor do they have to hide. From empowering women to creating conversations about the urgency to uplift and talk about hard subjects that you feel are not talked about enough, your work is really inspiring. Who is a woman that inspires you to keep pushing? Ke$ha. I loved her songs and thought she was so brave for being transparent, real, and raw with what she was going through [a little while ago]. It’s so important for women to support other women, and
that’s what I aim to do with my music. If you can go back to where you were a few years ago, what would say to yourself and other women who might be facing depression or anxiety right now? My message to other women is that you don’t have to fight your demons alone. A lot of us go through things and feel like we have to do so alone...but, we don’t. We’re so much stronger than we think. Your recent EP features a beautifully arranged, dance-pop and R&B sound that your audience can dance to and be encouraged by. Can you please describe it in three words? At the core, my EP Take Me Away is empowering, gentle, and warm.