taking a trip inside the latest record by
MOTHER MOTHER defying expectations with GAYLE: revisiting her hit single
exploring vulnerability and love with
AS IT IS invite
you into their world with new album
THE DRIVER ERA
Editor-in-Chief Mary Perez
Art Director Rebekah Witt
JenaRose Dahlstrom, Kayla DeLaura, Lexie Dopwell, Ashley Gallegos,
Sonya Alfano, Mia Andrea, Kayla Aquino-Gualderama, Polina Bakgof,
Erica Cardozo, Ravyn Cavanaugh, Brianna Celestina, Gianna Cicchetti, Sophie Harris, Adrienne Joelle, Caitlin Joy, Brooks Kirby, Astrid Kutos, Cailley Leader, Faith Logue, Emily Lopez, Vic Maltese, Jessica Matilszki, Lexi
McKenzie Moore, Stephanie Nardi, Jayne Pilch, Emilia Rangel, Cassie Fu Ren, Emily
Cover photo by Sophie Harris
Mallory Thompson, Chelsea Tiso, Mickayla Whitt, Tanya Wright, Anna Xu, Brigid Young, Emily Young
check out our latest website features and galleries!
Scotty Sire Ibbi Schwartz
58 issue 12 • february 2022
4 ��������������������������� UNDISCOVERED
12 ������������������������������� Carlie Hanson INTERVIEW
18 ������������������������������Top 21 of 2021
28����������������������������� Mother Mother
69 ���������������������������������������Bad Suns 40 ��������������������������Donna Missal INTERVIEW
46....Kayak Jones/Rich People EDITORIAL
51 ���������������������������������������GAYLE INTERVIEW
34�������������������������������Young Culture INTERVIEW
78 ��������������������������������������� 8123 Fest
80 ������������������������������� Knuckle Puck INTERVIEW
88���������������������������������������� Set It Off
58............. THE DRIVER ERA COVER STORY
90 ��������������������������������������������As It Is INTERVIEW
UNDISCOVERED Here at Kinda Cool Magazine, we’re always searching for the next big artist, as you never know who will take over the industry in the future. From singers that we grew up with to bands that we found as openers last year, we wanted to share some of our favorite rising musicians that we found and loved in 2021. Start off the new year by finding out more about some of our favorite discoveries of 2021!
GATLIN (she/her) How would you describe your music to someone who has never listened to you before? Indie pop with some rock influence. What was your favorite memory as an artist in 2021? I did my very first headline show in August at Mercy Lounge in Nashville. It was incredible! I also went on my very first tour opening up for Okey Dokey in the fall. What should fans expect from you in 2022? More music and more shows!
Tessa (she/her) and Wynter (she/her) of TOMMY LEFROY How would you describe your music to someone who has never listened to you before? Tommy is soft rock rooted in the lyric. We’re writers at heart, so the story is really important to us, and sonically we love playing with heavier elements like fuzz guitars, basement pianos, and distorted synths. What was your favorite memory as an artist in 2021? We had a lot of really memorable moments in 2021. We put out our first ever single and ultimately released our first self-produced EP in November. After a string of supporting shows in the UK, we sold out our first ever headline show in London. It was so gratifying and surreal to be so far from home and to hear strangers singing our lyrics back to us. What should fans expect from you in 2022? More music and more live shows! We’re currently writing and recording in LA, and we’ll be playing some festivals and shows in the UK this Spring/Summer.
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LANDON CONRATH (he/him) How would you describe your music to someone who has never listened to you before? Grungy guitar indie pop. What was your favorite memory as an artist in 2021? Played a DIY show in a garage in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. We played the first song and the crowd started to sing every word to the song, it blew me away. What should fans expect from you in 2022? The most music I’ve ever put out in a year. I’m also really crossing my fingers to be able to get on the road for a more substantial tour but obviously, everything is so up in the air these days in the world. I just really want to play more shows. I guess in 2022, I’m trying not to go into it with any outstanding expectations, I’m just gonna keep showing up and doing my thing. Keep writing, keep making, keep (hopefully) having fun with music.
Dacey (she/her), JT (he/him), and Nate (he/him) of DACEY How would you describe your music to someone who has never listened to you before? Dacey: I would say our sound is more alternative R&B/indie pop, but we like to overstep boundaries and try out different styles, so it’s always a surprise. I also come from a jazz, R&B/soul, and funk background, so I tend to incorporate that in my music. JT: Like Dacey mentioned, our music is a blend of alternative R&B and indie! Our sound is inspired by the music we grew up with—personally, I grew up with alternative/indie rock and try to incorporate that into the production of the songs. Nate: Indie RnB, with slight post-rock sounds. What was your favorite memory as an artist in 2021? Dacey: Favorite memory of 2021 was releasing our first album in January and experiencing our growth from there. After the drop of our EP, we were hit up by various labels across the world! We’re currently signed to IMPERIAL under Republic Records. JT: My favorite band memory would probably be releasing our first album, SATIN PLAYGROUND. All the work that we put in years prior was finally out for the world to hear. Nate: Despite having a terrible fever that was miraculously not COVID and a seated audience, our headlining show was probably the most memorable event of 2021! What should fans expect from you in 2022? Dacey: Y'all can expect upcoming singles and new music videos this year. One of the music videos you can expect is for one of our latest singles, “BITTER.” JT: A potential tour is in the talks for summer 2022—if all goes well, we'll be down the West Coast playing some cool shows down in the US! Nate: A more diverse sound, as opposed to generic RnB that sounds like a lot of what is already out there. (Not that they're bad, mind you, there's just a lot of it)
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AJ (they/he/she), Gihanah (she/her), and Marge (she/her) of CHOOSE YR WEAPON How would you describe your music to someone who has never listened to you before? Genre-less. We take pride in how the industry is embracing “genre-less” artists. As a band, we have committed to owning an outlook that current industry standards are a spectrum. By meaningfully keeping this point of view, we are allowed to make professional and musical decisions however we want. There is no rulebook, no lines to color inside, or any pressure for us to align with one specific genre. Each of us is a fan of so many different types of music, and we have different types of connections with so many audiences. Because of that, we continuously draw inspiration from a wide array of incredible artists. We want to be revolutionary. We want to reinvent the meaning of the word “genre.” We want to be able to break the industry’s status quo. We want to make good music, period. What was your favorite memory as an artist in 2021? Not many people know this, but we met online and lived in three different states when we first met and decided to create music together. So collectively, I think we can all agree that meeting each other last September for the first time for a writing camp is a favorite memory. When you meet “strangers” for the first time, you never know what you’re going to get. For us, our online bond was not just an online bond; it translated into “real life” interactions that ultimately brought all of us closer together. We can all agree that a close second was recording and releasing our cover of "Take Me Away." We were incredibly proud of the great feedback we received and that creating something so fun turned into something really successful. Not to mention, it was our way of tapping into the Y2K nostalgia that is really big right now. What should fans expect from you in 2022? Music. Also, A LOT of content. We can collectively say that we are both ambitious and intentional with everything that we do. That includes the people we work with; we want to continue to create and foster a community with people who want to see this scene evolve, specifically making sure that the music scene can be a safer, better place for all artists. Besides that, you’ll be seeing a lot from us this year and hopefully playing some shows as well. And hey, maybe one day in the near future you will see us touring with Paramore (at least we’re manifesting it—a band can dream right?).
Ronnica (she/her), Brandon (he/him), Tiffany (she/her), and Daniel (he/him) of MINT GREEN How would you describe your music to someone who has never listened to you before? A hodgepodge of genres: dreamy indie rock, punk at times, emo/alternative, pop at heart. What was your favorite memory as an artist in 2021? We got to open for Tigers Jaw in our hometown at a sold-out show. Tigers Jaw is one of our favorite bands and biggest inspirations. What should fans expect from you in 2022? New music! We have another single and a music video on the way. Also, we are hoping to play more shows on the Midwest & East Coast.
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Autumn (she/her) of KEEP FOR CHEAP How would you describe your music to someone who has never listened to you before? We like to use the term "prairie-rock" to describe our music. We specialize in powerful country rock with pop, indie, and punk influences. What was your favorite memory as an artist in 2021? I think my favorite memory this year was recording a TON of new music in the studio with the band. We all got super silly and played each other's instruments; it was SO fun. Another great memory of 2021 is when we had a lake day this summer in Northern Minnesota, recording the music video to our song "Segway." We recorded it on a pontoon on the lake I grew up on, so it was especially sentimental to me. Then we played a show in my backyard to my neighbors! It was a very special day. What should fans expect from you in 2022? OUR FIRST ALBUM!!!!! We have not announced this officially yet at all, but, nonetheless, we have a lot of new music coming out this year that we are absolutely ecstatic about. This new music is our favorite that we've ever made and really poured our hearts and souls into. Give us a follow to never miss our new releases and to catch the official album announcement sometime soon.
Austin Durry (he/him) and Taryn Durry (she/her) of DURRY How would you describe your music to someone who has never listened to you before? Taryn: We like to call it “nostalgic indie-rock.” A lot of times, folks don’t understand it until they really listen to it, but I think that hits the vibe pretty accurately. It’s pretty light-hearted, but also super honest and open about everything. All with a kind of 90’s/early thousands vibe to it. What was your favorite memory as an artist in 2021? Austin: 2021 has been an absolute whirlwind. Our first song came out in June. Then 3 months and 3 songs later, we released “Who’s Laughing Now,” and everything exploded. Those first 24 hours were absolute insanity. So much happened so quickly it’s hard to pick out a moment, but we’re trying to hold onto those memories as tight as we can, cause that blow-up was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was such validation to the years I’ve put into the music industry to finally have that breakthrough moment. What should fans expect from you in 2022? Austin: Honestly, we are just getting started. We have a ton of new music we’re rolling out. More videos, our first tour! We’re really gonna hit 2022 with everything we’ve got, it’s gonna be WILD. If you like what we’ve done so far, you’re gonna love where we’re headed. Buckle up.
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RICKY BRASCO (he/him) How would you describe your music to someone who has never listened to you before? Existential Psychedelic Synth R&B/Pop with alternative appeal, written and produced in my bedroom. Very much influenced by N.E.R.D., Frank Ocean, and others. What was your favorite memory as an artist in 2021? Working on my EP “SAY HI 4 NOW” the last six months with my friends became an escape for me. The world around me kinda disappeared whenever I made one song after another. I’m looking to expand on that and collab with anyone who has ideas. What should fans expect from you in 2022? Stream my EP "SAY HI 4 NOW!” Just the start though. A second EP is on the way for the summer! Live gigs soon! Hive Mind Merch and clothing! Other songs produced by Ricky Brasco! Whoever wants to work, just reach out! Genre doesn't matter!
SOPHIE EGAN (she/her) How would you describe your music to someone who has never listened to you before? I like to think of each one of my songs as a unique feeling that I am trying to understand or explain. Overall, I would describe my music as a shared portrayal of emotions that hopefully other people relate to. What was your favorite memory as an artist in 2021? I think one of my favorite memories was filming my first music video. In February of 2021, I filmed my first music video for my song "20.” It was so fun to get to bring to life how I see a song. I always see certain visuals in my head as I am writing a song or working on it with my brother Harry, so it was exciting to get to do that for the first time. After that, I released two other music videos in 2021, and I learned more and more each time. What should fans expect from you in 2022? I think people can expect more cohesive themes throughout my music. In 2021, I released a lot of singles that were all very different from one another. However, for future work, I will be bringing my music together through specific themes and styles. I am very excited about that.
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COLIN BRACEWELL (he/him) How would you describe your music to someone who has never listened to you before? Indie folk/rock. Take Bon Iver, Moses Sumney, and James Blake… What was your favorite memory as an artist in 2021? Headlining my sold-out Valley EP release show at First Ave's 7th St. Entry in July and playing two shows in Vienna, Austria while studying abroad this past Fall. What should fans expect from you in 2022? New music, collaborations, and my first ever tour! While in Vienna, I wrote over 25 new tunes, and now we're finally going back to the studio to record and release a few of them for you to hear. These songs are definitely more upbeat than previous releases and will be perfect for our live shows. Our tour is set for June of 2022 and we'll be announcing more soon!
PICTORIA VARK (she/her) How would you describe your music to someone who has never listened to you before? My music is bass guitar-driven indie rock with a heavy emphasis on lyrics. It’s like if Olivia Rodrigo took guitar lessons with Lindsey Jordan, or when Joni Mitchell and Jaco Pastorius recorded together, but with much less genius. What was your favorite memory as an artist in 2021? Definitely going out on the road on bass with Squirrel Flower back in September opening for Soccer Mommy. I was lucky to see so many friends and laugh every single day. We had the most magical day-off in Vermont and ate so much cheese! What should fans expect from you in 2022? Lots of new music and (hopefully) more shows!
Allen (he/him) of ARM'S LENGTH How would you describe your music to someone who has never listened to you before? Emotional heavy alt-rock. What was your favorite memory as an artist in 2021? Playing in the United States for the first time at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City with one of our favorite artists, nothing, nowhere., was like our 6th ever show. It was amazing. What should fans expect from you in 2022? More music, more touring!
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Hallie (she/her) and Dylinn (she/her) of GOOD BOY DAISY How would you describe your music to someone who has never listened to you before? Our music is exactly what you've been looking for (aka alt-rock). We constantly break music genre barriers, so we promise to always have a song for whatever mood you're in. What was your favorite memory as an artist in 2021? Finally being able to get on the road was great! Touring with The Wrecks and Juniper Park was a blast. We LOVE meeting new fans at our shows. Everyone has their own story, and for 30 minutes, we can all be part of each other's story. What should fans expect from you in 2022? A whole bunch o’ bangers! Other than new music, we are currently filming a music video for our new single “Selfish” and should have a shiny new music video by Valentine's Day!!
Elliott (he/him) of M.A.G.S. How would you describe your music to someone who has never listened to you before? Indie punk with with pop sensibility. What was your favorite memory as an artist in 2021? I played a sold out show at Bowery in NYC on our last tour. The crowd was so responsive and engaged the whole time, definitely one of the best nights of the whole tour. What should fans expect from you in 2022? More shows and new music.
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In addition to sharing a little about themselves and their music, we asked our featured artists to recommend a song of theirs for our readers to check out. Take a listen to the playlist here - you may even find yourself taking a dive into these artists’ discographies after hearing one song! What If I Love You The Cause Static BITTER Take Me Away Body Language Aside Who’s Laughing Now COME AGAIN? Ghost Town
Gatlin Tommy Lefroy Landon Conrath DACEY CHOOSE YR WEAPON Mint Green Keep for Cheap Durry Ricky Brasco Sophie Egan Colin Bracewell
Good Boy Daisy M.A.G.S.
listen here: https://spoti.fi/3oJY68X
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CARLIE HANSON: leveling up
Carlie Hanson is a pop rock powerhouse. Hot on the heels of her 2020 EP “DestroyDestroyDestroyDestroy,” she is back with a bang on her debut album Tough Boy. The album is an eclectic mix of songs about heartbreak, life, love, and loss, full of Carlie’s signature swagger and boundless energy. Whatever you’re into, there’s something on Tough Boy for everyone. We spoke to Carlie ahead of the album’s release on February 18th to learn more about her writing process, making music during the pandemic, having a song on the end credits of Scream, and what’s coming next...
Interview by Kate Moore Photography courtesy of Alexis Gross and Lucas Chemotti You last spoke to KCM in July 2019 – so much has changed! Between the release of your second EP “DestroyDestroyDestroyDestroy” and now the upcoming release of Tough Boy, how have you been? It’s weird that it’s been three years; time is just so weird now it feels like nothing has happened, but so much has happened! I put out my EP during the pandemic, and that was weird ‘cause I kind of could promote it, but like kind of couldn’t, but it was cool! I did that, and then I wanted to go straight to working on my album because there was nothing to do. And weirdly enough, I did feel like I had a lot I wanted to talk about, even though not a lot was going on physically, but emotionally, I was feeling a bunch of different things. So I just jumped straight into making this debut album, and we kind of made it work, even though it was weird. Like we started doing Zoom writing sessions. Eventually, when the vaccine came around, we were able to get back into rooms and feel comfortable with each other again. Super weird, but really good. How have you found making music and navigating the music industry throughout the disruption of the pandemic? Even still, touring is so up in the air, you never know what’s gonna happen or what’s not. We were trying to do Zoom sessions at first, and like 12 • kinda cool.
it’s already hard enough to get in a room with new people, so it was even weird to try to do that over a computer screen. But then finally when we were able to get back into rooms together safely and like get tested all the time and stuff, I feel like everyone kind of was just so eager to start. So yeah, I just eased into it and tried to figure out what I wanted the concept to be, what I really wanted to talk about. And I was working with new people, so towards the end of the process, I feel like I had so many different sounding songs just from working with new people and trying new things. But it all came together very, very, very good in the end. If you don’t mind, I’d like to take it back a bit. You were “discovered” through an iHeartRadio competition, where you recorded a cover of “PILLOWTALK” by Zayn, which then gained a lot of attention online. How was receiving that attention and the opportunities that came from it at such a young age? Yeah, I've been thinking a lot about that lately because now, I feel like things feel really slow, even though I know they’re not. Things are still happening whether I see it or not, but I didn’t realize till now. I got thrown into so many cool opportunities right away, like touring with Yungblud and Troye Sivan, and the whole Taylor Swift thing where she put my songs in her playlist. To this day, I still don't understand ‘cause it was just so much fun and so much, but it was just so crazy. And also I was like 17, 18, whatever, I guess 19. It's funny to look back on that because now I'm maturing as an artist and understanding that I
really got lucky in the beginning, and not everybody gets those opportunities right off the bat. So yeah, really, it was really cool. It was insane. I got to tour so much, and I loved touring, and yeah, I learned a lot. Your upcoming album Tough Boy is your debut studio album. Did the making and creation process of the album differ from your previously released EPs, “DestroyDestroyDestroyDestroy” and “Junk?” For sure, especially like towards the end. Especially in the first EP that I was creating, I was like 17 or 18 and still learning how to say what I wanted to say in sessions and how to navigate working with people who have been doing this for so long and learning from them. So this album, I really tried to take the lead more, and I was very, very vocal about what I wanted to talk about and not afraid to talk about certain concepts, like in the song, “Fuck Your Labels.” Even with my voice, I feel like I matured with how to use my voice. I think it's just how life works in general, you learn and you level up. So, yeah. I feel like this album is just a level up from the other stuff, for sure. All your songs have such a different feel but still a sound that’s distinctly Carlie – talk me through your writing process. Has it changed over the years and what’s your general process with writing lyrics and songs? I think it's stayed the same in the way that I always write stuff down in my journal, and then I'll go into a session and I'll scan through. It depends on the day really if I wanna pull from my journal, but sometimes I'll just like riff on guitar chords or pianos, and melodies will just come. Then words will kind of be in the melodies and then I'll subconsciously think from these words this is what I really want to talk about. So it really just depends on the day, and I feel like that hasn't really changed. Tough Boy is released February 18th – I don’t want to give too much away, but what can you tell us about the album and how would you describe it? I would say that each song is a different side of me. I find that with a lot of albums, songs can get really kindacoolmagazine.com • 13
repetitive, and you can kinda feel the same feeling from each song. I wanted to make sure that, with these songs, it didn't come across that way at all. You're taken to a different feeling or memory or place or whatever with each song. If I could sum the album up in any sentence, it's just like the feelings of a 21-yearold. Yeah, I feel like that's really the best way I can explain it. There are major themes of love and heartbreak on this album – how do you approach such personal themes and experiences in your music? During the process of making this album, I went through a really hard, uh, not relationship breakup, but a friendship breakup. I was also kind of working with this person a little bit, like writing together. And so we were very close, like in the business aspect and just like friends and whatever for like three or four years. That was like a really hard thing for me to deal with, especially because that was my person that I went to, to talk about music and like, you know, just like pour my emotions into. It's hard to make friends in LA, and I felt like that was really my only true friend here. We had a falling out, and I think that was a major emotion throughout a lot of these songs, like “Love You Anyway” and “Off My Neck.” It's like all the grieving, but the acceptance and all of that. Your music contains lots of LGBTQIA+ themes and Tough Boy is no exception – how important is it to you to explore themes of sexuality and identity in your music? Yeah, it's not something that I need to talk about, more like I go into a room and it's just natural ‘cause it is me, you know. I think I'm a very fluid person. And so you know, it’s just kinda natural. There are two collabs on this album, and you’ve worked with artists like iann dior in the past, so who’s your dream collab? 14 • kinda cool.
It would have to be Justin Bieber because he's the reason that I started singing. I just wanted to be him when I was younger. So I'm manifesting that! That would just be a dream because he's like the icon of my generation. Your song “Goodbye” was on the Sierra Burgess is a Loser soundtrack and now you have a song with Salem on the soundtrack for the new Scream movie – that’s so exciting! How did it come about? That was so random how that happened. I didn't write the song, but they needed a female voice for this song. I sang it and then didn't hear about it for like months, and then they were like, “They're gonna use this song at the end credits screen.” So that's crazy. It's so cool. Yeah. It's such a big moment. Like, it's such a big achievement! So cool. I haven't even seen it yet. I need to go see it! You’re very interactive with fans on social media and fan participation in general. Is keeping in touch with fans an important part of making music for you? Yeah, I think that fans are the reason that I get to do this. Growing up, being a fan of people like Justin Bieber and One Direction or whoever it was at the time, I understand the need that fans have to be a part of what you're doing, so I just wanna involve them as much as I can. I love it. They're the reason why, they're who’s listening to my music. You’ve achieved so much in the past couple of years. If you have one dream goal for the future, either in music or your personal life, what would it be? Is there anything you'd like to tick off the bucket list?
It's a tough one. Well, I have a few and they're different. I would definitely want the Justin Bieber collaboration, but since I was really young, I've always just wanted to play huge arena stadium-type shows. I just wanna be in front of that many people and see all the lights up and just sing and hear people sing back. I really want that because I just love performing, but also, I guess this is a more sentimental one, but I just really wanna have my family not stressed anymore. I want to be able to provide for them by doing what I love. You know, get my parents a new house. That's like been one of the things that keeps me going whenever I'm having a weird day. I gotta keep going for them because my mom really helped me out in the beginning with my career, so I wanna be able to give back. That's a big goal for me, for sure. But, yeah, I wanna play big shows. What can we expect next from Carlie Hanson? Is there a tour in the works? I'm trying to figure out a cool tour to open for somebody or do a headline around the US or go back to Europe sometime soon. I would love to do that. As of right now, I'm just releasing this album and then doing a show in LA at this place called the Winston House, and then just working on the next thing already and doing freaking TikToks. I’m really excited for this album. Good, good things. Tough Boy comes out on February 18th. If you can’t wait that long, you can listen to singles “Fuck Your Labels,” “Snot”(feat. Deb Never),” “Gucci Knife” (feat. MASN),” and “Off My Neck” now, as well as view their respective videos on Carlie’s YouTube channel. You can also find her at @carliehanson on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. Look out for Carlie in a city near you very soon! kindacoolmagazine.com • 15
by Mary Perez
Caroline Polachek by Tanya Wright
TOP 21 OF 2021 2021 was a big year for music: from the releases of Red (Taylor’s Version) and Fearless (Taylor’s Version), the return of live music, and Kinda Cool’s biggest issue to date, it was quite an exciting time. Perhaps one of the best parts of the year was consuming new music from both our longtime favorite artists and new discoveries. For our first issue of 2022, we wanted to celebrate our favorite releases of the past year! From pop, R&B, indie, to even punk, we had a tough time deciding our albums of 2021, as there were so many amazing records that came out. To create our list, we compiled our personal suggestions of great releases from the year and voted for our favorites to finally narrow it down to 21 albums in order, culminating with our top choice for KCM’s Album of the Year. From there, the KCM team took on an album or two to write about, thus coming together to create a piece that showcased our magazine and the diverse tastes of our team. It was so fun getting to see which albums we truly loved this past year, and we hope you enjoy our top 21 picks of 2021. Whether you agree with our ranking or have a different opinion regarding these releases, we just hope that you take a moment to both listen to any (or all) of these records and read our reflections on all of the phenomenal albums we chose. Did you have a personal choice for the best album of 2021? Share your picks with us on social media @kindacoolmag!
21. OK ORCHESTRA - AJR By Mallory Thompson
There’s never an easy way to describe an AJR album. OK ORCHESTRA is no different. The overall album flows very smoothly, and if listened to in order, it almost feels like one 45-minute song. As you listen to each song, you almost feel like you’re listening to a story. In fact, it’s comparable to a musical soundtrack; you see the journey starting with “OK OVERTURE,” the highs and lows with “My Play,” and “Humpty Dumpty,” and a happy ending with “Christmas in June.” Fans will connect with the electro-pop sound that the band is known for, as well as the catchy but relatable lyrics that echo life in a pandemic. This album will forever represent a moment in time where the world was stuck inside, with hopeful tracks that provide comfort and reassurance that “we’ll get out of this, too.” Overall, this album impressed me and many others and provides an enjoyable listening experience. If you need something relatable with some music to dance to, check this album out.
20. COLLAPSED IN SUNBEAMS - ARLO PARKS By Jessica Matilszki
Arlo Parks’ Collapsed in Sunbeams is a timely album that many listeners needed in 2021. The lingering last words of her first spoken-word track, “You shouldn’t be afraid to cry in front of me, I promise,” set the tone for the following songs. The album is loaded with wisdom about mental health and self-care which, paired with intimate bedroom pop-meets-jazz instrumentals, creates an overwhelming sense of comfort. While Parks encourages listeners to tap into their own feelings, she does not shy away from sharing her own intimate feelings of jealousy, bitterness, and yearning. Her goal for Collapsed in Sunbeams was for “the person listening to it to feel that I was present with them, to feel that they were experiencing a part of me and my mind.” This relationship between her and each listener makes this an album that you want to return to. The stand-out track is “Black Dog,” which draws on recurring imagery for depression. The emotionally turbulent, honest message to her closest friends is the step-be-step guide many of us needed in 2021.
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19. JUBILEE - JAPANESE BREAKFAST By Gianna Cicchetti
2021 was Michelle Zauner’s year. Besides just becoming a New York Times bestseller with her memoir, “Crying in H Mart,” Zauner released the long-awaited third Japanese Breakfast album, Jubilee. This record stands out as her biggest, brightest, and indisputably best. Though there are some darker moments, like the aching “In Hell,” that are more reminiscent of Zauner’s previous records, Jubilee is as sweet as the yellow fruits that hang in the album’s artwork. “Kokomo, IN” is my favorite song of the year, with everything from its orchestral elements to Zauner’s reassuring and warm vocals feeling like a homey escape. The album dabbles in several genres, including 80s pop on “Be Sweet” and shoegaze on tracks like “Sit,” but it’s perfectly cohesive and has a song for every feeling on the spectrum of joy.
18. THE BAND CAMINO - THE BAND CAMINO By Ravyn Cavanaugh
Imagine an album where you don’t want to skip any song? Well, that’s what it’s like listening to The Band CAMINO’s debut self-titled album. A band’s first full-length album is something that could quite literally make or break a band, but The Band CAMINO made it look so easy releasing an album that you can have on repeat without any of the songs getting old. This record hits the mark in every way possible when it comes to your dream album. Songs with lyrics that are meant to be screamed out loud with your best friends? You’ll love “1 Last Cigarette” and “Song About You.” Maybe having the best karaoke night of your life isn’t your thing, and you like to get a little more personal. You would love “Sorry Mom” and “Who Do You Think You Are”, as these great songs dive into the serious aspects of growing up that we can only assume the band has had to deal with just like us. I mean, who can’t relate to feeling like you have no idea what you’re doing in life? The Band CAMINO shows that they don’t limit themselves musically by putting one of the saddest piano ballads ever on their record. Something different but absolutely welcomed, “Help Me Get Over You,” captures the feeling of not being over that one ex who got away. This song really highlights the band’s ability to do it all, switching up the style compared to the rest of the album. The Band CAMINO had a lot to prove, and they did just that. This album was one of the best debut albums a band has put out in a while, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, do it right now!
17. UMBRA - GRAYSCALE By Mary Perez
As described by frontman Collin Walsh, Umbra encapsulates a “sexual, vindictive, and wicked” energy, as the 11-track record travels through deeply intimate stories that tugs on heartstrings with certain tracks and invites shameless finger-pointing for others. The band’s previous album, Nella Vita, explored a poppier sonic direction that their third record only builds on while still utilizing some of the prominent influences Grayscale have always credited for inspiration. Umbra is not just another record for them—it’s the band at their most comfortable, going beyond the pop punk roots they began with and growing into their varied inspirations. Grayscale’s discography continues to effectively highlight their versatility, and Umbra is no exception: lead single “Dirty Bombs” opened up the era with the vibrancy that makes Grayscale’s music so catchy whereas “Live Again” provided the powerfully emotional side that keeps fans hooked. As a whole, the record feels oddly familiar while still being completely fresh, playing with choral elements, brass instrumentals, and undeniable danceability. Through introspective lyricism and grand melodies that nearly beg to be performed live, Umbra is a spectacular record that proves Grayscale is here to stay.
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16. WITH CONFIDENCE - WITH CONFIDENCE By Emily Young
With Confidence are back for the first time in three years following on from the success of their 2018 album, and have their best pop punk foot forward with their latest effort, With Confidence. Speaking out on wanting acceptance, feeling despair, and yearning for someone you love seems like a frequently visited topic over the time of the pandemic, though the Australian band have managed to put their own spin on the overstated lyrics. Right off the bat, “What You Make It” gets across the frustrations of life through an upbeat melody and catchy riffs, while the softer songs of yearning like “Know You (708)” gives the album a great balance. Though the album isn’t quite the band’s most thought-provoking lyrical work to date, With Confidence is full of typical With Confidence musings: upbeat pop-punk classics and catchy lyrics that will be stuck in your head for days.
15. 30 - ADELE By Faith Logue
Adele is no stranger to the limelight as her music career has produced many viral songs over the years. Her new album, 30, speaks more personally about her divorce and her child as she goes through the ups and downs of life. Described as her most creative work sonically, 30 combines pop, soul, and jazz, expanding the sounds that Adele is known for. Her first single “Easy On Me” went viral on the app TikTok and instantly gained her top spots on the Billboard chart. Other songs like “Oh My God” charted, as well. There are many personal songs, like “My Little Love,” which is dedicated to her son. Adele describes the album by saying, "I feel like this album is self-destruction, then self-reflection, and then sort of self-redemption. I really want people to hear my side of the story this time." This album is full of strong and powerful lyrics, and she lets the world know that she is strong and is getting through it.
14. HOME VIDEO - LUCY DACUS By Lexi Matuson
If you’ve ever wanted to listen to nostalgia in the form of an album, look no further than Home Video by Lucy Dacus. The record is a look back at her life, featuring songs like “VBS” where she reminisces her experiences with vacation bible school. During a year where many of us were forced to reflect, Dacus is able to give us anthems to help guide us through. The track that does this best is the opener, “Hot & Heavy,” in which Dacus reminisces on a past relationship and writes about what it’s like to see them again. “Going Going Gone” is a special track, in which Lucy Dacus treats it like a singalong at her shows. It’s a song about the cycles of life and features backing vocals from a plethora of Dacus’s friends, including Mitski and collaborators Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers. “Please Stay” is a somber song about someone that you love who has to make a choice to stay or go. Within the song, Lucy assures them that while they may not feel like many people would notice, she would. The most astounding song on the record is the seven-minute and forty-four-second closer “Triple Dog Dare,” It’s a song that features a tremendous build and soars to the top of Lucy Dacus’s discography. Somehow, Lucy Dacus continues to top her previous work with ease, and this album is no exception.
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13. GIRLFRIEND - THE DRIVER ERA By Mary Perez
With an album as catchy and cohesive as Girlfriend, it’s no surprise that we loved this album. The 15-track record epitomizes a plethora of emotions and stories while pulling together the duo’s wide range of influences into songs that feel new with every listen. Their growth from X only emphasizes their ongoing strides towards becoming better musicians, and their sophomore album embraces the duo’s strengths and builds on their musical backgrounds. Whether it be the groovy opening riff of “Heaven Angel” or the laidback melody of “Fade,” you can feel the intimacy and thoughtfulness of every track. Whereas “cray z babe y” draws inspiration from hip hop and R&B, “A Kiss” is more reminiscent of the pop-rock roots they previously explored. A gorgeous release, it’s exciting to imagine where they’ll go with future releases. “Forever Always” may be the name of the culminating track, but it’s also an indication of how long we’ll be listening to this album.
12. JUNO - REMI WOLF By Mia Andrea
Through a facade of funky, upbeat instrumentals, Remi Wolf shares a collection of raw, dark lyrics on her 2021 release Juno. The singer-songwriter described how the opening track, “Liquor Store,” feels like “shedding a skin,” making it a fitting tone setter for an album that navigates themes of insecurity, addiction, and even pandemic lifestyle. Groovy loops and bold riffs carry throughout songs like “wyd” and “Volkiano.” It’s hard not to dance along to her fluorescent melodies that demand to be stuck in your head for hours after. On Juno, her vocal power and ability to let herself be seen is dynamic. “Front Tooth” is sonical catharsis perfectly placed as a halfway point of the album; any and all tension is released as she cries out “Wake my body up.” By time the album wraps with “Street You Live On,” the most mellow of the tracks, Remi Wolf has shared every piece of herself possible with the listener. She successfully balances bright energy and bold vulnerability like no other.
11. FLOWERS FOR VASES / DESCANSOS - HAYLEY WILLIAMS By Lexi Matuson
After the success of her debut solo album, Hayley Williams returned with FLOWERS for VASES / descansos. The project was written and recorded entirely by Hayley Williams from her home. The songs are raw in their production, such as the track “HYD” that begins with a take of the song that gets interrupted by background noise. While her previous project, Petals for Armor, was about rebuilding herself, this album is about healing and moving forward. It’s a reflective album, with songs like “Trigger” that look back on toxic relationships and “Inordinary” that reflects on her childhood and growing up. The biggest standout from the record is by far “Just a Lover.” The song is cathartic in its delivery, making the listener want to scream the words of the final verse with Williams. With this record, Hayley Williams cements herself not only as a talented vocalist but as a dynamic musician with a voice of her own.
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10. IF I CAN'T HAVE LOVE, I WANT POWER - HALSEY By Caitlyn McGonigal
After their critically acclaimed third record, Manic, Halsey returned to their conceptual roots in 2022 with the release of If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power. The collaboration between the singer and Nine Inch Nails members Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is the record that longtime fans familiar with Halsey’s foundational roots in the rock scene have been waiting for (once affectionately dubbed “the punksey album”). If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power is complicated and biting in the best way while still maintaining the intricate and polished production expected from rock veterans like Reznor and Ross. Telling the tales of motherhood, love, sexuality, heartbreak, and betrayal, Halsey’s fourth record is them at their best, and then some. Tracks like “I am not a woman, I’m a god” boast the twist on the radio-friendly pop sound that broke Halsey into the mainstream in the first place, meanwhile “Easier Than Lying” and “1121” are reminiscent of Halsey’s past collaborations with Bring Me The Horizon — experimental at face value, but those familiar with the singer’s influences know there is nothing more “authentically Halsey” than the deep cuts on the album. Accompanied by a short film soundtracked by the record, an album art unveiling at the MET, zero singles prior to release, a myriad of nods to art history (looking at you, “Madonna and Child”), Halsey solidifies their place as an artist and storyteller confident in their craft before all else, in case anyone still had the nerve to doubt.
9. INSIDE (THE SONGS) - BO BURNHAM By Rebekah Witt
Halfway through 2021 and over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, comedian & musician Bo Burnham released Inside, his first special since Make Happy’s release in 2016. The special was entirely written, directed, filmed, performed, and edited by Burnham, without an audience and in his guest house throughout his isolation in 2020. Almost immediately, Inside exploded into popularity via TikTok, and a demand for the songs on streaming services led to the release of the Inside (The Songs) album shortly after. The special, album, and singles have been up for a slew of awards, including three Emmy wins and two Grammy nominations. While the special’s themes vary throughout Inside, the main subject Burnham repeatedly returns to is the quarantine and his declining mental health because of it. Songs “Comedy,” “Look Who's Inside Again,” and “Shit,” among others, talk about the state of the world and how he is coping with it. As an artist born from YouTube, Burnham explores the good and bad of the internet in songs “Welcome to the Internet” and “White Woman’s Instagram.” Two songs that blew up on TikTok were “Bezos I” and “Bezos II,” a quick satirical take on the life of Jeff Bezos. Towards the end of the special, heavy hitters “That Funny Feeling” and “All Eyes On Me” again come back to the topics of his hopelessness in the world. Burnham is no stranger to creating studio songs, but Inside is a testament to his talent in music production and his ability to adapt to a setting outside of a live performance. Each of the 20 tracks have an interesting sound that sets them apart from the rest. Burnham is extremely skilled at making his audience laugh while still acknowledging his (and many others’) desolate view on the world right now. It’s still up for debate how much of Inside was an act or over-exaggeration, but one thing is clear: Burnham created a masterpiece that helped so many in a time where we felt alone.
8. HAPPIER THAN EVER - BILLIE EILISH By Faith Logue
Billie Eilish released her sophomore album, Happier Than Ever, after her first album had smashing hits and haunting themes. This album, however, spoke about heartbreak and love, something that almost everybody can relate to. Happier Than Ever gave the world a glimpse of Eilish in a whole new look, showing off her new blonde hair and confident outlook. She broke records within the first week of its release, and there are many songs that went viral, notably on the app TikTok: “Happier Than Ever,” “Therefore I Am,” “NDA,” “my future,” and “Lost Cause,” just to name a few. The album featured the same soft vocals Eilish produces, but in songs like “Oxytocin,” rich and loud vocals make up the pre-chorus, something Eilish has kept hidden away. She mellows out with softer songs, like “I Didn’t Change My Number” and “Billie Bossa Nova.” Accompanying the album, Eilish has since released music videos for a select number of songs, “Happier Than Ever” and “Male Fantasy,” which she directed and created herself. This era of Eilish is much different than anything we have previously seen, and starting in February, she will go on her sold-out world tour to play these songs live, after the past few years of her not being able to go on live tours.
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7. MONTERO - LIL NAS X By Astrid Kutos
After rising to popularity in 2019 with the song “Old Town Road” and the subsequent release of the EP 7, Lil Nas X released his highly anticipated debut album MONTERO on September 17th 2021. Combining catchy instrumentals with impressive story-telling, the album has certainly lived up to the hype, reflected by numerous Grammy nominations, platinum certifications, and songs charting all over the world. The single “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” released March 26th, was already very well received, topping Billboard’s Hot 100, as well as receiving 3 Grammy nominations. The defiantly queer music video—which resulted some controversy and backlash—accompanies honest lyrics detailing struggles with self-acceptance and coming out, in what Lil Nas X’s describes as his ”agenda to make people stay (…) out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be.” Throughout the album, Lil Nas X’s identity as a gay Black man remains at the forefront. Whether it’s the open description of the struggles of self acceptance he went through during his younger years in “SUN GOES DOWN” or simply the desire to find love as expressed in “THAT’S WHAT I WANT,” his honest lyricism resonated with many members of the queer community. But this is by no means the extent of the stories told in MONTERO. Comprising of 15 songs, the album covers a wide variety of topics, ranging from Lil Nas X’s experience with pushback from the industry and general public, detailed in “ONE OF ME,” to the lighter, braggy “DOLLA SIGN SLIME.” Similarly, MONTERO isn’t constrained to a single genre; while remaining rooted in hip-hop and pop, alternative influences, electro-pop and pop rock are explored, each charming in their own right. The indie rock influences in “TALES OF DOMINICA,” for example, make it one of my personal stand-out tracks. This unrestricted approach to music is also reflected by the variety of features: Jack Harlow, Doja Cat, Elton John, Megan Thee Stallion and Miley Cyrus all make an appearance. Overall, MONTERO is certainly an unforgettable release, determined to prove beyond doubt that Lil Nas X’s musicality and lyricism cannot be underestimated.
6. PLANET HER - DOJA CAT By Chelsea Tiso
Adored by many, Doja Cat’s third studio album, Planet Her, highlights that her talent truly knows no bounds. When performing the album live, Doja is eclectic and energetic: a true performer. It’s no surprise that her catchy and danceable songs are a constant hit on TikTok. Opening on “Woman,” we see Doja step into a new realm as the track’s South African musical influences are a direct link to Doja’s heritage. Intertwining the instrumental with the message of the song, I feel an inherent link to the song as it reminds me to embrace the intersection of my own ethnicity and womanhood. Featuring the likes of Ariana Grande, Young Thug, The Weeknd, and a shoutout to Nicki Minaj, Planet Her is the perfect album to listen to if you want an album featuring impeccable raps, brilliant features, and an eclectic mix of genres overlaid by Doja’s addictive voice. As we progress through the album, we move from club-worthy bangers to more mellow, sensual tracks like “Love To Dream.” This track in particular is a personal favourite of mine because it combines two of Doja’s strengths, her captivating head voice and ability to change the sound of her raps through her rhythm and diction. As one of her most highly anticipated albums, following her recent success, it is clear Doja did not disappoint.
5. XOXO: FROM LOVE AND ANXIETY IN REAL TIME - THE MAINE By Emily Young
Love and anxiety have been a common theme throughout the pandemic, and The Maine’s 8th studio album is a perfectly curated nod to that. From beginning to end, XOXO: From Love and Anxiety in Real Time provides an insight into what it’s like to unconditionally love someone, through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Opening track “Sticky” discusses the borderline obsessive infatuation of relationships that can occur, with lyrics referencing the feeling of not being able to get enough of the person you’re with. The honest vulnerability of “April 7th” depicts the story of the exact day vocalist John O’Callaghan fell in love with his wife, when she broke down her walls and let him catch a
glimpse of the real person she is. The album itself is quintessentially The Maine; from their endless positivity to the wide community of love they share both online and at their shows, it’s an album that everyone deserves to hear.
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4. TAKE THE SADNESS OUT OF SATURDAY BLEACHERS By Emilia Rangel
Coming out with their 3rd album release, Bleachers has yet left us in awe with Take The Sadness Out Of Saturday Night. Starting off with a mellow tune of string quartets, “91” starts us off with a slow introduction to the album, leading on to the second song, “Chinatown.” Chinatown is the type of song you can play on repeat for hours, with its very gravitating and catchy synth sound, making it a fan favorite. As we move on, “How Dare You Want More” gives us a whole different vibe into the album. With the upbeat and catchy trumpets, it is impossible to skip this song. Other songs on this album, such as “Strange Behavior” and “Secret Life,” give us a more nostalgic feeling. Having these acoustic tracks in the album gives off a great record. Ending with “What’d I Do With All This Faith,” it is the perfect ending to a personal and vulnerable album by Bleachers. This album is a perfect combination of intense, stripped-down tracks that talk about love and the nostalgic feeling of relationships. As the anticipation of Take The Sadness Out Of Saturday Night grew, the album did not disappoint!
3. GREATEST HITS - WATERPARKS By Cailley Leader
Waterparks have been dipping their toes into the mixed genre pool ever since they began releasing music almost ten years ago, but their most recent album Greatest Hits is their most cohesive work yet. Incorporating flares of pop-punk, old-school 2000’s pop, experimental vocals, and catchy ad-libs into their jam-packed fourth studio album, the attention to detail on the production of each track makes for an incredible listening experience, and they truly flourish as artists on their latest work. While 2019’s Fandom has been described as a clock, each track chronicling the ups-and-downs of depression, Greatest Hits is set up like a typical night’s sleep from Awsten Knight’s perspective, showcasing the ins-and-outs of his insomnia and nightmares. The title track sets the scene, starting off with crickets and the sounds of New York traffic recorded by Awsten himself using his iPhone, and the creative uses of sound don’t stop there: on “Fuzzy,” the sound of silverware clinking together is discernible under the upbeat drums, and a good portion of “LIKE IT” (which presents as the successor to Entertainment’s “Tantrum” and Fandom’s “War Crimes”) is an unidentifiable mumble, “ba-da-da-da’s,” “blublublu’s,” and beat-box style vocals littering the track. Each listen uncovers a new vocal layer to dissect, keeping listeners on their toes. Tracks like “Numb,” “American Graffiti,” and “You’d Be Paranoid Too (If Everyone Was Out To Get You)” are reminiscent of the guitar-oriented anthems from the Double Dare era, with the added electronic flare that Waterparks have fine-tuned over the years. “The Secret Life of Me” features a similar piano tune to the iconic “Telephone,” but the dreamy synths, fast-paced vocals, and lyrics yearning for “a life or maybe nine/‘cause I’m feeling like I’m running out of time” set it aside from anything Waterparks have ever done before, making it one of the most personal songs they’ve released to date. “Gladiator (Interlude)” features an honest take on the media over a driving beat and groovy synths, and “Magnetic” presents their catchiest chorus ever and deals with the idea of attracting all the wrong things. The whopping 17-track album comes to a close with “Ice Bath,” an electronic-based track with the dark, monotone vocal style heard on Fandom’s “[Reboot],” and “See You In The Future,” a punchy-track where Awsten lays out the downfalls of fame, a recurring topic within their music. As a whole, Waterparks have increasingly improved their sound with each release, and Greatest Hits displays their most harmonious work yet, the perfectly blended range of genres creating an album that almost anyone can enjoy. With their most honest album to date, they prove with each track that they’re not done taking the alternative scene by storm just yet.
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2. SOLAR POWER - LORDE By Natalie Melendez
Within the first few seconds of Solar Power, it becomes clear that Lorde didn’t set out to recreate her teenage years or her frivolous early twenties. Lorde’s music evolves with her maturity. In an Adelelike way, she packages the eras of her life in neat 40-minute diaries. Where we saw Lorde grapple with teenage angst and the fear of growing up in Pure Heroine, and with partying and complex relationships in Melodrama, Solar Power presents us with an older, more mellow version of herself. Lorde leans into stillness, quietude. Those sweet, serene moments that the polaroid photo fails to capture, the silence between flashing lights. We see Lorde slow down, bask in the ocean breeze of her New Zealand home, and place her attention on the beauty of nature and life. ‘Now I’m alone on a windswept island,’ Lorde sings in the giddy album opener “The Path,” ‘Won’t take the call if it's the label or the radio.’ Solar Power champions the peaceful yet wounding essence of the mundane. And like the slight ache from tender touch on sunkissed skin, it’s a reminder that life exists in triviality. In her time away from the synthetic light, Lorde became much of an environmentalist. Her appreciation for the Southern Hemisphere sun is the inspiration for her third release’s theme. “I hate the winter, can’t stand the cold,” she sings in the title track, a playful acoustic guitar-powered love letter to the summertime. Away from the chaos of Hollywood and fame—which she nostalgically denounces in “California”— Lorde has time to revel in the grandness of the natural world, as well as grieve its fleeting state. “Fallen Fruit” expresses her disappointment with past generations blinded by the instant gratification of industrialization. In what sounds like ethereal solemnity— best described as a twinkling, folklike tune—Lorde depicts the double-edged sword of humanity’s restless ambition which, while it has brought glory and riches to many, has left the earth in a precarious state. “Through the hall of splendor where the apple trees all grew/You’ll leave us dancing on the fallen fruit,” she sings, harboring a sense of apprehension for the world she and future generations will inhabit. Lorde’s anxieties about a decaying planet become intertwined with her own anxiety about the ticking clock. With every passing hour, the earth continues to grow warmer, and Lorde’s youth, the familiar present, continues to wither away. In “Stoned at the Nail Salon,” the singer invites us to a medicated manicure afternoon. Her voice carries slight panic over soft strumming as she begins to wonder whether she has chosen the right life for herself: the wise, sunbathing gal over the global, award-winning pop star. Aging has always been a prominent theme in Lorde’s music, but in the silent shadows of normalcy, she begins to long for the adventure her earlier years brought her: “’Cause all the music you loved at sixteen you grow out of/And all the times they will change, it’ll all come around.” By the end of the record, Lorde’s begrudging acceptance of the loss of time, also present in the raspy-toned ode to her deceased dog “Big Star,” becomes sincere and sage. “Now the cherry-black lipstick’s gathering dust in a drawer/I don’t need her anymore,” she proudly pronounces in the closing “Oceanic Feeling,” alluding to the signature color of her lips throughout the release of her first studio album, “’Cause I got this power/I just had to breathe/And tune in.” Lorde spotlights newfound confidence. Reflective and grateful of the memories of time, she also looks ahead to the future, and through groovy tunes that wash in and fade out as sporadically as the tides, Lorde happily succumbs to unknowingness. At the start of every day, the sun will continue to rise, as will her appreciation for all that exists underneath it.
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1. SOUR - OLIVIA RODRIGO By Mickayla Whitt
Between numerous Grammy nominations, live television performances, and the release of her debut album SOUR, Olivia Rodrigo took 2021 by storm. Her hit single “drivers license” brought her into the spotlight, and the ten-track album only garnered her more attention. The album tackles heartbreak, jealousy, vulnerability, insecurities, and everything else that comes while we find ourselves. Opening with the track “brutal,” Rodrigo begins her album with a punchy teen angst anthem. With some clear rock and punk inspiration, the song still takes on a modern and unique twist. These angsty lyrics and edgy instrumentals continue in tracks like “jealousy, jealousy” and “good 4 u” that will remind you of earlier pop-punk blended with a little bit of indie vibes. Tracks like these showcase the more “grungy” era of our youth. Following an opening track full of lyrics that make you want to scream, Olivia bares her heart in songs like “traitor” and “1 step forward, 3 steps back” with her powerful voice and soft instrumentals. With the use of beautiful melodies, gut-wrenching lyrics, and piano ballads, these songs are extremely vulnerable. Tracks like “enough for u,” “happier,” and “favorite crime” revisit the heartbreaking yet dreamlike vibes of the album. On the other side of the spectrum, these tracks showcase the raw and unsure side of our teenage years. Three songs were released as singles before SOUR dropped, but “drivers license” catapulted Rodrigo into the pop world. This single introduced her to the world as a talented artist as opposed to just a Disney star. From “Saturday Night Live” skits about the track to three Grammy nominations including Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Performance, the song details the numerous, conflicting emotions that follow a breakup and immediately becomes a ballad you scream in your car. “deja vu” is another one of the songs that became a huge hit. Both of these songs will have you feeling seventeen singing into a hairbrush, reminding us of why Rodrigo has become a pop sensation. The final track of the album “hope ur okay” steps away from a self-narrative and turns into more of an open letter lyrically. To me, the song feels like a moment of realization, closure, and hope all in one. In a way, the track is a tribute to people who are down on their luck and can offer them a moment of peace. This feeling perfectly closes the album, providing that bittersweet feeling of growing up. In a little more than half an hour, Olivia Rodrigo vulnerably expresses herself, blends different genres, and perfectly details the experience of being a teenager and finding yourself. The opening lyrics, “I want it to be, like, messy,” is the best way to sum up exactly what the coming of age experience feels like sometimes. Just because it’s messy doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful, and Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album is proof of that. With five Grammy nominations, and one for herself, SOUR gave a cathartic experience to thousands of people last year, solidifying it at our top spot of 2021.
listen to our full Top 21 of 2021 playlist on Spotify! https://spoti.fi/3gb8kKH
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2021 wasn’t just a year for full-length records; it also provided us with some really great EPs that we had on repeat all year. Although these bodies of work are shorter than an album, they still have the ability to provide us with some songs we just can’t get enough of and can also introduce us to artists for the first time. Think of them as a small snapshot of an artist’s sound and lyricism, a taste of their discography. To really commemorate our favorites of last year, we wanted to put together a few recommendations from EPs that we loved and share why you might also want to take a listen!
EVERYTHING NICE - ARM'S LENGTH By Cassie Fu Ren
Walking the fine line between pop punk and emo, Arm’s Length’s sophomore EP is perfect for fans of Movements, Hot Mulligan, and The Wonder Years, looking for songs about insomnia, coping with the loss of your comfort teacher, and the holidays going down the same.
I BECAME BIRDS - HOME IS WHERE By Gianna Cicchetti
Fans of the emo genre will love this EP that’s equally perfect for both quiet late-night drives and screaming your heart out.
NO LEFT BRAIN - JAMES MARRIOTT By Kate Moore
DESPERATE TIMES, DESPERATE PLEASURES BOSTON MANOR
An impressive debut, these three soft songs are perfect for coping with the post-break-up blues.
By Cassie Fu Ren
Boston Manor is back with this experimental pop punk EP, fueled by quarantine frustrations, making it the perfect cathartic release for any pent-up emotions over the last year.
SWIMMING LESSONS - GENEVIEVE STOKES By Mary Perez
For fans of lighting candles while reading, feeling nostalgia for simpler times, and enjoying the discographies of Samia and Phoebe Bridgers.
PEBBLE BRAIN - LOVEJOY By Kate Moore
Perfect for those seeking mid-2000s style indie bops akin to Los Campesinos! and early Arctic Monkeys, full of catchy hooks and witty lyricism.
PRETTY POISON - NESSA BARRET By Mallory Thompson
These songs are punk rock and pack a punch—if someone has ever wronged you, these are your revenge anthems.
SWAN - GIRLPUPPY By Gianna Cicchetti
For fans of Taylor Swift and Faye Webster who love astrology and wish they had a treehouse to hang out in to escape the world.
THEN I'LL BE HAPPY - GLAIVE & ERICDOA By Caitlyn McGonigal
The collaboration hyperpop has always wanted, but never knew they needed, filled with brain-scratching production and lyrics that are fated to get stuck in your head.
SCOUT - SAMIA By Mary Perez
A sweet collection of songs to remember to bask in the warmth of loved ones and breathe through tough moments.
SCARED OF EVERYTHING - ZEPH By Rebekah Witt
In this dreamy pop debut, Zeph explores the pain of losing friends, unstable relationships, and her own insecurities.
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MAKING MUSIC FOR THE MAKING MUSIC:
a conversation with RYAN GULDEMOND of
If you’ve been on TikTok within the past year, chances are Mother Mother’s “Hayloft” has graced your For You Page. With over 263 million streams on Spotify currently, there’s no denying that this song blew up, even though it was released over a decade ago. Most recently, the band has released a deluxe version of their latest album Inside, which included the track “Hayloft II,” a sequel to the original “Hayloft.” I got a chance to talk with Ryan Guldemond, the lead singer of Mother Mother, about the new album, their current tour, and about his background in music.
Interview by Brigid Young Photography courtesy of Rich Smith and GOODWORK Studio Live photography by Mary Perez Thanks for taking the time out of your probably busy day to hop on this call with me! Oh, there’s so much waiting in touring. Really? Yeah, tons of waiting. To start off, do you want to introduce yourself and your role in the band? Yeah! I’m Ryan Guldemond, I sing lead vocals and play guitar. Awesome! You’ve been making music for a long time now, so how has your creative process changed over time? I think I’ve gotten a lot better at the architecture of songwriting, just being quicker at arranging music kindacoolmagazine.com • 29
and making it fit into a skeleton of a song. But there’s something that you lose as you get better at something: naivety… and from naivety, there’s a lot of brilliance that can be born. I think a lot of creatives will say that, as they get on within their craft, there’s an effort made to almost forget how to do it, so that you can return back to that childlike ignorance where good things come from, where things that are spontaneous and not intellectual spring from. I’d say that’s what I focus on now more than anything. For sure. I kind of understand that, I go to college for music. It’s sort of the same where when you make it academic and more technical, you lose that original fire, you know. Yeah, I went to jazz school for guitar, and that’s when the band began, and it was coming out of that space, that really heavily technical space, that I had one of the most fruitful and natural spells of songwriting in my life. It’s good to revert back to the original passion, which is what drives everything. I wanted to talk a little bit about “Hayloft” because it blew up on social media. How did it feel to see that success, especially after the song had already been out for a while? It was very shocking and surprising, but at the same time, there was a bit of an “I told you so” in the air within the band. A hundred years ago, when that song was new, we wanted it to be the big radio single, but at the time, it didn’t fit the format. So we felt let down, and like our hit didn’t get the chance it deserved. Then fast forward a decade-plus, and it connected, which left us feeling gratified, and like we weren’t crazy all those years ago! Do you feel like it made the success a little bit sweeter, having it take a while to be a hit? 30 • kinda cool.
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Definitely. I think delayed success is always sweeter, healthier, and much easier to navigate. For sure. So a deluxe version of your album Inside is set to release in a few days, what can we expect from those new songs that are going to be on there? A lot of diversity, “Hayloft ll” is in there, the first time we’ve ever written a sequel, which was a fascinating and challenging and fun songwriting exercise. There are some modern colors in a song called “Life.” That’s the most modern we did, but then some real throwback jams in the mix, songs where we really pursued limitation and the “less is more” philosophy. We really harkened back to those earlier days and earlier production styles. Going back to “Hayloft II,” what made you want to revisit that and create a sequel? Well, when we were conceptualizing the deluxe package, there was motivation to honor our roots. One thing that was said, not literally but more metaphorically, is that we wanted to write another “Hayloft.” At one point, it was suggested, “Well, why don’t you just do that, actually?” It was like, “What, a sequel? No, that’s crazy! That’s blasphemous, can’t do that.” I think curiosity got the better of us, and it 32 • kinda cool.
was like, “Let’s try it.” If it’s cool and authentic and a great song, then I think there’s no harm. Furthermore, we did test run the kernel of the idea with our fans via social media, and the response was overwhelmingly positive and supportive to go down that path. At which point, it just felt like something we had to do. That’s awesome. When it comes to your songwriting process, what does it usually look like? Ideally, you pick up a guitar, sing and play at once, and a song comes out. Those are rare occasions, but they happen. It feels like an external spirit guiding things, it’s very special and magical. But at other times, that isn’t there, but you still want to try. So you start with a beat, you start with a chord progression. Something I’ve gotten in the habit of in the last couple of years is recording soundscapes from the outside world. The stuff in mundanity and reality that might not be seen as music but is musical if you listen to it in a different way. I’ll take these field recordings and turn them into music, plug them into the computer, chop them up, to get ideas off the ground. That’s how our album Inside was, I guess, discovered. Initially, it wasn’t so much about writing songs; it was about creating a dystopian atmospheric soundscape using creaking swings and
industrial noises. It was an effort just to find the DNA of the album, and once that connection was made, then the songs were birthed out of that quite easily and fluidly. That’s so interesting, I agree that there’s so much music around us in day-to-day life. So over the years, have you felt like your mission or goal has changed? Are you making music for the same reason today as you were when you started? Yeah, I think now more than ever. As we entered into the wilderness of our career, and we were struggling to make it work, trying to find our way, there might have been small chapters where you’re trying more than doing, from a place of ease, or organic impulse. I think that’s from, as a creative person, feeling drained. Now, more than ever, we’re just trying to make good music because we like the process because good music is medicine. Just letting go of how and where it lands, and what successes it brings or doesn’t bring. At the end of your days, you look back on work produced that came from the heart, I think I know that you’re going to feel much more satisfied then. It’s very crucial for the sake of our wellbeing to make music for the sake of making music, and nothing else. I think if you do that, you honestly have more of a chance of making connections
with an audience and being successful. I think authenticity is proving itself, now more than ever, to win. Definitely, I think that audiences can read authenticity really clearly. You’re currently on tour, what has it been like being on stage again after the pandemic stopped live shows? It’s great, we’ve been really close to our process in other ways, making music, recording music, making artwork… so although we haven’t been able to play shows, we still feel like we’ve been carried by the energy of Mother Mother. It wasn’t a culture shock, being back up there. Sometimes when a skill hibernates, it’s almost building strength. Then when you return to it, you’re better at it. There was a bit of that. For sure. That’s all I’ve got for you today Ryan, thank you so much! My pleasure, thank you! The deluxe version of Inside is now available on all streaming platforms. You can keep up with Mother Mother by following them @ mothermothermusic on social media, and stop by one of their 2022 tour dates.
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humming along with
YOUNG CULTURE Over the past few months, the pop punk trio Young Culture has blown up. Following their self-titled debut album and newer EP Godspeed, the band is on track to produce their next album soon. I sat down with Alex of Young Culture to discuss their upcoming sophomore album, tours, and more. Interview by Mickayla Whitt Photography courtesy of Danny DeRusso I know you’re currently working on your second album, what ways does it differ from your self-titled record so far with the writing process? We’re here right now currently doing it, and it’s been a complete 180, in my opinion, in a weird way from self-titled. It’s been nothing like it at all so far. The writing process was different, very 34 • kinda cool.
very different. With self-titled, we kind of had songs that we were very certain on, and we came to the studio with maybe twelve songs and were pretty certain about using those ones. Those were the songs we knew we wanted to make. Now this one is very different; I think we came with maybe sixty whole songs and probably didn’t use any of them, not a single one. But that was kind of our intention, and we ended up writing most of it in the first week, which is what I really wanted to do ‘cause I wasn’t sure what direction we wanted to go in or
what we wanted to do with it. We just knew we kind of wanted to make more of a rock pop-punk album, which it kind of is, in a way. Speaking of rock and pop punk albums, what were some of the musical influences for your second album? Oh man, this is an interesting question because I feel like it was so hard to pinpoint what we wanted to and exactly what it is. I can say the albums we were listening to a lot were a lot of early 2000s pop-punk records, kind of like stuff that was in the mainstream. Back when we were wee little babies, that stuff was on the radio, so All American Rejects and the first few Fall Out Boy albums, which are always inspirational. For me personally, Dashboard Confessional, and I think Troy would say Brand New Eyes by Paramore. Things like that, I guess, just early 2000s pop-punk, the stuff we really grew up on. A lot of Fueled by Ramen bands that I grew up idolizing.
thing in me where I had so much free time, and every day, I felt like I needed to do something, which obviously translates to writing X amount of songs in a week. So, we all did. Obviously, since we were all quarantining and separated, we all wrote on our own, and then we would do Zoom sessions and come together. What it really felt like was a great exercise more than anything. It was kind of like practice, I guess. Like I said, we didn’t end up using a lot of the songs. I think they’re good, just not what we wanted, but we definitely got a lot of practice in, wrote a lot of songs. We released an EP in between called Godspeed. We released like five songs that were lingering around. But as far as writing goes, it kind of taught us a new way to approach it more than anything, and that was a really special thing, something I can take away positively from this experience.
How has the pandemic and your overall growth during this time impacted the second album?
You guys actually got to play a couple of songs from Godspeed on the Grayscale tour, and now you’re getting ready for the Bearings tour. What’s it been like finally getting to play some of your newer songs, and also getting to finally do some stuff with your album?
It really made us feel like we needed to get the ball rolling again because it felt like this thing that was the most important thing to us kind of didn’t have its time and place, as a lot of other artists did as well with music they created for 2020 releases. That being said, it kind of sparked this
Funny you ask that because that was the biggest thing about it for us. I feel like being in a band, at least for us, half of it is recording music and putting it out, and then the other half is playing those songs live. Honestly, for us, that’s the bigger thing for us, playing things live and that
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personal interaction, or at least for me. That being said, it really sucked not getting to play the album live. The last tour we did with Grayscale was the first time we got to play a lot of these songs. The upcoming tour with Bearings is the same situation, but it was like we had 15 songs we had never really played before. It’s like we’re playing catch up but it’s really great because people have had time to listen to all of it, and it seems like people are really excited to finally hear them live. Speaking of live shows, what do you hope new fans take away from live shows when they come see you guys? Obviously, we’ve had a lot of time to grow. I feel like, when we started this band, it was fun, and we never had any idea of what could be. I think during this time away, we realized that 1) We really want to do this, and we want to do this seriously for our lives, and 2) We want to be professional. This time around, what I want people to take away is we’re a really fun band, and when you come to our shows, it has always been capitalizing on having fun and being in an awesome community where everyone feels welcome. A new aspect that the three of us have brought into it is that we want to really try to be more professional and have people be like, “Wow, they were really good live.” Something that seems kind of obvious is something that we’re really focusing on and want people to take away—we want people to see our band and think “Wow, that band is amazing, they’re professional, and I found a great community that was really nice to me, and the band came out to the merch table and spoke to us.” It’s all stuff that’s really important to us,
true human interaction. You guys actually do a lot of stuff to connect with the fans, such as Culture Club and the Discord. What’s the importance of having that connection and keeping it up virtually? Those two things that you said, the Discord and the Twitch stream, are things that I feel like are very left field to us because we’re not super good at those specific things. But it was very important to us because we felt like we needed a way to connect with people and just be in constant conversation when we clearly couldn’t be face-to-face. It’s a family, it’s a club, like we were saying before; I feel like a lot of people needed it, and when I saw that it mattered to some people, it makes me feel really happy and really proud. If you could describe Young Culture in three words, what would they be? Hmm…care, free, love. More on that - what about the upcoming album? Who fucking cares. I guess I shouldn’t try to explain it more than that, but that’s kind of the vibe. We’re gonna make the music we want to make; we’ve always done that. Maybe our sound isn’t the cool thing at the time in pop-punk or anything but it’s like we know what we dig, so who fucking cares. People are here because they honestly genuinely enjoy it. If you like carefree music and good vibes, check out Young Culture! And if you want to experience it live, go see them open for Bearings—tickets available at youngcultureny.com! kindacoolmagazine.com • 37
Tokyo Police Club by Sophie Harris
by Anna Xu
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re i ntro d u ces h e rse lf Approaching the February 11th release of her EP in the mirror, in the night, Donna Missal discussed new vulnerability, self-preservation while on tour, what her new music has brought to her life, and more.
Interview by Ashley Gallegos Photography courtesy of Erica Hernández I saw you on your last headlining tour in 2019 and this past 2021 CHVRCHES tour, and I am just constantly in awe by your striking stage presence and self-expression in all you do. I’m really curious as to how the experience of being back on the road again this past year was, especially after a while of experiencing so much stillness? It was really, really hard to be totally upfront. I feel grateful that I got to do it, but it felt like learning how to do something that you thought you knew how to do already. Every day was this mix of, like, fear around health and safety and moral dilemma around that, trying to find a way to play songs I hadn’t ever played live because of the obvious while playing this new music I’m about to put out and how to make that work. I felt like I threw myself back into it as best I could, but it was definitely challenging. Your stage presence is one that seems really unlike most I've seen, and one thing I love is that those feelings that arise from your performance don’t feel short-lived among people in those crowds. That exploration of feelings and vulnerability you possess on stage really sticks with those that are there watching you. Is there a pre-show ritual you do that allows you to really dig deep in the way you do or prepare yourself for those performances? In what ways do you find yourself being able to preserve some of your own mental and physical energy as you do that every night when on tour? Yeah, I mean for me, if my body and voice feel good and healthy, I can easily get into the headspace that makes the performance emotionally connected and all that. It’s not the easiest thing to be traveling like that and sleeping in hotels and singing those bigger songs every night, so it’s kind of a constant practice while touring to be resting and nourishing myself well and warming up my voice kindacoolmagazine.com • 41
properly before shows and things like that. It’s less of like a pre-show thing and more of an all-day, every day while on tour thing. Are there currently any plans to go on the road for your own headlining tour again in the near future? Yes, if the state of the world allows. One of the hardest lessons I’ve been learning is that nothing is certain, no matter how much you plan for it. But I’m hoping. For some artists, it’s important for them to hold and keep that relationship with some of their older music as they play live shows on different tours and are in the process of making and performing new music.
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There’s often a lot of thought or even pressure into what makes a setlist and why. What does the process of making your setlists look like? I like to think about my process of making music as creating and playing within an era. It’s not natural to me to look back at what I’ve put out and have that inform what I’m making at the moment, so when it’s time to put together a set, it can actually be such a challenge. I care about what people want to hear, and I also need to give myself permission to put on the show that’s going to feel how I need it to feel, so I try to find a balance there. I have a need to be authentic to myself that I literally can’t drop to the total chagrin of a lot of people I encounter in the industry and
sometimes, I’m sure, to fans who just want to hear that thing you did 5+ years ago. I do have a lot of fun finding ways to sing whatever songs are in my set in ways that set the live performance apart from the records, so if you’re ever at a show, you get to hear something new and have an experience that’s different from putting the record on. So you’re preparing for the release of your new EP in the mirror, in the night. I have to say that I am heavily into this newer music and I’ve been intrigued even more so with each release that passes. To me, I really do think it is some of your most vulnerable work yet. That thought alone is incredibly powerful, especially knowing the countless
foreign, strange, heavy, and confusing feelings that have come with experiencing everything in the past couple of years. When you were in the process of making this music, how were you able to decide on what you felt were the most important feelings or experiences to externalize? What has the writing process for this specific body of work been like? Thank you. Honestly, I didn’t intend to put out any of this music when I was writing it, so I didn’t think about it in the context of prioritizing a message or what my agenda was. I was just finding my way back to writing songs after a really long and decided break from writing, and I was writing alone as a practice of trying to learn how to record my own vocals for the first time. I can say I was in a place of intense reflection on literally every aspect of my life. I didn’t care about whether I was making a clear point; I didn’t think about the impact, just the intent, which was, for me at that time, just to exercise those challenging and unsettling reflections. Your work has always been incredibly honest as though there’s an intolerance of anything filtered or ingenuine. It’s been clear how thoughtful you are when it comes to what you are saying in your music and how you say it. So I’m curious as to what some of your favorite lyrics from your new songs are? “Don’t cry for me, love, when I run to your arms. No space no god can own, knowing you’re not alone. I know I’m not alone” from “(to me) your face is love” is an affirmation that reminded me the isolation I was feeling wasn’t all there was. I wrote a lot of the songs really conversationally while all of a sudden dropping in more metaphorical or conceptual lyrics to try to convey where I was emotionally at that time, like where I still very much find myself now, the space in between “everything feels so fucked” and “there’s an emotional deepening happening here.” I tried to do that a lot in the songs lyrically all throughout. And it’s always going to be fun to sing “I don’t need to know these things you do. I don’t fuck with you.” For a lot of people, there’s this act of finding things that they find inspiring and keeps them grounded that also serves as a reminder of what it is that they’re passionate about or kindacoolmagazine.com • 43
live for. Is there anything outside of creating music that you have found yourself going back to during those times when you need that? Is there anything at all you’d love to recommend to readers or fans of yours? These recommendations could be things you’ve found inspiring, or even things like music, books, and films you’ve been frequenting that you firmly believe people need in their lives right now. I like tactical shit, so I’m really enjoying cooking. I love reading books, like physical books, and listening to CDs, and reading liner notes, like things I can touch just feel good to me. I have been listening to the Madonna Ray Of Light CD constantly lately, and I’m reading “Romeo and Juliet” right now for the first time because I’ve been obsessed with romantic language and want to know more about how to use it so I can work it into my writing for my next album. I really believe in having relationships with media that already exists in all mediums to understand our history and the origin and conception point of the things being created now. I guess, in general, I’d encourage more of that: look for what’s already there, and form a relationship with it. I’m SO excited for this EP, as it really feels as though it’s going to be taking the form of something you’ve never done before which is something really special. I know you’ve said it’s allowed you to reintroduce yourself as someone new, which makes me so incredibly thrilled for you. Where do you hope the music, the vulnerability in it,
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the process of making it, and living through those feelings leads you to now in both your creative and personal life? I’ve learned a lot about writing and process and recording and conceptualizing through making this thing, so I’m excited to bring all of that newness into the next thing I do. This EP is so much a product of its environment and an exercise in restraint, which taught me so much about myself and how I write and sing and all that, but definitely excited to see what happens when I don’t have to worry about being as quiet as possible. I’m starting to work on new music, and it’s cool to really sing again in ways that are familiar but informed by all that I’ve picked up while making in the mirror, in the night. I kinda see it as a door opened, and what happens next is whatever I find on the other side of the door. Finding ways to live through hyperspecific feelings, new questions, and in some ways, a new existence, Donna Missal is creating work that is cathartic and rich with the feeling of just being. Maneuvering her way through a place that often warps one’s self-image as the world attempts to mold them without permission, she is navigating it herself through what she knows best: creating music. Truth is not something foreign to her, but with her new music, Donna reintroduces herself in a way that sheds any hesitance or hushed feelings in ways she hasn’t done so before. It is that autonomy and conviction that holds itself high in her music while still leaving space for all that she is going to be.
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the end of an era: celebrating
KAYAK JONES and RICH PEOPLE After a fun few years as two of the most prominent rising groups in the alternative/emo scenes, Kayak Jones and Rich People announced their bands’ respective endings on January 9, 2022. Twitter exploded with kind words for the bands, expressing well wishes for their futures and speaking about fond memories of the special bonds they had created. We asked Kayak Jones and Rich People fans to share a few words to commemorate the bands’ impact on their lives and talk about their favorite memories. Although it’s sad to imagine that we won’t be hearing new music from them anytime soon, it’s clear that they both had such a meaningful influence on the lives of so many of their fans. Rich People and Kayak Jones forever.
Back in 2019, Kayak Jones toured with my favorite band, Young Culture! At first, I didn't know any of their music, but when the lineup got dropped, I decided to check them out, and from that point on, they became one of the most important bands in my life for multiple reasons. From the start, their music changed so much for me. It makes me feel less alone when I'm truly feeling my worst. Of course, I’ve had bands that have comforted me in the past, but something about Kayak Jones has been so different from the beginning. In Richmond, I got the chance to photograph their set, and despite having photographed so many shows prior, their set was one of my favorites. I have never seen energy like that from a band and everything about it was perfect. It reminded me, and still does remind me, why I photograph live shows! The day after in Philly, I got the chance to do photos with Tyler for the first Legends of Tomorrow print issue. First and foremost, having a band like Kayak Jones wanting to take part in the first print issue for my magazine was unreal. At that point on in my career, I was just starting to transition into portrait photography and Tyler was SO kind and helpful with that. I was so nervous, but he was so sweet the entire time, and looking back on it, I am so appreciative. So, to Kayak Jones, thank you for everything. - Mads
I met one of my best friends at a Kayak Jones show. It was the last show I saw in 2020 before COVID hit. I had gone alone, but that night, I met some of the kindest and most supportive people I know, and it’s because the band cultivated a really incredible community. This night opened up so many doors for me. I met the people who got me through the past two years thanks to this band. They gave me both music and a community that made me feel understood, which I will appreciate beyond words forever. - Mia
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I first heard of Kayak Jones through a friend, and I never thought they’d have such a powerful impact on my life. When I first listened to them, I played “Matter” on repeat because I’ve never heard a song so relatable to me in my life. Within 3 months of knowing them, I got “I’m just a fragile little kid” tattooed on me the day before I was seeing them for the first time at a batting cage in Philadelphia on their 2018 spring tour. One of my favorite memories with the band was when I saw them at The Foundry in Philly, and I made a scrapbook filled with letters and photos from fans/friends and saw how happy that made them. I am extremely thankful for this band and the friends I have made, I will truly miss what it feels like to walk into a concert venue and run up to Tyler for the biggest hug every time. Kayak Jones forever. - Kandice
Kayak Jones was a band of friends, and I don’t mean that lightly. The band first came into my life in the form of a free CD with a Sharpie label at someone else’s show, and little did I know the experiences I would gain from that moment. Kindness and friendship radiated from each member and led me to friendships I will cherish forever. I will never forget this band. From a living room set to a sold-out music hall, Kayak Jones forever. - Bridget
I first saw Kayak Jones at a house show when they toured with Safe Bet. Following that night, I immediately planned a second date of that tour. Thanks to Kayak, I’ve made a lot of friends and even followed some of their tours with said friends. I went to numerous cities, thanks to my 16 Kayak shows. The band opened a door to the most caring and accepting environment, where I was given a place to feel loved, appreciated, and heal simultaneously. Their music will forever be a moment of blissful escape and comfort for me. I am so grateful for the memories I have created thanks to them. Kayak Jones forever. - Mickayla
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Ever since I found Kayak Jones in 2018, they've been a band I consistently go to when I want to let myself be open to and feel my sadness rather than run away from it. They have some of the most emotionally raw lyrics and are so healing. I talk about this instance all the time, but one of my favorite show moments of all time is when they played "Matter" on the Homesafe tour in 2019 in Philly. Everyone who knew the song rushing the stage and sobbing and screaming the words along with Tyler is something I’ll never forget. Tyler himself is one of the most kindhearted people I’ve ever met; he'll check in on me from time to time and reached out to me when my grandfather passed. He very obviously sincerely cares about the people he meets through their music. I’ll miss looking forward to new releases that I can cry to but will always have their music to rely on. Long live Kayak Jones. - Callie
Rich People is a band that means a lot to me; they’ve been a massive part of my life for years now. Many of my most cherished memories with my best friend come from road trips we’d take from New Hampshire to Philadelphia to see the band. It was through these small adventures and people I was meeting, the band included, I was able to start gaining a lot of new knowledge and a new, better, perspective on life. That’s what made Rich People more than just a band to me, but a community. It was very clear from my first Rich People show that they strove to connect with the people who appreciated their music. I think that’s part of why they had such a tight-knit community of people who loved and supported them. All those people I’d met had given me a shift in my life that I really needed at the time. I feel like that is a big part of what made me get my act together too honestly, and while that’s something I will take credit for, I do believe that the wild journey to where I am now started with this band. I am so beyond grateful for everything I’ve gained out of being a fan of this band, and I truly wish these guys nothing but the best in what they go on to do beyond Rich People. - Valerie
My first time seeing Rich People was on the Nella Vita pt. 1 tour with Grayscale, and to this day, it’s been my favorite and most memorable show I’ve been to. I’ve always liked looking up the openers' music when I hadn’t heard of them before and instantly felt connected to so many songs from Grace Session. The lyrics from “White Mark” and “Safehull” have stuck with me for several years. As with many other Rich People fans, I think we can all agree that “All the way and unafraid to be” means something special to us. When I heard these words the first time, I never thought it would have the impact it has. It’s how I live now. I’m not afraid. To be my most authentic self. To put myself first. To embrace myself and the challenges that I face with my own mental health daily. “Bliss to come” from “Safehull” tied into this a bit. It helped me realize better days are ahead. Things won’t always be so hard. I’m forever grateful for the impact these words have had on my life. At the Grayscale show, I very briefly met Blake at the merch table. I remember wanting to buy Grace Session on vinyl, but it was already sold out so I bought the CD. A few days later I got a DM letting me know where I could buy it online, and I was so happy to be able to add it to my collection. I always loved that Blake and the guys interacted with us so much online. It really made me feel like they cared about those who loved their music. I wasn’t able to see them perform again after this, but I’ll always cherish the memories I made with my sister and closest friends at the show. I will miss Rich People and wish Rob and Blake nothing but the best. I’m sure the future is going to hold great things for both of you. Thank you for the great memories, music, and friends I’ve made from getting to know your music. Love you guys. - Mariah
Nothing can really compare to a band whose hometown is Philly, and Rich People, they met the mark, just something about those bands that hold a little extra heart. This band, Rich People, is one whose impact on the scene won't soon be forgotten. See, the cool thing is this band provided a ton of memories to many people, including me, because of the way they fit into any bill, covered every emotion, and provided a connection with fans that was unique to them. For me, Rich People's music not only helped me through all sorts of different life events—the good, the bad, the ugly—they connected me with people who have become friends. And, most predominantly, this band provided me with opportunity after opportunity to grow in my writing career. From the start, one of my first published pieces was about the uprise of Rich People, and I continued to follow them over the past few years of their career. Making music that I loved and was able to write about connected me to them in a special way year after year, and I will forever be grateful for all of it. It isn't easy to devote my love for them into a short few paragraphs, but what I can say is that their run was exceptional. RP forever. - Danielle
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I saw Rich People for the first time on Grayscale's first headlining tour in 2019. After attending four shows on that run, I fell in love with their music and with them as human beings. Rob, Blake, Con, and Ty are four of the sweetest, most genuine, and most passionate people I've ever met. Going to Rich People shows and forming bonds with these guys showed me what it's like to be loved back by the thing you love the most, and I will always be grateful to them for that. RPPV forever. - Jennifer
I was introduced to Rich People on the Nella Vita tour with Grayscale and Bearings. Their set was filled with lots of energy and was honestly just a vibe that I was singing along as I started learning the words. Later that night, I briefly talked with Rob at the merch table with some friends, and he was one of the nicest individuals I’ve ever met. I decided to check out more of their music when I got home and instantly fell in love. The lyrics always hit home, with there being songs for just about every emotion or mood, the instrumentals were refreshing, and Rob has an incredible and unique voice. Ever since I started following Rich People I noticed that they’ve always been a band that cares about their fanbase and interacts with us on socials. I remember having conversations about potentially getting a Rich People tattoo on Instagram and talking about sobriety with Rob, who’s a huge inspiration of mine. Don’t worry—the tattoo will happen in the future with some of the friends I made through Rich People, I promise!! Harmony, as a whole, had a really big impact on my life. When the album dropped, I was in a very dark place, going through heartbreak, along with slowly working on ending the friendship with that person who I thought was my best friend, while being far away from pretty much all of my friends. Songs such as “Unlove,” “Domestic Cafe,” “No Age,” and “Joy Notes” really helped me get through all of these tough times. The Harmony era also introduced me to the Rich People Discord, where I met a lot of amazing people that have become some of my closest friends in the world, and honestly, I don’t really know where I’d be without any of them. Probably the biggest impact Rich People had on me was continuing to stay sober because every time I thought about slipping up, I would think about Rob and his story of being clean for 10 years and I would stop myself. I can’t thank Rich People enough for everything they’ve done for me over the last few years and the memories I’ve had of seeing them live and talking to Rob a few times at shows. Rich People Forever. ♥ - Austin
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I won’t lie: I think I went through all of the stages of grief when I heard the announcement of Rich People ending. Given that the Rich People socials had been teasing the upcoming year, my friends and I all frantically messaged one another after seeing the news. I even made a special playlist to jokingly beg them to keep the band going, featuring Taylor Swift’s “Stay Stay Stay (Taylor’s Version)” and Pinkshift’s “i’m gonna tell my therapist on you,” It’s been a long few years since I became a Rich People fan, but I don’t think I could have done it without them. I first saw Rich People open for fellow Philadelphia band Grayscale, and watching the guys perform confirmed that I had been missing out on something truly amazing. Joining the Rich People Discord wasn’t my first time joining a server for an artist, and I was used to stopping by and sending a few messages before getting drowned out by the buzz and leaving quietly. However, this server connected me with some of my best friends and offered a sense of community at a time when we were all so far away from one another. I remember meeting Rob and Blake in person this past fall: despite us only meeting over Zoom a year before and interacting occasionally on social media, they both immediately recognized me and greeted me like longtime friends. On top of the general kindness they constantly showed their fans, their music brought a sense of comfort, especially through the pandemic. There’s something so powerful about their music, and it really radiates through the way that their fans can connect with the lyricism or really feel each song deep in their souls. It’s truly a special connection, and I can’t thank the guys enough for what they’ve created in these past few years. So how would I sum up the impact Rich People have made on me, my outlook on life, my aspirations, my inspirations, my life altogether? It transcends beyond the music—it’s the beauty and warmth in finding community, the perseverance and creativity in trying to change, the vulnerability and honesty in searching for answers, the strength and courage in learning to be “all the way and unafraid to be.” - Mary
being unapologetic with
Meet GAYLE: you may have heard her smash hit “abcdefu” as a trend on TikTok or a catchy earworm over the radio, and she just released “ur just horny,” another pop rock track that touches on a manipulative friendship. However, you may not know that she was initially drawn to music after discovering Aretha Franklin, and at 17 years old, she’s already embarking on her very own headline tour. I had the chance to catch up with the rising star in Philadelphia while she was on tour with Winnetka Bowling League to learn more about her music:
Interview and live photography by Mary Perez Photography courtesy of Acacia Evans To start off, can you just talk a bit about your musical background and influences? I started doing music when I was seven, and the person that made me love music was Aretha Franklin. I was in school and learning about music, specifically scatting, like Ella Fitzgerald, and I came home and was scatting all the time. I went to school and came back scatting, and my mom was like, “What is this? That’s weird.” Because of that, she started showing me videos of powerhouse R&B singers and more soulful singers, like Nina Simone and Joss Stone, and then she showed me a video of Aretha Franklin. It was like a 30-minute compilation, and I remember looking at her and thinking, “That is what I want to do with my life: I want to kindacoolmagazine.com • 51
be Aretha Franklin. That’s what I want to be when I grow up.” In no way would I say that my music is like Aretha Franklin 2.0 or comes close to it, but that was like the first inspiration, the first time I was really inspired by music, where it clicked in my brain. It kinda grew on: Julia Michaels is a great inspiration as an artist who writes for other people. Delacey’s also another great example. Chloe Lilac, Holly Humberstone, Still Woozy, I feel like Olivia Rodrigo’s an obvious one because she’s amazing, Billie Eilish, those young women making music. Then Alanis Morrisette is also a big inspiration for me. I actually saw someone say that your music sounded like Olivia Rodrigo combined with Billie Eilish, so how does it feel to be compared to some of the biggest and youngest stars in today’s industry, and who would you describe your sound as being like? The biggest thing when you’re making music, especially as an artist, is finding what inspires you and turning it into something different. That’s the hardest thing about writing: finding a song that you love and turning it into something that doesn’t sound like a not-as-good version of that song, you know? There are times where I love Billie and her music, but I can’t listen to her music that much, just because I don’t want to sound like a “Walmart version” of Billie because you’ll never be able to do it as good. Even if you could, it’ll sound exactly alike so there’s nothing special. Same with Olivia, I love her music. I love that the industry, especially the pop industry, is getting dominated by badass young women who are writing their own songs, and I’m excited to see what this would inspire in 10-20 years from now. “Abcdefu” has been championed for being rather anthemic and empowering — are there any songs or artists in particular that you listen to for that sort of feeling? UPSAHL’s album has gotten me through this tour. There are drives we do where we get to the hotel at 5 AM, where you have just enough energy to not give up but also just enough to want to cry. The UPSAHL album at 3 AM just hits different and gets me through the drive. “Notorious” just gives me the energy because sometimes getting out of bed is effort, and playing that song or “IDFWFEELINGS” gets me out of bed and going. Your latest single has been the soundtrack to heartbreak and became a trend on TikTok. How would you describe the influence of TikTok on the overall trajectory of your career? It’s been absolutely crazy! I feel like the first trend that started with it was using ASL to sign out the letters, and I remember a few people were like, “You should try that out for TikTok!” I felt like I didn’t particularly have the right to try that out as a 52 • kinda cool.
trend when I’m not somebody who’s deaf or hard of hearing, using that to try and make success for my song when that’s something I’m not fully educated on, I didn’t feel like I had the right to start that. When I saw that happening and people starting it on their own, it really made me happy that people were able to attach their own experiences and what they want to do with my song. It then kinda moved on to smashing plates, which was a big one that I started seeing. Obviously, there’s stuff like “Things my ex does, but my sister comments it,” videos like that, where they comment everything that the ex’s done. Another one I started seeing was family photos, like “My mom took a family photo for Thanksgiving, but we’re all assholes and flipping off the camera in a discreet way.” Then there’s just people singing along to the song, and it’s so crazy that people know my song. It’s weird in all the best ways. Your song has also hit the airwaves and been played on radio stations all over the country. How does it feel to know so many different people are hearing your music? It’s ridiculous. It’s hard to even fathom as real life. With tour, you’re always somewhere different. I don’t think I’ve had a chance to really process that my literal dream since I was ten, writing songs in my bedroom, I was dreaming of having a song on
the radio. Little did I know it’d be a big “fuck you” song, and it’s just so surreal and crazy. I’m just so grateful, and my goals are just to keep moving forward as an artist. That’s funny because I was going to ask what goals do you have for your career, and have you accomplished any of your goals already? There’s definitely a lot of goals that I’ve been able to achieve, even like getting a record deal and signing with Atlantic, getting a song on the radio, or even a song doing well on TikTok. I was really working for that to happen. Obviously I have more goals, and this is just one song. The goal is to really keep it going and continue the story. My goal next year is to create a consistent body of work, and there’s love songs, hate songs, songs about my insecurities, and songs about the world. I’m just really excited for that to come out. Are there any challenges you experience in writing music that is so brutally honest? Yeah, it’s hard to admit your faults to yourself. You have to like own your part and situation that you’re not always the good guy. That’s okay, and you have to learn from that. There are times where I wasn’t always the greatest friend or girlfriend, and I need to
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look at those things, accept that I did that and can’t change my actions, and let that affect my actions in the future. Putting bad habits in my songs and having the self-awareness to be better, that’s the best I can do. Seeing as this tour is wrapping up tonight, how was the overall tour? Anything memorable or exciting about any of the dates? I started doing a call-and-response thing, and that’s been amazing. The second to last show, the Chicago show, there were two levels [in the venue], and I didn’t realize there were two levels, so I looked up and was like, “Hi, hello!” I made the upper level sing it, and then I made the lower level sing it, and then I made everybody sing it, and that was so insane. It’s been a lot of fun, living in the good ol’ van, but it’s been a lot of fun. If one celebrity could show up to one of your shows, who would you want to see? Probably Billie [Eilish]. That’d be crazy; I’d lose my mind. I’d act really cool or I’d try my best to keep my composure, and the second she was out the door, I’d lose my shit. If you could choose a personal theme song, what’d you pick and why? Probably “Thriving” by UPSAHL. Have there ever been any songs or artists that have been ruined for you that you just can’t listen to anymore? There’s one song, “Drew Barrymore” by Bryce Vine. That song was like a relationship song, well, not even a relationship song, but a hookup song, if I’m being completely honest. Now I can’t listen to it because I played it too many times during specific times, and I cringe a little bit at it now. That’s an amazing song. That song has me in a chokehold, for sure. What’s the next step for you? What do you see coming next in your career? Honestly, I’m going to be traveling more. I’m going to be writing with different people and also the same people in different places. Trying out new genres and taking things to the extreme, and just coming out with a body of work that I’m working my ass off to finish. At 17 years old, there’s no telling what the future holds for GAYLE. After our conversation, I was able to watch her take the stage with an explosive performance, including a phenomenal Alanis Morrisette cover. The Foundry was electrifying as her powerful vocals rang out through the venue, everyone captivated by her spectacular set. Seeing as she plans to release a full body of work this year, we’re looking forward to hearing what she creates next. Be sure to catch her on tour this spring!
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by Stephanie Nardi
by Rebekah Witt
authenticity, experimentation, and honesty:
how GIRLFRIEND evolved
THE DRIVER ERA to new heights
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Interview by Caitlyn McGonigal
Photography by Sophie Harris
The Driver Era did anything but stand still in 2021. Coming back strong from a pandemic-halted industry, they released their sophomore record, Girlfriend, and returned to the stage for their much-awaited (and initially postponed) World Tour. Girlfriend marked a turn for the band as brothers Rocky and Ross Lynch evolved their selfproduction to new heights, and bravely faced themes of love and loss while showcasing just how much they had matured as artists — and people — since their debut in 2019. The Lynch brothers answered together to give us some insight on what inspired Girlfriend, how it feels to be back out on the road, and which habits they’ve picked up to keep them creating.
Girlfriend just released in October — what does the record mean to you as a whole? It’s hard to gauge the value it holds with us right now. Once an album comes out that I had been working on, it sometimes takes me a while to reflect on it. I feel like I’ll have a better answer a year from now. Girlfriend is a bit groovier than X, for lack of a better word. What inspired you to embrace some R&B and funk elements this time around? Some of our bigger influences growing up had a lot of R&B and funk in them, and that side just shines a little more on Girlfriend. With X, there kindacoolmagazine.com • 61
was a little more fed-up energy around, so you get a little more of our punk side. Were you nervous about experimenting on Girlfriend? If so, how did you overcome it? Experimenting is the fun part for us. I want to hear what I haven’t heard yet. I think the trick is to not be nervous while experimenting, and then you may find what you’re looking for, if you’re lucky. Love seems like a central theme to the record. Did you set out to write more songs about relationships this time around, or did you find that you were leaning into that along the way? When we were writing these songs, we didn’t really know they were gonna go together until right at the end when they were all basically finished. So, love somehow found its way into the music this time around, and I don’t suspect it’s leaving anytime soon. Rocky handled nearly all of the production on your debut. What was it like to come
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together as Ross helped produce Girlfriend? To me, it’s all about someone's taste, no matter what creative thing you’re doing. Ross has good taste, so he is a good producer as well. Being self-produced always tends to add a special element to someone’s artistry. Do you find that you write songs with the production in mind as you go, or do the words tend to come first and you figure out the instrumental second? Or, perhaps, has the instrumental ever come first? If I’m writing anything, I tend to want to work on production-related things first. And more often than not, I have a lot of different song ideas with no words. Words are usually last. Does the live performance of a song impact how you go about producing it? When we get in the studio, recently, we’re always like “Let’s do some fast stuff.” So, I think the most the live show has done is brought the average BPM up.
On the note of live versions of songs, you just completed your US tour. Have you found yourselves experimenting with older tracks when playing them live? Yeah, it’s hard to not have fun with older songs; I always am throwing new little riffs into parts I’m playing, or we’ll extend different parts. Add a guitar solo, you never know. The World Tour was postponed because of the pandemic, so what was it like heading back out onto the road after so long away? The first show back, you could kind of feel from the crew and everyone on the tour that it had been a second since they had been a part of a show. But once the show started, it seemed like everything sort of clicked. Did any of the songs on Girlfriend change a lot from their first inception to the release of the album? “Places” had a different chorus. And “When You Need A Man” — the chorus was slightly different as well. Have you found that being brothers has impacted how you go about the creative process together? Yeah, I think, at times, we can be a little too relaxed. It’s easy to be hanging out in the house and just sorta be like “Let’s do that tomorrow and have fun now!!” But I think because of how comfortable we are in those situations, the creative side benefits tremendously. Which songs off of Girlfriend did you
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think would resonate the most with fans? Have you found that your prediction was correct? “When You Need A Man” seemed to be one of the crowd favorites. I had a lot of fun working on that song, but I wasn’t anticipating it being one of the favorites. Is there a certain song off the record that means a lot to you? I’ve always been a fan of “OMG” for some reason. That was one of the earlier TDE songs written as well. You’ve gotten to meet some fans on this tour — what is it like to be able to talk with people face-to-face about your work after that not being the case for the past year and a half? That was super refreshing, actually. The tour put some new life into the music that was much-needed. There are a couple days after touring that feel a little strange sometimes ‘cause you just went from selling out shows and people saying they really like the music you make, then all of a sudden you’re home and no one is saying that. Everyone has their own way of knowing a song is “finished.” Some will play it in their car as they drive around to make sure it fits the vibe; others may need to play it live. What’s the process of knowing a song is complete look like for you? When a song is about halfway there, I do like to go for a cruise and play it with the windows down while driving on side streets. Sometimes I’ll sing the parts
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that aren’t in there yet, but don’t tell anyone that. The song is usually finished way before you think it is— you’re just not ready to let go. Do you make a routine out of creating music, or do you write as ideas come to you? I usually decide to start working on something, and then ideas seem to come after I’ve put forth the intention to work. Do you practice any habits or routines to keep yourself in a creative mindset? I’ve been saying I was gonna do Dry January, but it's now the 15th and haven’t started yet… I might start tomorrow, lol. I do meditate from time to time. I find reading helps keep my mind feeling good. One of the great parts of music is that lyrics can be interpreted differently by each listener. Have you noticed any specific interpretations of the tracks on Girlfriend that have resonated with you, even if they weren’t exactly what you meant while writing them? It is cool how people get to interpret the songs how they choose. I like putting lines in songs that have multiple meanings. I think I started doing that ‘cause it felt like it kept me somewhat hidden.
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A lot of your listeners have been able to grow up alongside you guys through different projects you’ve been involved with. What is it like to be able to go through that with them? Yeah, we get a lot of people saying “I grew up with you guys, and now I’m in college.” It’s special, for sure, soundtracking part of someone’s life. Pretty cool job. What can we expect next from you? I want to put out more music, so we’re looking to have that finished up before the summer. Through an openness for experimentation and a focus on transparency and authenticity, The Driver Era have evolved quite a bit since their last release. This shift isn’t lost on fans or critics, as Girlfriend has been widely successful, and the band shows no signs of holding themselves back any time soon. The duo’s sophomore release is their best work yet, but it shouldn’t be considered anything close to their peak. Girlfriend has lit a fire under the Lynch brothers, fueling their creativity and encouraging the break down any barriers that stand in their way. Whatever comes next will undoubtedly find The Driver Era at the forefront of the pop-rock scene.
by Jessica Matilszki
radiant and introspective: a look at
BAD SUNS' new record
Bad Suns are known for an unmistakable sound like no other: compelling melodies, pulsing synthesizers, and rhythmic energy. Their signature touch that drew listeners to their work in the first place is everpresent in their latest release, Apocalypse Whenever, while conceptually being one of their most cohesive pieces to date. Guided by longtime producer Eric Palmquist, this fourth album takes listeners on a 13-track, forward-looking journey that is full of color, cinematics, and blissfulness. While remaining true to their roots, the band has produced an album that is tangibly nostalgic, yet nothing short of refreshing and quite meaningful nonetheless. I had the pleasure of speaking with frontman Christo Bowman preceding the release and learned all about how Apocalypse Whenever opens a brand new chapter for what’s to come from Bad Suns.
Interview by Adrienne Joelle Photography courtesy of Elizabeth Miranda To start, I’ve been following your guys’ journey since Language & Perspective back in 2014, and it’s one of my favorites alongside Disappear Here. It’s been years and years that I’ve been listening to Bad Suns. Thank you very much, that’s really awesome. Glad you’ve been there from the start. Yeah, it’s been years and years since we’ve been making the music, I guess. We’re coming up either today or tomorrow that actually marks the ten-year anniversary of the first time the four of us got in a room together and played. That was sort of the day Bad Suns came to be, our origin story. So, it’s a big day, the album’s coming out, our fourth record, the anniversary of the band, the start of the tour… there’s a lot to be grateful for today and tomorrow. And every day. My first question has to do with a little bit of how it all started for you guys, in comparison to where you guys feel you are now in this current moment. How do you delineate all the sonic elements that go into each release thus far that have allowed for your growth and development? kindacoolmagazine.com • 69
Well, with every project we’ve ever worked on and any song we’ve ever written or every album we’ve ever made, really anything that the band does, our leading principle is just that we’re sort of driven by instinct and whatever it is that the thing inside is telling us to do or telling me which way to go, which route to go down. And so, with Language & Perspective, I think that was a moment in time where things started to really click for us in terms of our tastes all aligning and the types of music we were listening to and playing. It all sort of converged into this thing, and once there was a song called “Transpose” which came around, that was sort of the first song which kind of led us in that new direction. From there, we kept writing songs and got to a point where we had written a batch of a few songs. The first batch we wrote and recorded was “Transpose,” “Cardiac Arrest,” “We Move Like The Ocean,” “Matthew James,” and a song called “Defeated,” which we held back for later, but once we had those five songs during that process, that was sort of us finding our place in the world sonically, so to speak. And then when we went to record the rest of the album, it was sort of about the time that had elapsed and how our tastes kept evolving. We were really young when we started recording that record. I think I was 16 when we started recording those songs, and I was 17 finishing the vocals on those songs, something crazy like that. So, then that record came about once we figured it all out. We recorded it between 2012 and the beginning of 2014, so it’s sort of us in that period. It’s how every album should be, it’s sort of a snapshot of who we were at the time. With Disappear Here, we sort of went from being a band who played in front of two or three people to all of a sudden in front of 20, 50, 100, 300 people, and then we started going on support tours. We were touring with The 1975 and The Neighborhood, and our own shows were getting bigger. In all that time and that year of us touring, we played over 100 shows, and that’s sort of the best rehearsal a band can get and the best growth a band can get is just going out there and doing it. So, by the time it came around to make the second record, we were still on the same path, just our musicianship and our perspective on the world had grown a little bit. Our introspection towards ourselves really fueled the flame for Disappear Here; we were feeling more confident than ever, and that record, I think to me, is a little more upbeat and faster than the first one was. It has a little bit of a sort of post-punk vibe to it. It was really kind of building on the foundation 70 • kinda cool.
we had set with Language & Perspective, and that was very much who the band was at the time. We’re really proud of that record. We were touring during the recording process of that record, but the last bulk of it really got finished over the holidays, the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016. It was a really hectic time in all of our lives. We got right back on the road after that, touring didn’t stop for another year and a half, but by the end of that, we were all a bit exhausted. So, what we decided to do was we all rented a house and we moved in together because apparently, we couldn’t get enough time around each other. We bought the house with the intention to write and record our album. We did a lot of that, but it was time to chill and hang out with one another without having the weight of work and touring over our shoulders but also to kind of reestablish that base relationship we had. And so, as a result, the third record, Mystic Truth, is a bit more laid back and a different sort of vibe. To quote our song “Violet,” there’s a line in that song that says “I saw a red light up ahead, and so I took a left instead.” I think that was what we did—we felt we were on the brink of exhaustion. Like I said, we had to follow that instinct, so we had to sort of turn left and do something easygoing; we wanted to work with new people, we wanted to take a risk in certain ways and do something different, and that’s what happened with Mystic Truth. After touring that album, we felt that the well of creativity and the drive to be Bad Suns again had really sort of overflown, and there was all this creativity flowing left and right. The guys and I were making music together, and we really felt like we had an objective, whereas the last one was more of us coming up for air. This one was us jumping right back into the thick of it, and building upon that foundation, which started with Language & Perspective. Moving forward with all of those behind us and taking all of the things we had learned over the years, this new album sonically is a snapshot of where we are right now and where we’ve been for the last couple of years, and that’s the best way I can describe it. Mystic Truth was definitely different sonically, but it’s nice sometimes to take a step back and do whatever feels right. I think you guys needed that album at the time, for sure. For sure, we couldn’t have made this album
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without making Mystic Truth. Every album, and the most important thing with music, is that it’s self-expression, and you’re honoring that first and foremost. So, if we weren’t feeling up to make this record that maybe people weren’t expecting from us, if we had tried to fake it, it would’ve been obvious. Then, people wouldn’t have liked it very much, and we would’ve been in this whole conundrum, so I’m happy we decided to follow our instinct there. Thankfully, the fans gave us time to do our thing, and now I feel we’re kind of back full speed ahead. The last couple of years has been crazy, pandemic and all. Evidently enough, it has affected all of our lives, but I wanted to ask about
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what got you guys inspired to create during these tough times. How did this album come about, and were there any major obstacles you had to overcome? On one hand, the obstacles mainly had to do more with the record company’s part. People tell us that this album coming out in January sounds like a summer album, which is inherent in our music, but I thought this album was going to come out this past summer. However, with all these slowdowns and all these different things, it just wasn’t possible, but we needed to wait until everything was in the right place for this album to get its proper introduction into the world, so that was one small bullet we could bite. Otherwise, in a lot of ways, I was about
to say this sentence, and hearing myself talk out loud is so ridiculous, but the pandemic has kind of benefited us, which sounds so horrible to say, but it gave us time to work creatively, and we were really inspired and had the vision pretty early on. As we were completing the tour for the Mystic Truth record, we started having the conversation about where we wanted to go next. There’s a quote, I think Elvis Costello said, “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” At a certain point, it’s hard to get across. Oftentimes, when we’re in the studio, the more abstract we go, the easier it is for us to communicate, so we’ll present photographs, imagery, video clips, and general aesthetic ideas and representation of what to me the album looks like in my head. So we went down that rabbit hole for a while, and I sent a batch of 10 demos I collected. I wrote “Baby Blue Shades,” “Grace (I Think I’m In Love Again),” and “When The World Was
Mine” in rapid succession, and we got into the studio December of 2019. January of 2020, I took a trip to Tokyo to kind of fuel more inspiration and get a little bit more perspective around the world. I was able to dive into this world, which was filled with a lot of those photo ideas and mood boards we had been sending to each other. I came back from that, and I had planned to take a couple of trips in between. Things changed, and the last day we had booked in the studio for our late winter sessions, we kind of found out we weren’t going to be leaving or touring any time soon. So, we got back in writing mode, and that’s what we did. We were feeling really inspired. Writing an album is like a snowball—once you have that initial vision, it kind of becomes easier over the process. It always remains difficult, but with writing, you have an advantage ‘cause you know where you’re heading, and it kindacoolmagazine.com • 73
just keeps building. We were snowballing through that period. And I like to work at home, I like to work collaboratively, but I also like to work on my own a lot. It’s sort of how this band has always operated: we do our own things a lot and then fuse together, and that’s where the music happens. I would sit at this desk, funnily enough, writing demos, sending them to the guys, then we would jump on a video chat like this one. We would write in ways that we could then, and I’d piece the story in my own way. So things like that, it would’ve never happened before. Yeah, so it impacted us in ways. It forced us to try some new things, and I think a lot of the best art and the best work comes out of putting yourself into uncomfortable situations. If you just do what you’re comfortable with, it’s going to sound pretty comfortable and stale, and we wanted to make the best music that we could with this record. It was fun with all the different dynamics, we had to wear fucking masks in the studio, a small price to pay! That was in the longest way possible how the pandemic affected this album. “Apocalypse Whenever” lays the basis for the album and is quite a strong opening track. Personally, as someone who loves lyrics and writing, I love how you put it together. Can you walk me through a little bit on how you worked out the concept for this song that ultimately paved the theme for the album? Yeah, I would love to walk you through it. The first song was originally called “A Moment Of Reflection,” as was the entire album, which was sort of the working title. The first thing I remember is sitting here at this desk with my feet up, getting into a trance staring at the ceiling, thinking of the beginning of this album and how this album should start. I had this idea, mainly the first and the third records start with these abrupt songs where you’re sucked in right away. With this album, I kind of wanted it to appear out of the mist a little bit more and slowly explode, but I wanted you to see it in the distance through the fog and these neon lights 'til you get closer and closer and see the whole picture in front of you. So I was looking at my ceiling, and the first thing I did was that intro guitar, the motif melody that kind of reappears at the end of the album and is sort of the theme for the album, but 74 • kinda cool.
I didn’t write the rest of the song. A few months later, I gave them the idea and played it for them. Gavin thought it was really cool, but he said that it needs to be a song. One night after everyone had left, I finally saw it as a song and had to write the words to get through that task. With that one, one of the first things I said was “I used to call you after school.” I knew I wanted it to kick off the record and introduce and tell the story. From there, the next melody was “Life’s not been pretty, but I’m still not ready to die.” It was constant writing and rewriting every line and every syllable. That one was probably the trickiest song lyrically for me to write because I knew it had to set the stage, and I knew there were certain lyrics that had to be there. I remember I sang them in every possible order, I was driving myself nuts over it. It was a process of obsessive self-reflection and tinkering, looking at
love: movies, television shows, styles of music, books, stories, lyrics, and feelings I get and feel - how do I make someone feel that? That was sort of the main objective. For the mood boards, it was all of the movies I’ve been a fan of for so many years. I love the Terminator movies, namely Terminator 2: Judgment Day, I love Blade Runner movies, the shows X-Files and Twin Peaks, Philip K. Dick and Haruki Murakami books. I love these sort of dark, paranormal, sciencefiction, futuristic things; just everyday life with little pockets of magic, and you’re not sure of what’s reality and what’s a dream. Reading those books and watching those movies were like charging my batteries there, I took what I knew and what I love and went further and further with it. You described that “the main character is forced to re-evaluate everything that’s happened in their life. Ultimately, the takeaway they’re left with is, ‘This could all end at any time, so instead of moaning about things, I’m going to make the most of it.’” How does the main character of the story relate to you?
myself from an outside perspective, questioning, and sort of astral projection kind of thing, and that’s how that one came together. Juice is always worth the squeeze. Speaking of themes, tell me about the influences that brought the dreamy haze of Apocalypse Whenever to life. I know you guys developed a mood board of sorts to help expand on this. What influenced the overall story, full of flashbacks and more? The most important thing with creating music and creating art first and foremost is, that whatever your medium is or whatever you’re putting out there, it needs to be this layer of unadulterated pure selfexpression. So, the way of doing that is making this the most ‘me’ album of all time. Everything that I
I’m always writing from a perspective, placing myself in that position of the song, but that doesn’t always mean that every song is autobiographical. Sometimes I’m placing myself in the position of somebody I know or convergence of people I know. For me, it’s really all about the observations of life, and sometimes it’s easier to observe the things that other people are doing that don’t sit right with you. It’s harder sometimes to get at the root of your own issues, and while I do that a lot with my music, I think, as people, it’s easier to worry and talk about other people than to worry and talk about ourselves. The album, the original title was “A Moment Of Reflection.” That came around from the notebook I was writing in, the few lines in the front were going to drive me crazy if they were left blank, so I just write something stupid every time. So I wrote that, and one of the guys thought it was a cool title. It sort of led me to this place and like, what if this album is a near-death experience? You see your life flash before your eyes and the songs are kind of like everything that you saw, and the first song is that near-death experience. And that was sort of the idea that connected everything, in the back of my mind, I knew that was the plan - to kindacoolmagazine.com • 75
connect these things in that sort of way. I think that it ends perfectly with “Symphony Of Lights” because it ties the whole thing together (shoutout to the little reference in “Peachy” as well). I was pleasantly surprised to hear everything tied together so well. My favorite song so far is “Silently Screaming.” What is your favorite track on the record and why? It’s hard, I don’t think there really is just one because I love them all for different reasons, but the last song we dropped, “Life Was Easier When I Only Cared About Me,” was one of my favorite songs. That’s how I’m feeling today, so I’ll say that! You guys are about to go on tour with littleimage. and Kid Bloom. What are you most excited about, and how will these songs look like on tour? On the last tour, we were able to play “Baby Blue Shades” and “Heaven Is A Place In My Head.” Everything since then, well, I’m excited to see how everything transpires. “Silently Screaming” will definitely be fun to play live. And I really look forward to “Life Was Easier,” as well. I just wanted to congratulate you on such a strong piece of work. What are you looking forward to most about it being received by fans, old and new?
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That remains to be seen. I’m just happy to be at this point now where we’re sort of able to let it go out into the world, and now it’s no longer for us to listen to and tinker with or try and change something or a lyric here and there. Once we knew it was done, it was done, and now it’s time to move on to something else and start a new album. So, I’m excited for this one to be for everyone at this point and let them have their opinions on it. Some people are going to like it more than others, but it’s all about it just being out there. There’s no one singular definition to the record. I know everything that’s going on in there, but I’m excited for people to listen to it and sort of discover through their own perspectives and own lenses what it means to them. Apocalypse Whenever is a powerful showcase of Bad Suns’ artistry and authenticity. A world of vibrant color and glimpses of time, the band challenged themselves to create a record that they’ve not produced before. Much like their valiant efforts to take a left turn and detour to follow their instincts, the band creates whatever they feel is most true to themselves. With hints of their iconic sound sprinkled throughout the album, they will surely leave an indelible impression on both listeners old and new. This fourth album is a culmination of the band’s many feats conveyed in a way that propels them forward, proving to be a snapshot of who they are in this moment of time and will always be: Bad Suns.
the evolution of
Words by JenaRose Dahlstrom Photography by JenaRose Dahlstrom and Gianna Cicchetti In 2016, The Maine first announced they were going to have a festival to celebrate ten years of being a band, taking place in Phoenix, AZ, in January of 2017. It was in a parking lot next to one of the local venues they’d been playing for years, with an exclusive pre-party the Friday before to play their album Pioneer in full, and a pop-up shop full of exclusive merch. They wanted to celebrate the album that made their independent label, 8123 Records, a possibility. Many people, such as myself, went to this first Fest without really knowing what to expect or anyone else going. But everyone who attended knew that it was something special that we wanted to do over and over again, even if A Rocket To The Moon wasn’t a special guest every year. I made memories and friendships that weekend that I hope last for a lifetime. In 2019, they held the second 8123 Fest. The growth over two years was easy to see, with a larger Friday night show with a fan-voted set, a larger venue for the Fest itself, more bands, an Emo Nite, community outreach, and a Sunday night show. Fans were coming from all over the world. The fest setup became more elaborate, the size of the crowd grew, and every fan there knew they were exactly where they should be. With the setbacks of 2020 and 2021, the 2022 Fest was easily the most anticipated. People held on to their tickets for over two years to be able to see their favorite band in the desert again. They added a Thursday pre-show, played an even larger venue on Friday night, and added two additional emo nights. Friday’s show featured their newest album, XOXO: From Love & Anxiety In Real Time, played in full, as well as songs they almost NEVER play, to the point where it’s a joke amongst the fan base. I’m hoping the reaction 78 • kinda cool.
from the crowd means “So Criminal” and their “I Wanna Love You” cover become setlist staples. They even surprised the lucky fans in that night's crowd by playing “Like We Used To” by A Rocket To The Moon, bringing Nick Santino and Eric Halversen on stage. The day of the fest had everything fans have come to look forward to: two stages with local and national acts playing the entire day, backdrops for photos with all of your friends, light-up cowboy hats, and a specialty cocktail menu with commemorative cups. Being back in Phoenix after three years away, and after over a year of quarantine, postponements, and cancellations, felt almost surreal. You could tell every single fan, friend, family member, and band member there was elated it was finally happening. With local band Sundressed kicking off the Sonoran Roots Stage and John The Ghost kicking off the Main Stage, the tone was set for a great day right away. Fans had the chance to see bands like Beach Weather and The Summer Set play for one of the first times since 2017. When the Maine finally took the stage, they opened with fan-favorite We All Roll Along. The crowd roared “81! 23! Means everything! To me!” and you could tell every person there meant it. The band played all of the fan favorites from “Right Girl” to “Black Butterflies & Deja Vu.” They finished the night with “Another Night On Mars,” a song that truly encapsulates what the 8123 community is—with arms around friends from different states that they’ve known a lifetime or met through this amazing community that The Maine has been able to build. We all walked away that evening counting down the days until we’re back in the desert together, surrounded by familiar faces, the people that you love to see.
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igniting a new era of
KNUCKLE PUCK Even after ten years as a band, Knuckle Puck are not planning on stopping anytime soon. The Chicago pop punk band’s most recent record, 20/20, was released in 2020, as their latest release, “Disposable Life,” came out earlier this month. Five high-energy tracks, including an electric cover of blink-182’s “Here’s Your Letter,” the EP marked a new era for the band, accompanied by an upcoming spring tour. I spoke with vocalist Joe Taylor about the past decade in the band, the new EP, and the future of Knuckle Puck:
Interview by Mary Perez Photography courtesy of Alec Basse Live photography courtesy of Danny DeRusso Knuckle Puck celebrated ten years as a band with a series of shows in December, and the Chicago show was rescheduled to this Friday. How did you decide on a setlist that would effectively capture the past ten years and your multiple bodies of work?
songs changed in meaning for you? Oh, absolutely! It’s not that they were one thing, and now they’re another. I feel like they slowly morphed over time as we’ve been performing them. As I said, the songs that we don’t really play, I go back sometimes and listen to them, find new meanings. I feel like the meaning in those old songs is always kinda morphing with new experiences.
For those shows, we literally wrote out all of our songs. We went from the first releases and kept going through and naming all of the songs, just being like, “Oh, should we play this one? Should we play that one? We haven’t played that one in a while, or we like playing that one but haven’t for whatever reason.” It kinda gave us a cool chance to go through and name each individual song, and there were honestly a lot of songs that we kinda forgot about because we hadn’t looked at them for so long.
Have any songs really made an impact on fans that you didn’t expect?
Over the past decade, have any of your
Absolutely! When we started the band, it was
80 • kinda cool.
Honestly, our song “Evergreen.” When we were doing that record and trying to pick out singles, that song wasn’t really in the lineup, and people really love that song. I’d say “Evergreen” is a standout. What were your goals when the band began, and how many have you achieved?
just me and [drummer] John [Siorek] playing guitar and drums in my room. Our only goal was to play some cool shows. We just wanted to play some cool basement shows, maybe a couple of venues with some bands we liked. I think we definitely accomplished our base goals, not that we didn’t have goals after that, but I think those were some of the first ones we got to do. Coming out of high school and wanting to play in a band, you’re not thinking, “Oh, I want to go tour or be this huge thing.” You just want to do anything. You’re going to take any opportunity. Exactly, just trying to do something with this. At that point, it had just been me alone in my bedroom playing guitar. Even getting to go over to John’s and jam with this great drummer was like one of my first goals, finding a good drummer. We didn’t have a high expectation. How has your vision for the band shifted over the years? 82 • kinda cool.
It’s like the same thing as the songs, where it’s always morphing. I feel like we never sat down and were like, “We need to do X, Y, Z.” We were just kinda going with the flow. There were a couple of times with Copacetic and Shapeshifter, both times. We were touring a bunch and realized we had a month and a half, so there were moments of stress, but we were always going with the flow. We never really wrote more songs than what was on the records. For Copacetic, Shapeshifter, and 20/20, there were a couple of songs leftover, but we quickly abandoned them. I feel like we were always going with the flow. That’s really interesting because a lot of artists always talk about how they have so many songs leftover, but you guys barely have any that didn’t make the records. It was to the point where we wouldn’t even finish them. There are probably 2-3 songs from each of those full-length records that never got past being instrumentals because we decided these songs are clearly the album, and these are the odd men out. We’d always feel that out, I guess. Your spring tour is coming up, and the lineup is stacked. Is there anything you’re looking forward to in particular?
I’m excited to go back on tour. We did that weeklong run of shows, and unfortunately, we had to reschedule that last one. We’re going to be tighter with how we are as a group because we were in a van that last run, but I’m just excited to go on tour and play shows. That’s true because your last real tour was right when COVID was about to hit. Yeah, we only did half of those shows! Your EP was released in early February— can you give a brief summary of what each of the songs is about? Nick [Casasanto], our other guitar player and singer, he lives in LA. It was just me, [guitarist] Kevin [Maida], and John jamming the songs. What was interesting about that was that we hadn’t done that in a long time. When we started the band, it was just me and John, and Kevin would come play with us. With Nick not being here and Ryan busy doing his own thing, when it was bare-bones, it was just me, Kevin, and John. It was that original core group, and we almost haven’t done that in ten years. It felt like we were rebooting the band. We worked on a bunch of songs, picked four, and recorded them. Levitate: For “Levitate,” I was just trying to write a
song that was reminiscent of why we started the band. We tried to reference that 2012/2013 sound that we and other bands, like Such Gold and Title Fight, had going on. That was supposed to be a little nostalgic. Gasoline: It’s about not wasting your time, essentially. Did you hear the songs yet? Yes, I listened last night! I thought that it felt like a continuation of 20/20’s sonic direction. It’s cool that you say that because it definitely feels like old KP and also not. Lonely Island: It’s about choosing. It’s about choosing what you want to do, where you want to be, who you want to be with. It’s about choosing those things and feeling confident in those decisions, regardless of what anybody thinks. That’s what that line is about, “What’s it feel like to be alone on an island in the sky.” I choose to be in this spot, and anybody can
come be with me as well, but I’m choosing to exist in this specific space. In The Bag: That song’s about a lot of things. That song’s kinda inspired by Radiohead and Smashing Pumpkins. I feel like the lyrics are pretty straightforward. Here’s Your Letter: There are a few bands where we’ll just play songs at practice, just a few specific songs. “Here’s Your Letter” is one of them, there’s a Smashing Pumpkins song that we’ll always play and mess around with. There’s a bunch of songs that we always want to cover. Coming up with these songs, we try to draw a lot of influence from the self-titled record from blink[-182], so we were talking about it one day and were like, “Dude, we should just record that cover.” We talked with everyone about it, and we did half of that cover at my house, and we did the drums in the studio. That was kinda cool. Do you guys usually have unconventional places you record in?
Not for the records, but for demoing, definitely. Nick and I have recording setups, so as we’re writing songs, we’ll have John track drums when they’re done for the first time. There’s like a round one demo. We’ll do cool stuff like that for the demos, but not necessarily for the record. I feel like your discography has had a very natural progression to this EP. Has it also felt rather natural on your side? Definitely. When we wrote Copacetic, we had no idea what we were doing. We were like, “Oh my god, we have to do what now?” Like I said, going into Shapeshifter, we were on tour so much that we literally fell into Shapeshifter and had to write it. Everything we’ve done has been on instinct kinda. 20/20, we were a little more prepared for that record. We knew that we wanted to have big choruses and stuff, but a lot of stuff we were writing in the studio or when we went home from the studio. Getting off of Rise [Records], there was so much pressure lifted off of us, not that they were pressuring us
because they never did. I guess more financially because if they put a certain amount of money into the record, we’d be like, “We gotta make sure this record pays us back!” Going into “Disposable Life,” there was nothing. Like I said before, it was just the core three of us starting these songs. I remember there was a riff or two that I brought to practice, and I was like, “John, but does this sound like KP?” He was like, “Dude, we sound like whatever we sound like. You could play a riff, and that’s a Knuckle Puck riff.” To answer your question, it did feel very natural, but it still felt very fresh and free, which was kinda cool. It was exciting to do Disposable Life. Do you feel like your musical influences have changed with each record? I would say it’s definitely changed. I’ve just been more willing to explore different things or revisit old things. It’s like, “Oh, I know my grandma listened to this back in the day,” and check that out and be like, “Steely Dan is sweet. This is actually really good.” I’ve been more conscious of how this can influence what I do or push me in different directions from what I normally would do. If you could replace one of your setlist staples with another song, what songs would you choose? If I could? I like our setlist staples, to be honest. You’re not tired of any of them? Honestly? No, especially if you’re not playing shows for a year. I can’t strike any of the staples, feels blasphemous. We have a song named “Stationary” that we never play; that’s one of my favorites. If we could play that often… or like “Calendar Days,” we’ve never played that song. Is there a reason why? ‘Cause I played all of the guitars on it, and I don’t remember the parts. It’s really weird chords, and I’d definitely have to sit down and figure it all out. I think Kevin recorded one guitar part, but neither of them would know how to start the song. We’ve just never practiced it. It could happen at some point. kindacoolmagazine.com • 85
What’s a unique piece of merch you’d love to create one day?
Where do you envision Knuckle Puck going in the next ten years?
Well, we kinda already did it, sorry!
I’ll be old then. I don’t know. We’re working on songs right now. We just want to keep writing music and playing shows. Like I’ve said, we’ve never really thought about anything like that. We never thought we’d be a band for ten years. We were glad we were a band for the first four years. I’m going to think about that all day now. We don’t really think about that, but like I said, we are working on more songs again. We want to put out another release after this EP. Maybe we’ll do a double disc of like 30 songs.
What about something new? Well, here’s the thing: we always wanted to do a VHS, so we did a VHS of tour footage. We have all of this other footage, and we want to keep putting out videos, not necessarily on VHS, but release videos. Right now, we have like an hour and a half video of the making of Shapeshifter and 20/20. I think that. I want to release those. There were quite a few fans on pop punk TikTok that made videos dancing along to “Untitled,” including user @hops_music whose video hit nearly 500k views. Make up a TikTok trend with another one of your songs. I really hope that somebody does some kind of TikTok with one of our new songs. That might be a shameless answer, but I do hope so. Honestly, that was really cool that people did that. I remember seeing people commenting about how we should start doing that in the moshpit instead. That’s fucking sweet! Take our new songs, and show people what they should do with them! But seriously, if we saw choreographed moshpits, that’d be pretty sick. 86 • kinda cool.
Anything you want to say to your fans? Thank you to everybody for sticking around for ten years. Hopefully, we can hit that next ten, even if I’m old and my back’s messed up. Thanks for listening, and we’ll keep putting out music. Though the future may be unclear, Knuckle Puck have been a staple for the pop punk scene for the past ten years, and there’s no denying that their music will keep its timelessness as time goes on. “Disposable Life” came out earlier this month, and fans have been loving the new release, which has only increased the excitement for this upcoming tour. You can catch them on tour with the incredible Hot Mulligan, Meet Me @ the Altar, and Anxious this spring; tickets are available on knucklepuckil. com now, and don’t forget to practice your dance moves!
by Mary Perez
the bare bones of the ELSEWHERE TOUR with
SET IT OFF
Words and photography by Mary Perez
elcome to the Elsewhere Tour, Set It Off’s first full US tour since their early 2020 run. I had last seen the band on their Baltimore date in 2020, and they have since moved into a new era, as their upcoming record, Elsewhere, comes out in early March. Now I was back again in Maryland, Silver Spring this time, and I could feel the energy in the room as soon as I stepped foot in the venue. Fans of all ages, including young children with their parents, all showed a certain enthusiasm for every act and even the changeover songs. Surprisingly, you could hear so many of the show’s attendees singing along to classics like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “The Living Tombstone’s “Discord,” complete with dance moves, only proving that the night would be exciting from start to finish. Most artists like to keep their sets a surprise until the first show, but Set It Off shared the setlist on their social media before tour began, building the anticipation for the very first night they could hit the stage. Nineteen songs, including a nine-song melody mid-set, pulled from all eras of Set It Off, an appropriate celebration of the band’s complex discography. One of their latest singles, “Projector,” was released after the tour began, and the thought of hearing a brand new song for the first time had fans eagerly awaiting the reveal, as the mystery song on the setlist garnered attention while they speculated on the track’s name. If there’s one thing that this new era sparked, it’s an elaborate theme that translated into a wild and seemingly absurd stage setup. They thought of everything, from the colored microphone stands that parallel the trio’s colored hair to the skeletons that watch over the show and pay tribute to the lead single. On both
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sides of the stage stand figures with projector heads, yet another reference to the new album. However, it’s not long until the guys take the stage, and we venture into Elsewhere. Opening with “Skeleton” and “Projector,” frontman Cody Carson, guitarist Zach DeWall, and drummer Maxx Danziger were welcomed onstage with a roar of cheers, as the crowd warmed up to the new singles. I have no way of proving it, but I feel like nobody could resist throwing their hands up during the chorus of “Why Worry” or waving from side-toside during “Duality.” One of the highlights of the night was definitely the giant medley, which took a journey through both older throwbacks, such as Horrible Kids’ “Third Wheel,” and newer tracks, such as Midnight’s “No Disrespect.” However, the band took a moment away from their spirited set for Carson to speak about his late father, launching into a powerfully emotional performance of “Unopened Windows.” The band then swiftly transitioned into “Happy All The Time,” a fitting transition to say that it was okay to feel sad because those feelings are normal and valid. Later in the set, Danziger took center stage to sing a rendition of the band’s song “Bad Guy,” complete with his clown makeup. As he sang along to his own ukulele performance, I laughed to a friend, “I never thought I’d see Joker sing.” Surprisingly, the setlist included more older tracks, such as “Crutch,” a fan favorite from 2016’s Upside Down. The grand ending was the band’s encore to “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing,” their biggest track to date. Overall, this show only proved one thing: this new era will be exhilarating and full of new surprises at every turn. Check out Set It Off’s new record when it comes out in March, and be sure to catch them on tour!
AS IT IS
have returned and are ready to take you
TO HELL AND BACK As It Is have released their newest album, called I Went To Hell & Back, a fiery mix of rock and pop-punk that make the band who they are. Coming off of the masterpiece of their last album The Great Depression, As It Is are here and ready to blow your mind yet again. Currently, on tour with Set It Off, the group is still making themselves known and talked about in the scene. I chatted with lead singer Patty Walters about the album and how it compares to their other bodies of work, and what this new era means for the band.
Interview by Faith Logue Photography courtesy of Atom Splitter PR How has the tour been going so far? Is the energy what you expected? I spoke to one press outlet before the tour started and they asked, “What are you most looking forward to, being back and all?” Everything, the good and the bad things. You get enormous highs of playing the shows and the adrenaline of seeing a sea of smiling faces. I’ve missed it all, even the sleep deprivation and the cold and fast food for days on end. I’ve gotten to relive it again, and it’s been very nice. I have missed it so much. How has the pandemic affected you guys as a band, and even though it is a negative event, did it help you be creative? Yeah, I say that is true. A couple of people have said that the record on its own has a very hopeful tone in all the usual As It Is pessimism you are used to hearing and digesting. There hasn’t been a lot of hope in these past two years of uncertainty, and we were just trying to create that sense of control and autonomy over the past few years. It occurred to us countless times that maybe we don’t want to write this or continue this project as band members stepped away. There was too much to say, and all we had was time 90 • kinda cool.
and emotions. We turned those into art and tried to heal; having an outlet to put these thoughts into was a sense of therapy for me. I am proud of this record and proud that we have something to show through all this hardship. It is a new era for the band and has been for a while, so are there different outlooks on everything happening around you compared to The Great Depression album era? It is probably equal parts of what you’re used to hearing from As It Is, the vulnerability. We have grown up and actively didn’t want to write something like The Great Depression because that was a special and sentimental album. We are different people since the record and pandemic happened. We wanted to write something new and something that was just completely different. Our biggest influences have always been bands with clearly defined eras, that changed musically and aesthetic each time, like Paramore or My Chemical Romance, who have strong chapters or standalone works. We really wanted every record to be different and I Went To Hell & Back is not an outlier—it is a different record with a strong musical aesthetic, and we are proud of that. You guys seem to transform your sound after each album, so could you explain what sound you guys are going for during this album? Or
is it still rooted in what the basis of the band is? I’d say it is equal parts again. It is a huge representation of what the band is: experimenting and expanding upon the work that we have done, and equally collaborating with our producer Zack Jones. It is very much his DNA as it is ours. This is his wheelhouse and specialty, and he is alive and present and loud on this record, and he shaped and bettered it. I would say, if there’s any sound we are going for, it is the collaboration with him as a creator. Could you explain the title I Went To Hell & Back? How does it relate to the music on the album? It is fun because the record is coming out so soon. I can’t wait until people hear the title track and hear an entire song’s worth of what the title and song mean to us. The full lyric is “I went to hell and back because heaven was just too far away.” There is so much to unpack if you just examine the first half. I think the last two words “and back” get lost sometimes because of how menacing and dark the artwork looks, the imagery of Hell. These are stories
and songs written in turbulence and pain, and we are releasing these from the other side of that and everyone listening is on the other side. Some days almost won, and I can’t stress it enough it was a very difficult and trying time. Having art was one of the only things helping me through it. That is another one of those things that the title represented, that narrative and journey we hope will take people through the album, and it was a mission statement for the record. It is such an exhilarating feeling having an album title and holding it in your hands. Will the album be telling a story as The Great Depression did? The Great Depression was a true anomaly in our discography, and I Went To Hell & Back is us going back to basics back to Never Happy, Ever After and okay., which were thematic records. There’s one sort of unifying theme that connects all of those songs and wants to take you on a journey. The Great Depression had characters and a story being told, and I don’t know if that will ever happen again, as it resulted from having a title first. The title shapes the sound and aesthetic, and that album was special because it was, and if that ever happens again, that
would be an exciting feeling all over again. This was discovered while writing songs and telling a story. I think one of the big takeaways for me is that artists in this scene are just fans, and we couldn’t be playing shows, so we were equal and together, with no power imbalance. We were all just fans of each other, and that was cool and humbling. And it was beneficial for me. I was just holding my guitar, with no shows to play, and it felt like I was returning to my youth, just writing songs. I am really glad it happened, and as you said, the pandemic has been very negative, but there have been small glimmers of hope. Why was “IDGAF” chosen to be the first song back after a year of not releasing music? “IDGAF” is a really interesting song. We wrote it in October of 2019, and we were out in LA, writing with a bunch of producers. It was before Ben’s Farewell Tour, so it had been around for a while at that point. There are some songs that you finish and celebrate with good feelings, and those feelings tend to dilute. That never happened with this song; there was something magical about the melody and the aggression of the lyrics, not even in terms of how they are delivered but just about how unashamed they are and just is in your face. Ben and I used to write the majority of the lyrics together, and we had this really sad and poetic approach to lyricism. There are a lot of moments like that on this record because I still love writing that way, and there are moments where it is just loud, and to lean into that was extremely liberating. It sort of adds to the heaviness and punk-leading moments of the record. This song, in particular, was feeling like we unlocked something new, like a reincarnation of the same band. We used it as a sort of blueprint to make sure that every other song embodied the same ethos of that song. That song set the tone for this record, and it was an outlier for this record, and to release a year and a half later, it still gives me that same excitement. That song is more rock-heavy on things like the As It Is songs we know are, but then you have singles like “ILY, HOW ARE YOU?” and “IDC, I CAN’T TAKE IT,” which have a more pop punk feel. Speaking of those two songs, are those two sister songs?
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They are sisters, more so twins. They belong next to each other. I think we did write them next to each other. They live next to each other on the record, and the titles are connected. They are a part A and part B to each other. What is the symbolism of the album cover? We had a sort of deadline for the album artwork, and everything was already submitted and fine. I knew I had to sit down for an hour with my now-wife, and we were just passing ideas back and forth with sketches on notes. We just wanted something really simple and striking, something with dual meaning, You just have this sort of silhouette of a person in a doorway, with a shadow of something else, implying that this person is living two lives or a fate approaching them. Throughout lockdown, I got massively into horror movies and tried to watch all of them. It is connected and very dark with a sort of vampire vibe going on. Coming up with visuals in this scene is something exciting because you think if this would make a great tattoo. I have album artwork tattooed on me, and you just want it to meet the criteria of being an album cover in the rock world. I am very proud of it. I never really thought about tattoos like that in the scene; I’m going to reevaluate every album cover. There you go. When I was in school, I was just scribbled band logos and artwork into my homework, and it is part of the lifestyle. It is more the music and our identity. You’ve probably been asked this before, but I am just wondering how band members leaving affects the band. Do you feel it is difficult, or do you learn to deal with it? Yeah, it is something you learn to deal with. It is sad at the moment, and you wish everybody well. Ben and Foley are still two of my best friends. I wish them only the best, and they seem happy. You adjust, it is like a family reunion with fewer people. The room is less loud because you go from five voices to three. You just learn to be louder and closer. We are closer than we have ever been, and I am thankful for that.
Are there any bands or songs in particular that inspired songs on the album? It is extremely interesting because when lockdown first happened, when the industry screeched to a halt, I found it painful to listen to music. Not only because I couldn’t go out and perform it and participate in it, but it was also because I didn’t know when I was going to see all these people next, or ever. There was a lot of pain in that uncertainty. There weren’t too many outside influences; we were just sort of writing it with each other without many references. That was fulfilling, and I like writing with a vision in mind. It was only informed by what we thought was the best place to take each song; I think that was exciting and new to write that way. Are there talks of a headline tour to play the new songs from the album live? Will there be a big production, like outfits or makeup? Yes, absolutely, we are planning out the rest of the year, and we want to be busy. We want to headline because it has been a long time, especially in North America and even the UK. We are going to take the first opportunity to do that and hopefully, it is soon. Lastly, what would you like fans to take from the album? Is there a certain message that is most important for everyone to pick up on? I hope it is just a vehicle to just experience where we have been the last two years. I think the distance and silence between us and everyone that listens to the band have been hard for us, and I hope it is an insight into where we have been and how we have been. We are not trying to represent how other people have felt—this is just how we felt. If it aligns with anybody else’s, we hope for that. If it doesn’t, we hope that you have a good time and enjoy the music, and it taps into something you couldn’t articulate before. This is why we do this, and to finally share it is amazing in itself, and I am looking forward to this one. The new album I Went To Hell & Back is available now, and As It Is are currently on tour supporting Set It Off.
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I Dont Know How But They Found Me by Rebekah Witt
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