REVIEW: Exploring the Foundation of Grandace's New EP 'Also Codachrome'

By Jaelani Turner-Williams

It was last February when Cincinnati-based artist Grandace took to Twitter to release a video snippet celebrating his 21st birthday, along with the impending release of his Feel Good EP. The video shows Grandace (born Jody Jones II) seated in front of his bed, a dim light cast over his gleaming smile as he grooves to ‘In My Mind’, a joyous ode to incessant wandering with pizza breaks in-between. A year later, Grandace’s home studio remains his creative hub, but where there was once bliss has transformed into realism on his latest effort Also Codachrome.

Fusing the once-popular Kodachrome photography film with the musical term ‘coda’, the title marks a turning point in Grandace’s life as he uses the six track EP to ruminate on his existence. On the beachy, psychedelic slide of “Elevated”, Grandace raps with staccato verbiage whilst listing his dutiful anxieties. Still, he plants divine seedlings and anticipates them coming into full bloom, haplessly admitting to fighting writer’s block.

It would be easy to compare Grandace to Childish Gambino (one of his admitted influences), but he rather mirrors the airy delicateness of Mild High Club and HOMESHAKE. Giving a nod to the latter with lingering background vocals on “Masterofdisguise”, Grandace masters floetic bounce, making no detours on his route past a 9-5.

Continuing to run laps verse for verse, on “Thumbs Up”, Grandace transmits light keyboard pluckings into longing for immeasurable time. Moving through the “Stream of Life”, he powers through, echoing the falsetto hues of Thundercat and unashamedly replicating a commercial jingle best fitting for the 50’s towards the song’s end.

Wrapping up the EP, Grandace sows “Fertile Soil” through his gravelly vocals, cracking open the portal to self-fulfillment. “A coda is the ending of a musical phrase or idea and in a sense that’s what this project is for me, literally and metaphorically…” Grandace explained in one of a series of tweets as a title breakdown of Also Codachrome. While concluding his past, Grandace moves forth into vivid actualization.

Photo by Annie Noelker

Photo by Annie Noelker


REVIEW: Bluish's New Single "Standby"

bluish standby.jpg

The kind of song you wish you’d been able to blast during your last relationship, “Standby” gives a glimpse of the blissful and emotive music to come from Brooklyn band, Bluish. Frontperson, Iris Garrison-Driscoll, has a knack for writing catchy yet poignant lyrics that convey the depth of their personal experiences. With impeccable cadence, their dreamy voice sifts through their uncertainties. 

"stuck on silly things/ see your eyes/ they're in my mind"

Speaking to an inability to communicate within a relationship and within their own mind, Bluish creates music that is opposingly brilliant and clear in its delivery. This idea of standing by takes on several contrasting meanings within the song: remaining in something despite not being present, waiting, supporting, and not being able to take action when something bad is happening. 

"I'm saying everything stuck inside/ I'm standing by"

The song describes a relational bystander effect, but it's hard to decide who falls victim to the situation. Building and releasing tension with its last lines "Is the line drawn or do I decide?" a question is posed followed by a more open ended "know there's more to you/ is there more to you and I?". It seems like they're willing to continue standing by, yet the closing guitar solo and interlude give a sense of some unresolved tension and a need for catharsis. 

Recommended listening environments: at home, at work, in transit, 2 am in bed while re-reading texts and wondering if you said something wrong, blasted in a car with the windows down, belting along with the lyrics. 

Bluish is currently recording a 6-song EP with Jesse Paller (Baby's ALl Right/Sound Engineer) set to release in early June 2019. If it's anything like their first two singles, they're already my new favorite band. 

Tara Terra Returns with a Bite On EP Couch Surfer, Lover

Tara Terra hits the ground running off their two-year hiatus. Lead singer Emily Blue released two solo EP albums, 69* and Another Angry Woman, outside the band during that time, showcasing abilities to flawlessly maneuver between indie-rock and synth pop. They were albums exploring the nuances of sexual liberation as a woman, compared to the indulgence of romance in Tara Terra’s music. Now, returning to her roots with the musical stylings of bassist Nick Soria, drummer Joey Buttlar, and guitarist Evan Opitz, Blue is once again ready to face heartache head on.

Blue busts the lock off a diary Tara Terra seemingly scattered throughout previous albums Where’s Your Light (2017) and Daughter (2014). It feels as if ‘couch surfer, lover’ is an EP Blue is finally letting her hair down in. Funny, considering the first track is called ‘hair down, for now.’ The song mirrors the fun, upbeat feeling of earlier songs like Don’t Call Me Darlin’ without such a heavy chorus. “Would you wait for me,” Blue asks as the drums and guitar slow down, “I want you to say it for me,” she addresses the subject, as if her fate is in their hands, before realizing the power of purpose is in hers. “Or do I need to let go? I need to let go,” she asks, the vocals overlaid in the second chorus, the chords upbeat and poppy, the kind you can’t help but shuffle your feet to as if a specific dance already existed.

Photo by Morgan Paije

Photo by Morgan Paije

The EP focuses on a strained romance between two people balancing their own emotional state made difficult by life on the road. Doing what’s right for yourself paralleled at the expense of another is introduced perfectly by Tara Terra’s thematic use of cheerful music. When the lyrics turn around to face how strong the narrator is, the words are so pronounced there’s no mistaking them. “I am a ray of fucking sunshine, so why won’t you let me in?” rings throughout ithaca, the band’s debut single. The song so beautifully overlays the loss of self in a relationship when you love someone so much:

“This would be heartache if I weren’t in it

This would be heartache

I could see the cracks in the floor if I weren’t sitting

Right on the part where it breaks”

The self-awareness of a fractured relationship hard to detach from carries throughout the record. The emotional rawness and intensity of ithaca bleeds in to the more subdued lions’ manes, a gut-wrenching punch to the stomach. Juxtaposed against the first half of the album, the song teases us with piano chords so soft and unexpected, it feels you’re seeing something you’re not supposed to. This is nothing new for Tara Terra, who often slow down albums to showcase talent. It’s the necessary lead in to a conclusion you know is coming, but aren’t ready for. Write My Name and Shades of Blue are two exceptional examples of this, but none split a story as effectively as lions’ manes does. A middle to a story exploring the wandering feeling of loss:

“And when we took a drive through my hometown,

I remembered the smell of the air

I think sometimes I get lost in the city

It gets colder quicker here”

Without a doubt, this lyric captures the entire essence of the EP, feeling so at home with someone else sharing the rug they’ve swept out from under you. The desire to build a home from rubble is a search that drives Tara Terra’s music towards love. Where hair down, for now and ithaca are the beginning half of a story that yearns, new york and couch surfer are the necessary revelation that comes with life. The answer to what happens when everyone takes from you and leaves nothing behind.

Opening with a melancholier start, new york gives pulse to a heart tired of pumping. The narrator finds themselves in a place they’ve never been before and realizes it’s not as scary as they initially thought. “I’m so afraid of the winter. Somehow, right now, I don’t mind.” The feeling is made stronger as the music grows more confident, starting off slow before allowing itself to grow in to a full out, rock ballad. “You’re so afraid of the future. Somehow, I’ve run out of answers,” Blue sings. The idea being that if they refuse to start, you never will.

The EP ends with couch surfer, arguably the most beautiful song on the album. It feels like this is the necessary conclusion Tara Terra has been searching for endlessly, not only on this EP, but on Where’s Your Light and Daughter as well. Blue often sings of heartache and loss connected to family ties, searching for love to make up for twisted roots, but here, Tara Terra finally finds reconciliation laid out in previous lyrics. Borrowed was one of their first songs reassuring the narrator they’ll be fine, but couch surfer is putting that in to practice. It’s throwing yourself in to the fire and stepping on the train that leads nowhere. The beauty of living is the fall and the catch. Falling in love and catching yourself after. Couch surfer, lover is about the pain of romance, yes, but it’s also about the pain of finding yourself. When you’re at the finish line helping others hobble over.

“Just let me hold your hand if it’s alright

Let me tell you how to make it alright

To be a lonely child”

The ins and outs of a relationship seem so desirable when you’re not in them. Sometimes they come so fast in the rearview mirror you don’t have time to process how close they are until they pound on your front door to remind you what pain and pleasure tastes like. Tara Terra captures this feeling so effervescently, Blue’s soft voice bursting at the seams, giving life to words flowing uncontrollably. Running without any destination in mind. ‘couch surfer, lover’ is the mixtape from high school that still aches to think about. It’s the road trip you imagined taking with a loved one before you decide to drive west without them. Cracks in the floor already existed, but now you’re at the part where they break.

Tara Terra will be showcasing their new record at Sleeping Village April 7th in Chicago, IL.

PREMIERE: Jessica Mindrum Releases Two Song EP

Jessica Mindrum - Better Now_River FULL.jpg

Jessica Mindrum has released another striking pair of songs that explore longing, heartache, and a hollow sense of loneliness. "Better Now' and "River" captures early winter stillness, one full of nostalgia and contemplation.

On "Better Now", she explores the questions that appear in the wake of a break up, the ones that you ask a million times, just not out loud. You can't help wanting to comfort her, or your best friend, or yourself when you hear Mindrum ask "Have you met her yet?.” On "River" she captures a feeling of subtle detachment with lines like "my friends sing along to songs I don't know", which perfectly invokes that sense of being "alone in a crowded room.” I'm not sure if I've heard someone quite capture the disheartening feeling of an endless back and forth like she does with the line "I'll never give you what you've always had.”

Purchase / stream the EP here and on Spotify below:

REVIEW: 'Alone At Last', Tasha

by Ava Mirzadegan

There is an abundant strength within Tasha’s radically soft words.

On her debut LP, Alone at Last, the Chicago musician and poet places her entire being into a body of work that is both ambitious yet relaxed. Her words masterfully wrap themselves around each second, leaving treasures to be uncovered in the mind of the listener.

The narrative winds its way through self-care, feminism, love, race, and queerness without giving the listener more weight to carry. Tasha aptly described the album as a collection of “bed songs,” with each song enveloping the listener in a comforter of sound.

Within overwhelming darkness and fear, Alone at Last is an album of reflection, rest, and renewal. A nightlight bringing hope of a better tomorrow.

Standout tracks: “Take Care,” “A New Place,” “Kind of Love,” and “Lullaby”

The opening track, “Take Care,” is a spoken meditation, imploring us to believe in our own inner worlds. It serves as an introduction to a new kind of activism — one of defiant self-love and a vital need for tenderness.

“Take care of your little body... Take care and repeat it ritual until the syllables run-on sentence down your spine, so that when the next deaths come, because they will, we will have vigor enough to remember their names.”

Tasha extends her words as an invitation, leading us into a world where we can seek refuge from our harsh reality and build a home within comfort. A world where rest is not synonymous with weakness and taking care of ourselves is not equated to selfishness.

She refers to this world in the following track as “A New Place.” The first step into melody maps out the expansive and shifting album. Stylistically, she seamlessly transitions from finger-picked guitar, oscillating synths, to more textured bass-driven rhythms. Her artistry transcending genre.

“Maybe we the future we envisioned all that time ago.”

Reflecting on the reality that the listeners are the future and that everything is dependent on the present, Tasha shows that their imagination is indispensable. She is the kind of figure I wish I had been able to look up to as a young girl. A poet and songwriter that not only has a strong personal voice, but one that is able to amplify the voices of the voiceless.

“Or maybe we’re destined for light now.”

In darkness, it’s hard to imagine what light would feel like. Tasha’s warm vocal tonality and thoughtful guitar serve as a reminder of what goodness can come even in dark times. The beauty of the song and album cutting through our lives within a bleak social climate.

Tasha’s composition in the fourth track, “Kind of Love,” is the kind of perfect that is almost indescribable. It is sensual and intimate, with the song’s narrative mirrored in the musical themes and instrumentation.

It begins with hazy guitar, suspending the listener in the uncertainty of new love. The introduction of xylophone and percussive human sounds reflecting the twinkling thrill of exploring someone else. The woozy bass-line and layered vocals emulating the inner voices of self-doubt and bliss that come along with relationships.

Alone at Last covers entire universes of ground, still everything is rooted in Tasha’s identity. The second to last song, “Lullaby,” is a tender blend of buzzing electric guitar, glockenspiel and overlapping vocal harmonies, allowing for Tasha’s words to offer sympathy and reassurance to a tired mind.

Black women are held up against an archetypal expectation of being “the strong black woman.” Tasha’s lullaby puts this stereotype, and all other stereotypes for model minorities, to rest, with the hope of waking to a better reality. By giving these women the room to “keep [their] magic to [themselves],” Tasha is lifting the grips of racial and gendered gravity, allowing them the freedom of flight. Even if it is just for a moment.

Alone at Last out now via Father Daughter Records.

Order link

Alone At Last

Each purchase of the vinyl LP comes with a limited edition poetry zine featuring pieces by Tasha, Imani Jackson, Keisa Reynolds, Kara Jackson, Jamila Woods, and Stella Binion -- all Chicago based, black women writers. $1 from each LP sold will be donated to #NoCopAcademy, a collective of organizers doing work to prevent a $95 million police academy from being built on the westside of Chicago.

INTERVIEW: A Conversation with Chicago's Campdogzz

Interview by Anna White

Photos by  Randy P Martin

Photos by Randy P Martin

Campdogzz are always on the road. Their music mirrors this sense of motion, conveying a similar restless feeling to driving down long, empty highways at night. Lead singer Jessica Price’s raspy vocals complemented by the band’s indie-industrial instrumentals creates a kind of dusty desert-rock that somehow still calls to mind the band’s home base, Chicago.

The five-piece is currently in the middle of a two-month long tour with label-mates Cursive, and headed homeward for a show at Thalia Hall on November 15th (which will be Price’s first time seeing a show in the venue!) I caught up with Price last week and chatted about filmmaking, road trips, and transience of youth.

You released your second full-length, In Rounds, this August—tell me a little about the record.

We kind of took our time recording it. After we released the first record, a couple of us took several months just to travel and kind of relax. We did a two-month tour—that was our first tour as a band, and that was my first tour playing music in general. It was like school for me, learning how to tour.

After that we wanted to take a break and work on writing, and we just traveled the Southwest for a few months, and came back to Chicago and kind of just jumped right into recording—It was a good process.

So you wrote the album while you were in the Southwest?

Most of it, yeah. I think it kind of started to take shape there, in the bus that we traveled in. Most of it was written out there.

Why did you choose to go to the Southwest to write it?

A couple of our friends that we met through travelling, our friend Randy Martin who took a good deal of our early promotional photos of us—he and our other friend Danielle, who is a great tattoo artist, they had spent a season working in Denali national park, and wanted come back to society a little, but also continue to travel. We just been hitting it really hard with touring, so we all put our heads together and just decided to start touring the parks. We actually went East initially, to Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, and then went South to Austin and from there just kept going West and West and West until we ran out of land, pretty much.

We didn’t have a specific plan, but we knew we just wanted to not put a time stamp on anything, take our time and get away for a little bit. Randy was kind of photo-journaling the whole experience, and we were writing, and I was filming a lot of it.

You started out as a filmmaker—how do you think you translated this visual change of scenery musically?

I think just innately that [film and music] just are tied together. I met both Mike and Nick, the guitar players for Campdogzz, through filmmaking, and that’s kind of how I got into music. I don’t know, when I’m writing music I usually have some kind of visual, or if I hear music it’s visually compelling, and if I’m filming something I want to often times score something for it. It’s really exciting to have those two things play off of each other.

And with [the trip], that part of the country is just vast, grand beauty—those huge skies, and the colors—it was kind of new to me, I hadn’t spent a whole lot of time in the desert, so, I was really taken with it. I couldn’t help but let the music be influenced by our surroundings.

Aside from your time in the desert, what inspired the new album?

Probably just this time in all of our lives, and this transience, and figuring it all out. Learning about yourself, you know—there was definitely a feeling of youth but wanting to have something a little bit more solid, and just feeling like we were in between. In between something. Sometimes there was a sense of urgency in that, and other times peace in it.

That’s really interesting. Now that you’ve been working with these songs for a little while, playing them on this tour, do you feel a little less in between?

I feel like I’m less freaked out about it. That sense of urgency has kind of relieved itself naturally; I’ve lived in Chicago for about ten years now, but the last five years I’ve wanted to be in a more rural area. I just feel change coming on but there’s no clear direction. And that used to be a little frightening, or just frustrating—wanting to take action but not knowing how, but now I just feel a lot more comfortable in trusting that things are going to happen the way they do, and you don’t need to try to force any one thing. I think that time we spent travelling helped, in a lot of ways.


INTERVIEW: A Conversation with Linnea Siggelkow of Ellis

interview by Rosie Accola

With Ellis, Linnea Siggelkow’s first project, Siggelkow positions herself as a  dazzling addition to the pantheon of non-male Shoegaze vocalists. Her voice possesses the of glow of Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval; while the full band’s sound bridges the gap between shoegaze and bedroom pop. Ellis’ first EP The Fuzz, is released today, November 9th. The EP juxtaposes the quiet strength of vocals that sound more like a whispered secret, and all-consuming feedback soaked guitars. The production quality of these tracks is intricate, each listen reveals another layer of guitar or piano hidden between the warm folds of, well, the fuzz.

With just six tracks and a smattering of disposable photographs, Siggelkow creates a  world that is thoughtful, multi-faceted, and entirely her own. Hooligan sat down with Linnea over Skype to talk about the relationship between music and visual art, Mitski’s new record, public vulnerability, and how small talk is the worst.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.


Hooligan Mag (H.M.): This album has such an interesting visual component. For you, what’s the relationship between creating music and creating visuals?

Linnea Siggelkow (L.S.): I think the overall goal is to create a mood or a feeling. I’m not much of a visual artist but I’ve been incorporating photographs I’ve taken, it’s an attempt to make it more personal. I also have so many talented friends who take photos and make cool art. It’s been a really cool opportunity to collaborate with people that I love too.

H.M.: It’s interesting that you say that you’re not a visual artist because I love those photographs.

L.S.: Thank you so much! They are mostly just photos that I’ve taken on disposable cameras over the past like, ten years, so thank you for saying that!

H.M.: So you shoot all on film and disposable, then?

L.S.: It’s pretty much all disposable cameras. I know very little about photography, or to be honest, cameras at all. It’s something I’m really interested in learning more about, but it’s just been disposable cameras pretty much so far. My friend Sean and I collaborated on the album art for the EP. I shot a bunch of these floral shots just on a disposable camera and he’s an amazing designer, so he used all of them to make something that looks amazing. I’m really happy with it.

H.M.: Who are some of your visual influences?

L.S.: A lot of my friends are just amazing artists and inspire me. I don’t spend a lot of time creating visual art, but I generally love lo-fi stuff and analogue stuff. I think those are just the visuals that I’m the most attracted to. I love the look of film photography, ‘90s camcorders.

Can you tell me about where you derive inspiration from musically, and how you started playing music?

L.S.: I started playing music as a child, I played classical piano growing up so it’s always been a super big part of my life. My mom was a piano teacher so it wasn’t a choice in our house whether or not we played piano. Now I’m really grateful that I have my roots in that, and I’ve recently started teaching piano too, so it’s cool that it kind of came full-circle.

I started playing guitar when I was twelve because I saw Avril Lavigne’s ‘Complicated’ music video. I babysat for a full summer to save up for my first guitar. It was a Squire stratocaster, and I briefly took lessons around then.

I think I was always writing songs, I don’t think they were very good, but Ellis is fairly recent. I had played in another band that was sort of pop-punk, but I think my songwriting has always been a bit more melancholy. I think I just wanted to make something that sounded more like the way that I felt.

Ellis started a couple years ago alone in my room. I just started demo-ing a bunch of songs on garageband. I played a couple solo shows and realized that I don’t love performing solo. It’s been a bit of a journey figuring out how to execute it, but now I play live with a band and that’s been really cool.

As far as influences, I used to write a lot more folky stuff. I’ve sort of been all over the map but I feel like this is the sound I’ve always wanted to make. It definitely resonates the most with me, so I think I kind of fell into it after dabbling with a lot of different stuff and listening to a lot of different music. It’s been called a lot of genres, but I think it’s mostly just moody and emotional, that’s where I feel the most myself.

H.M.: The first couple times I listened to it, it reminded me kind of of old Mazzy Star.

L.S.: That’s a huge compliment, thank you!

H.M.: I was like, ‘I get Hope Sandoval vibes and this makes me excited’. I love it.

L.S.: That’s so nice, thank you!

H.M.: I feel like Shoegaze is always sort of bro-y, but then people forget that there were women and non-men in the scene. What’s it been like navigating venues and spaces with this project?

L.S.: I think that I feel really fortunate to be coming out with music at a time where women are killing it right now. I’m grateful for the people who have come before me to make it a lot easier for me to navigate those spaces. I think even a few years ago it wasn’t the same as it is now. And like, all my favorite artists right now are women or non-men, and they’re dominating the indie music scene. That’s so cool to see and so cool to get to come into and be a part of. I have been fortunate to have pretty positive experiences, and I think I owe that to the people who have come before me and carved out that way.

H.M: Who are some of your favorite artists right now? Who have you been listening to?

L.S.: I love the new Yowler record, that’s one of my favorites. The new Mitski record, obviously. Sasami is dropping hers soon, and I’m excited for that. Such a cool thing to see Mitski selling out multiple nights in Toronto. It’s unreal.

H.M.: Do you have a favorite track on your new E.P.?

L.S.: I think “The Fuzz” is my favorite song, I don’t know if it’s the best one, but it’s definitely the most dynamic song I’ve ever written and my favorite one to play live. It doesn’t seem to be that many other people’s favorites, but we’ll see.

H.M.: How do you figure out which songs you like playing live?

L.S.: At this point we’ve only got this EP coming out, so we’ve just been playing songs from that, but I’m in the process of writing the next thing right now, so there will be more songs to choose from soon and then it will get trickier to pick a setlist.

H.M.: Does that take away some of the more nerve-wracking aspects of live shows?

L.S.: Yeah, it’s been an interesting time so far because we haven’t released the full collection, just three singles now, so most people that come aren’t familiar with the songs yet. The EP come out a week from tomorrow. Maybe it will feel different when there’s a chance that people will recognize them when we play them live.

H.M.: I think they will. Can you take me through your writing process?

L.S.: Pretty much every song starts with lyrics or at least a lyric, or a verse, or a chorus, and then I build around that -- always. Usually I’ll write the melody, either on guitar or on keyboard and I sort of just build them up from there. I like to layer as much as I can on my own and demo as much as I can on my own before I get other people involved. With this project, I feel pretty possessive of it. The songs are super personal and really special and important to me, so I think I tried to form them as fully as I could before anything happens to them.

H.M.: How do you navigate that tension of being vulnerable and telling a story while also knowing that this is something that’s going to be out in the world?

L.S.: There are some songs that make me more nervous than others, for sure. Writing is definitely a process of coping and a tool I use to process things. With some songs, I feel like I have processed and moved past that feeling. They still mean something to me, but it feels separate from me now, while other songs still feel very much like a part of me, sometimes in difficult ways. I think putting them out makes me feel in control of them, like I have some sort of power over the feeling and I think that itself can be really empowering.

Also, I’m a bit of an open book. I wear my heart on my sleeve, sometimes to a fault. So sharing parts of myself has never been that difficult. Sometimes I wish I was a little more mysterious.

H.M.: I get what you mean though. Do you find it difficult to be less open with certain people? Like when you have to go buy a coffee after doing something super draining like that?

L.S.: [laughs] That’s a funny question. I think I’m good at picking and choosing who I spill the beans to, but it doesn’t take too much to make me feel comfortable to share. I hope that I’m not that person that’s like, ‘oh God, not this girl, talking about her feelings again.’

H.M.: I totally get it. I don’t know what small talk is.

L.S.: I hate small talk and maybe that’s part of it. I don’t really want to shoot the shit, I want to get deep and get on another level with people. That’s the way I enjoy to connect.

H.M.: Yeah, and I think music is such a cool way to connect with people and strip back those layers of conversational niceties because it is so direct. I was looking at your lyrics, and some of the phrasing is so beautiful. I don’t know how you finagled it into a song but you did.

L.S.: Thank you so much, that’s so kind!

H.M.: It’s so cool! Can you tell me how you learned to work with things like phrasing and the actual musicality of your lyrics?

L.S.: Oh man, I don’t know if I know how to actually answer that question. I think a lot of the best songs I’ve written have just sort of spilled out. I’m a bit OCD about rhyming and things like that, every once and awhile I will shift some things around just to make them work together. I’d love to learn more about songwriting and phrasing, I’ve never really felt that was my strong point.

I think it just starts with a line or a phrase that I hear over and over in my head, something that occurs to me and I just build around it. Probably the phrases that you notice are the ones that it started with.

H.M.: I feel like so much of writing is just shit getting stuck in your head for hours and hours.

L.S.: Totally. I don’t have much of a formula.

H.M.: Did you have a hard time finding a track order or anything?

L.S.: Honestly this particular collection of songs sort of just came together. I had written a bunch of things, but these six sort of came about around the same time and felt really cohesive, like a collection. It wasn’t extremely intentional in the way it happened, it just felt right. I feel like there’s cohesion to the sound, but also to the feelings and the words. It wasn’t that difficult a process, they sort of just came to be that way. It might be harder the next time around, but this time it felt like the pieces just fell into place.

H.M.: From a writing perspective, do you have any favorite writers that you look to when you’re working on lyrics or songs?

L.S.: I don’t know so much if I go to other songwriters for lyrical inspiration because so many of my songs are like journal entries or something. But I definitely have favorite songwriters, or songwriters where I’ll read the lyrics and be like, ‘shit I wish I had written that.’ Maryn Jones from Yowler is one of my favorite lyricists, but I could never write like her. I think I’m inspired by people but I don’t know how much I’m influenced by them. All of my songs are in first person, and all of them are autobiographical.

H.M.: How do you navigate the fact that a lot of people are hearing your work now?

L.S.: I just feel excited, to be honest. I didn’t know what to expect when I recorded these songs and I didn’t know what to expect when I put them out. The fact that they are being heard is really cool and validating.

H.M.: One last question. I was reading that you’re a Pisces sun, what’s the most Pisces thing about you?

L.S.: Oh gosh I feel like I’m as Pisces as they come! I think definitely the emotional aspect and wateriness- I cry a lot. It’s pretty accurate. Sometimes they get a bad rap, but it’s just a lot of feelings to navigate, that’s all.

REVIEW: Kweku Collins at Lincoln Hall

by Cody Corrall

It started with silence. Then a light. Christian JaLon stepped onto the stage at Lincoln Hall to a small crowd, one that would eventually balloon as the night revved up to its headliner Kweku Collins. JaLon, who emphasizes that’s “how her mother wrote it on her birth certificate,” beckons the space with a cappella resembling a church hymn.

Then the music kicks in. A sweltering cacophony of electronic instrumentation with a foundation in classic soul. The South Side singer laughs between songs of love, divinity and obsession from her recent EP “If You Let Me.” She says she loves crowd participation, encouraging the crowd to clap along or to sing back at her or to dance like nobody’s watching as she does the same on stage, drenched in blue light.

photos by Cody Corrall

photos by Cody Corrall

Joseph Chilliams takes the stage and the mood shifts: what once was a church choir has now molded itself into a comedy show. Chilliams hops and dances around the stage, waving his arms as he raps about “Mean Girls” in a Britney Spears t-shirt. Chilliams uses nostalgia for the 90s and early aughts as his vehicle for experimentation in his music. There are so many pop culture references and clever uses of wordplay that it’s hard to keep up -- but it provides a kitschy satisfaction that’s hard to find in the genre.

Chilliams played songs from his recent EP “The Plastics” and his 2017 full-length album “Henry Church,” which takes its name from a bastardised Spanish-to-English translation of Enrique Iglesias’s name. Like JaLon, he engages with the crowd directly -- making jokes and responding to hecklers with witty comebacks. Through his charming and breakneck delivery, Chilliams is able to mix commentary on being Black in America, hating Bow Wow, loving Fergie and what it means to be “slim-thick” all in one set.


As 9:30 rolled around, the venue transformed from the intimate show an hour prior into a packed house. Evanston born Kweku Collins walks to the microphone in a pair of overalls with flowers embroidered on them. He says he missed Chicago, even if he was only gone for a day.

Collins channels universal feelings in his music -- being in and out of love or being alone and wandering this planet aimlessly. His genre has been described as “romance rap,” which perfectly encapsulates his voice. His music is tender and soft -- all within the complex bounds of the genre.

Collins is also a versatile performer -- he raps, harmonizes and sings, often resembling a desperate cry to a lover or a howl at the moon.


As he performs, the crowd is electric. They sing along to his popular songs like “Stupid Rose” with as much intensity as they do his more niche releases like “Sisko and Kasidy.” Some of the attendees shout his ad libs for him, or invent new ones to go with the songs.

The show his its peak during “The Outsiders,” which let the crowd take pride in their own form of Chicago. “Can you see the sun set real good on the West Side? / You can see it on the East Side too / Can you see the sun set real good on the North Side? / You can see it on the South Side too.” There were screams of joy from those who had trekked from the West and South Sides, as a feeling of Chicago pride radiated through the amplifiers.

From gospel roots to comedic parody and romance rap, Lincoln Hall became a showcase for the indescribable, eclectic and multifaceted diversity of Chicago music.


REVIEW: 'Crush Crusher', IAN SWEET

by Anna Claire White

Just looking at the cover of Crush Crusheryou can tell IAN SWEET has evolved since their 2016 debut, Shapeshifter (Hardly Art). Crush Crusher’s sleeve features a tableau of frontwoman Jilian Medford in a blocky, blood-red landscape, reclined in a puddle of tulle—a scene that feels worlds away from the pastel-and-black illustrative cacti of Shapeshifter.

This visual difference reflects band’s sonic progression: Crush Crusher retains IAN SWEET’s characteristic playful geometry, full of dizzily staggering rhythms and calculated voice cracks, but somehow manages to come across as more 3-D. Crush Crusher feels more personal than Medford’s previous work. It presents listeners with a window into Medford’s personal insecurities, anxiety-laced infatuation highlighted rather than obscured by glossy guitar swells. There are moments that are unequivocally romantic, like the chorus of “you are the beautiful half of everything” on the album’s final track “Your Arms Are Water,” but more often than not it feels like Medford is thinking herself in circles, self-critical and uncertain. “I don’t know if this is what I want,” Medford admits on “Falling Fruit,” and she doesn’t provide us with an easy answer to what that might be.

Crush Crusher instead feels like Medford laying out all the facts, showing emotions and specific memories, and allowing listeners to draw their own conclusions.

Listen to Crush Crusher on Spotify below

PREMIERE: Debut Song from New Chicago Group WHITE PPL

White Ppl is Ano Ba (producer, vocalist), Elly Tier (vocalist) and Cado San (vocalist). They are an all POC hip-hop trio that is bringing something wildly innovative to the Chicago music scene. With each member having an eclectic music background, their first single is a bop. Ano Ba, AKA Mylo Reyes, has projects ranging from rap / hip-hop to emo / garage rock. Elly Tier is classically trained, and has dabbled with singer-songwriting themselves. Cado San is a force, just like the rest, bringing in something energetic and exciting to the scene. It combines 90's R&B, mumble rap, emo rap, Chicago house, tropical island drums, bombastic brass leads, and traditional marching band drumlines (in the bridge) to put something magnetic together.

When describing the song, Ano Ba says, “We want you to party and feel emotions and feel okay in doing both.”


The song is mixed by Kevin Cairns //

White Ppl’s first show will be on November 24th

Lala Lala Finds Purpose and Beauty in Transformative New Record "The Lamb"

The most fitting way to describe Lala Lala’s second record, The Lamb, is that it’s intentional. Intentional in its songwriting. Intentional in its instrumentation. Intentional in its production.

The Lamb reveals itself song by song to be a mature and beautifully crafted record. Songwriter and guitarist Lillie West was emboldened by a vision to create a meaningful work that reflects how her life has changed since Lala Lala’s debut. The 12 tracks represent an opportunity to absolve prior transgressions and meditate on how to truly live from here on out.

“It was intentional writing in a way that I had never done before,” West says. “I had never written in that way before, so it was interesting to see that I could do it.”

It’s a radical shift from the Chicago-based band’s first album, Sleepyhead, released in 2016.

“I was writing emotionally only, but I didn’t consider the recording process,” West says. “It just happened.”

The Lamb is different, mainly because West, 24, is different. She’s becoming sober, which she describes as a decision that she has to make every single day.

“In some ways it was challenging,” West explains of the process of going sober. “In some ways it will always be challenging. It was easy in that I didn’t have a choice anymore.”

West artfully sifts through these changes in “Water Over Sex.” Her ethereal voice glides over the words, “You think I’m good / Well I want to be gooder,” and she rejoices in the fact that she is “suddenly full / here is belonging.” Guiding the pulsing guitar, West traces her continuing transformation and finds comfort in progressing from her self-destructive past to her honest present.

It would be a disservice to reduce West’s path to sobriety and wellness to simply black and white. There will still be days where she struggles with addiction and times where she becomes even more paranoid than before.

“It’s not pretty or absolute,” she says.

Now, West is able siphon out her soul to explore the nuances of her sprawling feelings. She feels loneliness. She feels surprise. She feels love. Acutely self-aware, she connects and deciphers these intense emotions throughout the album to explore how far she has come and how much more she has to go.

But despite her resolve to make herself better, West grapples with being able to extend that wish onto those she loves. The driving chorus of “When You Die” is in essence a mantra: “Keep my friends safe night and day / Keep my friends safe now and always.” West simultaneously recognizes the security of a deep-seated desire to save one’s friends from harm but also the futility of it.

The album is bound by introspection such as this and is dotted with animal imagery, as if West has stitched together her own book of nursery rhymes.

One such song, “Dove,” is tender yet chilling to the bone.  West’s voice climbs from a low murmur to raspy angelic heights as she sings: “I did the right thing, / And for what? / For some prettiness / That I don’t believe.” After experiencing heartbreaking loss, West manifests her pain in “Dove” to make it the most emotionally devastating yet undeniably the most beautiful song on the record.  

The most distinct symbol, though, comes from the succinct album title itself: the lamb. The title ties together the storied strings of loss, love and, perhaps most importantly, metamorphosis.

“The album is about me relearning how to be a person after becoming sober,” West says. “I’m a lamb. I’m a baby sheep discovering other things for the first time.”

PREMIERE: John Cyrus’ Pop Fantasy ‘Party’s Over’


by Scout Kelly

John Cyrus, a dream pop project from Nashville, is ready to share some new music in 2018 with a two track release, I Know I Know I Know, that will render you both melancholic and ready to dance. John Cyrus have often found their way onto my playlists for this exact reason. Their single, “Playin” from last year drew me in with an upbeat spin on the process of watching a love unwind right in front of your eyes when there’s nothing you can do about it.

The trio, made up of Nathan Klages, Darin Rajabian, and Madeline Privott, have a knack for making songs that don’t shy away from the part of the heart where anxiety and desire meet. Each song is something like a fantasy, where the musician and the listener both enter a world with fog machines and confetti. You want to dance with someone across from you, but you’re too scared to ask, so you wind up dancing alone.

“Party’s Over” is a lovely pop track that that details that paralyzing nature of emotions, how easily you can go through an entire story in your head before making a move, but before you know it- the party is over and everyone has to go home, even if you aren’t ready.

What I love about each John Cyrus track is the music often contradicts the mood. They offer a glimmer of consolation, hope, and an opportunity to dance out whatever gloom might befall the broken-hearted or emotionally-hungover.

Click here to pre-save the tracks and follow John Cyrus on Spotify

PREMIERE: Dilly Dally's New Music Video "Doom"

interview by Anna White

Dilly Dally are back from the dead. After the touring cycle preceding their 2015 release, Sore, the Toronto based four piece nearly dissolved. Heaven is the band’s first new material in three years, a powerful return to form—lead singer Katie Monk’s signature raspy vocals are ever-present, but the sonic backdrop is more refined, mixing in ambient influences and elements of doom metal.

Today we’re premiering the video for “Doom,” a track off of this new album. Monks alternates between angelic and possessed, the video a medley of performative live footage, what appears to be Monks mid-exorcism, and the band wandering through the woods by torchlight like Brother’s Grimm protagonists. I caught up with Monks last Wednesday and chatted about moving past depression, making music for your friends, and her new Flying V guitar.

We’re premiering the video for “Doom” off your new album, Heaven. What was the inspiration behind the video?

Basically the inspiration for that video came from when the album stopped being a dream and started becoming real, and I started becoming very romantic about the live show and what that experience was going to turn into.

So is the video your ideal live show?

No, it’s kind of a dreamy fantasy version of that.

It feels very ritualistic.

Yeah. I just had a vison about it, I want it to be just kind of a trance.

I love that. What is the song itself about?

When I wrote it was at a time in my life when a lot of people around me were struggling with depression and so was I, and it’s one of those moments where you don’t really have a friend to cheer you back up, because everyone was feeling down. The song is about digging really deep inside yourself, and finding something to hold onto, some piece of hope and happiness.

When did you begin writing your new album, Heaven?

Essentially at the beginning of 2017, which was when we were all exhausted with the whole thing. There were a lot of question marks going on as to how we were going to move forward, and what that would look like, what configuration of the band it was going to be—it was a hairy time. I think it was hard as well for my bandmates to see what the next step was going to be, because they hadn’t heard any new material. So they were kind of like, we’ll see what happens.

Were you having a hard time writing new material?

I think at first. At first I was certainly blocked, everyone was just tired.

How did you move past that?

I started treating it like it was a 9 to 5 job. I just woke up every day and I would write in my journal and meditate, and I bought some new pieces of gear to kind of mark a new chapter. The Flying V guitar was a huge part of that. It was like a middle finger to anyone who told me what was a cool guitar and what was not. I was like, it’s art and I can do what feels good and be myself, despite what’s trendy or cool right now, and I just thought it was pretty and it felt good to play.

And I got a looping station – I was playing around with making new sounds. I made an ambient album with my brother, I was kind of exploring, it was back to the beginning, like when you’re a teenager—to explore again and have it feel like a new thing.

I can definitely see how the ambient inspiration works its way in.

Yeah, in little ways. There’s a freedom to it, and I think that’s what we felt when we were making this album, we felt like this freedom about it because we all felt like this might not have happened. So, fuck it. I don’t think anyone cares about how people were going to perceive it, it wasn’t like “this will be a good next step for the band”. It was like, let’s make some art, and it was just really free. There were no rules.

By Anna White

By Anna White

That’s great! It’s so important to be evolving.

Yeah, if it comes naturally. I’m a very complicated person I think, there are a lot of different sides to me. I like being a bit of a chameleon, I’m very dramatic.

Do you think Heaven shows a lot of your different sides?

Yeah, there’s a lot of new sides to the band, that we didn’t even know we had. And there were definitely moments of fear! Like, oh shit, this is pretty different, I hope the punks are gonna like this one! When I say the punks, I just mean all my friends. That’s the only audience we care about, our friends.

PREMIERE: Chicago-Based Experimental Band Ze'ev Releases New Record

Interview by Rivka Yeker

Ze'ev is comprised of Balto, Clyde, and Zack. The band deliberately bends genre and defies expectation of direction and influence. They are one of Chicago's most innovative bands, and GTP is filled with both chaotic twists & turns and smooth comedowns. Hooligan was able to sit and discuss the record itself and Ze'ev's overall sound / intention. 

photo by Kelly Butler

photo by Kelly Butler


In what ways is this record different than your previous releases?

Clyde: Kismet, and our previous EPs were very much in the vein of longer drawn out instrumentals and a bit of what I was writing at the time as a small foundation. We were really just starting as a band and building our sound and still are. GTP is a result of what happens when everyone is involved in the writing process as a complete unit.

What message(s) do you want Ze'ev to give to your listeners? 

Balto: We literally tolerate no bullshit. We’ve had our fair share of experiences that have made us so tired. This is an album for a marginalized group made by a marginalized group and we hope for those who are struggling, you feel the love and support we have for each other in this album and take those positive vibes with you.

There is a lot of genre-bending in this record, which is so sick. How did you choose what kind of artists you wanted to be featured on the album since there is no one direction its going in?

Zack: Thank you. Our collaborators were all fellow artists who we've been lucky enough to meet and meld minds with over the years. While creating the record, we knew we wanted to have a full collection of voices driving home the themes on this record, not just our own, and we started contacting people who we knew would be able to take our concept and add their own perspectives, strengthening the overall message.

What makes something "Experimental"?

Zack: Experimental is a hard term to define in an overall sense, but I know Ze'ev uses this term as a description to rid ourselves of boundaries. All three of us bring so many disparate influences and experiences to this project and we never want an arbitrary genre label to hold us back. Saying we're an "experimental band" is a way for us to leave every idea we have on the table and never to be afraid to explore anything, musically or otherwise, that we vibe with. It's always been a goal of ours to shapeshift strictly based on our collective intuition, and in my humble opinion, you keep that communication open by allowing it to stay abstract and unlabeled.

I know your tastes vary. The album feels like a mix of skramz, post-rock, sludge, jazz, and twinkly emo. Who and what inspired the record?

Clyde: GTP stems from so many things. Inside jokes within the band, personal struggles, etc. We could talk forever about musical influences but Funkadelic, Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, Unwound, Charles Mingus, and of course, Lil B the Based God are deeply rooted in this album.

What do you hope people feel after listening to GTP?

Balto: I hope people feel love, peace, and patience while listening to this album and what I mean by Patience in particular is that I urge you to really hear what everyone has to say throughout GTP.

Bury Me at Mitski's Rodeo

by Katie Burke

In a dark bar, clutching a phone to my ear, is where I decide that Mitski has a catalog of my sins. Someone has pulled up Lonesome Love and it’s my first time hearing it. When she sings, Nobody butters me up like you do and nobody fucks me like me, I feel an immediate urge to call a lyft. To go home to my apartment, light a candle for myself and put my ass to bed.

The first thing I do when I listen to a new Mitski album is think about myself.

Listen. I do the thing we all do. I beg to relate to whatever it is that I find beautiful or interesting. I assign a relationship or an experience to each song, and then I make it mine. Mitski makes this, not necessarily easy, but wonderfully possible. Like honesty. Like shifting weight.

There is more of a pop aspect to this album than there ever has been in Mitski’s music. There are bops like, “Why Didn’t You Stop Me” interspersed between the expected guitar-heavy ballads like, “Geyser” or “Pink in The Night”. Songs to scream-cry to.

I want to talk about the bops. Get in your car, or get on the train, or the bus while you listen to “Why Didn’t You Stop Me”. Look out the window and feel how everything can move as quickly as your heart does. How buildings can turn to blur as quickly as you begin to feel the twinge of shame from the lyrics I know I ended it, but why didn’t you chase after me? You know me better than I do. So why didn’t you stop me?

Put your hands on your head. What you’re feeling is whiplash.

There are multiple songs that function like breaks between paragraphs. A breather. Songs under two minutes that allow your heart to relax, to mend from all her honesty. Like the line in “A Horse Named Cold Air”,

I thought I had traveled a long way
but I had circled
the same old sin

I need a week in bed.

The first time I heard Mitski was in 2014 when Bury Me at Makeout Creek was released. I wrote a review of it. I had never felt compelled to review anything before. I wrote that it made me feel young, like a teenager. I wrote that I felt thankful that I was no longer in my teens, but my twenties. How did I imagine this being easier? I don’t want to assign an age to this album. But there is definitely a clarity to the sadness. Imagine a light getting turned on inside a room which darkness’ you have already adjusted to. Everyone is always getting older.

We should be thankful that Mitski has let her art become this kind of time capsule. A museum of what she was feeling at the time, with enough room for everyone else to engage. Space to say, I have felt this way, I have placed my hand on something marked OPEN FLAME and felt satisfaction. I have made the same mistake. Again. And again.

This album says here is what your desperation can sound like; beautiful. Here is how you are alone, and that is how you are always winning.


Stream Be the Cowboy below

REVIEW: House of Vans brings together Lala Lala, Torres, Wolf Parade


Photos by Cody Corrall

by Genevieve Kane

There are three words that have been on the lips of every DIY kid and concert junkie this summer and those words are: House of Vans. For those of you who are not familiar with the House of Vans, I’ll set the record straight. No, it is not a warehouse filled with boxes of old checkered sneakers and abandoned beanies.

The venue is actually held in an indoor skatepark in the West Loop which is repurposed as a concert venue equipped with a photo booth, luxurious beanbag chairs, a bar with complimentary beer, and wonderfully wacky art covering the walls. The great reputation House of Vans has earned is so pervasive that people will line up one to two hours before doors even open just to ensure that they won’t miss out on the concert experience of a lifetime. I also found myself waiting in that massive line to see Lala Lala, Torres, and Wolf Parade, who would all be the last to perform at House of Vans this summer.

The moment I set foot inside the venue I knew that the wait had been more than worth it. Lala Lala was the first band to perform, and they were who I was most looking forward to seeing. Lala Lala is Lillie West’s Chicago-based project and possibly the most slept on band to come out of Chicago’s music scene, which is not just my opinion but was the consensus of everyone I spoke with at the show. If a garage band and a grunge band had a musical lovechild it would be Lala Lala.


Their songs have a reverberant quality that will ring throughout your body and steal your soul. When they performed the song “Okie Dokie Doggy Daddy,” off of their album Sleepyhead, I witnessed a bunch of bearded men succumb to the power of West’s deep and resounding vocals which resulted in some pretty vivacious head bobbing. The band also debuted a song off of their upcoming album The Lamb (out September 28th on Hardly Art), which promises only great things.

Overall, Lala Lala’s performance not only lived up to the hype, but blew any expectation I had out of the water. Watching West command the stage was so inspiring and I think I may have to dye my hair pink now.

The next performance of the night came from singer-songwriter Mackenzie Scott, also known as Torres. The way Torres began their set was the definition of iconic. Scott’s back was turned to the audience as she began moving her shoulder up and down. Picture that one vine where the girl with frizzy hair and athletic sunglasses is dancing to A-ha and whips around as the song begins, but imagine it in slow motion and with more allure than hilarity. Basically, it was riveting. Scott was in motion for more or less the entire set.


Her spooky dance moves were heightened by dramatic lights that bathed the entire stage in crimson. The lighting and dancing combination was particularly powerful when Scott sang “Righteous Woman” these lyrics echoing throughout the warehouse: “Next time you're in the city/ Should you decide to call me/ Just know that I am dealing/ With a flesh that's far too willing.”

Torres finished strong with the song, “Helen in the Woods” off of the album Three Futures, which was incredibly raw and reminiscent of gothic new wave music. I was extremely jazzed after seeing back-to-back stellar performances from female-fronted groups. Throughout the whole concert I couldn’t help but think to myself, “This is why I am queer.”

The Canadian band Wolf Parade took everyone home with a power hour curated of classics and deep cuts. They opened with the song, “You Are a Runner and I Am My Father's Son” which is the first track on their 2005 album Apologies to the Queen Mary. Wolf Parade was beckoned back to the stage to play a 3 song encore, closing the night out on a song from their 2008 album At Mount Zoomer, “Kissing the Beehive.”


One would think that after watching Wolf Parade perform a song that clocks in at a whopping 10 minutes and 52 seconds, I would be ready to call it a night and head home to my Hulu. However, I was genuinely disappointed to see the night come to an end. I was fully prepared to pound free water and jam out to some Canadian indie rock until the sun came up but unfortunately, this was not the case. Like all great things, the show came to an end, forcing us to vacate the building and kiss the sweet House of Vans goodbye. 

PREMIERE: Jessica Mindrum Releases Debut EP "Flickering"

Interview by Rivka Yeker

A lot of your songs resemble the innocence of childhood and how difficult it is to leave it. Is writing / creating music a way for you to be connected to nostalgia, or is it more of a way for you to cope with growing older?

I think it’s a little bit of both. Though, to be honest, I’d never entirely noticed that as the common theme in these songs. I suppose I’m dealing with it more than I consciously know. Growing up for me was a hard process in that I consistently feared it--I never wanted to leave the safety of my home. I didn’t even leave home for more than a weekend until I was 15. Later on in my teens, though, there were events that happened in my life that shifted my perspective on home and my childhood--as a result, that feeling of safety and almost escapism that those things had given me nearly went away. I think since that happened, and also just as a result of graduating college and attempting to create my life, I’m trying to regain a feeling of security that I used to have, and realizing that I can’t entirely find it in the places I used to. 

When I listen to your music, I want to curl up in a blanket and stare at a burning fire. Which artists make you feel that way?

That’s good news -- my goal is to get everyone to recreate the last shot in Call Me By Your Name at least once. For me though, there are specific songs that come to mind when I think of that feeling. A few that get me there are "Smoke Signals" by Phoebe Bridgers, "The Last Time I Saw Richard" by Joni Mitchell, "Carissa" by Sun Kil Moon, and there are a lot of songs on Soccer Mommy’s latest album like "Clean", "Scorpio Rising", and "Wildflowers" that have really given me some face time with some fires. 

Is where you are now where you thought you'd be as a kid?

I guess it depends on what aspect of my life I’m looking at. Professionally, I think I am. As a kid I had that sort of delusional confidence where I believed everything I wanted would come true (that I’m sure is bolstered by growing up as a white, cis, hetero, middle class kid, but……...I digress).  I haven’t checked all of my boxes, but I’m pretty close. I wanted to work in music, and right now I do. I have a job that I love and it allows me to pursue the art that I love, and I’m consistently grateful and feel so lucky to be where I am. Personally, though, I think I still have some growing up to do. I thought I’d be further along in my development as a human person. I thought I’d feel a lot more like a capital A Adult than I do. Though I suppose that’s just the human condition? Who’s to say. 


What direction do you want to head in as an artist?

I want to continue becoming a better songwriter. I’d like to write a happy or upbeat song that feels genuine. I’d like to bring some songs to life with a full band, and explore areas that for a long time I thought weren’t in my wheelhouse--like louder arrangements, songs using my electric guitar. This really feels like the beginning for me, even though I’ve been writing for the better part of a decade. I’m excited to see what can happen when I add more people to songs that have always been entirely mine. 

The singer-songwriter genre has always been very confessional. Would you say that you're most vulnerable in your music? 

At first I was going to say no because I can be pretty vulnerable with people if the moment feels right, but then I thought a little harder and realized that the answer is a hearty yes. I recently had a conversation with someone about something I’ve written about and can sing about on a stage, but I couldn’t find the words or the courage when it came to a face to face discussion. It’s easier to write and sing into the ether than confront some things with an immediate response and an immediate audience. 

On your bad days, what are the things you think about to feel better?

Well, I will admit that on my bad days I initially wallow in it. After that’s over though, I suppose I think about physical places that have made me feel calm and good. There’s this creek in Williamsburg, Virginia that is hidden in the colonial area, away from all the tourists and behind an old house. I used to walk there on the weekends and sit for a while. I miss it. But thinking about it, knowing that it’s out there, is a good feeling. 

The Internet’s Hive Mind Reestablishes Why They’re a Force to be Reckoned With


Hive Mind is both a recorded antithesis to a potential career of following groupthought and a titular nod to the increasing sonic cohesion the collective has formed in their almost decade tenure of producing full-length projects for public consumption; The Internet has proven in the extent of that time to have moved immeasurable strides away from being the Los Angeles-based outfit known for its tangentiality to Odd Future. Syd Bennett remains the primary vocalist, lulling the 13-track LP into a melodic, neo-soul fantasy replete with Steve Lacy’s funk-oriented bass, backup vocals, Martians’ contributing synths and drums, in addition to Paige and Smith serving as multi-instrumentalists; this is by no means an exhaustive list of the sum of all their parts flowing together on this album.

The album sets off with “Come Together,” Syd stating, “They gon’ get us to come together / I forgot my pride / Stronger than your lies / Wanna get so high / Wanna live my life.” This could be an ode to the perservance warranted in many existential crises, but most obviously is an anthemic proclamation to the band’s return from a 3-year hiatus, each member taking time to release solo material in between their departure and Hive Mind. The return is polished, confident and reaffirming of their 2016 Grammy-nod for best Urban Contemporary album; and, in contrast with their respectively nominated, Ego Death, Hive Mind is stripped of the plentiful, attention-drawing features, the group holding itself together as a primarily self-sustaining project with the support of rapper Kauri Faux on percussion for “Hold On,” and Atlanta-native Big Rube providing spoken-word on “It Gets Better (With Time).”

The Internet still impressively stitches a multi-genre sound together of jazz, funk, hip-hop and more that pleases the heart and soul without necessarily needing to reinvent their own wheel; the collective has found a model that serves them perfectly and has spent time fine-tuning that sound over the years, through losing and gaining membership, that offers a maturation in structure that long and first time supporters can appreciate in unison.

Hive Mind’s second single, “Come Over” is a measured response to the trepidatious, modern-day, “Will they or won’t they?” led by Bennett in the first act, ushering Lacy into the second. Syd croons to a disaffected love interest, “I’ll bring the champagne / Don’t turn me down, babe / We can play Simon Says / Or watch TV in bed / Wake with the sunrise / Sleep in it’s all right / We ain’t even gotta sex.” This laidback single is interspered between songs like their third single “La Di Da,” which gives Lacy the driverseat and dives further into Funk, establishing a tracklist of high and low energy appropriate for any setting you find yourself listening to this project.

Dismantling Toxic Masculinity through Vulnerability: An Interview with little bear

Photos by  Andy Lajara

Photos by Andy Lajara

So first of all, how are you doing?

I’m doing good. I woke up about ten minutes ago, so [laughs]. No but I’m doing good. This time in Chicago has been pretty amazing so far and revitalizing, so that’s been nice.

And you’re coming right off of Pitchfork Sunday, how was that?

Yo, that was one of the most inspiring days of my life. Sometimes you need to be reminded what you’re doing and why you do what you do as an artist. Especially because I’ve been wrestling with feeling my own worth. And you know, this project, it’s a crazy thing to put art in the world, and so yesterday was just the most inspiring shit. I mean, I was literally taking notes on my phone the whole day. On performance, on band leading, The lineup that I saw was Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, Kweku Collins, Rayvn Lenae, Smino, Noname, Chaka Khan, and a little bit of DRAM, and then Lauryn Hill. And Lauryn Hill’s performance was like, oh my god. Like, fucking incredible.

I wasn’t there, but it was fun seeing Twitter get excited when she finally stepped on stage.

Yeah, and last night was the twentieth anniversary [of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill], of that project that has been such a complicated but amazing thing for her, and she talked a lot about it. She said some beautiful words at the end, like just about how she felt this urgency to make this project because it was bigger than her. She called it the people’s music, and how it bridged generations, and talking about the lineage. She talked about music as an endless continuum, so that’s been getting me to ask a lot of questions of myself, you know, like what legacy am I a part of, which I think is a really crucial question to ask. And like, what am I doing this for?

Because I don’t know, the last couple of weeks I’ve been wrestling with know, I’m not blowing up or whatever. I mean, these are all steps, it’s all growth. A friend of mine said something really inspiring to me, which was “There are two ways to climb a mountain. You can climb it to be seen at the top, or you can climb it to see everything at the top.” And I realized like, yeah, I’m climbing this to see everything, and then I’m climbing it to see how I can go back down and help all my people get up to the top. So hearing Lauryn Hill speak and sing last night was really solidifying

The mountain metaphor sounds like a really great way to redirect the way we think about success.

Exactly, and you know, music for me is all about community.I mean, Needs is one piece of the music that I make. I also play a lot of brass band music, I’ve always sang a lot, I played in big bands and stuff like that, and it’s all about community.

On the opening track to Needs, “Start”, you say “I can’t roll solo any more / so I need all my friends”. Who’s worked on this project with you, and what has that collaboration looked like?

The last project I put out, Open Season, was basically just me working completely by myself. There were a bunch of key collaborators for this. First off was the engineer I worked with--I recorded and produced the whole thing, but then I spent 50 hours mixing and mastering it with a very close friend of mine named Nicky Young, and he’s a brilliant engineer. He’s a key piece of this, he made it sound really really good. I’ll walk through the people who were key on it: my best friend Mobey, who goes by Xango Suave, they play violin on “Home”, Yomí played harp on “Home”, Burns Twins did a little bit of production on that. Sol Patches is one of my dear, dear, dear friends, I’m actually going to go shoot a music video with them for “Airplane Mode” after this. Being able to catch Patches on that track was a gift, because they’re a beautiful artist and human being and wonderful friend.

But “Airplane Mode” was hard, because I asked a couple different people to collaborate until I found something that felt right. Patches’ verse felt really right. I had asked Christian JaLon to do a verse on it, and it just wasn’t what I was looking for. But she’s brilliant, so I felt tension around that because I wanted to include her on the project. So I kept her background vocals under Patches’ verse. Those are really the main collaborators. On the next project I’m working on, which I’m kind of just starting to work on now, I really want to work with as many of my talented friends as possible. So we’ll see what happens with that. And my brother was very helpful, very key on the management side of things, and the emotional processing side of things.

What do you think making music is like in the Bronx vs. Chicago?

There’s a lot of different circles for me, musically. Also what the Bronx means for me is different for a lot of people and I’m hesitant about how I use the brand of the Bronx, because I don’t want to encourage gentrification of that burrough. I’m actually from a part of it that is not really wrestling with the realities of gentrification because it’s one of the pockets of wealth in the whole burrough. And now when I go back what it means to be home is a very different thing than when I was growing up. My dad plays Balkan brass band music from Serbia and Macedonia. That was the world I grew up playing music in, with him in the middle of this twelve-piece brass band that now I play with. I used to be in the center of the band as a toddler, like, watching them all play and sitting on his drum at parades and shit, so it’s always been in me.

I think the music that i’m making has really changed as I’ve gotten older. Drums were my first instrument, and then I played keys, and I played a lot of rock, I played a lot of different things. And then I think coming to Chicago...I don’t know, I think both cities have a distinct sound, right? I think the there’s a New York sound, and I think there’s a grittiness to music from New York, and I think there is in Chicago too, but I think there’s more of an acceptance of softness here, an acceptance of vulnerability. In New York people are always trying to act like they’re super hard, which I’m not. I’m critical of things like hypermasculinity, things like white supremacy, all this bullshit that I think should be deconstructed, both in myself and in the world. But it creates a tension when I go back to those places.

Thinking about the way that you’re trying to merge those two sounds, you’ve coined a genre called “electrabrasspop”. Can you tell us about that style and who’s influenced it?

Yeah, I didn’t coin that on any me being smart shit, I coined it on just not knowing what the fuck to call my music. It’s kind of just a way for me to merge the worlds of what I care about. Horn playing, electronic production, and poetry. In terms of the people who have gone into that sound, I do think it’s been shaped a lot by Chicago artists. I put out this playlist on my Spotify called “Ingredients”, that’s just a lot of the inspirations that went into making Needs, and I think it’s really important to pay homage to the people that’ve shaped that sound. Especially as a white artist making this music, I think it’s crucial to recognize where a lot of the roots of this music are. I'm deeply inspired by producers like Pharrell, by writers/producers like Missy Elliot, by Beyoncé (especially B-day era), by early Black Eyed Peas, by legends like Celia Cruz and Willie Colón, by current innovators, and by New Orleans/Second Line Brass Band Music - the album Hot Venom by Rebirth Brass band is one of the greatest pieces of music ever made. Chance and the Social Experiment have played a big role for me, which sounds corny to say when I’m in Chicago, but I think it’s true. Paul Simon too, just in terms of songwriting and on some pop music shit. I was trying to talk to my brother about whose legacy I continue, in terms of bringing things together. It’s a complicated thing to make music that doesn’t sound like other people’s.

Photo by  Andy Lajara

Photo by Andy Lajara

Going off of that softness that you’re trying to tap into with your music, on the song “Private Parts” you take a look at what we consider to be intimate. How do you think about the role of intimacy in your position as an artist?

Yeah, this music is very intimate. Like it’s very personal. I think it’s really important for artists to be vulnerable. I think vulnerability is not weakness, that’s something my father taught me. Vulnerability is strength. I’m hoping to inspire people to not be afraid of their feelings, even though shit can be scary, because we’re all fucking wild. I think intimacy also takes a lot of forms. This album is me--I put this album out right at the end of a very long-term relationship that I had, so I think that played a role in this music and helping me process it. I had also gone through a lot of traumatic shit in the fall, just being surrounded by a lot of death, and so I think I put a lot of pressure on this music to help me process that. So that’s part of why it’s so vulnerable. But yeah, for “Private Parts”, that’s exactly what it’s about. It’s not about the physicality.

“Need” s my favorite track off the album, and in it you sing about the importance of acknowledging both big and small needs. Now that this project is done after starting in 2016, what do you find yourself needing these days?

Hm. This is a question about me as a person and not me as an artist so it goes deeper [laughs]. I find myself needing, in a way I have never before, validation. Which is just shitty, because I don’t want to depend on external validation. But I do. A lot of this project is about self acceptance, so I need to accept myself wholly, which is a process. I need my family and friends. I need routines, my rituals that keep me grounded. Meditation, stretching, practicing, exercising. I don’t know, I’ve been wrestling with feeling like...I have this thing where no matter what I’m doing I feel like it’s not enough, and so when I’m alone I feel like I should be with other people, when I’m with other people I feel like I should be working by myself, which makes it so I’m never content with what I’m doing. So it’s part of the self-acceptance piece, I need to just be okay and content with what I’m doing in that moment because I know it’s enough.

I need to value myself outside of the things that I make. And to wholly and completely love myself and accept myself no matter what. I need to communicate with people and consider other people, and prioritize myself, but not neglect other people. Yo, I just need to be in the sunshine mostly. And I just need to perform this shit. I have a show coming up in New York on July 31st at Trans Pecos, and I need to keep performing this music and sharing it in the world. That was some shit at Pitchfork that was so inspiring, just seeing how people perform their music. It’s a whole other art, and I’ve never been the front person to a project before. I need to keep expanding and working on what I’m learning, I feel like I get a little bit trapped within the ideas and the knowledge that I have, and I want to keep collaborating with people who push me.

What was your general goal in releasing this EP? What do you want your audience to be left with after listening to it?

I want people to be thinking about themselves in honest ways, and not not be afraid to ask themselves hard questions. I want people to be able to do all the things I can never do [laughs] so I’m just projecting that onto the listener. But no, for real, I want people to be vulnerable, to be true. I also want people to walk away from this thinking like “Damn, this is a lot of creativity and maybe I can create things as well.” Or maybe just “What I create is valid,” or “I’m valid.” Like, that’s really what I want the takeaway to be, and that it’s valid to have needs because everyone does. You can prioritize yourself, you can love yourself. I don’t think you can underestimate the importance of bringing light into the world. So I just want to people to finish listening while smiling. And also a little bit confused, like what the fuck was that?

Kimaya Diggs on Her New Record, Family, Catharsis in Healing, & More

By Carrie Kaufman

Breastfed, the debut album from Kimaya Diggs, is available for download via Bandcamp. In November, we spoke with the artist about lifetime of making music. This month, we talked again with Kimaya Diggs about the album recording process, writing, caring for self and family, plus some of her own favorite tracks. The vibe is thick and dreamy heart-filled songs, showcasing Diggs' vocal range and style. There are rich instrumentals and feels of jazz, folk and rock singing support poetic and tender lyrics.

This album is really beautiful. I love how it takes things from a lot of different places & influences but also feels like it’s very uniquely You.  Can you say anything about your muses for this album?

Thank you! When I first started writing for the album, I was very inspired by my husband’s writing. He’s a proficient songwriter, and his solo work was really inspiring to me, as were many other artists who prioritize narrative—Joni Mitchell, India.Arie, and Lianne LaHavas, for example.

All of those influences definitely come through. Your songs are strong and introspective. What kind of setting or space do you like for writing?

I usually write [at] home, on my bed! I’ve been journaling daily for 20 years, usually at the end of the day, so writing in bed is very comfortable and familiar to me. I like to write in private, with no one else nearby. 

You’ve been making music for your whole life. Was there anything unexpected or challenging that came up as you were making your first album?

Going into it, I knew very little about the steps that came after recording. I didn’t really know what went into mixing and mastering.  I took some missteps during the recording process. There are definitely things I would change next time, knowing what can and cannot be changed or altered in the editing process. 

You do almost everything on this album: Songwriting, singing, playing  many different instruments. Is there any part of the process that you love the most? Or anything that you particularly struggle with? 

I love singing more than anything! Getting to close my eyes, wave my arms around the way I like to when I’m alone, and just sing along with a track [that] I created was complete bliss. 

My biggest struggle was that we tracked every instrument one at a time — and since I usually accompany myself on guitar live, it was tricky for me to play guitar without singing. But it did free me up to really lean into the decadence of the vocals. 

I love that image of you singing alone. Your voice is definitely beautifully showcased.  Can you say more about the decadence and bliss of the vocals?

As a vocalist, I love to improvise. My primary goal in singing is to have a dialogue of some sort. Sometimes that means I’m in conversation with an instrumentalist, but often it just means that I’m in dialogue with the text that I’m singing. When I’m really communicating, I feel swept along almost involuntarily by the dialogue, and I finally really let loose -- I feel free to explore my whole range, to interrogate my own expectations about how the story goes, and let the natural limitations or expansions of my instrument dictate the story being told. There is no. better. feeling. in the entire world. 
Do you have a favorite song(s)? What is it about?

It changes — for a long time it was “Phobia No. 9,” because when I perform it live, it’s the one moment that I feel really connected to my audience — we wind up the tension together, and it really feels like storytelling. Since the release party, however, I’m really loving “Sweet Pea” and “Baby Isn’t Home.” I performed “Sweet Pea” with my sisters on vocals, including a part that’s not on the recording, and there’s nothing that feels as good as sister-sister-sister harmonies. My backing band for the show plays together regularly in LuxDeluxe, and they have unbelievable intuition when it comes to building a song — when we played “Baby Isn’t Home,” I was blown away by the powerful support that rose up underneath me and carried the song to the same kind of breathless release that you can hear in the recorded version. 

Do you perform with your sisters a lot?  What is that like?

I used to! My first professional work as a musician was as a workshop leader at age 11, when my sisters and I went on tour as teaching artists. We’re spread out now, but we try to sing together as often as possible. It’s a wonderful feeling. We have strong intuition with one another, often using hand gestures to negotiate parts or arrangements as we improvise our way through a song, and we have our own language to describe how songs and parts work. 

All of the string backing you use make these songs feel very rich. I am already singing along with your melodies, which are sometimes minor and also sweet. It feels like there's a lot of emotion in these songs. Does that feel true for you?

The strings were fun to do! I had envisioned having violin, viola, and cello, but I ended up playing all the string tracks on cello, which has a really plaintive sound in the higher registers. For me, music comes down to the story that’s being told, and as a writer, I think that great stories build not only to a climax, but to a pivot or hinge point, when suddenly you look back on everything you just heard from a new perspective. Emotion is definitely at the center of my music, and I envision my voice as a thread that weaves between the elements of the story before twisting them in a new direction. 

I think a lot about how my melodies interact with the narrative of the song—whether they are in tension and conflict with the narrative, or in harmony with it. I look for ways to create a melodic subtext to the narrative. 

I saw that this album was recorded in your husband’s studio with the help of his band. Was this your first time working with them and what was that experience like?

LuxDeluxe hired me and my sisters in 2013 to play strings on their record, and since then, we have sung backing vocals for them every now and then. I have known all of them for about eleven years, though, because we all went to the same high school. Having them learn my songs for the release show was a wonderful and strange experience! I have never played my own music with a full band before, and they learn, adapt, improvise, and adjust with such deftness, it was so easy for me to slip into comfort playing with them. It’s also a real godsend to have so much support in summoning the energy needed to bring a song to its peak and carry a show through its arc. 

You also said that you & your husband played all the instruments. Were there instruments/parts in particular that you personally focused on for this album?

I did most of the guitar tracks, and all but two of the backing vocals. Jacob was really instrumental (hah) in terms of bringing keyboards into the songs, and I put a lot of time and energy into writing string parts, all of which I played on cello. 

The cello is gorgeous. Can you talk a little bit more about how you ended up playing all of the string parts on cello? And how that ended up changing or not changing things? 

Thank you! I ended up playing all the parts simply because I didn’t have time to get other players in the studio, but it was an emotional challenge getting back to playing cello after a long bout of tendinitis-like issues. Being forced to explore my instrument for the first time in a while, and also playing parts that a cello usually wouldn’t, was special 

How have the shows on your tour been going? Has there been a favorite so far?

The shows leading up to the release party were fun! We did a duo show at a sweet little brewery last weekend, and this weekend I’ll be headed up to St. Lawrence college, and then playing in MA again at a show featuring all women-fronted bands! The release party has been the best-ever, though. It was very magical playing through the album and beyond, surrounded by an intergenerational crowd of friends, family, coworkers, children, elders, and strangers!

These songs are very personal and very tender.  In “Baby isn’t Home“ for example, you seem to be talking about a struggle with balance, and about self-care and this complicated idea of independence. Can you talk about your connection to some of those themes on this album?

The themes of the album really started to make themselves known through the recording process. We recorded “Breastfed” with one set of lyrics, and then after listening back to it, I sat there in the studio and rewrote the whole thing on my phone because I had suddenly realized what it was really about. The whole album circles around a moment of serious illness in my family, a moment when the role of caregiver expanded so suddenly that its boundaries became diffuse. When you don’t know who is supposed to be taking care of whom, there’s a shift in the power balance of a family, there are serious growing pains, there’s an acute, painful awareness of previously-unknown weakness, there’s posturing, crippling uncertainty, and most of the time, against all odds, you survive. This album is an ode to survival. It feels so monumental and special, but at the same time, it’s just a rite of passage everyone endures while growing towards the sun.

Sometimes you need a first draft that you completely scrap just to get to the actual thing. I love that you just rewrote the whole thing on your phone. Illness and care dynamics really can teach us a lot. Did you learn about any new ways that you can take care of people or yourself?

I have been working recently as a hospice volunteer, and stepping into the midst of a family in crisis and meeting them exactly where they were gave me a new perspective on illness, death, and the directions of dependency within a family. The biggest lesson I have learned in terms of caring for myself and others is simply to work with what you’re given--to commit to adapting to physical and mental changes, to embrace the newness of a changed person and a changed relationship, to make room for grief and discomfort, but always to evolve towards the new.

Your songs really resonate with a journey of learning and love.  Was making this album cathartic or healing in any way?

It really was cathartic, in a couple of ways. First, it was a special experience writing my thoughts on paper and building tension around them with melody. It was special watching the perspective of the stories change over time, as I gained distance. Secondly, the album was being made for almost two and a half years. The day we started recording, I was ready for it all to be done, and yet, I had to wait. Revolving around these songs for so long as they slowly grew into what they are today taught me so much about myself as a writer and as a performer. It also reinforced the idea that closure is a myth—there’s nothing that can happen that will seal an experience or trauma permanently into the past. Time passes, you grow, or you shrink, and then maybe you grow again. Thinking that finishing the album would close something seemed more and more dangerous as the album neared completion, and I’m grateful that the experience took as long as it did, because I was given enough time to point myself in the direction I needed to grow in instead of waiting for a moment where I could get back on track exactly where I thought I deserved to be.  

You mentioned that your parents are responsible for getting you hooked on performing when you were only 3. A lot of the themes in this album have to do with family and care. What is the role that your family plays in your life & music making today?

My parents have always been so supportive of me as a performer, and as a writer. They place so much value on creators, which was a gift growing up. Today, my sisters and I still sing together, and just recorded our third trio album in January, and my parents are always pushing me towards a more business-minded approach to my music, which is helpful because I’m usually just frowning over a notebook, not thinking about my website. 

What have you been listening to lately?
My friend Sen Morimoto droped a new album in May, and I have been loving his single “People Watching,” [ you can find it on spotify ] I have also been listening to Solange’s “A Seat at the Table” and this newly-released live Ella Fitzgerald recording, “Ella at Zardi’s,” which has changed my life!