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: Kamikaze Girls' "Seafoam"

via  Bandcamp

Seafoam opens with stray synth-inspired chords as Kamikaze Girls’ lead vocalist and guitarist Lucinda Livingstone laments, “One young man / put a gun to my head / held me down/ and took my possessions” a brief silence follows, then a literal wave of feedback, drums, and guitars floods the one’s listening device of choice. The bridge of “One Young Man,” is imbued with the raw instrumentation of an early Garbage or L7 track, remnants of riot grrrl resurfacing in 2017.

It’s clear from the opening note of this record that the Kamikaze Girls are done holding back — both lyrically and instrumentally. Their sound grew in the time between the release of Seafoam and their E.P. SAD, it became more expansive, whatever timidity that SAD have possessed is gone, and a brash, confident sound is now firmly in its place.

“Berlin” perfectly showcases this newfound confidence, the drums and guitars charge forward as Livingstone sings, “I feel like I’m having a heart attack/ and I can’t breathe.” One of the things that I’ve always appreciated about Kamikaze Girls is their openness and honesty when discussing mental health. Rather than relying on distant metaphors to express anxiety, Livingstone places the listener directly into her own experience. The chorus segues into the anxiety driven mantra of, “And I know now/ that I wasn’t cut out for this/ I know now that I couldn’t exist/ in a concentrated city.”

The hardcore edge of “Berlin” is softened by the slightly poppier next track, “Teenage Feelings,” which somehow manages to act as a quarter-life crisis and a windows-down summer jam, bolstered by upbeat drums.

“KG goes to the pub,” is a reclamation, with scathing guitars and pounding drums, and a brave spirit that defies a culture of casual misogyny and slut shaming. It acts as a “fuck you” to every cat-caller or gross guy who had the gall to hit on someone at a bar when they are just trying to have fun. Yet, it also articulates the ever-present anxiety that one experiences in a public space after they have been cat-called or harassed, but that doesn’t lessen the defiant spirit of the song as Williams howls, “I’ll knock your fucking lights out.”

It’s tough to pick a favorite track with Seafoam, but as a fellow, “nervous millennial,” “Deathcap” remains dear to me. It’s an exploration of societal dismissal of millennial anxieties, shifting perceptions of mental health, and a smattering of existential dread.  The track starts with a solid wave of feedback, shifting into a tumultuous riff that drives the song forward at breakneck speed. It’s a song that I find myself returning too when I also feel anxious, a sort of touchstone.

Overall, this record presents a vivid, empathetic understanding of personal and societal pressures. It’s a record that has the capacity to empower the listener to fight back, whether it’s against a cat-caller or their own sense of self doubt. The final track on the record is a new-wave esque ballad called, “ I don’t want to be sad forever.” In it, Livingstone offers the impassioned plea, “We need to fix this together/ and we need to fix this now.” It’s true, Seafoam is a record that recognizes emotional dualities, but it also recognizes that there’s no need to go it all alone. You can lean on your friends, you can stand up for what you believe in, and even if it seems like it now, you won’t be sad forever.

REVIEW: The Winter Passing's "Double Exposure"



The Winter Passing’s 2017 E.P., “Double Exposure,” starts out with a riot of sound, there’s a wave of feedback and crashing cymbals, layered over quick guitar riffs. Confronting the listener with a wall of sound is one of The Winter Passing’s specialties. It’s how they opened their 2015 release, “A Different Space of Mind,” which opens with jubilant drums similar to the Pixie’s “Head On,” as siblings Rob and Kate Flynn alternate vocals.

In the opening track of “Double Exposure” Kate Flynn’s clear, sharp soprano takes over the bridge admitting, “You’re the only place that I feel safe.”

The second track, “Significance” opts for a more mellow, contemporary indie sound with looser bass-lines and a more relaxed drum beat. The instrumentation acts in direct opposition with the lyrics wherein Flynn begs, “Stay with me/ I’ll try to be all you need.”

A level of growth is expected between any band’s first and second E.P. In comparison to their 2015 release A Different Space of Mind, their sound got tighter and more cohesive, but this cohesiveness does not lessen the unbridled joy that seems to seep through each track. These tracks tackle some tough subjects, such as struggles with depression and anxiety — but the music itself is almost triumphant. It perfectly demonstrates the disjointed axis that one inhabits while trying to find joy in the midst of anxieties.

On “Like Flowers Ache for Spring” Rob and Kate Flynn sing, “We don’t think about/ leaving the house,” amidst an upbeat pop-punk drum beat, and somehow inferred tension between the upbeat sound and the resigned nature of the lyrics perfectly exemplifies depression. It’s not just a cartoon-grey-skies Cymbalta commercial completely devoid of color or any happiness for eight to twelve months, it’s this feeling that when something good does happen it feels scary and weird.

Other stand out tracks include “E*Sca*Pism” which features only Kate Flynn and her organ. The notes of the organ are eerie and electronic inspired, similar to an early eighties no wave song or a Stevie Nicks B-side. Flynn is mournful as she admits, “I’m used to running/ away/ from the light of day,” as the notes of the organ circle around her vocals. The gentle looping of the notes mirrors the repetitive nature of anxious thoughts.

This album operates interestingly on a lyrical level. Rob and Kate Flynn each wrote the lyrics separately, eventually combining their separate writings to present two distinct narratives which intertwine to provide the listener with the lived experience of anxiety and depression. This speaks to the simultaneous universality and isolation of mental health struggles, so often people feel like they are alone in experiences with anxiety or depression, but in reality it’s an experience that is shared by millions of people worldwide.

There is a bombastic energy in the Winter Passing’s sound, they clearly love and believe in the music that they’re playing, you can hear it in the excited pop punk guitar riffs and Kate Flynn’s exalted vocals and it makes Double Exposure an exciting listen.

Oftentimes within D.I.Y. or punk scenes, anger seems like the default emotion. Granted, there are mile-long lists of things to be angry about, but this record exemplifies tackling heavy subjects with cautious optimism.

REVIEW: Paramore's "After Laughter"



With the recent influx of pop-punk themed cocktail hours and emo nights, I’ve tentatively developed a theory that we’re living in a 2008 renaissance. I recently found the perfect pair of black skinny jeans that would make my middle school self drool, and I heard a new Panic! At the Disco song on the radio. Most importantly, three years after their self-titled release, Paramore released their fifth album, After Laughter.

This album marks the return of band’s original drummer, Zac Farro, and a new synth-infused sound for the band. The lead single, “Hard Times,” utilizes ska-inspired beats that are similar to Rock Steady-era No Doubt. It’s more upbeat than previous records, and it could be the band’s first true pop banger. It’s infectious, but a troubled lyrical reality lurks beneath the neon hues of the music video as  Williams sings, “All that I want/ is to wake up fine/ Tell me that it’s alright/ that I ain’t gonna die.” It may seem superfluous to note, but no amount of synths can conceal a tough situation where the ideal outcome is simply not dying.

In the follow-up track Williams asks, “Just let me cry/ a little bit longer/ I ain’t gonna smile/ if I don’t want to.” This is actually one of the healthiest impulses I’ve heard in song-writing. So often, people are quick to try and eradicate their negative emotions  rather than give themselves the space to actually feel them.

Come to think of it, providing a space for fans to actually feel things is one of the reasons why emo as a genre has continued to thrive within rock ’n’ roll. This impulse to allow is one of the reasons why Paramore was such a great pop punk band in the first place. I first found Paramore a decade ago (!!!), when they released Riot, a record that both blew my mind and presented me with my first real crush. I was struck by the edge of the riffs and the pounding of the drums, as well as Williams’ very real and complex articulation of a deeper sadness that I didn’t yet have a name for.

The idea of discontent hiding beneath pristine realities is an integral theme throughout Paramore’s discography, and this record is no exception. “Fake Happy” starts with the stray acoustic chords and segues into tighter funk-infused guitars as Williams muses, “I bet everybody here is fake happy too.” In this track, Williams contemplates the tenuous nature of happiness itself as she admits, “I should have known that when things are going fine/ that’s when I get knocked down.” It’s an undeniably honest sentiment hidden beneath a pop guitar hook.

The following track, “26” is actually a softer acoustic track, paired with a string orchestra. It’s an eventually decadent orchestration, but the ethos of the song is similar to “Misguided Ghosts,” off of Paramore’s 2008 release, “Brand New Eyes.” The idea that, “dreamin’ is free,” would seem cheesy but Williams makes singing “Reality will break your heart,” thus allowing the honesty to drown out what would otherwise be considered cliche. Williams’ ability to use raw lyricism to transcend cliches has always been one of my favorite things about her writing, it speaks to her upbringing as an emo fan, and devotee of Sunny Day Real Estate and Jimmy Eat World.

Williams’ emo heritage also appears as she sings, “I can’t think of getting old/ it makes me want to die,” on “Caught in the middle.” It’s a line that’s deliciously saturated with feeling — one that anyone who appreciated Pete Wentz’s 2007 eye makeup job will also appreciate.  Similarly, the decision to include MeWithoutYou’s Aaron Weiss on, “No Friend” is another nod to Paramore’s pop punk roots.

Yet, musically Paramore references more mainstream pop projects like “E*MO*TION” era Carly Rae Jepsen  or HAIM via bouncy ‘80s inspired bass lines. This combination of emo sentiments with pop-rock riffs is magical. This record did the impossible: it has provided the former emo kids/ current emo twenty-somethings a summer soundtrack that won’t depress the shit out of whoever is riding shotgun.

This record is successful because Williams maintains an unflinching level of honesty throughout. The fact that she refuses to compromise her confessional style of songwriting is one of the reasons why the band’s experimentation with a pop sound feels so seamless. Sure, there may be some synths, and the line up may have shifted, but the core ethos of honesty and killer pop punk riffs that made Paramore so remarkable when they released their debut record, All We Know is Falling in 2005 is still there.

There are many things I regret about eighth grade, writing a four-page essay about Paramore is not one of them. I always knew they could make a killer record. After Laughter is triumph.


After Laughter

1. Hard Times
2. Rose-Colored Boy
3. Told You So
4. Forgiveness
5. Fake Happy
6. 26
7. Pool
8. Grudges
9. Caught In The Middle
10. Idle Worship
11. No Friend
12. Tell Me How

Stream Paramore's After Laughter on Spotify and Apple Music.

26 BATS! Release "Touch Mai Face" / Debut Album 'Cave Cuts' Dropping April 26th

“Touch Mai Face” is the synthy, sensual single off of 26 BATS! debut album, Cave Cuts, releasing on April 25th at Icehouse MPLS and online on the 26th. Reminiscent of early FKA Twigs, the video explores the tension of the performative body through modern dance. The backdrop is simple: a draped sheet a prone to wrinkle as it interacts with the form of the dancer. The synths and chorus of the song itself ooze sensuality, similar to that of early ‘2000s as the lead singer, Bailey Cogan, croons “damn you’re hard/ the bones around my heart.” The song is both a throwback and something entirely new, causing R&B to twist, turn, and tumble right into 2017.  Hooligan is delighted to host the video for “Touch Mai Face,” and we look forward to when Cave Cuts is released in full.

Hooligan Mag (H.M.) How did you come up with the concept for the video for “Touch Mai Face?”
Bailey Cogan (B.C.) When I wrote the lyrics to the song, a scene of a foggy cemetery with two decaying bodies in a sexual trance came to mind. For the video I wanted something more relatable, more moving but staying true to the eerie and sexual vibes of the song. I came up with the concept of a person whose partner passed away, but they can still feel their spirit or ghost-like presence but have a burning desire to see them and touch their face.

H.M. I like how you worked with modern dancers in this piece, have you worked with dancers before?
B.C. Thank you! I have not worked with a dancer before. Destiny Anderson, the star of this video, was incredible to work with. I told her my idea for the plot and she effortlessly translated it into movement. I played the song over the speakers. Michaela recorded the video, and Destiny told the story -- needing very little direction. We decided to let the dance speak for itself rather than adding plot points in the video.

I have been studying the work of Merce Cunningham and in his choreography, he lets the movement tell the story; which is what the three of us decided to do with the video. People can take the dance as something beautiful visually and/or they can also see the meaning behind each of Destiny’s movements.

H.M. How has your visual work interacted with your work as a musician?
B.C. Music videos are a bit of a new thing for  me. When I am coming up with ideas for visuals I ask myself; how can I make this song that means one thing into something else that translates well on camera? Which is something that is hard for me and that I am not experienced at.  That is why I worked with videographer, Michaela Stein, on this video to materialize something professional and artistic. I gave her the opportunity to take the reins and make something she can be proud of.

H.M. Have you ever thought of doing a completely visual album?
B.C. Yes, I have definitely thought of that. At one point, I wanted to make Cave Cuts into a movie, but with lack of experience and resources that idea will be recycled hopefully for another project later in my career. With incredible projects like Lemonade by Beyonce, or the works of Gorillaz and Frank Ocean; visual albums are next level, which inspires me.

H.M. What’s your favorite part about making visual work to exist alongside your music? Do you think the two are inherently intertwined?
B.C. I think one of the coolest parts about making visuals for my music is that they aren’t inherently intertwined. They can exist alone. But, together they create a sensory experience that can really move people. This  is why I make art -- to heal.

Cave Cuts will be available to stream on Spotify, Soundcloud, and Apple music via Kremblems on April 26th. You can like 26 BATS! on Facebook or follow them on Instagram @26bats.

Music As A Healing Force: Julien Baker and Ben Gibbard at Thalia Hall

Taken by  Morgan Martinez

Sometimes, records show up when you need them to.

After years of half-heartedly listening to poorly recorded lo-fi demos in my friends’ basements in exchange for relief from boredom on a Friday night, Julien Baker’s Sprained Ankle entered my life as a record I can truly get behind.  It’s a record that speaks to the nonlinearity of healing, and the relentless nature of any mental health struggle.

After a particularly draining semester, I was drawn to the lyrics of Sprained Ankle’s title track: A sprinter/ learning to wait/ a marathon runner/ my ankles are sprained. For the first time in months, listening to this record, to this song, I was able to relax.

Taken by  Morgan Martinez
Taken by  Morgan Martinez

Julien's set was transcendental, to say the least. She opened with Good News,my favorite track off of Sprained Ankle. The lyrics are one of the best depictions of anxiety that Ive ever heard; its a song that is painfully affirming. That night, as Baker's voice filled the room, volleying past the balconies, I was in awe that such a powerful emotive force could be generated with just vocals and a guitar.

This next one goes out to some friends who are here tonight, who treat me so much better than I deserve.At this point, already in a vulnerable state thanks to the opening number being my lets process your feelingssong, I was a wreck.

The balding rock dad in a track jacket standing next to me looked concerned as I blubbered Im just really, really proud of her,between sobs. That poor rock dad couldnt have known that earlier that day I took Julien and some other Hooligan compatriots to all my favorite places. For all the strangeness and hurt of 2016, it was the year I learned that being proud of my friends is my favorite emotion.

Taken by  Morgan Martinez
Taken by  Morgan Martinez
Taken by  Morgan Martinez

The first time I heard Death Cab for Cutie, I was eleven years old. I saw the music video for I Will Follow You into the Dark” on VH1 and quickly downloaded the song off of iTunes like a law-abiding citizen. I loved the microcosm of a narrative contained within the song and I similarly thought that 6th grade was, as vicious as Roman rule.” Death Cab continued to be a musical touchstone for me throughout my teenage years and twenties.

Transatlanticism got me through my first facsimile of both a long-distance relationship and a break-up, Expo 86” is my anxiety anthem, and I like to walk to the train while listening to Plans.

Ben Gibbards set was a solid mix of Death Cab, solo material, covers, and Postal Service songs. Gibbard opened with Women of the World,” an Ivor Cutler cover fitting for the current political situation, which made me grateful for his self-awareness as a listener.

Since the show itself was an acoustic set, I was skeptical as to how the techno anchors of a Postal Service track would translate into an acoustic setting, but the stripped down guitar made me realize the power of the lyrics. Without the joyful synths, I was able to comprehend how Brand New Colony” is devastatingly romantic without resorting to platitudes.

The gravity of Gibbards presence didnt hit me until he launched into the Death Cab classic, 405” and I couldnt help but smile as I sang, misguided by the 405/ it lead me to an alcoholic summer.

Taken by  Morgan Martinez

Death Cab for Cutie is one of those bands whose discography can appear deceptively small. As the set continued I kept having to reconsider my favorite Death Cab song — it was Cath! No, it was Brand New Colony! Oh fuck, it was definitely Soul Meets Body”, how could I forget about Soul Meets Body? Hearing these songs live when they usually entered my life through tiny laptop speakers was surreal; the live rendition of Passenger Seat” gutted me. When I started listening to Death Cab, I never imagined Id be able to one day hear I Will Follow you Into the Dark” live. It was magical. I told my co-worker that, Ben Gibbard was amazing and he melted my face off,” to which my co-worker responded, I dont know if anyones ever reacted to Ben Gibbard like that.

However uncanny it may seem, I was in awe of Ben Gibbard even when he gently critiqued the skill level of a drunken crowd members mouth guitar. The fact that I get to write that sentence is a gift. Thus, I never realized that Ben was a breathing sentient being until he was standing in front of me. I was so used to putting three hour Transatlanticism” on loop to study that my brain couldnt comprehend that he was a real person, capable of banter and mannerisms just like myself

When I was younger, I couldnt shake the feeling that music was going to act as a conduit for something greater within my life. I didnt know what it would be, but I knew it would be important and worthwhile.

Last year, I lost some of that reverence for art. I stopped listening to records and I doubted why I bothered to go to shows in the first place. Listening to Ben Gibbard strum the final chords of Such Great Heights” as the audience clapped along, I remembered the incredible capacity that music has to unite and heal. Ankles [get] sprained, people hurt you, but sometimes all you need is the perfect record to get back on your feet.

Taken by  Morgan Martinez

An Interview With Knives of Spain's Gwen Young

Performing under the name knives of spain, Gwen Young’s sophomore EP Telluric is transcendental. The record utilizes everything from analog synths to flutes to create a captivating, almost mystical sound. Knives’ sound calls forth comparisons to goth-rock goddesses like Kate Bush or Liz Fraser of Cocteau Twins; bestowing these comparisons feels like a rarity, but I am unable to think of someone else more deserving to coexist in this gossamer world. Hooligan spoke with Gwen Young over email about the benefits of cassettes and the timeless appeal of Brian Eno. You can read the interview below and stream Telluric over bandcamp.

Who are some of your biggest musical inspirations?

They’re so numerous, but some who’ve stuck with me the longest are Talking Heads/David Byrne, Brian Eno, Stereolab, Sugarcubes /Bjork, Cocteau Twins, Arthur Russel, Moondog, Smog, XTC/Andy Partridge, Throwing Muses, Leonard Cohen, J.S. Bach, Astor Piazzola, Lou Harrison, Harry Partch, Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, and a huge variety of non-Eurocentric music.

What is it like to work with Hairy Spider Legs? (The label that released Telluric)   

The best! Telluric is my second album, and since my first (Opening Sequence) was a self-release, this is my label debut and I think it’s been very productive.  I reached out to Patrick Holbrook (who runs H.S.L.) for this album because he was one of the very first folks outside my immediate network to take notice of what I was doing back in 2012 when I released Opening Sequence, and I’m elated that my follow-up is on such a great label. 

We have the same DIY ethic and therefore we have a very compatible working relationship.  I feel lucky to work with someone I know genuinely appreciates and identifies with how much goes into being the sole creator and executor of a project, as Patrick not only manages the label himself but has an active solo project called Well Yells. Hairy Spider Legs works with an outstanding roster of unique, genre-defying acts and I’m thrilled to be one of them! 

Where did you learn to play the accordion? 

At home!  I’ve managed to teach myself enough on accordion to use it in my compositions, and the same applies to all the other instruments I play except for flute.  I earned a bachelor’s degree in classical music with a focus on flute performance, so in college I got some rudimentary keyboard instruction that gave me a good foundation to approach accordion.  But I may have never taken it up if it weren’t for pure chance; a while back, my dad gifted me an accordion he happened upon for an irrefutable deal at a flea market.  It hadn’t occurred to me play one before then, and it was love at first sight! 

What do you like about cassette tapes as a medium for distributing music?

Distribution these days is a bit of a conundrum.  Our consumption of music increasingly favors the digital format. To some degree, analog releases present a tangible form of resistance to this by preserving sound in the physical realm.  There’s also a warmth in analog that’s very tasteful to the ears.  Vinyl continues to reign in analog, but it’s pricey to do a quality, good sounding vinyl pressing. Cassettes are a way to get you the next best thing in analog sound for an extremely nice price.  Plus they look really awesome, and if you have an ancient car like I do you can pop them in your tape deck! The Telluric cassette comes with an accompanying mp3 download as well so listeners can also load it straight onto their listening machines. 

What is the best and worst part of your songwriting process? 

The best part is probably the moment I see something forming, when I’m taking the chisel to the block. The worst part is having time constraints that prohibit me from working on new material whenever I feel like it, and I imagine that’s a pretty common complaint for most folks. 

Describe your dream collaboration. 

Oh gosh!  Collaborating would be change of pace for knives of spain since my modus operandi has always been to do it all myself; I record, produce and mix my own work, and play all the instruments (classical guitar, flute, accordion, analog synth, zither, toy piano, and lots of hand percussion).  But collaborating is definitely something I enjoy, and since this is a dream I’d have to bring in some dearly departed talent along with others who are fortunately still with us doing their magic.  I think I’d ask Moondog and Lou Harrison to collaboratively compose for flute, strings and percussion.  Then I’d mesh David Byrne’s quirky guitar lines on top and throw in some crazy samples from his collection of vintage world music.  I’d get Leonard Cohen to pen some delicious words and we’d do some crooning.  Then I’d pull in Brian Eno’s electronics and production to tie it all together.  I guess the result could potentially be titled My Afterlife in the Bush of Ghosts. 

A Conversation with Emily Blue of Tara Terra

We got to speak with Emily Blue, the frontwoman of Illinois-based Terra Tara. Her debut solo record, "Another Angry Woman" blends pop and rock sounds to examine issues within contemporary feminism. The first single, "No Pain" demonstrates her abilities as a vocal and lyrical powerhouse.

Proceeds from the single and subsequent video will go towards RACES.

“Another Angry woman” is your debut solo record, what is it like making a solo project v.s. collaborating with a band? Can you explain the title?

Making a solo record is definitely more nerve wracking. With a band, you have so many other people to bounce ideas off of, and an instrumentation that you become familiar with. With my solo work, I was forced to rely only on my own vision for the songs. I had to arrange them, choose specific sounds, and be confident in what I was doing. It was a learning experience, for sure.I can apply the knowledge of production and arrangement to every project I do musically.

The title “Another Angry Woman” comes from the way I’ve heard people describe women who are upset about the inequality in the world. It’s an expression that so often dismisses and belittles women’s experiences. When I thought about my record and how specifically, it refers to sexual abuse, gender, trauma, etc, I asked myself, what’s the first criticism this work will likely receive? What is the first way people will completely miss the point of these songs? And that’s how “Another Angry Woman” was born.

Who are some of your musical or artistic influences?

This sounds like sort of a cop-out, but everything I hear influences me. I love to listen to the radio in the car because I never know what’s going to come on -- it forces me to take in so many different genres of music in one sitting. I find myself noticing things in a song that I like, especially production-wise, that I can later apply to my own music. More specifically, my all-time favorites are folk/bluegrass singer-songwriter Gillian Welch, the band Yuck, Regina Spektor, Fleet Foxes,  and Norah Jones.

When did you start playing music?

I started playing music when I was probably five years old. I don’t remember the exact age, but I remember I was put into piano lessons very early on. I wrote my first real songs when I was in middle school, and fell in love with it. I’ve always loved to write and express myself -- as an only child, it was very easy to get lost in writing. I also played flute in band / orchestra during my high school years, which gave me experience with a more formal musical atmosphere.

What’s your first memory of performing?

My first memory of performing is actually a pretty funny one -- I was six years old and had a vocal solo at our church’s Christmas concert. When it came to the moment when I was supposed to sing verse 2 of “Away in a Manger,” I completely froze in front of the entire congregation and forgot all the words. I never really sang in public again until I was fifteen, because I was so mortified. Luckily, I’ve gained enough experience on stage now to completely counteract the fear, but I remember that like it was yesterday. People still told me I did a great job afterwards, even though I didn’t sing a word.

How did you get involved with RACES (Rape Advocacy Counseling Education Services)? What has it been like to work with them?

I’m not actually affiliated with RACES per se, but I have recognized their importance as a student from UIUC. They are a rape crisis hotline available 24/7 and offer other services for survivors as well. Some of my very good friends volunteer for that organization. I’ve seen the compassion and care that they have for survivors and wanted to do what I could to help them in their time of need. It is honestly atrocious how little funding they receive -- our entire community has snapped into action but it’s not nearly enough without an adequate budget.

How did you go about finding participants for your video?

I put out a couple ads on social media, requesting survivors who wanted an outlet to talk about their experiences. The response was very enthusiastic -- at one point, I actually thought we were going to have too many to fit in the video. It just goes to show how many people have gone through sexual abuse or assault, and how necessary it is to listen to them and believe them

Has this project allowed you to connect with other survivors?

Absolutely. It reminded me of the way I felt at “Take Back The Night”, which is a protest that our town hosts every year. Both that, and the video showed me how necessary it is to feel the support of others around you. It made me feel very connected because these people understood the specific pain I carry, because they carry some of the same burden. Many of the survivors in the video (including myself) were very nervous or anxious about the experience, but said it was empowering to them and helpful to their healing process.

What are your thoughts on the idea that music itself can act as a healing space?

It is my personal belief that pop music can change the world. I include the descriptor “pop” because of a few reasons -- I make pop music, one. Two, pop music is some of the catchiest and most readily accessible music there is. There’s this idea that because of that, it can’t possibly contain any necessary or meaningful message. So with this record, I wanted to counteract that idea, and use pop music as a vessel to carry all of my feelings and emotions. It’s helped me heal and cope with some of my experiences, and I think it can help others heal as well. Also, the fact that this record is a non-profit endeavor gives me confidence that music is a viable tool for social change.

What are your thoughts on the overwhelming prevalence of slut shaming in everyday conversation?

It’s disgusting. I do not condone slut shaming in any way, shape, or form, because it is inherently a violent act. In my life, it has made me feel shame when I shouldn’t feel shame, and carry unnecessary burdens.My policy is, if the sex is enthusiastically consensual, safe, and healthy, then the only person who should be ashamed is someone that has a problem with it.

My other policy is, never shame someone for what they are wearing. Whether someone is wearing a revealing dress, a burka, a garment that goes against the gender binary, what-have-you, policing what someone else wears can damage a person’s self esteem and put them in a position of danger. Body policing is so often used as justification for violence.

How did you start getting involved with activist spaces? Do you have any tips for people who want to get involved with social justice but might not know where to start?    

Champaign-Urbana (my hometown) has so many amazing people, a diverse and passionate music community, and a passion for social justice, so it was easy to hop on board. I personally love to host benefit concerts or involve music in any way that I know how. What I would recommend for other people wanting to get involved in social justice is listening and learning -- I learned the most about social justice from people that were being oppressed. I have the privilege of being a white, cis person, so I have a lot of listening to do in terms of racial equality, for example, or trans visibility. Then, I would recommend using your specific talents and abilities to bring awareness to your cause! You can always use your skills for good.

It's Okay to be Sad: A Review on Kamikaze Girls' Debut EP

Courtesy of Bearded Punk Records

Courtesy of Bearded Punk Records

The perceived bravado of rock and roll is legendary.

It is a world where exalted states reign supreme, not the sort of musical niche that invites introspection or thoughtfulness. With their latest E.P., Sad, U.K-based Kamikaze Girls are letting listeners know that, contrary to the rock ’n’ roll mythos, it’s okay to be sad sometimes. 

As a duo Lucinda Livingstone (vocals/ guitar) and Connor Dawson (drums), intend to, “[use music] as a means to challenge attitudes and taboos surrounding mental health.” This record delves fearlessly into the realms of emotional dualism, examining one’s ability to be simultaneously happy and sad through lyrical and sonic means.

On “Black Coffee” Livingstone growls, “Without you I'd sleep forever, without you I'd sleep / You made my bloodshot eyes no longer / Look like red decay” while Dawson bolsters her with a tumultuous drumbeat that begs for a mosh pit and a basement show. This duality — bloodshot tired eyes and a rabbit-heart pounding after one two many double shots is perfectly encapsulated throughout the E.P. Kamikaze Girls are kinetic, they exist in motion while understanding that life is complicated — so much so that it doesn’t always allow one to stop and think.

Vocalist Lucinda Livingston’s voice often careens into a scream as she sings. Her ruthless growl aches with sincerity, it calls forth comparisons to fellow hardcore queen and champion of vulnerability, Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves.

As a writer, Livingstone is brutally honest. She details her emotional downswings, headaches,  and distaste for funerals with candor and a healthy amount of rage.

The E.P.’s lead single, “Ladyfuzz” details reliving an overdose as Livingstone concedes, “You can leave me in the dead of night/ if that’s what you need to do.” The video was shot in Livingstone’s childhood bedroom, with bookshelves and beat up records still intact and drenched in an atmospheric blue light. Visually, the video calls forth the aimless and vaporous nature of sadness, how it seems able to fill a room without being seen invading the spaces that are supposed to be most comfortable — a bedroom or a hometown.

As Livingstone explains in a press release, “It still looks just like it was when I left it. Loads of old band merch, a LOT of Michael Jackson memorabilia, records and a bunch of stuff that I can't really have with me at the moment. With Conor knowing the meaning behind the song - and obviously standing by me as a friend when I wasn't well at the time - we kind of just wanted to tell it how it was. Not the happiest of songs, or videos, but it is what it is.”

Telling it like it is seems to be an integral part of Kamikaze Girl’s mission as a band. In addition to being the titular lead single, “Lady Fuzz” is also the name of a ‘zine that Livingstone curates which aims to celebrate female artists and musicians.  The idea that one can reclaim their experiences and turn them into something positive is fantastic. Kamikaze Girls proves that there’s no need to obliterate one’s own sadness, it is what it is.

Kamikaze Girls is currently touring throughout the U.K. with fellow Hooligan contributors, The Winter Passing. See them at any one of the dates below.

21st September The Cavern Exeter, UK

23rd September - DIY Space for London London, UK

24th September - The Key Club Leeds, UK

26th September The Bannerman Edinburgh, UK

1st October - Southsea Fest Portsmouth, UK

 “Sad” will be available September 2nd through Wiretap Records (US) and Bearded Punk Records (U.K.)