Ernest Greene is a Perry, GA-born, Athens, GA-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, best known for his acclaimed synth pop/chillwave recording project Washed Out. After earning an undergraduate degree and a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of Georgia, Greene was unable to find a job as a librarian. Greene moved back in his parents and began writing and producing material in his bedroom studio as well as with a local electro pop act Bedroom.
Greene started Washed Out in 2009. Shortly after posting material on his MySpace page, the Perry-born, Athens-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer was discovered and championed by a number of influential blogs, who compared his sound to Neon Indian and Memory Tapes.
He released his first two Washed Out EPs in rapid-fire fashion in August and September of that year. Building upon a growing profile, Greene played his New York City debut — which interestingly enough, was only his second live show ever — at the now, long-shuttered Santos Party House. 2010 saw Greene continue the amazing momentum of the previous year: he played that year’s Pitchfork Music Festival and “Feel It All Around” became the opening theme song for the acclaimed TV series Portlanadia.
In early 2011, Greene signed with Sub Pop Records, who released his his full-length debut Within and Without to critical applause and commercial success: the album peaked at #26 on the Billboard 200 and #89 on the UK Albums Chart. He ended a breakthrough 2011 by co-curating that year’s ATP Nightmare Before Christmas in Minehead, UK with Battles.
Greene’s sophomore Washed Out album 2013’s Paracosm was a decided change in sonic direction, as it featured a warmer, tropical-inspired sound while retaining the ethereal quality of his previously released material, as you’d hear on album singles “It All Feels Right” and “Don’t Give Up.” The year ended with Life of Leisure EP track “New Theory” being featured as background music in a scene of the rom-com The Spectacular Now.
His third Washed Out full-length, 2017’s Cole M.G.N. co-produced Mister Mellow was released through renowned hip-hop label Stone’s Throw Records, which he supported with the Get Lost! tour. Since the release of Mister Mellow, the Perry-born, Atlanta-based artist has released a handful of singles including “Face Up” as part of Adult Swim’s applauded Singles Series.
Greene began this year with the release of his latest single “Too Late.” Sonically, the song is a bit of a return to form for the critically applauded and commercially successful artist: a swooning yet bittersweet bit of synth pop centered around layers of arpeggiated synths, stuttering beats, Greene’s ethereal and plaintive vocals and a soaring hook. And while sonically sounding as though it could have been released on Within Without, the song captures the thoughts and feelings of a narrator, who’s fearful that he may miss out on a chance on love — but at the same time, he’s ambiguous and confused. We’ve all been there at some point and the song captures that uncertain and awkward feeling with a profound accuracy.
Much like countless artists across the world, Greene has found himself in an indefinite state of limbo with the necessary postponements and cancellations of live performances and tours, and strict travel restrictions. And as a result, the Perry-born, Atlanta-based artist had to cancel a long-planned video shoot in Italy, where he was set to collaborate with an international team of filmmakers.
Viewing it as an opportunity to engage his fans, Greene launched a collaborative project to create the recently released video for “Too Late.” Asking fans for footage they shot of their hometowns and from their own travels, the response was overwhelming and flattering — but it manages to touch upon every corner of our planet, while capturing the longing we all have for the aspects of our lives we can’t have right now and my never get back.
“I’d spent months planning a music video for a new song called ‘Too Late.’ My inspiration was a Mediterranean sunset I saw late last year, and the plan was to shoot on the coast of Italy with a team of UK and European collaborators,” Greene writes in a statement. “As we got closer to the shoot date, word about the severity and the speed of the virus started becoming daily news, and it became clear it wasn’t going to happen the way we’d planned. We tried to move the shoot several times (to Malta, Croatia, Spain, and eventually the UK), and one after another, countries shut their borders. Seeing Italy hit so hard was especially difficult to see.
I put up an IG post asking for fans to help me come up with the raw footage I had in mind — those first few days, as I was going through photos of my trips and tours, the memories of traveling and experiences I’d had took on a new significance. I wanted the video to capture those same moments for other people in their lives, and give us all an excuse to remember what it’ll look like again when it passes.
I went in thinking if I got 100 clips, I’d have enough to make the video I wanted to make. 30 minutes in, I had the 100 clips, and a few days in, I had over 1,200 clips — from London, Bali, Okinawa, Ann Arbor, Dubrovnik and a few hundred other places around the world. It was pretty amazing for me to see the vids and pics flood in like they did.
I was blown away by the response, and I’m excited to share the project with everyone now. For me, it’s turned out to be a much needed reminder of how connected we can all be when we’ve never been more physically distanced from each other. I hope everyone that contributed and everyone that watches the video gets the joy from it I do.
I don’t know what the immediate future holds for Washed Out… I have a lot of new music in various states, and other projects I was looking forward to working on this summer. I don’t know when I’ll be able to tour again, or when any of the other new music will come out, but I’m staying optimistic about both . . . “
Hazel English is a rapidly rising Australian-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and musician. Her Justin Raisen and Ben H. Allen co-produced full-length debut Wake UP! is slated for an April 24, 2020 release through Marathon Artists/Polyvinyl Records. Recorded in Los Angeles and in Atlanta, English hopes the album will serve as a klaxon, a sort of warming horn that will give the listener a meaningful shake from their doldrums — and to encourage the listener to become more present in their own lives. “Sometimes, I feel like we’re just sleepwalking through our lives,” English says in press notes. She goes on to say that she hopes the album helps “make people become more aware and mindful.”
Wake UP!’s fourth and latest single, “Five and Dime” is a woozy, mid-tempo track that sounds indebted to late 50s country and Phil Spector-produced 60s girl group pop. Centered around reverb drenched guitars, finger snap-led percussion, twinkling Rhodes, English’s expressive vocals, some twangy pedal steel and a rousing hook, the track is part playful love song and part bitter lament, as the song’s narrator muses on a love interest, who has become so consuming to her that she’s distracted. Ah, to be that infatuated!
“It’s about the desire for space and independence when feeling stifled in a relationship,” English explains in press notes. “I wrote it about a trip I took to Oakland when I just needed to get out of LA for a bit. ‘Five and Dime’ is actually an old slang term for the area code 510 which covers the East Bay, so I thought it would be a fun way to refer to the place that once used to be my home, while also invoking a sense of nostalgia for a time when a phrase like five and dime was very common.”
GRAE is a rising Toronto-based singer/songwriter and pop artist. Initially inspired by Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814, which she played on repeat as a child, the up-and-coming Canadian started playing piano and guitar when she was very young. Last year, GRAE released her attention-grabbing debut EP New Girl, which landed on the cover of Spotify’s Outliers Playlist — and since its release, has amassed over 2 million streams.
Building upon a growing profile, the Toronto-based artist will be releasing her highly-anticipated sophomore EP Bang Bang — and the EP’s first single is a slow-burning and sultry “Slow Down.” One part seductive Quiet Storm-like soul, one part jazz chanteuse and one part slickly produced pop, “Slow Down” the track is centered around a palpable sexual tension: its narrator is about to give into her temptations and rush into intimacy without knowing if the situation will be good for her. Most of our romantic relationships are initially centered around the confusing push and pull of lust, shame and our desire to be connected to someone — and the song evokes those feelings with an uncanny accuracy.
“‘Slow Down’ was fun to write because I had never explored this kind of topic before,” GRAE says in press notes. “I find, as a woman, sometimes it’s hard to express your wants and desires, in fear of being judged or shamed. So I wanted to touch on this subject to get more in tune with that side of myself.”
Directed by Priya Howlader, the recently released video for “Slow Down” employs a minimalist concept: the up-and-coming Canadian artist as a jazz chanteuse, performing the song in front of a red curtain. While performing the song, she winds up seducing an intrigued onlooker — and as the video progresses, we see that the pair have an unmistakable and irresistible sexual chemistry in which they’re pulled closer to each other.
“The video stems from a vision I had of me singing in a old jazz cafe in front of a classic red curtain,” the up-and-coming Canadian artist explains in press notes. “Priya, the director, really made it come alive with her treatment and ideas. The concept is minimal but so beautifully executed.”
Helene Alexandra Jæger is a Norwegian-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and creative mastermind behind the rising recording project Holy Boy. Recorded at Ben Hillier’s London-based Pool Studios, Jæger’s 2017 Holy Boy self-titled debut was released to widespread critical acclaim with EP single “The Blood Moon” receiving airplay on BBC Radio 1 while establishing her sound – a sound that takes cues from The Velvet Underground and Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden, Suicide, the dark side of the 60s, vintage girl bands and West Coast hip-hop and she has dubbed “neon gothic.” Thematically, the Norwegian-born, Los Angeles-based artist’s work focuses on “explorations in consciousness,” she explains in press notes.
Building upon a growing profile, Jæger performed sets at that year’s CMJ, NXNE and SXSW. She followed that up with the critically applauded single “Elegy,” which The Line of Best Fit described as being “at once eclectic and utterly immersive; smoky and classic, yet simultaneously futuristic.”
Much like the countless emerging artists I’ve covered on this site over the past decade, Jæger began the year with big plans to boost her profile and her career that included booked sets at this year’s SXSW, which would have corresponded with the release of the first single off her forthcoming 11 song, full-length debut, which is slated for release this summer. Of course, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, SXSW was cancelled while countless other festivals, tours and shows were postponed until later this year. Interestingly, the album’s first single was released last month – and it turns out to be an eerily fitting and timely cover of The Doors’ classic “Riders On The Storm.” Centered around layers of shimmering organs, including Hammond, Rhodes, Optigan and Vox Continental, vintage 70s drum machines and 80s Casio synths, along with Jæger’s dusky vocals drenched in gentle reverb, delay and other ethereal effects, the Norwegian-born, Los Angeles-based artist’s haunting and cinematic rendition retains the somber and brooding tone of the original while adding that seemingly unending sense of dread and uncertainty that we’ve all felt in our lives over the past month or so.
The accompanying video is fittingly creepy and yet highly symbolic: it features a lo-fi, computer generated skeleton in space, walking up a never-ending staircase.
I recently exchanged emails with Jæger for this Q&A. Current events have impacted all of us – and they’ve found a way to bleed into our personal and professional lives in ways that will likely reverberate for some time to come. Because she had plans to play at SXSW until it was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we chat briefly about how the pandemic has impacted her and her career. But the bulk of our conversation, we chat about her attention- grabbing cover of The Doors’ classic tune, and what we should expect from her forthcoming debut. Check it out below.
___ WRH: Most parts of the country are enacting social distancing guidelines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here in New York, we’ve been social distancing and in-quarantine for the better part of three weeks. It’s been tough – but it’s for the greater good. How are you holding up?
Helene Alexandra Jæger: I love New York, and it’s crazy what’s happening right now. I hope it turns around and that we all learn something from this that can save lives in the future and now. Here in L.A., we’ve been at home for three or four weeks — I can’t even remember — and most things have been shut since then. It’s been strict, but I’m grateful for that – better safe than sorry in this type of a situation.
I’m lucky as an introvert, I’m quite comfortable spending time on my own reading, exploring info online, creating and listening to music.
WRH: You were about to release new material at around the time that SXSW had to cancel because of the COVID-19 pandemic. How has COVID-19 impacted you and your career at the moment?
HAJ: The cancellation came so suddenly; the whole festival was shut down less than a week before I was headed there to showcase my album live for the first time. I feel the cancellation of SXSW was a turnaround, for the first time people started to realize how serious this outbreak might get…
Until that, most people I heard from thought the danger was exaggerated, and so I’m really glad the city of Austin made a firm decision, because I don’t know what the situation would have been like if 60,000 people had gathered for SXSW as planned, just a few weeks back.
Since this outbreak, I’ve been trying to manage the “Riders On The Storm” release that was too late to cancel — and somehow turned out to be more poignant right now than I’d ever expected.
I was planning to release my debut album this spring, was working on music video plans, and had live shows in the pipeline around the release, but that’s all on ice now. The good thing is, I get to create more and spend time making more music. I also have a poetry collection I’ve been working on for a while, and it’s given me time to focus on that and prepare for that release.
WRH: How would you describe your sound, for those unfamiliar to you and Holy Boy’s sound?
HAJ: This is always tricky. I feel like it’s a world where it’s dark, but there are neon lights on, and you can see the stars and the moon. There’s a dreamy quality to it, but it can also get gritty and sensual. I sometimes think of it as Moon in Scorpio, 5th house, that’s my placement. It’s a dark and deep place where there’s sometimes a feeling of being closer to space than earth. Musically, I call it Neon Gothic or LA noir, organ rock.
WRH: Who are your influences?
HAJ: I love all kinds of music, but for this coming album, I’ve been immersing myself in what felt like it resonated with the emotions in those songs. Songs like “No Quarter” by Led Zeppelin, David Bowie’s Blackstar album, “Nikes” by Frank Ocean, Suicide and songs by The Shangri-La’s, Johnny Jewel’s work . . .
WRH: Who are you listening to right now?
HAJ: I’m really enjoying the Spotify Discover Weekly playlist where the algorithm presents you with music it thinks you’ll like, and I’ve been going on a deep dive based on doing research for a TV idea I’ve been working on… A beautiful and uplifting raw song I think everyone could benefit from right now is an old gospel type recording “Like A Ship” by Pastor T.L. Barrett and The Youth for Christ Choir… I think it’s a really inspiring song for this time.
I’ve also been listening to demos and outtakes from Bob Dylan’s “Blonde On Blonde” sessions and it’s been such a revelation to hear how incredibly different the other takes were… To see how fluid his process was, that a song like “Like A Rolling Stone” ended up the way we know it, when the other takes were so different… There’s a real magic to it. Like listening into an alternate reality.
WRH: You recently released an eerie and ominous cover of The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm.” I think if Jim Morrison was alive today, he would have really dug what you did with the song. What drew you to the song? Have the living members of The Doors heard the song? If they did, what did they think of it?
HAJ: That means a lot to me, thank you so much. I know he had an interest in the worlds beyond and the nature of life and death, which I personally resonate with, so it was a great experience to channel one of his/their songs . . .
One of the reasons I was drawn to making a cover of “Riders On The Storm”, besides being a huge fan of The Doors, is it feels like a seeker’s song, and it felt like a kindred spirit to the way I look at the world. A sense of not quite being at home and not quite belonging on earth.
From what I know, they haven’t heard it, but I really hope they would enjoy my version. I hope they are all safe and well, all four of them in this world and the other.
WRH: The recent video for “Riders on the Storm” features a computer-animated skeleton in space, walking up an infinite staircase. It’s fittingly ominous and as eerie. How did you come about this treatment – and what is it supposed to represent?
HAJ: When I saw Andrei/@dualvoidanimafff’s lofi retro futuristic animations online, I knew I wanted to work on something with him. For “Riders On The Storm”, I just saw this idea of a skeleton walking up a never-ending staircase in space… Like man’s ascension, our eternal human quest to become more or to rise out of the limitations of physical life, to reach this idea of heaven or perfection… It felt to me like a logical depiction of the song’s theme, “Riders On The Storm”… The impossibility of our pursuit, but also the beauty – that throughout history we’ve never stopped trying.
WRH: You have an album slated for a late August release. What should we expect from the album?
HAJ: My version of “Riders On The Storm” is definitely in the same world that the record takes place in. An otherworldly atmosphere built around Hammond/Rhodes/Optigan organs, Vox Continentals, vintage 70s drum machines and obscure 80s Casio synths. It’s definitely a nighttime record, it’s happening in the dark, songs that I hope can be cathartic in a time like this and what most likely lies ahead.
Over the past 15 years, the acclaimed Norwegian-born, Stockholm-based singer/songwriter Ane Brun has released 12 albums of gorgeous and cinematic folk and art pop through her own label Balloon Ranger Recordings that have included 2005’s sophomore album, A Temporary Dive, which led to a Norwegian Grammy Award win for Best Female Artist; 2008’s critically applauded Changing of the Seasons, which was praised by The New York Times; 2015’s When I’m Free, which NPR’s All Things Considered called “best record yet . . . her most sonically ambitious . . .;” and 2017’s Leave Me Breathless, a collection of covers and reinterpretations of hits by Radiohead, Joni Mitchell, Nick Cave, Bob Dylan, and others.
Brun’s forthcoming (and still untitled) full-length album is slated or a fall release through her own label, and the album’s latest single, the self-recorded and edited “Trust” is a hauntingly gorgeous and cinematic track centered around an atmospheric arrangement of strummed acoustic guitar, shimmering synths and Brun’s gorgeously expressive and plaintive vocals. “It’s a song about letting go of all doubt and just letting yourself fall into the hands of fate, and trust that it’s all going to be alright,” Brun explains in press notes. “It was first written as a romantic song, but as we’re in this state of uncertainty around the planet, I feel it has gained more meaning.”
Before the single’s official release, Brun invited fans from around the world to join in for a pre-listening party and online chat. “Many of the people who participated were alone in their homes or with their cat or dog, a partner or their family. Some were in quarantine because they were infected with the coronavirus or because they work in healthcare,” Brun says. “What we had in common was that we were all affected by this difficult situation, and most of us were isolating from the outside world. We also felt a need to trust and meet other people. It was magical to come together like this.” The recently released video will resonate will many of us, who have been isolated and feeling alone and desperately wanting to be in touch with another person.
Jenny Logan is a Portland, OR-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, who has spent the past few years being very busy as a member of grunge pop trio Loveboys, post-punk act Miss Rayon, guitar pop act Sunbathe, and her solo recording project Deathlist. With her Deathlist, Logan has released a handful of material including 2017’s S/T debut, 2018’s attention-grabbing Fun. and last year’s A Canyon and Loved, which have helped established her sound — a sound that’s influenced by New Order, Suicide and The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Logan’s fifth Deathlist album You Won’t Be Here for Long is slated for a May 29, 2020 release. Recorded and mixed by Victor Nash at Destination: Universe, the forthcoming album thematically explores loss, grief, survival and love. You Won’t Be Here for Long’s latest single, album title track “You Won’t Be Here For Long” is a slow-burning and murky dirge centered around droning synths, a sinuous bass line, Logan’s husky vocals and tweeter and woofer rocking beats. And while clearly being indebted to the pulsating minimalism of Suicide, the song as Logan explained to New Noise Magazine “is about the temporariness of everything and how stranger it is what we still exist at all.” Considering how dire everything in our world is at the moment, the song’s overall theme seems both prescient and fitting.
Shot in Red Rock Canyon, outside of Las Vegas, the video is split between black and white home video recorder footage of Lewis hiking and wandering in the desert, and footage of her lying down in a bed of flowers. It emphasizes the eeriness of the song — while illustrating our smallness and fragility within a larger, indifferent universe.
I had some loose-held editorial plans for the site over the next 24-36 hours or so but when I saw a friend’s Facebook post on Bill Withers’ death, I scrapped those plans for a little bit. We’ve heard most of Withers’ work so much that it’s part of our collective consciousness — and yet, the songs hold up and resonate 40 some years after their initial release. They’re that timeless. And I suspect that kids 50 years from now, will hear the same things that our folks and we have heard in the material. Long live, Bill Withers!
I came across some live footage of Withers shot in 1972 and 1973. The 1973 footage shot by the BBC may be the most famous of the two, and as a photographer it’s intimate, capturing Withers with some tight close ups, in which he seems to explode into your living room.
Also before, I forget Still Bill is arguably one of the best albums ever written and recorded. Nuff said.
Simon Lewis is an emerging Austrian singer/songwriter, who according to his Facebook fan page cites William Fitzsimmons, Coldplay, Damien Rice and Kings of Leon as influences on his songwriting and sound. Lewis’ latest single, is the slow-burning ballad “Heaven Only Knows.” Centered around a seemingly simple arrangement of twinkling piano and Lewis’ expressive, pop star-like vocals, the gorgeous single manages to subtly nod at John Legend — but as he explains in press notes, “this song is about this particularly harsh feeling of loss we feel whenever we have to leave the ones we love — but it’s also about new beginnings and the hope that lies beyond. It’s not just about loving someone, it’s also about allowing yourself to be loved.”
I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual covering the Gold Coast, Australia-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay Emily Hamilton, the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed and rising indie rock act San Mei over the years. Beginning as a synth pop-leaning bedroom recording project, Hamilton’s earliest material received attention from this site and major media outlets like NME,Indie Shuffle, NYLONand Triple J. Her debut EP Necessary found the Aussie singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay moving towards a much more organic, guitar-led sound inspired by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Cat Power,Feist and others.
A couple of years ago, Hamilton met acclaimed producer and musician Oscar Dawson at BIGSOUND, and the pair immediately hit it off. According to Hamilton, taking Dawson on as a producer and collaborator found the duo refining ideas, exploring different soundscapes and laying down the foundation for her — and in turn, San Mei’s — sonic progression. As Hamilton explains in press notes “[Dawson and I] hit it off straight away and it seemed like he understood where I was coming from, even if I had trouble conveying certain ideas in the demos I made at home.” Hamilton’s Dawson-produced sophomore EP Heaven was a decidedly shoegazer-like affair, featuring arena rock friendly hooks, big power chords and shimmering synths that continued a run of critically applauded, blogosphere dominating material. Adding to a growing profile, last year Hamilton opened for the likes of G. Flip, K. Fly,Ali Barter and Jack River in her native Australia, went on an extensive national headlining tour and played nine shows across six days at SXSW.
Released a few weeks ago through Sydney-based etcetc Records, Hamilton’s third San Mei EP Cry continues her ongoing collaboration with Oscar Dawson – and interestingly, the four song EP finds the Aussie JOVM mainstay simultaneously drawing from the harder guitar-driven work of The Kills,Metric, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the synth-driven pop like Grimes and Lykke Li. Now, as you may recall, I recently wrote about EP title track “Cry,” a track which establishes the EP’s overall tone and tone – a hook-driven, shimmering take on dream pop centered around atmospheric synths, reverb-drenched guitars and what may arguably be her most direct and personal songwriting to date. And perhaps unlike her previously released material, the EP reveals an incredibly self-assured songwriting, crafting earnest and ambitious songwriting – all while building a larger international profile.
Earlier this week, I exchanged emails with the Gold Coast-based JOVM mainstay for this Q&A. Of course, current events have a way of bleeding into every aspect of our professional and professional lives – and naturally, I had to ask Hamilton how COVID-19 was impacting her and her career. But we also talk about her hometown (which is considered one of the more beautiful locales in the entire world), and its growing music scene, the new EP and more in a revealing chat. Check it out below.
WRH: Here in New York, we’ve been social distancing and in quarantine for the past three weeks or so. How are things in Australia? How are you holding up?
Emily Hamilton: Firstly, I’m really sorry to see what’s happening in New York right now – my heart really goes out to everyone effected. I was actually in the USA around 2 weeks ago when lockdowns starting happening there. I managed to get home earlier than planned (straight into 14 days mandatory quarantine!), and Australia started following suit with social distancing, travel bans, closing non-essential business etc. pretty much as soon as I got back. I’ve got 2 days left of quarantine which is exciting — to be able to be out in the open air is gonna feel good! We have pretty strict social distancing rules here though, so I’ll still be playing it safe and spending most of my time at home once my quarantine is over.
WRH: How has COVID-19 impacted the Australian music scene? Has the pandemic affected you and your career? And if so, how?
EH: It’s hard having shows cancel and seeing venues having to close their doors. I had some shows lined up over the next couple of months that had to be cancelled, and prospects of touring in the near future don’t seem likely. I had a massive year of touring last year, so coming to terms with the fact that this year is probably going to look different is kinda hard. I know everyone in the Australian music scene is feeling the same way – and that we’re feeling the same things in music scenes around the globe. But it’s been inspiring to see so many artists pick themselves up, be innovative and find creative ways to make the best of the situation.
WRH: Most of my readers are based in the United States. As you can imagine, most Americans know very little about Australia, let alone your hometown. I think if you ask most Americans, they’ll tell you that it’s far (which is very true), they’ll mention the Sydney Opera House, kangaroos, koala bears and Steve Irwin. So as an American, what is Gold Coast known for? Where would I go to get a taste of how the locals live?
EH: It’s true, we’re so far away! I think that’s why Australians travel so much, because otherwise we’re just so isolated. I love my hometown; to me, it’s the perfect mix of city and surf town vibes – for someone who travels a lot for music, it’s nice to be based somewhere with a more chilled pace and open spaces. The Gold Coast is known mostly for its beautiful beaches, but we also have amazing rainforests with swimming holes and a beautiful hinterland. There has also been huge growth in hospitality, and there are so many amazing bars/restaurants/cafes popping up all over the place. So for anyone visiting I’d recommend checking out all the best nature spots and the best places to get a drink/feed.
WRH: Are there any Gold Coast-based artists that should be getting attention from the larger world that aren’t – and should be?
EH: The music scene on the Gold Coast has definitely grown over the last few years and there are a lot of exciting bands coming up. Eliza & The Delusionals are an amazing emerging band – they’ve actually just finished up a US tour supporting Silversun Pickups. They’re definitely on the rise and I think they’ll soon be getting that attention! Lastlings, Peach Fur, Ivey,Hollow Coves are just a few that are kicking goals and I’d love to see continue to grow in and outside of Australia.
WRH: For a country of about 27 million or so, how is it possible that so many Aussie artists, who make it to the States and elsewhere so damn good?
EH: I think being so far away can actually work in our favour in some ways! We have to be really, really good if we want our music to get out there in the world and have the means or opportunities to tour outside of our own country. I reckon that has created the kind of drive and work ethic for a lot of Aussie artists to keeping pushing and being the best we can be at our craft, to be able to break through the noise.
WRH: How did you get into music?
EH: I learnt classical piano when I was little (much to my dismay at the time!), which I’m really grateful for now as it’s such a good foundation for music. But I didn’t really get into writing songs or pursuing music until after high school when I met a group of friends who were musicians, and I just found myself getting caught up in it. It turned out I had a bit of a knack for songwriting and I’ve been focusing on getting better and better at it since!
WRH: I’ve written about you quite a bit over the years. When you started out, San Mei was bedroom synth pop project. But after meeting songwriter, producer and musician Oscar Dawson at BIGSOUND, you – and in turn, San Mei – went through a decided change in sonic direction, which is reflected on both the Heaven EP and your recently released Cry EP. How has it been working with Dawson? How influential has he been on the project’s sonic development?
EH: I’ve always so appreciated your support! It means the world to an emerging artist like me to have that consistent engagement and encouragement from someone! Working with Oscar has been amazing, and I’ve learned a lot from him. I’ve always come to him with fully realised songs/demos. I usually write and track all the guide parts at home first. But Oscar has a way of bringing out the best in my songs and just making them sound better haha… so he has never really been pushy or opinionated in shaping my sound, but I’ve learned a lot from him in terms of refining things and making smart decisions in both the songwriting and production process.
WRH: With San Mei leaning more towards a guitar-based sound, how has your songwriting process changed?
EH: Even as my sound became a little more guitar-driven, I continued to stick with my usual writing process – open up Logic, find a simple drum groove, play along ‘til I find a good riff or chord progression… but lately I’ve been trying to challenge myself in writing songs start to finish on just an acoustic guitar. I want my songs to be able to stack up when they’re played on just a guitar or piano without relying on any production. I’ve been finding that the production falls into place a lot more easily when I write this way, because the songwriting itself has to be strong, and helps lead the way in what should be built around it. I won’t be limiting myself to this process only, but finding new ways to create has been really cool.
WRH: While possessing the big and rousingly anthemic hooks that we heard on Heaven EP, your latest EP features the guitar-led, arena rock anthem “Hard to Face,” the shimmering, New Wavey-like “Cherry Days” “Cry” and “Love in the Dark.” As much as I hear Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Kills, Grimes, Lykke Li and others, I also hear a bit of Prince in there, too. What inspired this new sonic direction? Was it intentional?
EH: That’s really interesting! Admittedly I haven’t listened to a lot of Prince (I probably just haven’t put in the time to become a fan!), but it’s cool to hear that reference. I couldn’t tell you a specific influence for where my sound has been heading, but I have been focusing on strengthening my identity as an artist, and recognising what my strengths are in my writing, and just making sure I write whatever comes out of me naturally and not try to sound like anything in particular. I’m still a work in progress with that, but I think that’s what has been shaping my sound.
WRH: “Hard to Find” is one of my favorite songs on the EP. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
EH: Cool! I really love this song. I called it my bratty moment. At the time of writing it, I was in a bit of a rut mentally with my music, career, future… I kept looking around at what everyone else was doing and thinking they were all kicking goals and I wasn’t. So, I just needed to let out my frustration and have a good whine in form of a song. It’s also a good reminder of me to not be that person, because we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to others, and having gratitude for the present is so important in having a healthy mind.
WRH: How did the video treatment for “Cry” come about?
EH: The song theme itself is a little melancholy to me – it’s about longing for more in life or for a better day, of always wanting to get to that next stage in life or achieving that next goal. It’s good to have drive, but for me I often get caught up in the future and sometimes I worry that I’ll wish my youth and time away instead of enjoying the present. But I wanted the video to feel light, wistful and more like a daydream, and to focus on the freedom we can find by enjoying the present and finding joy in everyday moments. I think Dom the director did a great job of capturing that feeling.
WRH: What’s next for you?
EH: I’m definitely not going to be slowing down – I’ve got lots of more music to release, and as soon as we’re allowed to play shows again, I’ll be playing as many as physically possible. Stay tuned! 😀
Over the past handful of months, I’ve written quite a bit about The Midnight Hour, a 10 member ensemble founded and led by A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammadand Adrian Younge, a Los Angeles-based composer, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, producer and Linear Labs founder. Now, as you may recall, the project prominently features singer/songwriter and guitarist Jack Waterson, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Loren Oden — and , singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and 18 year old Los Angeles-born and-based phenom, Angela Muñoz.
The 10 member ensemble released their self-titled debut in 2018 — and the effort firmly established their sound: jazz and orchestral inspired soul and hip-hop heavily influenced by David Axelrod, Quincy Jones, Curtis Mayfield, Barry White and Jazzmatazz-era Gang Starr. Since the release of their debut, Muhammad, Younge and the rest of the Linear Labs crew have been extremely busy: last year saw the release of Jack Waterson’s psych rock, solo debut Adrian Younge Presents Jack Waterson, and a lengthy tour that included a Brooklyn Bowl stop last September — and this year will see three releases from the collective and its members: the ensemble’s highly-anticipated sophomore album and solo efforts from Loren Oden and Angela Muñoz.
The young, Los Angeles-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and phenom has a beguiling voice and mature presence that belies her relative youth, who recalls that Guns ‘N’ Roses’ “Welcome to The Jungle” was the catalyst that sparked her desire to play music and become a star. As a girl, she learned to play guitar and piano — and with practice, she began to dominate singing competitions, leaving unexpected audiences in a trance.
Interestingly, a few years ago Muñoz’s brother Brandon introduced her to the Adrian Younge-produced Something About April. Muñoz was intrigued by the quality of the music, and as a result, she found herself thinking about how it would be interesting to create music that encompassed various perspectives — similar to how Younge does so with his analog recordings. Shortly after being introduced to Something About April, the Los Angeles-born and-based phenom serendipitously found herself working with The Midnight Hour, who recorded her song “Bitches Do Voodoo” on their full-length debut. They’ve since took Muñoz on tour, where she’s blown away audiences with her self-assured stage presence, her dexterous musicianship and her soulful vocals.
Earlier this month, I wrote about Muñoz’s neo-soul meets Quiet Storm-like debut single “I Don’t Care,” which featured her remarkably self-assured and effortlessly soulful vocals over an arrangement of twinkling keys and harp, soaring strings, a sinuous bass line, wah wah pedaled guitar and an enormous hook paired with an underlying youthful brashness. “In My Mind” the second single off full-length debut Introspection is a gorgeous and cinematic track centered around a pop standard-like arrangement featuring soaring and fluttering strings, a sinuous bass line, some expressive bursts of guitar, twinkling harp and Muñoz’s expressive vocal. Sonically, the song manages to recall George Gershwinand jazz ballads. From her first two singles, Muñoz is a certifiable star in the making.
“I wrote this song thinking about the journey of love,” Muñoz explains. “Despite my age, I have an awareness of what expressing love looks like. As I was writing this song, I wanted to challenge myself as a songwriter. This led me to imagine myself in the place of George Gershwin. If I could choose anyone to interpret this song it would be Sarah Vaughan. Ultimately, love can manifest itself in many ways.”
Directed by The Midnight Hour’s Adrian Younge and based on a story written by Angela Muñoz captures the swooning idealism and hope of young love in a way that proudly celebrates it.
Muñoz’s full-length debut Introspection is slated for a May 19, 2020 release through Linear Labs.