New Audio: Say She She Share A Defiant and Politically Charged, Dance Floor Anthem

Deriving their name as a sort of tongue-in-cheek nod to the legendary Nile Rodgers — “C’est chi-chi! It’s Chic!” — the rising NYC-based funk and disco act Say She She features three accomplished, strong female lead vocalists: founding members Piya Malik, who has spent time in El Michels Affair79.5 and Chicano Batman; and Sabrina Cunningham; along with Nya Gazelle Brown, a former member of 79.5. 

Say She She can trace their origins to when Malik and Cunningham found themselves living in the studio apartments directly above and below each other. The pair would hear each other singing through the floorboards and quickly became friends. “I knew the girl below me had the most beautiful voice as I would hear her early in the morning and she would hear me late at night. Between the two of us I don’t think we got a wink of sleep. Then again I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say they moved to New York City to sleep,” Malik says in press notes. 

After spending years singing in other people’s bands, Malik and Cunningham felt they were finally ready to step out into the spotlight with their own project, at first writing tongue-in-cheek songs about bad boyfriends, band breakups and bad politics.  Shortly after, they started writing much more serious and vulnerable tunes, like much-needed therapy sessions, detailing the lives of post-modern women. And as a result their material that touches upon love, lust, sex, heartbreak, betrayal and hope. 

A few years after starting the project, the duo recruited their close friend and Malik’s former 79.5 bandmate Nya Gazelle Brown to join them. At that point, the act’s core lineup was settled. 

Sonically, Say She She’s sound nods at 70s girl groups — multi-part female harmonies paired paired with funky, disco-inspired arrangements played by a backing band featuring some of New York’s most talented and accomplished players, featuring former members of  AntibalasCharles Bradley and His ExtraordinariesSharon Jones and The Dap KingsThe ShacksTwin Shadow and others. Locally, they’ve developed a reputation as a must-see live act, playing sold out shows at Bowery Ballroom, Nublu 151Brooklyn BazaarC’Mon Everybody and Baby’s All Right among others. 

Slated for release this fall through Karma Chief Records, an imprint of Colemine Records, Say She She’s self-titled, Sergio Rios-produced, full-length debut was recorded on old tape machines in the basement studios of friends. The album features guest spots from The Dap Kings‘ Joey Crispiano and Victor Axelrod, The Shacks’ Max Shrager, Chicano Batman’s Bardo Martinez, Antibalas‘  Superhuman Happiness‘ and Low Mentality’s Nikhil Yerawadekar, Twin Shadow’s Andy Bauer and NYMPH‘s Matty McDermot. 

Over the course of the year, I’ve managed to write about the rising New York act’s first two singles:

  • Forget Me Not,” the New York-based act’s debut single and their forthcoming debut album’s first single. Featuring a strutting bass line, glistening wah wah pedaled funk guitar, fluttering flute and dreamy three part harmonies “Forget Me Not” is one part Patrice Rushen, one part Tom Tom Club’s “Gangster of Love,” one part ESG, one part Mary Jane Girls, centered around righteous feminist lyrics. “Forget Me Not” premiered on KCRW‘s Morning Becomes Eclectic and was played in heavy rotation, with a KCRW DJ describing the song as “The funkiest shit I’ve heard in a while!” They performed the song for a Paste Magazine session. The song has started to receive airplay on BBC6.
  • Blow My Mind,” a slow-burning, sultry bop centered around the trio’s yearning and impassioned cries, shimmering Bollywood-inspired riffage and a strutting bass line that’s about returning to a former flame, who you’ve managed to hold feelings for — even after some period of years.

The act’s third single of the year, “Trouble” landed at #7 on KCRW’s Top 30, with the station saying “”New York’s Say She She are always on the assignment of making it as funky as possible, and with their new single they’ve cranked up the lovers rock lever.”

And adding to a growing profile, the trio’s music is featured in the trailer for Lena Dunham’s upcoming feature-length film Sharp Stick.

The act’s latest single “NORMA” is a dance floor friendly anthem centered around glistening synths, a sinuous bass line, propulsive four-on-the-floor, a funky and forceful horn section and bursts of Latin-influenced percussion paired with the trio’s gorgeous harmonies delivering a defiant and much-needed call to action — for all of us. Written in response to the leaked Supreme Court draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the song is a powerful reminder that the fight to have this country live up to its ideals ain’t over — and that women’s rights and their right to choose what’s best for them need to be protected.

With collective backgrounds working in education, speechwriting and nonprofits, Say She She’s three frontwomen have no shied away from their intention to use their voices to share important and powerful messages. The band’s decision to name the song after Norma McCorvey, a.k.a. Jane Roe, who the Supreme Court decision was ultimately named for wasn’t an easy one. McCorvey’s life and story were complicated. uneasy and controversial: After fighting vehemently for years in support of the decision to protect a women’s right to choose, she changed position a number of times, before finally admitting on her deathbed that she had only done so in exchange for payments from an ultra-conservative, Evangelical movement in a bid to undermine the law. But that in her heart, she always supported a women’s right to choose. The trio thought of this as an example of how the vested interests of the ultra-religious and conservative patriarchy pose a corrupting and unyielding threat not to be met with complacency.

When asked about the inspiration for “NORMA,” Say She She’s Piya Malik says;

“Our friend Dina Seiden – who is an activist, writer, comedian and musician once said to us during a rally for Planned Parenthood, ‘I reckon feminists need to start touring the way bands do.’  It resonated and we felt a sense of urgency and obligation to recognise the opportunity we had to use our voices in a concerted way to protect what we believe to be fundamental to women’s rights.

“Call it blind idealism — but I still believe that policy, public opinion and protest can push change towards a fairer and more equitable society. After years working in Parliament where tireless hours are spent implementing Bills only for them to simply get amended or scrapped by the opposition once there was a change in the administration,  I knew I wanted to find a new medium for the message.

“We are using our song and music to let other women know we are here and we stand with them ready to fight.  But behind the scenes we are also working with a number of grassroots organizations to develop a policy position paper around SCOTUS Reform which we aim to publish as a coalition soon.

Sabrina Mileo Cunningham adds:  We believe in using the tools at our disposal — from grassroots activism, to the power of voting awareness and letter writing campaigns. And to us, being able to use our voice and music as a force for change and to send our message to the powers that be on behalf of all women who support the right to choose what happens to our bodies is a gift we want to harness and direct.”

Nya Gazelle Brown adds: Ultimately, we recognize that all lives are complicated and that the story only serves to prove how important it is for us to collectively use our voice to raise the importance of protecting our right to choose.”

The new single was released exclusively on Bandcamp on June 21, 2022, just days before the Supreme Court’s official decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was made. 100% of the proceeds from Bandcamp sales will continue to be donated to NARAL” Pro-choice America. So if you have a little bit of cash on you, support the new track — and give money to a worthy and necessary cause.

“Norma” continues a run of material inde