Interview: A Q&A with I AM SNOW ANGEL’s Julie Kathryn

Julie Kathryn is a New York-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, sound designer, producer and creative mastermind behind I AM SNOW ANGEL, a critically applauded solo recording project that has received critical praise from the likes of Huffington PostIndie ShuffleMagnetic MagazineCreem MagazineRefinery 29All Things Go and others.

The acclaimed New York-based artist and producer has developed a reputation as a highly sought after sound designer and producer working with Ableton and Splice.com – and she’s the co-founder of Female Frequency, a musical collective dedicated to empowering women and girls in the music industry.

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Photo Credit: Julia Drummond

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Last year, Julie Kathryn released her I AM SNOW ANGEL full-length debut MOTHERSHIP. Recorded in a cabin in the wintry Adirondack woods, the album is a concept album that touched upon themes of isolation, longing, love, paranoia and the paranormal. Since, the release of MOTHERSHIP, the New York-based artist, producer, sound designer has managed to be rather busy: she gave birth to her first child, collaborated on Sophie Colette’s attention-grabbing “In Love a Little,” and continuing on the momentum of a rather big year for her both personally and professionally, the New York-based recently released a gorgeous and spectral cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song,” featuring shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars, atmospheric synths and Julie Kathryn’s vocals. Interestingly, her interpretation of the song is centered around a plaintive yearning and vulnerability.

I recently exchanged emails with the I AM SNOW ANGEL mastermind for this edition of the JOVM Q&A. For this interview, we discuss the difficult balance of one’s creative live with being a parent, her collaboration with Sophie Colette, leveling the playing field for women producers and of course, her aforementioned cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song.” Additionally, as a result of governments across the world closing bars, restaurants, nightclubs and music venues to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the impact on the music industry – especially on small and mid-sized independent venues and the indie touring artists, who grace their stages has been devastating. Much like the other artists, I’ve interviewed this year, I’ll continue to ask artists how they’re getting by, how they’re keeping busy and of course, how this period is impacting their careers.

Julie Kathryn’s full-length album Mothership and her rendition of “Tower of Song” – and below the jump, check out the interview.

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WRH: You’re a new mommy. So before we start: Happy belated Mother’s Day. How do you balance the obligations and responsibilities of motherhood with your creative and professional life?

Julie Kathryn: Thank you! Being a mother is wonderful. It’s definitely been challenging to balance everything. Taking care of a baby feels like a full time job, as I expected it would, but I didn’t realize all the ways that I personally would be changed by motherhood – emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Everything feels different now. I’m finding a way to make music in this new normal and I’m excited to see how it turns out.

 WRH: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions in almost every aspect of our lives. For most of us, the seemingly indefinite fear, anxiety, uncertainty, loneliness and boredom of the past few months of social distancing and quarantines have been overwhelming. How have you been holding up?  How have you been keeping busy? Binge watching anything?

 JK: This is such a strange and uncertain time. I try to make a gratitude list every day to keep me balanced and thankful, particularly for my health. Also, I’m lucky that I have a clear and immediate purpose right now – to take care of my son! He keeps me focused and in the moment. I’m very grateful to be able to spend this time with him. In my free time, when I can find some, I make music, practice yoga and yes, binge watch! Dead to Me (Netflix) and Breeders (FX) are two of my recent favorites.

 WRH: How did you get into music?

JK: I’ve always been very musical. I took piano lessons as a kid. I taught myself how to play the guitar during high school. For a while, I was an acoustic/Americana singer-songwriter. Eventually, I started engineering and producing my own material, and it became much more electronic. That’s how this project – I AM SNOW ANGEL – was born.

WRH: How would you describe your sound for those, who may be unfamiliar with I Am Snow Angel?

 Dream pop. Melodic, electronic. Ambient and earthy at the same time.

 WRH: Who are your influences?

 JK: For this project, I was definitely inspired by Imogen Heap, Portishead, The Postal Service, Massive Attack, and other electronic and trip hop acts. Over the years, there are a lot of songwriters that I’ve studied, like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Bill Withers. The National is a band whose albums I’ve played on repeat for months at a time. I also love the artistry of Thom Yorke, Lou Reed, David Lynch. I love moody electronic soundscapes by artists like Trentemøller and The Knife, and 80s synth /new wave music like Roxy Music and Yaz. I also spent a lot of time listening to late 90s female R&B —  Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, Macy Gray.  The list goes on and on and it’s hard to encapsulate it.

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

JK: Today, I’m listening to meditative sounds – Max Richter, Brian Eno. Recently, I’ve also been listening to rootsy alternative rock (Wilco, Neko Case, Sharon Van Etten).

 WRH: Earlier this year, you collaborated with Sophie Colette on “In Love a Little.” As you know, I wrote about the song earlier this year – and in a lengthy statement for the song, Colette wrote:

“Working with Julie was an amazing experience – it was very hands on and communicative. We sat side by side and made decisions together from the tracing to the comping to the mixing. I learned so much about Ableton and the possibility of different soundscapes that could be created outside of traditional instrumentation.

 It became apparent to me, that working with a female producer, who inherently applied these types of sounds to her own work, came with the advantage of being able to feel the same nuances of emotion without having to explain them to each other. Each session was an open-ended conversation and quite nurturing to be honest. Something about that female-to-female energy in a room is really powerful when the ego isn’t there.”

How was it like to collaborate with Sophie Colette? Do you find it easier to collaborate with women artists and producers?

JK: Working with Sophie was a lot of fun. I really like how our collaboration turned out. We were able to tease out some interesting emotional undertones in her song. I remember her showing me moody photos of an urban landscape at night in the aftermath of a storm, with the city’s colored lights reflecting in puddles on the dark streets.  She said, “this is my inspiration for the bridge.” We spent the day sonically recreating this idea, and it became the soundscape for the bridge of her song. It was a really organic process. I do end up working with a lot of female artists, and I find that we often have similar communication styles and a shared experience of coming up in the music industry.

WRH: How do we level the playing field, so that there are more women producers?

JK: For me, being visible as a female producer who can do it all – instrumentation, engineering, sound design, mixing – is important. When I was starting out in production, it really helped me to see other women who were doing it. Also, when I work with other artists, I share my knowledge and encourage them to learn production and engineering, in whatever capacity is appealing to them.

 WRH: What advice would you give for women artists and producers trying to make it?

JK: Have fun!! The process of producing music is intense and quite involved, so it needs to be a fulfilling one. If the production process is merely viewed as a means to an end (ie, the finished product), it’s more likely to feel like a chore or an insurmountable feat. But, if the very act of creating music is thrilling and emotionally rewarding, the finished product is just the icing on the cake – a bonus. Don’t worry about doing it “right.” There are many ways to produce music. When possible, seek out mentors and collaborators who support and elevate you.

WRH: You recently released a slow-burning and atmospheric cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song.” What drew you to the song?

JK: I love Leonard Cohen. His songwriting and performance style have inspired me for a long time.  I first visited the song a few years back when my dear friend Gus Rodriguez (he performs under the name Silbin Sandovar and is a wonderful musician, talent buyer, and connector of artists in NYC and beyond) asked me to cover a few Leonard Cohen songs in a tribute show he was putting together. I immediately felt connected to the lyrical content of this song, to the existential themes of isolation and loneliness that Cohen associated with being a songwriter.

 WRH: Instead of a straightforward note-by-note cover, you turn Cohen’s song into your song. Was that an intentional decision – and was that a difficult thing to do, considering how beloved his work is?

JK: It wasn’t really intentional. It felt very natural for me to re-imagine the song in this way, and I didn’t overthink it.

 WRH: So what’s next for you?

JK: I’m working on a new EP. In some ways, it’s a sequel to MOTHERSHIP, which I put out last year. So far, it feels ambient, emotional and layered. We’ll see where it goes. I’ll keep you posted. And thank you for talking with me!!

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Mark Andrade is a Toronto-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, who first came to attention with his previous band Paradise Animals. When Paradise Animals called it a day in 2017, Andrade continued working on music with his solo-recording project TIO and through collaborations with Green Go and Favours.

Marney Isaac is a multi-instrumentalist — primarily cello and bass — who has played in a number of bands in the Toronto and Guelph area, since the 2000s. She’s also Andrade’s life partner and creative partner in their latest musical collaboration together, New River Beach, a project that derives its name from a beloved summer vacation spot the couple return to every summer with their family in Issac’s hometown of Saint John, New Brunswick.

Written and recorded in their Toronto area home, after their young children went to bed, the duo’s debut single “The Right Place” is a lushly textured yet gauzy fever dream centered around shimmering synths, thumping 808s, reverb-drenched vocals, a propulsive New Order-like bass line, sampled live drumming and a soaring hook. And while sonically, the track reminds me a bit of Canadian JOVM mainstay Rich Aucoin and others, “The Right Place” with a shoegazer-like attention to texture and mood, the track finds the duo employing a unique creative process: Issac plays almost all of the instrumental parts and after laying down the arrangements, Andrade shapes the parts into a cohesive whole using Ableton, creating a seamless synthesis of the organic and electronic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

vincethealien is a mysterious and emerging artist, who’s reportedly on a mission to find a planet, a people or just an individual person to connect to, crafting a sound that seems indebted with Serpentwithfeet, Kelela, Brockhampton, Solange, Thundercat, Sampha, and Frank Ocean — with a focus on harmonies and vocal craft.

vincethealien’s second and latest single, the others9000-produced “Easy Bake” is a sultry pop confection centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, stuttering trap-like beats,  layered come hither-styled vocals full of double entendres and a bouncy hook. The end result is an intergalactic take on R&B from Jupiter in the year 3765.

 

 

 

 

New Video: Halifax’s Like a Motorcycle Releases a Forceful and Timely Anthem

Since the release of 2016’s full-length debut High Hopes, the rising Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada-based post-punk act Like a Motorcycle — Michelle Skelding (drums, lead vocals), Kim Carson (bass, vocals), KT Lamond (guitar, vocals) and David Casey (guitar, vocals) — have muscled through a number of obstacles that would have busted up countless other bands: substance abuse, internal break-ups, health issues and a former label that nearly sunk them financially. And yet, despite all of that, they’ve managed to boldly keep on, building a reputation for crafting post punk anthems for disenfranchised rejects, who are working minimum wage jobs while maneuvering five-figure debt. 

The rising Halifax-based post punk quartet recently signed to Cadence Music Group’s rock imprint Known Accomplice, who released “IDOLS,” the band’s first bit of original music this year, as well as their latest single, the rousingly anthemic “Wide Awake.” Centered around angular bursts of guitar, thunderous and propulsive drumming, an enormous mosh pit friendly hook, and punchily delivered lyrics the song finds the band sonically bringing JOVM mainstays Ganser — while offering a bristling commentary on a capitalist system that allows rampant exploitation for personal gain. “Although ‘Wide Awake’ was written some time ago, its sentiment rings true now more than ever. ‘Wide Awake’ is about waking up between a past stained with unhealthy choices and a future of bleak dystopian uncertainty,” the band’s Kim Carson explains in press notes. “Where do we go when leaving the past means potentially losing everything we’ve worked for? Can we break vicious cycles and bad habits without losing the people and things that comfort us? How does change and its uncertainty make us feel?”

Directed and edited by the band’s KT Lamond and Cat Hennnigar and shot in Lamond’s apartment, the video is centered around the use of a green screen and background sourced rom Unsplash Free Stock Photo. While capturing a life constrained to one’s four walls, complete with the boredom and unscheduled hours of endless Netflix watching, the video shines a light of what might happen when people aren’t constrained by a daily routine designed for the benefit of capital and capitalism; a life in which people have the free will and desire to make a life of their own design. 

The rising Lincoln, NE-based soul and funk act Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal — Josh Hoyer (vocals, keys), Blake DeForest (trumpet), Mike Keeling (bass), Benjamin Kushner (guitar) Harrison El Dorado (drums) — formed back in 2012, and since their formation, the act, which features some of the Lincoln area’s most acclaimed musicians, has received attention nationally and internationally for a boundary crossing sound inspired by the sounds of Stax Records, Motown Records, Muscle Shoals, New Orleans, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

The Lincoln-based quintet have developed a reputation for being of the area’s hardest working bands: releasing four, critically applauded albums, including last year’s Do It Now, the members of the rising soul act have played hundreds of shows and have made several tours across the Continental United States and two European tours, opening for the George Clinton,Charles Bradley, Booker T. Jones, and Muscle Shoals Soul Revue and others.

Further cementing their reputation as one of the Plain States’ hardest working bands, the members of the Lincoln-based soul act will be releasing their Eddie Roberts-produced fifth later later this year through Color Red Records. “Hustler,” the album’s cinematic, third and latest single is a strutting bit of soul, prominently featuring Hoyer’s soulful, Tom Jones-like vocals, a commanding horn arrangement, a sinuous bass line, shimmering organ arpeggios and an enormous and rousingly anthemic hook. While seemingly possessing elements of The Payback-era James Brown, 70s Motown, Muscle Shoals, Daptone and Memphis soul in a seamless yet period specific synthesis, the upbeat track manages to be one-part much-needed proverbial kick in the ass and one part much-needed rallying cry for our unprecedented and uncertain moment, centered around the assuring yet forceful line “When the world wants you to sink or swim, I ain’t goin’ under.”

Things may be bleak right now but keep fighting y’all. There’s much hard and necessary work to be done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Audio: Two from Mrs. Piss the New Project featuring Chelsea Wolfe and Jess Gowrie

Mrs. Piss is a new musical project featuring:

JOVM mainstay Chelsea Wolfe. Over the course of this site’s ten year history, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Northern California-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist. And throughout that time, Wolfe has developed an honed a reputation for channeling somber and eerily haunting beauty in a variety of forms, including gothic rock, doom metal, folk and others.  
Jess Gowrie, a multi-instrumentalist, who played drums during the JOVM mainstay’s tour to support her 2017 effort Hiss Spun — and was Wolfe’s bandmate in their previous band together.  
The project can trace its origins back to Wolfe’s Hiss Spun tour — and the material they’ve created together are much more urgent, forceful and visceral than anything they’ve previously created before: heaviness that channels a punk rock spirit. 

“Working on this project brought Jess and I so much closer as songwriters and production partners, after reuniting as friends and bandmates,” Chelsea Wolfe says in press notes. “It was freeing and fun to channel some wild energies that I don’t typically put into my own music. We tried not to overthink the songs as we were writing them, but at the same time we did consciously put a lot into crafting them into our own weird sonic vision. This project was a chance for us to do things our own way, on our own terms, and we plan to invite more womxn musicians along for future Mrs. Piss recordings.” 

“To me, Mrs. Piss represents a musical chemistry cut short long ago that now gets a second chance,” Jess Gowrie adds. “Creating with Chelsea has always been very liberating for me, and we both push each other to try new things: anything and everything. Both of us have grown so much as writers and musicians since our first band together (Red Host), and with the journeys we had to take separately to get there, we both have so much more to say; so much more pain and anger to express. That said, we also had a lot of fun doing it, not to mention how freeing it is to not give a f-k and to just create.” 

Recorded at Sacramento’s The Dock Studio and Wolfe’s home studio, The Canyon, the duo’s full length debut Self-Surgery is slated for a May 29, 2020 release through Sargent House — and to commemorate the announcement of their debut effort as Mrs, Piss, the duo released two singles. The first single is the breakneck, mosh pit friendly “Downer Surrounded by Uppers.” Centered around thunderous and forceful drumming, grungy power chords and Wolfe’s howled vocals with the end result arguably being one of the most seductive songs they’ve released to date. The second single is the slow-burning, power chord-driven dirge “Knelt,” a track that brings Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and JOVM mainstays Blackwater Holylight to mind. Simply put, these two singles are among the heaviest bit of material I’ve come across this year. 

New Video: Savages’ Jehnny Beth Releases a DIY visual for Sultry and Slinky “Heroine”

Camille Berthomier is a Poitiers, Vienne, France-born, London-based singer/songwriter, actress, author and musician, professionally known as Jehnny Beth — and as the frontwoman of the Mercury Prize-nominated, critically applauded act Savages. With Savages, the Poitiers-born, London-based singer/songwriter and multi-disciplinary artist has developed a reputation for a unique lyrical perspective and a powerful stage presence that has captivated audiences across the world over the past 15 years.

Beth’s solo debut, To Love Is To Live was originally slated for release  last week through Caroline Records — but the album was pushed back to June 12, 2020, as a result of Beth’s desire to support local, independent record stores by ensuring that the physical album could come out at the same time. “Record stores are where I found myself as a teenager, digging through albums that ultimately shaped who I have become,” Beth says in press notes. “To release my first ever solo album in a way that would leave them out felt wrong to me; luckily, we were able to find a date that would allow us to release the physical and digital album at the same time.”

Recorded in Los Angeles, London and Paris, To Love Is To Live finds the longtime Savages frontwoman boldly stepping into and claiming the spotlight as a solo artist, and collaborating with an eclectic array of producers and artists including Flood, Atticus Ross, longtime collaborator and Savages bandmate Johnny Hostile, Adam “Cecil” Bartlett, The xx’s Romy Madley Croft, IDLES’ Joe Talbot and Golden Globe-winning actor Cilian Murphy. Thematically, the album sees Beth tapping into and accessing the darkest and least comfortable parts of herself to craft material that’s cathartic, abrasive, fearlessly honest and vulnerable, making the material a dark and cinematic meditation on the very strangeness of being alive.

So far I’ve written about two of the album’s singles: the brooding and atmospheric “Flower,” a track that was reportedly written about a pole dancer at Los Angeles’ Jumbo’s Clown Room and seethes with a feverish and obsessive lust  — and “Innocence,” a dark ad sultry track that evokes the uneasy feelings of isolation, loneliness while ironically living in a big city surrounded by seemingly endless people. “Heroine,” the album’s fourth and latest single is centered around a similar, slinky off-kilter motorik groove as its immediate predecessor, rapid-fire four-on-the-floor, shimmering synth arpeggios, brief blasts of horn, twinkling keys and an achingly vulnerable vocal performance from Beth, the track probes deeply into the dark recesses of her psyche with a fearless abandon.

“When I think of this song, I think of Romy from the xx strangling my neck with her hands in the studio,” Beth recalls in press notes. “She was trying to get me out of my shell lyrically, and there was so much resistance in me she lost her patience. The song was originally called Heroism, but I wasn’t happy because it was too generic. Flood was the first one to suggest to say Heroine instead of Heroism. Then I remember Johnny Hostile late at night in my hotel room in London saying ‘I don’t understand who you are singing about. Who is the Heroine? You ARE the Heroine’. The next morning, I arrived early in the studio and recorded my vocals adding ‘to be’ to the chorus line: ‘all I want is TO BE a heroine.’ Flood entered the studio at that moment and jumped in the air giving me the thumbs up through the window. I guess I’m telling this story because sometimes we look around for role models, and examples to follow, without realising that the answer can be hidden inside of us. I was afraid to be the Heroine of the song, but it took all the people around me to get me there.”

The recently released video is split between footage that the Savages frontwoman and Johnny Hostile shot and edited  — including footage of her walking and vamping in a London tube station, of Beth glistening with droplets of water and in a murky pool, as well as footage of Beth as a little girl, shot by her family, which creates an eerie and intimate look into the artist and her psyche. The DIY nature of the video manages to bring the songs message of self-belief and resilience into a deeper clarity. “We couldn’t plan that the current worldwide circumstances would push us to make this video entirely ourselves at home but sometimes working with constraints is the best fuel, and it fits perfectly with the positive message of self-belief and resilience of the song, pursuing childhood dreams and destiny,” Beth explains in press notes.