Emerging Venezuelan-French singer/songwriter and pianist La Chica has developed and honed a unique songwriting approach informed by classical music, her love of Debussy, analog synths — and a desire to reunite the spiritual with the material world, the New World with the Old World. The end result is a lush and feverish collage of sounds and textures informed by folk traditions and modern influences, paired with unvarnished and brutally honest lyrics that alternate between introspection and abstract poetry.
Interestingly, much like acclaimed Cuban-French sibling duo and JOVM mainstays Ibeyi, Santeria — and more specifically the rhythms of the Orishas — play a major part in La Chica’s creative process: She regularly performs her own rituals informed by the indigenous cultures of Venezuela and elsewhere, often before practice and live shows as a way to get into a more enlightened consciousness.
The death of the Venezuelan-French artist’s brother earlier this year, sparked a desperate need to connect with the spiritual world — and her forthcoming album La Loba is reportedly an uplifting and powerful reaction to the profound and heartbreaking loss of her brother, and the increasingly polarized world around her. Additionally, the album is a boldly feminist statement from a woman, who feels liberated from restrictive social norms — while being in touch with her Venezuelan and French heritage.
La Loba’s first single, album title track “La Loba” manages to be simultaneously haunting, unsettling and forceful. Centered around an arpeggiated, four note piano sequence, flamingo-like stuttering handclaps, atmospheric electronics, Latin rhythm patterns and the Venezuelan-French artist’s incendiary delivery and feral howls, “La Loba” is an urgent song that sonically will draw comparisons to Fiona Apple and PJ Harvey, as it captures a woman that’s a force of nature, about to burn down everything that has held her back.
“La Loba” is a the story of a wolf woman brought back from the dead through ritual — and during the performance of the ritual, her skin grows back over her once lifeless bones, after hearing transcendental chanting and votes. Interestingly, the song is based upon a Mexican/Texan legend documentary by feminist author Clarissa Pinkola Estéss in Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype.
Directed by Marion Castera, the recently released video for “La Loba” is a feverish and unsettlingly vivid fever dream in which we see the Venezuelan-French artist covered in blood and playing the piano, as a feral and undead force, as a literal, living wolf woman and just chilling with a wolf while smoking a cigar and watching TV. In some way, the visual captures a woman that’s in touch with and fully in control of her wild, animalistic nature, using that inner wolf when needed.
Lauren Lakis is a Baltimore-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and musician, who specializes in a brooding and churning take on shoegaze paired with authentic and honest lyricism. So far her work has been praised by Earmilk, who said that her material are “a refreshing change from today’s polite rock . . .”
The Baltimore-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and musician and her backing band have toured the West Coast extensively, playing bills with Drowse, Coastland, Elizabeth Colour Wheel’s Emmet Palaima, Flor and Winnetka Bowling League. Lakis and her band have played in front of a sold-out Doug Fir Lounge and at Santa Cruz’s The Catalyst. Adding to a growing profile, Lakis has played two solo sets opening for Grammy Award-nominated rocker Tracy Bonham.
Much like countless other acts, Lakis and her backing band had plans for a momentum changing 2020: they were scheduled to play at this year’s cancelled SXSW and they had hopes of setting up further tour dates. However, they’ve remained busy, releasing new material, including their latest single “Sail Away.” Centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, dramatic drumming, a sinuous bass line, darkly Romantic vibes and Lakis’ plaintive yet ethereal vocals,” Sail Away” is a brooding track that reminds me — to my ears at least — of PJ Harvey, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Chelsea Wolfe.
Interestingly, the song is an uneasy and brooding examination of Lakis’ own dysfunctional and painful childhood and a desire to reconnect to a lost yet much-needed innocence. “Thematically, ‘Sail Away’ explores the idea of running away with my inner child, protecting and parenting her,” Lakis explains in press notes. “It’s me becoming my own mother, which was something I had to do at a young age.
“As the daughter of my mother, I had to learn how to take care of myself and grow up quickly. She struggled with addiction until I was almost 10 years old; I don’t have many memories of my childhood before that age. I’ve spent some years in Alanon, connecting to my inner child and learning how to ‘re-parent’ her as a way of healing those wounds,” Lakis continues. “The inner child is the part of us that is innocent, vulnerable, playful, full of wonder, freely trusting and loving. It hasn’t always been easy to connect with that side of myself.
“I didn’t feel like I had a voice as a kid, and I had no control over what was happening around me. In spite of, or perhaps because of this, I grew into an extremely strong, resilient, capable adult. This song explores my longing for having had an adult like me around, when I was a child…as well as the anger I’ve carried with me for having missed out. I’ve had to accept that no one can go back in time and fix that for me.”
The recently released video is a cinematic and equally brooding visual with a fever dream-like quality that finds Lakis is a lace full-body suit.
With the release of her first two albums — 2016’s Sirens and 2018’s Empty Sea — the rising Berlin-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and photographer Laura Carbone received attention across the European Union and elsewhere for a sound and approach that frequently draws comparisons to PJ Harvey, Shana Falana, Chelsea Wolfe, St. Vincent and others. Additionally,. Carbone published a limited-edition book of photography, also named The Empty Sea.
Carbone and her backing band have opened for The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, developing a reputation for a self-assured and explosive live show, which she further cemented with a headlining tour across Europe last year. The Berlin-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and photographer then followed that up with a stop at SXSW Levitation Festival/Creem Magazine Showcase and a headlining North American tour with The Natvral that included a stop at Baby’s All Right.
Carbone and her backing band were slated to go into the studio in May to record her highly-anticipated third album — but as a result of pandemic-related restrictions, the rising Berlin-based artist’s plans were placed in an indefinite hiatus, much like countless other artists across the globe. Last year, the rising Berlin-based singer/songwriter and guitarist and her backing band performed on the famed German, live concert series Rockpalast — and for Carbone, who grew up in a small town in Southwestern Germany watching the show, appearing on the show was the accomplishment of a lifelong dream: Rockpalast has recorded and broadcasted a who’s who list of influential and important artists, playing some of their most memorable performances, including Siouxsie and The Banshees, Radiohead, Sonic Youth, Patti Smith, Sinead O’Connor, David Bowie, R.E.M., Echo and the Bunnymen, Screaming Trees, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Marley and the Wailers and an amazing and very lengthy list of others.
As a result of pandemic-related shutdowns, an idea emerged with Carbone and her band: “What if Rockpalast would let us release that show as a live album?” Released yesterday, Laura Carbone — Live at Rockpalast is just that. Taken from her Rockpalast set at Harmonie Bonn last October, the live album features a career-spanning set, centered around her first two albums, and an unexpected cover, Hewing as closely as possible to their live sound, the album was mixed in Los Angeles by The Jesus and Mary Chain‘s Scott Van Ryper and mastered by Philipp Welsing at Hamburg‘s Original Mastering with no overdubs.
Last month, I wrote about the live album’s first single, “Who’s Gonna Save You.” The live rendition accurately captures Carbone and her band’s forceful live sound and Carbone’s irresistible stage presence, While the song itself finds the band balancing menace, power and sultriness, it should also serve as an introduction to an artist, who in my book is adding her name to a list of powerful rock goddesses.
To celebrate the release of the album, Carbone released the live album’s second single, “Cellophane Skin.” Performed as the first song of their encore, the live rendition finds the band taking the tension of the original and informing it with a feral and ferocious power, informed by dozens of shows across Europe and North America — and by the occasion. And as a result, the song finds its narrator — and perhaps the artist herself — turning into a seductive and vengeful force of nature, much like the sirens of the ancient myths. At its down core, the song finds its narrator forcefully tearing down the bonds of poisonous social norms that have imprisoned her while demanding that we — particularly men — examine ourselves. Of course, much like its immediate predecessor, the song captures a woman with mighty and fearsome roar.
Directed by Olga Dyer, the recently released video for “Cellophane Skin” is split between gorgeous and seductive footage of Carbone in a black gown being touched by a series of seemingly disembodied hands and black and white footage captured on stage.
“The feminine point of view has always been much more difficult to articulate,” Olga Dyer says in press notes. “And once articulated, alas, quite often it becomes a point of vulnerability, seen through the prism of sexual objectification, helpless stereotypes and indecency. It’s literally stripped of its actual meaning or even possible interpretations. To me, this is what ‘Cellophane Skin’ is about. People jump to conclusions, so quick to assume that they can see through someone. Personally it doesn’t offend me, I only find it banal and boring. I love creating beautiful and dark sequences, inspired by noir surrealism.”
Gillian Stone is a Vancouver Island-born, Toronto-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who has collaborated on projects by FORCES’ Alli Sunshine, The Fern Tips, Völur and Althea Thauberger — and she’s appeared in music videos for Clear Mortifee, Robert DeLong, Alli Sunshine and Juno Award nominate Tara Kannangara. As a solo artist, Stone’s work uses vulnerability as a way to create a safe space to explore the dichotomy of beauty and discomfort, thematically touching on recovery, the juxtaposition of femininity and imperfection, turbulent feelings and recovery.
Heavily influenced by her background in jazz and ethnomusicology, Stone has managed to have a rather varied creative and professional life: Fascinated by her Icelandic heritage, Stone explored and studied the popular music of Iceland and the icelandic Diaspora in Canada as part of her graduate work in ethnomusicology. The Vancouver-born, Toronto-based artist has studied Javanese and Balinese gamelan; performed with Russell Hartenberger and NEXUS (the principal percussionists of the Steve Reich ensemble) and with Brazilian cavaquinho virtuoso Henrique Cazes. Her upbringing on Vancouver Island led her to Coast Salish hip-hop and the Cascadian bioregion scene. Overall, Stone uses an interdisciplinary approach to explore disparate genres to produce a singular sound.
Stone’s latest single is the atmospheric and dramatic, Michael Peter Olsen-co-produced “Bridges.” Centered around strummed guitar strummed guitar, dramatic drumming and Stone’s achingly vulnerable vocals, the PJ Harvey and Shana Falana-like “Bridges” finds the Vancouver-born, Toronto-based artist telling a story of dissolution, shame and self-flagellation with a bold and unvarnished honesty. “‘Bridges’ is the soundscape of recovery,” Stone says in press notes. “I wrote this song in 2009 after a summer of self-imposed turbulence. I don’t remember exactly when or how I wrote, but it stayed with me and became predictive. For over a decade, I’ve returned to it as a space to a safely express shame. Now it’s morphing into a reminder, a call for self-temperance. I’m still discovering what it means.”
Stone goes on to add the song was co-produced by Micheal Peter Olsen during a cold winter in Olsen’s Toronto-based studio Uncomfortable Silence. “‘Bridges’ follows a journey of dysregulated emotions exacerbated by alcohol abuse,” Stone says. “The e-cello movement is meant to evoke the feeling of losing one’s mind. This is a post=rock night song that ends with a promise of the sun.”
Directed by Emily Harrison, the recently released video for “Bridges” features Stone in the woods and uses mirrors and kaleidoscopic effects to create something both trippy yet introspective. Harrison calls the video “a psychedelic dream inspired by French New Wave film.”
Emerging Vancouver-based indie pop act Vox Rea — siblings Kate Kurdyak (lead vocals, piano, guitar, bass), her sister Lauren Kurdyak (vocals, piano) their childhood friend Kaitlyn Hansen-Boucher (vocals, percussion) and Mitchell Schaumberg (vocals, piano, guitar, bass) can trace some of their origins back to when the Kurdyak Sisters and Hansen-Boucher singing in choirs together as children.
Lifelong academics at heart, the Kurdyaks attended a small liberal arts schools in the mountains, where Kate studied philosophy and Lauren studied ecology. And while at the school, they met Mitchell Schaumberg and started playing school parties under the name BEEF. Although they started the band as a lighthearted endeavor, the trio quickly realized the creative chemistry they all shared, and would later meet up all over the world for late night, liquor-fueled writing sessions that would eventually comprise Vox Rea’s earliest material. But more on that later. . . .
The Vancouver-based quartet’s latest project together Vox Rea is a bit of a sonic and stylistic departure. Citing influences that range from Arcade Fire to Friedrich Nietzsche, the members of Vox Rea, the act’s full-length debut chronicles a group of artists trying to come to terms with their generation’s place in the larger human story — and thematically, the album’s material touches upon addiction, self-doubt. lust, identity. independence and grief. And as a result, the album can be seen as a soundtrack to the confusion and euphoria of coming of age in a world seemingly on the verge of annihilation. The band’s unique brand of noir pop finds them crafting material that features classically inspired string arrangements, three part harmonies, brooding atmospherics and a seamless mesh of digital and analog while underpinned with raw emotionality.
Vox Rea’s latest single “Dose Me Up” is a slow-burning, atmospheric ballad centered around a stunningly gorgeous lead vocal and three part harmonies, twinkling piano, brief bursts of shimmering guitar, stuttering drumming and electronic plinks and a soaring hook. Sonically speaking, the track may draw comparisons to Cloud Castle Lake‘s gorgeous Malingerer, PJ Harvey and others but with all the sturm und drang of one’s 20s.
Currently based in Oakland, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lauren Hulbert has had a rather nomadic life, spending time living on both the East Coast and West Coast, as well as Thailand and Ecuador, among other places. Interestingly, Hulbert’s career has revealed an artists who has specialized in genre-defying diversity: as a child, the Oakland-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist was a classically trained pianist, who competed in Bach and classical festivals. As she got older, she taught herself guitar, eventually becoming a folk/pop artist, whose work sonically features elements of folk, alternative, country rock and pop — and thematically explores the human experience, while drawing from her own experiences. As a result, Hulbert’s work is deeply personal yet accessible, and reveals an article, who has her feet planted in the classical training of her youth and the folk and pop of her adulthood, while centered around her dreamy and soulful vocals.
Superbloom, the Oakland-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s forthcoming EP is slated for an October 30, 2020 release, and some of the EP’s sound and approach was inspired by Hulbert figuratively blooming back to life: Hulbert suffered a serious foot injury while on a surfing trip in Indonesia. For the next six months, she was immobile and it was unclear if she would ever be able to walk again. Understandably, it was a very dark period for her — life as she had knew it, had seemingly ending and whatever artistic and creative momentum was quelled as a result. Fortunately, over a year later, Hulbert has healed and she credits the experience as terrifying but ultimately beneficial, as it forced her to reassess her life and align herself with what’s really important. Additionally, the experience has also made her much more grateful for her health and the opportunity to write, perform, and share her music again.
Superbloom EP’s latest single is the Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea-era PJ Harvey-like “Gone in One.” is centered around jangling guitars, propulsive and shuffling drumming, subtle Flamenco handicapping and Hulbert’s expressive vocals within an alternating quiet, loud, quiet song structure. Sonically and thematically, the song is meant to evoke the sensation of being pushed away and pulled back in a romantic relationship that’s dysfunctional and unhealthy — but while featuring a narrator, who develops the strength to run as fast as she could from it.
“This song is a vulnerable, personal account of unknowingly losing oneself in someone else, which is lonely, confusing, and scary,” Hulbert explains in press notes. “It was like being stuck in a fog not knowing how to get out, looking to others to show me the way but just becoming more lost. I was constantly running internally, but getting nowhere, until I was exhausted into total indifference and I felt like the real me had been erased. Eventually, I realized I was the only one that could really save myself, so I dug really deep and found the strength to get out, which was incredibly hard. I didn’t know when or how I’d heal, but I knew I was on the right path.”
Alison Mosshart is a Vero Beach, FL-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter best known as one-half of the acclaimed indie rock act JOVM mainstays The Kills — and for being the frontwoman of the indie rock/blues punk supergroup The Dead Weather. Over the past decade or so, Mosshart has been restlessly creative: her painting has been show in galleries across the world and she has published her first book, CAR MA, a collection of her art, photography and writing that serves as a love letter to all things automobile. In that same period of time, Mosshart has become a go-to collaborator, adding that extra dash of swaggering badassery, working with her Dead Weather bandmate Jack White, Arctic Monkeys, Primal Scream, Gang of Four, Cage The Elephant, Foo Fighters, James Williamson and Mini Mansions in a rapidly growing list.
2020 will continue a period of remarkably creative prolificacy for Mosshart: Currently, Mosshart and her bandmate Jamie Hince are working on the next Kills record, which they hope to be able to bring to the road — pandemic willing, of course. This year will also see Mosshart stepping out into the spotlight as a solo artist, releasing material under her name for the first time in her career. Although, releasing music under her own name is a completely new and thrilling experience, the album’s material can be traced back to unreleased material Mosshart had been compiling for the better part of the past decade. Now, as you may recall, last month, I wrote about her debut single, the Lawrence Rothman-produced “Rise.” Initially tracing its origins to a song sketch that Mosshart wrote in 2013, the song is a slow-burning and searing blues with brooding and ominous undertones centered around thumping beats, fuzzy power chords, Mosshart’s imitable vocals and an enormous, arena rock friendly hook.
Mosshart’s second and latest single is the atmospheric and brooding, Alain Johannes-produced and recorded “It Ain’t Water.” Centered around a sparse arrangement of shimmering acoustic guitars, strings and gently padded drums, the song manages to bring PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, and JOVM mainstay Mark Lanegan to mind. Although the song was written late last year, Mosshart had been sitting on the track for some time — with the acclaimed signer/songwriter guitarist turning to the then-unfinished track whenever she found herself battling a bout of writer’s block.
“Working with Alain on ”It Ain’t Water’ was a blast. He’s such a talent and such a kind person,” the JOVM mainstay says of working with Alain Johannes. “His mind is wide open. He understands and sees the beauty in imperfection, magic moments, accidents- the soulful human stuff, and the spirited super-human hard to explain stuff that makes a song great. Working with him was an honor, and also, hot damn he can play any instrument like a champ . . . like he invented the instrument himself. Alain Johannes IS music.”
Directed, edited and shot by Mosshart, the recently released video continues a run of decidedly DIY visuals — but unlike its predecessor, its shot in an aptly film noir-like black and white and evokes our pandemic-influenced isolation, as we see the acclaimed Kills and Dead Weather frontwoman in her own home, expressively dancing in the background while we see a superimposed image of a sunglasses wearing Mossheart singing the song.
Silva’s debut EP was an EDM collaboration with DJ Sizigi-13 under the mononym Silva — but since the release of that effort, her material has leaned heavily towards singer/songwriter soul, rock and pop with 70s AM rock references, as you’ll hear on her most recent album, the Reed Black-produced Bluest Sky, Darkest Earth.
Silva’s latest single “I Wash My Hands” is a shimmering and gorgeous country soul/70s AM rock-like song centered around a fairly simple arrangement of guitar, bass, vocals and drums that’s sonically indebted to Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac. Interestingly, the song was originally written as a weary lament over a major relationship that has come to an end – but the song manages takes on a heightened meaning, reflecting on a heightened sense of uncertainty and fear, suggesting that maybe Mother Earth is attempting to wash her hands of us.
The recently released video for “I Wash My Hands” was created during the mandatory social distancing and quarantines of the COVID-19 pandemic – and it features Silva, her friends, family, bandmembers and voice students, separated by quarantine but connecting through the song.
I recently exchanged emails with Jennifer Silva for this edition of JOVM’s ongoing Q&A series – and naturally, we chat about her new single and video, her influences –including her love of Stevie Nicks, and her songwriting process. Of course, with governments across the world closing bars, restaurants, nightclubs and music venues to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the impact on the music industry – particularly on small and mid-sized venues, and the touring, emerging and indie artists who grace their stages, has been devastating. Over the course of the pandemic, I’ll be talking to artists about how the pandemic has impacted them and their careers. And in this interview, Silva reveals that the much-anticipated follow-up to Bluest Sky, Darkest Earth has been rescheduled, with her and her backing band figuring out how to finish it with the use of technology. Then add lost gigs and the uncertainty of when you’ll be able to play or promote your new work, and it’s a particularly urgent and uneasy time. But the dedicated will find a way to keep on going on for as long as they can.
Check out the video and the Q&A below.
WRH: Much of the world has been in quarantine and adhering to social distancing guidelines as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. How are you holding up? How are you spending your time? Are you binge watching anything?
Jennifer Silva: The world is upside down right now and it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions for me. Shock, depression, anger, acceptance — feels like the stages of grief sometimes! I really miss my friends and my social life. Playing shows, my band. The good news though, is that my family and I are safe, healthy and well stocked. We left Brooklyn right before it got really bad and headed upstate. So, I’ve been in the woods, pretty secluded, with limited cable news (thankfully) and some great outdoorsy vibes all around me. I’m very lucky and I really can’t complain. I’ve been spending the time connecting with my family, homeschooling my daughters, cooking, knitting, reading and writing songs! We’ve been living a simple life these days and that’s actually a great thing sometimes. I just started watching Ozarkon Netflix, finally, which is perfect for this quarantine! I’m always down for an epic drug/murder/survival story. Oh, and wine.
WRH: Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, festivals have been postponed or cancelled outright, artists of all stripes have postponed, rescheduled or cancelled tour dates. Most of the world has been on an indefinite pause. How has COVID-19 impacted you and your career?
JS: This has got to be the hardest part of it all for me. I’ve also had to cancel shows, but, most significantly, literally one week before the pandemic really hit NYC, I was in the studio with my band and producer (Reed Black of Vinegar Hill Sound) tracking my next record. We spent two full days laying down all the music and scratch vocals for 10 tracks, and I was so hyped and excited for the next two months of recording all the overdubs, lead vocals, background vocals and getting that final mix completed. Now, we must wait. Luckily though, we have the rough mixes to listen to and some of my band members are working on and planning overdubs at home. It’s frustrating but I’m still so grateful to have had those days in the studio. What we have already, sounds amazing!
WRH: How did you get into music?
JS: I’ve been singing all my life. My father played guitar around the house throughout my childhood, and so at a young age I was singing classic rock and soul music to my family. “The House of the Rising Sun” (The Animals), “Bring it on Home to Me” (Sam Cooke) and “To Love Somebody” (Bee Gees) were my first covers!
I also went to Catholic school as a girl where the nuns always made me sing the solos at the Christmas and Easter performances. And of course, I was singing in Church every week. That really helped shaped me as a singer because I was taught to belt without shame because it was a “gift”, so I have always been a loud singer, haha. I’m not religious anymore (thankfully), but man, I love me some Church hymns! And there is nothing like the acoustics in a Cathedral.
WRH: I’ve probably referenced Stevie Nicks’ “Stand Back” more times than any other journalist in town. I think of a certain synth sound – and that song comes to mind. Plus, I love that song.
I know that Stevie Nicks is a big influence on you. What’s your favorite all-time Stevie Nicks song?
JS: One thing I really love about Stevie, which I read in her biography a few years ago (by Zoe Howe), and that I can totally relate to, was that she didn’t have any formal musical education. She just had her gorgeous melodies and emotional lyrics and really, just a simple catalog of basic chords. Lindsey [Buckingham] would get frustrated with her because he’d have to finesse her songs so much to make them work. “Dreams,” for instance, only has 2 chords! But her songs were always their biggest hits. She tapped into an emotion and style and energy that people love and her voice is just absolutely unique and powerful. In a way, the reason she was so successful with her songwriting was because she wasn’t trapped in a musical box. She would write whatever she felt, and her uniqueness and melodies were memorable and beautiful. She inspires me so much! It’s nearly impossible to choose one favorite Stevie Nicks song, but I’ll go with “Edge of Seventeen.” A close second is probably “Landslide.”
WRH: Your first release was an EDM-like collaboration with DJ Sizigi-13. Since then your sound has gone through a dramatic change. How did that come about? How would you describe your sound to those unfamiliar with you and your sound?
JS: After my old band broke up in 2014, I was searching for new musical collaborations on Craigslist. I connected with Sizigi over email and we decided to make a song together. One song led to four, over the course of a few months. I knew going in, EDM wasn’t going to be my personal sound forever, but I was down for the challenge of writing to existing beats and learning to record all my vocals at home with GarageBand. I bought a microphone and set up a vocal booth in my closet with towels on the doors to pad the sound. I learned to edit. I love my lyrics and vocals on those songs, and I am very proud of the work I did. So, ultimately, I chose to have the record mastered and to release the 4 song EP independently. It was a stepping-stone for me.
The music I make now is all me though. I pen all of the lyrics and write the melodies on guitar, or sometimes I use my Omnichord (a vintage electronic harp/synthesizer from the 80s, which is AMAZING) and then my band brings it all to life! My sound can be described as indie rock soul. I love the Alabama Shakes so that’s a decent comparison, I hope. The lyrics are evocative and dramatic, and the music is organic rock, but I always sing with soul. I also love to explore the saint and the sinner in all of us and tap into themes from my Catholic upbringing — like with “The Convent” from my last record Bluest Sky, Darkest Earth and “Purgatory Road” which will be on my next record. I am inspired by elements of the occult (tarot cards, following your intuition, voodoo) and I use nature and other metaphors to write about complicated relationships.
JS: It feels amazing! I am so lucky to have played a small part in Rockwood’s incredible history. It was an absolute honor to play the stage that night, and to join that list of talented artists. Rockwood Music Hall was the first place I ever played in NYC. I remember getting an early Saturday afternoon acoustic slot with my old guitarist and playing to a mostly empty room. It was still so damn exciting to me, the opportunity to play that famous stage. Fast forward a few years later to my packed record release show on Stage 1 and then my graduation to Stage 2, last year. Rockwood has supported me since Day 1 and to help celebrate their anniversary, on the very stage where it all began for me, made me so proud!
WRH: Your Rockwood Music Hall set included a cover of one of my favorite Lead Belly songs ever “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.” It’s one of those songs that for whatever reason doesn’t seem to be covered a whole lot. So, what drew you to the song? And how much does the blues influence you?
JS: I have been listening to Lead Belly for a very long time. I only knew his version of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” and never actually heard Nirvana’s version until many years later, which is what I think most people think of when they hear that song these days. I used to love singing that song in the car with my boyfriend. We each took a verse. It always seemed so chilling and powerful and it really tells a story that leaves you wanting more. You are right though, it’s not covered a whole lot and when we first tried in rehearsal, we knew it would kill. Everyone really responds to that one.
WRH: How do you know when you have a finished song?
JS: I know a song is finished when I love the melody and lyrics enough to play it over and over again, day after day and when I can get lost developing the vocal runs. A good sign is when my family really responds to it as well. I also think nailing the bridge usually seals the deal for me. That’s when I write over my penciled lyrics and chords, in my black, Papermate flair pen and make it final!
I’m not a person who usually tinkers on a song for years though. I write most songs in a few hours, or a couple of days or maybe, up to a week. I like to capture the emotion of a sentiment and get most of it right and then move on to the next song. In all honesty, the best songs write themselves in 10 minutes! I actually wrote my new single “I Wash My Hands” quickly like that.
WRH: Your latest single “I Wash My Hands” and its accompanying video officially drops today. It’s a gorgeous country soul/70s AM rock song, a weary lament of someone who’s desperate to move on from a relationship or some other major life tie. You wouldn’t have known this at the time, but the song has an eerie double meaning that reflects our current moment of uncertainty and fear. Curiously, how does it feel to have written something that initially was supposed to be about something specific that suddenly transforms into something altogether different?
JS: Thanks. I think the lyrics are very relatable for anyone in a long-term relationship who understands that compromise and respect are needed for a couple to survive and more importantly, thrive. But in this unprecedented moment in our lives, that can also be said about humans and our planet. Fear of Covid-19 leaves us all washing our hands like never before, so now, this track also invokes Mother Nature’s demand for more respect. She is also washing her hands of our abuse, forcing us all to pause while she shows us just how powerful she is. It’s humbling.
WRH: The video for the song is pretty intimate almost home video-like visual, as it features a collection of loved ones, including family and friends lip synching along to the song – while they’re in quarantine. How did you come about the concept? And how did it feel to have your loved ones participate in the video?
JS: Last week, mybrother Chris and I were talking on FaceTime, about the need for interconnectedness even while social distancing. We thought about how lonely people are, even though we are Zooming and chatting on the phone, more than ever.
We thought it would be really special if I could get some of my friends and family to lip-synch parts of this song and create a montage. Video production resources are limited here in quarantine, but everybody has a phone with a camera and time on their hands!
The video is like being on a Zoom call but this one makes me feel so happy every time I watch it! It’s all my favorite people singing my song. People in Brooklyn, California, Detroit, New Jersey, New England, and even as far as Kenya! Everyone just really came through and had fun with this project, including my voice students, family members and close friends. People I haven’t seen in two months or more! I don’t know when I’ll see them again frankly, but the video makes me feel connected to them and I think it makes them all feel connected to each other. I love it so much.
WRH: What’s next for you?
JS: While I’m quarantined, I’m going to keep making art. Keep writing music. Keep singing.
I’m also going to continue to work on my next album. Right now, the plan is to release it in the Fall, so I’ve got shows to book and all the pieces in between to plan. Follow me on Instagram (@sheissilva) for all updates, single and video releases and of course, details about the album release party and tour dates.
Please stay safe and healthy, everyone. I’m sending vibes to you all. We will get through this. And I think we will be stronger for it. And don’t forget to keep washing your hands!
Freya Beer is an emerging London-born, Southern England-based singer/songwriter and guitarist who has received attention for a distinctive sound that draws from Kate Bush, Cat Power, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and others paired with poetic lyrics. Interestingly, Beer can trace the origins of her career to her childhood: she began writing songs when she was 10 and by the time she turned 16, she was performing her own original material, accompanying herself on guitar.
While studying Music Performance in college, Beer self-released her debut single “Bike Boy” in 2018 to critical applause from BBC Introducing and a number of music blogs. Building upon a growing profile, the emerging British singer/songwriter and guitarist released “Six Months,” which led to a BBC Introducing Solent Live Lounge Session, a featuring on Tom Robinson’s BBC Radio 6 and BBC Wales.
Earlier this year, Beer released “Dear Sweet Rosie.” Featuring I Am Kloot’s Andy Hargreaves on drums, the song lyrically draws from Allen Ginsberg’s “An Asphodel” and Anna Sewell’s “Black Beauty” and is structurally centered around a classic, grunge rock song structure featuring fuzzy power chords John Bonham-like drumming, an enormous hook, Beer’s sultry vocals and a swaggering self-assuredness that belies the rising artist’s relative youth. The track wound up receiving airplay with BBC Radio 6’s Lauren Laverne and Marc Riley, who invited Beer in for a live session. Beer’s second single of this year, the Pete Hobbs-produced “Arms Wide Open” is a brooding and cinematic track that features forceful and tribal drumming with longtime collaborator Andy Hargreaves, shimmering guitars, chiming tubular bells and Beer’s gorgeous and expressive vocals. And while subtly recalling PJ Harvey, Chelsea Wolfe and The Cranberries, the song reveals some ambitious yet powerfully earnest songwriting.
“I tried to convey a ritual style sound accompanied by a tribal drumming beat which drives the track forward,” Beer says. “The tubular bells helped contribute towards the overall ceremonial atmosphere of the song. Lyrically, I’ve experimented with exploring the subject of talking about the darker undertones of a relationship.”
Directed by Paul Johnson, the recently released video is centered around a concept by Hevx that follows the rising British singer/songwriter through a series of kaleidoscopic filters and hazy effects.