Deriving their name as a silent nod to the legendary Nile Rodgers — “C’est chi-chi! It’s Chic!” — the emerging 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 Affair, 79.5 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. The result is 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 Antibalas, Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaries, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, The Shacks, Twin Shadow and others. Locally, they’ve developed a reputation as a must-see live act, playing sold out shows at Bowery Ballroom, Nublu 151, Brooklyn Bazaar, C’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, 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.
Last month, I wrote about “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.
Building upon a growing profile, the disco and funk outfit’s latest single is the slow-burning, sultry “Blow My Mind.” Centered around the trio’s yearning and impassioned cries, shimmering Bollywood-inspired riffage and a strutting bass line, “Blow My Mind” is a song about returning to a former flame, with who you’ve managed to hold feelings for — even after some period of years. “‘Blow My Mind’ is about a love that you can’t seem to get rid of and you can’t quite get enough of,” Say She She’s Nya Gazelle Brown explains.
Directed by Spencer Bewley, best known as Reelloopy, the accompanying video for “Blow My Mind” is fittingly mind-blowing as it’s chock full of trippy imagery. Bewley predominately works in found and self-produced 16mm film footage, which he culls, reframes and radically re-contextualizes, juxtaposing as many four projected images at a time to create reckless, riddling and yet fully synthesized visual poems. “Blowing minds is a subject very close to my heart and the fact this was a rare case of me liking the song EVEN MORE after the dozens of times during editing I had to listen to it made this an absolute joy to work on,” Bewley adds.
As I mentioned, the band’s full-length is forthcoming but in the meantime, they’ll be releasing their debut 45rpm “Forget Me Not”/”Blow My Mind” through Colemine/Karma Chief on May 20, 2022.