Deriving their name as a sort of tongue-in-cheek nod to the legendary Nile Rodgers — “C’est chi-chi! It’s Chic!” — 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.
The rising New York-based outfit can trace their origins back 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, they wrote tongue-in-cheek songs about bad boyfriends, band breakups and bad politics. But shortly after, they started writing much more serious and vulnerable tunes, like much-needed therapy sessions, detailing the lives of post-modern women. Since then, their material frequently touches upon love, lust, sex, heartbreak, betrayal and hope.
A few years after they started 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.
Released earlier this month through Karma Chief Records, an imprint of Colemine Records, Say She She’s eight-song, Sergio Rios-produced, full-length debut Prism 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, Say She She have released a handful of attention-grabbing singles that include:
- “Forget Me Not,” the New York-based act’s debut single and their 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.
- “Trouble,” which 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.”
- “NORMA,” a defiant, politically-charged, glittery dance floor anthem — and urgent call for 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.
- “Prism,” a glittery and silky ballad centered around glistening keys, a supple bass line and metronomic-like drumming paired with the trio’s lush harmonies. The end result is a hook-driven song that sonically nods at The Supremes, psych pop and psych soul, and sounds as though it could have been released in 1968, 1978, 2008 or — well, today.
Prism’s latest single “Fortune Teller” is glittering and slinky disco ballad built around fluttering vintage synth-driven arpeggios, twinkling keys, a tight, strutting groove paired with the trio’s gorgeous three-part harmonies. The song’s narrator is making an urgent plea of devotion to a lover: that although they can’t possibly be a fortune teller or a mind-reader, they will do what they can to protect them.
The accompanying, gorgeous video for “Fortune Teller” continues a run slick and hypnotic of visuals inspired by Bollywood: We see footage of edited stock footage of Bollywood dancers, home footage of the women dancing and performing as little girls, and the trio in pastel hues and flowing taffeta doing a Bollywood inspired dance.