Unconscious: Gracie Martin’s Debut EP Packs a Sweet Feminist Punch

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Gracie Martin is a singer/songwriter/producer/one-woman force based in Philadelphia. Her debut EP Unconscious was released earlier this year, and is a dreamy alternative-folk landscape, mixing spacey electronic elements with effervescent melodies and 60s girl-group-esque harmonies. Through the five songs on the EP, she explores societal expectations of femininity and navigates her own identity despite the fetishized and vilified stereotypes that abound. Her production is fresh and minimalistic, and her delicately pounding beats and unsettling atmospheric elements stretch her folky vocal and ukulele into darker territory. Read on to discover what inspires her, what she hopes her listeners gain from her work, and what her favorite childhood TV show is (hint: it’s my favorite too!).

Listen to “Siren Song” as you read!

 

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What was the inspiration for Unconscious?

So I decided to start working on my debut EP in the early 2016 but had been writing music since I was about 12 or 11. Long story short, I had always wanted to make music but had a kind of impostor syndrome/self-sabotage impulse in me that kept my songs to myself for that whole time. By the time I started making Unconscious it felt like waking up to a reality that I had been denying for over a decade. But the reality is so fantastical and beyond my wildest dreams that it was hard to believe that was my true nature. Like Harry Potter finding out he’s a wizard lol.

I was pursuing acting and theatre and secretly writing dozens of songs without even meaning to. So putting out my first project was this task of curating and developing all this material I had been generating privately and figuring how to communicate it externally. I figured out the songs I wanted to be on it first, three were first conceived during my freshman year of acting school in 2011 and two were written within the months I decided to make the EP like 5 years later. But I had no idea what the concept was beyond “HI I WRITE SONGS HERE THEY ARE.”

Around that time I read Women Who Run with the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes and that was a profound inspiration. It uses mythology and folklore to explore deep parts of the human psyche in general, but specifically the wild feminine part of the soul. In the final chapter of the book she talks about the underground forest which is this metaphor for the unconscious mind. That was my introduction to thinking about the power of the unconscious mind and the creative magic people can possess without being awake to it. Reading that book was a beautiful moment of clarity about the project and served as a guide for the rest of the process.

Your production is so inventive–what is your creative process like? Do you write with the eventual sound in mind, or does it evolve as you go? 

It’s a mix of both. I knew I was interested in creating music that lived in a Venn diagram space between acoustic and electronic and married my love of musicians like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan with my obsession with modern pop. But each song had its own journey to get to the version that’s on the EP.

The songs that I wrote more unconsciously while I was still in acting school had a lot of different iterations before I started recording the EP. Free Pt. 1 I originally wrote when I was 19, on a soprano ukulele and it was this super fast, cutesy, bluegrass kind of feel. Very in the style of Jenny Owen Youngs. It evolved a lot over the years and then I made a version that was just me singing it over a stock hip hop beat on GarageBand and really liked the way it changed the feel. So I sent that to Sam Borello who ended up being my co-producer on that track and Not That Smart. From then on it was a collaborative process where we tried out different sounds and I eventually decided to add the “I’ll Fly Away” counter melody.

Siren Song was totally different from that though. I had had bits and pieces of the melody and lyrics in my head for weeks and then just huddled by my space heater and banged out the demo in one sitting. I only had GarageBand, a usb mic and a ukulele but created the whole sonic world by just making and distorting a lot of mouth sounds. I was so in love with that demo it was one of the reasons I finally decided to put the EP out. So the challenge there was keeping my initial vision of the song alive while making the full recording that’s on the EP. A lot of the delay vocals and the little scream in the last chorus are the exact same recordings I made on GarageBand because there was just something special about that initial demo.

This EP highlights some of the difficulties women face–everything from being compared to archetypal villains like sirens to simply walking home at night. What do you hope your listeners gain from hearing about these issues? 

I hope they feel seen and heard in a complex ways. But that definitely means a different thing for each song. And while I am a cis-woman and write about myself, I strive to make my music specific enough to tell my story but open enough to invite all gender identities into what I’m chewing on. More so than simply speaking to other women about the issues we face, I’m interested in examining the way femininity is and has been vilified in our culture. Women face that of course, but non-binary folks and men are also greatly affected by this ancient fear of the feminine. I hope Unconscious creates conversation about these issues but even more so, I hope it invites people to look inward at their relationship to femininity not just in relation to women but as an elemental force that needs to be nurtured for communities to flourish.

As a woman in the music industry, have you faced any particular challenges or barriers?

Hmm I’m sure I have in ways that I don’t even know about haha. But consciously the toughest barrier pertaining to my gender identity is my own fear. I knew I was interested in self-producing for a while but was paralyzed by feeling like I didn’t belong in that world. I had this imaginary gang of gear bros always laughing at me in the back of my mind when I was learning how to record and mix. Even though no gear bros actually have laughed at me (to my face at least), the music industry is so male dominated (just like most industries) that it was easy to convince myself I didn’t belong. It’s one of the most annoying things about living in a world that prizes the masculine over the feminine; that you internalize these messages and oppress yourself even if no one is actually telling you you can’t do something.

Who are some artists that inspire you? Who have you been listening to lately? 

I have so many it’s really out of control. I mean Amy Winehouse was a huge influence, especially because I started writing songs for guitar during the height of her success. I treated her and Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan like songwriting masterclasses.

When I was trying to overcome my imposter syndrome about being a self-producer, I was super inspired by Grimes. Still am. She’s an outstanding artist and visionary and served as this reminder to me that my fears about starting this project were not things I had to listen to. Also Laura Marling, who was a big songwriting influence when I was a teenager, recently made a podcast about women in the music industry called Reversal of the Muse which was similarly a huge source of validation in moving forward in the face of my anxiety about how male dominated the industry is.

Ugh there is just too much good music!! Lately I’ve been living and breathing for SZA along with most of the world. Also Jenny Hval, Lianne La Havas, Mitski, Tank and the Bangas, St. Vincent, Kehlani…

Lightning Round! 

Peanut Butter: Creamy or Chunky? Chunky, baby 😉

Wine: White or Red? Red (Franzia Sunset Blush if I’m on one)

CD or Vinyl? Vinyl!

Favorite animal? Can’t decide between dogs and dinosaurs

Favorite childhood TV show? Buffy the Vampire Slayer

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why? I’d want to be able to speak any language. I love to travel and I really wish I was better at picking up and working on other languages. Getting to know people from other cultures is one of my favorite things, I wish I could communicate with and learn new things from everyone without having to put the time into studying the languages.

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Halogen Days: Brooklyn’s Vassals are a DIY Dream

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The four songs on Brooklyn trio Vassal’s newest EP, Halogen Days, create a picture of gorgeous bleakness amid a wash of dreamily distorted guitars and driving beats. The EP follows their debut album In My Dreams I Am A Sailor (2012) and their sarcastic holiday offering Here We Come A Vassaling (2015). The band is led by vocalist/bassist/transgirl Shay Spence, whose thoughtful lyrics and emotion-wrought voice are laid in a bed of pulsing indie-rock goodness.

Vassal’s DIY aesthetic is evident not only in their production (the band engineered and mixed the album themselves, recording at The Creamery Studio), but in their reverence for indie bands of the 90s and 2000s apparent in their sound. The album sounds at times reminiscent of Spoon, at other times The Pixies, at other times TV on the Radio—the list could go on. They blend these influences into a sound of their own largely thanks to Spence’s uniquely inventive mix of disembodied angst with relatable imagery. At one point she proclaims “I know the end is near” and follows this with “I tear the name from my beer,” a motion whose immediacy draws the listener back from the depths of their thoughts to the real world.

Halogen Days kicks off with “Sea Spells,” where thumping bass and drums build to dizzying heights. The time changes and melodic and harmonic ventures are disorienting in a fascinating way, reminiscent to me of early Bowie. “Moonless” follows, where the evocative range of Spence’s voice shines amid a chaotic climax of wailing guitars. While their sound is decidedly introspective alt, this song could feel right at home in a big arena. “Who could ever find this fun,” begins their next song, “SoHo,” a track so anxious and agoraphobic, yet so surf-rocky and danceable that it’s actually inescapably fun. The EP ends with “Ghostwood,” a welcome calm with swaths of reverb that jumps into an energetic and jangly jam.

With Halogen Days, Vassals have created a mood I haven’t felt this fully since Weezer’s Pinkerton—hazy disillusionment and introversion that give way to frenetically fuzzed guitars and haunting yet catchy melodies. The EP is a satisfying yet tantalizing taste of more to come, and we’ll be staying tuned to see what’s next.

Halogen Days was released April 7, 2017 and is available for download on Bandcamp and streaming on Spotify.

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Check out their track “Soho” below!

Heart on a Wire: An Interview with Americana Chanteuse Taylor Whitaker

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I sat down with smoky-voiced Americana artist Taylor Whitaker to discuss her debut EP, Heart on a Wire, her inspirations, and how she landed in Nashville. Heart on a Wire is an earnest, hopeful collection of songs that marries Whitaker’s gentle, poetic lyrics with a pop-influenced folk sound. Whitaker’s powerful, rich voice anchors the album in emotional honesty, and her skill with melody is on full display in every song. In person, she’s alternately eloquent and self-deprecatingly hilarious. Take a listen as you get to know Taylor below!

You just released Heart on a Wire in November of last year—was that your first EP?

Yes, it was a labor of love. I’ve had the songs for probably three or four years, and I’ve never had the opportunity to record, so we actually moved to Nashville to record this and start doing music.

From Wisconsin [where she’s from]?

From Washington, DC. My husband was in the army, and he was stationed at Walter Reed Medical Center, and after I graduated I flew out to live with him. That was after we eloped, and didn’t tell anybody. So we eloped, I finished, I flew out there! It was a very big secret, only my roommate knew in college, pretty much.

So you’ve been married a long time now!

Yeah, almost five years. It’s going good!

So what was the inspiration for the songs on the album?

Most of them are about my relationship. There was about two years where we only saw each other for maybe three months, so a lot of them songs are—one of them is “800 Miles,” which is the distance from Wisconsin to DC, driving. And the other one is called, “Frost of Spring.” It’s just a love letter back and forth, asking how you are, are the people nice, you know, like a conversation. It’s been nice to be done with it, just because I feel like I’ve wanted to have these songs recorded for so long, and now I can move on. Like the baby’s done, I can move on and grow in my writing.

I hear several different stylistic elements in your music—how would you describe your style?

I guess to blanket it, it would be Americana folk. But some of them have an alternative edge to them. But I think there’s a lot of—a lot of them are really simple, the melodies and the lyrics, and then the instrumentals are what builds it out. So there’s a lot of 60s folk in my mind when I’m writing it, but also with “Heart on a Wire,” it’s more 40s-50s to me, like watching an old movie or something like that.

How long have you been writing?

Since I was in college. UW Milwaukee has this really great guitar program, it’s fingerstyle, classical, and jazz. So there are guitar players that come from around the world to study there, and I had all these friends that were playing guitar. And so, you know, I knew chords, but then I ended up taking a fingerstyle class, and there’s a picking pattern, PIMA, and I wrote a song to learn the pattern. And that’s when I kinda started writing. We did this show called “Shenanigans” for our opera theater class, and it was really just like a talent show at the college level [laughs]. And so I ended up playing that song, and got really good feedback from it, and just wanted to keep writing.

Have you always known that music was the thing you wanted to do?

Yes. Even my parents knew. I was the kid at the end of a Disney movie that would go sing and dance at the screen after it was over, and they would let me! And I would tell stories to everybody, I would sing all the time, and to be honest I never really did it in school—I went to a Lutheran school and they didn’t really have a music program. And I was getting bullied, and I asked my mom to take me out, probably in like 7th grade. I transferred to a public school, and they had a music program, it alternated music/gym. And the music teacher there, Barry Craig, he’s the one who started it all [laughs]. So he was the one who started giving me arias to sing and putting me in state competitions and he got me voice lessons and it just kinda grew from there. And he was always very supportive, and believed in me. And even my parents, they owned properties, so when they couldn’t afford voice lessons, they would do services for my voice teacher, like change out her windows so that I could have lessons. So I feel like everybody really believed in it. And I just, you know, I love singing, so I went along with it. You know, looking back, I was not as grateful as I should have been. [laughs] I am now!

Since my blog is focused on women, I’m curious what does it mean to you to be a woman in this industry? Are there certain challenges you’ve faced?

Okay, so I’ve had a long life of being bullied, called names, put down. And I think that in college, really after I met my husband is when I started to get self-confidence. So now I’m like, I don’t care what you say to me, I’m a person and I’m strong. I try to keep myself surrounded by really positive musicians that believe in what I’m writing and what I’m doing, which is why I always send them music before I’m say, let’s write together. You know, I want to make sure that everybody feels strongly about what we’re creating. But I love seeing other women perform in Nashville. It can be very male-dominated. Which is fine! But we [women] have such a spectrum of emotion, you know, we go through so many things that a man can’t experience, and we have so much to say. And so it’s nice to be able to support that for each other.

If there’s a message that you want people to get from your music, what do think that might be?

Well, with “Under Fire,” I get asked if it’s a political song, and it’s not. It was a single release, and it really was written at a time when I’d moved here to pursue this dream and I just felt like I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if I was good enough, I didn’t know if people were interested, I wasn’t having a good time with trying to find a job, and it was written to say, keep your head up. So even though some of my songs can seem very sad, I feel like there’s always a silver lining, you know, you just gotta stay positive. A lot of the reason why I write is that it’s therapy to get it out of me and into a song, so that I can continue to live my best life. And hopefully if somebody else hears it, it helps them through what they’re going through.

Lightning round! Peanut butter—creamy or chunky?

Creamy.

Wine—white or red?

White, but I’m not big wine drinker.

What do you like instead?

Whiskey. Whiskey and Wisconsin beers.

Vinyl or CD or cassette?

Vinyl. I have a great collection, but my favorite is a Valerie June signed copy of her first release.

Favorite animal?

I’m sorry to my dogs, I mean, they’re my favorite animals, but I would say the elephant.

Ooh! Mine’s the hippo, ours could be friends! Favorite childhood TV show?

Rocko’s Modern Life. Now watching it, like I can’t watch it now, it’s so annoying and I feel bad for my parents, but I loved that show.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

I have this conversation with my husband every now and then. I’d say invisibility. I’d love to just people watch and move around and have nobody know. I don’t know if I’d want to read other people’s minds. I’m a really honest person, and I’d have to call them out (laughs). Maybe being able to touch something and turn it into something else, that’d be a cool superpower.

[her phone rings] Yeah, that’s the Downton Abbey theme song. [laughs]

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Ever-Evolving: An Interview with Nashville’s Mary Jennings

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Mary Jennings is an artist based in Nashville whose music seamlessly blends electronica, folk, and singer-songwriter elements to create her own unique voice. She draws on her own life experiences and weaves them into deeply poetic images, pulling listeners into her lush, at times dark yet ineffably hopeful world. Her latest album, Metamorphosis, chronicles a time of personal and professional change in her life, and she illustrates this with grand images like tectonic plates and post-apocalyptic scenes and with her arrestingly evocative and nuanced vocal delivery. She even released a remix album to accompany this one, Metamorphose, to demonstrate that even her music is ever-changing. I had the opportunity to ask Mary about her music, her life, and her message, and she is absolutely one of the most authentic and sweet artists I’ve ever met, with an evident wisdom and insight beyond her years. Check out her responses below, and take a listen to her music while you read!

Stream her latest full-length album, Metamorphosis, here: http://www.maryjennings.com/music/

Stream her remix album, Metamorphose, here: https://open.spotify.com/album/0RnaQepGHDgSerXrvjYfkG

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Soundcloud | Spotify

Metamorphosis, your latest album, was released in 2015—what was the inspiration for the album?

So, the last album I put out before that, I put out a live album in 2012, and the last full album I put out was Collapse, Collide (2011). I had to put all this pressure on myself to tour, after those records, and kind of got a little bit burnt out, and I wasn’t writing anymore. And then, I gradually started writing again—I guess out of that bunch, I think “Home” was the first one I wrote. And it was during Hurricane Sandy, actually. I was in New York in my apartment during Hurricane Sandy, and I’d just started watching The Walking Dead, and the whole idea of apocalypse and things like that, that’s what inspired that song. Like, what is home? It’s not a thing, it’s not a place, it’s not even people because people could become zombies, but it’s more like your ability to survive, and have your wits about you. So that was kinda what started it. And then, I gradually started writing some other songs, and all during this time, I moved to Nashville, I got married—everything was changing in life. In a good way! But it was weird, you know, I’m now in my thirties, not in my twenties, all these things were just different. And so, all the songs that I was writing somewhat had to do with change, whether it was change in relationships, or change in planetary stuff, change in growing up, everything just had this undertone of change.

The production of your album is really fascinating, and I’m wondering how your process goes with that. Do you think about the eventual production of it when you write, or is it more of a collaborative effort to get there?

I think it’s a little bit of both. So I met Nathan Rosenberg, my producer, through my guitar player who was playing for me at the time, and Nathan produced Poe, who was brilliant. I listened to her in high school, and she had kind of this trip-hop, industrial vibe to her. So I found out that he worked on that, I was like, “This could be my dude!” And I went in, and we just talked a lot, and I liked the way he talked to me through my music. Then we started working on “Home,” and he just got it. We started adding the electronic elements, and then we sent it to one of my best friends, Ian O’Neil, who is a drummer and he was living in Nashville when I was in New York. He went into his studio, and kicked booty on drums and sent it back to us. It was a lot of back-and-forths, and that elevated it and changed it. So the process with this record was, I would say, different than any other experience I’ve had. Sometimes songs had a very direct path—but others, like “Love You Best,” it changed tempo and keys probably ten times—we couldn’t find the vibe. And “One Brick” was that I had written that I was kind of like, “I don’t think anybody’s gonna think it’s any good.” And Nathan was like, “Oh my god, that’s my favorite one!” I just had no concept of what it could be until he got a hold of it.

I love when that happens, when someone else shows you what your song could be!

He totally showed me what it could be! And “This Means War” was probably the biggest fight, because we knew we needed one more, the sixth one, and he said, “Play me through some of the stuff that you’ve got.” And I was like playing through some songs that I had and he was like, “No, that’s not it, mm-mm, that’s not it. Do you have anything that’s not finished?” And it was making me really mad (laughs) so I was like, “Ok, fine!” So I had literally only lyrics to this song that I had started writing in the car when I was driving up with my bassist friend. And [Nathan] was like, “Well, sing it for me,” and I begrudgingly sang the lyrics to it and he said, “That’s the one.” And it was “This Means War.” And it’s one of my favorites now, and I just, I didn’t have the visual for it.

Who would you say are your biggest influences?

Well I have my artist influences and my people influences. Musical—I mean it’s so cliché, but I can’t help it, she’s a genius—Tori Amos is one for me. I listened to Tori Amos for the first time in eighth grade Latin class. My friend Amy Schwarzbaum had Boys for Pele, and she was like “Mary, you need to listen to this.” And I listened to it, and it was like my eyes were opened. I was like, “Wait music like this exists, oh my God!” But you know, I very much grew up in that Lilith Fair era, so Fiona Apple, Sarah McLachlan, Kate Bush, Tori Amos, all of that was in my wheelhouse. I love Bjork—something that I love so much about Bjork is, you wanna talk about somebody who just says what she wants unabashedly—love it! She wears a swan dress, cool! So you know, those kinds of powerful women really inspire me. I also used to listen to Celtic music all the time—I don’t know if you remember the days of the store called The Nature Company? It was a store in the mall that sold wind chimes and celestial shit. But they also had CD’s, and you could listen, and it was like all this meditative and Celtic stuff. I loved that, I couldn’t get enough of that. It was like, that and the electronica, like Orbital and stuff, I loved.

But then just in terms of life influences, my grandma was a piano player, so she always had me at the piano playing whatever I wanted to play. She always listened if I had something new—always! And then my granddad’s an amazing singer, so he taught me harmonies when we would ride in the car. We would sing songs, and it started out with me singing the melody and him singing the harmony and he would challenge me to flip it. So I learned how to sing and do harmonies from him.

And where are you from?

I am originally from here. I was born in Nashville Tennessee, but I only lived here until I was in first grade. I started second grade in Gainesville, Georgia. My parents got divorced and I moved to Gainesville, Georgia with my mom, so I would say that’s more where I grew up. My dad’s always lived here, so I would always come back and forth. And then went to college in South Carolina, and then moved back to Nashville afterward, after my mom passed away.

How old were you when your mom passed away?

I was eighteen. She—I’m an only child, and my mom was my best friend, I mean—oh man, talk about a weird person! She walked to the beat of her own drummer, she was awesome, and super inspiring. But she had an accident. I was in college my freshman year, and she fell off of a ladder and suffered massive head injuries, so uh… yeah, life went upside down after that. I knew that after I finished college, I wanted to be still close to family, so I moved back here to be closer to Dad and, you know, try to do the music thing.

What does it mean to you to be a woman in the music industry? Are there any particular challenges you’ve faced? How do you perceive your role in the industry?

I mean, it may sound anti-feminist, and I don’t mean it to, but I just wanna be seen as a person in the music industry. I don’t need to be seen as a woman—I’m no different than any guy out there. I think it is a very male-driven industry, which, you know, it just is what it is. I don’t love it, and I wish that it was more female-driven. But I don’t want, within music, I don’t want to be told what I can or can’t sing, what I can or can’t wear, what I can or can’t do, based on the fact that I’m a female. If I want to go out and dress in the sluttiest clothes, that’s my prerogative. Or if I want to dress like a boy, that’s my prerogative. I’m tired of the gender split, like I’m just a person. I don’t feel extremely different than any of the rest of you. We all suffer from some of the same issues, and go through the same things, and have similar highs and lows.

But you know, I stick to what I’m doing, and stick to my own personal path, cause this is nobody else’s path but my own, and if anybody makes any sexist remarks, I brush it off and I say, “Ooh yeah, I’m not gonna deal with that person anymore, I’m out.” I don’t have the time or patience for that, and that person’s mind is probably not going to be changed with anything I can say, so see ya! I don’t know if that’s very women-empowering.

It totally is!

But I think the most empowering part of being a woman is not being seen as a woman, but being seen as a person.

And what’s cool too, is I think when you have that perspective, when you want to be treated like an equal, I think you tend to surround yourself with people who will do that. And you seem to have found collaborators that really appreciate what you do and there’s a give and take, a back and forth…

And what’s so interesting too is that it’s accidental, because most of them in the industry have been men, like my producers are all guys. Not that I seek them out, that’s who understood it the best. My musicians that play drums, or guitar, or bass, or cello, are all men, and they have had absolutely no problem with me saying, “This is what I want.” They see me as a person, as an artist, not as this chick over here (laughs). No, they’ve had no issues with me, there never were power struggles in that way.

If you had one message that you hope listeners receive from your music, what would that be?

You know, my music has always been really selfish. And it is my therapy, it is my way of getting out my thoughts, my feelings, what I’ve been through—it’s really for me, and if anybody else can pick up on it, that’s awesome! So I don’t expect anybody to take any particular message from it, but if it helps you at all, my job is done. I am even hesitant sometimes to say what the songs are about, because that song might be different for you than it is for me, and that’s ok. I want you to take from it what you want. I have a couple of songs that I’ve put out there where people have been coming to me crying afterwards and saying, “Thank you for this, you spoke words that I haven’t been able to, put words to feelings that I haven’t been able to…” Oh my God, I could quit tomorrow! Nothing means more to me than that. I did for myself [laughs], and I’m glad that you could pick up on it as well.

If anything, my personal message is that people just need to be whoever they wanna be, and not be ashamed of it, and not hide it. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about, like just do it! Dress how you wanna dress, speak your mind if you want to, but don’t feel like you have to.

Lightning Round! Peanut butter, smooth or chunky?

Smooth! I used to think of chunky peanut butter like it had bugs in it, and I’ve never like in my brain been able to get out of that [laughs], so I have to have creamy peanut butter all the way.

Chocolate—milk or dark?

Depends on the day, but more often than not, milk. I love the sweeter kind—the kind that’s worse for you.

Vinyl or CD or cassette?

Ooh God that’s so tough! I would probably have to say the CD, because I grew up in the CD age, and you could put them in your car with you! If you could put a vinyl in your car, then okay maybe, but I still go through my CD’s and put them in my car. So, I would say CD’s—definitely not cassettes! I remember the days of having to fast forward and rewind to get to the right spot. But with vinyl, there’s nothing better than putting it on and listening to it start to finish. They’re just for different experiences, but on the whole, I’d say CD’s.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

There are so many! Um, the power to make somebody feel better in an instant. So if somebody was crying or upset, then I could just be like, “Nope it’s gonna be okay!” Not that hurting isn’t healthy and healing—and this is also, again, really selfish, cause when my baby cries, I wanna be like “POOF!” No more tears! Happy baby! (laughs)

I was just thinking that’s such an unselfish thing to wish! I’d be like, I wanna fly, or walk through walls! Last one—if you could have lunch with any person, living or not, who would it be—

My mom. Easy. My mom. I miss her so much, and I would probably give almost everything away to have five minutes with her again. I don’t know what all I would say, I’d probably just—I probably wouldn’t say anything, I’d probably just wanna hug her and cry for a while. So, that’s easy.

Stream Mary’s latest full-length album, Metamorphosis, here: http://www.maryjennings.com/music/

Stream her remix album, Metamorphose, here: https://open.spotify.com/album/0RnaQepGHDgSerXrvjYfkG

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Amityville Records: A DIY Haven for Nashville Artists

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A record label can be a controversial tool for artists—some hail it as the ultimate platform through which to break an artist to a large audience, while some are wary of exploitation of artists and the homogenization of their sound. At Amityville Records, founders Scarer and Raygun have made it their pledge to support DIY artists who need label services without signing their lives away. Raygun, who provides the image and video expertise for Amityville, describes the label as “a positive and affordable place for people to practice their art in Nashville,” and the music-tech ninja half, Scarer, affirms their commitment to supporting independent artists in every way they can.

I attended the Amityville launch on the same day as the women’s march, a day about celebrating diversity, standing up for those without a voice, and being heard. I was inspired to see those messages carrying through to the show that night. All proceeds from the door and the Amityville merch sold went to Planned Parenthood, and several of the acts spoke about the events of the day, the need for artists to speak for those who can’t, and (my favorite topic) the power of women supporting each other’s work. The night began with Ladyshark, Scarer’s two-person punk project that was sometimes surf-y, sometimes proggy, but all times imbued with a raw, riot grrrl spirit. Scarer’s voice is clearly powerful, despite fighting a cold that night. Ian Taylor followed them, with just an acoustic guitar backing up his frank and rambling alt-folk songs, a very Bright Eyes sound. His song about Leonard Cohen’s death was a standout, as was his cover of “Brand New Key (the Rollerskates Song).” Lauren Strange and the Pretty Killers delivered a great set of their signature pop-grunge rock sound. Lauren commanded the stage with her standout voice, catchy songwriting, and I gotta say, an amazing orange dress. Last of the night was Sean Stannard, a hip-hop artist with an impressive flow and ability to engage the audience.

If you’re curious about Amityville and their services, you can find them at their website or their Facebook, and be sure to check out all of the artists above!

New Single Alert: Magana’s “Pages” Accompanies Solo Tour

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I loved Magana’s debut EP Golden Tongue when I reviewed it a few months ago, and now she’s back at it with the gorgeous single “Pages,” available for free/pay-what-you-can at Bandcamp. Magana’s trademark dreamy arrangements and arresting, evocative voice are on display here, but the song is more driving and rock-influenced than her work on the EP. Plus, the lyrics tell the story of wanting to keep your story to yourself, which is a delicious irony and a hauntingly relatable truth . The single accompanies her announcement of a solo tour through New York and California, so be sure to check her out live if you’re in one of those areas. And listen to her single below!

Listen on Bandcamp / Soundcloud / Spotify / Youtube

For more info on Magana and her upcoming tour:

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Songkick

BRIGHTON: The Shondes’ Brand of Feminist Pop-Punk Has an Optimistic Edge

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I love when I find a band that simultaneously rocks and makes me smile. Brooklyn’s The Shondes bring a unique outlook to their music—a feminist, Jewish punk band with catchy melodies, soaring violin, epic lyrics and earnest hopefulness. Their lead single, “Everything Good,” from their most recent album, Brighton, exemplifies this style. The lyrics are sweet and optimistic, supported by the romantic violin, but the energetic drums, fuzzy guitar, and lead singer Louisa Solomon’s powerful vocals give the song a punk edge.

The entire album is filled with incredibly tuneful melodies, a particular strength of the band’s songwriting, and the energy is overall a little 80s without the cheesy synths, reminiscent of Blondie, the Pretenders, and even anthem rock like Bruce Springsteen. Solomon’s voice in particular reminds me of Chrissie Hynde, with its ability to somehow be passionate and cool at the same time. And Elijah Oberman’s violin touches are always thoughtful and always strong—I especially love the pizzicato in “Wrong Kind,” a sing-along pop-punk anthem.

Other standouts on the album include “True North,” featuring a nod to their Jewish influences with the lyric “next year in Jerusalem” and an epic breakdown at the end; “Unstill Ones,” which is impossible not to sing along to between the background “oohs” and the “fuck that noise” refrain; and “Nightwatch,” perhaps their most adventurous offering. The guitar is gorgeous, the lyrics sweet and earnest, and the layering of ambient wails, violin, and sparse drums is tasteful and satisfyingly builds to the end. There is much to love about The Shondes and Brighton, from their inclusive and celebratory message to their catchy punk style—but ultimately, they simply make me happy and I like them. To me, that’s the joy of reviewing and discovering new music, and I’m thrilled to have found them.

SOUND: Catchy, energetic punk rock, with a little anthem rock thrown in; similar to Joan Jett, Blondie, The Pretenders, The Bangles, Bruce Springsteen

LISTEN TO: “Everything Good,” “Unstill Ones,” “Nightwatch”

Buy the album on Bandcamp

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Watch their video for “Everything Good:”