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A Conversation With Kendra Sells

I sat down for a Zoom meeting with artist Kendra Sells to discuss her (at-the-time-forthcoming) solo album All In Your Head. This was our conversation.


TR: This album is a departure from your group BluMoon. What made you decide to do All In Your Head as a solo album?

 

KS: Really, it was just the pandemic. It was really scary at first, you know. I was just like, “Oh my gosh, if I am 10 feet away from anyone, who knows? It's gonna happen.” I'm diabetic, so at the very beginning of the pandemic, I was taking everything so seriously, really not meeting up with anyone. And, you know, it's just a hard time, especially being a musician. I was like, “Oh, my gosh, I don't know, anything” you know, “I don't know what's going to happen.” And so I was just writing the music, and I guess putting the songs together for myself, just to do it, because I like to make music and it makes me feel better. “I'm just gonna make some music”. And so I normally just write on my guitar, but I got Ableton and a little mini-keyboard. I was just able to kind of build a song head to toe, which I've never been able to do before. I guess that's mostly why, because I was just like, “Oh, this is my first time ever trying this, I just want to see what I can do”.

 

TR: Is it nerve-wracking going from being in a band to releasing your own solo material? Pursuing that kind of art, but without people around to kind of give you feedback?

 

KS: Not necessarily, because I guess that's where I started, for myself, as a kid. I would use like, what is it? Audacity? Yeah, recording my keyboard through the mic. So that lets you know where I kind of started, and I guess I left that for a moment. But I’m still with the band… But I've just done tons of solo shows and all of that stuff, so I guess I have been used to being by myself. If anything, sometimes being in the band makes me feel more like “ah, is this okay? Is that okay? Do you like this? Are you okay with that?” And I don't have to worry about that. It's just me.

 

TR: Was it jarring to stop doing shows during the pandemic?

 

KS: Yeah, for sure. We had a whole tour lined up and some really sick shows here in Austin. I felt the lack of shows in me physically. I feel really good when I'm on stage, when I'm singing, when I'm with the band. And when I'm performing, that makes me feel so great. And I haven't had that feeling in a while.

 

TR: Does it take the wind out of you creatively to not have the excitement of performing?

 

KS: That's not something that I have known that inspires me creatively. I haven't suffered in that way.

 

TR: What does your songwriting process look like?

 

KS: It really varies. I feel like my favorite thing is, some days, I’ll just walk into work in the morning, you know, I have my little caffeine mellow, and I'm just walking down the street and it's sunny and I'm just mellow. Just thinking whatever it is I'm feeling and sometimes I like it, and I'll record. I have so many freakin’ voice memos. I feel like I've written some of my favorite things that way. And other times, I'll just sit with a guitar hung around. Or I'll hear something in another song and kind of dissect it and rearrange it. It'll inspire me in that way. And I'm like, “I really like this, but I hear other things with it”.  And that will inspire me. Yeah, just kind of varies.

 

TR: What is some of the music that inspired the album, like if you had to pick like three recordings that were just like, yeah, without these, there would be no all in your head.

 

KS: Hmm. Well, that's an important question. Maybe like anything by Kimya Dawson. I feel like her, just the DIY approach, like, you can do that in your bedroom, you can do that, with whatever you have. You don't have to have this or that. That really, like for sure just gave me that type of courage to even approach this in the way that I'm approaching it. Because, at first, I was just gonna put this on SoundCloud, and be like, “Look”. But then I met with Quiet Year, and they were like, “hey, let's release this together”. But anyway, yeah, Kimya Dawson. I feel like anything she's done has really inspired me in that way, like sonically. It's kind of hard to say because I really do pull a lot of influences. 

 

Tirzah, her project Devotion, that kind of inspired me. of Montreal inspired me, Kevin Barnes. He's kind of the same way...

 

TR: What is the worst music you've ever heard?

 

KS: Okay, that's so funny you're asking me that. Because, literally, if I'm drunk, I will love anything, I will dance. But something that I don't like… and I know there's something...

 

Okay, no offense. But this guy- I'm not gonna name where I work or anything- but he'll come to my place of work, and just post up outside of it and perform because “yeah, you're at my show”. You know, that's what he's decided. And I call his genre “2008”. I don't even hate the songs, but I hate the songs in this way. And a lot of people do. But, um, you know, like that song “You’re Beautiful?”

 

TR: I'm kind of imagining James Blunt or John Mayer.

 

KS: Yeah! And nothing against those artists, but something against white men doing those artists in this specific way. That and in the year 2021. It's just the audacity for you to come to where I have to be, like they asked you to be here and make this your show? Yeah, that's the only thing I can think of right now.

 

TR: I feel like the song Wondering//Bad Doctorzz would resonate with anyone who's ever been to a medical professional. Was the track inspired by personal experience?

 

KS: I really should look, because I remember when I wrote it, I feel like I wrote it in the middle of the night. But I need to see when I wrote it because I know it did come from a specific moment. Butas of now, it's just been every experience where I've gone to the doctor. I can barely see, I need glasses, and I've gone to the doctor, like, three or four times to get glasses, and they just won't give me glasses. It's weird. It's a combination of so many things like that, being gaslit, being told there's nothing wrong, being all of this, especially being diabetic. I just realized everyone's like, “Oh, yeah, our healthcare system sucks” in the same way that they'll say, “Oh, the justice system is corrupt”, but there's not the same amount of scrutiny. Why isn’t pressure put on the healthcare system in the way that it is on the justice system? 

 

It's frustrating thinking how you're supposed to go to the doctor to feel good and so many people... it brings them so much anxiety to go to the doctor. I shouldn't feel so many negative things about going to someone that's supposed to be helping me, in the same way that police are supposed to be there to serve and protect.., So, I guess just the fact that it fucking sucks is what inspired that.

 

TR: Something that really struck me about the release is not only that you were releasing on cassette, but you were also doing a physical booklet. What made you choose the cassette format, rather than anything else, or why even release a physical copy in the first place?

KS: I just love having physical copies, and whenever my friends release them, I'm like, I want one. I also have this weird paranoia that one day, the internet is gonna stop working or music streaming is going to just... cease, and there's gonna be so much music that I won't be able to hear anymore. That's why I went to do something physical. And then with the cassette, Quiet Year just said “we could do a cassette” and I was like, “Okay, well.”

 

TR: Do you have any nostalgia for cassettes? Did you have them around as a kid?

 

KS: Yeah,I had some nursery rhyme ones. And me and my siblings would record the radio. We'd be  like “Oh, my favorite song is on!” and you'd record it. 

 

TR: What is the significance for you of having the zine as an accompaniment to the cassette?

 

KS: I feel like music is always up for whatever interpretation, but I just wanted to dig deeper into what I was going for with the EP...my willingness to embark on this thing that I've never done before. The zine itself is a really important process that I feel that I could have easily tricked myself out of, or let someone convince me to not do. I feel like that's something that so many people do for themselves. I really wanted to be more open and transparent about the process and how I feel in the process. [the zine] has lyrics and little journaling type things, like open ended questions or whatever, you know, just to really kind of get people just thinking more about themselves in those ways. I just feel like so many people sleep on their own potential, and I feel like that's just the saddest thing. And I just feel like for so long, I was kind of doing that with myself. And so I just wanted to be transparent about that journey. It's not just an overnight type of deal.

 

TR: How do you feel about physical releases and physical accompaniment for music dwindling as streaming becomes more and more omnipresent?

 

KS: I'm honestly not worried about it. Because it's like, if it sells, it sells, and if someone wants it, they're gonna buy it. And people do buy it, I buy it. Other people buy it, and if they're going to stream, then they're going to stream it. If you’re into the physical, the physical is there for you. It's not, in my eyes, a waste to have that option.  It does more for the artists to sell the physical copies then to have it streamed. I think it hurts to stream, but I think that it does you a favor to have physical copies because that's going to make more money from people that care.

 

TR:  Do you feel like your listeners are missing out on anything by not engaging with the physical version and only engaging with the streamed version?

 

KS: Yeah, I think so. I think of any album that I've ever bought, I know all the songs, I love that album, I listen to it from top to finish, you know, multiple times. Not that you can't do that with streaming, I do the same thing on streaming, but it's just the fact that you open it up, put it in, press play, it’s literally drawing you into the whole experience of listening to it.

 

TR: With your zine, and with your videos, too, it seems like a lot of your artwork is present. Do you feel like there's overlap in what you hope to achieve creatively with your music and your visual work?

 

KS: I have a lot of work as far as accepting myself as an artist. With music, I've been down this road. I am a musician, goddammit! It feels like it's only been two years... and with art, it's gonna take me a bit longer. But I have done album covers and t-shirts and  other stuff here and there. 

 

Art is more something that I enjoy doing for myself. And I don't love to do it for not myself. Music I don't only do for myself.

 

TR: How early into the pandemic did you decide that this was something that you wanted to do?

 

KS: I guess I started the songs in May, but I think maybe it was July when I was like, “Oh, I should, you know, release this”. I anticipated it coming out much quicker. But I just wouldn't finish the songs....I just kept going at it, like, “Oh, I need to do this, and I need to do that.” And I didn't come to a stopping point until about November.

 

TR: What has been the process since November?

 

KS: Well the songs on my end were all recorded and tweaked and all of that, and then I sent them over to my friend Jerry to mix and master. It took like four months for that.

 

I really didn't know what I was doing on Ableton. So I just kind of asked him I was just like, “hey, if I did something that was like really stupid or it just didn't make sense like, Can you help me now?” And he was like, “Well, you know, like a lot of your sounds are kind of just like stock and I have a lot of cool ones”, and so he just fluffed it up, you know, just made it sound better for sure. Not, that sounded bad, but he gave it the final finishing touches, he did like some live drums on Wondering//Bad Doctorzz and on Call Me When Ur Dead. He plays for a band called Glasshealer.

 

 

TR: What do you think is after this? Do you have any thoughts on what the next step is going to be for your solo work?

 

Unknown Speaker  24:33  

I want to do some b-sides if I finish them within a time that I feel comfortable putting them out, because I don't want it to be next year. I'm just looking to gig more with the band. We're all vaccinated and places have their procedures and stuff for outdoors. We have a song that we're working on. We're trying to record. I think we might be just looking at doing some singles for a minute. 

 

TR: Do you think it's going to be hard to get back in the rhythm of performing with people again? 

 

KS: During the pandemic we did a livestream thing, it was fine. The production of it was kind of funny. Our key player that we were gigging with before the pandemic moved to Florida, so we've had someone else sit in, but he's dope and does a great job. I just missed performing without the fear of COVID. I'm ready to be in a situation where it's energy and people are there and it's hot, you know, it's just, that's what I love.

 

 

-- Tín Rodriguez


 





Supergroup Sighting at Far Out: Bowlice Play The Boleys

 A special evening at the Far Out Lounge presents a unique superband moment and premiere of BOWLICE, featuring members of The Boleys (@smokeaboleys) and Mug Dog (@mugdog_atx). These two bands have previously played together at various venues in town from Far Out to Kick Butt, but this is their first joint performance. Mug Dog’s heaviness and subliminal funk complement the psychedelic playfulness of the Boleys when they come together as BOWLICE. 

On the eve of the solar eclipse, multi-colored lights dance on the ceiling as the evening’s bands play for an intimate crowd of fans, friends, birthday girls, and music lovers who are out on a Tuesday night. As BOWLICE plays Boley’s songs and engages the growing audience with a spirited, crowdsourced game of “Who can scream the loudest?”, the evening is full of shirtless men aplenty and long hair a-flowing. There is a love fest of shooting hearts and gesticulated glee to one another before the superband moves into the Boley’s song, “Fuck You.” 

 

The band’s synergy is palpable when the guitarist of the Boleys and the bassist of Mug Dog straight up rub their instruments together, strings kissing and bending. The sensuality of the music bangs through the PA system. A kind stranger from the crowd helps restore a cymbal gone askew, and then receives the microphone to howl along with Ethan Boley, lead vocalist and guitarist. All members of the superband contribute to an incredibly memorable live performance. 

 

Far Out Lounge has a massive outside seating area covered by a large tent. The thundering bass and drums, and dancing magentas and yellows make the tent feel like a rock music revival. It was a fun, festive show to see musicians be playful with each other as well as feel free to be themselves authentically, as they should! Take this as your sign to go out on a weeknight and participate in the immaculate return of live music. This might have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness BOWLICE but both bands have several upcoming shows you can catch this summer.

 

-- Mel Green


 

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New Joy Oladokun is Indignant and Infectious

 sorry isn’t good enough is one of the lead singles off of Joy Oladokun’s in defense of my own happiness. The track focuses on thinning patience and growing resentment towards an unnamed partner. Instrumentally, it is reminiscent of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know, but is a more brooding and incensed cut than the 2011 mega hit.


sorry isn’t good enough builds up with Joy’s vocals over a plucked, muted guitar, leading to a chorus that is emotionally explosive but not overwrought. It’s exasperated, shaded with a mild bitterness. On the choruses, the unique timbre of Joy’s voice makes itself known. It is in turns smoky and delicate, but rich with urgency. The track smolders.

The accompanying video is simple and stylish, utilizing a mostly black-and-white color palate.  Singing to the lyrics, Joy paces through a darkened, spartan set in the shape of a domestic scene. The mood is dejected as Joy absently stretches on the two-person bed, wanders about, puts on a coat and takes it off and smokes a joint. The ennui is sure to resonate with anyone who’s faced bouts of depression.


The chorus is infectious, the production is tight, and the performance is impassioned. If emotionally intense singer-songwriter music is something you seek, this track is one to put on the radar.

 

 

-- Tín Rodriguez


 

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Paula Maya Stays True To Her Roots in “Corcovado”

Brazilian music standout Paula Maya stays true to her roots in her new single “Corcovado- Ao Vivo.” Her dynamic vocals are accompanied perfectly by light percussion and jazzy, acoustic guitar. In the world of contemporary music, there’s so much pressure to be “modern” and assimilated to current trends, yet Maya proves that you can still be grounded in tradition while displaying originality and uniqueness. 

Given the quality and nearly flawless execution of the recording, it’s hard to believe that Paula Maya’s latest release is actually a live performance. This decision ultimately enhances the listening experience of “Corcovado.” The faintly audible sounds of chatter amongst the audience makes the listener feel like they are at some hip, Jazz cafe on the streets of São Paulo. Releasing this single as a live performance is admirable not only because of the impeccable vocal delivery and tone, but also because of the overall ambience that enables you to be transported into an alternate reality. 

One of the ways in which Maya straddles the line between contemporary and traditional is by singing half of the song in Portugese and the other half in English. It would be easy for her to be a purist and only sing in Portugese to satisfy cultural norms, but singing in English as well makes her music more accessible to a wider audience. Not to mention, she sings in both 

languages quite beautifully. 

Additionally, Paula Maya’s band deserves a huge round of applause for their utilization of dynamics, subtlety, and flat-out skill. The percussionist plays soft and smooth, without missing a beat. The bass and keyboard players know when to take a back seat to the vocals and when to showcase their talent. And the guitar playing is a perfect example of why Brazil is home to some of the most underrated guitarists in the world. The jazzy chords and mesmerizing guitar solo are reminiscent of Brazilian greats, such as Yamandu Costa and João Gilberto, the latter being the original songwriter of “Corcovado.” The musicianship surrounding Maya undoubtedly accentuates her talent even more so. 

Paula Maya’s spin on “Corcovado” embodies the classic saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Clearly, traditional Brazilian music is an exceptional form of art as is. Maya and her band know that they don’t need to overly modernize the music that represents their culture, yet she uncannily conveys a sound that is fresh and worthy of being played on contemporary streaming outlets, even in the United States. Paula Maya knows exactly what type of artist she is and she absolutely owns it.

 

-- Quinn Donoghue

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Trace of Lime Reminds Us to Live in the Moment with New Video

            I remember seeing Trace of Lime for the first time several years ago and being blown away by the energy and explosiveness packed into each song. Their latest single, Good Ol’ Days, encapsulates that exact feeling. The song features witty vocals, catchy guitar rhythms and a wildly entertaining music video that utilizes stop-motion stylization. They undoubtedly have their own defined sound that can be categorized as upbeat and cheerful, yet at the same time they express a straightforward rock n roll sound that induces involuntary headbanging. 

When asked about some of the band’s biggest influences, lead singer Jordan ironically listed Rod Serling, Mozart and Mystery Inc. After listening to Trace of Lime, it would be difficult to guess that these are some of the artists who inspire the band. But perhaps, this is one of the reasons why Trace of Lime has such a unique sound that is incomparable to any other band. That being, they don’t try to sound like anyone else. They are who they are and they own it. Jordan elaborates on their effortless ability to solidify their own style, saying “It’s definitely more natural when it comes to the sound... We aren’t married to a specific genre so influence from anything is on the table and everyone is willing to give anything a try.” Though they channel many different influences, their music doesn’t come across as experimental necessarily. You can tell that they incorporate many different ideas, but they always just sound like Trace of Lime, and that is a testament to their creativity. 

The music video supposedly took several years to complete and it’s totally understandable why. Stop motion videos normally take a considerable amount of time to complete, but the final result made the process very much worth the wait. Jordan provides some backstory of the production process, stating “The first verse alone was a picture a day for over a year. Conceptually, The song is saying that the good ol days are currently happening, and to live your life in the day. That’s where the photo a day concept came from. Every day is a piece of the story.” The video was filmed, scripted, directed, and edited by Jordan and his partner, Dusana. I already admired the video before hearing about the ideas that went into it, but now I admire it even more so. The fact that they used stop-motion to accentuate the meaning of the song highlights the band’s artistry. All of their creative decisions are purposeful and impactful, resulting in consistent, high-quality art. 

The four members of Trace of Lime certainly don’t lack any artistic integrity. They make music that satisfies them and it bodes well for their listeners as well. The band mentioned that they have an upcoming record to be on the lookout for, and it supposedly is meant to capture the energy of playing live. If that’s the case, anyone who has ever seen them perform would know that they are in for an absolute treat.

 

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