gobbinjr—aka, Emma Witmer—tries to find the humor in everything. Her cheery voice floats over jangly bedpop melodies, chirping out Lynchian lyrics about everything from heartache to misogyny.
The Brooklyn-based musician’s latest album, ocala wick, is mostly a world of whimsy: On opener ‘afraid of me,’ she coos, “I’m going to work high / I’m smoking at work…Hi, nice to meet you,” as starship synths rocket underway. Yet Witmer allows darkness to glisten here, too—tracks like ‘joaquin’ and ‘sorry charlie’ feature her airy soprano dipping into a somber register as she tackles anxious thoughts and the weight of loss. Three years after her playful debut, manalang, gobbinjr is leaning into these intimate moments.
AdHoc: A lot of publications have referred to your music as “childlike,” or “girlish.” That’s always rubbed me the wrong way; it infantilizes you and your work. You recently took to Twitter yourself calling this problem out. Are there any other ways that you feel you’ve been reduced or poorly understood as an artist?
Emma Witmer: I think the child thing is definitely just my main issue right now. I’ve worked really hard to not be sexualized, and the child thing is the other end of that coin, you know? You’re either sexy or you’re childish if you’re a woman. And I think now, some people just don’t want to approach me because I will speak out on Twitter.
The “childlike” thing is also bizarre since your music consistently addresses adult themes, like heartbreak and misogyny. Are those things that you purposefully set out to address on your new album?
Yeah, it was just what I was dealing with these past few years, and [when] taking time to make the album, I realized that half of it was about all of this stuff— being mistreated by men, not being viewed correctly, not being respected. It wasn’t intentional, but it’s obviously on my mind a lot. It’s tough being a woman in music. Which sucks—I don’t really want to have to say that about myself: “A woman in music.” I just want to be a musician.
Nora Singh, the Hit Bargain frontwoman and self-described “Gallagher of noise rock”, is ready to move on from “queening,” or trampling men’s faces, during the band’s live shows.
Her reasons for this decision are partly practical: It’s more difficult to find face-standing fetishists now that Craigslist’s Casual Encounters has been shut down. But they’re also political. Over the phone with AdHoc last month, she questioned the subversive potential of stepping on male fetishists’ faces. “Can you really say you’re smashing the patriarchy by playing into a man’s fantasy?”
If you’re the kind of person who actively tries to incite collisions between the expected and the unexpected in your art, you also tend to be the kind of person who resists being put in a box, which is exactly the kind of person Nora Singh is.
“In terms of the creative direction of (Hit Bargain), we’re entering into another phase,” Singh explained over the phone. This new phase is inspired by a series of changes that occurred in Singh’s life and in the world since Hit Bargain released its self-titled EP in 2016. For one, the American people elected a man to the highest office in the nation who, at best, has a notorious reputation when it comes to his treatment of women.
“We have a known sexual assaulter, a misogynist, someone who’s disrespectful of not only women, but trans people, people of color.”
Also, Singh gave birth to a child last fall, which Singhs says is “the most punk rock thing” she could do, simply because it’s such a curveball to what people expect from her.
But becoming a parent hasn’t blunted the kinetic political energy of Hit Bargain, whose new album Potential Maximizer, which was released May 11 on Buzz Records, features strident takedowns of xenophobia, sexism, and capitalism over taut electric guitar riffs. Singh spoke with AdHoc about the #MeToo moment, identifying as a New Yorker while living in LA, and what the media tends to get wrong about queer and non-binary people ahead of Hit Bargain’s show with PILL and Yvette at Alphaville on June 21.
AdHoc: What were you doing before you formed Hit Bargain?
Nora Singh: I used to be in a band called These Are Powers when I was in New York. We disbanded around 2010, 2011 or so. I moved to France in 2011. I had lived in New York from 2001 until 2011. I moved to France to marry our European tour manager, as you do. So I was in France until about 2014. Basically, I went for love and I stayed for the food.
We split, and I didn’t want to repeat myself, so I moved to LA in 2014 on April Fool’s Day. I lived in a house full of ex-New Yorkers and incidentally met [guitarist and vocalist] Mike [Barron], who had also just moved from New York. The whole band has, at one point or another, lived in New York. With the exception of Sean [Monaghan], our bass player, none of us knew one another before starting the band.
Parquet Courts played this past weekend on Saturday night at Public Arts in the Lower East Side – opening for them was Brooklyn locals Flexi. The talented Natalie Piserchio was there to capture the show in the beautiful space. Take a look at the evening below!
No band attacks vocal harmonies with as much commanding intensity as Los Angeles-based La Luz. Their eerie brand of surf-rock has always had something cinematic about it, thanks in no small part to their deadly four-part crooning. Their latest outing, Floating Features, finds the band dragging those screen dreams into the open. It’s simultaneously their most immediately rewarding record and their slowest burning, holding you captive with vibrant production and razor-sharp songwriting. Make no mistake: Floating Features will turn you into a Luzer for life.
AdHoc caught up with lead singer and guitarist Shana Cleveland to dig into their latest concoction.
AdHoc: Which song is the oldest on Floating Features?
Shana Cleveland: I’m actually not sure. I know that I wrote “Cicada,” “Walking Into the Sun,” and “Lonely Dozer” early on. I wrote those first few in Northern California and the rest in LA, where the band fleshed them out together.
You tend to put a few instrumentals on your records, just tracks where you and the band rock out and jam. Is that something that you feel is central to the identity of the band?
SC: I think it is. It’s fun to have that break. We have so many vocals, oftentimes with four-part harmonies through most of a song. So when we come back after this long instrumental break, it feels really triumphant to break in with these huge harmonies. I’ve listened to a lot of instrumental stuff—surf music and finger pickers like John Fahey—so I always appreciate an instrumental song. This record we just had one, and the others had two, but it was nice to put that one as the first track. Even though there’s only one, it has a very prominent place on the record.
No one really knows anything about producer Blue Angels. His label, UNO NYC, is upfront about this. They once told RA that they “don’t know much about him except that he’s a young kid in Maryland and very talented.”
Following last year’s Vaces—which is up on UNO’s site as a free download, and is accompanied by a surreal, pumpkin-themed music video—Blue Angels’ new EP, High Dive, sits somewhere between Sinjin Hawke and Holy Other. Even in its darkest, most industrial moments, there’s a clear sensitivity towards ambience and melody. You can hear it in the agitated corners of “Why,” where a submerged vocal sample conjures a mood at once sinister and sincere. The recursive, lo-fi crunch of “Floss” manages to tread this line for a spellbinding seven and a half minutes. In the face of Blue Angels’ utter anonymity, what we’re left with is simply the music. The EP works as an invitation, beckoning listeners toward the shadowy worlds it already inhabits.
Over email, Blue Angels offered AdHoc a single line — a hieroglyph awaiting translation: “I am feeling much better these days.” High Dive is out May 18th on UNO.
Chicago natives Deeper are a patient and dedicated bunch. They spent almost two years holed up in their practice space, crafting their self-titled debut with friend and engineer Dave Vettraino, who has worked with Melkbelly and Damien Jurado. The result is a jangly post-punk treasure, shimmery gold and all. Nic Gohl’s lyrics hit on existential quandaries and pushing to get more out of life. Gohl’s smooth yet commanding voice hovers over his and Mike Clawson’s tangle of erratic, slippery guitars. Drew McBride’s bass playing supports the mass of shine and noise as Shiraz Bhatti’s percussive stylings hop along with the group, keeping everyone’s ducks in a row.
AdHoc recently caught up with Deeper to discuss their inspirations, their favorite Chicago digs, and tracking food deliveries. Grab a copy of Deeper via Fire Talk Records.
What’s your practice space like?
Nic Gohl: It’s an old Frank Lloyd Wright building. But it looks like something out of Hostel or one of the Saw movies. So, not very pretty.
Drew McBride: I think it used to be a Polish sausage factory. You can Google it. E-Z Polish Sausage.
Your self-titled debut is coming out in May on Fire Talk Records. Can you tell me a bit about the album?
Nic: The album is a collection of songs from the past 2 or so years that we slowly recorded in our practice space with our old friend and longtime collaborator, Dave.
Drew: He’s like one of our best friends. He’s a collaborator, he’s my roommate...
Nic: Mostly his roommate [laughs]. Dave Vettraino.
Drew: But yea, he’s also recorded some other Chicago bands like Melkbelly who’s playing Pitchfork this year. In my opinion the record has like some pretty diverse sounds just as a result of us all learning how to play together over that time.
Shiraz Bhatti: We actually did “Pink Showers” and our first single that we dropped in 2016, “Transmogrified,” in Dave’s basement. Then we decided to demo out the record in our practice space, and we were really surprised at how things worked out, so we spent the next year and a half taking weekends here and there to finish it off.
Nebraska-born, Brooklyn-based indie rock group Navy Gangs first came to our attention back in 2016, with their brilliant self-titled EP. Their eagerly awaited follow-up, Poach, comes out August 3 on Modern Sky. Delicate Steve, who worked with Navy Gangs on their last release and has collaborated with Mac DeMarco and Paul Simon, resumed producer duties for Poach. The 14 track album is sprinkled with the band’s signature energetic riffs but also offers doom and gloom in songs "Dark Days" and "Vampire."
We chatted with lead guitarist and vocalist Matt Tillwick and bassist Wilson Keithline just before they headed out to shoot the music video for their latest single and Poach opener “1Alone.” The track is one that Tillwick says is "a song I wrote in my first New York apartment 1A... [it's] about the FOMO (fear of missing out) feeling, and how to embrace it."
AdHoc: I love the single you released, “Housekeeping” and the video with the cute little cardboard cut out of you. Can we expect the rest of the album to have a similar vibe?
Matt Tillwick: No! The album is pretty dark—that’s probably the happiest song. It’s pretty widespread of an album; it has light and dark throughout and really ties in to all of the moods of being alive.
How long have you been working on these songs?
MT: Some of them are a couple of years old, and some of them are a couple of months old. We decided to record a bunch more songs than necessary and just pick through those.
Sam Ray takes his time parsing words when he speaks about his band, American Pleasure Club, and their new record, A Whole Fucking Lifetime of This. This makes sense for someone whose project was formerly known as Teen Suicide — a band name he found regretful and embarrassing, born from his personal brand of dark irony and from an expectation that the project would never blow up.
With a new lineup and band name in tow, and after a year of touring in support Teen Suicide’s last formal release, It’s The Big Joyous Celebration, Let’s Stir the Honeypot, Ray frames Lifetime as a radical return to sincerity, breaking from his previous, more sardonic output. We caught up with the Maryland-based polymath to discuss the experiences that inform his most recent release, getting married, and being dumb on Twitter.
A Whole Fucking Lifetime of This is available now via bandcamp.
AdHoc: A lot of people ask you about the nomenclature of the different projects you’re involved in, but I wanted to ask you about your Twitter handle, @fugazi420, and why you tweet under that handle.
Sam Ray: 100% because it’s funny to me. A couple of the Fugazi fellows are old family friends—we didn’t exactly ask them their permission to do that or anything, but once we did do it and it got verified, my uncle let them know and they thought it was very funny. Not Ian [MacKaye]—I don’t know how he feels about it. But Brendan Canty, who I would play football in the park with him in DC when I was like five or four, told me in an email that he was gonna start a Twitter impersonating me and call his band—and this was one of those good dad jokes—Adult Homicide. We had a good big laugh about it one day over dinner.
The @fugazi420 thing was just a dumb joke that we thought we’d probably end up changing soon after, but then we got verified and are now stuck with it [Laughs]. Of all the things to be stuck with, I’m very fine with it. Much more so than our old band name.
It’s funny you’re able to get rid of the old band name, but you can’t change your Twitter handle.
SR: Exactly—there’s a statement there or something. I don’t know what.
A spirit of lust slinks in and out of Sixteen Jackies’ sound. The Philadelphia-based quartet is headed by Jody DeMarco, whose breathy wails seduce and plead over art-rock rhythms. On their latest release, Mascula, surfing guitar melodies pair with psychedelic basslines in a tempest world of dreamlike dimensions. Released this May by Born Losers Records, Mascula follows the band’s 2017 EP, Movie Was Bad. This new record features “Power,” a song where Sixteen Jackies’ fantasy and passion reach haunting new heights.
“I wrote it when I was 20 and first felt the sting of being turned down by another gay guy who thought I was too feminine for him,” DeMarco told AdHoc via email. “Power” sees DeMarco wrestling with the complexities of these queer longings: “I used the song as an outlet for those dark feelings I had, but I exaggerated them to absurdity, basically writing myself as the villain of some sort of occult erotic thriller,” he wrote.
In the video for the track, which we’re debuting below, we see DeMarco perform these tensions; unrequited attention breeds a certain frenzy, left to fester under the view of a Super-8 lens. Director Bob Sweeney focuses on macabre found objects: a devil’s mask in a blonde wig, a bone nailed to a wall — hazy cabalistic glimpses that foreshadow Jody's lovelorn descent.
Listen and watch the rousing track here, and be sure to catch Sixteen Jackies when they play Sunnyvale in Brooklyn on June 7.
Nate Terepka's debut solo effort, Sunlight Farm, is an EP that feels instantaneously classic — from opener "Tempelhof," in which the Brooklyn-based musician mellifluously croons over bright piano chords and shuffling percussion, to tracks like "Out In Sun," where a pulsing, resonant 808 beat is overdubbed with vocal croons and acoustic plucks. It's a stunningly beautiful release that links quintessential rock sounds to an experimental future, walking a tightrope between past and present over the course of seven tracks.
Such a sonic aesthetic is not surprising for Terepka, who as a member of psych-rock outfit Zula has made experimental-yet-accessible alternative music his bag. Whereas Zula's last release Grasshopper feels more textural and atmospheric, Sunlight is characterized by organic instruments playing counterpoint to various discordant electronic swells. It’s an ambitious effort for an EP, but Terepka pulls it off in a way that simultaneously isolates and engrosses the listener, a product of his desire to “acknowledge [isolation’s] importance while also trying to reach beyond it” throughout this release.