Greenwave Beth is the Sydney-based electro-pop duo of Charles Rushforth and Will Blackburn, who also play in indie-rock band Flowertruck. Their music captures what frontman Charles calls “a dance of agony”: that space where we move to the rhythm of our own anxieties and desires. Watching him perform, Rushforth seems to be quite literally in the throes of that dance, his body twisting and writhing to the beat of a drum machine.
The band’s latest EP, People in Agony, invites listeners to share in this dance. The four-track release features hypnotic drum and bass sequencing alongside Rushforth’s explosive vocals. On opener “Country,” surging synths give way to a frantic cry: “I can’t sleep through clenched teeth / not a boy anymore.” Moments later, on “Against Me,” Rushforth croons over pulsing beats, “Love’s a fight and we’ve spent our life on the ropes.” These restless deliberations on youth, love, and identity fill People in Agony with darkness, but also with the hope that we might learn to find some pleasure in these complicated states.
AdHoc spoke with Charles Rushforth about the new EP, his raucous performance style, and the Japanese “Mom and Dad” rock stars that look after him on tour. People in Agony is out now via Dinosaur City Records.
Greenwave Beth is a side project for you. What made you want to start it, and what are you doing with Greenwave that you aren’t able to do with Flowertruck?
Charles Rushforth: I suppose it’s funny calling Greenwave a side project—it definitely is one in terms of how much time it takes up, but it’s equally as important to me in terms of what I get to create with it. With Greenwave, I’m able to make music where I don’t feel hemmed in by the genre, whereas with Flowertruck I feel like I have to make a certain sound. Greenwave lets me work with other elements like violin or a choir quite easily, for example, and I know that won’t set anything off. I can play music that fluctuates between happier and sadder stuff, but it’s still got the same tone if that makes sense.
Yeah! It’s physically a musical risk, ‘cause we’ve got a lot of stuff cabled up and it doesn’t always work; stuff breaks and it’s really organic. It’s always funny to perform live, since we have a lot of energy and it can get kind of dangerous.
I remember being electrocuted at a house party once: I was standing in a pool of water in my socks, and this power board started freaking out because we were putting too much power through it. There were certain points on stage where I’d stand and get 50 volts going through my system. We didn’t stop; we just had to tailor that into the performance. I love that it’s always kind of risky, though—that feeling like you’re putting your life on the line every time you perform.
Welcome to AdHoc’s Femme Fridays, a weekly column highlighting the work and talent of trailblazing femmes throughout music history. In this week’s edition, we’re honoring the sensational Joni Mitchell, whose celebrated album, Blue, came out 47 years ago today.
Blue is a mutable shade. In the sky, it’s all sweet radiance; in our seas, it churns and laps. It’s an oscillating hue, but it carries with it a note of melancholy: We feel blue. We are blue. Some of us sing the blues—those sorrow songs birthed of Blackness, of plight. Joni Mitchell sang the blues, too, albeit of a different sort: hers was a blues of the mundane, of the individual, needling out her heartbreak with an Appalachian dulcimer. Her 1971 album, Blue, ebbs and flows like the sea, her voice weathering each pitfall and hard knock with breathtaking serenity.
From imagistic moments like, “I want to wreck my stockings in some jukebox dive,” on album opener “All I Want,” to the elusive divinity of “you’re in my blood like holy wine,” on the classic “A Case of You,” Mitchell’s Blue sows a public world out of her intimate musings, one that always seems just shy of tapping into some feminine truth. In a 1999 interview with Ottawa Citizen, Mitchell recounted the first time she performed Blue for a group of her male contemporaries:
“They were embarrassed for me. The feminine appetite for intimacy is stronger than it is in men. So my songwriter friends listened and they all shut down, even Neil Young. The only one who spoke up was Kris Kristofferson. ‘Jesus, Joni,’ he said. ‘Save something for yourself.’”
It isn’t uncommon to find descriptions of Blue that lean on Kristofferson’s famed quote; yet they’re missing something. What is there to save when you are a woman in the public eye, whose every relationship— from Graham Nash to James Taylor— is exposed for public consumption? What Mitchell understood, whether deliberately or not, was the power of her own self-representation: she released an album so rich in detail and soul-bearing that it could scarcely warrant poor criticism, especially when touched by her gentle acoustic plucks and fluttering voice. The strength of Blue, and of Mitchell herself, is the ability to take that dangerous stab at honesty and weave it into something beautiful.
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.
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.