BoA’s Japanese Triplets: New Album, New Mini Album AND Japanese Tour in 2018!

BoA, aka the Best of Asia, has announced that she will give birth to Japanese triplets in 2018!

…okay, so they’re not actual triplets; 2018 will see BoA release her ninth Japanese studio album, first Japanese mini album, and the 2018 installment of her ‘BoA the LIVE’ Japanese concert tours. Hurricane Venus is coming back with a vengeance!

The legendary BoA‘s ninth album will be titled 私このままでいいのかな (Watashi Kono Mama de Ii no Kana) or, in English, I’m Still Unsure. While #B9 has no official release date yet, it has been promised by Avex that I’m Still Unsure will drop ‘early next year.’ The singer has been fairly quiet in Japan (BoA has sporadically dropped a few Japanese singles over the years) since 2014’s disappointing WHO’S BACK? album; the heavily anticipated fourteen track collection offered just one unheard song for fans to salivate over and slid off the Oricon charts in three weeks.

Alongside I’m Still Unsure, BoA will be dropping her first ever mini album in Japan (we choose not to remember Merry Christmas from BoA, ladies) under the name Unchained. Details are also scarce for Unchained, except that there is a limited pre-order exclusively running for SOUL (BoA‘s fan club) members until November 30th, and that a CD+DVD edition will be sold through mu-mo (Avex’s online marketplace) at some point.

To celebrate the releases, BoA will be embarking on a five city tour of Japan entitled BoA THE LIVE 2018 ~Unchained~ which kicks off mid-March – an indication of when these opuses will be available, hopefully. Tour dates for BoA THE LIVE 2018 ~Unchained~ as follows:

March 15 (Thursday) Zepp Sapporo
March 21 (Wednesday) Fukuoka International Congress Center Main Hall
March 23 (Friday) Zepp Nagoya
March 30 day (Friday) Zepp Osaka Bayside
March 31 (Saturday) Zepp Osaka Bayside
4 May 3 (Tuesday) Zepp Tokyo
4 April (Tuesday) Zepp Tokyo

BoA recently confessed on Korean variety show Night Goblin that she doesn’t leave her house much because she’s so busy working on new music, plus it was also confirmed that she separated from actor Joo Won after one year of dating, so here’s hoping that means both I’m Still Unsure and Unchained will be full of BoA’s best bops to date.

Merry BoAmas, and whoever said “two’s company and three’s a crowd” was a dirty liar.

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Happy Sometimes, future pop sweetheart, on music industry frustration: “They say sex sells – but so does being a badass chick”

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LA keeps churning out a plethora of super woke ladies, and the aptly named Happy Sometimes (more on that later) is the latest one to reach my shore.

The 21 year old spilled tea on her hedonistic new single “Love for the Weekend,” the anecdote behind her unusual stage name plus why she thinks people who don’t fit in are the “chosen” ones.

 

Where did the stage name Happy Sometimes come from? What does it represent?

Happy Sometimes came about when I was going through a phase of not really knowing who I was as Cara, but always being so sure of what I was feeling when I was writing music. Being an artist means you can be anyone you want to be and you can choose how you want others to see you. I never wanted to be seen as a character or gimmick, but I wanted a name that I could grow into as a person and as an artist throughout my career. The name Happy Sometimes actually came up by accident in conversation. [It] went like this…

Friend: “How have you been?”

Me: “Oh you know, crying over boys, sad all of the time.”

Friend: “You can’t be sad all the time.”

Me: “Well, I’m Happy Sometimes.”

…and that was it. True story.

What is your message with the upcoming EP, Heartbreaker?

This EP is kind of an up-close-and-personal look into my life this past year. Growing up is hard and uncomfortable and naturally as a songwriter (or just any 22 year old underdeveloped human) you kind of throw yourself into those feelings and situations that force you to grow. I think the overall message is that it’s okay to embrace your feelings, good or bad, take chances, and make mistakes. Life is a crazy roller coaster and the future is never certain, but that’s what makes it fun right?

What do you want listeners to take away from your second single, “Love for the Weekend”?

“Love for the Weekend” is the most party anthem-y song on the EP. Most of my songs are super emotional and dig into a darker/grittier side of my life. Every song is a story/snapshot of an experience I’ve had and “Love for the Weekend” is kind of that moment I realized I am still so young and need to embrace that. At the end of the day, friends come and go, people change, shit happens, but sometimes you just need to let go, be young, and just have fun.

Where did the inspiration for the carefree attitude of “Love for the Weekend” rise from?

The attitude of the song came from the part of me that’s just trying to forget all the feels and have a good time. Weekends in LA are crazy and I was like, “If I don’t write about it, did it even happen?” lol

What is your creative process like?

My creative process is just basically living my life and surrounding myself with people that inspire me. It gets me in trouble sometimes because those people aren’t always good for me but there’s always something to write about in all the chaos. I’ve always been super true to the idea of telling my story exactly as it happens.

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Which female artists have inspired you in your life?

Lorde, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, Sia… All of these women are story tellers and stayed true to themselves and their music without limits.

Are there any female artists you’re particularly into at the moment?

One of my favorite female artists is AURORA. Her music/voice is the type that evokes pure emotion and that’s the kind of stuff that inspires me.

How do you feel about the representation of female musicians?

Hmm… I think a lot more things are accepted in our culture today. Nowadays women are becoming more powerful and respected than ever in the industry. There are a lot more female execs, producers, songwriters, and female artists who are doing it all themselves now. Whereas before in the pop world, you were kind of given a song to sing and told to go out on stage and be sexy. I think we are now given a lot more freedom and acceptance to do/say/act/dress however and whatever we want.

As a woman, is there anything about the music industry that frustrates you?

People (men and women) in this industry will try to shape/sexualize you [and] tell you what people ‘want to see from you’. I always admire those artists who give a middle finger to them and prove that you don’t need to be half naked or singing about certain things to be a huge success in pop music. They say sex sells but so does being a badass chick who doesn’t conform to society’s idea of that.

Which aspect of the music industry excites you the most?

The most exciting thing about being in the industry is the ability to reach people and make change through music. Because of social media, and the fact that everything is so accessible now, it is a lot easier to do so. Streaming has become the main way people are digesting music. Without Spotify, Apple Music, etc. it would be a lot harder to get your music heard.

Do you have any advice or top tips for other female musicians?

My advice would be to never compare yourself to anyone. Everybody has a place to shine in the world and if you stay 100% true to yourself and your vision, people will listen.

What do you stand for as an artist?

As an artist I stand for girls and boys like me who never felt like they fit in or were accepted by people. I had a really hard time growing up and so many people doubted me and the things I believed I could do. The way I see it is that if you don’t fit in, you have been chosen to do something different. Whether you know what that is or not, just know that being different and standing out is the most beautiful gift you can be given. Be a leader [and] be fearless, because who you are is unlike anyone else, and if you stay true to yourself you can do ANYTHING.

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Caught Live: MUNA @ Heaven, London

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Despite humorously coming out to the Goosebumps theme tune, MUNA’s Halloween show in London was anything but a fright fest.

Kicking their biggest headlining show in London off with the jittery guitar melodies of “Promise,” the LA three-piece did major justice to every song from their debut album About U (minus the tempestuous “After”) plus exuberant new cut “In My Way.” Main vocalist Katie Gavin refused to miss a note or a mood, despite a case of the giggles while revealing the touching context of “If U Love Me Now” amongst some playful teasing from band mates Josette Maskin and Naomi McPherson (a glimmer of the affectionate bond the three clearly share). The thumping pop beats of “End of Desire” were traded in for a sombre acoustic sound, breathing new life into the bop. The trio also put the MUNA Spin on two covers (U2‘s “With or Without U” and Stevie Nicks‘s “Edge of Seventeen”) and, true to the show’s Halloween theme, performed “Thriller” as an encore, complete with Josette theatrically reciting Vincent Price‘s speech (albeit from her iPhone, much to Katie‘s amusement).

Something that become undeniably apparent as the show unfolded was the shining star quality (not that all three of the girls don’t shine in their own way) possessed by Naomi – one that isn’t necessarily obvious just by listening to the album. The sweet and seemingly shy member of the band is credited as “rhythm guitar/synths/production” in MUNA‘s official bio, but the girl can also sing. Taking over from Katie to perform the cathartic “Outro,” Naomi utterly slayed the song with her honeyed yet powerhouse voice. Naomi is outrageously talented, and definitely needs more leads on recorded releases in the future.

Katie shared a brief anecdote before playing “Crying on the Bathroom Floor,” the band’s gripping tale of the aftermath of abusive love (which features the most iconic intro to a song ever btw). Katie decided that she didn’t actually want the song included on About U, in case the intimate lyrics made her appear too vulnerable or weak. She then went on to reiterate how important “Crying on the Bathroom Floor” has become; in today’s world, even going to a concert is an act of bravery and that the band believe “it is brave to make yourselves vulnerable.” It was a beautiful, heartfelt insight into the inner mentality of the band, who seem to genuinely care about the positive impact of their 80s-tinged gothpop music on their fans and the world around them.

This sentiment sparkled again in MUNA‘s exhilarating closing performance of “I Know a Place,” their uplifting anthem exploring the imperative need for safety in the LGBTQ community, which had even the security guards beaming and bopping; “this is their best song,” somebody in the crowd murmured. Before bursting into the song, Katie enthused about MUNA‘s ethos of creating safe spaces with their shows for their predominantly queer audience – a declaration met by roars from the costume clad crowd. “We’re in Heaven after all,” Katie reminded everybody.

There’s “a few bad things” the MUNA girls might have done (“that nobody made me doooooOOooOO“) but performing flawless music is definitely not one of those bad things.

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Premiere: Madi Rindge Shares Shiny Synth Brilliance with “Just One” + Q&A

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LA is turning out to be a real breeding ground of stellar pop acts; first there was my beloved MUNA, and then the wonderful Madison Margot, and now Madi Rindge.

 

Madi has been making a name for herself since she dropped “Summertime” in 2015, which Ellen DeGeneres featured on her EllenTube platform. Madi then dropped “California” (400K+ Spotify streams) and “Naked” (220K+ Spotify streams) before signing a publishing deal with LyricHouse – not bad for a girl with talent!

The last quarter of the year hears Madi dropping two impeccable bangers; “Comfortable” and “Just One.” “Just One” is a brilliant capture of that synth-R&B sound, reminiscent of NAO, with a superbly breezy sound perfect for recapturing summer’s warmth. To help you connect with “Just One” on a more intimate level, Madi had this to say about its context:

I wrote “Just One” last fall when I was questioning certain relationships in my life — with family, friends and my then boyfriend. I was trying to figure out which ones made me feel good and which ones didn’t. I got too comfortable in them because it was easy. But these relationships were actually just making everything harder and I was getting a false sense of support.

That’s when I started putting all of my energy into practicing self love and prioritizing the right relationships; the idea of needing “just one” person — like myself! — to love me for “everything I can and can’t do”.

This theme of finding zen within yourself also popped up in “Comfortable” which we had a conversation with Madi about, plus picked her brain about what she thinks female musicians need to be doing today.

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How did “Comfortable” come together?

I reached out to a couple musician friends of mine who I played a show with in the past and suggested we meet up and write a song together. So when we got together, we started brainstorming ideas and talking about what each of us was going through. We took a situation I was going through – the idea of being too comfortable in a relationship that it neither moves you forward nor backwards – and created this song. Writing this song in under an hour, which doesn’t happen too often, was super exciting and we were so stoked to release it!

What was your relationship like at the time you devised “Comfortable?”

It was stagnant and I was confused [by] what I was feeling. Talking through that situation with Tom (patchwork_) and Matt (AFTRHOURS), and writing this song with them helped me realize that just because something is easy doesn’t make it right. And that’s when I finally got some unexpected clarity.

Were there any hard feelings after this song was released?

Not at all! The three of us worked so well together and there was never any tension. We were all on the same page in terms of the direction, lyrical content, and production. This was one of the most rewarding writing sessions I’ve had and cannot wait to work with these two again!

There are a mix of positive and negative emotions in “Comfortable.” Was it your intention to convey these intermeshed feelings, or was your perspective more ‘positive vs. negative’ when you were writing this song?

When we sat down to write the song, I didn’t know where I was, emotionally speaking, in this relationship. I wasn’t feeling good and I wasn’t feeling bad, which made everything confusing. Even though I knew it wasn’t right, I was having a really hard time walking away and I think the lyrics really portray that; they show exactly what I was going through at the time we were writing.

Aside from your significant other, did any other people inspire this song?

Actually oftentimes when I’m writing a song, I pull personal experiences from different relationships and incorporate those into one song. But for this one, I stuck strictly to moments from this relationship, which felt really good!

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Since writing this song, how has your life changed?

I feel a lot more confident in what I want, who I am, and what I will and will not put up with. I think ultimately we have the choice to be happy but sometimes we need help learning how to get there. It’s not easy but it’s super important to know how much power each of us has in determining how we feel. For me, changing the way I allowed this person to treat me, made me feel powerful and free.

Were there any other titles you thought might fit the song before “Comfortable?”

I always consider different titles and in a collaboration we all throw out ideas but for this one, “Comfortable” was something we all thought was the one!

In “Comfortable,” it seems like you are in a different head-space and transitional period in your own life. Do you see this influencing your music or lyrics in the future?

Definitely! Since I write from personal experience, and life has its ups and downs, the topics I write and sing about will vary. Since I’m in my early twenties, which (so far) has been an intense period of change and growth, the music and lyrical content I write about will be constantly evolving. Writing, for me, is very therapeutic, and when I’m in a bad mood almost always makes me feel better.

As a woman, is there anything about the music industry that frustrates you?

Yes. Unfortunately, we live in a world where double standards and stereotypes still exist. I think women really need to stick together and support each other. So I’ve been surrounding myself with other women and men who feel the same way about changing the way we are treated and looked at, especially in the music industry.

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How do you feel about the representation of female musicians? Is there anything that you’d like to change?

I think the representation of female musicians in the music industry is changing in a positive way, especially with the help of artists like Lady Gaga, P!nk, Rihanna, Beyoncé, and so many more who are using their power and voice to talk about inequality. Of course there are so many things I’d like to change about the way women are viewed and treated, and not just in this industry. Though it’s a slow moving process, every person who speaks up is equally as important.

What issues do you think female musicians are facing today?

Currently there aren’t enough women in the industry in general. Producing, mixing, mastering, and engineering for instance are all careers hugely dominated by men. Part of the problem is that there seems to be little room for women to get jobs in these spaces and therefore this vicious cycle continues. Again, the industry is changing but it takes a lot of hard work and persistence, and is difficult, to create space for women in male-dominated industries like this.

What do you stand for as an artist?

My goals through my music are to change the way people perceive artists in general but specifically female musicians. I want to create a positive space for women, to feel empowered, confident, and taken seriously. I’ve experienced feeling powerless, weak and not good enough. Sexism is everywhere. It’s suffocating, infuriating and degrading. Sometimes it leads me to question my own self-worth and value. I hope to create a space where women feel comfortable and powerful with equal opportunity.

What else can we expect from you in 2017?

More music, shows, merchandise, and love!

If you could tell women and girls one thing about finding happiness on their own, what would it be?

In general, I think it’s important put yourself first! Eat right, find some physical activity you enjoy, and spend time with yourself figuring out what it is that feeds your soul! As cliché as it sounds, do something you love everyday – even if it’s something as simple as going for a walk outside or getting a coffee at your favorite coffee shop! (I love doing that haha).

But more specifically speaking… one thing that has started to change how I see the world and how I see myself, is meditation. It helps me clear my mind, stay focused, reduce anxiety, sleep more soundly, and more importantly find happiness! I highly recommend exploring an option like that.

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ROOKES: “It would be good if female musicians no longer felt they had to get naked in order to be seen”

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ROOKES, as she tells me, is “an artist and a woman AND queer.”

To mark the release of the London-via-Birmingham songbird’s debut single “The Heel of My Hand,” a stormy guitar-led romp, ROOKES spoke on the song’s meaning plus spilled some scalding hot tea about the “seriously slow progress” of the representation of female musicians…

Could you elaborate on the meaning behind “The Heel of My Hand”?

The phrase itself comes from a particular experience which is revealed in my music video coming out tomorrow – so I don’t want to spoil that little reveal. However, the song itself is about the period after I lost the first woman I ever fell in love with. It was a pivotal experience, and I had to come to terms with a lot in a short space of time. But primarily I was hurting and frustrated and needed to write her out of my system. The whole forthcoming EP is based around that experience of loving and then losing her.

How was it decided that “The Heel of My Hand” would become your debut song?

As a song it has a lot of drive to it, and I never get bored of performing it live, but I had another one in mind as a first single initially. When one of my musician friends was listening to it and mentioned it was her favorite on the record, that caused me to look at it again; I thought it had the potential to land with a bang.

We’re in a really politically charged world right now. How does that impact you, and your music?

It’s impossible for it not to have an impact. Artists are creatures of environment – we absorb what’s happening around us and project what we find significant from our experiences into our art. Writing as a cis woman has always been an interesting journey, as growing up I felt I identified more with the experiences of male song writers (with the exception of a few, like KD Lang, Tracey Chapman and Annie Lennox) – especially in terms of relationships and sexual desire. Héloïse Letissier has spoken well about this in the past, and the drive I feel to write more from a perspective of an instigator of events rather than someone who is subject to them only gets stronger the more outrageous behavior I see being perpetrated against women in the world. It adds fuel to the fire.

Which aspect of the music industry excites you the most?

There is a huge blossoming of brilliant women coming to the fore in popular music right now which feels so fresh and long overdue. I feel this is particularly true of women in electronic music. I had the joy of attending Ableton’s Loop conference last year and there was almost a 50:50 gender ratio (with many delightful shades in between) present. That was the first time that this had ever been true for me at any industry event and it blew my mind.

Which female artists have inspired you in your life?

I’ve mentioned a few already, but Imogen Heap has been an overwhelmingly strong influence – compositionally, lyrically, and career-wise – ever since she released Speak for Yourself. Annie Lennox has always been present for me as one of the best, most iconic female performers of all time. And I think Alanis Morrisette should get a special mention as she was the first female rock artist I started paying attention to in my teens.

Are there any female artists you’re particularly into at the moment?

Well, these days the list is endless! I love what artists like Grimes, Kimbra and Chagall are doing. I was recently introduced to Princess Nokia, whose rapping I think is brilliantly humorous and highly relevant right now. I’ve supported some great ones on tour like Stealing Sheep, She Makes War, Anna Pancaldi, Bryde. Then there’s Dream Wife, Warpaint, Tune Yards, Bat for Lashes… basically just hit up my Vox Femme playlist on Spotify and you’ll find all my faves.

How do you feel about the representation of female musicians?

That’s been some seriously slow progress over the years. It would be good if female musicians no longer felt they had to get naked in order to be seen – that’s been a trend for years and it’s just old now. We’ve had bursts of brilliance over the years that’s contradicted or intelligently challenged this – like the ebb and flow of androgynous fashion and frankly just Lady Gaga in all her weird glory, but the demand to “show some skin” keeps bouncing back, despite how deeply unoriginal it feels.

As a woman, is there anything about the music industry that frustrates you?

I have frequently had my competency as a musician questioned or challenged more than my male contemporaries, which is ridiculous. I mean – I can play five instruments, often more than one simultaneously. Watching my live set often helps to convince people that I know what I’m doing but the fact that I have to convince them in relation to my gender in the first place is tedious.

What issues do you think female musicians are facing today?

Honestly, more and more I want to encourage female musicians to stop apologizing for themselves – if not in words, then in attitude. I feel overall the tide is turning in this regard, but there’s still a lot of adjusting to do. We need to remind ourselves that we work hard, we are talented and we have a right to be here. Luckily I’m plugged into a brilliant circle of female artists and industry professionals (and a handful of male ones too!) and we aim to support and cheer each other on as much as possible. Women in the industry need more of that.

What do you stand for as an artist?

When I was preparing a treatment for “The Heel of My Hand” music video, I realized just how much scope it afforded lyrically to explore themes of gender and sexuality – the video reflects my wrestle with those things. That feels pretty pertinent to some of the issues that are being raised in different parts of the world right now. I recognize that at this juncture, representation is crucial in order for us to de-prejudice our society. Ultimately I’m an artist and a woman AND queer, so I am allied to those identities and feel it’s important to speak out in relation to issues connected with them.

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Yumi Zouma’s Christie Simpson: “The music industry is simply not a friendly place for women”

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Despite being the front woman of one of the most in-demand indie bands at the moment, the music industry can still feel like an unkind environment for women… just ask Yumi Zouma’s Christie Simpson.

In between a sold out world tour in support of Willowbank, the followup to their mightily acclaimed debut Yoncalla, Christie spilled tea on Willowbank and its conception, solo projects plus the gritty realities of existing as a woman in the rough music industry.

 

Where did the title WIllowbank stem from?

Willowbank is the name of a wildlife sanctuary park here in Christchurch – and Charlie fell into a pond there when he was very little! So that’s the story behind the name.

What would you say is Willowbank’s main theme or message?

I couldn’t say if there was really one main theme, but something I think we’ve all deducted from the overall feeling of the album is a sense of truth and honesty, sometimes painfully so. This definitely echoes throughout the lyrics but I feel that even down to the production, everything is more transparent on this album. My voice sounds clearer, more simplified, and more honest, both literally and figuratively. I think we all aimed at writing with a little more meaning and intention this time around – even if that meaning was skewed between our four very differing perspectives and experiences, it seems to have a created a vague unifying theme, I guess in sharing our common truths. One of the working titles jokingly tossed around for the album was Truth and Consequences, and although we eventually decided that sounded a little bit lame and a touch too serious, I think we all agreed at the time that it sure was an apt title for what we’d written!

Do you have a favorite melody from Willowbank? I’m leaning towards the opening guitar melody in “Depths (Pt. I)”.

Oh, it has to be the main guitar line in “Us, Together” – and then the way the vocal melody follows. I really love that melody. Reminds me a little bit of Shania Twain, but in all the best ways.

How about a favorite lyric? I think “Us, Together” has some wonderful lines in it.

Thank you! I’d nearly agree with you there – I love the first verse: “All you ever wanted, hidden in my basement for days / Everything is rotten when you leave and don’t stay away.”

I think my favourite of the lyrics that I contributed to the album is probably one from “December”: “when we meet in December tell me / where the flowers are on my body” – I had that last part saved in the notes of my phone for ages and I was waiting for the right place to use it.

What were the biggest differences in Willowbank’s creative process when compared with previous releases (especially YZ1, Yoncalla)?

We were together for so much more of the recording and the writing process, more than we ever had been in the past. On the last album, Yoncalla, we got a little more used to collaborating and bouncing ideas off of each other in real time, and I think we just took that a step further this time. It just gets easier the more time you spend with the same people – you get less shy about your good ideas, and you grow a thicker skin from the rejection of your bad ones! Another huge difference on this album (especially for me personally) was recording vocals in a proper vocal booth in a studio instead of a closet – the nuances of my voice were so much better captured in that environment and I think this probably allowed me more depth and more transparency in the way I sung what we’d written.

If Willowbank were a living person, what kind of person would they be?

Someone fighting to make sense of current times, navigating the struggles of everyday life and relationships and trying to get things done but always worried that they’re trying too hard or not trying hard enough. Loves a good boogie once in a while though. Maybe a little downtrodden but still hopeful. A realistic optimist. Maybe a Sagittarius like me. Haha!

What emotions and feelings does WIllowbank conjure up inside of you?

I feel proud – proud and excited. We all worked so hard on it and we’re happy with it – there’s not much more to it really. These songs already have a sense of familiarity to me too – they ring bells in my head even when so freshly finished, and that’s a feeling I love, and a feeling that I hope stays with me too.

Where did the decision to split “Depths” into two parts come from?

Josh really liked the melody and wanted to play around with it a bit and try some new chord progressions – he was curious to see what he could do with the melody, and he’d just bought a new reverb pedal to play with. And thus “Depths Pt. II” was born! At one stage we thought we might have to choose between the two versions and then we decided to put both on the album.

I’m particularly interested to know what “Ostra” is speaking about, and what the title means. Are you able to explain?

‘Close like coda nostra’ was a line in the song before we reworked some lyrics – Josh had misunderstood the name for the mafia family from The Sopranos and then Charlie misheard that as ‘close like cold in Ostra’ (the place in Norway) and the title was the only part we kept!

What is the toughest part of creating new music?

Sometimes the toughest part is when you’ve got a cool idea and you’re not sure what to do with it!

Have you ever thought about doing a solo project, a la Arcadia by Ramona Lisa aka Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek?

I have thought about it! There have been a few demos that never made it to an album that I personally loved, so maybe one day…

How do you feel about the representation of female musicians? Is there anything that you’d like to change?

There is so much I’d like to change – it’s hard to know where to start. I think there are some amazing women and non-male folks out there doing amazing things just by existing in the music scene and that is surely one of the most important things – visibility. Representation of women of colour in music is very slowly improving and more voices are being heard and positive change is being made, but there is still so, so much that needs to change. Something that affects me personally too is this huge fixation on appearance that still plagues the music industry and puts a huge pressure on women musicians. Sometimes I hate having my photo taken and posted on the band Instagram when I’m not wearing makeup – but how stupid is that? That kind of thinking would never even cross the minds of my male bandmates.

As a woman, is there anything about the music industry that frustrates you?

See previous answer I suppose! There are so many things I could say here because it really is frustrating sometimes being a woman and a musician, but I think what it boils down to is just the sexism and racism that is so rife throughout the industry, even in indie circles. Expectations are so high if you are a woman – there’s no room for fumbling or being unsure of yourself in the same way that some white dude bands get away with, almost pulling it off as their schtick. I’ve learnt to deal with this and I’ve risen to the challenge in many occasions – but it really does suck that it should have to be such a challenge in the first place.

What issues do you think female musicians are facing today?

I feel as though I’ve sort of answered this in my previous answers, but to sum it up, the music industry is simply not a friendly place for women. We have this hyper-aware social media view of everything these days that creates a strange environment in which to exist as a women musician. All the framework is set up to help white men succeed, and so everyone else has to work so much harder and face so much adversity.

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Premiere: ASH Challenges Teenage Despondency with Theatrical Debut Single “Our Time Is Now”

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ASH is a fledgling US singer-songwriter who aims to inspire with her real and unforgettable expressions of millennial struggle. She uses her music as an avenue to express contemporary concerns, which is replicated in her raw sound and honest lyrics.

This is ASH’s message about “Our Time Is Now,” an acoustic yet theatrical number which challenges teenage despondency and also serves as her very first introduction to the world as an artist:

My debut EP Our Truths features four tracks, each exploring different struggles that teens have navigating today’s cultural and generational environment.  I felt it was important to shed light on the contemporary battles we all face with conflicts between our hearts and our minds, relationships that constantly morph and change, the toxic interactions and situations we have with one another, the increase of mental illness in our generation and the immense pressures we feel to be a more successful than our predecessors.  Other tracks on this EP include “Stay the Same,” “Toxic Reign,” and “Poison Love.”

The song “Our Time Is Now” focuses on the common stereotypes of teenagers;  that we have it better than other generations, have become entitled and are expected and destined to fail. I wanted to highlight that there is this whole other world that teenagers, specifically of the 21st century, are experiencing. This world is riddled with abusive and destructive bullying, increasingly strict and prescriptive ideas of ideal or appropriate body image and harsh stigmas on mental illness, which is on the rise in the teenage population. “Our Time Is Now” challenges the status quo, and is an anthemic and proactive battle cry that we aren’t going to take it anymore. Our time is now to fix things, to live better, to be ourselves and shine.

Everyone has had different experiences throughout their adolescence, but I hope this song can help others to acknowledge and accept themselves and empower them to spread positive change.

Stay tuned for the release of ASH‘s Our Truths EP!

Connect with ASH on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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The Rose Monarch’s April Rose: “I wish everyone who makes art could live off of their art”

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April Rose fronts The Rose Monarch, a new power-house rock band from Long Island with an “eccentric and dark modern-rock sound.”

In support of the band’s new EP Echoes from the End, April spilled tea on being an indie band, being a woman in an indie band and death.

What inspired the band name ‘The Rose Monarch’?

AR: Back in 2016, we had written and produced a few songs with Ace Enders before we branded ourselves with a name. The songs we developed were lush and soft, but also had really strong and tough elements. So essentially we brainstormed a ton of different words that mimicked that contrast. We were shooting for something regal and memorable – so “The Rose Monarch” seemed like the right fit when we kept saying it to each other. Also, there were many strong women in my lineage with the first name of “Rose,” (as well as it being a part of my name) so it sort of pays homage to that as well. At the end of the day though, we all believe that you create what your band name means over time – so it really could’ve been anything. This just worked for us.

Where did the title of your EP Echoes from the End come from? What does that statement symbolize?

AR: Echoes From the End was the first body of work that we ever named together and it was NOT easy. Ultimately, Jared (drums/brother) and I were brainstorming via text with Matt (bass/band mediator) and we both texted each other our idea for this title at the same time. I have screenshots to prove it! We knew we wanted something along the lines of “Dying Can Help You Live,” “Songs About Death For Living,” all of the ideas leading up to the final title sounded like bad titles for psychology articles and self-help books…

So, the sentiment ‘Echoes from the End’ can be easily translated to: what happens after the end of an event or a moment? Are there moments after the end? Of course. The songs on this EP sort of helped us formulate this title as many of the lyrics and ideas are very conclusive and observatory of something highly specific that has passed or been birthed from the ending of a moment.

What inspired the EP’s theme of “mortality and death on an intimate level”?

AR: The first three singles we released were totally centred around love and heartbreak – which is usually my go-to for writing and singing. However, the subject became stale to me. I was so over being upset and angry. I entered this phase of extreme awareness of who I was and who I could ultimately be. For the first time ever – I was “going through the motions,” living with less of a purpose than I had in the past, because I had to only focus on me and my needs. It was a lonely feeling for about a year, but I realized that people have really been listening to what we’ve been putting out and I wanted to share this awareness of mortality as a positive thing. You can’t just ride on feelings for your entire life, you need a careful balance of awareness and intelligence to help guide you. I learned that through making this EP and through the year that we spent writing it. The theme developed itself around what I was going through, it seems.

What do you think happens after death? Why do you think society fears it so much?

AR: I have faith in a higher being, but I truly don’t think any categorization of “afterlife” is comprehensible to anyone who’s on this earth. I think afterlife is a projection that we’ve created, it feels nice to know that we will be welcomed into another world one day. It’s scary to not know what’s next… whether its tomorrow or 80 years from now, it’s natural. I think society fears loss because we are all a part of a larger ecosystem that interacts and reacts alongside each other. Although we are becoming more anti-social with introduction of different technologies and alternate realities, I believe we naturally crave some sort of community and leaving that community for an unknown afterlife is frightening.

You’re currently an indie band, but would you ever go down the ‘traditional’ route of signing with a major label and hiring a manager?

AR: Absolutely. We’re all really into creating our initiatives and content as a band, but it would be really amazing to collaborate with some indie labels and teams of people that support artists that we love and have watched grow throughout the years.

What issues are indie bands facing in today’s music industry?

AR: I don’t know what most indie bands deal with, personally – but the hardest thing for us (and I presume mostly everyone else) is funding our own project. We attempt to execute most things that a ‘famous’ band would and hold all of our output to a professional standard. We tend to treat the result of every project as if we had an entire creative team, label, management company, booker, accountant and designers. We have developed a small team over time – but things are still really hectic. Luckily our friends are always gracious about offering some of their services for cheap or free, because they love it just like we do (but most of the time don’t accept their graciousness and pay them anyway)

The Rose Monarch only launched in July 2016 and yet you’ve already secured quite a few slots as opening acts. Which performance were you the most anxious about?

AR: Yeah! We got really lucky. I’d say I was the most nervous for our last show at Webster Hall, opening for Eisley, Civilian & Backwards Dancer. Mostly because I remember how many people were at the first Webster Hall show we played – so I knew I’d have a lot of people to intrigue and impress. That show wound up being one of my favorites that I’ve ever played.

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Have you noticed any differences in representations between mainstream and indie female musicians?

AR: It’s hard to say. I think women and female identifying people have it really tough being properly represented in any industry, especially the music industry… especially the ROCK music industry. I just recently spoke to a friend who sells merch and tours with huge bands and we shared our stories about not feeling immediately welcomed or being looked past as ‘just some chick with the band.’ It seems like we’re always having to prove ourselves a little bit more, regardless of how mainstream or indie.

If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be?

AR: Maybe I’d say… I wish everyone who makes art could live off of their art. The barriers to entry fluctuate quite often, so being lucky is a huge element of the industry. Every negative thing I think to say already of exists within many other industries: misogyny, poor representation, politics, over-saturation, digitization ruining profits and/or jobs. So I guess those are some things I’d change about the world in general.

Call me crazy, but it’s kind of like getting married… you’ll never find a person that doesn’t upset you or get you down once in a while. Ideally, the person you’re with will bring you up 99.5% of the time. Every industry has its quirks, this is the one I picked – ‘til death do us part.

Which country would you like to perform in the most?

AR: I want to travel all around the world if possible, but I really want to visit and play in Japan!

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Do any female musicians influence you in any way?

AR: Of course, it will be hard to name them all but some of my go-tos are Brittany Howard, Laura Jane Grace and Pink! I love the flawlessness, talent and rawness of Brittany Howard – frontwoman of Alabama Shakes. Laura Jane Grace has an incredible story and has been writing rebellious and fearless anthems since age 16. Pink is just sexy, strong and her music has always had themes that have resonated with me.

What does The Rose Monarch stand for, as artists?

AR: It’s hard to lump all of our ideas and outlooks into one general message but regardless of how different we are – we all share the same vision and interest in becoming a creative machine that is truly larger than life. We’ve always wanted to be musical and thoughtful as well as palatable to the mainstream listener. At the end of the day, we’re all a bunch of friends that were lucky enough to find each other and grew up playing music together. Along the way we decided that we could invest our trust, patience, time and money into one another and we’re still going.

There is no hidden agenda, message or pressing statement that we wish to make. But we certainly hope that creating music with introspective themes, facilitating safe shows to attend and working hard without fear of failing, inspires listeners in our corner of the world to get up and push themselves to live in their absolute TRUTH!

Where do you see the band in five years?

AR: Somewhere giant, loud and filled with happy people cheering for us. I also want to be touring more frequently and for longer periods of time! I love where we are at now, I just want to keep going!

Photography in featured image by Jack Nesbitt. Connect with The Rose Monarch on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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Exclusive Interview: Everything’s Coming Up ROZES

From huge hits with The Chainsmokers and Galantis to her own mega bops, everything’s coming up ROZES.

See what the EDM darling had to say about her single “Canyons,” the value of album artwork plus some sound advice for women everywhere.

Explain the background behind your single “Canyons.”

ROZES: When I wrote “Canyons”, I was in a disagreement with someone who I love dearly. “Canyons” is the realization that you can disagree with the people you love most, yet still be compatible. It was a learning process for me, and I wanted to be able to share how I felt about the “rift” between me and this person.

Will “Canyons” be appearing on an album anytime soon?

ROZES: “Canyons” will be part of a larger piece of work, whether it be an EP or an album is still yet to be decided.

On “Roses”, your 2015 hit with The Chainsmokers, you sang “Deep in my bones, I can feel you.” Now in 2017 on “Canyons” we hear you singing “I swear I can’t feel you anymore.” Was this intentional? Are these lyrics about the same relationship?

ROZES: Wow, I actually never even thought about this connection! Though I’m still in the relationship, the song is not about him, but rather one of my best friends.

The Chainsmokers have received a lot of criticism for their music, with many saying it isn’t very original. Why do you think The Chainsmokers are facing these criticisms?

ROZES: I think it’s easy to criticize someone at the top. Other artists and fans will always have their particular favorite songs and even some jealousy, that’s the way of the industry. Regardless of how you’re being talked about, you’re still being talked about, which means you’re making an impact. No matter the criticism and opinions, The Chainsmokers have built an amazing and unique name for themselves, and have, in turn, created a genre that a lot of artists are trying to fit into. I applaud Drew and Alex for staying true to themselves and their musical style despite any criticism.

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What’s your creative process like?

ROZES: My creative process changes day to day. Usually I start on the piano with an idea or concept in mind. I like to write about the things I’m going through or a friend is going through, because I want to be as “real” as possible.

How did you carve out your own sound?

ROZES: I don’t think my sound was ever a planned thing. I’m made up of pieces of each artist I grew up listening to. Pieces of my lyrics are honest like Adele, and pieces of my sound are drawn from No Doubt; however, I still like putting out what I think is honest and “cool,” whatever that may sound like!

What magnetized you to EDM music in particular?

ROZES: I actually never planned to be an EDM artist, I just kind of fell into it. When The Chainsmokers found me, I was just an indie artist releasing melodramatic songs on SoundCloud. Once I wrote “Roses” it was almost like the path into the EDM world just opened up to me.

Speaking to Billboard last year, you said “dance music is definitely not where I want to stay for my career” – where do you want to go instead?

ROZES: Ideally I want to blur genre lines. I don’t know exactly where I’d like to end up, as I’m not the type to want to be boxed in, but right now I’m enjoying writing in the electronic-pop genre.

Where do you draw inspiration from for your lyrics, your look and your sound?

ROZES: Everything is derived from my real life or my friends’ lives. I want to tell my listeners the truth… I basically want them to feel like they’re reading my diary. As far as my look, I mostly love wearing black rompers to perform, because I’m always jumping around, and my gold crown. I don’t know that I have a specific look… I just like what I like! My sound is basically whatever I come up with, it’s usually an emotional lyric with some added electronic and summery vibes.

The artwork for your music is really cute. How important is album artwork to you, and what do you hope to represent through the artwork for your music?

ROZES: Thank you! I think artwork is a super important piece to releasing a new song. It sets the stage for what the listeners should anticipate. My hope with my artwork is that it portrays an emotion that correlates with the vibe of the song. I like everything to make sense.

As a woman in the music industry, what’s your experience been like?

ROZES: I think any industry right now is tough for a woman. The music industry is no different. It would be easier if I could just be “bros” with someone, and not have to look a certain way or sound a certain way to get recognition. As a woman I find it imperative that I am a positive role model for younger listeners. It is so important as a woman to have opinions and to stand for something, and I want my fans to know that too.

Which issues are female singers facing, if any?

ROZES: I think female singers face a number of standards that a lot of men aren’t held to: “is her outfit “glam” enough, are her roots died, does she get her nails done, is she fit and skinny,” they’re all things that viewers and fans scrutinize. I think part of the problem is how hard women are on other women, and sometimes are pushed to compete with one another. I see fans who will turn to their boyfriends with a face of disgust as I’m singing, and I know this isn’t personal, and it is their way of proving status, but it’s also hard not to take personally. Female singers have to learn how to survive around other females, and I think that’s the toughest part.

Your 2016 song “Under the Grave” is quite Sia-esque, especially the powerful vocal delivery. Which female musicians inspire you the most?

ROZES: I’ve always been inspired by Adele, No Doubt, Amy Winehouse, Fleetwood Mac. Currently, I’ve been inspired a lot by Twenty One Pilots.

Which female musicians would you love to work with? Who are you into at the moment?

ROZES: I would love to work with Marren Morris, Bishop Briggs, and Miley Cyrus. These females also happen to be the ones I’m musically obsessing over lately.

What tips do you have, especially for women, for music industry success?

ROZES: My best advice is to learn how to do everything yourself: writing, producing, playing instruments… Learn as much as you can because it will teach you who you are. I also would say to learn how to not take things personally – develop thick skin. Rejection happens daily, people will always judge you, and you cannot be everyone’s perfect.

What’s next for ROZES in 2017?

ROZES: A lot! In September, I have my collaboration with Galantis called “Girls on Boys” and then my solo single “Famous” on 9/29. Then I’ll be touring with MAX in the Fall, and a lot more of my solo stuff to be released! I’m super excited!

Connect with ROZES on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

 

J-pop icon Che’Nelle on a decade in the industry: “It’s pretty surreal”

SheBOPS got an interview for y’all!

The interview is with Che’Nelle, who is celebrating a decade as a performer with the recent release of Metamorphosis, her first foray into the international market since becoming a multi-platinum icon in Japan.

I have to know – where did the iconic “Che’Nelle got a story for y’all!” catchphrase come from?

Che’Nelle: I have no idea why to be honest, all I remember was when I recorded “I Fell in Love with the DJ” in my home studio back in Perth, that’s what naturally came out when I hit record, it was part of my adlibs lol. I wasn’t planning to use that on every song, but I have used it again on a couple of my other songs lol.

Your international album Metamorphosis dropped on September 6th. What’s the tea with this new album – what have you done differently this time for the record to be called Metamorphosis? 

Che’Nelle: I felt that title, one: was the first thing that came to mind and stuck because of the kind of life I gave this album as I was creating it and the place I am now after all the other releases in my life, and two: what I’ve done differently is simply allowing myself to open up and indulge in the freedom of creating music that speaks from my heart, my experiences, views and my imaginations.

Which lyric from Metamorphosis summarizes the theme of the album?

Che’Nelle: “HOME.”

What inspired your single “Love You like Me” from the album?

Che’Nelle: I love dancehall pop-ish kind of beats. My first single happens to be that. When “Love You Like Me” was created it wasn’t talked about that I specifically wanted that kind of beat but it turned out that way, which was awesome. I remember my producer Mario playing the piano, which you hear in the start of the song, and I began writing. The vision grew into a story or message about how some people may have everything that they are looking for in a person to love and be loved by if they would just pay attention… that person is usually right under their nose and they may have overlooked them.

How did you get Konshens on the track?

Che’Nelle: I threatened him! I twisted his arm and shoved him against a wall and said “give me a verse or I’ll hurt ya!!” hahaha

No… that would’ve been more exciting right? lol I met him at an Empire party actually in LA, I was introduced to him by Ghazi, the head of Empire, and we all just talked and hung out a little. We were talking about the different projects we were doing and “Love You Like Me” came up and we thought having him feature on it would be so much fun and would def color the song in a different way which it did. Anyways he said he was down! And I was so stoked and grateful! THANKS KONSHENS!

Side bar, I love his “Bruk Off Ya Back” song. Freaking love it.

You are celebrating a decade in the industry this year with your fifth Japanese album Destiny – did you ever see yourself reaching this stage?

Che’Nelle: Nope not at all lol, pretty surreal.

What sparked the decision to release music in Japan?

Che’Nelle: It began with the single “I Fell in Love With the DJ.” When that song blew up out there, they wanted an album which luckily I already had put together called Things Happen For a Reason. So it wasn’t really a decision made by me, the song made the decision to spread and it caught attention over there. That was the miracle. After that was when the J-pop albums were released which were completely different to the first international album.

Have you faced any difficulties recording and releasing music in Japanese, as opposed to English?

Che’Nelle: I have faced more trouble releasing music in English then in Japanese, and I have faced more trouble recording in Japanese then in English 😉 oh the irony lol

Was there ever a moment where you felt like giving up on music and doing something else?

Che’Nelle: Mmmm, maybe for a super short period of time I would think about giving up when I was depressed or in a low place or something, but not entirely where I put music completely aside and actually got another job.

What’s your creative process like when making a new album? How do you get in the zone?

Che’Nelle: I feel like every album was a different experience and the zone I get into would depend on where I’m at at that time, what I was experiencing, seeing and feeling. Generally my creative process is at its best when I’m in a room where I and the producer/writers gel. I don’t really over think things, I just go in and catch a vibe, sometimes it’s dope and sometimes it’s not… When I hear an arrangement and I get inspired by it I start writing, sometimes I would think of concepts before heading to the studio… sometimes I get writer’s block, sometimes I write and record a song in an hour lol it’s different at different times, never one way…

What have you noticed about the treatment of female artists in Japan?

Che’Nelle: The treatment? Wow… mmmm from what I’ve seen they seem to be respected by the industry? lol I think they have a lot of fans that look up to them.

Who are your favorite women in J-pop right now?

Che’Nelle: Probably Crystal Kay, AI and the awesome MINMI.

Are there any female musicians who really inspire you?

Che’Nelle: Pink, Alessia Cara, Adele, Madonna.

“Feel Good” (2010) is probably one of my favorite songs ever because of how uplifting it is. Out of all of your songs, which one would you pick as your favorite and why?

Che’Nelle: That’s kind of hard, I think I have a bunch of favorites. Right now I think “Destiny” is my favorite, it’s really fun singing it, it has attitude and a darkness to it which I love and I love the melody and arrangement of the song.

You wrote “Can’t Breathe” for Leona Lewis’s Echo album and also featured Tinchy Stryder on “Hurry Up” in 2008. Are there any other British artists you’d like to work with?

Che’Nelle: I would like to work with Sam Smith and Adele.

As an artist who writes most of her music, do you think it’s important for singers to write their own lyrics?

Che’Nelle: If that’s what they love to do, then of course. Some artists don’t write and they just love to sing and they can take a song and make it theirs and that’s just as important to be able to do that.

Is there anything you haven’t pursued yet which you want to? Has Che’Nelle got a coffee table book, perfume or remix album for y’all?

Che’Nelle: Maybe acting.

What valuable lessons have you learnt since you debuted ten years ago?

Che’Nelle: I think the biggest lesson I learned is if you are not clear about what you value the most in life, in what you want to become and knowing what you want to do, you are going to be living under someone else’s values, doing what they are clear on and what they want to do. So being clear and knowing what’s authentic to you is when life and everything you do starts to feel more fulfilling and aligned.

Do you have a special message for your fans?

Che’Nelle: Special message to my fans! Thank you for the amazing support and trust in my music. I’m grateful for those who have been inspired! I’m working to get to as many cities as possible in the world to perform, share and inspire people with my music. Look out!!… Might be in your city soon! I have a couple of music videos coming out so stay tuned!

LOVE CHE’

Metamorphosis is out now. Connect with Che’Nelle on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.