Interview with Desert Sharks

Interview with Desert Sharks

Desert Sharks (photo by Jessica Gurewitz)


Full Time Aesthetic sat down with Brooklyn’s own doom punk band, Desert Sharks, to chat about their new album and new guitarist, plus their song writing process, wigs, and alligators. 

The Tower is out March 31 via Substitute Scene Records. Check out their release party April 1 at the Sultan Room with Choked Up and Kissed by an Animal.


Desert Sharks- The Tower

Tarot card design by Lindsay D. Williams


How did you decide to choose “Sleepy Pie” as your first single to release?

Stephanie Gunther (bass/lead vox): This is the catchiest one on the new album, for sure. A lot of the songs are kind of heavy, not that this isn’t heavy, but it definitely has a dreamier sound. The backing vocals are more dreamy.

Cait Smith (rhythm guitar/backing vox): It’s got sort of like a familiar surf rock vibe while also taking a dark turn. Seemed like a good way to hook people.


The video was so fun, with, like, the sleepover thing, and then it quickly went into a horror thing. Are you all horror fans? How did you get the idea to take it to that level?

Stephanie: I think most of us are horror fans. We knew going into it that because the song is about being a dream girl, we wanted it to devolve in some kind of way. We weren’t sure exactly where we were going to take it, but then our friend Jeanette Moses who shot the video, came up with that idea. “What if you get possessed and there’s blood?” So we were like, that’s totally along the lines of what we were thinking, so it kind of just worked out that way. 

Sunny Veniero (lead guitar): That’s also one of the reasons we released that song first, because we sent her the two singles and asked her which one she wanted to do a video to, and it was “Sleepy Pie,” so that’s what we released first. 

Cait: Yeah, she’s a super pro. Excellent director and editor. We knew this video was going to be good, so we thought we should lead with that. It turned out, we were right! 

[All laugh.] 


It was great! And who played the mom character? 

Stephanie: Emily from Substitute Scene, also Sunny’s gf. 

Sunny: Head of our record label. 

Stephanie: She wore my wig that I like to lovingly say—who did I say it made me look like? From Twisted Sister? 

Everyone: Dee Snider! [laughter]



This is your first album since 2019, and we’ve all been through some things since then. How do you think the band has changed, and how have you changed as musicians? I know you have Cait now. How are things now? 

Stephanie: I think the world stopping changed songwriting for us, for sure, because we always would practice in person, and then we were forced to start using technology more, like use GarageBand more. It ended up really serving us, because all our previous times going in to the studio, we didn’t have demos really. Like, we had phone demos from the practice space. Being pushed to work with GarageBand more, we switched our writing style to where it’s like, let’s actually record it out how we want the final product to sound. We experimented with it that way which was really helpful with backing vocals and guitar solos and stuff like that. I would say that was the biggest change in our process.


So what was that like, going with your own recordings where you laid it out, arranged it, composed the songs the way you liked them, and then you took them to [recording engineer and producer] Jeff Berner. How did that go? 

Stephanie: It was amazing. Jeff is amazing. We did two cover songs with him in 2021 so we got to see how he works. The way it feels when you record with Jeff Berner is that you have this other member in your band who is just as excited and just as dedicated to getting the sound that you want. He’s helped capture exactly what we want. We show him the demo and we’re like this is the vibe and he’ll turn that up, you know? He gets it. 


It sounds really good, what I’ve heard so far.

Stephanie: Thanks! 

Cait: He knows the fun, weird pedals to pull out. 

Sunny: Yeah, totally. 

Cait: You know, to sound like a swarm of bees. 

Sunny: Like, how do we make a weird spaceship sound here, and he’d be like I got it! And he’d come out with all these things.

Cait: Like pedals from the 80s…

Sunny: He had really great ideas, too, like the little things to add that we never would have thought of. 

Stephanie: He’s 100 percent in. That’s why he’s awesome to work with.


Desert Sharks performing

Desert Sharks in 2022 (photo by Kate Hoos)


How did you start working with Substitute Scene, your record label? 

Stephanie: Emily [O’Brien] is just as excited and dedicated as we are. When we were deciding who to work with, even with Baby’s Gold Death Stadium we were like, we want someone who likes our band, who’s excited about the release. We’d rather work with someone we know who’s excited and wants to put in as much effort as we want to. Emily fits all of that. She’s awesome. 

Cait: Every artist she works with, she really loves, and it completely shows. She totally throws herself in for these artists and it’s really great. 

Stephanie: She’s, like, the nicest person ever. When you feel awkward and shy, she’s like, “I’m Emily! I have this label. Check out this cool band!” And you’re like, “Thanks, Emily! Thanks, Mom!” That’s why she was a great mom in our video. 

Cait: She turned in an award-winning performance.

[All laugh.] 

I was sold on it.

I saw that you have this cool shirt with the tower tarot card on it. Why did you choose the tower card in particular out of all the tarot cards?

Stephanie: It stemmed from when we were writing the album. The last song we wrote, I called it “The Tower.” I dabble with tarot. I’m not going to act like I’m an expert. I had a tower year. The tower card is one of the most intense cards because it represents major upheaval, chaos, and destruction. But on the other hand, it offers space for newness, enlightenment, and change. We were all going through all of that, especially during Covid and everything. 

I knew I wanted to write that song specifically titled “The Tower,” because I was in a tower year in 2022. When we worked on it, we thought this would be a really good theme for the whole album because we all went through this massive change and massive upheaval. But then we also had positive change, like we had Cait join the band. This is the first record with Cait on it. It feels like we found our missing puzzle piece and our sound is finally complete.


How did you all find Cait and bring her into the band? How did you know that Cait was the one? 

Stephanie: We wanted to give her a rose. 

Cait: Like when you gave me the practice space key ceremoniously. We met many years ago, I guess, because I had a band that I fronted back in 2016 called No Honeymoon. I was playing around with that for a couple years. I had played with these guys a couple times. Seen them a few times. I always loved Desert Sharks. We were friendly from around. Then I saw that they were hiring for a new member. I was like [gasp], it’s gonna be me! 

Stephanie: She was right!

Cait: I sent an email, a very professional email. 

Stephanie: It was the sweetest email.

Cait. Such a nice email.

Stephanie: Then she came to the first practice and had like notes and knew every song, and we were like, oh my god! 

Cait: I came prepared. 

Stephanie: We fell in love very quickly. 

Cait: It was great.

Sunny: I remember afterwards, the three of us were gonna have the conversation of what do you think? And we were all like, duh!

Cait: I came in prepared and it was pretty great! And here we are a year and a half later. An EP later.


Desert Sharks performing

Desert Sharks in 2023 (photo by Kate Hoos)


You just had a release party for the “Sleepy Pie” video recently, how did that go?

Stephanie: It was awesome. We did a show at Our Wicked Lady’s rooftop with Big Oil and The Planes. For most of us, we hadn’t been to OWL’s rooftop in a really long time and it is nice up there! There’s fog machines and laser beam lights and things like that. But aside from that, a sea of friends showed up. 

Sunny: We played the video before we performed. 

Stephanie: Yeah, it was the best vibes you could hope for. It was really, really exciting. 


So then next you have your EP release party at the Sultan Room April 1st with Choked Up and Kissed by an Animal? Are y’all super excited about that?

Cait: Super excited. 

Stephanie: There’s some outfit planning for that.


Do you have any backstage rituals, like something you always do or a way to get yourself in the zone? 

Sunny: We have to immediately find a drink ticket. 

Cait: I’m with that one. Get the drink ticket. 

Stephanie: A beverage or smokage will help. I forgot to mention this, we had this livestream yesterday and I put lapis in my pocket which is for your throat chakra. 

Cait: I think it worked, because we sounded good. Like your vocals were super good. 

Stephanie: Thanks! So I have to keep lapis in my pocket, is what I’ve learned. Although I might have lost it. Rebecca, tell us yours, you haven’t said anything. 

Rebecca Fruchter (drums): My pre-show ritual is I don’t have one, currently. I just try to show up to the show on time. 


That’s key. 

Stephanie: You show up and you say you don’t want your drink ticket and you give it away. 

Rebecca: And then I set up all the merch. And adjust the drums, as you know you have to do. 

Stephanie: I think what we need to do is start planning some pre-show rituals. Like each show, we’ll introduce a new one and see which one works better. 

Cait: Workshop it. 

Sunny: We’ll hold hands in a circle. 

Stephanie: Like before a game, when you put your hands in the middle. 

Rebecca: What are we gonna say though? 

Everyone: Um…

Stephanie: Tower! 


What would you do if you got possessed in the middle of the show?

Stephanie: I think it would only add to the ambience. 

Rebecca: Great energy! 

Stephanie: I don’t think people would know the difference though. It would be lovely to be able to Alice Cooper it out and have a whole scene with blood and stuff, but we’re not at that level. Maybe in the future. Like for “Sleepy Pie.” 

Sunny: Totally.

Stephanie: Maybe we should bring Toby though. 

Rebecca: Yes, actually, my coworker was like, “Oh, is Toby going to be at the video release?” And I was like, “Oh no,” and he was like, “You should bring him.”

Cait: We definitely should bring Toby.

Sunny: Toby is the alligator in the video. 


Oh! I love the alligator. 

Cait: He really stole the show, him and Emily. 

Stephanie: We should have a photo of Toby and Emily and be like, here are the real stars. 


Desert Sharks performing

Desert Sharks in 2023 (photo by Kate Hoos)


I saw that you describe your music as gloom punk? What’s the distinction there? 

Stephanie: Bandcamp called us gloom punk and we were like, ooh, we like that. People say we sound like this band or that band. We had a couple people say we sound like Ramones meets Black Sabbath. That was the highest, most beautiful compliment ever. I think gloom punk absorbs that. We have a little bit of metal, a little goth, a little punk, a little garage that we try to squish in together. I feel like it’s fitting. 


Is there anything else you’re working on? Will you go on tour?

Stephanie: We have a couple small tours coming up. Just local stuff starting in April, hopefully Midwest in the summer, and more in the fall. 

Sunny: For merch, we have a vinyl record that’s coming out and it’s on preorder right now. 

Stephanie: The first 100 get a tarot card. 

Cait: We have a long-sleeved shirt with tower card album cover.

Stephanie: And some stickers! 

Sunny: Lighters.

Cait: We have two more shows in April after the release. April 6 at Pet Shop in Jersey City and April 8 in Philly at Dobb’s on South. 


If you could guest star on any TV show or in a movie for any director which would you pick? 

Stephanie: Do you mean like acting, or a song of ours is played on the show? 


Yeah, either on the soundtrack or you perform as a band on the show, like in a party scene? It could be one that’s on air now or an old favorite. 

Cait: So like, Buffy the Vampire Slayer


Yeah, obviously Buffy

Stephanie: I don’t know how it would fit in, but I like Yellowjackets a lot. They could have a flashback to high school and we’d be the 90s band.

Cait: That’s good. 

Rebecca: Yeah, that’d be a good one. 

Stephanie: Hey, Yellowjackets! Have us on your show! 



The Tower is out 3/31 via Substitute Scene.


Rozzi’s Sultry Voice Will Keep You Warm This Winter

Rozzi’s Sultry Voice Will Keep You Warm This Winter

Rozzi (photo by Bennet Perez)


Pop and soul singer Rozzi just dropped a new album, Berry (Deluxe), which features collaborations with PJ Morton and Nile Rodgers and an incredible cover of Alanis Morissette’s “One Hand in My Pocket.”


I sat down to an interview with the very talented vocalist, songwriter, and producer to ask her questions about the new album and her creative process.  


How was your show in LA? It was your first show for this new album? 

Yes, it was really great. It was really fun. I get so nervous—always—but particularly for these headline shows, I’ve been really nervous. And I’m nervous for New York.  But it felt really good to do the first one and it went really well. 


How did it feel to play these songs live? Was it the first time you played some of those songs live?

Some of them. The thing that’s funny about this deluxe release is it’s very slowly been coming out for a while now. Like, the first half of the album came out in early 2021. The second half came out earlier this year. And so I am very aware that for many of my listeners, most of these songs are not new. There’s four new ones. But for me, it’s really the final culmination. 


First of all, of the whole experience of releasing this very personal body of work of a certain era of my life, but also, finally all the songs will be together as I designed them to be. And in the order I designed them to be. And artistically it’s really satisfying for me to be officially released in the way I always wanted it to be from an artistic point of view rather than just a marketing point of view. So a lot of the songs, people know. But there are four new ones that have been really fun to start sharing and singing live.


I was going to ask how you order your songs. So instead of thinking of them as singles, it seems they’re all part of one piece.



It seems like there’s an overall story or theme. So how do you put them together?

The thing is, I write such dangerously personal lyrics. That’s the only way I know how. I’ve tried not to write that way and I have such a hard time. Like, the muses don’t listen to me, or I don’t listen to them, I guess, when it’s not very personal. So, for me, they’re always bodies of work. 


The idea that I could release singles—it’s just very tricky for me emotionally because I feel like these songs are written from a phase in my life. There’s a clear connection from my point of view, and I think you can hear that as well. There’s a perspective shift from my last album Bad Together to this one. It shows the growth that we all go through. Mine just happens to be captured in these songs. It’s really coming from a personal place. It’s not like the album is a concept album. There’s multiple different relationships I’m talking about over a fairly long stretch of time, but it’s also the time I was producing them and working on them. 


It’s a personal choice the way they all go together. And then the order is just vibe. You know, whatever feels best.  


I read that during the pandemic you’re been writing more on the piano?



Is that your primary instrument to write songs on? What’s your songwriting process?

I write all my lyrics first. My morning routine is that I write poems or concepts or do some journaling. So the first thing is always the words. I have written songs at the piano, but I’m usually a collaborator. My preferred way to write is I bring in the lyrics, often finished lyrics, into a room with another writer, and then we’ll usually jam. They’ll play an instrument and I’ll start to sing my lyrics along to whatever they’re playing. 


But since the pandemic, now I can play shows more comfortably on the piano. I used to feel really insecure about that. Covid really forced me to practice so much and now I’m more confident. I have written on the piano before, but for some reason, with another person playing an instrument, it really sparks new ideas for me and keeps it fresh, so I prefer to write that way. 



How do you choose your collaborators? What makes a good musical partner? 

That’s a great question. There’s an “it” factor. It’s kind of like dating, you know, like you can’t always explain it, like, why you click with someone. I think like a lot of artists, I have my specificities. I have a heavy dose of control freak. I like someone who lets me lead and lets me execute the vision that I have, but I’m really dependent and crave collaboration. So it’s kind of this healthy balance between someone who recognizes I have a vision and can understand where I need to take the lead, and kind of do exactly what I hear, while still having the confidence and the creativity on their own to bring something new to the table. That might sound like they’re contradicting each other, but I’ve happened to have met people like this. 


I don’t have that many people who I have songwriting connections with, but the people I do, I write with over and over again because they have that balance. They can’t be afraid of me, but they also need to be very respectful of the fact that these songs are coming from such a personal place. I’ve been fortunate enough to get in a room with a lot of unbelievably talented people who know how to do that which is why I cling to them. 


Is there anyone you haven’t worked with yet you’d love to work with? 

Yes! There’s this country writing trio. Lori McKenna, who’s a legendary country writer, and Liz Rose, and Hillary Lindsey.


I’ve written with Liz. I love Liz so much. She’s one of my favorite collaborators in Nashville. This trio of women are just really talented lyricists. Their melodies are beautiful. They have that thing like I was talking about where they have strong convictions, but they write deeply personal, intimate songs. I get the feeling that I’d be intimidated because they’re so cool, but I’d feel safe with them. That’s what my gut tells me. 


Speaking of personal songs, the song “Mad Man” seems to be coming from some personal experiences. What is your relationship with anger as a woman and in the music industry and has it changed over time? 

Great question. I wrote “Mad Man” with Liz Rose, by the way. 



And with Jamie Kenney in Nashville. 



I always call that my Aries rising song. [laughs] I’m an Aries rising. I think I have a healthy relationship with anger. I’m angry when it’s due. I assume that a lot of women in every field, but I know a lot of women in the music industry can relate to that frustration and are due that anger because like a lot of other places, we’re not always taken seriously. 

I have this experience of being in the music industry where sometimes these very powerful men who seem to feel like their validation of me is everything I’ve been waiting for. And it’s not really. First of all, I’m an artist because I’m an artist. I make this music because I need to and a lot of my fans are women because I write about experiences from a female point of view. 

It’s frustrating because I’ve worked with a lot of men who felt they had a sense of ownership over my artistry. While I’m not going to say that it didn’t sometimes serve me—I learned a lot and I grew a lot—ultimately, it wasn’t theirs to own. And I haven’t had that experience with working with women. And this is my personal experience. 

I’m sure that can be frustrating. 


So you’re releasing this album now. Are you going to tour? 

I’m unclear, honestly. That’s why I wanted to do these big release shows. I’m going to be home for all of December, for the first time in a long time. And I’m going to be writing every single day. I already know what album I want to make next. 


I’m sure I’ll be playing shows in the new year, but because of how slowly this entire album has been released, I’m already so ready for what’s next that I’m a little more excited about that at the moment. 


Berry (Deluxe)


How is your new stuff that you’re working on right now going to be different from this current album? Are there different styles you’d like to explore? 

Yes! I haven’t talked about this yet. My whole life I’ve had people tell me when they see me live, they’ll say “I didn’t really get it until I saw you live.” Or “You’re so much better live.” I’ve heard that so many times. And it’s always a compliment and I appreciate it and I’m very proud of my live show. I get what people are saying. 


I’ve kind of hit this wall where I want to make an album that sounds just like my live show. I want to see if I can create this experience people tell me they have at my live shows on the record. So I want to record…I’m writing a bunch of songs now and making demos. Once we go into record, my vision and my hope and my dream is to record virtually the whole thing live. Drums in one booth, bass in another booth, keys and whatever in another booth, and then me, so I can sing along with everybody singing at once. Like, you know, old school, like Aretha Franklin style. And if we want to add stuff in post to make it more modern sounding–cool—but we can capture the foundation of the song as if it was live. 


That sounds really awesome. And that’d probably really serve your songs really well, like the ones that have the soul and R&B influence. 

Yeah, for me, getting older feels a lot like getting closer and closer to my younger self. Like the more I mature and get comfortable with myself, the more I can get closer to my roots so I feel like that’s where I’m headed. I’m slowly making my way back to like when I was in high school and I was in a soul band playing Tower of Power songs. I want to make a true soul record next. 


That sounds so cool. So you’ve been working professionally for a little more than a decade, right? How do you think the music industry’s changed in the past decade and how do you think you’ve changed? 

In the industry… first of all…social media was there when I started but not like it is now. It’s noisier than ever but there’s more opportunities for good stuff to get heard. I think even when I was signed, the emphasis on radio was bigger than it is now, I think. Not that radio isn’t still a factor, but it’s not like it was. I think that’s interesting. Obviously, like playlisting is everything now.


I think I’ve changed a lot. Like I said, I just keep getting closer and closer to myself. I’ve always been very ambitious. I know what I wanted to be from a very young age. I have an amazing family but no one’s an artist so I didn’t have role models or people who understood how it worked so I really had to learn firsthand how to be an artist and how it works and how to be professional. 


Early on in my career I might have let my ambition win, like, I’d try to get something or get somewhere no matter the cost. But now, for me, it’s all about the creativity and being authentic and true to myself. That’s all I really care about. And I find that it leads me to much more success anyway. That’s been happening for a while, but not I’m so solid on that that I feel really confident, like, I’m going to make a live sounding album, you know? 


I feel like the only thing I have to listen to is my gut, really. And I know how to listen to my gut and that takes some time as a person. Once you cross thirty, it gets a little easier. 


Excellent. And how do you feed your creativity?

I always say there are two things. I get up and try to write every day just to keep the muscle going, and like, really getting out of my comfort zone and doing stuff that scares the shit out of me. Whether that be some social thing where I don’t know anyone or taking an acting class. I try to find ways to stretch myself in my personal life because I write such personal songs. 


Awesome, is there anything else you want to share with our readers?

Well, I’d like to talk about the Alanis cover, which is a single from this album, “Hand in My Pocket.” I’m obsessed with Alanis Morissette. If I think I write personal songs, I learned it from her. She’s one of my heroes. 


My good friend Bryn Bliska, who’s the keyboardist for Jacob Collier, and they’re on tour right now—she played piano and produced it. India Carney, an amazing background vocalist, arranged the background vocals. I recorded it live with Bryn in my house a few months ago. It’s a very personal, organic, intimate take on one of my favorite, classic songs.  



Nuclear Family Fantasy Evolve on New Album Leavin’ This Place

Nuclear Family Fantasy Evolve on New Album Leavin’ This Place


I’ve known Mossy Ross for a long time, first as the drummer for the Brooklyn-based psychedelic rock band, Lord Classic. But after a long pandemic (like, really long and it’s not even over), I wanted to catch up with her and chat about her band Nuclear Family Fantasy which she fronts on bass. They just released a new, mostly electronic album Leavin’ This Place, a departure from the power trio’s usual straight-ahead rock sound. What remains the same, however, are the scathing lyrics delivered in Ross’s defiant alto voice. 


Ross started writing the songs on Leavin’ This Place in 2018 and had planned to record it live in the studio in 2020, but the pandemic threw a wrench into that plan. So she started exploring how to produce and record at home, and laid down some tracks.


“I got bored one day,” Ross says, “and I’d always wanted to add more texture and dynamics to the songs because I wanted them to have a pretty quality instead of just being straight-up rock. I figured I would try some melodies, and then I ended up doing the whole thing.”


She experimented with synth, drum machines, and keyboards and then passed the tracks to producer and musician Kelsey Warren of Blak Emoji. Ross credits him with sticking with the theme she wanted, while helping to smooth out her rookie mistakes. 


Nuclear Family Fantasy performing at 3 Dollar Bill

Nuclear Family Fantasy performing in 2021 (photo by Kate Hoos)


“He produced the hell out of it,” Ross laughs. “We got all these other sounds. And that was unthinkable to me to do anything electronic because when I first started playing in bands in 2006, everybody was using GarageBand, everybody was using laptops for their shows, and my bandmates at the time were super analog and that influenced me. And now I have such a great appreciation for being able to be inventive with sounds and things like that. But that being said, the next album is going to be a three-piece with my new bandmates.”


Ross says her new bandmates, guitarist Roni Corcos and drummer Chayse Schutter, have done a fantastic job interpreting the electronic album for a live show. 


“If I had recorded the album with them and have them do what they do, I would have given them songwriting credit,” Ross says. “Chayse has written some great beats and Roni does a really cool job of adding texture but also doing some of the things that were done on keyboards on the album. So she knows when to do what. It’s really cool. It’s a really cool sound.”


Even though the sound of the album is different from the live show, Ross hopes that fans will like both. She says she enjoyed playing with dynamics and layering simple melodies which you can hear on the album.  


“I really like dynamics because my songs are really simple when it comes to melody and the structure,” Ross says. “Or not the structure so much, but sometimes I play the same notes, or the same bar, the whole way through. Adding pauses or adding bigger sounds is what keeps it interesting, which is what I think I’ve taken from classical music. One of the things I love about classical is there’s a theme. Like Chopin starts with a simple theme and then just goes crazy with it.”

Nuclear Family Fantasy performing

Nuclear Family Fantasy performing in 2022 (photo by Caroline Schutter)


I asked her what it was like to switch from being behind a drum kit in Lord Classic to fronting her own band on bass and vocals, as well as being the principal songwriter. 


“I never thought about it, but I guess the transition was pretty embarrassing in many ways!” She laughs. “I learned a lot, and I think as long as you learn, it has to be a good decision. It’s definitely been empowering in many ways. It was a great outlet for me, you know. Bass is hard, because I love to dance and move when I play, but I can’t—I gotta be in front of the mic. I chipped my tooth many times on the microphone. There was a lot of learning that goes along with it, like plugging things in; I never had to do that, and that’s a learning process. What hole does the cable go into? What amp am I plugging into? Especially being a woman, you don’t want to look stupid. You want to know what you’re talking about when it comes to tech stuff.”


One of the reasons Ross named her band Nuclear Family Fantasy is because she chafed at “traditional” gender roles when she was growing up in the South where she was raised as a Baptist. She says she’s been working on changing the mindset that was deeply ingrained in her at a young age. 


“I think when you’re conditioned since childhood to believe a certain thing, you don’t even know how much you’re being conditioned until you realize it,” Ross muses. “Then you’re like ‘oh’ and you realize you have to do all this de-conditioning.”


You can definitely see how she’s working through it in the lyrics in “Storm Before the Calm” and “Too Good For Me.” 


“There’s so much shit that’s wrong with the world and I like to write stuff that draws attention to it,” Ross says. “My main thing with music, or any art form for that matter, is I think that it’s meant to connect people and it’s meant to hopefully share some sort of message.”


See Ross with Nuclear Family Fantasy this summer in and around Brooklyn so we can all work through our shit together.


Q & A with Sub*T

Q & A with Sub*T

Sub*T (photo by Kenzie Davis)



While the past two years haven’t been easy for most of us, some musicians have found that it was the perfect time to hole up and get creative. And with the magic of the world wide web, even bandmates on opposite coasts can collaborate remotely.


That was the case for new band Sub*T, which formed in a mosh pit in the summer of 2019. Grace Bennett and Jade Alcantara decided they wanted to climb out of the pit and make their way to the stage. They just had to write some songs first. Oh, and they had to learn how to play guitar. 


Grace went back to Brooklyn and Jade went back to Oakland and they sat down with their guitars and started writing. During the lockdown, they shared files back and forth and their particular sound was born. Taking cues from Liz Phair, Veruca Salt, and other 90s alt-rock women, they crafted infectious, driving songs with layered vocals and crunchy guitars. 


After months of writing, they recorded and released their first singles “Boxing Day” and “Too Soon Too Long” earlier this year. Then they converged in Nashville and recorded more tracks with Alicia Bognanno of Bully. The duo released their four-song EP So Green on Nov. 19 and will play their very first live performance Nov. 21 at Elsewhere in Brooklyn. 


Alcantara and Bennett sat down with Full Time Aesthetic to share how it’s been going. 



Sub*T (photo by Kenzie Davis)



You say you have a lot of 90s influences. What is it about the sounds and culture of that era that speak to you?


We are really inspired by the 90’s.  For us the music has a sense of nostalgia that we really associate with our music and lyrics that we really love. I think it’s also because it’s kind of this era that can’t and has not been replicated since. We just want to create music that makes us feel the way the music we love so much made when we first heard it. Also, so many bands with women… especially when it comes to singing style we always felt really inspired by their vocal delivery.  


What was it like recording with Alicia Bognanno in Nashville? Why do you think she was the right producer for you?


It was a completely comfortable, vulnerable, empowering situation. We have been a huge fan of hers and we really admire how different she is and how she has always followed her own path when it comes to her musical sound. She also knew exactly what we wanted this EP to be as soon as she heard the demos. We recorded it in her house with her dogs, her snacks, her books and gear and we felt really at home. It was really special and we feel so lucky to have had that experience.



Sub*T (photo by Kenzie Davis)


What new sounds did you explore with Alicia?


Alicia has a ton of experience with producing, engineering and performing live so we really got to play with guitar tones in a way that we hadn’t before. We also had some inspirational songs that she could really help us channel when it came to how we recorded. There was even some pre-work we did where she even helped me (Jade) explore new things with my vocal delivery and timing.  It was so much fun and we can’t wait to hopefully do it again to see how else we can explore these things. 


You’ve said that you both share a strong vision for Sub*T and want to remain a duo. Can you tell us a little more about that?


I think we both realize how lucky we are to have found each other. And how hard it is to completely trust and believe in someone else. Especially because we are both extremely stubborn and really have a vision for what we want. Alicia also gave us so much perspective on this. We write our lyrics and arrange our music and even do our own visuals. We are really passionate about having really fun and stand up people around us, but we know at the core we are always Sub*T.  


You have your first live performance coming up this week! How do you think performing live is going to affect your songwriting moving forward?


Absolutely. We are shocked at how good it sounds to hear our songs live. We want to have a huge presence as a live band so we are really figuring out what works. Right now we have been rehearsing with one of our best friends playing drums and another friend playing bass. It’s also really cool to just note things that are slowly evolving as we play them. When we recorded, you know, we didn’t always think about having to sing and play at the same time…or how we would reproduce the sounds on the EP. But we’re so excited to keep writing songs to play live. We actually just wrote a new song for the live show because we really had a vision for how it would feel to perform it. 


How are visual art and aesthetics important to you?


This is really 50% of Sub*T.  We’re both visual artists. Grace is really good at editing and creating videos. We both love collaging and Jade is constantly in Photoshop making new things. We love that we can incorporate that into our music and will always do that in the future. 


Sub*T Table For Four

“Table For Four” artwork


Is there anything you haven’t done that you’d like to try?


We really want to go on tour. We want to travel so much and meet new people. We have a zine coming out soon to go with our EP.  


What advice do you have for any aspiring or emerging musicians out there?


Honestly just do whatever sounds good to you. It can be scary knowing nothing. But if you just start, it can and will happen. That’s what we did! 


Is there anything else you’d like to share?


We have two shows coming up! And we can’t wait to keep making music. 


So Green is out now on all major streaming platforms


Sub*T will be performing on 11/21 at Elsewhere and 12/3 at Union Pool


Q & A with Peter David Connelly of The Mona Reels

Q & A with Peter David Connelly of The Mona Reels

Peter David Connelly of The Mona Reels


Multi-instrumentalist Peter David Connelly began recording Without Love for college credit at the famously non-traditional Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. But like so many things, the project was interrupted in March 2020 by the pandemic. He had a decision to make—DIY or die. Okay, not literally die, but he would have had to abandon the project or do it on his own without access to the college’s state-of-the-art equipment. And so, with a portable Tascam in the back room of a used clothing store, he embraced the warm and intimate music he could create in solitude.


Tobi Vail, drummer for Bikini Kill, calls the album “a truly beautiful cinematic pop masterpiece.”


Check out the new video for “Someone To Hang On To” directed by Jolie Maya-Altshuler and the Q&A with Connelly below.



What was it like to have your recording sessions interrupted by the pandemic and what was the decision like to work on your own? What was that transition like? 


I knew that I was going to be working on my own for the majority of the record anyway, but it was very frustrating that I wasn’t able to do more on campus. The only performances that I got at Evergreen were the drums on “Slow Goodbye” and the lead vocal on three songs, and everything else was done in my apartment or my rehearsal space. The other effect of the pandemic was that I had less guest appearances than I had initially planned, especially vocals. But hopefully that can be rectified next time around.


Did you have much experience with home recording and producing? 


Oh definitely, although my skill set as an engineer is rather limited. Sometimes I think that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because so many modern records have this normalcy to the way they sound that I don’t care for. I want to improve my skills, but I don’t want to learn the rule book. I’m more interested in doing odd things like the end of “Thought Maybe I’d Place My Soul to the Devil,” with four distorted drum sets bashing away like crazy.


Which instruments are you most comfortable with? Did you learn to play a new instrument or did you try new techniques while recording this album? 


For the most part I’m a drummer, and that’s always the instrument I’ve been the most comfortable with. I didn’t really learn a new instrument, but there are always unusual recording concepts that I try to achieve, like the two out-of-sync drum machines in “Fingerprinted,” or the twin guitar leads that close the record. Also if you listen really closely you can hear my cat meow at the very end—that was a happy accident.


Winona the cat


Was the pandemic a more creative time for you? I’ve heard mixed things from different artists about how they experienced the pandemic. 


It certainly was—I haven’t written a song since I got vaccinated! I’ve noticed that I get a big burst of songwriting activity every time something shocking or frightening happens, and Covid was and remains very shocking and frightening. There were also several songs I wrote around the beginning of the pandemic that I didn’t put on the record, for one reason or another.


I understand what you mean! Can you tell me about the recording of “Someone to Hang On To?” 


That one took forever! I must have done ten separate sessions over the course of the whole record just trying to get a rhythm track I liked, and “Someone To Hang On To” was one of the first songs attempted but one of the last completed. Every time I thought that I had a good take it ended up too fast, or I didn’t like the feel, or the drum sound wasn’t right. But I’m glad it took so long, because the final version sounds much better rehearsed than it would have been otherwise.


Did you play all the instruments on “Someone To Hang On To?” With backing vocals by Giselle Gabrielle?


Yes, that’s correct. I rehearsed it with an outside guitar player and bass player, but because of the pandemic I ended up playing those parts myself. That ended up being true of most of the album, actually.


Can you tell me a little about creating the music video? 


That was really Jolie’s project more than mine—some of the footage I wasn’t even present for, and I haven’t even met the majority of the people in the video. My main contribution was that I wanted to be seen playing the Glockenspiel part in a variety of bizarre places, like those shots on the beach.


Do you have any performances planned? 


I had a couple last month but there’s nothing else set up at the moment. I’m not comfortable inviting people to an indoor concert where they don’t have to show proof of vaccination, so touring isn’t really possible right now. I plan on doing at least a West Coast tour in Spring 2022.


How do you perform these songs live since you play most of the instruments on the recording?


I’ve played some of them at shows, but a few of the tracks were so spontaneous that I would have to relearn them—I would have no clue how to play “Before College,” for example. The plan is to get a rhythm section and I’ll play piano, but some of the songs wouldn’t work with drums at all. I never think about these things when I’m recording. I never see myself onstage delivering the material until it actually happens.


What are you studying in college and what do you hope to do with your degree? 


That’s a good question. Although I’m enjoying my time at Evergreen, I have no idea how it’s going to prepare me for the job market (shudder). All I want to do is keep making pop records.


What is the scene in Olympia like these days? Do you have a close-knit group of people to collaborate with?


It’s taken a big hit due to the pandemic, like I’m sure most places have, but there are always a few cool bands around. There’s a band called Thin Veil whose record I play over and over. Cold Sweats is an exciting, New York Dolls-style rock ‘n’ roll band. Jessie Branch has the sickest set of pipes Olympia has ever heard. And Table Sugar was my absolute favorite, but I think they’re over now.


Did music venues and record shops in your area survive the pandemic? 


The one record store survived. Maybe half of the venues did. But Olympia has always put on a lot of house shows, so proper venues aren’t really the only option. Hopefully there will be more of those once people start becoming more comfortable indoors.


What’s next for you creatively? 


I really want to make a double record, since I was a teenager that’s been a real ambition of mine. Todd Rundgren’s Something/Anything? has always been a template for the double album I aspire to, but it would require an enormously prolific period for me songwriting-wise to make a record that could even potentially hold a listener’s interest for 80 or 90 minutes. I also want to make the process of songwriting more loose, and not think about verses and choruses as much. More instrumental passages, and more weirdness. Pop music is often so sterile these days, especially guitar-oriented bands. I don’t ever want to do anything that negates my identity as a fucking weirdo.



Without Love is out now via Bandcamp