Boston’s Palehound, fronted by 21-year-old guitarist and songwriter, Ellen Kempner, released their critically celebrated debut LP Dry Food via Exploding In Sound and is available NOW. Palehound members include Ellen Kempner (vocals/guitar), Thom Lombardi (bass/backing vox), Ben Scherer (guitar/backing vox), and Max Kupperberg (drums). Kempner graciously took time to answer questions about Palehound, and the excitement surrounding Dry Food.
NPR describes Kempner as “… a dynamic new artist capable of embodying wide-eyed empathy and the all-consuming yearn of youth, while still demonstrating wisdom beyond her years.”
Palehound’s musical prowess is on full display on the Dry Food LP, which demonstrates Kempner’s willingness to take chances and explore various musical landscapes. Kempner weaves together a sophisticated, poetic dreamscape of beguiling sounds both beautifully refined and sonically lush to create something new and exciting. The vocals are haunting, yet thoughtful and set to a swirl of raw indie rock and sexy dynamic pop.
In this interview Kempner discusses the story of the bands origin, their unique sound, and the importance of collaboration while also expressing the difficulties that go along with the recording process.
Other songs from Dry Food include: “Molly,” “Easy,” “Cinnamon,” “Dixie,” and more.
Check out Palehound’s Bandcamp for news, music, updates, and to purchase Dry Food. For more on the band and to listen to the featured single, “Molly” and watch live performances go to Exploding In Sound.
Catch Palehound at The Echo in Los Angeles on 2/25. More info HERE
Francis Xavier: When and how did Palehound originate, and how did your sound develop?
Ellen Kempner: I was a freshman in college and wrote the first couple of palehound songs in my dorm room. I wrote them because I had this awesome opportunity to record with my heroes in Ava Luna at their studio in the Silent Barn in Brooklyn, NY. After that I realized I enjoyed playing the songs live and was actually proud of them so I stuck with it. My sound developed from me basically just listening to a ton of music and being so awestruck that the only way I could process it was to try to make my own.
FX: How has your music and songwriting evolved from Bent Nail in 2013?
EK: Since then I have had a lot more experience playing with a backing band and working with different musicians who have all had an inspiring effect on me in different ways. Although I record and write the parts myself, I now know who I’m writing for in the live setting and that immensely warped my perspective on how I write.
FX: What’s been the biggest lesson learned musically in the three years between projects?
EK: That I really can’t focus on people’s reaction to what I write. I’m not saying that I wanna be self-indulgent, but I can’t be panicky when I’m writing that people won’t like it or something like that or else it really just leads to me going nowhere. I have to do what I have to do and then worry about the rest later.
FX: Which of the songs on Dry Food was the hardest to write?
EK: I’d say Cinnamon was. I really thought it was SO cheesy for the longest time and I kinda just had to buckle down and accept that it was something I could hone to make fit with what I wanted to hear from it.
FX: Describe Palehound’s group dynamic, and how do you incorporate each individual’s distinct visions/ideas into the music?
EK: There’s not much collaboration in the writing process, not because I don’t trust them or anything like that, just because I’m not used to working that way and like to map out/demo my songs myself. Live though it’s been great to really settle into this lineup that I have and with every show hear different fills that Jesse’s doing or weird punctuations that Doov throws in on the bass.
FX: What makes for a successful collaboration and what did you learn from working together on Dry Food?
EK: I largely worked on the record by myself besides the drums and the production. Working with Gabe Wax, who engineered the record, was an amazing experience. He was very blunt and honest about things I would try out to the point where I really felt safe with taking some risks because I trusted that he’d shut it down if it didn’t work. He also just gave the songs a whole new life after working his magic in the mixing process. He’s a true wizard.
FX: How has the Boston’s music scene evolved from when you first started and can you describe how the city influences your music, if at all?
EK: I actually just moved to Boston last year so I’m not entirely sure how it’s changed from 2013 to now. Though I’ve been living here for less than two years it’s had a major effect on me. It’s an incredibly stimulating and inspiring environment mainly because the music community is super supportive. It’s been a huge help to have such a welcoming home base between tours that encourages me to keep on creating.
FX: Are the songs on Dry Food connected in any way?
EK: They’re all connected in that I wrote them all in the same year. In a way the record is like a diary of a pretty tumultuous time in my life when I was struggling with my identity and finding my place.
FX: What is the most challenging part of the recording process?
EK: Focusing for hours and hours on end on something that’s so emotional and tedious. I’m kind of a perfectionist and when there’s a limited amount of time in a studio space it can be very intense to be completely immersed in making something that I am gonna be critical of no matter what. It’s a huge emotional endeavor that I just have to plant my feet and stand in for days.
FX: Were there any songs that didn’t make it on the L.P, if so how did you decide which would be cut?
EK: For a while I was really nervous that the album wasn’t gonna be long enough so I tracked an extra song and attempted to track another one but realized that I didn’t really wanna push it past what I had already decided was exactly what I wanted the record to be, regardless of the length.
FX: Who are some bands/musicians that have inspired/influenced Palehound?
EK: Recently, I’ve been very into Angel Olsen, Arthur Russell, Dilly Dally, and Alex G. My top 3 original influences though are Joni Mitchell, The Breeders, and Elliott Smith.
FX: Where can we find Palehound online?
EK: Check out Palehound’s bandcamp, twitter, and facebook