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Cellista Discusses Her Evocative New “Laurie Green” Music Video [Premiere]

Along with the debut of the “Laurie Green” music video, we spoke with Cellista about how the song fits into her ‘Pariah’ album, the accompanying visuals, and how the video was shot.

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Thursday is here, which means that it’s time for another new music video from Cellista. We have partnered with the singer, songwriter, and composer for the month of February to help unveil a series of music videos that go as the visual accompaniment to her latest record Pariah, released this past October via Juxtapositions. For part three, we had a more thorough conversation with the artist regarding the music video that goes along with the song “Laurie Green,” one of the more critical moments in the Pariah album. Featuring both spoken word and operatic parts, the song, as well as the album, defies categorization and exists truly and definitively as its own groundbreaking creation.

Regarding “Laurie Green,” Cellista tells us:

“This is one of the most important movements in Pariah. It depicts her complete transfiguration into a Wanderer and her awareness and sense of self.”

Dreamlike and theatrical, Pariah is a conceptual fairytale album that brings together a wide-ranging, dynamic team of artists and performers. The album was recorded with optimal and immersive sound quality in mind, which is why it was mixed into 5.1.4 surround sound at the Skywalker Sound studio, the legendary sound effect, sound editing, sound design, and sound mixing company founded by George Lucas. Intended to break down barriers between the audience and performers, the project recounts the story of Pariah, a woman who’s castoff from her community for daring to speak truth to power. Following her exile from her home in Cloture, the story follows her encounters with apparitions, love, and her eventually reaching a level of acceptance of herself. This is resistance art in the purest and most revealing form, intended to defy convention and break down barriers.

In the following conversation, we spoke with Cellista specifically about “Laurie Green,” where it fits in within Pariah’s overall story, the music video, its production, and what she’d like viewers to take away from it.

I suppose the easiest way to start is by discussing the song “Laurie Green” itself. What can you tell us about the writing process behind this song? What were its inspirations or motivations?

Cellista: “‘Laurie Green’ is the most important movement of Pariah. It best demonstrates my penchant for multimedia art and curation. It was commissioned by Carla Canales as a part of her project Hear Her Song. The initiative is radical in its foundation and commissions female composers to write pieces inspired by women leaders. Hear Her Song is an incredibly innovative and important project that elevates women’s voices and gives classical music a future; one that is more inclusive and reflective of the communities it inhabits.

Laurie Green, the subject of the piece, is the founder, president, and chair of the Board of The MAVEN Project. She shared her story with the poet Jacqueline Suskin who crafted a poem from the interview. Then the composer Mazz Swift set it to music, arranging it as a quartet. On the Pariah recording, my incredible ensemble was comprised of percussionist Brietta Greger, pianist and USC professor Joel Clifft, soprano Carla Canales, myself on cello… Dawn L. Troupe provided narration and David Möschler conducted us.

“I first encountered the work when I performed it in 2017 with Carla and pianist Kurt Crowley, the musical director of Broadway’s Hamilton. I fell in love with it the moment I saw the sheet music. It is rhythmically complex, although it looks simple on the page. Its syncopations, demands on the performers, and exposed, soaring cello lines require love and dedication to perform. My first thought upon reading it through the first time was: I can’t do this. I’m not good enough. I am not a real cellist.

For one of the first times in my performing life, I came to the conclusion that I needed to truly give the piece time and do more than just practice. I developed a relationship with it, allowed it to be difficult, and gave it the attention it deserved. Naturally, I fell in love.”

Artwork for the album ‘Pariah’ by Cellista

In terms of the greater story of Pariah, where does “Laurie Green” fit in? Where is Pariah at in her tale when we arrive at “Laurie Green?”

“‘Laurie Green’ is symbolic of Pariah’s psychic change and represents her transfiguration from exiled into self-exiled. The character of Laurie Green is typical of fairy-tale stories: a medicine woman whose presence illuminates a characters’ own introspective state. Her medicine is that of awareness and awakening. She is a spirit-like character being who appears to a sleeping Pariah within the very forest Pariah was banished to.

“I think, in some ways, I was hearkening back to a previous work I did with the great American illustrator Barron Storey (Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Endless Nights, Lord of the Flies), in 2016. We did a dual exhibition at the San Jose-based gallery Anno Domini that depicted responses to the composer Olivier Messiaen’s seminal chamber music work Quartet for the End of Time. The quartet was written in a German prisoner of war camp during World War II, where the composer was held with his quartet mates.

“In that exhibition, I was exploring themes of escaping into freedom rather than escaping to freedom. Similarly, Pariah finds a way into freedom through her truth-seeking. She transfigures her reality and becomes Wanderer.”

I enjoy the alternation between the operatic vocals and the spoken word parts. What are some of the challenges of writing words and lyrics in such contrasting styles?

“The challenge of writing words to complement existing libretto is finding a room they can both inhabit. The opening of the piece is a vamped piano line, which, in its immersive surround sound mix, seemingly moves around the listener’s head. It’s a single note played on each beat of those first 6/8 measures. I crafted that sonic space to generate a place for my narrator to tell the story of Pariah’s awakening within the forest into which she was exiled. More simply, the single note reminded me of a heartbeat.

“I love this original 4-bar section for a number of reasons: Within the spaces, I can hear the body of the piano we recorded on at East West Studios. It sounds animalistic, like the steady up-and-down pulsing of a large animal’s ribcage as it takes breaths in. That wind-like sound of the damper pedal as Joel depresses the damper pedal. In the mix, I can still hear the mics we used with their bit of static. You can hear it each time the soprano comes in.

“In between those eighth notes, there was room left for me, for Pariah, and for my narration. You can find yourself in those spaces.”

For “Laurie Green,” specifically, but also for the album’s other songs, I feel like the lyrics probably end up coming before you write the music since they are very poetic in nature. Would that be a correct estimation?

“Although I did not write the lyrics within Mazz Swift’s piece, only the opening and closing narrator lines, I can say that in general, my writing of words comes before music and before those words comes visual art. Again, another area where I have felt tremendous guilt as a cellist. I think visually not sonically when I create and perform.”

The video is very evocative and quite impressionistic. Particularly for “Laurie Green,” but also for the album’s other tracks, did you have the visuals in mind when you were writing and recording the songs?

“Pariah’s album cover, although not impressionistic in the least, still contains an emotion that has managed to permeate the project. My process of visualizing my projects is usually prompted by a piece of art. Generally, that art comes from a source I know.

“So, for instance, most of my album art comes from artists I have encountered at San Jose’s Anno Domini art gallery. That’s how I met Joseph Loughborough, the UK-artist who painted the art. He also allowed me to use another work for my previous album. Then I commissioned the San Jose-based artist Jaclyn Alderete to draw illustrations for the accompanying book. I simply gave her the draft of my book and some simple requests, with rough mixes.

“I really feel, that in some ways, I wanted the audience to see through the lens of Pariah’s eyes. Surreal, mesmerizing, mystical, and full of moonlight. Jaclyn’s portrait of Laurie Green perfectly conveys this. I used it to open the film.

“The dancer, Lauren Baines is the one who managed to translate my vision to her character. Lauren has always been able to understand what I am unable to say. She is the quintessential academic/artist, in some ways. She studies and leans into her work. She gives it the time it calls for. She has worked with me since 2015 and has always treated my work with care.

“It’s truly Lauren’s film. Her choreography and performance are the backbone of this movement’s palette.”

Let’s discuss the “Laurie Green” music video. When are where was the video shot and what was that process like? Who did you work with to shoot the video in terms of producers, directors, and videographers?

“I shoot almost everything at my favourite San Francisco art refuge Little Boxes. The space, operated by working artists Christina Linskey and Aaron Simunovich, is a haven for artists of all disciplines. It’s one of the very few spaces in the Bay area where artists can feel free to create with abandon. It’s a space I cherish.

“I brought my cinematographer Bryan Gibel there with me to shoot the complete Pariah film for about seven hours. I have always produced and directed my films, including storyboarding etc. On this occasion, we shot Lauren in two different ways. Once while she performed on a blank set in the theater, utilizing some lighting. The second time, I placed her a large light box (wooden frame covered with clear plastic suspended from the ceiling). We pumped some fog into it along with a bit of back lighting and had her perform while we largely shot from the waste up. The addition of the tree branches she holds was spontaneous. I just loved the silhouettes they created. It seemed to add to the dreamlike state Pariah is in as she watches. My film editor Jennifer Gigantino made the video spark with her use of repetitions and after effects.”

Is there something specific that you would like people to take away from the video? Or would you prefer to let it stand on its own, and viewers can interpret it in their own unique way?

“To echo something I said earlier, I am just offering space to my audience. It’s theirs to take, hold, cast away, or transfigure. Who knows what they might find within it.”

Alternative/Rock

Glixen – “foreversoon” [Song Review]

On “foreversoon,” Glixen created a song where youthful exuberance clashes heavenly with the established shoegaze sounds of yesteryear,

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Glixen “foreversoon” single artwork
Glixen “foreversoon” single artwork

It’s been less than a year since Glixen released their debut EP, She Only Said, on Julia’s War Records. Still, the Phoenix shoegazers have already dug their heels into the DIY music scene and are heading out on an extensive US tour this year alongside the likes of Interpol, Softcult, Glitterer, and fish narc. Appearances at SXSW and Treefort will only further cement their reputation as a new band worthy of note.

To herald the busy year ahead, the band has released a new single, “foreversoon,” via the AWAL label, and it’s well worth a listen.

Says lead vocalist Aislinn Ritchie:

“‘foreversoon’ represents blissful moments of new love and intimacy. The song harnesses melancholy chords, layered with fuzzy red melodies and gliding guitars that pull you in deeper. I wanted my lyrics to feel like a conversation that expresses my infatuation and sensuality. Time is relentless and memories are fleeting, this song encapsulates those emotions forever.”

It’s a fair summation. Its youthful exuberance clashes heavenly with the established shoegaze sounds of yesteryear, think Ride, Curve and Slowdive, but with the fuzz cranked up possibly higher. Ritchie’s vocals certainly share that dreamlike quality of Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, and with many of those bands back on the road this year, perhaps the time is ripe to inject fresh blood into the genre.

Glixen, photo by Jesse Beecher

Glixen, photo by Jesse Beecher

Run Time: 3:43
Release Date: February 9, 2024
Record Label: AWAL Recordings

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Album News

Slightest Clue Release Their Rocking, Five-Track EP ‘Carousel’

Vancouver indie rockers Slightest Clue recently released their ‘Carousel’ EP, inspired by the beginning, middle, and end of a relationship.

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Slightest Clue
Slightest Clue

Vancouver’s Slightest Clue is like the secret after-school project of four kids who would have passed each other without a glance in the hallway at school, but once they’re plugged in and ready to play their distinct blend of post-punk, alternative rock, and dark pop, all bets are off.

Produced by Matt Di Pomponio, their new EP, Carousel, is inspired by the beginning, middle, and end of a formative romantic relationship, spanning the trajectory from love to this loss of connection. The closing track, “Carousel,” marks the ultimate bittersweet reflection with unique harmonic layers to portray those contrasting emotions, shifting between grand and quiet tones.

Commenting on the album, the band states:

“The main theme is love, loss of relationship, and connection. The arc of the story is our foreshadowing of the end in our first song ‘These Days’ speaking on the day to day fights and how neither person can seem to get back to a happy place in the relationship. ‘Why Can’t I Call You?’ is the initial spark of infatuation and obsession with someone before you know them. ‘When You Wake Up’ talks of the blissed out honeymoon stage where everything is working and nothing could go wrong. ‘Suit Uptight!’ represents the mounting frustrations and resentments building tension from unmet needs. And finally our closing track ‘Carousel’ is the end and the bittersweet reflection of a cherished relationship that can no longer return.”

Each member, Malcolm McLaren, Hannah Kruse, Sean Ries, and Nick Sciarretta, brings distinct influences and experiences: a stage actor whose playlists go from Talking Heads to Sonic Youth to Björk, a hook-obsessed recovering choir girl, an electrical engineer whose personal idol is John Bonham, and a guitarist who played for (and left) 10 other bands before deciding this was the one for him.

Slightest Clue ‘Carousel’ [EP] album artwork

Slightest Clue ‘Carousel’ [EP] album artwork

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Alternative/Rock

Track-by-Track: The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord Cuts Through ‘It Leads To This’

The Pineapple Thief frontman Bruce Soord breaks down each track on the progressive rock band’s new record ‘It Leads To This.’

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The Pineapple Thief in 2023, photo by Tina Korhonen
The Pineapple Thief in 2023, photo by Tina Korhonen

It’s been a bit of a renaissance period for The Pineapple Thief over the last few years. This revitalization has resulted in the brand-new album It Leads To This. Released on February 9th via Kscope Records, the eight new songs comprise more of frontman Bruce Soord’s observations and deductions about life and the world around him. The initial concept for the record came together rather quickly, but the actual lyrical and musical components took time. Finalizing these songs required much work and collaboration between Soord and his three bandmates. Each member had a conception of what was satisfactory regarding the songs. Coming to that common ground took time, but in the end, each member was extremely pleased with the final product.

The release of It Leads To This coincides with the 25th anniversary since The Pineapple Thief formed. In that time, they have released over 20 full-length albums and EPs. It Leads To This proved to be one of the most intense writing periods ever for the band. They worked on these new tracks for almost three years. Each band member pushed each other to go above and beyond what they felt capable of. It was extremely fruitful from an artistic perspective, but personally, it did pose challenges for the band members.

Joining us today for an exclusive track-by-track rundown of It Leads To This is Bruce Soord himself. He takes us through each song on the record, their inspirations, motivations, and how they came together.

1. “Put It Right”

Bruce Soord: “This was the first song we wrote for the album, right in the depths of the pandemic. I remember standing outside my studio, which is in the garden of my home, when we were in full lockdown. I looked at the blue sky, not a vapour trail to be seen. Even the hum of my small town was gone. As a songwriter, you’re obviously going to take that in and use it. I started to ponder the fragile state of the world. I mean, how can the world be brought to its knees overnight? Which then led to thoughts about the past, essentially a re-evaluation. Are we all to blame? Was I to blame?”

2. “Rubicon”

“As soon as the lockdown was lifted, I remember talking to (drummer) Gavin (Harrison), and he had the idea to write some songs in the same room. I know, radical, right? So I got in the car and drove to his house. Honestly, in the history of The Pineapple Thief, I had never written in this way. Songs were built up in our various studios over weeks and months.. But we were up for trying something new. It could have been a very long disaster – a 6 day jam in E. But to my surprise, we wrote four songs in this way. The first one being Rubicon.

“The verses are in a ‘5/4 shuffle’ which is quite unique (see Gavin’s drum playthrough on the Vic Firth YouTube channel). The song is actually about Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, destroying the Roman republic for his own selfish ambitions. History repeating itself indeed…”

3. “It Leads To This”

“Following on from the theme of ‘Put It Right,’ this is essentially a positive song about focusing on the right things in life. What are going to be your biggest regrets on your deathbed? It’s obvious but also easy to miss. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard, I wish I had spent more time with my family and friends. It’s a love song really. ‘For all this time, I didn’t notice you…’”

4. “The Frost”

“I came up with the riff on my 6-string baritone guitar, so it has a low, edgy feel which I really love. This was a song that came together really quickly between the four of us (plus some great contributions from our touring guitarist Beren Matthews on guitars and backing vocals who played throughout the record). It’s about spending your life with a soulmate, through thick and thin, no matter how bad things get.”

5. “All That’s Left”

“Thematically, this continues the theme from ‘It Leads to This’ and, for me, is dominated by the riff and the middle section, which I love playing live. Again, it’s low in register, written using my baritone, massive drums.”

The Pineapple Thief ‘It Leads To This’ album artwork

The Pineapple Thief ‘It Leads To This’ album artwork

6. “Now It’s Yours”

“Written during the sessions with Gavin, this song goes on a bit of a journey. Soft, atmospheric, big riffs, a guitar solo… Lyrically, looking at the world as an older guy with a family about to be let loose into the world. What the hell are they going to inherit? Well, now it’s yours…”

7. “Every Trace Of Us”

“Again written during the Gavin sessions, I remember Gavin had the intro riff written on his Wurli keyboard he has in his studio. I took it, added some more chords in the progression and the song snowballed from there. Lyrically this is about the pressure of modern life, expectation, pressure, and the mental repercussions of it all. Modern life can tear every trace of us apart.”

8. “To Forget”

“I had this finger-picked acoustic guitar part, which the band liked, so I developed the first part of the song and came up with the words pretty quickly. Us humans, especially as we grow older, have to come to terms with loss and, in a lot of cases, tragedy. Touching on the debate as to whether life is a gift or a curse (I am firmly in the ‘gift’ camp). However, living with tragedy isn’t easy. Remembering isn’t easy, to forget is impossible.”

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