Next Wave #975: MICHELLE
“We’d love people to be able to find themselves in our music but also discover something new. Something comforting yet exciting, says NYC collective MICHELLE who blend R&B, 80s synth pop and jazz to make music that’s as unique and diverse as the group themselves are.
A majority queer-POC band consisting of singers Jamee Lockard, Layla Ku, Sofia D’Angelo, and Emma Lee and producers Julian Kaufman and Charlie Kilgore, MICHELLE are “a fair representation of New York City,” as they put it.
Brought together by their love for music, rather than due to any forced response to a collective demand, member Layla explains, “ It’s frustrating when you see forced acts of diversification in music or outside of it. MICHELLE is a wonderful example of the desire to diversify being met organically. In a pure, unadulterated way MICHELLE represents where we come from.”
Speaking from a sonic perspective, Julian adds that who they are or where they come from doesn’t define the sextet’s sound,” It might inform how we act in the business or public side but in the studio we all have the freedom to explore whatever sound we want. Who we each are or where we’re from doesn’t play into the sound of our music.”
- - -
- - -
This of course doesn’t mean that each member doesn’t have their individual taste in music. Charlie says, “It’s hard to pin down a singular sound and say MICHELLE sounds like this or that. As producers Julian and I are genre chameleons, and each singer has such influences and genres they enjoy.”
Talking about the challenge of narrowing down what soundscape they want to go with for a particular release given their diverse influences, Julian says. “When you have such eclectic tastes and ideas, it can be a battle of what to narrow down on something. There’s an abundance of creativity and we all get so excited about all the ideas; this can be a blessing and a curse.”
Despite the hurdles posed by their wide range of ideas, their latest single 'Sunrise', is a great indication of the group’s ability to merge and meld difference experiences into a singular sonic quality.
Delving into the track, Emma says, “We wrote the track in the winter of 2019, but the instrumental had a summery vibe so it’s nice to be able to release it now. It’s got a groovy and makes you want to dance, but the actual lyrical content speaks of longing in a relationship.”
Charlie adds: “We were just stabbing in the dark with our 2018 debut 'HEATWAVE' but now we’ve figured out what we like and what we want to do,” Julian continues. “Over time we’ve grown to understand more of our own production process and the things we can work on and improve. The quality of our sound has always remained the same, now we’re just more aware of the things we can change.”
MICHELLE has hit a comfortable stride as artists, but their minds are already playing with ideas for adventurous new sounds suited to “future MICHELLE.”
Speaking of some individual influences they’d love to bring into the group’s music Sofia says, “Layla and I have been rallying for a rock sound as well. It’s quite different from our music so far, that’d be something we’d love for the future.”
Emma adds, “I’d love to deconstruct our own songs and play around with layering and structuring our music into a world that’s far weirder but also somehow more compact as a listener.”
Speaking of listeners, Julian delves into the message he’d love for anyone who stumbles across MICHELLE’s music to take away. He says, “I want MICHELLE to take everyone on a journey; either an emotion exhaustion or upliftment. People just need to feel something.”
Asked which artists inspire them to feel something, there is a brief silence except for Sofia’s immediate response “The 1975.” Then all at once, the remaining five jump in with their answers which ranges from early Frankie Cosmos and Bill Evans to Stevie Wonder, Frank Ocean and Coldplay – speaking quite clearly of the afore-mentioned diversity in influences.
However, MICHELLE is not only sonically diverse but lyrically as well. Talking about where they draw their song writing inspiration from, Jamee says: “Some songs are based entirely on personal experiences, others are personal but with embellishments to make it more dramatic, on certain songs we imagine endings to scenarios that haven’t even happened in real life yet or completely fantasy.”
Giving an example, she continues, “One song we wrote – that’s not out yet – is about the New Year’s Eve between 1999 and 2000, we couldn’t have been partying at that time, we were infants. But we wrote about partying and having a good time at the end of the world.”
MICHELLE is a melting pot of genders, skin tones, experiences and stories but at the end of the day they are united by music, and they unite others with their music. Recounting some of the most memorable moments of their career so far, Sofia says “Our first headline show. It sold out, we had friends but so many people there we didn’t know singing along. The energy in the room is something I’d never forget.”
Charlie recalls a similar memory, saying, “ Playing our first show, when “HEATWAVE” had only been out for two months. Playing that show and hearing our lyrics being sung back to us was incredible,” while Layla and Emma add, “The energy in the room is something I’d never forget. Seeing our photos plastered across the walls at the Atlantic Record offices with all these artists who seemed so out of our league.”
Moving from memorable moments to future plans, the band (who have made the best of the pandemic-induced lockdown with online events like COVID-19 fundraiser and those music lessons) say: “Another single is out in September. Hopefully a show someday and in the meantime maybe we’ll figure out how to do a livestream with six people!”
Ambitious but down-to-earth, separate but united, diverse but similar, MICHELLE was brought together - in their own words - by NYC working its magic to bring them together. Now they are working their magic on the world with their seamless production and vibrant lyricism.
- - -
- - -
Words: Malvika Padin
Join us on the ad-free creative social network Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks, exclusive content and access to Clash Live events and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.