The double single from the shoegaze/dream-pop band features two tracks centered on desire and destruction
When discussing 2020, we tend to talk in terms of loss. Of time. Freedom. Jobs. Opportunities. Experiences. Connection. And, of course, life.
Beyond the obvious tragedy, and the very valid feelings surrounding that, we feel robbed in a sense. Like these things were senselessly stolen from us. And perhaps it’s for this reason—all this take—that so many of us decided to make.
Creation in response to catastrophe. Beginnings birthed from endings. Art in defiance of destruction. It might’ve just been boredom, but it feels more like a form of rebellion—an insistence on our existence, a refusal to back down and a protest in a potion: the sourest of lemons transformed into personal batches of lemonade. And what’s been far more fascinating than the long-exhausted example of desperate adults cranking out sourdough starters are the inspired individuals who have instead turned (even more) to song.
I’ve written and talked about this ad nauseam, but I can’t stop, because nothing has served as a more constant and consistent source of hope, happiness and, of course, entertainment over the last 18 months than the incredible new music being produced by outstanding new bands—including what might just be my new favorite, Punchlove.
In spring 2020, NYU Music Technology students Jillian Olesen and Ethan Williams were studying abroad in Prague when the pandemic hit, and were sent home to the States with less than 24 hours notice. Upon their return, the pair—who had connected musically while overseas—needed to, in the words of Jillian, “start a project in order to salvage the year in some way.” The result: a new band rooted in shoegaze, “the only music that seemed to sound good to us during quarantine in the context of feeling pretty bummed and confused, like the rest of the world.”
Fast-forward to March 2021. A year after the group’s inception—and just as the vaccine offered us the ability to once again experience life outside of our apartment walls—Punchlove dropped their killer debut EP, Terminal. Now, six months later, after a summer that saw the band spent popping up on bills across the borough (and beyond), I’m thrilled to present their newest release. A double-single that touches on the themes of desire and destruction in goddamn gorgeous fashion, this is Solstice/Ghost.
Ahead of the release, Jillian (who also took the photo featured on the album art) shared info on the inspiration and execution of the two thoughtful tracks, which explore a few of humans’ fundamental flaws.
The musician: Written by Jillian Olesen.
The meaning: “It’s a foreboding siren song written amidst the Australian wildfires and other 2020 global disasters. What started as an attempt to write an interstellar love song, turned into a somber reflection on how human lust and our constant ventures to ‘feel it all’ can really run the risk of blinding us to the reality of our collapsing environment.”
The making: “‘Solstice’ was written in October 2020 and recorded in one night by Ethan and I in Ethan’s parents basement in Connecticut, which is where we also recorded almost all of Terminal, our debut EP. We found some great pieces of semi-obsolete technology in his basement, including an old FM radio and a small VHS player TV. We ran both of those through our two stereo pedalboards and created these hour-long performance pieces where we would take turns either messing with the tuning knobs or the pedal knobs simultaneously. The resulting product of these can be heard throughout ‘Solstice’ and especially in the transition between both songs.”
The musician: Written by Ethan Williams
The meaning: “It’s an admission of guilt and a reluctant acceptance of the cyclical nature of humans and our mistakes that occur in the shadows of desire, as well as a half-baked hope for some kind of change.”
The making: “‘Ghost’ was written during lockdown in Spring 2020 and self-recorded in Studio A at NYU over the month of June in 2021. Ethan and I had the same shifts working administrative jobs for the NYU Music Technology Department (our whole band is in this program) so we got studio access over the summer through work and would consequently spend every moment of free time in Studio A when it presented itself.”
If you haven’t seen Punchlove live yet, you have several upcoming opportunities to go out (PRAISE BE!) and do just that.
Catch the band at their release show THIS THURSDAY at The Broadway with Merger and Softer! Then, bounce on over to cheer them on in a Battle of the Bands at The Delancey (10/8), and later next month, don’t miss their Halloween tribute show to Radiohead at The Mercury Lounge (Friday 10/29) with BdBK fave Blonde Otter, who will be doing their onstage thing as The Strokes.
Look forward to seeing you out there. Now that the worst of the pandemic damage is (hopefully) behind us, I’m even more stoked for more good music ahead.
Feature image (provided by the band): Sean Bendon