The debut record from the duo is a product of hundreds of improvised tracks (and named after an area behind a garbage can by the basketball court)


While creativity is obviously integral, the primary barrier to making art is, of course, persistence. It takes a lot of trial and effort to stumble upon the perfect sound, structure or phrase. It takes work to see what works. And sometimes the best way to make music is just… by making it.

This, it seems, was the general approach of musicians Isabel Martin and Jenny Nelson, who—whether with an actual goal in mind or simply in an effort to stay sane—started improvising together over FaceTime at the beginning of the pandemic and recording the results.

A combination of both creative and personal chemistry and playful spontaneity, this process didn’t just have the artists throwing sonic spaghetti to the wall to see what sticks, but ziti, fusilli, orecchiette and whatever it is that jaunty bowtie-shaped situation is. The wonderfully weird, yet honestly thoughtful, result is Rat Corner, an album of 10 songs that feel more like sound collages—some you can envision hearing in some new-age spa and others in actual outer space, one you’d imagine being played in a forest clearing by fairies (you might have taken drugs in this example) and another blasting at, IDK, a breakfast rave in Berlin (you’ve obviously taken drugs in this example).

Due to its origins and the duo’s process, Rat Corner just just a work of creative collaboration, but a time capsule and BFF scrapbook of sorts, documenting two (primarily long-distance) years in the friendship of the two friends. And in the playful songs, you can hear the fun Isabel and Jenny were having as they experimented with different sounds, styles and surprises, then plucked their 10 favorite of the dozens and dozens of tracks they created for placement on the record. And finally, four months ago, released it.

“We finally decided to put out our first album in April 2022 after recording more than 300 improvised tracks from Spring 2020 to Spring 2022,” the band told me of the process over email. “Later we got approached by our friend Connor Bush at Window Sill Records to release Rat Corner on cassette tape, and here we are!”

As for the album’s title…

“In addition to playing music together, we also shoot hoops at a local playground, and the name Rat Corner comes from the area behind the garbage can where we don’t want the basketball to roll into.”

Of course, I wanted more of the story behind these songs, and Jenny and Isabel delivered. Listen above and read on for the artists’ thoughts on each of the tracks, which incorporate feedback from friends plus instruments from family members and pull both inspiration and titles from folk tales, former jobs, old television shows and a particularly wholesome group of Bushwick skaters.


“Empty Mountain”

“After each track we make we have to come up with a name, mostly just because you have to save the file as something. Of our 300+ tracks this is maybe my favorite name…imagine going to a mountain and it’s empty.” – Jenny

“This song is named after ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’ (shoutout Robert Browning). After the piper rid the town of rats (shoutout Rat Corner) with his magic pipe, the townspeople and mayor refused to pay him. So as payback he lured their children into an empty mountain and locked the door and threw away the key.

‘When, lo, as they reached the mountain-side,

A wondrous portal opened wide’ 

– Robert Browning”


“Plumber’s Worst Nightmare”

“This title is my second fave.” – Jenny

“We liked the sounds of the drips in this one. It sounded like a plumber stuck in a forever underground pipe maze.” -Isabel

“Nuthatch Nuptials”

“When we first started playing together over FaceTime, I could never fully hear anything Isabel was playing. So we’d get stuff like this where I’m messing around with all these deep noises not knowing what she’s doing, and then I’d listen back and hear that she was keeping everything together with a consistent melody. It’s awesome trusting someone so much. It’s also nice playing in the same room and being able to hear each other now.” – Jenny

“Morticia’s Heart”

“I had been watching a lot of old Addams Family episodes. Man that is a good show. Morticia has a very kind and tender heart. Jenny’s addictive and ethereal loop in this one makes it an atmospheric ear pleaser.” – Isabel

“Grassbrothers Theme Song in F Lydian”

“Isabel is always schooling me in music theory. I’ll be playing something and she’ll be like ‘I loved that riff you were doing in E Flat Mixolydian’ and I’ll be like ‘What?’” – Jenny

“Vanilla Latte”

“I love this sweet loop, and this pre-programmed rhythm from the Casio SK-1 Isabel gave me. I was telling her over FaceTime that I wanted to buy an SK-1 on Ebay or something and she dug one out of a box of junk in her room and said I could have it.” – Jenny

“Our sweetest song. Really. Grass and surf. This one is pure joy, cruising down the freeway or something. The wind blowing in your eyes, and a piping hot vanilla latte in your hand.” – Isabel

“Dirk’s Dirge in D Minor”

“Our friend Dirk has been one of our biggest supporters from the beginning. Each track Isabel records, she sends the file to me, Dirk, and her roommate Tim. In addition to ‘Dirk’s Dirge’ we also have an unreleased song called ‘Isabel’s Funeral.’” – Jenny

“We had to make one for Dirk, our purest ‘vegan’ (that’s what we call our fans, he’s not really a vegan). He gives us lots of good feedback and even shared with us a Grassbrothers playlist that he listens to all the time. We had already picked the album songs, and strangely enough they were almost all on his playlist!” – Isabel

“Christian Lawyers (Oh My God)”

“Our friend Nora used to work with a group of Christian lawyers and it inspired us to write our only song with lyrics.” – Jenny

“Found a Peanut”

“The noise in this one is from a tiny synth my Dad built! He also built a pedal I use on the album.” – Jenny

“I love songs that never end. This one is named after ‘Found a Peanut,’ the most iconic never-ending cycle song of my youth. Seconded only by ‘My Name is Yon Yonson.’ I guess that style of song is called an ‘infinitely recursive poem.’ They are the most annoying! And therefore the most important!” – Isabel

“Flashlight Batteries”

“Jenny’s professional synth setup and my little toy keyboard have good synergy. For instance, in this one Jenny lays the groundwork, and I come in with some cute, shy notes. To me this sounds like a cup of tea and a clock meeting each other for the first time. At first they are polite and don’t have much to say, but then after they get warmed up they can’t stop talking!” – Isabel

Trash Mob” (tape only!)

“Listen carefully to hear the ambient sounds of being on an apartment roof.” – Jenny

“One of our most off-the-cuff songs that we ended up liking a lot. Also our most recent! Named after some environmentally-conscious skaters in Maria Hernandez Park.” – Isabel

Now that you’ve got the sounds and the stories, don’t miss your opp to enjoy the songs sans screen when Isabel and Jenny get together to play them live at the band’s album-release show TONIGHT at Windjammer with Endless Arrows and a solo set from BdBK fave Aisle Knot!

Grab your tickets to see the friends live here.

And please, watch out for rats.


Follow Grassbrothers at @grassbrothersmusic and buy music on Bandcamp!

Feature image provided by the band.

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