women in art

What Music Means To Me: Shai Bender

Shai Bender isn’t just a boss front woman, vocalist & guitarist in Copley Woods, she is also an active member of the Philadelphia DIY scene. Shai shared with us what she felt about music, and we’re here to share it with you - check out Shai’s What Music Means To Me down below!

“What does music mean to me?

A variety of things honestly: loss, love, anger, pain, happiness, disgust; these are all things that can be evoked from music in all its forms. For me, music has always been an outlet, somewhere I can have some form of therapy. Performing and being on stage has given me freedoms I never would have had in my daily life, and allowed me to process complex emotions under the guise of metaphor, or through direct response. Copley Woods especially has been a project where I can continue to explore relationships in abstract concept; relationships with my mental health, gender identity, and relationships with the people around me. So as far as what music is to me personally, it’s the extreme concentration of my internal perceptions of myself, and external conflicts, whether it’s lyrical or even instrumental. I write a lot of my guitar parts to play off of the emotion of the song we’re working on, as well as to show off my technical prowess. A perfect example of my play style the is the breakdown in our most recent song “Missing Time” is raw and dizzying. The song is about someone experiencing PTSD flashbacks about being abducted by Aliens, and I wanted to reflect the chaotic and painfully experience of reliving someone violating your autonomy, something that I can say I have sadly been through.

I also wear my influences on my sleeve, and a lot of Jane Doe and Harms Way’s recent release from 2018, Post Human, certainly played a central role in the development of that part, which also happen to be both emotionally charged albums about abuse and general anxiety. So for me, music is purely self-expression, whether it’s hardcore, jazz, hip hop, or even country western and folk; it has to trigger some form of emotional response. “

Check out Shai’s influences down below, and stay tuned for more on What Music Means To Me!

What Music Means To Me: Anna Ladd

Photographer: Megan Kelly {@quinoa.cowgirl}

Photographer: Megan Kelly {@quinoa.cowgirl}

An art maker and creative peer, Anna Ladd does it all. Whether it’s visual art, writing, making podcasts, or being a good human being - she’s got it covered. Of course, sometimes that isn’t always what we feel on the inside, and Anna is no stranger to that. After following her through social media outlets, and rare sightings (one in particular with a dog), Anna seemed like the type of person I wanted to ask questions about - especially what music meant to her, so I did!

Check it out below!

Anna Ladd (Artist/Creator):

Like most EmOtIoNaL suburban youths, I grew up listening to pop punk music and dreaming about fronting a band on tour. But I wasn’t very good at the main skills someone needs to write a song: singing and playing an instrument. So, I figured I was doomed to watch from the sidelines. By high school, I had resigned myself to taking pictures at shows, hoping someone might bring me on the road when I was old enough.

I put out my first record nearly five years ago, when I was 20. I was at art school, and when you’re at art school, you’re not allowed to suck at art. And I really needed a creative hobby that I could suck at, so I wrote some songs. It was weird to engage with the creative process like this – without thinking about what I was doing, without learning how to be good first, or without really even trying to be good at all. It was also out of character for me to adamantly want to perform this thing I wasn’t very good at, in public, where everyone could see. But for some reason, this was the first place I felt comfortable being a little bad.

Visual art was a different case for me – the post-graduate depressive hole didn’t lend itself to making work, or really even having ideas for work. If I made something that sucked, then I must also suck, and will probably suck forever. I also stopped listening to music. I couldn’t tell you what records came out in 2017. But through this otherwise creatively sterile period of my life, I kept writing songs.

They weren’t a life-or-death reflection of all my shortcomings, or something I felt a pressure to connect to like I did when I was 15. They were just some songs, that were kind of bad, about kind of boring feelings, about being kind of boring. They carried no weight. And they were my entry point back into making my “real” work – even though I consider my music to be an important part of my creative practice now, not just adjacent to it. My whole perspective on making things follows this mantra now – I’d rather be prolific and kinda bad than never make any work at all.”

Anna is currently listening to Magic Gone by Scranton, PA local, Petal. Check out the album streaming below!

What Music Means To Me: Sierra Binondo

Photographer: Julie Yi

Photographer: Julie Yi

With Sails Ahead is a rising star out of New Jersey, pushing themselves and the limits of the post hardcore genre they’re up against. Sierra Binondo knows all too well what it means to be behind the microphone, but as an avid music listener, and active scene member, she was one of the first people that came to mind when we initially began this project - not to mention, Sierra’s a pretty rad friend & human being above all.

Check out what she had to say down below!

Sierra Binondo (Vocalist/Manager):

In my opinion, the closest thing we have to superhuman abilities is the ability to create music.

You know a beautiful song, or a gifted artist when you hear one - that stirring feeling in your gut; when the music finds the deepest corner in your brain and taps into a nostalgic sense of wonder. There are seldom things outside of everyday human interaction that can make us feel this way, without warning. Music is an extraordinary way of communicating with one another, and when you are a musician, you yearn to replicate this feeling by creating something that transcends yourself. Since age 13, I have never stopped writing and playing music, and I probably never will. I don’t know if I will ever achieve greatness on a plane of virtuosic capability, but I know that a part of me would be missing if playing music did not have a space in my life; if I just gave up.

The stylistic choices in my singing and playing have been altered and marked by every chapter of my life. It has brought me close with other people, and it has been a companion when I felt most isolated. The fact that I have the ability to recreate songs like my inspirations have before me, and be able to create something that is uniquely my own while resonating with others, is the most rewarding feeling. I feel strongly that I have grown into the person I have become because of my musicianship and meeting others who share the same aspirations as me. Being a musician, despite the ebb and flow of its challenges, has been the biggest joy in my entire life. I hope to forever continue learning, growing, and hopefully creating work that brings the same sense of belonging that music does to me.

Sierra is currently listening to NJ Locals, ManDancing, and their EP, Hands On 3. Check it out below!

Artist Interview - Amanda Jones

Recently The Hook was able to get in touch with rising Oregon-based pop artist, Amanda Jones. The vocalist answered some questions for us regarding music, life, and her childhood! You can check out the full interview below for the inside scoop!

1.)    It seems that resetting life seems to be thematic in your music. Tell me about some of your experiences with starting over and refreshing yourself.
As a 21 year old, it’s been a time in my life where change is all around me. I’ve spent a couple of years figuring out myself, my beliefs and what makes me happy and am starting to feel really good about the place I’m at currently in my life. Sometimes you just need to start over to become the best version of yourself.

2.)    When you write music, are you influenced by real life happenings or do you take inspiration from other things?
Both! I write about personal experiences, things I see my friends going through, or random words/ phrases that might stick with me. It’s always a little different and makes the process unique each time.

3.)    What was your hardest “goodbye?”
My cousin passed away in a car crash 4 years ago, and it’s something I really struggled with. I wrote “My Goodbye” during that time to find peace/ closure from his death. 

4.)    How do you feel about this generation and how it handles romance and relationships?
The dating culture for this generation is honestly really weird, stressful and confusing. The general “hook up” culture that has become prominent over the past few years, makes putting yourself out there and dating so much harder. I don’t like it.

5.)    What is the role that love plays in music?
I think that love plays a huge role in the sense that it’s an emotion we feel, something that we as humans always crave, and a huge part of every person’s life. It’s a topic that everyone can connect to on some level. 

6.)    Tell me about your childhood.
I was really shy until first grade, when I had an awesome teacher that brought me out of my shell. I hardly talked to people until that year, but somehow we connected and she got me really into writing poetry and reading my work at poetry readings/ coffee shops. I saw the movie “Annie” and was inspired by it to start singing the words and poems I would write, and I haven’t stopped singing since! I’ve grown up with lots of dogs and cats, one brother and my parents. It’s still weird to think about the fact that I’m an adult!

7.)    Where are you from? What were some of the customs in the area that you grew up in and how did this affect your music?
I was born in Idaho, but moved to Oregon with my family around the age of 3, so I consider myself a Portlander (since I’ve basically spent my whole life here!) There is a very strong music scene, and I started going to concerts around age 11. Seeing artists I admire pour their hearts out on stage was/ is still so inspiring to me. Being so far into the local music scene, it definitely helped shape me into the strong independent artist I am today. 

8.)    When did music become an important part of your life?
In 1st grade, but I really started taking it seriously in middle school. Singing at coffee shops, posting demos on Myspace- that is the time period when I really started working toward my musical goals.

9.)    When you are making music, do you create for yourself or do you create with other people in mind? Why?
This is a tricky question, and my answer would be both! I create songs to help me get through rough times or celebrate good times, but also write with my listeners in mind. I want to write songs that they can connect with or relate to through their own personal experiences.

10.)    Tell me about your creation process.
I have thousands of voice memos with song ideas on my phone. The process varies, but i usually end up sitting down with my guitar and just singing whatever comes to mind, and building up ideas from there.

11.)    Have you taken any steps to educate yourself in regard to your profession?
I have focused on writing and poetry classes. I spent a few years in a community choir when I was younger, but veered away from that when I was tired of making my voice blend in and stopped growing vocally. 

12.)    Do you have any “before performance” rituals?
This is so strange but 99% of the time, I eat chicken in some form as my meal before a show. It’s so random but I guess it’s good to get my protein for the day in!

13.)    Tell me about your most recent performance.
I recently opened for Sebastian Olzanski and Jonah Marais on the “Daydream Tour” in Portland, and it was such a fun show. I got to perform original music and a couple of covers. I was so stoked to be back onstage after not having a large show for a few months.

14.)    Are there any concerts or tours approaching?
There are no confirmed tour dates yet, but I am hoping to hit the road in the very near future!

15.)    In regards to music, what has hindered you most?
For a few years I was my own personal roadblock. I doubted myself and really struggled with committing to YouTube content and growing as an artist. Luckily that phase of my life has passed, and I am feeling stronger than ever with my artistry.

Huge thanks to Amanda Jones for her honesty and sincerity! The Hook appreciates the time taken to complete the interview, and we hope our readers do also!

Amanda Jones: Twitter // Facebook // Spotify // Website