women in music

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: Ari Michaels

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Ari Michaels has been a compassionate friend of ours, an opinionated woman, and someone who celebrates Body Positivity for femme folx of every shape & size. A truly inspiring, and not to mention, hugely talented human being who we’re happy to have as part of our What Music Means To Me project.

Check out Ari’s thoughts down below!

Ari Michaels (Advocate/Singer/Songwriter):

”I think one really special thing about music is that just about everybody likes it. Even with a variety of genres to favor over others, music has an ability to be objectively uplifting, to bring us to dance or tears, to recall memories and help us escape. Everyone is welcome in music, everyone has a spot. Shower acoustics and highway breeze car-rides can transport a person into their rockstar fantasies, just as overhearing “Take On Me” by AHA on the radio can trigger a sweet, hilarious memory.

Lately I find myself listening to funk like Parliament Funkadelic, upbeat Hip Hop like Anderson Paak. or pretty much anything under Soul, old and new. It makes me feel slick and reminds me how cool I am, since I forget from time to time.

Point blank, music address a core desire in all people which is a sense of belonging. A local artist who I feel encapsulates this feeling is Remember Jones, a Soul/Pop singer out of Asbury Park, NJ. The album “Tranquilizer!” is full of tight band hits and old-school harmonies. RJ produces hypnotizing melodies and original lyrics that’ll pull you in like a magnet and bring you to your feet. I’m thankful I’ve been able to see RJ live on a handful of occasions because the live performances completely transform the listening experience. Not only does the band have intense energy on stage, but all the members actively turn their performance into a space for you to let go and join in.

You’re never left out of the Remember Jones experience.”

What Music Means To Me: Lauren DeSantis

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Lauren DeSantis is a NJ local entrepreneur & music goer & friend who does nothing but support not only her local scene, but the scene as a whole. As someone who has always loved music & impressed me with the genuinity and free-thinking, Lauren had to be part of our series!

Check out what she had to say below!

Lauren DeSantis: (Entrepreneur/Music Listener):

As an entrepreneur and a tournament softball player, I couldn’t envision life without music, as cliché as that sounds. Music plays a huge role in both of those passions. Music means literally everything to me. I live in band shirts. I spend all of my money on concert tickets and meet and greets. It’s just something that’s too hard to put into words sometimes, you know. It’s something you have to experience in order to understand. Nothing makes me happier than being in a sweaty pit at a metal show (even at 26 years old with bad back!). When I was in middle school, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Being my own boss was the ultimate dream of mine. I got into the music scene shortly after when I attended my first Warped Tour. From that very day, I knew I wanted to forever be involved with music. It has allowed me to meet so many great people, and discover so many talented musicians.

Music fueled me to start a project called Remedies (still in the very beginning steps) - which I’m gearing towards feeding both local and touring bands and artists while on the road. I have a bunch of friends that tour frequently, so I know how hard it is to eat an actual meal, and that it can get costly. My main goal is to be able to use a huge passion of mine to help keep the dream going for others. Music has allowed me to appreciate life more. It’s just something that can’t be explained.

One of my favorite songs from a local band that I jam to almost everyday is Hold My Breath by Forest Green, from Michigan. I found them on whim one day, and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. Also, if you’re in a band and ever pass through the Ocean County area of NJ, and want to be fed, please feel free to reach out and we can set something up!

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!

Rowan's Top 10 Albums of 2018

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A writer for The Hook for nearly 2 years, Rowan continues to contribute sound music reviews & opinions. We love & miss her dearly.

Below are her Top Albums of 2018!

Hayley Kiyoko – Expectations

This year has been a thriving time for LGBTQ+ artists. Hayley Kiyoko is our queen and we should all bow down. “Wanna Be Missed” is my favorite song off this album, but the rest are just as good, and the album art? Wow. Hayley out here telling us it’s okay to be as gay as possible. She really wasn’t lying when she said it was 20gayteen.

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Florence and The Machine – High As Hope

Florence, Florence, Florence. This woman has a voice that makes me believe the sirens of Greek myth are real, and she is one of them. She can lure me to my death anytime. I will go willingly as soon as I hear her voice on the horizon.

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Panic! At The Disco – Pray For The Wicked

Any time Panic! At the Disco releases new music is a good time for the world. Is this one of their best albums? No, but it’s still one of the best albums of the year, because Brendon Urie is still Brendon Urie.

Beach House – 7

My favorite band releasing a new album automatically makes it one of my favorite albums of the year. I’ll just add this to the discography I’m slowly building in my music library.

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Years and Years – Palo Santo

Another success for LGBTQ+ musicians! If Years and Years and Hayley Kiyoko want to do a collaborate any time soon, I wouldn’t be mad.

Nicki Minaj – Queen

The album title says it all. Really. In a choice between this album and Cardi B’s, I gotta go with Nicki. The beef between them is tragic because we all know they could’ve made a collab to end the world. Though I love Cardi’s I Like It (and listen to it on repeat) and I love her personality, Nicki’s music is still my first choice. Chun Li!

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Ariana Grande – Sweetener

Was there even a question that this would be a Top 10 album of the year? For anyone? I’ll be shocked if it’s not on anyone’s list but mine. Come on now. Ariana stays slaying us all. Thank u, next.

Death Cab For Cutie – Thank You For Today

I love Death Cab & I love this album. The songs take me away. “Northern Lights” is my favorite above all. The moment I first heard it on the radio, I stood there just listening to it until it was over, totally absorbed. And then I went and immediately listened to the rest of the album.

Troye Sivan – Bloom

Another LGBTQ+ artist, and one of my favorites. While I think Blue Neighborhood is still his best work, Bloom is a great album with tracks and lyrics that remind me why I love Troye. The boy’s a romantic and I love it. I practically swoon over the pictures he paints with his songs.

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John Legend – A Legendary Christmas

When John Legend dropped a Christmas album out of nowhere at the beginning of November I was shook, but of course I went and streamed it immediately, and I was not disappointed. Christmas is my favorite holiday of all time, and it feels like John Legend should’ve been singing carols long before this. Michael Bublé who? I’ll be listening to John Legend Christmas music and only John Legend Christmas music from now on.

Emily's Top 5 Songs For Kissing (Right Now)

It’s no secret that, sometimes, people like to kiss and listen to music. It’s even better when the person you’re kissing likes the music you’re kissing to, but how do you guarantee that mid-pause “wow, this playlist is great” validation you’ve been searching for?

Look no further!

We’ve taken it upon ourselves to compile 5 songs to add to your Makeout Playlist that are sure to make your boo (or not so boo) go, “wow, let’s kiss even more!” Of course, this list is yours to mix and match with, because we couldn’t give away all of our secrets now can we?

Check it out!

Redbone - Childish Gambino
Childish Gambino has evolved in many ways since his debut as the musical counterpart of Donald Glover. With his first studio album, Camp, Gambino rocketed into stardom with angry, bent out of shape tracks like “Heartbeat” & “Bonfire.” From there, Because The Internet introduced us to Gambino’s more ethereal side - the side that samples tracks and soothes, tracks like “3005” and “IV. Sweatpants.” In 2016, after 3 years without releasing anything substantial and threatening the end of the Childish Gambino era, Awaken, My Love! was released with a mixed bag of reviews. However, “Redbone” was one of the two featured tracks that Gambino released before the album dropped - an instant classic. With vibes reminiscent of funk, jazz and blues, Gambino hit’s on his ability to smooth over every syllable, every word. It’s sexy, and you can’t deny that - so “Redbone” makes it onto our makeout list because not only will your kissing partner think you’re suave af, who doesn’t want to makeout to this shit?


The Sun - Myd
Have you ever been sitting there, watching the sun set with your boo on the beach thinking, “damn, I really wish we had the perfect song to set the mood.” Well, Myd has provided us with the perfect kissing at dusk song, and aptly named “The Sun” is a groovy, indie little jam that pulls on retro European funk & disco vibes. The french native, Quentin Lepoutre, began their journey in 2008 primarily as a sound engineer. With EP releases happening promptly every two years beginning in 2011, Myd’s latest release, All Inclusive, is the best by far. “The Sun” is one of my favorites off of the release, and has been tested and proven as a great late afternoon, we’re both sweating and at the beach kind of song.


i don’t want to say too much - sagun
Maybe you’re looking for something with a lot less words and a lot more instrumental sounds. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Late night hook up with that boo who’s been incessantly liking your Instagram pics? This slow rolling, careful song is perfect for when things are better when they’re quiet - just without the silence that is. “i don’t want to say too much” is one of many from nepal native sagun. The producer and artist is aptly known for their instrumental work, but they have been known to do remixes and collaborations with other artists. While I specifically love this track for the ukulele chords that hold it down, the sound of water that keeps the tempo, and the gentle knocking - you could choose really any of sagun’s works to add to your makeout playlist.


Stolen Dance - Milky Chance
Of course I can’t forget all of you lucky fucks in relationships. Milky Chance is one of my favorite bands in the world, and one time I got to watch them play acoustic outside of Reading Terminal Market on the corner of 12th and Filbert here in Philly - but, I digress. “Stolen Dance” is the first single the German group ever put out in April 2013. The folky, indie vibes it gives off is timeless, though. I choose Stolen Dance because, lyrically, it is meaningful. The song lends itself perfectly to showing that person you like/love/care for that you really do like/love/care for them - especially when kissing.


I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend - girl in red
19 year old Norwegian DIY legend, girl in red has taken streaming by storm in the past year. With all of her music produced in her bedroom, she has begun performing festivals in Europe and taking the internet by storm. This song is steamy, guttural, and envelopes everything I love about DIY music.


Well, there ya have it. 5 songs you could sneak into your Makeout Playlist to see how they go - and if you don’t have a Makeout Playlist, then they’re just good songs to listen to. Let us know how they work out, drop us a comment or a message on any of our social media!

Stay tuned for more playlists coming in the future!

H O N O R A B L E ~ M E N T I O N S
OFTEN - THE WEEKND
ELECTRIC FEEL - MGMT
GOOEY - GLASS ANIMALS
GOODIE BAG - STILL WOOZY
YOU - MK.GEE
SUNNN - GOTH BABE
HER - MAJID JORDAN

* all music listed on this playlist has been personally tested for it’s credibility and accessibility for being made out to *

5 Stupid Questions With Downtrodder

Downtrodder are a 4-piece from Philadelphia that play post-hardcore, but not that stupid mallcore crap. Check out our 5 Stupid questions interview with them down below!

Gene: First of all, as a band, as a group of musicians playing music with such passion and vigor, I have to ask: who let the dogs out? What is the prevailing theory you all have? 
Downtrodder: Our sense, based on a vivid remembering of a book we read in middle school, George Orwell's Animal Farm (the literal bible for folks who want to force an argument about politics in crowded basements while a band is playing), is that the dogs were actually enforcers of an illegitimate authoritarian regime and that the Baha Men were trying to warn any farm animals in the area that a raid was in effect. The idea that the dogs themselves were some sort of metaphor for authoritarian communist rule is incorrect however, as these dogs were literal cop-dogs. The fact the the song was such a hit speaks to the scientific value of  the Top 40 radio chart as a barometer for increasing "woke-ness" among the teenage population in the new millennium years (consider as well the contribution of Eiffel 65's "I'm Blue" to the advent of neoliberal disdain for green party candidates). Had memes been popular back then, we may well have experienced a full-on political revolution. 

Gene: Ketchup, mustard or mayo? No, you can’t be edgy and say “relish”. These are the only three possible answers. And don’t ask what you’re putting it on, that’s irrelevant.
DT: We don't eat food, sorry.

Gene: What was your favorite Playstation 1 video game? And why was it Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater?
DT: This is nonsense, Gene. The greatest game for the system you mentioned was, and always will be Toby Hank's Pro Blader 2. 8 wheels were always better than four in the scientific community we were all raised in. We constantly fought over who would get to play as Campbell Cream, and groaned whenever we had to settle for Bam Bam Marinara or Ryan NyQuil. 

Gene: I feel like you guys have gotten both heavier and more melodic since I last saw you guys in 2016. Has this been a conscious artistic decision or just something that came about naturally?
DT: I think it is a little of both. With our lyrical message becoming more and more direct and deliberate with every song, it seemed fitting to add a bit of depth and grace to the sound rather than stick to a kind of sonic assault. We try to make our songs more textured and pensive than the last and we're really happy with what we've been developing. Thanks for noticing!

Gene: When you buy a movie ticket and they say “Enjoy the movie,” do you ever say “You too!” and feel like an idiot?
DT: Yeah. All the time, and in many different scenarios. Especially when the woman at the front desk shouts that the Star Wars young adult novels I checked out are overdue as I woefully drag myself out of the public library after using their free internet connection to google all the nice things Pitchfork and Noisey are saying about our band. So embarrassing.

Downtrodder: Bandcamp // Facebook