Since moving to New York, I’ve been introduced to a ton of local artists, both organically and at the hands of friends who’ve already been living here. In this series of interviews, Grrrls in the Five Boroughs, I sit down with inspiring womxn and queer femme musicians based in New York City to discuss their personal connections to music, their communities, and their favorite local hotspots scattered across their neighborhoods in New York.
I’m sitting on a green velvet couch backstage, munching on popcorn and fumbling with a crinkled piece of yellow legal notepad paper that I’ve scrawled a litany of untidy notes on. Sitting beside me is singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Amy Klein, who wears a sheer burgundy Medusa bodysuit, chunky black heels, and dark lipstick. Her dark hair falls in a curtain around her shoulders and arms as she cracks a nervous smile, a gesture I’m quick to return. We’re now past the stage of awkward pre-interview pleasantries, and I remind myself to take deep belly breaths, doing my best to regain composure without veering into crazed fangirl territory.
Klein had just finished playing a face-melting set with her band The Hallucinations at Our Wicked Lady for the Rights of Spring benefit, a local music festival that a friend of mine threw to raise money for reproductive rights. Klein and her band were only the third act to take the stage, but they may as well have been the only band who played that day. She was hypnotic to watch, a veritable goddess with her foot propped on the monitor, swaying with ease as she shredded the audience’s brains to bits with a giddy smile on her face.
Klein has been active in DIY acts and touring bands for the better part of a decade. In the early 2010s, she played guitar and violin for New Jersey indie stalwarts Titus Andronicus, touring the world and receiving her first taste of what it’s like to be a musician full-time. Now with two solo records under her belt, Klein has proven herself to be one of Brooklyn’s most prolific songwriters, and she is currently recording an album of brand-new solo material with The Hallucinations that is sure to be her best body of work to date.
A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents sat down with Amy Klein to discuss her forthcoming collection of new songs, studying literature at Harvard, how she deals with burnout, and why speaking out about injustice is more important than ever.
You have a very rich musical background. How did this current project come about?
I’ve been playing with my current drummer Colin for around ten years, so this current project sort of sprung out of the comfort I’ve always felt when the two of us play together. I released a solo album in 2016 and another one in 2019. But during the pandemic I was experiencing a lot of negative emotions and feeling pretty drained creatively. I had too many ideas and not enough songs. I was in survival mode. So when the world started opening up again in 2021, I decided to do a rooftop show and it felt amazing. My songwriting has definitely evolved to a completely different place than it was before, so I guess that’s why it made sense to change the name of the project.
I know how being a full-time musician can be quite draining. What keeps that spark alive that keeps you moving forward?
Music is tiring, expensive, and a lot of labor behind the scenes. For me, the spark that keeps me going comes alive when I’m playing. No matter how stressed or tired I am, I feel so much joy when I play. I eventually started telling myself that I deserve to play music just because it makes me happy. I deserve to express myself and explore this passion however I want to. I used to beat myself up a lot. But now that I’ve removed the pressure, I don’t even know or care if I’m quote-unquote “good” at music. All I know is that it makes me feel alive. And that’s enough.
That’s amazing. What was your initial entry point in the industry? Was it Titus Andronicus?
I was in several DIY bands before that, but on a wider scale, yes. I was asked to tour with Titus Andronicus on guitar and that was my first real experience touring the world. It was extremely jarring to go from playing in someone’s basement to suddenly playing on the Coachella stage overnight. It was surreal. It was really cool to get to play music every day. It opened my eyes to the possibility of getting to do this full-time.
So much of the new unreleased stuff you’ve played for local audiences is getting rave reviews. Have you gone into the studio to record that stuff?
Yes. We have twelve of them recorded. I have to finish overdubs and mixes on several of them, but we’re hoping to have them fully done by the end of the summer. I started working on these recordings in November 2022. In the words of Staind, “it’s been a while” [laughs].
We’re currently speaking at an abortion benefit for reproductive rights. What is the significance of being here today for you?
I’m very happy to be around so many women making wonderful music. Everyone’s rights are under attack right now in the worst ways. Women’s rights, trans people’s rights, reproductive rights. All of a sudden you blink and “poof,” they’re gone. You never think the rights you’ve fought so hard for could be taken away until they actually are. I personally have a lot of history and trauma with sexual violence and when I think of all the ways that my life could have turned out differently, I feel a huge responsibility to stay engaged and speak out, especially now.
Who are some of your favorite bands and musicians at the moment?
I listen to PJ Harvey a lot. I love how she’s releasing her demos and giving listeners a peek into how those songs were built. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Talk Talk. They have so many ‘80s deep cuts that are just unbelievable. There’s one song of theirs called “I Believe In You,” and it’s really beautiful.
As someone who’s studied Literature at Harvard, what are your top 3 favorite novels?
- The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispecto
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
- The Hours by Michael Cunningham
What does the rest of the year have in store for AK and the Hallucinations?
More shows coming up and I really want to finish the album by the end of the summer so I can finally put it out. I’ve been working on these songs for 2 years now, so I’m looking forward to wrapping them up and seeing what’s next!
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