Although only 20 years old, Phoebe Bridgers has already played the Indie & Folk venues of Los Angeles for a few years. After graduating from Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA) in 2014, she has quickly seized the chance to reach a wider audience, hitting the round running with her debut EP release Killer, on 31 March, 2015.
The EP is suitably produced by Ryan Adams’ label PAX-AM. He has chosen wisely in scaling her performance down, and presenting Phoebe stripped of any fellow musicians. Only the strumming on Ryan’s Buck Owens acoustic guitar, supports her rootsy vocals – which in a sense is the perfect form for introducing her. No distractions, just her raw and distilled emotions.
Phoebe’s lyrics are painfully earnest, her voice mature and full of depth, but the pain never drags you under, it only allows you to share her emotions with a minimum of distance – close enough to share the experience, far enough not to drown in it. There’s nothing scholarly about her performance, but rather a pure and genuine talent shining through, more coloured by her regularly performing these songs in front of an audience. She claims that most of the musical arrangements were developed during early rehearsals with her band, Einstein’s Dirty Secret.
The Killer EP shows her folky side, and consists of 3 songs written during her high school days. The release is also available (in limited edition) on vinyl 7”.
The EP opens up with the haunting title track Killer – a naked folk song, traditional guitar work, with soaring vocals and brilliant lyrics comparing the chase for love to the hunt of a killer
”can the killer in me, tame the fire in you”
at once scaring her but yet tempting, and with a glint in her eye, and graphical lyrics like
”sick of the chase, but I’m hungry for blood”
Then Georgia, which takes the form of a wailing traditional ballad, dealing with unattainable love, but intensified by banging the rhythm out on the acoustic guitar. The exquisite vocal refrain cuts through the air like a call for help
”and if you find me, will you know me”
The last song is the slower Steamroller, which is the last song of the EP. With mournful vocals, barely lifting her head from the pillow, Phoebe laments of being tired of being sad. Despite the dark vocals, it has turned out to be my favourite track on this EP – about friendship and loyalty without limits
”I won’t fall, unless you ask me to”
An immensely impressed Ryan Adams compares listening to her play and sing to that of listening to Bob Dylan; ”like having an experience that seems devoid of bullshit”.
As a songwriter she admits being inspired not only by alternative country and indie folk – but also by the pop-punk period of her youth. Her biggest influence may very well be Elliott Smith, but she gets her inspiration from many other singers and songwriters such as Tom Waits, Neil Young, Neko Case and Amy Mann.
Ryan Adams’ production has certainly helped to bring her into the spotlight, but rest assured, she would not have stayed unnoticed for very long, even without his support. Personally, in the future I wouldn’t mind if she decides to continue mixing styles, blending folk, punk and pop influenced material, which she has shown she can handle, while still keeping her performance stripped down, acoustic and simple to make room for her unique voice.
Get the Killer EP at PAX-AM’s online store now.
by guest indie.vidualist writer Eric Nicholas Igma