LOS ANGELES – For much of 2020, Sasami didn’t feel like this was the right time for her to make music.
A year after the singer and producer released her debut with the same name, a compelling collection of indie rock music, the raging Covid-19 pandemic and racial reckoning are raising important questions. So she paused and studied. Sasami’s background is in classical music, but while living in isolation, she taught herself how to appropriate Black culture, learning about topics such as blues and musicals. “My lesson,” she said in an interview on the patio of her Northeast Los Angeles home, “is that I want to use white male music.”
Specifically, she wants to use metal. “It’s a space for white men,” she added, while drinking tea at the picnic table on a bright but chilly January afternoon. She wore a thick sweater over her cropped sailor hat. “There’s room for someone like me to come in and mess around in it.”
The result is “Squeeze,” an album released this past Friday that feels both terrifying and openly heartfelt. Sasami takes on the roles of tormentor and tormentor, facing a world that can be overwhelmingly emotional in many ways. “I wanted it to have this chaotic energy, as opposed to just evil energy,” she said.
“Squeeze” was largely performed in the house on an unimaginably steep hill in the wooded mountains of Mount Washington that Sasami shares with fellow songwriters Meg Duffy, who recorded Hand Habits, and Kyle Thomas, best known for his work on King Tuff. For a year, they collaborated on each other’s recent and unreleased albums, with Sasami producing all three of them.
Sasami, 31, is a pleasant and talkative person, but she has a wild flair to her looks, which is even more apparent on stage. That afternoon, she glued three rhinestones to each side of the mountain, where there would normally be an eyebrow. A thin red line runs across each eyelid and the sides of the face.
While her debut album tends to lean towards a softer sound, her switch to metal isn’t as surprising as one might think. While promoting “Sasami,” she constantly fights against stereotypes. “I went on tour with an all-weird girl band and every sound man said, ‘Put your amps down,’ she said. “It just makes me want to play louder.”
On the night of February 2020 before Sasami left for the musicians’ residence in Hedgebrook, a reclusive ranch off the coast of Washington that is inhabited by women and non-binary writers, Thomas convinced her to meet Barishi, a sturdy metal band from her hometown of Brattleboro, Vt., her hometown. his. “I’m really having a spiritual experience,” she said. “I took a dip myself in the downtown dive bar.” Barishi is currently playing as her live backing band.
When some of Sasami’s friends heard about the plan to make a metal album, they were worried. “She writes music so well that I really worry that she’s on a strange path and it’s just a passing hobby for her,” says Michelle Zauner, author and musician performed as Breakfast of the Japanese. “I feel really bad to doubt her, because what she comes up with combines this natural, timeless compositional quality with something really unique and powerful.”
This latest evolution is another point in Sasami’s unpredictable trajectory. Born Sasami Ashworth, she grew up in the city of El Segundo, California, in the South Bay. She described her father as “a white baby boomer” who would burn her CDs with the likes of Steely Dan, The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac. Her mother’s side in the family is Zainichi, the Korean people came or were brought to Japan during the colonial occupation. “My mother, like most Korean parents, gave me piano lessons when I was five years old,” says Sasami.
In middle school, she switched to the French trumpet to distinguish herself from all the girls who wanted to play the flute or the clarinet. She said: “I specifically chose the French horn to be awkward. “It’s the weirdest instrument you can pick.”
She attended Los Angeles County High School of the Arts with members of Two M and Queen ofby Lorely Rodriguez, where she “listens to nu metal and Elliott Smith and goes through all the normal teenage tantrums while practicing the scales every day and auditioning for conservatories,” says Sasami.
After graduating from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, Sasami returned to Los Angeles, where she worked as a music teacher in classrooms and led lessons for the group “Mother and I”. She also started supporting Nate Walcott, a member of the group Bright Eyes, who writes for movies and TV shows. She’s in a post-punkish band Cherry Glazerr as a synthesizer and eventually quit his teaching job to be able to tour full-time.
“It’s hard to stop, because as a music teacher, you know your job is good,” she said. “Being a musician, you’re not sure if it’s really a noble job.”
It wasn’t until 2017 that Sasami started writing her own songs, in part so she would have something to use as music production practice material. “Morning Come” about the first time she wrote a song. “I’m not trying to invent anything new,” she said of her first album. “It came from a much more bizarre place.”
With “Squeeze,” she wanted a more dynamic approach to better match the “chaotic clown energy” she describes herself. However, sometimes even if she pushes her compositions in a more confrontational direction, the arrangement won’t follow. “The important thing about the songs is that they are like kids,” she said. “You can say, ‘I want you to be a hockey player. I want you to be a ballerina. ‘ You can sign them up for lessons, but if they don’t want to, you can’t force them to.”
Although “Squeeze” may include genre symbols such as double kick drums and slap bass, it is not a typical metal album. She grinds it into powder cover of Daniel Johnston’s “Sorry Entertainer” There’s an enthralling finger percussion guitar solo and dramatic screams, but as the music plays, you can hear Sasami’s choking cough. Differences affect the beats throughout the LP, like the glam rock boogie of “Make It Right”, the swirling electronic textures of “Call Me Home” or the powerful ballad trend of “The Greatest” and “Not a Love Song”. “.
With a loud and proud acoustic guitar strum, “Trying to Understand” delivers one of the album’s most enjoyable moments. The original version features arrangements from fluff enthusiast Ty Segall, who co-produced some of Dinosaur Jr.’s “Squeeze” and J Mascis songs. “I tried my best to make that song a heavy rock song, but the song was like, turn me into a Sheryl Crow pop song,” Sasami said.
She compares “Squeeze” to a haunted house where every room is different or a corn maze where you don’t know where the next turn will take you, and traces this urge in her school time. “It’s the job of a music teacher, always keeping the kids amazed in a place that’s whimsical and imaginative,” she said. “I really feel like a fairy with the tape recorder and guitar.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/21/arts/music/sasami-squeeze.html Sasami Wants Suitable Male Musical, Caucasian. She landed on metal.