AN INTERVIEW WITH PALEHOUND
Palehound, fronted by Ellen Kempner, is really a force to be reckoned with. Their LPs in 2019, 2017, and 2015 truly brought an essential voice to the conversation. Shortly after the release of Black Friday in June of 2019, Palehound was listed on NPR’s “Best Music of 2019” list, given a beautiful 7.4 by Pitchfork, and described as “[Ellen’s] most accomplished yet” by Paste Magazine.
In addition to press and listenership, Palehound is set to headline Asheville, North Carolina’s weekend RAD Fest, taking place at the Grey Eagle in Asheville’s River Arts District. We decided to chat with Ellen in order to learn more about the fest, her developed sound, and Palehound’s special relationship with Melted.
WHO IS PALEHOUND?
That question doesn't really have a firm answer. In the past Palehound was exclusively me as a solo artist, but over the past few years my band has become crucial to the project, so I guess you could say that sometimes it's just me and other times it's me, Larz Brogan, Jesse Weiss, and Alec Pombriant.
I FIRST MET YOU AT THE GREY EAGLE IN ASHEVILLE AFTER YOUR SHOW WITH OUTER SPACES AND WAXAHATCHEE. AT THAT SHOW, I GAVE YOU A MELTED MAGAZINE STICKER AND YOU STUCK IT TO YOUR CASH BOX. IS IT STILL THERE? HAS ANYONE POINTED IT OUT OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS?
It is still there!! Unsure if anyone has pointed it out because we've had a merch person do our last few tours.
HOW SPECIAL!! SPEAKING OF ASHEVILLE, YOU’RE PLAYING AT THE RIVER ARTS DISTRICT FEST IN SEPTEMBER. TELL ME ABOUT IT! HOW DID YOU GET THE OPPORTUNITY TO PLAY THAT FEST? ARE YOU EXCITED?
We just got the offer for the fest and it was an obvious yes. I love Asheville and the fest seems to align with us politically and it seems hella gay.
YOU HAVE SUCH AN UNAPOLOGETIC SOUND TO EVERY SONG YOU MAKE. TELL ME ABOUT THE PROCESS OF FINDING YOUR MUSICAL VOICE. EXPLAIN HOW YOU BECAME SO GENUINELY BRAVE WITH YOUR MUSIC.
That took a while. When I first started writing songs I was pretty vague about myself and my experiences. As I started touring and meeting more musicians, I got inspired by how honest people were, and it made me wanna be the same. It was really scary when I first started writing vulnerable lyrics, but when I released the songs they were received so beautifully and it became a very rewarding process.
BASED ON THAT, WHAT DO YOU SEEK IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY? WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK/SOUND/FEEL LIKE TO YOU?
I feel like my answer to this question changes every couple of months. Right now success would be selling out shows/tours and not having to stress about that at all.
TELL ME ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF EXPRESSION, ESPECIALLY DURING HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE-AGED LIFE. EXPLAIN GROWING UP WITH AN OUTLET LIKE MUSIC.
It's everything. It kept me from retreating into myself. Having an outlet for those feelings was crucial to keeping me from being a complete mess. It saved my life a couple of times.
WHAT PROMPTED THE INCLUSION OF SOMETHING LIKE “WHERE WE LIVE” IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR MOST RECENT RELEASE, BLACK FRIDAY? WHAT DOES SOMETHING LIKE SPOKEN WORD DO TO AN ALBUM?
I love Melissa Lozada-Oliva's poetry a lot and wanted to showcase her on the record. Her art had inspired a lot of the lyrics on Black Friday so it seemed fitting to include her in it. I feel like including spoken word in the album allowed for a break in the music, like an interlude, which I appreciate a lot as a listener.
HOW DO YOU REMAIN SONICALLY, VISUALLY, OR JUST GENERALLY UNIQUE IN THE DIGITAL AGE?
I have no idea. I feel like I really suck at all things digital. This is a topic that really stresses me out haha. I always feel like there's pressure to have a "brand" and I honestly don't even get what that is.
TELL ME ABOUT SOME BANDS THAT STRIKE YOU AS REALLY SPECIAL.
Big Thief, who we're going to have the ultimate privilege of getting to tour with for a month. We met them a few years ago when we did a couple of shows together and totally hit it off. They're the most inspiring musicians and also the sweetest people, a true family.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR PALEHOUND? ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Touring and recording and writing mainly. Just moved to NY and wanna take advantage of all the opportunities here, whatever that may mean.