A Band Blooms As The World Wilts: How Punchlove Found Their Light In the Darkness

It’s hard to believe that the prevalence of mask-wearing and social distancing has been at the forefront of our global society for nearly a year. Connecticut-natives Jillian Olesen and Ethan Williams, who were amidst a thrilling study abroad excursion that ended all too quickly, pondered how they could find a sense of stability throughout it all—a rational question we’ve likely asked ourselves at least once during the past eleven months. Although the fight was mentally taxing, the duo managed to channel their whirlwind of emotions into a remarkable endeavor.

The duo’s adoration for music kept them afloat and motivated while the world seemingly came to a standstill. Now releasing music under the name Punchlove, the duo bloomed as most flowers began to wither — a true testament to their resolve and patience.

The band has recently recruited Joey Kinnan on synths, Wil Ren on bass, and Ian Lange-McPherson on drums. Olesen and Williams share songwriting duties, as well as splitting vocals and playing guitar.

Chicago Haze had the luxury of arranging an interview with the emerging dream-state, shoegaze ensemble. You can read more about our discussion with Punchlove below:

(Sean): Good evening. I want to begin by saying, wow! You’re both exceptionally talented songwriters! How long have you been writing music together?

Punchlove: It’s nice to hear from you! We’re college friends that started composing together when coronavirus first emerged as a major concern. We were actually studying abroad in Europe when we found ourselves on a flight back to New York instead of on a train ride to Amsterdam. Now, a year later, we’ve published two of our songs on Spotify and have a five-song EP on the way in a few weeks.

I’m sorry to hear that your trans-continental experience was muddled by the coronavirus, but by the sound of it, you have found a significant positive from the whole experience. Would that be a reasonable assessment?

Punchlove: Oh yeah, definitely. At the start, we used our talents to get our feelings about the whole situation out there. Don’t get us wrong, we’re so thankful that we’ve managed to stay healthy and safe during the experience, but the lingering “what ifs” took a toll on us mentally. This was a significant change of pace for both of us. We would agree that this endeavor is the resounding positive among a storm of negatives from the past year.

How has the coronavirus helped you to progress and how has it hindered you?

Punchlove: It’s interesting that you phrase it that way; it has definitely been a balancing act. For starters, we have been able to link up and really pour our hearts into our music, so in that sense we’re thankful. On the other side of the token, we haven’t had many opportunities for live performances. We’re definitely looking forward to those opportunities as things begin to stabilize. Overall, this really has been our beacon during the pandemic.

Where do you think you’d like to perform when you get the green light? Do you think you would consider heading back to Europe for live performances?

Punchlove: That’s one of our main goals! We’d love to perform in Central Europe, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and we hear the energy is electric in Brazil, too. We’d, of course, perform in the States as well — likely in Connecticut and New York while we grow our fanbase.

What are some of your favorite artists / inspirations?

Punchlove: We definitely found inspiration from Beach House, but our influence is from a genre-spanning pool of artists. Some others off the top of our heads include slowdive, Duster, Beach Fossils, and maybe surprisingly, My Bloody Valentine.

Do you have any statistical goals in mind, maybe in regards to a stable following or spins on a platform?

Punchlove: While we do have some goals in mind, it’s important to remain cautiously optimistic. The past year acted as a perfect example to reign in our expectations to avoid disappointment. While being cautious and realistic, we’re looking at the number 10,000 on our wall as we speak: that’s our stream goal that we hope to reach by the end of 2021. We were also thrilled to see Disappointment in the Tropics surpass 3,000 plays on Spotify.

I’m happy you mentioned Disappointment in the Tropics. According to your Instagram (@punchlovemusic), you were inspired to name the track after a statue?

Punchlove: Yes! So the central theme of the track is tapering expectations — sometimes when someone hopes things will get better, they simply get worse. This can do some damage to one’s psyche if things never turn out in your favor. The statue, Disappointment in the Tropics, embodies that exact thought. Essentially, reality is not always as picturesque as we envision in our minds. We can use both the statue and our track as a touchstone that we can return to when we need guidance or a pick-me-up.

Can you afford to tease anything about your next release?

Punchlove: We’d love to! So our next track is called In Your Car, and the gist of the song is letting go of all of the negatives that you’ve been burdened by. It actually acts as the final track of our EP that is releasing soon. It’s a super long track and we had a blast creating it.

An off-topic question — are you dog people? 

Punchlove: FUCK YEAH! We both have pups around the age of 10 and we love spending time with them. 

Are there any closing remarks you would like to leave with us?

Punchlove: We’re very thankful for this opportunity. We cannot imagine what our collective quarantine experience would have been like without this outlet. We hope our music reaches the ears of people who may find themselves in the same state we found ourselves. In that sense, we hope it helps the fans accept the challenges that have emerged; we also hope our fans can grow from their trying experiences. 

Punchlove is preparing to perform on a livestream on March 13, 2021. The livestream will be held by Noise Art Magazine. Feel free to click the link to view the band’s performance. It begins at 8pm EST and will feature other artists including Similar Kind, Lily Ryder, and Joelle Bensaid.

Additionally, Punchlove is gearing up to release three more songs, completing their debut EP. Having had the opportunity to snag a preview of the tracks, I can confirm your patience will be rewarded. The band reassured that these three tracks will drop before their live performance on March 13.

According to Alexander Rosenberg, creator of the Disappointment in the Tropics: “The Wardian case was a small portable greenhouse, its design the basis for European Hothouses of the 19th Century, invented to create a microclimate to transport delicate and valuable flowers like orchids from distant tropical locales back to Europe. These botanical specimens resisted European collecting stubbornly, more frequently arriving rotten and wilted than in the state of perpetual bloom scientific institutions and collectors so deeply desired. Botanical collections in European glass houses presented a false picture of tropical beauty, showing diverse colorful species always in bloom, when the reality of the tropics was usually muddy, damp, brown, and green – disappointing to traveling Botanists expecting to find a rainbow of exciting flora in their natural environment” (Alexander Rosenberg, Instagram).

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