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Chatting With Sophia Kennedy About Complexities and Contradictions on Sophomore Album Monsters, Out Today

I am going to make a claim against the majority of the human race that may be hard to stomach for some of you reading this story. We are all hypocrites, walking contradictions, full of competing ideas, beliefs, and thoughts that either conscious or unconsciously influence the way we live our lives. Though anyone can argue that these are things we can improve upon for ourselves—would we really want to? What’s life without a bit of confusion other than one where we don’t grow?

Baltimore grown, Hamburg based musician Sophia Kennedy thrives on the chaos of contradiction. Initially born in America, her family emigrated to Germany when Kennedy was a kid, but was often back in the US visiting family. The back and forth between these two very different countries undoubtedly influenced Kennedy’s music, commenting that “…Switching back and forth between two countries and cultures throughout my life certainly has an effect on my music. I missed my family in America a lot while growing up. When I’m making music I often go there in my mind—maybe it’s subconsciously a way of feeling connected or even disconnected at times,” in a recent interview with Offshelf.

Europe’s dance scene is evident in Kennedy’s discography along with her extensive background in film production (more below). Her self-titled debut dropped in 2017, meeting positive reviews, commenting on the album’s ability to be influenced by multiple musical worlds without sounding like a million songs we’ve already heard. The same praise lives on Kennedy’s sophomore album, Monster, out today.

The album, per Kennedy, never intended to tackle any specific subject matter, but ends up focusing heavily on Kennedy’s father passing away from cancer and the grief surrounding the loss. What makes Monsters unique? The buzzing partnership between electronic instrumentation and ethereal-like vocals that sound like they’re sampled from a ’70s jazz musician. Songs like “Orange Tic Tac,” “I Can See You,” and “Looking Up” take center stage, executed to sound like pop-radio ready anthems crafted for the next underground popstar to debut.

Check out our interview with Kennedy below.

Your first album was released in 2017 – what’s the major difference you’ve discovered in the creative process compared to Sophia Kennedy?

Working on Monsters almost broke my neck, haha. Making music is not really an easy process for me – I really have to dive in deep to get what I want from it. That can be very exhausting. To me, this record is more psychedelic and more personal. It also feels a bit darker and melancholic –  it’s more complex, with more unedited details. I wanted Monsters to sound more distorted, chaotic, and raw without losing space for intimacy and ease. I play around with those aspects a lot on Monsters. As for my debut, to me, it’s a bit more naive and playful than Monsters. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that your music is unique in the way that it doesn’t sound like much else that’s being made right now, but it has a quality that still makes it feel familiar and inviting. Who are your musical inspirations, past and present?

My music taste is very eclectic—I listen to all kinds of stuff. To name a few: Tyler, The Creator, Mica Levi, Karen Dalton, Molly Drake, John Cale, Lou Reed, Alan Vega…

Speaking of inspiration – can you explain what the new album’s subject matter is like?

I don’t start working on an album having a certain concept in mind, but I always strive for an album to be its own chaotic world, where things really come alive. Every song has its own conflict and contradictions.  Shifting between this feeling of tension and release describes the album quite well for me. In 2019, I lost my father to cancer. That was the worst and hardest experience of my life. Of course, this fate has greatly shaped and influenced the record – it would have been unthinkable not to write about it. That may also explain the darker and heavier aspects of Monsters.  Nevertheless, it was important to me that the album is not only determined by grief and death.

I’d love to know more about how your background in film production inspires your creative process. 

Sometimes I have ideas for a track that don’t necessarily have something to do with music. For example, I envisioned a rocket ship taking off for “I’m Looking Up”—that’s actually a more visual thought. In fil,m you can distort reality so wonderfully and create your own world with its own logic. I look for that in music, too. The illusion must be as strong as possible—I’d be happy if one of my songs awakened a visual dimension in the listener’s mind.

One of our favorite things about writing about artists at Staged Haze is the opportunity to introduce artists to our readers. So we have to know – what is one thing you want our readers to know about your music?

I love confusion and irritation in music – and I love the power of contradictions – I think when music feels too satisfying you don’t really get the chance to experience anything. To me, there always has to be an amount of discomfort, that also feels intriguing at the same time. I look for that in my music. I want people to be able to feel it- not necessarily what I feel but I think music in general can make people feel things they can’t explain. There’s no reason for it, it’s just what happens. 

Any plans in the works for a tour to support Monsters?

We will see!

Monsters is out now on your preferred streaming platform.

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