Before shows were being canceled left and right in the name of public safety, I saw Gesserit at Zebulon in Los Angeles. My husband and I had gone to go check out New York gritty post-punk group Gustaf, and Gesserit was the openers. I fell hard for the stormy daydream meets bluesy funk sound. They had an earnest yet soulful energy to their performance that is refreshing in today’s performers.
Below is my interview with the lead singer and creative siren behind Gesserit – Elizabeth.
Name: Elizabeth Wakefield
Favorite Color: I suppose it depends on the context of the color. It changes for me. I really love a celadon green wall or the purple, blue, yellow and electric red hues of a sunset on the beach.
Zodiac Sign ( If you know your moon and rising sign please indulge us ): Virgo sun, Scorpio rising, Capricorn moon
Childhood Hero: It is also difficult to choose just one hero. I really admired Cher and Elvis as a kid. When I first heard them sing I knew what it was that I wanted out of life: Music.
Home Base: Amarillo, Texas
When was Gesserit born into this world? What is the origin story?
The project officially began under that moniker in 2016. I was living in Brownsville, Brooklyn at the time with my friend Adrienne. The living situation was pretty rough. I was heavily into reading Dune and I was inspired by the Bene Gesserit. Reading helped me transcend the harsh reality surrounding me. The original idea behind the project was to create simple ambient soundscapes to reflect that transcendence. Years later in 2018 a full band was formed. I introduced the songs I had been writing over the years to my bandmates and together we created this current iteration.
Loved the set and seeing the incorporation of a saxophone player, how did you guys connect?
I do door at a venue in Brooklyn and one night this experimental noise jazz band called Wave Table began to play and I was totally in awe. They were running the sound through an analog synth and someone was manipulating the music Brian Eno style. There was a crazed man screaming improvised poetry and a woman playing Baritone Sax. I emailed them shortly after that night asking to play a show together. They didn’t see the email for almost a year, but it was Sarah who responded. We ended up connecting and playing a show together and I had an opening in my project, so I asked her to join. She’s become one of my best friends and a super important component and collaborator in the project!
When I heard you at Zebulon, I heard The The influences and a dash of Fiona Apple. I felt like the music could easily be place on the soundtrack of Empire Records or Foxfire – that is all my interpretation. Who are your musical influences and/ or creative influences?
Oh wow, those are interesting comparisons. I really love The The and Fiona. My musical influences are pretty vast. I take inspiration from many corners of music, not really specific genres or artists. As a child, I was obsessed with country music and the Grand Ole Opry. Lately, I’ve been listening to a ton of Beastie Boys, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, Talking Heads, and Leonard Cohen. I’d like to try to deliberately combine these influences for the next record, haha. I imagine that would sound interesting.
I hate 5-year plans. What is your 5-day plan?
My 5-day plan is to enjoy the remainder of my time in Los Angeles before I head back to New York City. I want to take long walks, sunbathe, and see the sunset on the beach one last time.
How do you take your coffee (or tea)?
I like my coffee strong and black. I like my tea soothing and sweet.
Do you have any creative rituals that help you tap into flow?
When I am in New York I spend a lot of my time sitting at my piano bench, playing and writing until I feel satisfied with an idea. In L.A. I’ve been spending a lot of my time sitting in the sun at the park reading books, also with pen and paper at hand, ready to catch ideas as they come.
What are your three favorite spots in NY ( eat, shop, hang out) ?
There is a little cinema called Syndicated directly next door to my apartment in Brooklyn. I haunt that place multiple times a week! Central Park is obviously wonderful. So much of it I have yet to explore. I also really enjoy staying home, honestly. That is probably my favorite place to be above all.
If you have LA favorite spots, would love to know those too…
Going to the beach in Santa Monica is hands down my favorite place to watch the sunset. 1642 in Echo Park is a super cozy bar to catch a vibe and great live bands. My favorite venue we played and visited was Zebulon! Definitely broken in my dancing shoes on that floor.
How much of the set at Zebulon is not recorded and available to stream? When can one expect a release of music?
We played one new song that is not yet recorded, but the other material is from a record we recently finished. I am looking to release the LP this year! Super excited to share it with the world. We currently have one single from the record online called Silence. We are planning to release another single and video very soon!
My husband is a musician and I’m a writer. If we have kids, we’re bound to have a creative child or a rebellious athlete. As a person who is exploring their creative voice, do you have a piece of advice for us that we can keep in mind for our future hypothetical child?
I’m no authority on this! But I would say leaving tons of room for growth and creative freedom is so powerful. There are no rules. Using encouraging language and exposure to culture is so important.
Apparently the Spotify link and embed code are not communicating with the WordPress right now. So, you’ll just have to check out the February playlist on Spotify. However, I do like this new format that was formed because of a technical glitch.
One of my favorite podcasts, That’s So Retrograde, has a segment called roses and thorns where they share the best and worst parts of their life at the moment. I love this segment because it ranges from the general best life moment highlights too favorite product discoveries. Roses & Thorns is very broad-reaching in its ability to be an open category for favorites and unfavorites of the mental, physical, and spiritual variety.
I’ve decided to adopt the practice on this here blog to spotlight the roses, be transparent about the thorny parts of life, and most of all – roll out my music playlists ( 🤞 on a monthly basis)
The best songs of 2019, that may or may not have been released in 2019, part two
Only a mere stone’s throw away from December, I feel punctual in my publication of the best songs of 2019 part 2. The videos below highlight the top two tracks from each Spotify playlist I created, Q3 2019 and Q4 2019. A sampling of the melodies that filled my head during the last two-quarters of this past decade. Despite what my Spotify end of the year recap may suggest, I listened to a lot of other music besides the cast of Nashville.
I think it’s really cool that in 2029 ( if our planet hasn’t imploded and the AI apocalypse hasn’t hit), I’ll know exactly what I was listening too in 2019. Music can stimulate memories and retrieve forgotten feelings, passions, dreams – I’ll want to recall this time in life.
“Cool for Cats” – Squeeze | A playful earworm with some silly storytelling, and after watching the music video I feel I need to track down a pair of American Apparel red metallic spandex pants.
“You Push I’ll Go (feat. Alex Sanchez)” – Baby Dayliner | The singing/ lyrics give me Mark Kolzik vibes but the melody has a few more pop notes in it than the brooding irreverent singer-songwriter usually produces. The video for the song is NOT what I expected, and I assume was created with a bit of self-awareness, with that said, I’m here for it.
Dan feels the video detracts from the song. So you may want to just play it on the Q3 playlist.
“Hello?” – Tensnake | I imagine Jonathan Adler and Simon Doonan prepare Sunday brunch for their closest group of friends with this song playing in the background. The centerpiece is a decoupage bowl filled with pushpin covered apples, bananas, and oranges.
“Oh Me I’m Never” – ShitKid | I wish I was thirteen discovering ShitKid and not in my thirties. They are cool as hell, and teenage Bekka would be ALL OVER the grunge punk-influenced garage rock. Now, I’m just an adult, wishing I wasn’t, so I could enjoy the tunes with that special verve one possesses as a teen.
The melody in this song feels like the summer before my senior year of high school.
The summer solstice has come and gone, meaning we are officially in the second part of the year. Yes, half of 2019 is gone and we are barreling towards 2020. It’s the perfect time to be reflective and set out fresh intentions for the year. In the spirit of mid-year evaluations, I am sharing what I deem to be the best songs of 2019 thus far. The top 5 songs pulled from my Q1 and Q2 playlists, that must be added to your summer playlist for road trip listening or poolside chilling.
“Trouble on Central” -Buddy | A harsh reality weaved into a beautiful melody.
“Dance With Someone!!!”- Busty and the Bass | Love this insanely funky song, but I just saw a live performance of this song, and it’s a total Rick Astley like experience.
“Can’t Hardly Wait” – Justin Townes Earle | Sometimes a cover is just as good as the original. This rendition feels like a cool breeze on a hot day, salty skin and simple adventures.
“The Jangling Man” – The Cleaners from Venus | This song swirls up so much nostalgia, and I was only just introduced to The Cleaners from Venus, but the melody in this song feels like the summer before my senior year of high school.
“Lost on You” – LP | I have a total crush on singer-songwriter Laura Pergolizzi and this song. The emotion in the delivery twists the echoing pain of unrequited love and rejection. I could roll around in the self-indulgent lamented pain that drips from every word. #obsessed
BONUS: “Viktor Borgia” – Stephan Malkmus | This song is awesome, but the comments on the music video, if read with love – are flipping AMAZING. My favorite: “When you need to make a Dadtronica video to embarrass your teenage daughters but don’t feel like changing out of your lawn mowing outfit.” – Luke Larsson on YouTube
Enjoy the above tunes and more on my Q1 & Q2 2019 Playlists. I’ll be back in December to share Q3 & Q4.
In the meantime, let me know who I should look up or listen to. I’m welcome to suggestions.
Everyone is starting a podcast or listening to a podcast. I remember downloading podcasts from iTunes onto my iPod in 2005, obscure punk podcasts and one hosted by the singer of Voxtrot. They were rough, unrefined, mostly personal playlists with banter in between. Then over time, I forgot about my love for podcasts until the medium bubbled up to the surface of our social consciousness again. Oh yeah – I like those. It’s been a few years, and some podcasts have stuck with me and others I don’t check in on as frequently. I wanted to write this blog post 2.5 years ago, but got too precious about the presentation and never executed it. In 2016 my favorite podcasts were That’s So Retrograde, Happier Podcast, Bruce Lee Podcast, Failure Factor, and Ted Talk Radio Hour. I only listen to one of those on a consistent basis today. Not that the other podcasts failed me or anything, I will still put on Ted Talk Radio Hour if I have a long drive and I want to use the podcast as my way to track the time, but mostly my taste has just shifted and interest diverged. Also, I was listening to A LOT of self-help podcasts because those were the only ones I knew about. I still have more self-help subscriptions than any other style of podcasts, but the below are really my favorites of 2018 / Q1 of 2019.
1 ] True Crime Obsessed – My sister gets 100% credit for turning me onto “True Crime Obsessed”. As the title suggests, it’s about true crime. But it’s the hosts that make it so incredibly special and fun. Patrick Hinds and Gillian Pensavalle are two theater geeks who also have a love for Dateline and true crime docs. As I’ve described it to friends, imagine Jack and Karen from Will and Grace discussed the ID Channel; except they are breaking down some of the best (and heartbreaking) true crime documentaries with humor and compassion. They have a literal bell to ring when discussing garbage humans and Gillian’s impressions are hilarious. Her Warren Jeff’s is the only thing that makes listening to that monster’s voice tolerable. I highly suggest starting from the beginning when it comes to diving into TCO. Although you could start anywhere, it’s the episodic inside jokes that develop over the series that makes you feel like you’re really just hanging out with your pals discussing some of the most horrific aspects of life. Plus they close out the shows with a palate cleanser from a Broadway Musical that is loosely tied to the documentary, for example, the palate cleanser for Prophet’s Prey was from the Book of Mormon. *jazz hands* Yeah, True Crime isn’t for everyone – but this one is for me.
Listen If You Like: True Crime Documentaries, Broadway Musicals, LGBTQ History, and Strong Women
2] That’s So Retrograde – The fabulous hosts of “That’s So Retrograde” are Elizabeth Kott and Stephanie Falcon Simbari. If you like crystals, meditation, new age, wellness, astrology and all the things that might help you just vibrate higher – Elizabeth and Stephanie are here to explore those topics for you and with you. I describe this podcast like Sex and the City meets Mind Body Green. They are down to earth, with a sense of humor, trying their best to navigate being a human, living their truth, and picking up various tools to help their mind, body, and spirit be at the level which will help them live their best life. The topics and guests range from super scientist discussing the microbiome to a little more woo-woo covering how the latest cosmic shift should possibly influence your next Botox appointment. Also, I went to one of their live shows last year and excited to share – these two hosts are totally cool and awesome in real life too.
Listen If You Like: Horoscopes, Goop, Vanderpump Rules, Gluten-Free Pizza, and Normal Pizza
3] You Made It Weird – Hosted by comedian Pete Holmes, “You Made It Weird” is for those that love long listening. I was going to say “long-form content,” but that is used for a different medium. Anyways, Pete Holmes books his guest for 2 to 3 hours so they have enough time to move through that space of guarded polite conversation to when one’s hair comes down and they are both relaxed enough to have a real and honest connection. Pete is a former evangelic Christian, reformed atheist, who subscribes to the teachings of Ram Dass and whatever helps to elevate his spiritual being. The podcast isn’t preachy by any means, but if you enjoy comedy and thinking about the deeper meaning as to why we are here (or have regular existential crises like myself) then you will enjoy “You Made It Weird.” He has a 450 episodes to date with recognizable names sprinkled throughout, so you can totally scroll till you find someone of interest or do what I do – make your Podcast app scroll through the episodes really fast, ask the universe what you need to hear and click play.
Listen if you Like: That feeling you get after having a really good insightful conversation with a complete stranger.
4 ] You Must Remember This– Remember when actresses were subscribed drugs by the Hollywood Studio system, and actors married female costars to present a family image while sleeping with their handsome male hairdresser. Yes, “You Must Remember This” is like an Old Hollywood gossip column with the sophistication and panache of scholarly historian. The host Karina Longworth brings the stories of yesteryear alive, by creating captivating seasons that cover everyone from Joan Crawford to Charles Manson. If you’ve ever been fascinated with Old Hollywood, or the transition of Hollywood to what we know of it as today then this podcast is for you. The beautiful part of this podcast is it seems like one season plants the seed for the next, like a fun fact or tidbit of information begs for further investigation and suddenly there is a series on the parallels of Jean Seberg and Jane Fonda’s careers. It’s like if Nancy Drew grew up and was a film buff.
Listen if you Like: Movies in Black and White, Scandal, True Crime, and Glamour.
How is it already November? How are we already in the second month of Q4?
I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately, ok let’s be honest, when am I not self-reflective.
I journal on a daily basis, and it’s interesting how the same frets, insecurities, anxieties, hopes, dreams, aspirations – they just cycle through the pages. To be super honest and transparent, I don’t feel like I’ve grown in the ways I’ve hoped to grow over the last few years. And yet I KNOW I’ve grown in different ways that I didn’t anticipate or plan. It’s like my life is one long road trip, and instead of getting to my desired destination, I discovered something different and interesting in a roadside attraction.
Now, what I need to come to terms with and accept is that although I didn’t get to my destination, I can’t regret the experiences and lessons I learned by the roadside. Life is the greatest adventure, the only thing linear about it is that there is a beginning and an end, but everything in between is filled with curves, roundabouts, peaks, and valleys. This year is almost over, and I think it’s fair to say that I’ve done the best I could with it. But it’s not over yet, and I’m not racing to the finish line. I’m back on the road, with a new map in hand, and ready to burn rubber!
(*ok I’m done with the road trip metaphors – for now 😉)
Interview with musician Dev Ray, a genuinely disarming gemini.
“It changes all the time. Lately, it’s been humming into a voice recorder while driving, not very safe but sometimes necessary.”
Dev Ray is a genuinely disarming Gemini. Not that I find most Gemini’s terribly intimidating. But I like how that sounded, and Dev really is a refreshingly genuine person. To me, there is no pretense to him as a person or his music. He possesses a quality that is similar to the dreamscapes of Michel Gondry’s Science of Sleep and creates a sense of familiarity like you could have gone to elementary school together. His new tune, “Can’t Hide” out on Dangerbird Records reflects the ray of morning sunshine that Dev Ray embodies. The songs upbeat melody would soundtrack the speed up footage of a night with friends which is carried out until the sun rises over the horizon, feet in the sand and holding hands.
Find out more about this awesome person’s musical ambitions and adventuresome discoveries in my interview with Dev Ray below.
Zodiac Sign: Gemini
Favorite Color: Oh, this is a hard one. I feel like people judge you the most off this. If I say blue I’m boring, if I say green people will think all I care about is money and if I say purple they just won’t believe anything I say! Seriously though, I feel like it changes all the time. As you get older you discover new colors like chartreuse or azure. This is my very frustrating way of answering this question!
Childhood Hero: Oh, another tough one. I guess I would say, Pee-Wee Herman. I was obsessed with The Movie and his playhouse show. I think his zany humor made it into my personality somehow. Him or Mr. Rogers. I always liked how he changed his sweater and shoes when he got home, I do the same thing.
Super bummed to have missed the show at Dangerbird. How did it go? What do you feel like before a show – do you have any rituals.
The show was great! I was really nervous and overwhelmed at first! A lot of people showed up! The Dangerbird backyard was packed. When I made it on stage though I felt alright. I guess I like being on stage, ha! I was actually influenced by a post that Cecilia from the band Gothic Tropic made where she did a pre-show dance ritual when she was touring for Beck, I assume she does it for her shows too. I was inspired and love dancing anyway so I danced around a little bit before the show in front of the audience and it alleviated a lot of my nerves.
Loving the material available on Spotify, the single “Can’t Hide” and your super silky rendition of “So Excited.” What is your approach to developing songs and melodies – do you hum a tune into a voice reminder and build it out or just start strumming out notes. For those with no musical talent (ie: me) what’s the breakdown in approaching an original song and/vs a redux?
It changes all the time. Lately, it’s been humming into a voice recorder while driving, not very safe but sometimes necessary. I think I wrote “Can’t Hide” a few years ago on my old Yamaha keyboard. It was originally a slow disco song with slide guitar and a weird key change. I changed it up and was gonna use it for another band I was in called Dr. Fadeaway. The drummer Sal suggested a more upbeat drumbeat he borrowed from The Cure. I took the song back and used it for Dev Ray! “I’m So Excited” started when I jokingly sang it out loud at work in a very monotone, blasé way. I later realized after playing the chords on the organ that it actually would work slow and the chord progression is just so beautiful.
Is there a full EP or album on the horizon?
I hope so! I definitely have enough songs for an album. If Dangerbird likes me enough and these singles do okay then hopefully they will let me do a full album and release it for me!
Best “hole in the wall____” you’ve discovered? (it can be bar, restaurant, store, club etc…)
Best hole in the wall restaurant is Thai Pepper in Hollywood. I lived in Franklin Village for a while and was always on a budget. This place just west of Franklin Village by the 101 is so affordable and this little old lady with a hunchback runs the whole damn place herself.
Favorite comfort food, is it homemade or at a certain place?
hmmmmm…waffles, cereal, mashed potatoes.
Do you have an awesome book or documentary recommendation to share?
You’ve done a tour or two in your lifetime – what is an “on the road” story that comes to mind and makes you laugh or smile?
Touring with Nima from So Many Wizards is always a riot! I was especially making him crack up a lot during our last little desert tour. We were sitting in the back of the van together most of the time. On my first ever tour with So Many Wizards, we played SXSW 2013 alongside the band Social Studies. I made out with the lead singer/keyboard player Natalia and that always brings a smile to my face.
If you had the opportunity to Matrix download one subject (this includes the entire scope of said subject) into your brain – what would it be and why?
Tap dancing or ballroom dancing. I eventually want to learn every social dance there is.
Last three artists played on your preferred form of music consumption. (Spotify, iTunes, soundcloud, record player etc… )
Phoenix – Ti Amo, Deerhunter – Fading Frontier, Peter Gabriel – So, all CD’s in my car!
Wise parting words
You can put sunflower seeds in your yogurt, cereal, and sandwiches.
I’m practicing this radical truth thing which is incredibly uncomfortable and yet healing
I seem to always use playlist publications as a time to give a little life update. So, if you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I’ve had a rocky Q2 of 2018. At the end of March, a bunch of dirt was stirred up in my life and I had to start confronting a lot of pain and anger from my past. I’m practicing this radical truth thing which is incredibly uncomfortable and yet healing, so in the last few months, I’ve been supporting (with the help of my sister) my estranged father. Trust that the emotional and at times physical demands (I’ve unloaded two large stuffed storage units in the last 2 months) of that relationship is incredibly draining.
But I’m sick and tired of being so god damn tired. I’m done with thinking and talking in circles. Yes, I don’t LOVE my life right now, and I feel so off track and removed from my center. Yet, I know I am the only one that can change things. I’m a firm believer in positive action yields and attracts positive results. I don’t know what exactly I’m searching for, but I know I want to be at a higher vibration – so here goes me sharing and putting some positivity out into the world with a fun new playlist.
Playlist: Dormant Volcano | duration 52+ mins
“Pretty Woman” – Lo Noom / “E.V.P.” – Blood Orange/ “My Offwhite Flag” – Dirty Projectors / “Hope the High Road” – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit / “Let Me Get There” – Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions/ “Jane Eyre” – Sur Back / “We Are Going to Be Friends” – Bright Eyes, First Aid Kit / “Baby” – Angharad Drake / “Something for you M.I.N.D. ” – Superorganism/ “Truly Madly Deeply” – Yoke Lore / “Seventeen” – Sjowgren/ “Brass in Pocket” – Pretenders / “The Bus Song” – Jay Som / “God Only Knows” – JR JR / “Promises” – Aly & AJ