Private Playlist is a listening session with Southern California’s most notable musical figures in their private creative environments.
Musicians Jay Som (Melina Duterte) and Palehound (Ellen Kempner) were individually well-established on the indie circuit (and mutual fans) when they met backstage on a double bill in Sacramento in 2017. Almost immediately, they bonded over a range of shared experiences, most pointedly as queer women of the same generational cohort in the music industry. Following an auspicious 2018 jam session, they formalized their musical partnership with the formation of Bachelor. The duo’s debut album, “Doomin’ Sun,” was recorded over two weeks in a rented Airbnb in Topanga Canyon in early 2020, replete with a piano and a hot tub. Treating the sessions as a kind of extended sleepaway camp, the result is a testament to the playful, free-associative nature of their collaboration.
For this edition of Private Playlist, we asked Duterte and Kempner to honor the spirit of their friendship and interview one another about their recent listening. Over the course of 30 minutes, they chatted about their soundtracks for the season, with choices ranging from Boards of Canada to Kali Uchis.
“Ellen always drops massive bangers on me when I’m about to go on a plane.” — Melina Duterte, Bachelor
ELLEN: The only thing I've been listening to is that Kali Uchis record that I showed you when I was driving to the airport. ... That record is "Isolation," and it was my favorite record when it came out back in 2018. And then we were driving to the airport and we were like, 10 minutes away.
MELINA: Ellen always drops massive bangers on me when I'm about to go on a plane, so...
ELLEN: I know. And I played you "After the Storm," that song with Tyler, the Creator on it. … That song is incredible. I just know that if there's a song with a sick bass line on it, you're gonna love it. And that's the bass line.
ELLEN: I really wish that Dua Lipa album had its moment in the clubs last year.
MELINA: That's another album that I got into really late this year. You were really jamming that one for a while. ... It took me a long time to get into it.
ELLEN: I love that record. I started playing it as soon as quarantine hit, and I'm still so stoked if I hear any of those songs come on when I'm driving.
MELINA: What's your favorite song?
ELLEN: "Good in Bed," probably.
MELINA: It's like the Lily Allen song.
ELLEN: Yeah. Oh my god, it is [like] Lily Allen. You're right. I don't know why, [but] I love that.
MELINA: The one that I'm thinking of, in terms of albums, is Adrianne Lenker's record, "songs." It's the one she released last year. And I love that record so much, because Adrianne's an incredible songwriter. And I love that Ellen is really good friends with her. And every time Ellen is near a guitar, 70% of the time she'll play an Adrianne Lenker riff, and it's so good.
ELLEN: The reason I know all those riffs is because I've been teaching guitar all year since the pandemic, and all of my students want to learn that stuff. … That's one of my favorite records, but I can't listen to it that much. It's such an emotional experience, and it's not a casual listen for me.
MELINA: Do you feel like a lot of it is because you know her? Do you ever get that way with your friends that are also musicians?
ELLEN: Yeah, it's extra heavy, I think, for me, because I know her and I love her. And those songs are very pained and that's hard to hear.
BOARDS OF CANADA
MELINA: Lately, especially the past few months, I've really been into mostly instrumental music because ... I feel like this past year I've been talking so much, and talking about my feelings and all these other things, that it's hard to process the emotions of lyrics sometimes. ... I didn't just get into it, but the Boards of Canada album, "Music Has the Right to Children," and the other one, "The Campfire Headphase," which is great. It's weird. I got really into them in middle school. And then I stopped because … maybe I was listening to too much Death Cab for Cutie.
ELLEN: Yeah, you definitely were.
MELINA: I really, really love "Chromakey Dreamcoat," because it has this really beautiful guitar sample at the beginning, and it plays throughout the whole song. And the thing I like about Boards of Canada is that they're so, so specific and attentive to the details about the way they record music. They want things to sound so grainy and old that they'll make their own samples, record something and put it through a piece of gear, then put it through another piece of gear, then put it in the computer and effect it and put it through another piece of gear.
MELINA: So Ellen, what do you think our theme song is?
ELLEN: Well, I think we have a lot of different theme songs for different moods, 'cause we have a couple of different moods, I would say, as a friendship.
MELINA: We have a lot of moods.
ELLEN: We have a lot of moods, but I do feel like the one that makes the most appearances is "Studio" by ScHoolboy Q. … We listened to that a lot in the studio, and I feel like that one gets thrown on. It's like (singing): "I'm just sitting in the studio just trying to get to you, baby." That song's amazing.
Check out KCRW’s other Private Playlists:
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Chris Cohen shares Algerian synth funk, avant jazz, and more far-out sounds
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Mia Doi Todd recommends space-age sounds and Brazilian tunes
Neon Indian shares music for your inner monologue
Thundercat on the importance of albums as a journey
Dorian Wood is walking a tightrope and trying not to look down
Jeff Parker is busy studying music in hibernation mode
TOKiMONSTA is rediscovering her love for the guitar
Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad on finding solace in Gil Scott-Heron
Aimee Mann looks past the snark to appreciate Steely Dan’s craft
Madame Gandhi on Fela, feminism, and the bravery of Brian Eno and Jon Hassell
Alice Bag is doing the live music withdrawal dance
M. Ward is listening to music by his influences’ influencers
San Cha believes we can create, no matter our circumstances
Bob Mould seeks artful inspiration from Janelle Monáe, Elliott Smith, and the Byrds
La Santa Cecilia's La Marisoul finds hope for the future in music
Pete Tong is comfortable with musical melancholy
Go Betty Go’s Nicolette Vilar shares music that’s honey to her ears
Mary Lattimore is communing with musical kindred spirits
Ndidi O selects music for a melancholy autumn
Julianna Barwick recommends music with emotion and experimentation
DUCKWRTH brews a perfect blend of classic and contemporary
Maral shares music that creates its own unique world
Lyric Jones is all about music that makes you hit rewind
Open Mike Eagle on dark purple jams and musical velvet paintings
Machinedrum keeps it chill with music for self-reflection
Channel Tres shares the classic songs that created his world
Qur’an Shaheed is revealing her inner truth through music
Karriem Riggins embraces the infinite possibilities in creating
Xinxin’s Janize Ablaza spins a soundtrack for space travel
Lady Blackbird honors fearless and transcendent artistry
Gabe Goodman longs for the sound of live musicians in a room
Genevieve Artadi is learning Bach and living moment by moment
Frankie Reyes marries technology with tradition
The Koreatown Oddity is raising his daughter on a colorful musical diet
Dante Elephante is slowing down his life with sides of vinyl
Sasami explores the wholesome world of animal songs
Vinyl Williams collects opalescent musical jewels from mysterious beaches
jez.who shares music for empathy and affirmation
Ana Roxanne fills your head with a selection of her favorite vocalists
Topaz Faerie traces her journey from sublime jazz to futuristic pop
Ah Mer Ah Su makes the case for danceable melancholy
Rosie Tucker recommends songs of hope, humor, and resiliency
Bedouine swoons to her favorite songs that evoke a mood
Edith Crash shares music that opens doors to other worlds
V.C.R’s seeds of musical growth, from Minnie Riperton to Erykah Badu
Wallice extols the virtues of teenage mixtapes and moody sleepover soundtracks