Week in Pop: Amber Ryann, Proudest Ever, Sedona

Sjimon Gompers

Introducing LA by Brooklyn's breakout auteur/pop star Sedona; photographed by Mikhail Zalesky.

Proudest Ever

The pride of Proudest Ever’s (from left) Kelly Jackson & Phil Maves; press photo courtesy of the artists.

The beauty of music is that it provides a respite from the gravitational forces & natural laws of our shared universe. Music itself is a mystic art that can quantified academically in fields of theorems & studies that all attempt to outline & map the genome of its ineffable aural aspect of being. Critics can attempt to contain the phenomenon in terms of semantic estimations that can only approximate its patterns by virtue of observation & subsequent tools of interpretation. NYC’s Proudest Ever creates music made in the key of life, arranging audio arts that imitate our existence in areas of emotion, endeavor & exchanges of thought. The duo of Kelly Jackson of Phil Maves expound upon their catalog from their days as Ferns, Phil’s work in Wild Decade & more to make a collection of work that combines honest humanism & warm humor to help us as a society find meaning in what can otherwise feel like a life tethered to the regiments & rheumatism of relentless daily routines.

Presenting the world premiere for Proudest Ever’s video for “Fresh Kill” directed by the duo’s own Kelly Jackson along with designer & artist Amber Zezeck. From indoor winter wallpaper backdrops, gothic garden patios & other assorted footage taken fresh from zoo exhibits; Proudest Ever play off of a motif of hunters & the hunted in a song about new awakenings & discoveries. Kelly & Phil take on the primal instincts that exist in both animals & humans in a cat & mouse paradigm that illustrates the gaming sports as something of a natural exchange passed down from the ancients. As the duo playfully engages in impromptu dance moves, tangling holiday lights & messing about with a colorful array of faux skulls; Proudest Ever juxtapose footage of wildlife (lions, tigers & bears & more, oh my!) engaging with their Homo sapien counterparts as Kelly’s lyrics create the narrative of a car chase between the prey & ensuing foe. Combining & comparing the ecosystem protocols from zoological species with that of our own begs questions about our own selves, our own state of evolution & more with the striking similarities we share with other entities in the food chain order. Kelly & Phil place the focus on the fierce attachments we sometimes share with others, questioning everything from concepts of care to civility & how our actions, affections & aggression affect one another. The perspective continues to move back & forth in the discourse of who is the hunter & who is the hunted that turns the dance of existence into the sport of the field & stream variety.

In the studio with Proudest Ever’s Kelly Jackson & Phil Maves; press photo courtesy of the duo.

We had the chance to catch up with both Proudest Ever’s Kelly Jackson & Phil Maves in the following interview exclusive:

First off, what’s new in the worlds of Proudest Ever?

Kelly: New songs, new vids, a new approach to sound—more minimal and deliberate. I’m hitting a kind of stride where I’ve been writing and performing songs for almost 20 years now and I have found there’s always new directions to explore with increased confidence.

Phil: “Fresh Kill” is the first taste of new Proudest Ever material since we became a duo. Kelly and I both work in the corporate world, so while we’re not making music full-time, we’re very focused when we do get together. We spent the past two years intermittently writing songs, making demos, and playing low-key shows around New York, in order to test out a few approaches to working together in a new format. If we’d worked eight hours a day and five days a week on music, I’d say the entire process would have taken a few months at most. Anyway, things gelled into a recognizable sound, and we ended up recording several new songs in late 2017, so we’d like to release the rest of that stuff soon.

How did everyone get through 2017, and what’s in the cards now for 2018?

Kelly: Weeelp. We are officially through the looking glass, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t say totally unscathed but we made it! I’m looking to travel as much as possible in 2018. As diverse as New York can be, it can be a bit of a bubble. 2018 is all about modification and filtering out what is not important.

Phil: You mean you haven’t already read ahead to the ending?

Interested in hearing about what inspired the immediate urgency of “Fresh Kill”.

Kelly: My inspiration probably comes from the fact that I’ve been going hard for many a year now working on multiple disciplines and careers. Sometimes I just take a step back and think to myself, what the hell am I running toward here? The cultural virtue of valuing ambition and near constant work is, upon analysis, simply ridiculous. There’s a line one can get to where it owns you instead of you being the one to define what is worth your time and makes you happy.

Phil: Kelly and I work very differently compared to most groups, from a songwriting perspective. “Fresh Kill” is a good example of that. It was originally created as a fast rock song. After some time, Kelly and I gave the song an entirely new arrangement with a more contemporary feel. I slowed the tempo down significantly, so Kelly’s lyrics and vocal melody could be heard more clearly, and then I wrote several new instrumental parts to both support and weave around her words, rather than giving her a bunch of finished music and asking if she would sing over it. I think the result of this approach is a really listenable recording.

Tell us about creating the visual for “Fresh Kill” from colorful prop skulls, indoor winter sets, outdoor hangouts, etc.

Kelly: We’re pushing our no-budget aesthetics to the limit as always! I wanted the concept to center around a staged or fake natural world. Which also points to the backdrop of hunting. In New York, you have to create little natural spaces in the midst of all the development for vegetation to exist, so we used those neighborhood gardens for the outdoor shots. And I liked the uncanny valley feel for the indoor snows-cape with a stereo stuck onto it. And gothness. Always need a little bit of goth in there. Everything is goth when you get down to it.

Proudest Ever getting on with their goth-selves; press photo courtesy of the artists.

Other artists you all want to recognize?

Kelly: I’m going to address the visual world for a moment: I want say hey to my gals at HexComix and highlight their series Hex11. I’d also like to give kudos to a fantastic designer and artist Amber Zezeck for helping us with the vid and always being creative.

Phil: You should go to Instagram and follow @emilsmusic (hip-hop artist) and @sharifonthebeat (producer). Also, if you ever need a saxophone player, look up a guy in NYC named Taylor Field.

Local and global activism that you two feel the world should be aware of/active in, etc?

Kelly: I’m energized by the fact that various fights against injustice are currently ACTIVATED all over the place. The curtain is being pulled away and we’re in an Everybody Knows collective moment. I think we all try to participate at different levels as per each of our strengths and situations. Participating in furthering structural changes whenever possible and engaging in civic duties is key! If you don’t like what a public servant is doing, go to the polls and FIRE THEM.

Phil: As Kelly mentioned above, we often say to each other that we’re through the looking glass now. Being objective is a near-impossible task, given the way human brains work. And it’s a scary thought for some people. Being on a team is easier. It’s like the song goes: Tribes, they’re on the rise / Who’s on your side?

Other aspects of media that you feel people should check out/pay more attention to?

Kelly: As someone who works in technology and media, I should have some great recommendations but I hardly pay attention to anything outside my own release roadmap. HOWEVER, I just started our Instagram account and I must say, I am having a lot of fun with it. So please do join @proudestever on Instagram. I can tell you we’ll keep it at least somewhat goth.

Phil: If you read this far into the interview, follow @proudestever on Twitter, and tweet at us with the hashtag #secretgoth.

Meditative mantras for our shared globe’s survival & more?

Kelly: 1. See: Fiona Apple’s “The World is Bullshit” 1997 award acceptance speech. (It’s truer than ever!!) 2. Don’t let corporations decide what good music is. I could be too late on that one.

Phil: Read up on confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance. It will help a seemingly insane world make a little more sense.

Follow Proudest Ever on Instagram, Twitter & hear more via Bandcamp.

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