LA indie avant-garde artist Simone Istwa announced the ‘Heartweb’ EP, a mix of dreamy shoegaze and noisy indie rock out on June 4 via Rain Phoenix’s LaunchLeft label. Istwa has shared the first single lifted from the EP So Sure alongside a video starring James Duval (Donnie Darko, Independence Day, Gregg Araki trilogy) & directed by Nina Ljeti (Phoebe Bridgers’ “Kyoto”). The song teeters seamlessly between warped dissonance and sonic beauty as Istwa addresses what it means to be “letting everyone down time and time again. Breaking their trust. Saying it’ll be different this time every time and almost believing it. Feeling like that vicious cycle is out of your control.” Watch the So Sure video clip via YouTube below.
Simone Istwa was born into music. When your parents are Sam Phillips and T Bone Burnett, life revolves around the masterful creation of pop records with a pre-digital approach. But starting at a young age, Istwa mined for their own left-of-center sounds. From Nina Simone to the Velvet Underground, plus a long discography of other avant-garde stimuluses, it all adds up to what’s heard on ‘Heartweb’.
“I thought Nico, Lou and John were the same frontman playing different cool, androgynous characters — it was exhilarating,” Istwa recalls. “I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do, I want to play characters in music.’” The eight song tracklist artfully veers from experimental walls of shoegazy reverberations to bursts of pop majesty. It’s a visceral and reflective sonic voyage that’s not always what it seems.
“Aesthetically, the world I’m painting with the record is, on one end, candy coated in a plastic sheen and on the other, dusty, dug-up artifacts of the past,” Istwa explains. “Some of the guitar sounds are synths and some are actual guitars. I like to make the real ones sound fake and the fake ones sound real, so when you’re listening it’s like walking through a room of funhouse mirrors.”
“I wanted the EP to communicate fragility, like each song was a memory, stitched into a patchwork quilt, or filaments in a spiderweb, fine and strong and made carefully by hand, with ornate interconnections,” they continue. With all but the drum tracks recorded at Istwa’s home studio, Heartwebpushes the limits of bedroom pop. It also balances ethereal abstractness with melancholy realism.
“All of the songs are about a certain level of hopelessness, written at breaking points,” Istwa says. “And they’re talking about heartsickness, codependency, emptiness that you’re trying to fill any way that you can. But in the song ‘In My Room’ there’s redemption, like how the chorus goes ‘it feels so right without you here in my room.’ It’s obviously sensual but it also talks about how eventually isolation and alienation brings you into a world of your own, allowing you to create a complex and sustainable relationship with yourself.”
Looking back, Simone Istwa’s songwriting trip began at age 13, with plenty of Americana and country-folk troubadours inspiring their musical lens. By 16, the Los Angeles-based songwriter and producer switched gears and jumped into playwriting and writing songs for mini-musicals. “I’ve always been drawn to what I call spotlight music — the full fantasy,” Istwa admits. This is apparent from last year’s self released ‘7 Revelation 7’ (a “live rock and roll musical” set in an alternate Hollywood universe) and ‘Valentines’ EP (a three-act recording Istwa calls a “steamy, effeminate, industrial doomsday pop triptych”). What came next was the Driving single (LaunchLeft), a clear precursor to the new EP.
“I was 19 or 20 when I started taking the idea of making music seriously,” Istwa adds. “But it was more like performance art paired with experimental and noise music, punk or industrial, sometimes kind of gabber. It’s always been really hard for me to settle into one style because I’m such a contrarian. I’m always rebelling against my own desires and tastes, becoming interested in something that’s corny or shitty or unpleasant to me just because aversion is sometimes a stronger emotion than pleasure.”
Last year, Istwa joined LaunchLeft, a Los Angeles-based record label headed by Rain Phoenix. Beyond pressing up vinyl, LaunchLeft is also a podcast where famed creatives, such as Michael Stipe, George Clinton, and Phoebe Bridgers, help launch the next wave of music rebels. At its core, LaunchLeft is an alliance of left-of-center artists, an intentional space for art & activism.
‘Heartweb’ EP track list
1. My Fault (Introduction)
2. So Sure
3. In My Room
4. Call Me Sometime (Interlude)
5. Kiss Everyone
7. Call Me Sometime Reprise (Interlude)
8. Freaked Out, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotional
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