A recent signing in 2020 with Atlantic Records brought NYC collective MICHELLE into the spotlight. MICHELLE, composed of Sofia D’Angelo, Julian Kaufman, Charlie Kilgore, Layla Ku, Emma Lee, and Jamee Lockard, is a modern-day representation of what it means to create art as a diverse group. Though diversity came naturally for them, their identities and emotions fueled by different experiences come together to create warm, nostalgic, and funky tunes. MICHELLE set some time aside for MOOD to talk more in-depth about coming together as a collective and their most recent records.
Hey everyone, thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedules to put together this feature with us! Let's start by introducing you to people who might be listening to your music for the first time. You define yourselves as a collective, and you had a rather unique + somewhat organic formation. Can you tell us your origin story and how you all came about to form the idea of “MICHELLE”?
Jamee: MICHELLE started as a summer project, and we wanted to write an album about growing up in NYC. Julian and Charlie (who produced HEATWAVE) reached out to various NYC singer-songwriters that they knew. Julian met Sofia and Emma through the NYC music scene, and Charlie knew Layla from high school and Jamee from college. Every day for two weeks straight in the summer of 2018, one (or two) of the singers met with Julian and Charlie to write and record a song or two. Because all of the singers had separate writing/recording sessions, we hadn’t all met each other until our first concert (2 months after HEATWAVE was released). Since our first show, we’ve continued to write, perform, and grow to love each other like a family <3
Let's talk about your debut album, HEATWAVE. Give us some insight into what HEATWAVE meant to the group, and the emotions you felt releasing it into the world.
Sofia: Pretty much every song on HEATWAVE was written and recorded on the same day. Releasing it, honestly, just felt like another project I was working on. After our first show was when it kicked in for me that this was something pretty crazy.
Layla: Dropping HEATWAVE was a lot of fun to work on, but not a whirlwind to release. We were proud of our work, but never EVER expected the present outcome.
Charlie: HEATWAVE was a very emotional album to put together - everyone in MICHELLE was meeting each other for the first time, songs that people had had saved up for months were coming out and mixing together with ideas people had had less than a minute before they hopped up on the mic. It felt much less like a collection of songs that we got together and wrote and much more like a picture of a time and place. In terms of expectations and emotions on release, I remember just after we finished mixing the record, Julian and I were getting a celebratory Indian lunch and he said that he was thinking about trying to push HEATWAVE to labels or managers and that type of thing. I think my response was somewhere along the lines of “Don’t get your hopes up.”
Your single from earlier this summer, SUNRISE, has a bittersweet meaning behind it. Though it's warm, it's about leaving something behind. Can you talk to us more about the song and what situation, or person, inspired it?
Emma: Can say that it was a group of us who wrote it, so there was a collective longing that interested us. Feels like a solo ride on the train coming back from Coney Island.
Charlie: For me, SUNRISE felt like trying to condense everything that worked about HEATWAVE into a single song, and as such, I don’t think it was necessarily about one thing in particular. Everyone who worked on that song was feeling all the same feelings about a million different things, which is part of why I think it seems to work for so many people.
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Photography: Sophia Wilson