Katy Kirby

  • August 6, 2024 8:00 PM - 10:00 PM
  • The Bishop

    123 South Walnut Street
    Bloomington, Indiana 47408
Ticket Price $21.98-$25.13 Buy Tickets


with Mei Semones

Let’s face it: There’s no such thing as “real life”. There is only experience and the negotiations we undertake in order to share it with other people. On her second album Blue Raspberry, the New York-based songwriter Katy Kirby dives headlong into the artifice of intimacy: the glitter smeared across eyelid creases, the smiles switched on with an electric buzz, the synthetic rose scent all over someone who’s made herself smell nice just for you. An exegesis of Kirby’s first queer relationship, Blue Raspberry traces the crescendo and collapse of new love, savoring each gleaming shard of rock candy and broken glass along the way. 

Originally from Spicewood, Texas, Kirby was living in Nashville when she started writing Blue Raspberry’s title track, the first of the album’s songs to take shape. “‘Blue Raspberry’ is the oldest song on the record. I began to write it a month or so before I realized, I think I’m queer,” she says. “There’s a tradition of yearning in country love songs. I like the male yearning songs better, usually. I started writing ‘Blue Raspberry,’ and I was thinking about, if I was in love with a woman, what would I love about her? Especially if she was someone that I couldn’t touch, but that I was pining for. What would I be caught on? And I thought that I would probably be particularly charmed by the choices she made on how to look after she woke up in the morning.  I thought about tackiness, and the ways that’s a dirty word. That’s where the title comes from—loving someone for those choices, for the artificiality.”


Blue Raspberry follows Kirby’s acclaimed debut album Cool Dry Place, which was also recorded in Nashville and released in February of 2021. While the songs on that record unfold amidst Kirby finding her voice, Blue Raspberry is a polished and confident sophomore effort that deepens the questions that bubbled through Cool Dry Place about how people can reach each other despite all the hazard zones where human connection caves in.  


After realizing that her romantic interest in women went beyond the confines of a songwriting exercise, Kirby kept writing songs that sought to untangle that false binary between the real and the fake, to celebrate the spectacles people put on for each other when they’re falling in and out of love. She committed herself completely to the work of drawing out these songs, often stealing away to her van to write immediately after playing an opening set while on a 2021 tour with Waxahatchee. For the first time since she started writing songs, Kirby stopped tamping down on her impulse to craft ornate, generously embellished music. “I felt less embarrassed about just wanting to write really gorgeous songs,” she says. She started weaving more intricate chord progressions and melodies into her work, and in turn she felt emboldened to hold onto the more baroque flourishes of her lyrics without whittling them down into plainer lines.


Many of the songs that make up Blue Raspberry stemmed from a single page of lyrical fragments, words and phrases that kept their hold on Kirby even as she slipped them into multiple settings. Images repeat on different songs throughout the album: cubic zirconia gleaming at a woman’s throat, the lab-grown substitute indistinguishable from earth-crushed diamonds; salt crystallizing as seawater dries on reddened skin; teeth that shine in a grin and then bite till they bruise. These refrains and reprises lend a tight narrative cohesion to the record, elevating its sharp queries into all the unlikely shapes love takes as it surges through you.


To underscore Blue Raspberry’s lyrical themes, Kirby worked with her band to develop a newly lush sonic palette replete with orchestral gestures arranged by her friend Rowen Merrill. “I felt like I was intending to write love songs for the first time. Once I realized they were queer love songs and celebrating artificiality, I wanted them to sound like they were bidding for a spot in the wedding reception canon,” she says. “It was more fun to just go for it than to try to restrain ourselves. Especially if we were just accepting the fact that we were trying to make objectively beautiful music, whatever that means.”


Together with producers Alberto Sewald and Logan Chung, Kirby looked to albums like Andy Shauf’s The Party and Lomelda’s Hannah as models for Blue Raspberry’s abundant but spacious gorgeousness. Piano and strings echo together on the gentle ballad “Salt Crystal,” while scrapes of cello punctuate each heartbroken line of “Alexandria,” a song about the dissolution of Kirby’s first queer relationship and recorded live in one take. Cymbals and organs stagger across the offbeat “Drop Dead,” one of the album’s most playful songs that highlights the sly humor in Kirby’s lyrics: “There’s no virgin territory for a body like hers.” On the album’s title track, Kirby sings trailed by a pitch-lowered echo of her own voice, her guitar chords hanging in the air like question marks. Her imagery seizes upon the bright, garish colors of mass-produced material, homing in on its sensory intensity while casting aside any judgment about its source. “Her eyes burn white as Styrofoam right into me,” she sings, rendering a cheap, disposable substance into shocking magic.


“Why wouldn’t that be enough?” Kirby sings throughout the album, a question that’s never answered and never drops. Every attempt at love strains toward the idea of the real thing, that totalizing force that makes everything around it perfect forever. But if no one ever gets there, why wouldn’t the straining itself suffice? Blue Raspberry shivers with the idea that the key to the treasure is itself the treasure—even if it’s plastic, even if its gold coating flakes off at your touch, even if despite all your searching you never find the lock.

Mei Semones' sweetly evocative blend of jazz, bossa nova and math-y indie rock is not only a way for her to find solace in her favorite genres, but is an intuitive means of catharsis. "Blending everything that I like together and trying to make something new — that's what feels most natural to me," says the 23-year-old Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter and guitarist. "It's what feels most true to who I am as an artist." On her newest EP and Bayonet Records debut Kabutomushi, Mei's diverse sonic palette adds depth to her experiences of the complexities of love. Through the EP's five songs, she chronicles infatuation, devotion, vulnerability, and saying goodbye in some of her closest relationships, complete with sweeping strings, virtuosic guitar-playing and heartfelt lyrics sung in both English and Japanese.


Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Semones began playing music at a young age, starting out on piano at age four before moving to electric guitar at age eleven. After playing jazz guitar in high school, she went on to study guitar performance with a jazz focus at Berklee College of Music. College is where she met her current bandmates, including string players Noah Leong and Claudius Agrippa, whose respective viola and violin add softness and multidimensionality to Mei's intricate guitar work. After releasing a slew of singles and an EP in 2022, coinciding with her move to New York City, Mei and her band have since gone on to collaborate with post-bossa balladeer John Roseboro and embark on their first-ever tour with the melodic rock outfit Raavi.


Though Mei's music has always been a distinct combination of her gently saccharine voice with dynamic musical arrangements, Kabutomushi shows her delving into aspects of her musicianship that she's never explored previously. Plinking guitar tones and asymmetrical time signatures exemplify her forays into angular indie rock more now than ever before, most evident on the single "Wakare No Kotoba," its wide-interval arpeggios in odd meters being some of the most technically difficult guitar work Mei has ever implemented in her songwriting. Translated to "parting words'' in English, the self-described "anti-love song" serves as a farewell to a toxic friendship, complete with orchestral swells and crashing guitars. In the same sonic vein is "Inaka" ("countryside"), which details Mei's daydreams of moving somewhere more pastoral during a period of exhaustion resulting from the hustle and bustle of newfound city life. Here she directly addresses her beloved with words of loyalty and adoration in wanting to build an idyllic life somewhere new together, while cinematic strings add romantic flares aside Mei's leading guitar. Throughout the EP, her straightforward, girlish vocal delivery calls to mind that of the late bossa nova great Astrud Gilberto, while also having drawn comparison to Japanese contemporaries Ichiko Aoba and Lamp.


All of the songs that comprise Kabutomushi are written and sung in both English and Japanese, with Mei wanting to stay connected to her first language in a creative way. The EP title translates to "rhinoceros beetle" in English, named after the horned insect that she would spot and catch in the park when visiting her grandmother in Japan growing up. The title track is a reminiscent ode to those childhood trips — a series of nostalgic vignettes that evolve into a bittersweet apology to her late grandmother. Keeping things stripped-down with the help of electronic subtleties and plucked strings, Mei's voice intertwined with her guitar come off as a poignant lullaby of treasured memories long-gone, but not forgotten. It's songs like "Kabutomushi" that encapsulate Semones' sonic trademarks: ornately catchy, genre-fusing compositions serving as the backdrop to tender lyrics touching on the universalities of human emotion.


Kabutomushi is out April 5, 2024, on Bayonet Records.


Date & Time

Tue, Aug 6, 2024 8:00 PM - 10:00 PM

Venue Details

The Bishop

123 South Walnut Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47408 The Bishop
Spirit of 68 Promotions

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