Following on from the success of their previously shared singles earlier this year, US psych-rock outfit Queen Frequency & The Twats recently returned to deliver their highly-praised new album Observations Of A Lonely Planet, Part I.
A concept release about the destruction of Earth through the lens of a school children learning about it on a distant planet, Observations Of A Lonely Planet, Part I. looks to reflect the social and political issues plaguing the world today to create an introspective record that empowers and reflects in equal measure.
So with the new album available now, we sat down with the band’s frontwoman Meghan McDonald to find out more about the release and what we can expect from them in the future.
Hi Meghan, how are you today?
Hi, Indie Is Not a Genre! I am as well as I could be, all things considered. Staying healthy.
For those that haven’t heard of you yet, how would you best describe your sound and who have been your biggest influences so far?
I would say that overarchingly we are a psych rock band. However, we do weave in between other genres. This first record leans toward wall-of-sound, anthemic rock. I love songs that kind of paralyze its listeners — meaning, there’s so much going on that it’s hard to multitask and listen. You have to kind of just listen. Like Philip Glass’s “Floe” from Glassworks or Sufjan Stevens’ “Age of Adz” track. They’re both so magnificently overwhelming that you instantly drop everything you’re doing when they come on.
As for inspiration, I love the 60s psych rock era — not to be cliché. I love the playfulness of the Beatles, the harmonies and orchestration of the Beach Boys, Grace Slick’s vocal boldness in Jefferson Airplane, the meanderings and contemplation of Pink Floyd, etc. And I think it’s fun to revisit that genre, but with a more “girlie” touch. Especially because that genre seems to still be predominately a boys club.
And what would you say has been your biggest inspiration in music so far?
I love concept and protest albums. Which is what we ended up creating with “Observations of a Lonely Planet,” in our own way. Music can be, and has been, such an essential cultural storytelling vehicle. Black artists have dominated both conceptual albums and protest albums. “To Pimp a Butterfly,” “What’s Going On,” “Lemonade,” “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” “College Dropout” all speak to bigger-picture issues. Some even having a bit of a theatrical storyline throughout. While Queen Frequency may not resemble these albums much on a sonic and lyrical level, I feel deeply inspired to write music that highlights societal issues because of these artists. I also love when visuals, like music videos and visual albums, add to the storyline in almost equal proportions to the music. I adore the creativity and hybrid functionality of it all.
Do you remember what the first song was that made you want to start a career in music?
The first song that paralyzed me with awe was “In the Hall of the Mountain King” when I was probably five years old in music class. I have been singing, or making weird sounds, since I was an infant. But unfortunately I had to do a lot of mental reprogramming in order to believe that pursuing a music career was doable. Although, on a practical level, in many instances it isn’t very accessible. Music has always been what I wanted to do, but I often felt that saying that out loud was the “wrong answer.” I originally had a career in journalism. But I struggled with it; I think I have a bit too much energy to thrive in a desk job. I would keep having to take breaks (during one of these “breaks,” I did a street performing tour across America).
I have been so obsessed with music my whole life that when I announced to friends and family that I was going to focus on music now, their response was “well, duh.”
You have just released your new album ‘Observations Of A Lonely Planet, Part I’. Can you tell us how that release came about? What is the story behind it?
We met our producer Joseph Freeman while he was live mixing/engineering our show at Hotel Cafe. He approached us afterward and asked if we had a producer yet. Coincidentally we were looking for a producer. And the rest was history.
We did all of the recording in 2019 — so luckily we weren’t held up on the music end due to the trials of 2020. But it was a long process. Due to obsessive perfectionism, we extended recording from what was supposed to be a straightforward, four-month timeline to eventually recording and editing for over a year.
A lot of this record is reimagining songs I wrote acoustic or with a guitar looper this past decade with other incredible minds. I deeply appreciate collaboration. The process on a band level was along the lines of me presenting the earlier versions of the songs to the band mates. They then wrote their own instrumental parts. And throughout many shows, and especially in the studio, the parts would build and build even further. It was really fun to see how the songs transformed and to see everyone in their element.
Rachel McHugh is a melodically driven violinist — I’m always so impressed with the riffs she comes up with. I swear that her talent as a painter contributes to her being able to write captivating melodies. Holly Kaplan, who performs solo as Holly bb, did the synth production on the album. She adds a lot of the dreaminess and utilizes healing Solfeggio frequencies throughout. Other artists on the record are Queen Frequency originals drummer Haleigh Stilton and bassist Daniel Martin. Jonny Altrogge co-wrote “Little Town” and “Nobody’s Postcard”, and Matt Kranis and Ian Cleary also did drumming on the record. Darrell Thorp is an amazing mixing engineer we worked with throughout the album-making process as well.
And was there a particular style you were looking for when you wrote it?
I think the biggest shared sentiment was that we didn’t want to feel married to any one genre. And that the set would get progressively “darker” from one song to the next. It starts off as very cheerful psychedelic rock and ends on a jarring “bad trip” psych rock song.
Oh yeah, circling back to the concept album, there is a storyline throughout.
Can we expect a part II in the future as well?
Certainly! I’m already starting to piece together the next record. It will be interesting to start writing parts across the country in quarantine. Although, especially with our tendency to take our time recording/mixing, I wouldn’t expect to finish it any time before 2022.
The coronavirus outbreak has obviously affected everyone’s plans, but what have you got in store for next few months?
The next few months, coronavirus willing, we will likely release a few more singles (highlighting more goodies from the record) and potentially another music video. However, because of obvious reasons, much is up in the air. We’ve managed to have an incredibly fruitful year despite the 2020 trials because of us recording in 2019, so I’m not trying to push anything too hard.
And finally, what is the best piece of musical advice you have ever been given?
To not settle until the vision is exactly where it needs to be. And that the most important thing to prioritize when making music is the creation aspect. Externals — like marketing and promotion and social media — can really distract from the beauty that is making art. Don’t let yourself prioritise saleability over your own vision. And don’t let the business side of things steer you away from childlike creativity. Be weird. Get wacky. Fuck “the man.”
Queen Frequency & The Twats’ new album Observations Of A Lonely Planet, Part I. is available to stream and download now. Watch the new video for their single Didn’t Know Better below.