Ellen Kempner is no stranger to the unique. The 25-year-old singer/songwriter/frontperson of Palehound pierces the indie rock scene with her sharp, poignant, and heartfelt lyrics that feel personal and relatable all at once. With a brand-new album BLACK FRIDAY and a recently announced tour with Big Thief, things are getting wilder and weirder for Palehound. 2017’s A PLACE I’LL ALWAYS GO bursted with imagery and guitar licks as colorful as the grocery store aisle on the cover. BLACK FRIDAY expands on such previous emotional territory, sprawling out from anxiety and confusion into subjects like self-acceptance and unconditional love. Mid-album highlight “Worthy” is accompanied by an entrancing music video directed by Robert Kolodny, featuring Kempner herself along a life-size yarn doll.
Kempner answered a quick round of questions about all the pressing subjects (tour life, Pride Month, and crafting, obviously). Check it out below!
What’s the biggest life lesson you’ve learned in the past few years and how has it influenced your songwriting?
Ellen Kempner: That the best way for me to be an artist is for me to be as authentically me as I can. I spent a lot of time earlier in my career trying to hide who I am and it never worked, only caused pain. Now that I’ve committed to honesty, my songs have become more vulnerable and cathartic.
Your release of ‘Black Friday’ just so happens to coincide with Pride Month. What is your relationship to Pride Month, and how do you feel it impacts you as an artist?
EK: Pride Month is tricky. It’s obviously a great thing that as a queer person I feel like I have a month to celebrate my identity. But over the past few years Pride has turned into something else entirely, an opportunity for brands to exploit gay culture to sell their dumb shit. I used to love the pride parade in Boston, but when I went this year, it was depressing to see so many corporations and their straight employees marching.
What are you looking forward to most about your fall tour with Big Thief?
EK: Everything. It’s gonna be so inspiring, they’re my favorite band. They’re also pals, so I can’t wait to have fun and do weird stuff.
How do you feel about touring in general? What are the pros and cons?
EK: I love touring, but it’s taken me a little time to get there. Pros are getting to see the world in a way I would never be able to if I did anything else, meeting amazing people, seeing amazing bands, eating amazing food. Cons are being away from my bed, partner, and cat.
I noticed that you sell your own “Worthy” embroidery kit. That’s a very unique piece of merchandise, how did that come about?
EK: I love crafting so when we were shopping merch ideas, I was trying to think about what I would want, and that’s what came to mind!