Finding new favorites in indie music has been bittersweet this year. We’ve all felt it. We’ve supplemented shows with Bandcamp Fridays, Facebook live streams, and r/indieheads. As our Spotify minutes skyrocket, we share more tracks to our Instagram stories, make more playlists, and repost each call-to-action to save another dying, unsupported venue. We play our music and daydream about the connections we used to have from it and because of it. It’s a natural and expected irony, then, that this year has been filled with so many great releases and new discoveries.
One of those highlights is the debut from Worthitpurchase—a West Coast dream pop duo made up of Nicole Rowe and Omar Akrouche, who hit you right over the head with their album DIZZY AGE, an album that’s left me spinning. Few records have effectively put to tape the nuanced experience of this year so far. DIZZY AGE is more than a yearning for connection—there’s a fatalism there, of learning that the world is quite literally out of control, but delivered with the effectual nostalgia for a previous optimism that was once taken for granted. There’s also a contentedness from the pair. Despite the occasional despondency of their lyrics, the listener can’t help but feel wrapped up in their comfortable ethos—of two friends sitting in a room together, sharing experiences. This feeling is captured well in the duo’s latest music video for “Gladly Fading,” which you can see premiered below. Jake Wolfert and Jakob Longcob’s video is a dizzying spiral, and that fatalism and lack of control is visually expressed with gusto.
DIZZY AGE deserves another year. It deserves an intimate audience and a stage, and probably a beer at a friend’s place after the show. But without that, I settled for a Zoom call and asked the pair some questions about their new record.
DIZZY AGE is one of my favorite dream pop albums of the year. It lightly dances across these really heavy themes of loss and displacement, and there’s such a romantic streak throughout it all. I’ve read that this record was essentially written as it was recorded in the studio. Was everything we heard off the cuff then? Or did you have a sense of what the album would be about before writing it?
Nicole Rowe: Well I basically wrote most of the songs in my dorm through voice memos in the span of a month… And they all kind of had the same theme because they were all just different ways of me looking at the same thing that was happening to me and going through different perspectives. And then through producing it in the studio, they were pretty much already written but just the bare bones of it. We definitely improvised in the studio.
Omar Akrouche: Yeah, I think the vibe is that we kinda try to write a song that we feel confident about, and then perform it through Voice Memo to each other. And if it survives both of our critiques on it, then we’ll take it to the studio. But all we were taking to the studio were just the chords, the words, and the melody. We definitely would just lay down guitar or piano or whatever with a drum machine or click track, and then just pick a direction. We were recording on tape, so we were doing as much processing and decision making on the way in, so we were kind of mixing the record as we were recording it.
You’ve released music together before under the moniker Glaçon Garçon, and put out this very light pink, soft, and dreamy indie pop EP back in 2018. Shoutout to the track “Julian,” one of my favorite discoveries this year. What motivated the name change, and what are you hoping to accomplish with this debut under Worthitpurchase?
NR: The name change was something we thought about multiple times, mostly because the name Glaçon Garçon didn’t really stick with people, probably because it’s a foreign language and hard to remember. It also just felt like we were starting to write different music in general… There was a different dynamic with Glaçon Garçon, from what Omar and I wanted to do with the future of our music. And I felt like we were moving on to another project so it felt like a natural time to change names.
OA: The more exciting version of the story *laughs* was that Nicole was in Paris, like two summers ago, and she was seeing Alex G perform—and I don’t know, I feel like I’m telling your story…
NR: *laughs* Ok well, I was seeing him at this bar in Paris and he was just playing a one man acoustic show there and he was just standing outside the bar afterwards, and I felt so stupid trying to casually go over and say hi. I didn’t even know what I was going to say, but finally I went over and said “Oh hi, I’ve been listening to your music since I was in middle school, it means a lot to me, blah blah blah,” and then I asked him about his recording process, so we were just talking about recording stuff! And he was, like, “You seem to know a lot about recording, do you make music?” And I was like “Yeah! I make music under the project Glaçon Garçon, blah blah blah,” and he kept asking like wait, what is it called again? And I kept repeating it, and he asked: “Is that like the pop song ‘Comme Des Garcons’?” And I had to be like, “Nope! Definitely not!” So, basically, I decided: we’re going to start singing in English, and we gotta change the name because Alex G can’t remember it!
OA: *laughs* Yeah, when I heard that story, I knew it was the final decision: we had been talking about the name change, and finally I could say “This is it, man.”
Yeah, wow, talk about a sign from the universe.
OA: Yeah, I think the big difference is that all English this way, we’re co-writing, co-producing everything, and now there’s no allusion of a band or anything. With Glaçon Garçon, we were home recording everything and pretending to be a band, and now we’re just like—no band. It’s just a strange recording project. We can use a new name.
Plus, I mean, if Alex G says so….
So you guys met through a SoundCloud comment thread. What’s it like to have formed such a partnership over the years, based solely on the lucky happenstance of an internet meet-cute?
OA: You know, it’s funny because right now me and Nicole are still only conversing on the internet. When we made the last GG album, it was mostly not-in-person. I’ve known Nicole for almost six years, and it’s totally, like, soulmate-friend vibe, and a lot of the time we’re not actually in the same place, oddly enough.
NR: Yeah, It’s weird because Omar is my best friend, and being over the internet and FaceTime, and talking about things doesn’t really feel like it’s a long distance working relationship, it just feels super easy.
OA: Honestly, I think us meeting on the internet really encapsulates the spirit of us as people, and how we interact with each other… I don’t know, it’s kinda hard to explain.
No, totally! And I would say, that’s an interesting answer because so many people are, like, lamenting about how hard it is, creatively, to stay in touch and make music through the pandemic, and you guys feel like you were naturally able to do that.
OA: Probably some Gen Z shit *laughs*. But to answer the question, I feel like when we’re together we just work, and when we’re apart working on our own, it’s kinda cool… like, we’re starting to make a new record now, and it’s kinda cool to have these, like, time stamps of one weekend on, three weekends off, etc. We could write a song a month, and take our time and get together and lay down three tracks in one night, and then kinda, like, work on some things so it feels like what we’re doing now has a natural ebb and flow.
NR: Yeah, and I think that it’s nice that it makes a kind of huge effort to record, and even just to see each other. I couldn’t show up to the studio with half-written songs. So it puts a natural pressure on you to finish what you started.
OA: Also I’m, like, engineering stuff. Like, I have my own studio space here, and when we were making DIZZY AGE, it was a familiar and comfy space. There wasn’t this, like, “me and Nicole in one room, and someone else in another waiting on us to do a vocal take,” like it was just me and Nicole sitting in a room. So there’s this whole other layer of laxness when we’re recording.
What I keep hearing about this record is how artful and interesting the production is, and that it’s what makes this debut stand out against other dream pop releases. There’s elements of insistent, thudding beats, some easy acoustic strumming, even chiming bells, and, of course, each of your very-different vocal styles, all coming together into a dreamy semi-reality. For such a sonically eclectic record, I’m curious as to what other music has informed it. What other artists are you each inspired by, that you think may influence your own sound?
OA: So I was starting to work at Tiny Telephone around the time we were starting to talk about making this new record. There was this whole thing with the younger engineers there where they used to do this late night recording thing where engineers would just come in at night and record their own music, or bring a band in and record them. There was this whole underground scene, and we would all talk about it, like, “Oh, did you hear that thing that Adam did late night last week, it was this sick like, Microphones cover,” or some shit. There was this current of, well we have keys to this studio, we have to make something. And that for me was such a driving force. In particular, our two close friends Sammy and Spencer have this band called Harry the Nightgown, and we were kinda making this record behind them, but, like, in parallel, and I learned a lot from them. But also sonically, I think me and Nicole each just come from different places, despite how much we have in common.
Like valuing the opinion of Alex G…
OA: *laughs* Like Alex G worship, exactly.
NR: I mean, I’ll listen to Adrienne Lenker a lot and think, “I need to write better music.” *laughs* But for the most part, it’s an urge where it’s just: I need to write a song right now, this is what I’m feeling, I have this idea and I’m going to put it down. I don’t even remember a lot of what I was listening to when I was writing. It mostly was an emotional writing experience, and had less to do with how it sounded.
A YouTube comment on one of your videos really stuck out to me, which was: “This very much feels like having your legs covered in glitter.” Some high praise. Personally, I think it feels like shuffling tarot cards over burning sage, but that’s neither here nor there. Are these the types of reaction you were hoping for?
NR: For me, I was just hoping that other people could listen to it and feel assured of their own emotions and feelings. Like, “Wow I relate to this, and I’m not the only person who is feeling this right now.” Almost comforting music in a way, just because it was comforting for me to write the music.
OA: Yeah, I think the idea of escapism and comfort was big in what we were doing, and how we were hoping that it would be heard. But also, towards the end, I started thinking a lot about magical realism. And this was a big David Berman thing—he would just be telling a story and then he’ll just say something huge, and you’re just, like, “What?” Stories based in reality, but this one layer of magic over everything: that was our way of interpolating what was happening to us.
NR: For me, even though maybe it’s not really how things happened, when it’s happening to you it feels hyper-real. You can think all these things and feel all these things that maybe don’t even exist, but you’re feeling them, which makes them real in a sense.
OA: And even that, there have been a lot of people who told us, like, “Yo, we really loved the record but it’s kind of intense…” And I’m like, really? And then I look at it and I’m like yeah, totally, it can be kinda heavy. I think both of us were pulling on each other to stretch things for that dramatic effect to really blow things up a bit.
NR: Yeah because you can’t really write a song where you’re like, “I’m kind of okay.” *laughs*
OA: Exactly, you have to embody it. You have to be embarrassing: that’s the theme of the record.
Considering work under both Worthitpurchase and Glaçon Garçon, one overwhelming similarity between the two is your ability to successfully create a very soft and palatable aesthetic, the visuals of which complement the sound beautifully. I’m thinking specifically of your video for “Dizzy Age,” or even your album art for TU N’ES PAS NI ICI NI LÀ! Is it as fun for you to create a certain visual feel to your projects as it is to record them?
OA: I think about it a lot. I take a lot of photos. I think a lot of what I loved about music was the literal act of making tapes or CDs or shirts or putting it on Bandcamp—to me, the music should speak for itself but the aesthetic is pretty important to me. And I mean, I don’t even know what our aesthetic is, but I have standards to meet for things.
NR: I think that Omar especially, he grew up going to a lot of shows, getting a lot of merch, he collects it, and has all these old Polaroids that he collects. He likes how something can be an experience or a collection. To have and to hold and to associate with the music. Which I also think is a really important thing.
OA: But I don’t know if we have an aesthetic besides homemade. Like, all the merch we made has been rough around the edges and has had handmade elements to it. I guess the aesthetic is just, like, most of the music videos are on film, the photos are on film, the records made on tape—I guess we just went old school.
I love a musical duo, particularly because each of your individual talents seem to mesh perfectly together for this release. What are some strengths that you recognize in the other person that make you each want to continue working together?
NR: I really like working with Omar because he’s not someone that will think too much. When we’re recording, he’ll just pick something up and be, like, “let’s try this.” He’s not self-conscious about anything, he’s just very open. And I really appreciate his honesty with me because that helps me push myself, because I’ll want to write something better, or sing better. So there’s just no BS in anything with Omar, which I really love.
OA: Similarly, I value that. But there’s something about a lot of the songs that Nicole writes where there’s always these weird things, every couple bars, that will keep you interested. And I just really appreciate the looseness of things with her. We’re not tied to any songwriter tradition. We’re both pretty interested in trusting in each other to break shit down pretty far.
In a happier future, where the pandemic is over—and also, hopefully COVID is curable in two seconds, everyone has affordable healthcare, the climate crisis is being handled, and we’re all millionaires—what kind of show are you putting on?
NR: Well we were planning on going on tour with Harry the Nightgown, which really was an ideal situation.
OA: For sure. That’s the dream tour. Harry the Nightgown is another duo, they’re exes too, they’re like our heroes. We were gonna do a West Coast, exes take the road type vibe, *laughs* but that couldn’t happen this year, obviously. But when we can, I think we’re stoked to play a house show and meet up with all our homies on the way.
NR: I think just because I miss shows so much, I’ve been watching a lot of artists I love play house shows on YouTube, and hearing their friends sing along—it’s just the most heartwarming, gratifying thing. Just an intimate show is my favorite always.
OA: Same for me, for sure. And I also want to play MSG.