2020 – A Year in Reflection

As we wrap up one hell of a year, we thought it was only best that we took some time to reflect on some of the really goods things that have come out of this year, specifically with Popscure. Thank you all for making this year a special one—here’s to many more.

What was your favorite write-up from this year? Why?

Tyler W: It’s probably a tie between the Dawit N.M. interview conducted by Cam Murdoch and the Q+A I did with members of the Wild Bunch before the “Our Streets” exhibition, both of which focused on photography. Since practically everyone in the digital age can capture an image with ease, it’s really interesting to me to hear how photographers approach it as an art form.

Jasmine R: My favorite write-up probably has to be “Whose Streets? Our Streets!”— a Q+A written and conducted by Tyler. Documenting the (without a doubt) historical summer of activism and unity is so, so crucial to say the least.

Cam M: The Tyler Donavan piece, I just want that guy to win and have his story shared, so it was big for me to see the response he got from that.

Shannon J: From Overseas, Tyler did a great job poetically telling the story of Kevin Sery and made the piece just as atmospheric and grounded as his music. Otherwise, I was excited to have a couple pieces I wrote go out (“Treasure,” “Bubble Ball“). Since I started working full-time, I haven’t had much time to write for Popscure, so I’m glad I can contribute, and I’m excited to have some new writers on this year too (Allison, James and Noah).

Noah D: Oh jeez, I don’t know. I hate to self-plug but maybe the Why Bonnie interview. It was the first time I’d interviewed a bigger name band, and I just really enjoy the chances it gave me, and I was proud to see it get feedback. Other than that, I loved the recent article [“25 Local Places to Get Gifts in the 757”] focusing on shops in the 757. I think it gave some really solid media coverage to businesses that needed it, and I think it influenced a lot of peoples’ decisions in gift buying.


What was your favorite piece to have edited and published? Why?

Tyler W: I really liked how Jasmine’s interview with LEYA came together because I see that as a great example of how Popscure can create connections both online and IRL. We were able to create a relationship with both the band and their label through email correspondence and then reach new readers through social media shares by the band and label. At the same time, we were telling our local readership about this emerging band that was on tour coming to play in our town. And then we were able to go to the show, meet the band, network with local musicians, etc. I also just really like them and their album—their album was one of my favorites this year. 馃檪

Jasmine R: One of my favorite pieces that I helped put out was the Shaina Negr贸n feature by one of our writers, Darryan. It was a super cool look inside the conjoining of art and self-expression from Negr贸n. I’m also really proud of our Black Experience Collective that we put together as a response to the events of police brutality and blatant murder and injustice that occurred this year. The collective serves as a platform to amplify the black voices unheard in this country.

Shannon J: Jasmine took care of much of the editing, bless her soul, but one of the few I did was “Coronavirus and Why Your Fave Band Tee Is Important Right Now.” Documenting such a shift on the blog was crucial since so much of our content is dependent on live music and the musicians who play shows.


What was your favorite standout moment for Popscure this year?

Tyler W: One moment that stands out for me is posting the Fake Uzumi feature on our new WordPress site in February. Around that time we were leveling up, and I felt proud of the efforts from our newly-formed team. I knew the feature was going to get a lot of exposure, and I remember feeling like our operations were just starting to run smoothly; we had all been working hard getting ready for this new level of attention.

Jasmine R: One of my favorite moments from this year absolutely has to be the Valentine’s Day-themed party we did with Smartmouth Brewing Co. and Citrus City Records. This may sound cliche, but the energy was literally full of love that night. It was literally “nothin’ but love.”

Cam M: Nothin’ but love show with Smartmouth.

Shannon J: Stay Put Fest 2020 was amazing. It was such a fun challenge to translate the exhilaration, fun, and camaraderie of live music onto people’s phones. It was the first time I’d chatted with local showgoers and saw my friends play music in months. There were technical difficulties and a learning process for sure, but I think everyone appreciated it. FlyyScience’s COVID info takeover was super interesting too, and getting to know her and her work was awesome. We just really had to think outside of the box this year with events. No one stole our Instagram account either, which was a plus!

Noah D: I haven’t been on the team long enough to comment!


What do you most look forward to in the future of Popscure?

Tyler W: I look forward to us continuing to grow our team. By adding more contributors, Popscure will expand our investigation into the various aspects of culture and bring our findings to our community.

Jasmine R: Our growth!!!

Cam M: Breaking boundaries and bringing obscure talent to the masses.

Shannon J: Parties, hopefully we can do something fun in the summer!

Noah D: Writing more, editing, carving a voice for myself in the team, etc. etc.


Thank you all for the love and support you showed us this year! On to the next one…

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LEYA Sheds Light on a Sort of Beauty

The NYC experimental music duo talk community and connections in a thoughtful Q&A with our managing editor, Jasmine Rodriguez right before their debut album release and Norfolk gig this Friday.

Described accurately as “transcendental punk”, Marilu Donovan and Adam Markiewicz use detuned harp and violin + vocals respectively to create ethereal sounds that evoke a tangible chasm of emotion. Their debut full-length album Flood Dream drops this Friday 3/6 via experimental label NNA Tapes and they鈥檝e got their hometown album release show tonight at a DIY venue in NYC before embarking on a two-month tour taking them down the east coast en route to SXSW and through the Midwest and Canada. I鈥檒l be checking back in with them this Friday when they play Taphouse with Community Witch, Dysphonia, and VV, but first I wanted to get to know them a bit more…

I鈥檝e read that you all aim to show that there鈥檚 more than meets the eye with the musical instruments you play – in this case, the harp and the violin. The sounds emitted aren鈥檛 what many would consider beautiful by standard, but in a way the dissonance and harshness do reveal a sort of beauty that people tend to look away from. Would you say that鈥檚 a perspective you all try to show?

Marilu: Of course! Unconventional beauty is far more interesting to me. I grew up playing the harp, and I鈥檓 tired of it being thought of as an instrument that can only sound 鈥減retty鈥 – that idea is boring.

Adam: “A sort of beauty people tend to look away from” is pretty nail on the head. We deal in a lot of non-traditional…but intense…beauty: a strange harmony that is held so long it becomes all-encompassing, the vibrations of detuned harp strings filling your entire body, the general vibe of sound over notes while still working within a pretty fixed musical frame.

Your music conjures up a vast spectrum of emotion. Do you have to be in a certain mindset when creating the music you make? Is there a specific feeling you all set out to express, or does it all come together organically?

Marilu: I don鈥檛 think we specifically set out to create sad music, it just kind of happens that way – at least so far… For me, whenever I am creating, it鈥檚 so difficult to start the process in a 鈥渃ertain mindset.鈥 Some days creativity pours out, and some days it doesn鈥檛.

Adam: Playing and writing with Marilu is organic and natural. Despite all the work…we’re not thinking about it that hard, y’know?

Did you all find it hard at first, trying to get others to see your vision? Or does living in NYC make it easier?

Marilu: Living in NYC makes doing most things 鈥渙utside the box鈥 easier – definitely. I think we鈥檙e still trying really hard to get others to see our vision, but thankfully each year it gets easier.

Adam: Honestly, our community here has always been very supportive. I think the decision to dive so seriously into this over the last couple years was partially driven by the cohesiveness we immediately felt with an audience of our friends when we first started. Our peers/friends/chosen family have been part of the connection to every moment of growth for LEYA. I like to think of everyone being together in this and all of it. I’m honestly surprised when people allude to the music being hard to access – it’s actually meant to be very easy to feel and understand.

Your music seems to be the perfect compliment to a performance art piece or visual installation. I鈥檇 say your music videos for 鈥淲ave鈥 鈥淪ister鈥 and 鈥淚NTP鈥 each possess their own cinematic quality to them. Have you all considered pairing your music to any other visual (or other sensory) aspects in the future?

Adam: We’re open to many things and will definitely move into new territory. “Sister” was done so beautifully by our dear friend/muse/director Kathleen Dycaico that we were sort of propelled into this dreamy visual world – working with Brooke Candy and PornHub on “I Love You鈥 and scoring amazing animations by Jennifer May Reiland. It’s all been pretty amazing when we’ve worked with moving images. Obviously we want to score your next film – hit us up!

Marilu: I am super into the idea of working on more film scoring, and with live dancers. For sure – get at us!

Your new album, Flood Dream, will be released Friday (3/6). How was that process following the years after your debut with The Fool? Are there any new elements that you brought to the table this time around? How has the creative process changed or stayed the same?

Marilu: I would say the creative process is still very much the same between Adam and I. We really are just exploring and figuring out what we like and what works. We are constantly growing, and constantly massaging the music – really figuring out what sounds best to our ears.

Adam: While we have always stayed true to our specific sort of sound, this is definitely a new kind of record in a couple ways. We set out to write songs in a way that we hadn’t before – simpler and more transparent in terms of their role as just being songs, not these dense slabs, or pieces. We wrote most of them while on the road for three months January – March of 2019 and then three are adapted from earlier versions in the “I Love You” score. We continue to hone our process, but it’s basically the same as always – Marilu and I sitting in a room, working it out piece by piece, starting with the harp. There are some guests on this record – GABI sings on ‘Weight’ and our friends John and Tristan lend some flute, synth, and upright help lightly on two songs – but mostly it is a departure from the collaborative zones we’ve traversed lately. It has one thread and tries to a tell a story, whatever that means to you.

How did you all come across NNA Tapes? What drew you to the label?

Adam: Toby Aaronson, the original Co-Founder with Matt Mayer, is a friend of mine via the New England DIY scene. When we first started recording I reached out to him. I’ve always admired their work and catalog – so vital in its crystallizing of the experimental zone in the late 2000-oughts.

Marilu: Ya! NNA are old homies – they rule.

Cover art for LEYA鈥檚 debut full-length album Flood Dream
What does a live set-up typically look like and how do these songs translate live? Is crowd reception/connection a factor that you keep in mind when performing?

Marilu: Most of these songs sound pretty much the same live as they do on our recordings. I read something one time when we first started out that described us as 鈥渉arp, violin, and electronics鈥 and I was both like wondering what they thought were the electronic elements, and also like I don鈥檛 know how to work electronics! Crowd connection is so important to both of us. Both during and after the set – come say hi to us! Be our friends.

Adam: Our shows are intense and intimate and the audience is half of that, at least. My favorite part of LEYA is playing it live!

I know this phrase I am about to use is so vague and relative, but do you all feel like you fit in a 鈥渕usic scene?鈥 This may be helpful to other musicians reading this who make music in non-traditional ways.

Adam: We like to live in many scenes because many “scenes” are happening in their own way, but ultimately we came up through DIY culture and tend to play with bands that exist in that world. We play with punk bands, mostly, but you might also catch us at fancier spot every now and again.

Marilu: Ya – I agree with Adam. The DIY scene has been very supportive of us. But, people interpret LEYA in so many different ways; a friend of ours likes to describe LEYA as a hardcore band.

Photo by LAZAR courtesy of NNA Tapes
What would you say to those that think your sound is too 鈥渉igh-brow鈥 or 鈥渉igh-art鈥 for them?

Adam: We don’t like pretentious shit really, so we’d probably get along. They should just come to the show, though – it’s not a complex vibe.

Marilu: lol – truly we鈥檙e so scrappy!

Lastly, what does music, in it鈥檚 purest form, mean to you?

Marilu: emotion

Adam: Absolutely everything.

See more details on all these events via Facebook.

Thank you to LEYA and NNA Tapes for the opportunity to conduct this interview. The featured photo at the top of the article was shot by Serge Serum and comes courtesy of NNA Tapes. See you at the Norfolk Taphouse on Friday, March 6th.