It’s the time of year in Los Angeles where all the trees start to blossom and the flowers start to bloom, painting this concrete city of ours full of vibrant colors. This is usually the kickoff to music festival season here in SoCal, but as we enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we still find ourselves here in the same space—home. The lifestyle here in Los Angeles has drastically changed in the past year. I cannot speak on behalf of other cities, but I’ve come to realize that every person, every neighborhood, every city, every state, and every country are all having a very different experience living through the pandemic.
Even though the weather remained beautiful and sunny as it always does here, we also faced suffocation from the blazing wildfires and the constant cremations of our lost loved ones. We saw many of our favorite theaters and venues close down for good, and we barely saw one another in the midst of it. I say this not to be sad, but to simply paint a picture of what my experience has been as a music-loving Angeleno during the pandemic.
At first I felt a bit miserable knowing that I won’t be celebrating spring in the way I normally would. I find myself feeling trapped in my apartment, restricted from doing all the things I’d normally do in spring: shows, concerts, festivals, boozy brunches and spontaneous bar hops full of endless dancing and music wrapping me in its arms. I have felt utterly heartbroken that 2020 was not the epic year of music I prepared for, and it made me realize how much live music was a part of me, because without it I was incomplete. I felt so detached that I stopped writing and listening to music altogether. But thanks to some amazing, resilient, and vibrant artists who have also faced this pandemic here in LA, I am feeling hopeful again.
The artists I’m about to share with you are all friends of mine. They’re the creative souls I found myself immediately attracted to. I always find myself greatly admiring and respecting those around me who pursue music, because those who pursue it are fearless in my eyes. They have the courage to be vulnerable, the courage to put themselves in front of the world and express themselves through their art form and their passion. To me, being an artist means pushing yourself, thinking outside the box, and really looking into yourself and being in tune with who you are.
The artists I’m about to share with you have all continued making music despite facing a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Instead of ignoring their passion, they chose to nurture their craft and find a home in it. Instead of giving up and feeling hopeless, they pushed themselves to create the most amazing thing they’ve ever created, pouring their heart, tears, and souls into their work. These are local artists from here in Los Angeles that were able to still look out at this City of Angels and find gratitude, meaning, and solace despite the chaos, the fear, the sadness, the anxiety, and the depression that the pandemic brought upon us. Through their music they repainted this city for me, and comforted me in my isolation. To see people do what they love and share it with the world is and will always be the most beautiful thing in the world for me.
So thank you to Bobby Guard, Importer, Youngest Sibling, Disco Shrine, Lily Lyon, Jackie Vae, Synova, and Hex Cougar for sharing your art and your music with us. Thank you for reminding me why I fell in love with music in the first place.
Bobby Guard + Importer
I feel like I’ve been waiting forever for this song to come out, since its inception actually. I never thought I’d ever be able to witness magic in the making, but I had the fortunate chance to experience that as I observed Bobby Guard and Importer work on their new project together. It must be known off the bat for all those who read this that Bobby and Importer are talented and versatile musicians who can do the whole nine yards—play guitar, piano, synths, sing, write, and produce—just to modestly name a few. Seeing them combine their talents has been incredible. You can hear the intention of every element, every layer, every note, every word, and every melody. To hear the love pour out of instruments and voices and witness that moment in time is just breathtaking, and I’m so thankful they’ve allowed me to take a glimpse.
I feel like I’m always awaiting the next project Youngest Sibling works on. We met in college and I’ll never forget the day we were sitting under a tree on a sunny day on campus when he showed me a preview of one of his first songs. I was completely stunned at how enamored I was with his songwriting, production, and the mixing and mastering of the song. I’ve always loved the way Youngest Sibling can create stories out of his music, where they almost feel like your story. The way Youngest sings has me want to scream, shout, cry, lie in darkness, and sit under the sun. It’s reflective and personal, almost like an autobiography. How am I feeling love and hurt at the same time? I find myself wanting to run in empty fields chasing my own shadow. There I go again falling deep into his music—where was I? Oh yes, Youngest Sibling at it again! Taking me out of my reality and diving deep into another dream.
I had the greatest privilege to work side by side with this angel back in our days of producing an annual local music festival in DTLA. I call her an angel with all sincerity because she is the sweetest, kindest, and bubbliest person I know, and you can hear it in her music too. Disco Shrine—aka Persian Barbie, aka LA’s Underground Pop Princess—is a force to be reckoned with. Her music is an invitation to see the world through her pink tinted glasses. It’s what I imagine the soundtrack to the life of a teenage girl in the city would be like. It’s bright, it’s bubbly, it’s pop, it’s bubblegum, it’s happy, it’s a pretty sweet time! Every time I’ve seen her perform, she gives it 10,000%. I always get giddy when I see the crowd dancing and vibing with her, because they see what I see—a freaking star.
I’m going to take a moment here to sing her praises: Lily Lyon is a #1 baddie (and my Brazilian Jersey gal reina). I met Lily through work, where she moved to LA after graduating from Berklee College of Music. She’s a go-getter who is able to produce and run live shows nonstop while also working on her music nonstop (Drake is shaking). Lily Lyon has such a powerful voice that always perfectly illustrates the feelings in her music. She can deliver you a sad song that will have you crying alone, and she can also deliver you a Brazilian bop that will have you shaking your butt on the dance floor. And that’s pretty much Lily Lyon—she’s both. She is able to go through painful moments in her life and make a beautiful song out of it and really empowers you to step into your own greatness. Lily is also a great dancer with the silliest corniest jokes, and her songs will show you just how much fun she is being around.
Jackie Vae is alluring the moment you meet her. Her signature pinup look compliments her hauntingly beautiful voice. She is an enthralling singer and songwriter who infuses her sultry vocals with electronic-jazz that shows off just how one-of-a-kind she is. Not only is she a fascinating artist, but she’s also a very supportive and uplifting mujer of the people around her. Jackie showed me the beauty of sisterhood and rooting for all the womxn around you. I love the duality of the sunny, bright, and funny Jackie Vae in real life and the dark, mysterious, and seductive sound of her music. I’m already imagining her singing in front of a jazz band at a cozy nightclub in downtown. Yes, take me there.
Oh gosh, this kid. I call him a kid because he’s only 21 and has been making music since he was a teen. A teen with a dream who left Pittsburgh to create a new world with his music here in LA. Synova is what I define the next generation of electronic music to look like. It’s obscure, it’s unconventional, it’s a whole new avenue. I cannot call him a DJ/producer type because he does not fit in that box, and that box is so limiting to so many artists. Synova is a singer, songwriter, producer, DJ, musician, skater, filmmaker, photographer, and more. I name all of these because he uses all these layers of himself into his music. I truly appreciate the way he holds his authentic self close, and is able to share said authentic self to the world. What you hear and see in his music is just like him in real life. LA is thankful to have you.
Hex Cougar and I go way back, and I want to share a story about the time I knew he’d be successful. We were both sophomores in college who weren’t happy with the majors we selected. In our conversation we realized we were pursuing degrees in something that did not make us happy. “So what makes you happy?” I asked. “Music. I want to make music,” he said. He was afraid to make the jump at first—because there’s a fear of letting others down, letting family down, or feeling like you made a mistake. But I remember the way he talked about music, how he told me he started teaching himself new programs to produce, and the way he spoke about it showed me the he would only let himself down if he never tried. After our talk we both agreed to pursue what we wanted, promising to go all in, give it 200% and commit to it no matter what. We even talked about how one day he’ll be working with RL Grime (someone we idolized at the time) and tour. Well, now that he’s made that dream into a reality, he decided to push himself even further during this pandemic and create a music label to support and uplift the next generation of artists who are ready to pursue what makes them happy. Aside from checking out this latest release, please check out the beautiful people behind Alter/Ego, Hex Cougar’s record label.