Razor Braids may just be your new favorite band.
The Brooklyn quartet formed back in 2017 but really came into their own last year after solidifying their current lineup and playing over 30 gigs at local staples like Rough Trade, Mercury Lounge, and Our Wicked Lady. With a big 2019 under their belt, the band shared their first official release last month, an infectious single entitled “Nashville.” And while the current lineup of Holly Bynum (bass/lead vocals), Jilly Karande (rhythm guitar/backing vocals), Janie Peacock (lead guitar), and Hannah Nichols (drums) has been playing together for less than a year, “Nashville,” has the swagger and confidence of a veteran act. The guitars soar, the rhythm section punches hard, and vocalist/bassist Holly Bynum doesn’t hold back.
In the midst of the current pandemic, I had the chance to catch up with Hollye, Jilly, Janie, and Hannah about their eventful 2019, “Nashville,” and their plans for once all social distancing measures are behind us:
Razor Braids technically formed in 2017, but the band really gained momentum in 2019. How’d the project start and what led to the upswing in activity last year?
Hollye: 2017 was a whirlwind of a year for me. I had been running a contemporary dance company for five years and I found myself totally burnt out. My boyfriend broke up with me, and my business partner/best friend at the time ghosted me. It was rough, but it led me to realize that I wasn’t focusing on what I really wanted to be focusing on, which was music. I initially went to college for opera and played in an alt-country band, but when I moved to NYC, I shelved that for dance. Through my dance program in college, I met a woman named Kathryn Turney. She had also made the move to NYC post-school and the universe brought us together in that rough patch in 2017. I found out she was a drummer and I was like “HELL YES! LET’S START A BAND” I don’t take anything I do lightly, so once she agreed we dove in headfirst. It was a great start! We had someone playing guitar with us and I sang. We still needed a bass player, but we were on the right path. It was all heading in the right direction until I suffered a traumatic skull and brain injury at the end of that year.
Yikes! I know this is an odd thing to say about a head injury, but I am truly so thankful it happened. I couldn’t do any strenuous physical activity for 6 months, and I had to heal my brain, so I chose to focus on learning to play bass. We needed a bass player, and I have always loved bass, so it seemed like the perfect solution! Once I had healed a good bit and had learned enough to play our songs, we got really serious about finding a guitarist. We had been playing with this guy, Russ Worstell, who is incredibly talented and an absolute sweetheart, but we knew we wanted it to be a badass band of badass women playing badass songs, so our search began. Over the next 9 months, the band’s lineup went through multiple changes. We were finally at a place to play out in January of 2019. Once we started playing shows, I knew it was important for us to play as much as we could to harness and finesse our sound and to get more comfortable playing with one another. This was imperative especially due to the changes in the lineup. The stars aligned when Janie and Jilly joined in March of 2019 and Hannah in October. <3
Hollye, I read that you suffered a head injury in 2017, but during the recovery, you taught yourself how to play bass. That’s incredible. What was that experience like?
Hollye: It was awesome, but definitely challenging. They say that no two head injuries are alike and therefore you don’t know what the healing process will look like. I went through many shifts and changes from memory loss to issues focusing, but I believe having something constant to focus on like learning an instrument saved me. It kept me grounded. Luckily those periods didn’t last horribly long. Haven’t got my sense of smell all the way back yet, but I don’t need that to play a damn song!
You just released your first single, “Nashville.” What’s the inspiration behind the track?
Hollye: At the time I wrote this song, life seemed really hectic and overwhelming. A lot was happening (nothing in comparison to now), but in the midst of that, I had developed a relationship with a musician living in Nashville. He would come through New York every couple of months on tour, and I was traveling down to Nashville to help a friend with her wedding. We got to see each other on a consistent basis for about 6-7 months. There were a lot of conversations, music, and good ole maryjane. When I was with him, for however brief it was, I stopped thinking about all the things that were overwhelming me. I was totally present and at ease and it was so much fun. I wanted to preserve that feeling in some way, so I wrote the song. It’s my hope that others can listen to it and feel that sense of warmth and energy as well. Hopefully, it provides some sort of momentary escape for those that listen – especially during this crazy thing we are going through now. It’s also a great song to wash your hands to <3
What’s your songwriting process like?
Hannah: Hollye is constantly writing new material and bringing it to the band to work out the rest. I love playing with people who are constantly creating because as a drummer it’s nice to have a solid base to work with when writing a new song.
Janie: Like Hannah said, Hollye is always recording and sending new song ideas which usually start with her bass and vocals, then I add a riff and we build from there as a group.
Jilly: Yeah, usually Holl will bring in either a fully fleshed out song or just a melody that she’s been working on and we’ll build off of it as a group or break it apart and work some origami magic and turn it into something new – it’s kind of different for every song.
Hollye: I write a lot on my own in my apartment, then I equate me bringing my ideas to the band like the scene in The Exorcist when she vomits all over everything. That’s me to Hannah, Janie, and Jilly. My ideas are the vomit, and they fucking handle it like champs. Haha. I send them recordings often, and when we were practicing weekly (pre-covid 19), every practice I’d be like “HEY GUYS – CHECK THIS OUT!!!” It’s amazing that I can write new material, bring it to them, and that they are so down to collaborate with me on it. We all really give a shit about serving the song and that’s rare and so special.
The band seems to have a really strong bond. How were you all able to develop that so quickly?
Hannah: I’ve been playing in the band since October. I feel like my personality instantly meshed really well with everyone’s goofy sense of humor and strong work ethic. It felt like I gained a new set of friends fairly quickly which is invaluable. It’s really important to me to play with people that I form genuine friendships with.
Janie: It’s impossible not to love each other after spending so much time and putting so much energy into the music. We are each so different but have truly bonded over this shared passion. I constantly feel so lucky to have these women in my life not just as bandmates but as SISTERS <3
Jilly: Ahh – I feel really grateful to genuinely love the people I get to play music with. I’m so inspired by the other gals in Razor Braids that it’s easy to constantly work together and improve on our music as a team. We really are all super different, like Janie said, but I think that’s actually a strength that binds us as a group – we all bring varying energies that just gel well together.
Hollye: I think you strive to build communities of people around you that inspire you and make you want to be better. I think that’s what Razor Braids has shaped up to be for me, and I’m so thankful. I don’t know if it’s luck or the universe or whatever it is, but it’s pretty incredible that we have bonded so intensely and so quickly. I talk to these women everyday, and I can completely be myself with them. It definitely helps that we have practiced once a week, sometimes more on top of shows, for the past year. Like Hannah said, It ALSO helps that everyone in the group is down to earth, hardworking, passionate, and goofy as hell. 🙂
What’s next in terms of new music? What can people expect sound-wise from future releases?
Hannah: The new stuff that we have been writing definitely is shaping up to have a cohesive and distinct sound. It feels like we are finding our voice as a band. It’s introspective and full of dynamic and rhythmic changes, which I love.
Hollye: Totally agree with Hannah. I think when Hannah joined in October, we were able to really get to work. We have embraced our eclectic nature, pushed each other to go deeper and think more intelligently about our songwriting. We’ve definitely honed in on something specific, more mature, and I cannot wait to share our new material with everyone.
Janie: I can’t wait to release our newer material. Like Hollye & Hannah said, we’ve really been able to explore and experiment with our more recent songs which I think opened up a new door for us creatively.
Jilly: Couldn’t have said it better. It feels exciting to be in a position where we’re constantly reshaping and redefining our sound. The songs we’ve been working on recently feel so different from earlier material in the best way – the melodies are more complex, the songwriting is more introspective. I grew up only playing acoustic guitar so it’s really fun to be able to bring in some of that more folk-inspired sensibility into a few of our new songs.
You played a bunch of great shows in 2019. Since the current pandemic has put a pause on gigs, tell us about your favorite show that you played last year.
Hannah: My favorite show was Femme Fatale’s Space Cowgirl costume party at Home Sweet Home. We love to go all out with dressing up for our shows anyway, so it was really fun to play a costume party. After we played we got drunk off of Zima’s and danced all night. I think I ultimately finished everyone’s Zima’s. Worst hangover of my life.
Hollye: This is tough for me. On one hand, I absolutely agree with Hannah. The NYE show at Home Sweet Home was a WILD night to say the least. I wore nipple pasties, jumped on Rich Weiss from Bloodless Management (who caught me!), did a backwards somersault, drank 1,000 Zima’s and spiked seltzers, and stayed up until 830am. I think we all had so much fun. On the other hand though, I had a really special moment personally at Rough Trade back in July. During one of our more epic sounding songs, I tilted my head back and just kind of took in the sound. Usually I’m moving around and singing, but in that moment I was able to pause and think, “Holy shit. I’m on the Rough Trade stage right now.” It felt like I was exactly where I needed to be. If only I could combine these two experiences… hmmm
Janie: Definitely the NYE Femme Fatale Space Cowgirl show. Energy was great and after the show we danced on the tables for hours. Hannah’s boyfriend was wearing a morph suit. I didn’t get home until 8am the next morning.
Jilly: NYE Femme Fatale was such a high point but I’d have to say either Rough Trade or Mercury Lounge for me – just really great energy from the crowd made those some of my favorite shows. It means a lot to feel supported by an audience when you’re playing new songs.
Who are some Brooklyn based artists that you’d recommend to Bushwick Daily readers?
Hannah: Gorgeous is a math rock duo who are so fun to watch. They really tread the line between making music that is catchy and makes you want to jump around, but you don’t know how to move because you don’t know what time signature it’s in. It’s great.
Hollye: I have to say Top Nachos puts on one of the most fun live shows I’ve seen. Eli and Kenny are such solid performers, and they do a lot for the music community. Shout out to Hennessey as well. We played with them at OWL, and Leah’s performance absolutely blew me away.
Janie: I love Kissed By An Animal, Dima Drjuchin’s band. He illustrates all of their posters, merch, vinyl covers, and even has animated his own videos to project while they play live. I love crossover between musicians/visual artists.
What’s next for Razor Braids?
Hannah: We are working on a full-length album. We are going to tour the east coast after things go back to normal.
Jilly: Improving constantly, getting more tunes out into the ethos, playing other cities, and continuing to support each other every step of the way.
Hollye: EVERYTHING: more releases, vids, pics, shows, tours, merch!!! Would also love to do some collaborations of some sort and community outreach.
Janie: Releasing more music!
The song is also available for digital download via Bandcamp.
You can also pre-order “Nashville” on limited edition cassette via the band’s website. The special tape also includes an unreleased song, “I Am.” You can also find a wide array of great merch there, including shirts, buttons, and tote bags.
All photos courtesy of Razor Braids.
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