Since the release of the electrifying Mija and Kelli Schaefer song “Bad For U” last week I’ve been on a binge of Kelli’s back catalog of work, beginning with her album No Identity from which “Bad For You” originates. The Portland-based artist makes indie rock music that is at moments experimental and wild and at other times so subtle and haunting it feels it’s physically getting under my skin – I’m hooked.
A trip through a Kelli Schaefer search on YouTube will reveal a so-far endless amount of gems in both the old studio recording and random live performance categories. Below is a video of a stunning acapella performance with a small choir inside a cathedral from when she was blonde – how simple yet super creative is that? I don’t know about you guys but I’m personally stoked to have an artist like Kelli infiltrating the hive mind of West Coast electronic music via Mija. In the immortal words of Jimmy Eat World she “kick-starts my rock ‘n roll heart” (shoutout Emo Nite for reminding me of that perfect descripton) and is going to inevitably expand the palate of more than a few ravers. We had the chance to get her perspective this week and found it to be most refreshing, read on:
NHQ: Everyone refers to you as a “DIY Portland artist” but could you explain in more detail what that means exactly?
Could it be justified to say everyone is DIY these days? It seems in order to garner label attention you must do the work on your own before anyone decides to throw a little gas on your fire. I am DIY out of necessity, and I’m happy to do it as long as it’s necessary, but by no means do I want to be burning the candle at both ends for eternity when some things could be better left to people who have offices.
NHQ: Can you speak to some of the original intention behind “Bad For You”?
I worked in the kitchen of a little cafe in SE Portland some years ago and became friends with a lot of the transient kids that would come hunker down outside where I would take breaks during the summertime. There was a Florida runaway kid named Diego, which I found out later was only the name on the stolen ID he used, who I befriended and took under my wing a little. Some of the initial lyrics of the song stemmed from our interactions.
NHQ: How did you link up with Mija? What made you want to work with her?
Amber contacted me via internet after a mutual friend introduced her to my music. She was energetic and enigmatic and I thought what a great opportunity to let my voice be heard in a new way. She seemed to really get it, and that’s important to me in the collaboration process.
NHQ: We just listened to your No Identity album and fell in love, how would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it?
I’d love to develop a catch phrase for this question, but the truth is it is always changing, both the music itself and my perception of it. This evening I suppose I would describe it as the sound a blundering lovesick giant makes as she pushes a train car full of panicked rats backwards up a steep hill. But that’s just how I’m feeling tonight. Mostly I hope people can find something in my music to sink their teeth into.
NHQ: What inspired you to start Amigo/Amiga? What do you look for with artists you sign?
Amigo/Amiga was started by Jeremiah Hayden (who currently runs the label) with No Identity producer Drew Grow. It was a way for us to organize our ideas, build relationships and put our records out in a way that made sense to us.
NHQ: We’re in agreement that so much of the world we live in is bad for us, any tips on how to combat that overarching factor?
To some degree we are all living in one way or another- out of necessity- in direct opposition to our natural human instincts, which can be incredibly painful. We get shamed, blamed and shunned for things that are literally in our DNA whether we like it or not. It’s hard to remember that our natural instincts are a big part of what makes us human, and we have so much more to learn about humanity. So much of what is bad in this world has to do with the impossibly narrow pathways we walk, are forced to walk, or willingly put ourselves on. So a helpful tip might be to feel everything, don’t be afraid, and someday you might find yourself bigger and stronger than the things that are bad for you in this world. But the most important thing is to allow ourselves to be heard and seen in a way that fosters genuine connection with others. Loneliness is the root of all evil.
Thanks so much, Kelli! “Bad For U” is good for us at least in this case – combat loneliness and the current state of the human race below.