Friday, January 8, 2021

Sophie Chernin, of Madam West, Visits Section 36!

Section 36 Music has another visitor! Sophie Chernin is the bandleader for the psychedelic band “Madam West”. I was thrilled that she was willing to talk with us about that, her music, and more!

So, let's see what happens when Sophie Chernin visits Section 36!

You're the bandleader for the group Madam West. How did that group come together?

It was a very typical "East Coast meets West Coast in the big city" kind of deal. Our piano player (Todd) and drummer (Mike) moved to NYC from Arizona after being part of the same music program. Will (guitar) and I met our freshman year at NYU and played in a couple small groups together, and Jory (bass) is a childhood friend's crazy talented younger brother we bodysnatched once he graduated from music school. All of us have very different tastes, and we used to play these odd variety show type sets where every song was very different stylistically. Our rock-jazz-psychedelic tastes all eventually coalesced into the strange soup you hear now.

I’m a big fan of the group’s recent single “In Color”. What can you tell me about it?

Will, who writes a lot of our hooks, wrote the core melody. But

the band, which writes collaboratively, tends to gravitate toward challenging rhythms and unexpected harmonies. So, Will starts second-guessing himself on the bus ride over to the practice space, and comes up with the big rhythmic switch-up you start hearing toward the middle of the song. I improvised some lyrics over it based on a dream I had where I was transported to an Oz-like parallel universe. The fantasy element has come to be even more meaningful to me now that every day feels the same. Dreams, I think, are a way better escape than the Internet these days.

Who/what would you consider to be your biggest musical influences?

We're kind of all over the map, but Will and I are Joni Mitchell fans (our first band was a folk duo). Todd and I came together over our shared love of Elliott Smith, and Mike digs classic soul (Tower of Power), disco and Radiohead. Jory brings a mathy, metal vibe (Battles, Meshuggah). Thundercat and Esperanza Spalding for prog-jazz-neosoul references. And I learned to sing listening to Sheryl Crow, Aimee Mann and Liz Phair. Like I said, all over the map!

I also enjoyed the video for your single “Strongest Son”. What was it like to put that together?

Ironically, it was based on a hypothetical apocalyptic scenario where we're all locked inside an apartment while the world implodes (this was last year). Little did we know what 2020 had in store for us! But yeah, we had a lot of fun getting dressed up, hanging out in the bathtub and projecting old atomic test footage on zero budget. Our friend Ian Wexler directed and shot it, and came up with all our weird little scenes and the shower curtain reveal.

Other than COVID, what would you say is your biggest career challenge?

It's always tough to balance writing and performing with all of the other businessy stuff, especially with the million social media platforms you have to keep up with. It's been awhile since our last release, so I was rusty when it came to outreach and promotion. But so far people seem to be digging it!

What are your immediate career goals?

Musically, I'm working on a duo EP with Todd (we got married

this year[2020]). It's convenient to write with someone you live with in quarantine! I've also gotten involved pretty heavily in local mutual aid and environmental activism work, supporting food security, better public transit and more greenspace in NYC. So, it would be cool to keep playing music while I attempt to help stop the world from imploding, the way I so often write about.


As always, I want to thank Sophie for visiting, and for sending along the pictures to accompany the interview.

I know you’ll all want to follow along with Madam West to see what they're up to. The best way is to follow them online on Instagram , and visit their website. They're great ways to make sure you don't miss a thing!

You can also visit their Section 36 Music page. There you'll find more links, pictures, and samples of their music. It's a great way to enjoy everything Madam West has to offer all in one place.

Thanks again Sophie, and good luck reaching your goals!

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