Fantastic punk-pop sarcasm from Illuminati hotties
LOS ANGELES — The night before Sarah Tudzin filmed the music video for the first single from her band Illuminati Hotties’ new album, director Katie Neuhof penned a photo of green, gelatinous glop cooking on her stove. Titled “Mammoooaya” in the middle of the clip, it was supposed to be cast Nickelodeon-style on Tudzin’s head.
“Oh yeah, what’s in it?” Tudzin, the band’s 29-year-old founder and frontperson, responded. “By the way, I’m allergic to dairy!” This was news. An emergency scan of ingredients in Jell-O vanilla pudding powder, green food dye and apple sauce confirmed that the slime was indeed lactose-free. Then, Tudzin vividly recalled, “I was all set.”
“Mammoooaya” is the second track from the Illuminati Hotties’ thrilling genre-contrast album “Let Me Do One More”. Releasing it as the first single, Tudzin said, “I wanted to hit people’s heads with something off-kilter.” The song’s verses are a pungent Jenga tower of dissonant guitar stubs and Dada-esque reflections on modern life (“You think I want to be a part of every self-appointed start-up?”), then the chorus one of the most catchy. In comes the hooks you’ve heard through the ages—a kind of wordless, destructively mindless soul screaming into the void.
“She can do any sound she wants,” Tudzin’s friend and former Tour Met singer-songwriter Lucy Dukas said in a phone interview. “There’s a whole breadth of emotion in her music: You might be coming to a party but then, oh! You’re feeling things. I love that she never keeps you in one state of mind for too long.”
Tudzin, a recording engineer and producer who has been releasing music as the Illuminati Hotties since 2018, has “invented his own style,” said producer Chris Cody, who has seen him work at his studio for several years. was kept. Tudzin’s name for this: “Tenderpunk.”
“Let Me Do One More” is a creative leap that embraces new sounds and song forms and seems to raise the ranks of her fans (she calls them Little Shredders). Its release on the indie label Hopeless Records also represented a professional victory. In May 2018, the Illuminati Hotties signed with the Tiny Engine label and released their debut album, “Kiss Your Fremanies”. In 2019, several of the label’s artists accused its leaders of financial mismanagement. Tudzin still has one more album owed on her contract, but she didn’t want her proudest artistic achievement yet to land on the embattled label. So, in a few whirlwind weeks of that winter, he wrote and tracked a 23-minute LP to fulfill his commitment. She classified it as a mixtape, and gave it a cheeky title: “Free IH: This Isn’t What You’ve Been Waiting For.”
Musicians have a long, storied history of quickly bouncing albums out of restrictive record contracts. Most of these albums are terrible. “Free Ih,” almost by accident, was good enough, summoning both the sugary power-pop hooks of prime-era Weezer and the wild punk-rock eclecticism of the Minutemen. Lyrically, Tudzin has a knack for articulating just how difficult it can be to make authentic human connections in a world beset by the scourge of an increasingly absurd consumer culture. “Let’s break for a podcast,” she yells over the mixtape’s first song. “Tomorrow morning we’re crying at Denny’s at the Grand Slam.”
Tudzin took all these elements up a notch on “Threatening Each Other Again: Capitalism”, which is one of the most influential songs on “Let Me Do One More”. A slow-burning ballad inspired by chugging guitars, the song strikes a signature balance between humor and pathos.
“I’m always looking for ways to tie the global picture into a personal narrative,” Tudzin explained. “I think it’s helped me connect universally and connect with other people, from person to person.”
Tudzin grew up in the Valley, but downtown Los Angeles, where we met in August at a library, brings back memories of her teenage years, going to shows at a nearby all-ages venue. (We wandered into the library after seeing the nearby bookstore had been closed for a movie shoot—a modern irony that wouldn’t be out of place in an Illuminati Hotties song.) She learned the piano and music from a young age. took drum lessons, and was adequately schooled in classical and jazz, but something clicked around age 10 when her drum teacher taught her that she could play along with whatever records she was listening to in her spare time .
“I asked a friend of mine to burn me some CDs, and he gave me some Green Day and some Blink-182,” Tudzin said. “And then it was like, Game over“
After graduating from the rigorous production program at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, Tudzin was disappointed to learn that he was expected to cut his teeth as a “runner”—bringing coffee and cleaning toilets—for many years. Able to use the technical skills he learned in college.
“It was a really bad environment,” she said of her time working at a major-label studio. She left after six weeks and shopped her resume throughout Los Angeles, eventually moving to producer Will Wells (the “cast recording of “Hamilton” was one of the projects she worked on) and, later, to her mentor Cody. Along made his way into an assistant job. , who were immediately impressed by Tudzin’s move.
“We were up and running on Day 1 – she already knew ProTools better than I did,” Cody said. In the three years they worked together, “Sara never made a single mistake,” he said. “I was lucky, because good people usually don’t last long.”
During that time, Tudzin hailed the Illuminati Hotties as more of an aspiring producer’s calling card than an actual band: “I was like, How can I convince a band that I meet at a show that I’m theirs? Able to make a record? One way was to make my own record, and be like, ‘It’s me who’s going all out.'”
Tudzin was just going to upload “Kiss Dude Frankies” to Bandcamp and moved on, but Duckus convinced him to “respect his work enough to give him breathing space,” Duckus said. Which meant sending it to the label. Tiny Engine offered to try it out. The sudden recognition was a thrill, but looking back, Tudzin regrets not reading his contract more carefully—especially the part where he signed his master.
If Taylor Swift can be “fooled with all the team around her, imagine a small band that just plays local shows and has never done this before,” Tudzin said over iced coffee at the Library Cafe. Said while taking a sip.
A silver lining of Tudzin’s contract debacle is that his new deal has allowed him to create and co-release “Let Me Do One More” on his own imprint, Snack Shack Records. She hopes to sign her to a roster of indie bands of choice and makes sure they don’t make the same mistakes she did.
In late 2018, demands from the Illuminati hotties pushed him to “graduate” (Cody’s words) from his role as studio assistant and engineer, but during the pandemic Tudzin was able to take on remote production jobs and little more than that. Easily saved musicians who depended entirely on tour. Although any attention brought by “Let Me Do One More” would likely make his balancing act a little more uncertain, Tudzin hopes to split his upcoming time as a composer and a producer, as he is a master of music. Tries to make her own little corner. Industry is a more humane place to work. As long as she is still enjoying herself.
“I just want to make it fun for myself, and I’m glad that as many people involved want to be a part of it,” she said. “It definitely makes it more fun, to create the place I want to be in.”
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