Artist Spotlight: Palehound

Palehound
Ellen Kempner—vocalist, songwriter, guitarist, and leader of Palehound

Palehound’s record label, Exploding in Sound, calls the group “one of the best up-and-coming bands… throughout Brooklyn’s DIY community,” and looking at their track record, the statement doesn’t seem an exaggeration. Palehound—composed of Ellen Kempner, Thom Lombardi, Ben Scherer, and Max Kupperberg—came together in 2013, and in the span of three years the alternative indie rock unit have seen an incredible rise in fame. Featured in the CMJ Music Marathon 2015, an annual autumn convention and festival in New York, and on NPR through the Tiny Desk Concert series, they will be performing at Boston Calling on May 28. Vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist Kempner sat down with The Crimson to discuss her musical beginnings, her inspirations, and her experiences leading a band that is currently evolving and exploding with attention and acclaim.

The Harvard Crimson: How did you first become involved in music?

Ellen Kempner: My dad played when I was growing up, so that kind of got me started…. I’ve always just been a fan of listening to music my whole life—[it was] kind of a big part of growing up—and I just started writing songs to contribute to that culture, that scene.

THC: Do you remember the first songs that you wrote?

EK: Yeah, I wrote a song called “Real World,” and the chorus was like, “Get back to the real world / Get out of your cloud.” And that was my first song—one of them.

THC: How did Palehound form?

EK: [Palehound] still is in its own way a solo project because I write and record everything…. But I decided I wanted to start touring and definitely didn’t want to do it by myself. [I] definitely wanted to be able to play louder shows and not just be like the girl with a solo guitar.... I wanted to make more noise, so I put together a band when I moved here to Boston.

THC: How do you think your music has evolved since you first started out?

EK: Having a band now has made me rethink how I write songs. Now I know what to expect when I play shit live and what kind of instruments I’m working with, so I definitely keep that in mind when I start writing. I’ve also been practicing a lot more, so that broadens my abilities to just experiment more with guitar and stuff. And of course, I listen to different stuff that comes out, and everything has its own little influence.

THC: Who are some of your musical inspirations?

EK: I definitely grew up listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell. Loved her growing up. And in high school, I loved Elliott Smith. And recently, I’ve really loved Angela Wilson and Courtney Barnett. New stuff comes out every day that I like—well, not every day, [but] every year—that I like and kind of stick with.

THC: In what ways do you channel those inspirations in your music?

EK: I don’t know. I honestly will just hear a song that I really love and will be inspired by it. It just makes me want to make music when I hear something I really like. It makes me want to sit down and try to make something like it.

THC: What was like it recording your debut album, “Dry Food”?

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