Palehound and Jay Som Break the Supergroup Mould on Bachelor's 'Doomin' Sun'
Published May 27, 2021Palehound's Ellen Kempner and Jay Som's Melina Duterte were already big fans of each other before meeting backstage at a Sacramento show in 2017. As two of indie rock's brightest rising stars, their paths were fated to cross, and serendipitously, that first encounter was also the spark that lit the fire in their platonic love story. As their budding friendship grew, as did their inevitable professional relationship — out of which Bachelor, their new supergroup, was born.
Pre-pandemic 2020 found the pair descending on a California Airbnb, officially cohabitating for two weeks to write and record their debut album, Doomin' Sun. What came of those hazy, joke-fueled sessions was a collection of sun-soaked bass-heavy tunes confronting a range of topics from climate change to the queer experience. In melding their expert musical sensibilities — anchored by Duterte's unique production style and Kempner's evocative lyricism — they've created something so expectedly pure and joyful that its only surprising factor is that they didn't make it happen sooner.
Inhabiting a familial flavour of indie rock — Duterte's self-described "headphone music" to Kempner's "journal rock" — undoubtedly aids in their sonic compatibility. That blend is most apparent in the record's opening track "Back of My Hand," a delightful love song that merges the stylings of Jay Som's Anak Ko track "Devotion" and Palehound's Black Friday single "Aaron." Here, Kempner's blazing East Coast garage rock riffs are a guide to Duterte's West Coast slacker vibes. Conversely, album cuts "Spin Out" and Bachelor's first-ever collaboration "Sand Angel" find the pair trading off vocal harmonies and adopting Jay Som's sludgier, psychedelic slow-burner songwriting ethos.
Doomin' Sun really takes off with "Stay in the Car," an ode to an anonymous miscreant and her trusty chauffeur. "Double parked with the door swung wide / FM preacher, the radio's high / Hair in a tantrum / Eyes like two streaks of fire," the pair sing, painting an alluring portrait of a prototypical Floridian eccentric, the best-case product of American exceptionalism. It's the type of minutiae for which Kempner has long exhibited a keen eye and the song's anecdotal imagery is doubly compounded by Duterte's roaring production.
But where the album's real strength lies is in its process. Out in that Topanga, CA, house where the pair brought their songs to fruition, they also made sure to prioritize relaxation. Converging in late mornings to munch breakfast, jamming during the day, parting ways to write separately and later reconvening to binge episodes of their favourite shows proved to be a successful routine for Bachelor's pressure-free songwriting mission. By design, it doesn't sound all that different from a comfortable life one might have with a roommate or sibling. The record's foundations as a family affair are only further reflected in its additional contributions by friends of the band, Big Thief's Buck Meek and James Krivchenia (guitar and drums, respectively), as well as Duterte's partner/Routine bandmate, Chastity Belt's Annie Truscott, who tracked string accents for the album.
With supergroups like boygenius and Broken Bells before them, the blueprint for Bachelor's creative partnership was already well established in the genre's canon, and yet, Duterte and Kempner manage to break the mould with Doomin' Sun, proving their chops as singular visionaries as well as synergetic collaborators. (Polyvinyl)