MICHELLE can’t be tied down—not to a genre, a leader, or any societal expectations. The diverse, six-piece, New York-based group is the true definition of a collective: the six members (Charlie Kilgore, Emma Lee, Jamee Lockard, Julian Kaufman, Layla Ku, and Sofia D’Angelo) are all part of the creative process, drawing upon their unique identities when writing and creating tracks that largely explore sex and love in all their capacities—flings, needing space, self-love, getting over an ex, and being together at the end of the world. And the best part is that the community extends beyond their six members, so everyone can join in on the fun. They’ve done several community events and performances that are free of cost and offer activities like tie-dye and clothing drives to facilitate an authentic relationship with their listeners.
HEATWAVE (2018), their debut album, is an ode to the group’s New York City home and was initially going to be a one-off project: all the group members hadn’t even met in person before its release. But thankfully, they decided to continue making music together, releasing their sophomore album this year. A lot happened in those four years, including the collective becoming more, well, collective and maturing in their musical approach. They released standalone singles “SUNRISE” (remixed by artists including Arlo Parks) and “UNBOUND” in 2020, and NME named the collective among 2021’s Top 100 emerging artists, likening them to Solange and Crumb.
Their album AFTER DINNER WE TALK DREAMS dropped this past March. In anticipation of the LP, they released singles “SYNCOPATE,” “POSE,” “EXPIRATION DATE,” and “MESS U MADE,” which quickly became the album’s biggest hits, setting the tone for the 14-track album. You can hear this collaboration in their work, with their layered harmonies and interchanging lead vocalists. We hear primarily from Lockard on tracks like “EXPIRATION DATE,” and both Lee and Ku on “MESS U MADE,” giving listeners a slightly different experience with each song. While the album incorporates a range of sounds, from more soulful R&B to funky, upbeat pop, the album still feels lyrically and sonically cohesive.
MICHELLE’s latest release is their single “PULSE,” an upbeat, groovy track oozing with sultry undertones, repeatedly asking “Can you feel my pulse too?” It’s a song that’s meant to be danced to—whether you’re at home or at a club. The single gives us a glimpse of what we might expect from their third album or with future music in general—the same focus on love and passion, infectious beats and energy, but with more elevated production and a more professional feel.
This fall, MICHELLE is reaching their community in an even more intimate way. After opening for indie pop star Mitski and hitting festivals like Outside Lands and All Things Go earlier this year, they are soon setting off on a headlining tour. The group will play a New York hometown show at Brooklyn Brewery and will perform in cities like Atlanta and Nashville before traveling to Europe later this fall in spots like London, Paris, and Amsterdam. We talked to MICHELLE about their latest album, the community they’ve fostered, and touring.
Outside of the group, you’re all creatives in your own ways, with visual art, dancing, and solo music. How has this influenced your creative process?
Jamee: Since we’re all creative in different mediums outside of MICHELLE, it gives us the ability to have a lot of control over our artistic image. We’re able to choreograph our own dances, create our own cover art, and design our own merch. It’s important that our music and our visuals feel authentic to who we are as a band.
Sofia: And because we have such different backgrounds in our aesthetics/the art we gravitate towards, it allows us to come together and create unique works that no one else could, simply because it’s the six of us and our tastes and no one else’s.
Can you talk about the inspirations and process behind the track “PULSE?”
Charlie: This song kind of came out like a sneeze. Julian had the drum pattern, I had the bass line—I genuinely believe this is one of the quickest songs we’ve ever written. Jungle, Garage, and House music has always been a big inspiration for us, and we’ve never quite been able to use those sounds in a way we were happy with. Hopefully this is at least a step closer.
Julian: For “PULSE,” we were very inspired by the sounds of UK house music. Funnily enough though, the piano was the last thing added, after all the vocals and everything had been written. The song started with the drum beat, then the bass line. We wrote all the vocals to the drum beat and bassline, then tried to find midrange synth elements to tell more of a story as the song progressed.
You all have been busy touring with Mitski, at festivals, and with your own headlining tour. How has it been connecting with your listeners and bringing your songs to life?
Emma: I remember being really tired in Ferndale while getting ready to pack up and someone came up to me and shared how much “FYO” meant to them—they spoke really fast and really passionately and I felt myself wake up realizing the weight of what we were doing. Someone else in Madison came over with their dad and the three of us talked for a little while. Blows your mind and melts your heart, you know.
Layla: Similarly to what Emma said, it’s quite common to burn out on the road. That exhaustion can make it easy to lose sight of why you’re doing this work in the first place. Having all our music sung back to us night after night—with such passion and feeling no less—is a pretty warm reminder of who and what we create this music for.
What do you hope listeners take home with them when listening, and what have you all taken with you with creating your music?
Sofia: The best takeaway I could hope for is that they feel good listening to it, and that it’s the type of music they’re excited to share with their loved ones. I can’t think of a better feeling than that, someone excited to tell a person they care about that one of our songs made them feel something.
Layla: I hope our music can serve a purpose for someone. Whether that purpose be someone’s shower song, background noise, dance break, emotional release, commute soundtrack—I just hope it can serve its listener.
How are you all keeping your heart and mind open these days?
Sofia: I’m a big fan of living in the present. That’s when I feel my heart and mind are most open.
Charlie: Sleeping as much as possible. Nothing is possible on an empty battery.
What are you looking forward to and what can we look forward to with MICHELLE?
Emma: “PULSE”! // November touring in US and Europe // a break from a year of touring post-November // lots more writing and album 3 work.