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Interview Wed Aug 12 2015

Conversation with Celine Neon

Celine Neon is the party. Within seconds of beginning my interview, I felt that instead of speaking with two artists I had just met, I was actually conversing with old friends with complete and total ease. It felt like uninhibited brunch chatter rather than any notion of typical interview vibes. Coming off of the heels of their debut EP this past year, Celine Neon is now in the midst of collaborations, music video remixes, and preparing to release their upcoming EP this November. I chatted with the spirited pair, Maggie Kubley and Emily Nejad, about their artistry, women in the music industry, and the merits of the word zany.

I've been listening to your debut album and I love it. Your sound is so exciting and eclectic - it reminds me of a mix between Santigold and Charli XCX and it's just so fun, including so many different genres in one. Where do you draw your inspirations from for your sound?

Well, Santigold and Charli XCX is really on the note. Those are two huge influences for us, and two artists that we really, really like. Maggie and I both come from a deep pop background. We both are extreme lovers of pop music, whether it's current pop music, or '90s pop music. We're '90s kids, so we came of age during the time of Spice Girls, and boy bands. That stuff is like solid gold. A lot of '90s R&B as well.

Emily and I were talking the other day too, I love Aerosmith. We were laughing because I was listening to some Aerosmith the other day, I hadn't listened to Get A Grip in forever. Steven Tyler's ability to *wail* like a cat, I do that with my singing and have for years. It's a little bit of a trademark for me and it was an epiphany moment, I was like, Steven Tyler has influenced me so much.

I like looked over, we were listening to I don't know what Aerosmith song, I looked over at Maggie and thought, thank you Steven Tyler for letting Maggie take her entire sound, directly from Get A Grip.

I hear the Get A Grip album, and it's just like, the world fades away.

I'm that way with Steely Dan. Maggie does not love Steely Dan, it is a fight that we have been having for years.

I love your music too, because usually a lot of pop music is all about happy, flowery subjects, but you are talking about some real stuff, but it's still got that poppy vibe. Was this purposeful to talk about these real life moments or did it just sort of happen that way when you were writing?

I think that that's always something that has interested us, the juxtaposition. First off, I feel like the more real and the more specific you are to your life when you're writing about things, the more people relate to it, you know? They're drawn to it because they're like, I could never say this out loud, thank you for saying it in a way that I can hear it and also relate to it. The other part of it, I feel like we really love the juxtaposition of these painful topics with really infectious beats. You make it something that people can dance to. You're still talking about the time that you blacked out and did this, or you felt really sad, or you felt really alone, or whatever, but you can still grind to it. You can't make it about sad stuff and still be really sad, I mean you can, but I don't think we're interested in that work, really.

Also, our music is a really true representation of both mine and Maggie's personalities, because Maggie, she's one of those people where it's like, all information is for everyone. She does not hold back, no boundaries, she is going to tell you everything. And I am a person who likes to play things personally a little closer to the chest, but I'm super opinionated and I will tell you all about stuff that is not personal to me. The topics are super personal in a way that is startling sometimes, but the music is really poppy, and vibing, and palatable, and grindy, and easier to digest than some of the topics that we're discussing.

What is your songwriting process like together also? I know you have been in a few bands together before with more people, and all of a sudden you were like, let's do this ourselves. That ended up really working for you.

We work really closely with the hidden third part of Celine Neon which is my brother who lives in L.A. Songs get written here, then we send them there, and he takes them and sends them back here, so it's one of those modern day miracles of the Internet. But we also go to L.A. and record with him, because when the three of us are in a room, it's amazing because he's got that technical ability that just, is able to bring the sound out of us. I think all of us bringing our strengths into one room and being able to work like that, we really only get to do it a couple times a year. It's awesome, because it takes my emotionality, and his knowledge of the production aspect of it, and it takes Emily's talent and foresight into how this whole situation is going to look after we release it and we put it all together in a room. It's really magic. It's really cool because all of us, I think we have the very fortunate process that we're a big family. Making music with your siblings is incredible in ways that I still cannot even explain.

I know you just filmed your new music video after "Getcha Good," which I really liked and I know that your music video process is more zany and inventive. What was the experience like with that?

I love that you used zany. Zany is our word. Our stylist was just like, you guys, quit saying zany. Lo and behold, the last email that we got from him, he used zany. Zany's catching on. We are gonna be at the forefront of that, the three of us.

We've got a couple videos that we've been working on. We have a video for a remix with the Rapper Chicks that we've been working on, but we also just made the video for "Kitty", which is going to be the single off of our new EP due out in November.

We've got two remixes coming out, one is with the Rapper Chicks, and one is with ShowYouSuck, and they are remixes off our first EP, so we are doing remixes of "Vacation Time" with the Rapper Chicks, and a remix of "Plz Party" with ShowYouSuck. The Rapper Chick one was amazing, it's fun to work with those girls. We have so much fun. I wish that every day could just be the five of us chilling and making music videos. We have known them for a while, we asked them to perform at our EP release show back in March and we were like, we need to work together. Any time you put a bunch of creative, like-minded females in a room together, magic is gonna happen. Every step of the way, from showing them the track, and then we went into the studio that they usually record at, and then just chilled and they wrote their verses, it was so neat to watch them work, and seeing the final product after we passed it back to Will and the other guy that we work with. We had previously met the director, Danny Bittman, and I looked at his work and was like, this is great. When we knew we wanted to do a video for it, it was perfect.

We tapped him for it, and he was into the track, and had amazing ideas. We went to him with a really bare bones concept, and he took it and just blew it up into a video that wasn't even on my radar. Working with him and his team was really great. It's really wonderful, through all the videos we have made, it's interesting to me because we are so female centric, we wanted to work with females but the directors have all been male, it really worked out because this group was really amazing to have on set. You just feel so comfortable around them.

Some dudes just aren't down for a matriarchy, I don't know how else to say it. But these guys we've worked with, not just Danny and Walker, they slid right into the whole atmosphere of the place, which is female-dominated, and they added so much to the mix. They just used their talents to really enhance what we were trying to do. Sometimes you get to working with men, and your femininity offends them, or confuses them. Oftentimes I find that when we've performed for large groups of men, and afterwards, everyone's just really weird, or confused, or you just don't vibe. Everyone that we've worked with, that just has not been the case.

The video with the Rapper Chicks is much more of a straightforward music video. These remixes are us with rappers, it harkens back to that '90s style of singing some verses and then a rapper comes in. It is more of that traditional rap remix feel, which I'm super into. This video is reflective of that, as well. It's a little bit more straightforward, which is cool. It's really cool to make videos like that, that aren't so insanely art.

On the flip side is the other music video we just made for "Kitty." "Kitty" is the lead single off our upcoming EP, and it is highly curated, very stylized art. That, we filmed with Matt, it was amazing because he did our very first video for "Cycle," and we are joining back up with him for doing "Kitty." It was everything I could ever dream, it was so much fun. So amazing to be back with him after all this time.

He is just an absolute blast to work with. Josh and Matt are the perfect foil for Maggie and I. Because they're best friends, and Maggie and I are best friends, and it's just joke central, us making fun of them, trying to make them as uncomfortable as we can. They're super talented and we just vibe, the creativity is on blast.

When will that be out?

We are dropping the video with our EP in November. The track will be out in October, and the video and EP will all drop on the same day.

For our readers, what shows will you be playing in Chicago in the upcoming months?

We've got August 14th, playing Township. That's going to be awesome, it's with Crystal Drake and Dance Loud, it's all ladies repping. It's going to be really cool, we're really, really excited about it.

It's always cool to get on stage with other ladies who are trying to just grit through in this Chicago scene. My hope is that if we just keep working and keep doing what we do, that in a couple years we won't need to have all-female shows. It'll just be like, that's such a relic of the past. Why would we need to bill all females together like it's a novelty? We'll just be like, no, it's a show.

I think it's an important thing to do, when we get booked for all-female shows, but any time I talk about it, I'm like, is this still seriously a thing? Are we still doing this? For sure, when people ask us to do all-female things, we're like, yes, absolutely. Also our music is made by women, it's for women, I mean it's for everyone, but it's geared toward female-identifying humans, they're our people.

We're also playing the Chicago Fashion and Music Fest on August 30. It's on Division Street and we are playing a set at 4 o'clock, and The Black Lips are playing that night, so we're going to be opening up for them and are pretty excited about that.


Catch Celine Neon at Township on Friday, August 14, with tickets costing $8 in advance. Doors open at 8pm with the 21+ show beginning at 9pm. Dance Loud and Crystal Drake will open the show.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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