I caught up with Kelly Rosenthal to discuss her new music, songwriting process, and more! Make sure to follow I Am Strikes on Spotify and Apple Music to stream her latest singles.
Melodic Magazine: Do you mind introducing yourself and explaining how I am Strikes came to be?
Kelly Rosenthal: I Am Strikes is a project devoted to expression in its most holistic sense, specifically delving into topics commonly seen as taboo. Emotions that, in my eyes, don’t get their fair share of exposure. It’s not bound by genre or style – I call it thrashpop: sometimes loud, intimate, melodic, and harsh, but always honest. I Am Strikes is a preservation of authentic expression and a rejection of vapidity.
I started the project after solely being an instrumentalist. I Am Strikes has been my foray into being a vocalist, producer, and solo songwriter. It’s my musical project, yes, but I think of it also as an idea tied to the values I uphold: honesty, empathy, and visibility. If you’re into that idea, then you are strikes too.
MM: What is your typical songwriting process, and did it vary between Whatever Makes You Want to Die Less and The Truth?
Kelly: I’m not one of those writers who is very deliberate about their writing – that is, I don’t really approach writing with the intention of writing. I generally come up with vocals first – a bit untraditionally. I have several working ideas in my head at any given time, a verse, some wordplay I enjoy, a hook.. And I slowly build off that, often on my bike or in the shower, just whenever something serendipitously arrives in my head.
Whatever Makes You Want to Die Less is one of the first songs I ever wrote, so I’m a little foggy on its inception. I can say with clarity that I wrote The Truth while driving down I-5 – cliche tears streaming down my face – that first chorus just poured out of me. None of the lyrics in that song repeat. It’s a bit of storytelling rambling.
MM: What one word would you use to describe The Truth? What inspired you to write it?
Kelly: Vulnerable. My first heartbreak was significant. We spent much of our five years in secret- oh, the tragedy of queer love, so often relegated to the shadows – resulting in an insular, codependent, and unhealthy relationship and an even messier conclusion. Wounds like that seldom heal as tidily as we hope they would. The Truth is an ode to ambiguous closure, longing, and ultimately, acceptance.
MM: As a solo artist, what are challenges that you face that musicians in bands do not typically experience? What are the advantages?
Kelly: The obvious challenge is the amount of work. I do everything myself or with my partner or with the favor of a trusted friend. I’m quite exacting as a result. Things take a tremendous amount of time, which of course is a drawback. On the flipside, it’s liberating. I am my own captain and my own gatekeeper, and that’s rewarding. I’m like 100% extroverted though – I’d bring my toothbrush out to the living room to not miss a hang with my roommates – so I’m hopeful that I Am Strikes involves more collaboration in the future.
MM: With quarantine, how have you been keeping yourself busy? Has quarantine affected your music-making process in any way?
Kelly: Honestly I’ve been pretty miserable. Things have been rough in New York. I miss my friends, I miss my family, my city, freedom, community.. I’m fearful for those most vulnerable. At other points in my life, low moments have been prolific, but that hasn’t been the case for me recently. I have been turning to my guitar though, and that has been relieving. I am lucky to have such a connection to my instrument. It keeps my hands busy and my mind full, even when waking up seems a chore.
MM: If you could collaborate with anyone in the future, who would it be and why?
Kelly: The Japanese House, for sure. I find her stuff to be some of the most compelling music out there. It’s not often you come across an artist of such talent and taste with the ability to marry the roots with modernity. My car is too old for an aux cable so I listen exclusively to CDs. I’ve had The Japanese House’s debut album Good At Falling in my slot for over a year. I can’t get enough of it. Besides the fact that Amber Bain is a masterful composer, I think it’d be really fun to jam with another killer guitarist, and I really dig her style as a player.
MM: Assuming everything comes back to normal, what are your goals within the next year? Should we be expecting an album/EP anytime soon?
Kelly: I have a grouping of songs that I’m stoked to share as a part of my EP Casual Doom, Then Death. No dates set in stone, though.
MM: Again, congrats on the new singles! What are you most proud of and what do you hope your listeners to take away from listening to your new singles?
Kelly: Thank you so much. These tracks have been a long labor of love for me. I don’t have a label budget or generational wealth. It’s really just me and my guitar in my bedroom and some collaborators here and there who are so often my dearest friends. I produced the songs, played most of the instruments on them, and really just hustled super hard for them. I won’t bore you with the number of setbacks I faced, but there were many. I’m honestly just proud that the compromises I had to make didn’t adulterate the vision of the songs. And I’m as happy as an artist can be with the result.
Preserving the integrity in music making is so important to me. We live in a time when algorithms can write the next smash and someone can just drag a bunch of samples from Splice into a session and have that stand as an original composition. That kind of music making is rampant. But for me, it boils down to the musicality of it all – the landscape, composition, creativity, storytelling, and the impact of all those things. I hope that people can listen to my stuff and feel the authenticity of it.