2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Amelia Pitcherella)
by Steven Spoerl
Photograph by Aubrey Richey
Over the past few years, I’ve run into the name Amelia Pitcherella dozens of times. At some point in 2015, it was a name that started appearing with greater velocity, at greater volume. Whether it was in bylines, comments left on mutual friends’ social media accounts, or just heard in passing, it became abundantly clear that we existed in the same niche corner of our own little musical world. We now write together at AdHoc and Pitcherella continues to freelance for publications like Impose. Lately, she’s also been creating some very striking music as Most Selfless Cheerleader, embracing an uncanny intimacy that will likely pay dividends as the project moves forward. I’m very excited to be welcoming her to the A Year’s Worth of Memories series and very pleased to see she’s turned her attention to one of last year’s finest records: All Dogs’ Kicking Every Day. Read about what the record meant to her below and remember to hold onto the records you love.
Kicking Every Day
I was on a Megabus when an editor sent me the advance of All Dogs’ debut LP. On the cusp of a breakup, I hadn’t talked to my partner in a week and I had gone to my hometown of Philadelphia to see some friends because I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was on my way back to Manhattan and feeling particularly unanchored. During my visit I had had trouble talking to people. I felt absent from myself.
My body responded to the record before I had the chance to process it intellectually. By the seventh track I was choking back tears. A few lines on “Leading Me Back to You” chilled me: “I can try not to think about you / but when I’m in my room / you are the light coming through the window / whether or not I want you to.” It wasn’t that they were particularly complex, just that they described honestly exactly what I’d been feeling, the pathetic omnipresence of a person who had made their complete physical exit from my life.
It was the simple candor of the lines that made them so affecting. And then Maryn Jones’ rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Silver Springs” in the outro shocked me, wrenched me apart—it was like hearing that song for the first time. Jones’ voice on those lines is desperate and yet there’s this strain of pure unmistakable power in it. I watched the turnpike and started crying. Not a conservative cry—it was a full-blown, snotty bawl.
I was feeling totally humiliated by my own involuntary display, and then “Skin” came on. The lyrics are brash: “Don’t you ever say that I’m wrong ’cause I won’t take it / I will find a way to justify my pain.” Jones is self-deprecating, and she’s also aggressively unapologetic. She turns frustration into pure power. I sat on the bus and calmed myself with the thought that my crying a moment ago was all right, it was justified, and even if it wasn’t, I didn’t need justification. I was going through a lot. It was OK.
A week later, in July, I moved to Philly for the remainder of the summer. I was jobless but rent was absurdly cheap and I resolved to only write and make music for my two months there before finishing up my last semester of school. I was fighting depression and coping with the new loss of someone I’d spent close to two years with, and I figured this would be the last opportunity I had to get a feel for a place without having to worry too much about making ends meet. I was fortunate. That summer was a terrific fever dream. Every morning following my breakup, up until my last day in Philadelphia, I woke up with a new song in my head. When I tell people this, even I can’t wrap my head around it, but strange things happen when you’re left to yourself for weeks on end.
I got into the habit of going to shows and dance parties alone, and I met dozens of people who would come to influence me in the span of a few weeks. I was listening to my friends’ bands on rotation. The summer of 2015 was definitively the first time in my life that I felt like I belonged somewhere. As is the case anywhere, there are issues with the Philly music scene—still in large part a boys’ club, cliquey, no shortage of apologists—but it’s also growing into something really special. There are people who are working so hard to make Philadelphia shows and venues inclusive. Until this point, for whatever reason most of my friends making music happened to be men, and I was so pleased to see that finally change.
I went to All Dogs’ show at PhilaMOCA in August, where they were playing with The Sidekicks and Lithuania (who had just released one of my favorite albums of the year, Hardcore Friends), and talked with Nick and Maryn beforehand for a feature for Impose. I think for some time I had convinced myself that all the people doing good work lived on some other plane, as socially accessible as they may have still been to me. I’d only been interviewing for eight months or so, and each time I interviewed an artist up until then I’d been completely knotted up. But talking to the two of them, I felt comfortable interviewing for what might have been the first time. I was so appreciative of their total warmth and openness.
When they took the stage, they were electric. It was one of the most moving performances I’ve seen—maybe in part because Amanda, Jesse, Maryn, and Nick all have rather understated stage presences. They’re not there to create any kind of spectacle, but it’s so evident that they all care deeply for each other and for the music they’re making. I got chills during “Say”, when Maryn sang tenderly, “When you are not around / I am not alone.” Watching All Dogs play on my own that night, I realized—or, maybe more aptly, I decided—that this was why I had thrown myself into working in music. I wanted to write about moments like this, when an act has the power to completely overwhelm; and I wanted to write about people who weren’t men making music. All Dogs made me want to do music more than I wanted to do anything else.
I had been thinking a lot that summer about Leslie Jamison’s essay “The Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain”, in which she notes that people are too often revolted by displays of pain by women. By no fault of our own it too often comes off as a show, and we ourselves can come to doubt our own experiences. But Jamison ultimately believes it is crucial, or at the very least possible, to bear witness to pain and growing “a larger self around that pain—a self that grows larger than its scars without disowning them, that is neither wound-dwelling nor jaded, that is actually healing.”
All Dogs’ music strikes me as realizing that larger self. It doesn’t shy away from pathos—but the pure strength in it makes it bigger than the pain it addresses. After having listened to Kicking Every Day dozens of times over, I was confident now that it was possible to give the pain I was undergoing a place in my music and in my writing without bathing in it or stamping it out. Jones had mastered this.
When Stevie Nicks wrote the line, “You will never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you,” I wonder if some kind of doubt cropped up in her head. Did she question whether others would take her seriously? Regardless, she went ahead and wrote it anyway, and Jones took it 40 years later and made it her own, and her rendition gave me access to my own feelings, validated them. I’m endlessly grateful.