Beautifully melancholic, gentle, poignant and honest.
NYC-based indie pop artist Jessie Kilguss has released her album ‘What Do Whales Dream About at Night?’, a nine-track collection of elegant and eloquent indie folk, pop rock and Americana. Beautifully melancholic at times, it is purposeful, optimistic and nostalgic but of the now. Her music is gentle, poignant and honest.
On this album, Kilguss is accompanied by drummer Brian Griffin(Patti Smith, Brandi Carlisle, Lana Del Rey), bass guitarist Whynot Jansveld(The Wallflowers, Butch Walker, Sara Bareilles), LA-based award-winning composer and producer Naren Rauch on guitar, and Nathan Schram(Bjork, David Crosby, David Byrne), with whom Kilguss runs the non-profit organization Musicambia.
Four years after ‘The Fastness’ LP, her new long-player was co-produced by Adam Lasus (Yo La Tengo, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Helium) along with Kilguss and her band members. Lasus engineered the recordings, which were mixed and mastered by Charlie Nieland (Debbie Harry, Rufus Wainwright, Blondie, Scissor Sisters). Leading up to this release, Kilguss released the title track and the singles Sleepwalking Heart’ and ‘Great White Shark’.
“We recorded this album in April 2021, coming out of pandemic lockdown and just as it was finally kind of ok to be inside with other people again. This was the first time any of us were making music with other people in the same room again. For that reason, making this album has incredible significance for me personally as I rediscovered the joy and deep importance to me of singing and storytelling through song and also creative collaboration. The experience was heightened by having been so isolated and cut off from performing for 2 years,” says Jessie Kilguss.
“Many of these songs are inspired by books: ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ (by Tea Obreht), ‘You Were Never Really Here’ (by Jonathan Ames), ‘The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing’ (by Mira Jacob) and the poem ‘Headphones’ by Ukrainian poet and musician Serhiy Zhadan. Zhadan’s poem deals with the last war in Ukraine and the ways the protagonist coped with the harsh reality of that experience by putting on his headphones and tuning out the world. There’s a line “think about whales in the ocean at night.” I found that line incredibly evocative, especially in the context of the rest of the poem, and it inspired the title track. I wrote this song a couple of years ago before the current war. My heart and this song go out to the people of Ukraine.”
A former actress, whose acting highlights include the film adaptation of Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ (starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder) and the UK production of ‘As You Like It’ (directed by Royal Shakespeare Company founder Sir Peter Hall), Kilguss made the switch to songwriting after working with two of her musical heroes – Marianne Faithfull and Mary Margaret O’Hara – in ‘The Black Rider’, a musical written by Tom Waits and William Burroughs.
In addition to writing and performing her own music, Kilguss also sings with Gramercy Arms, Jim Andralis and the Syntonics and Benjamin Cartel. She also performed at the Sundance Film Festival and with Freddie Stevenson, supporting The Waterboys during their European tour.