Kelsey Reckling has grown to embrace the gritty imperfections that invite her to color outside the lines in her songwriting and recording. The LA punk/garage rock frontwoman is back and better than ever with Max Kuehn (FIDLAR) on drums, Joey Mullen (Paramore/HalfNoise) on bass, and Erik Jimenez (Together Pangea) on guitar. Their sophomore EP, titled “Human Nature”, was recorded and mixed by Danny Nogueiras (NO WIN) at Balboa Recording Studios in Los Angeles, with mastering done by Joey Oaxaca.
The 4-track project is a fast and furious race busting through the soundwaves of your grainy car radio. It’s the perfect soundtrack to your daily hot girl walk, platform Creepers beating the pavement with every assertive step telling passing pedestrians that you mean business. The EP is populated by three original tracks written by Kelsey Reckling in addition to a cover of Bad Brains’ “How Low Can A Punk Get” that holds up well to the original rendition. Reckling emphasizes how the project serves to do the band’s live sound justice, providing fans and listeners an accurate depiction of a Reckling set that you can put in your pocket and take with you.
Opening the tracklist is the quick and punchy “Spitter,” a raw and honest song illustrating the narrator confronting someone who has really done them dirty. Creating a space for herself to recognize her anger and process the situation at hand, Reckling is unafraid to lay down the law. “It’s petty, your jealousy / I see you spit from the tree / His tail’s between his legs / Spit on him, spit on me”, the second verse viciously spats. Between charging guitars into battle and cutthroat drums that set the pace, Reckling has the confidence to face her past experiences and clock them with a solid right hook. Even if the song doesn’t directly produce the physical outcome of a bloody nose or busted lip, it may as well–at the very least–drive a shiv straight through someone’s ego.
On par with the rest of the songs on the EP, “Spitter” channels an explicit emotion that harbors a sort of darkness in its execution, but also a sense of freedom that comes from the catharsis in its release. Though anger is often quick to be compartmentalized into less desirable judgements and assumptions of others’ experiences, it is the raw humanness of such an emotion that determines its validity. What “Spitter” aims to project is that anger can be vengeful, anger can be freeing, anger can be productive–but above all, anger is one of the most human emotions that every one of us can feel. It all comes down to the name of the EP, “Human Nature;” the natural human state rarely feels perfect and polished, gritty lines sanded down and smoothed over.
Gracing our little corner of the internet once more, we’re stoked to have our pal, Kelsey, get real about the band’s latest EP titled “Human Nature.” We caught up with Kelsey and her latest birdwatching endeavors to chat about the sentiments behind “Spitter” and the project as a whole, including the accompanying music video for “In My Hair”.
If “Spitter” is your first impression of Reckling, the track is available for you to take a listen and finally get with the program.
“Human Nature” is officially out on August 12th, with vinyl released via Wink and Spit Records.
WHAT’S YOUR STAR SIGN, AND DO YOU FEEL LIKE IT REFLECTS YOU AS AN ARTIST? WHY OR WHY NOT?
Kelsey: My star sign is Gemini, and I think it probably does reflect me as a person and as an artist. I feel like Geminis kind of get a bad wrap, but I feel like there is a duality-thing happening where the way that I approach things–or just in general. It’s like, I always have to feel like I’m balancing one thing, like making music and my artistic side, and kind of balance out the other side of me, which is like a science-based thing. So, yeah, I feel like it’s pretty accurate.
THE LAST TIME WE INTERVIEWED YOU, YOU SHARED WITH US YOUR LOVE OF BIRDWATCHING. HAVE YOU SEEN ANY COOL BIRDS LATELY?
Kelsey: Yes! I’m always so bad at answering the bird questions for some reason. Man… well, I see a turkey culture right now, that’s pretty cool. I was just up in the mountains a little bit from LA, and they have a lot of Steller’s Jays there, which are really cool. I feel like they’re kind of like a punk bird because they have mohawks. But, they’re pretty awesome.
Weronika: Is there a specific area that you like going out to and looking at the wildlife?
Kelsey: Yeah, I feel like LA is really cool and unique because there’s… you go to the beach and see shore birds, or you could go up into the mountains and see more mountainous birds, or you can go to the desert and see desert birds, or city/urban kind of birds that hang out around here [in the city]. You can drive in any direction and you could get a whole different batch of birds.
“SPITTER” IS A SHORT, FAST, PUNCHY TRACK WHERE YOU GIVE YOURSELF THE SPACE TO ARTICULATE THE ANGER YOU’VE FELT TOWARDS SOMEONE WHO’S WRONGED YOU. HOW HAS THIS TRACK ALLOWED YOU TO PROCESS AND REFLECT ON THOSE KINDS OF EMOTIONS?
Kelsey: I think you kind of nailed it right there. You know, this thing happened to me, this experience, and it made me feel bad, and then it kind of made me feel angry. But, I didn’t react in the moment to it, so my way of kind of sorting through these feelings or processing it was writing the song. This song has had so many versions and so many lyric versions. It finally morphed into this [release] being the final version of it. It’s funny, sometimes when we play it live, I’ll, like, forget… I’ll randomly sing one of the old lyrics that I haven’t even thought about [in a long time]. It’s definitely a song that has helped me process negative emotions instead of acting out on them.
Weronika: I think you’ve said before that when you write, you write from a largely more reflective perspective where it’s, like, after the moment you’re talking about has already happened. I think you talked about “Verbalize” [and how it] was more of an in-the-moment type of deal.
Kelsey: Yeah, I think almost every song I’ve written has been a more reflective [process], kind of looking back at a situation, or experience, or feeling, or whatever. And I’ll kind of channel how I was feeling at the time, and [I’ll bring] it into the moment of writing it. “Verbalize” was definitely a song where it was in the moment; I was just, like, having all of these crazy feelings and I just could not get through them or sort through them. I was just super confused and going through all this stuff. That was the only song I’ve written where I was in the moment, like “this is how I’m gonna get through to the other side.”
THE VIDEO FOR “IN MY HAIR” WAS DIRECTED BY AMBAR NAVARRO–WHAT WAS WORKING ON THAT PROJECT LIKE?
Kelsey: Ugh, she’s the best, I love her so much. It’s funny, because she’s done a lot of videos for friends of mine and people that I know. We had a meeting, like, years ago about doing a video for “Spitter”, and I was like “well we’re gonna re-record that song because we have an older version of it, let’s definitely do a video for it”. We’re shooting that video, actually, in a few days, but she also did the video for “In My Hair” which came out, and it was awesome. [Ambar] has the best visions, and we’re very in-sync on how we want stuff to look. It was great, we took a day and [shot] all of it in a day, and it was awesome, and it came out exactly how I imagined it, and I think how she envisioned it as well. She’s the best. 10/10.
THE VIDEO FOR “IN MY HAIR” DEPICTS YOU IN A MEDICAL SETTING, ON AN OPERATING TABLE, BEING GIVEN MEDICATIONS, A LOBOTOMY, AND A GIANT LOLLIPOP. WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE MORE ABOUT THE MEANING AND INSPIRATION BEHIND THE VIDEO?
Kelsey: [Ambar] definitely had the idea of making [the video centered around] the lobotomy thing. I think she was [inspired] from the song kind of being about me feeling crazy, because I’ve been obsessively thinking about this thing, and so it was like “Ok, how do we drive this thing out of me? Well, you’re gonna get a lobotomy and you’ll never remember that it happened.” I think it works pretty well [with] that insanity feeling that everyone can relate to, just like obsessively thinking about someone or something. I feel like [the video] did a good job getting that feeling.
YOUR FORTHCOMING EP IS CALLED “HUMAN NATURE”. HOW DO YOU FEEL THIS TITLE COVERS THE THEMES IN THIS PROJECT?
Kelsey: I was just kind of thinking about the songs and what they were about, and the underlying themes of them all are very… I’m like “these are all feelings that I think anyone who hears the songs can probably guess what the feeling is.” Like, you were talking about “Spitter” and you [mentioned] anger, and I think “In My Hair” is this feeling of indecisiveness, and “Verbalize” is very much about internal processing, just trying to figure yourself out. I feel like all of these feelings are exactly what it is, and that’s just human nature, that’s just what humans are.
Weronika: I think we need to all remember that even the really negative emotions, like we were talking about [with] “Spitter”–just pure, raw anger–and even though it’s not a positive feeling, it’s still a very human thing to feel. In this day and age, maybe a lot of people would place judgment on certain feelings or sentiments that come across through different art, but at the end of the day, like you said, it’s still a very human thing to feel, even if it’s not in the greatest light, but it is still a valid, raw sentiment.
Kelsey: Yeah, absolutely.
THE EP ALSO FEATURES A COVER OF BAD BRAINS’ “HOW LOW CAN A PUNK GET”. WHY DID THIS FEEL LIKE THE RIGHT SONG TO INCLUDE IN THE PROJECT AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU?
Kelsey: I guess it’s kind of a bit out of place with the songs I’ve written. I don’t really know exactly what the song is about, I haven’t really sat down and thought about it, but I think it’s more of a feeling that is what bridges all of the [songs] together. We did a cover set on Halloween in 2019 and everyone chose a different band, and we chose Bad Brains. Someone in the band suggested [the song], and I was like “Hell yeah, that would be so much fun. Alright, we’re doing that.” Once it came time to start practicing the songs, I was like “Oh shit, we’re doing Bad Brains, how are we going to do that justice?” I think it actually went over pretty well and people were super stoked on it. Ever since then, we started [including it] normally in our set, choosing a Bad Brains song to cover. I think we’ve done three of the ones that we did on the Halloween set. But, “How Low Can A Punk Get” has just kind of become part of our set now, almost.
With this EP, I really wanted it to be more of a reflection of how we sounded live, and I think the first release we ever did, I wanted that to be very true to the sound of how I had been recording music by myself in my room for my whole life. I was like “Well, for the first thing I put out, I want it to be true to that feeling of being in your bedroom, and this is what it sounds like, and you’re not gonna out too much effort or thought behind it, it just is what it is, I’m not gonna redo anything or make it perfect.” I always knew with the second release, which is this EP, that I wanted it to definitely be in a real studio, and I wanted it to be big, and I wanted it to be loud, and I wanted it to reflect more of how we sounded live. I feel like off that first release, I don’t know if we really sound like that live, I feel like we definitely sound a lot more aggressive and loud live. And so, I wanted this [EP] to sort of reflect that. I feel like it’s still raw in a way where nothing’s perfect, but we didn’t do more than a couple of takes on any of the songs, and I just wanted to include “How Low Can A Punk Get” to get that across.
I wanted a better representation of how we actually sounded. I feel like the only thing that was available for people to listen to [before this EP] were these more bedroom-style recordings, which I love, and I do think we still have an element of still, live. But, there’s something a lot more than that [now]. So, I feel like having both of those releases now kind of shows exactly how we actually sound.
QUITE SOME TIME HAS PASSED SINCE YOUR DEBUT SELF-TITLED PROJECT IN 2018. HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE WHERE YOU ARE NOW AS A PERSON AND MUSICIAN TO YOUR 2018 SELF?
Kelsey: Definitely so different. That was the first [project I did]. I had been recording music since I was a teenager by myself, but I’d [only] show a few people here and there over the years. So with the 2018 release, that was finally when I decided “Ok, I’m putting these [songs] out there and anyone can hear it, and I’m subjecting myself for judgment and potential ridicule and people to shit on it.” I was a little bit afraid of that–it was exciting–but I was a little bit afraid of that. And that still can happen now, but I think I just feel a lot more confident as a musician and performer. When that 2018 release came out, we didn’t play any shows until almost 2 years after that [project] came out. Our first live show wasn’t even until the end of 2019. Now, since then, I’m like “Oh, I can actually play these songs and perform them, and I can feel good about it and confident about it.” Even if it doesn’t even sound good, I still feel like a different kind of personal security around my music where I don’t care if people don’t like it. I like it, and some people like it, and that’s enough for me. I definitely think I’m in a different place this time around, for sure.
YOU RECENTLY VENTURED OUT ON A LITTLE TOUR WITH DEATH VALLEY GIRLS. HOW HAVE THESE NEW SONGS BEEN TRANSLATING LIVE?
Kelsey: It’s been super fun! The shows with Death Valley Girls were awesome, they’re just the best and the sweetest. The songs have been going over well. We’ve played them live for a little while, like before this release, so some people are already familiar, at least in LA around here where people have seen us play a bunch of times. People are kind of finally familiar with those new songs, and so now that they’re being released, I’ve definitely gotten a lot of good feedback and people who are stoked to finally have a recording of those songs. I think it’s exciting, and we have some new songs that maybe we’re gonna start playing at the end of this month that no one’s heard before, we’ll see!
NEW EP ASIDE, WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UPCOMING PLANS?
Kelsey: So, the EP comes out August 12th, and we have vinyl for that, it’s available for preorder on our Bandcamp. Then, we’re filming the video for “Spitter”, which should be out maybe at the end of August or the first week of September. We’re playing an LA show on August 25th at The Echo, which is kind of going to be a release show. We’ll have the vinyl there and new merch. We’ll have some shows throughout the fall and stuff too. Then, we’re gonna record another EP, which kind of goes with this one. I’m not gonna say the title yet, but it definitely is kind of like “part two” of “Human Nature”, so that will be fun to record that. And then we’ll kind of repeat the cycle, just keep doin’ it!