Grief and longing has always been a part of Sasha Bolof’s song writing DNA. But instead of hitting you over the head with them, she folds them into sonic textures and melodies. Visceral yet hard to place with her often poetic and cryptic lyrics. For Bolof, it’s intentional. “I don’t usually like to tell people what my songs are about,” she explains, “It’s not like I’m hiding anything. I would rather you feel the music and come up with your own interpretation."
sea//grams is the Seattle songwriter's first full length in ten years. An album that took five years to write. The result is her most ambitious and personal work to date. Sonically layered with sweeping synths, driving rhythms, and peppered with a touch of harsh noise. sea//grams may be conceptually dense, but it's visceral in its delivery and it’s intimacy. An intimacy that comes from writing the bulk of the album locked away in her Seattle apartment.
Back in 2014, Bolof was dealing with a deep trauma that was triggered by a series of events. “I was going through a lot.” she recalls, “I didn’t know what to do. I was self medicating with alcohol because I couldn’t take the anxiety. Writing music was my only outlet that was healthy.” From the very beginning, she noticed that these new batch of songs were different from her older work. She was getting more personal and was singing more. Something she struggled with before. “I stated to come up with vocal melodies that felt like they materialized out of nowhere. That never happens”.
Conceptually, sea//grams has a lot to say. Dealing with themes of isolation and substance abuse, to songs about the search for authenticity and living within neoliberal austerity. All while using the main motif, the ocean. “The sea in sea//grams is both literal and a metaphor. It’s the ocean but it’s also the subconscious." Bolof reveals that there are hidden messages about her own gender in her lyrics. "Subconsciously I was definitely dealing with trans stuff at that point. It just wasn't something I had the capacity to confront then.”
She also started to incorporate more abrasive sounds. Adding harsh noise and juxtaposed them with her melancholic melodies as a representation of the anxiety she was feeling. When it came time to hit the studio, she enlisted her friend and fellow songwriter/producer, Erik Blood (Shabazz Palaces, Tacocat, Pink Lotion) to rein in her vision and sonically guide it. They entered Black Space Labs in the winter of 2015 to track live instruments. After a week in the studio, Bolof realized she was unhappy with the vocal takes. She planned on re-doing them herself and then finishing the record later. Then life happened.
On February 7th 2017, Bolof came out to the world as a trans woman. "It was an incredible moment," she admits, "There was just so much going on in my life." So she decided to put sea//grams on ice until she felt emotionally ready to finish it. Two years later, Bolof and Blood reunited to finally complete the album. Both parties agree that time and space was the best thing for the project. "It felt good to jump back in and finish it when I was ready.” she admits, “It’s a much better album for it. I’m so happy we waited.”