When Doll Spirit Vessel played one of their first gigs at Brooklyn’s bustling Rubulad DIY hall in March, the band quickly captured the attention of the crowded room. Sandwiched in an eclectic lineup of punk headliners My Son, The Doctor, alternative country band Drug Couple and glam-folk indie rock band Matthew Danger Lippman, most viewers had no idea what was going on. was waiting.
Doll Spirit Vessel stood out with the sweetest set, quickly gaining new fans who approached them after the set, noticing that attention-grabbing first impression. Bandleader Kati Malison (rhymes with caddy) has a stunning voice that immediately draws you in, pairing just as well with the smooth instrumentation as it does with the band’s loudest moments.
At the time, the group was billed as Malison, with her announcing on stage that they would be revealing the name on social media at a later date.
More than two months after the show, Malison recounts SPIN that the name Doll Spirit Vessel has been floating around in her head for a while. She first pitched the idea of giving her debut band, Lost Dog, that nickname after finding an eBay listing of haunted dolls, but eventually members of that band agreed it sounded “too metal. “.
Malison recorded Doll Spirit Vessel’s debut album What’s left in December 2020. In what she describes as a “classic pandemic story”, she found herself writing music throughout the lockdown and enlisted her best friends Lewis Brown (who was also in Lost Dog) and Max Holbrook to bring the songs to life. With Brown and Holbrook based on the West Coast at the time (Brown lives in Portland, Oregon but now lives in Massachusetts and Holbrook was based in Northern California), Malison (who currently lives in Philadelphia) decided to drive from his former home in Brooklyn. , recording it in Chiloquin, a quaint town in Klamath County, Oregon.
“It was like the most magical place,” Malison says. “We were in the middle of nowhere, just the three of us. They were two of the best weeks of my life.
You can feel the essence of this frame in the record. On the album’s opening track “A Need”, the organ (an instrument that often sounds moody) is rather sun-kissed, paired with a dreamy guitar. That warm essence is also prevalent throughout the record – both in its sound and literally through the song titles – from the upbeat, guitar-driven “Sun Death” to the closer, gorgeous “A Light”.
Although there are band tracks reminiscent of Faye Webster and Waxahatchee, there is a level of authenticity where the band is not trying to imitate anyone, but rather creating their own space with sound. that attracts attention.
Malison notes that each band member has their own distinct interests that merge into Doll Spirit Vessel’s music. Holbrook, who plays guitar and keyboards, is a classically trained pianist who loves Chopin. “I feel like [that influence] is secretly everywhere,” she says. While Brown is a “huge Steely Dan fan – before it was cool to love them again” and grew up in the LA garage punk scene, Malison loves Hop Along and Angel Olsen. “[Doll Spirit Vessel] was going to be like everything, any idea could be put on the table,” she notes.
As the lead single, Doll Spirit Vessel went with “Train Brain Rot”, one of the most pop tracks on the record. Malison says it’s when “you have an idea or a belief about yourself or the world, and that belief doesn’t serve you. But since it’s part of your identity, it’s hard to get rid of it.
The track is so ridiculously catchy that it will linger in your brain long after you first play it, just begging to be played again. But Malison admits the song almost didn’t make it to What Stays because it’s so different from the rest of the album and it took time to figure out how to write it. “I was like, ‘I don’t know if that even fits’ but this is such a lead single.”
Malison notes that part of What’s left is written about his struggles with memory. “I wrote the album at a time when I realized how differently my memory worked. I think in a lot of the songs I was struggling with that and also trying to use songwriting to preserve the present,” she notes.
There is also a connection between this concept and the way the band approaches music.
“There’s an analogy to be made between my mind not being able to access conscious memories and us not consciously knowing what we’re trying to channel, but it still passes, like your body is holding onto your memories even though you don’t. can’t remember,” Malison says. “And we retained all of our musical history and influences, even though we weren’t consciously trying to.