Self-Portrait: Ellen Kempner of Palehound | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, January 16th, 2021  

Self-Portrait: Ellen Kempner of Palehound

The Cook, the Painter, the Basketball Player

Jun 18, 2019 Photography by Ellen Kempner (Self-Portrait Painting) Web Exclusive
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For our recurring Self-Portrait feature we ask a musician to take a self-portrait photo (or paint/draw a self-portrait) and write a list of personal things about themselves, things that their fans might not already know about them. This Self-Portrait is by Ellen Kempner of Palehound and she painted her own self-portrait.

Palehound released a new album, Black Friday, a couple of weeks back via Polyvinyl. Kempner co-produced Black Friday with Gabe Wax (Beirut, Soccer Mommy). It was recorded at Panoramic House in Stinson Beach, California, mainly tracked live with Kempner and her bandmates Jesse Weiss (drums) and Larz Brogan (bass).

Kempner had this to say about the album in a press release announcing it: "Making music's always been a therapeutic thing for methat's such a big part of the reason why I do it in the first place. What I always want to do with my songs is to help people heal in some way, or come to some new understanding about whatever it is that they're going through. Even if it's just hearing a song and feeling less alone than they were before, that would mean so much to me."

Read on as Kempner, who is 25 and grew up in Westport, Connecticut, writes about her hobbies, a childhood illness, her favorite sport, and how she passes the time on long car journeys while on tour.

1. I love to cook! It's my favorite thing to do while I'm home from tour. Before Palehound started touring a lot, I worked as a cook at a vegan restaurant and learned a ton of stuff that inspired me to start trying to make elaborate meals for myself instead of box mac and cheese or Trader Joe's tamales. I've always had a difficult relationship with food and eating so learning to love food through creation has been incredibly therapeutic. Right now I'm at the stage where I'm trying to get good at cooking on the fly, without recipes. I can make an awesome white wine sauce.

2. I have metal poles around my entire spine! When I was 10 I was diagnosed with very bad scoliosis. People without scoliosis have curves in their spine that are around five-degree angles, I had two curves that were each close to 50 degree angles. I wore a back brace from fourth to seventh grade (the best time socially to have a back brace...) and was bullied for it until I refused to keep wearing it. When I was 12 I had spinal fusion surgery where they inserted metal poles around my spine to keep it straight. I have chronic pain now, which sucks, but at least I have a really cool scar that runs up my whole back. 

3. I'm constantly cycling through different hobbies. Every few months I get really into something, usually a crafting thing, and spend a ton of time trying to master it. Things I've obsessed over in the past include: crocheting, yoyo-ing, cross stitching, sewing clothes, and baking. Currently my hobby is painting, I've been going to local parks with pals and my paints in my free time recently and am loving it. 

4. I've been a NY Knicks fan since I was a little kid. Basketball is by far my favorite sport, and the only one that I can play semi-well. A couple of summers ago I was even in a local queer basketball group (now defunct unfortunately). My dad's been a huge Knicks fan my whole life and we used to go to games together. Once, when I was around 12, Robert Plant was at a game I was at and I ran down rows of seats to try to wave at him, I caught his eye and he smiled at me and gave a lil wave. I couldn't stop talking about it for, like, years. 

5. This seems to be super cliché these days, but I'm really into podcasts. My infatuation started when Palehound started doing long tours with hellish drives. Our first extensive tour, my bandmate suggested we listen to Serial to help pass the seven to eight hour Midwestern drives. That did it. Suddenly drives were flying by and I learned that I couldn't handle the van time without podcasts, especially true crime ones. When I toured with Mitski, there were a couple of days that we switched driving arrangements and she and I would be in a car with her guitarist at the time, Callan. On one of those drives she put on Limetown, which I loved, so I started listening to creepy fiction as well. About nine months ago I finally delved into the mother of all true crime podcasts, My Favorite Murder, and I absolutely cannot get enough. Now whenever it's my driving day on tour, I put that on, sometimes to the dismay of my bandmates, but they're good sports about it. Other crime podcasts I've loved are: The Teacher's Pet, Dirty John, S Town, Swindled, and 2 Dope Queens

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