Bachelor – Ellen Kempner and Melina Duterte on “Doomin’ Sun” and Their Friendship | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Bachelor – Ellen Kempner and Melina Duterte on “Doomin’ Sun” and Their Friendship

True Hot Tub Confessions

May 27, 2021 Photography by Tonje Thilesen Web Exclusive
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Bachelor is the recently formed duo of Palehound’s Ellen Kempner and Jay Som’s Melina Duterte. The now fast friends originally met on a brief run of West Coast dates in 2017, which budded into a series of cross-country online hangs over the years. But even before their initial shows the two enjoyed each other’s music and as Kempner recalls it, “geeked out about each other in the DMs.” After a few years of staying in touch, with rare in person meet ups, the pair booked two weeks at an AirBnB in Topanga, California, with the intent of emerging with a full album for their shared home, Polyvinyl Records.

True to their promise, after two weeks of recording in January of 2020, the newly formed project emerged with its debut album, Doomin’ Sun. Recorded almost entirely without any outside assistance (Big Thief drummer James Krivchenia appears on three tracks), the album is a fabulous and free-wheeling listen, with maybe a little more gravitas in the lyrical content than one might expect. The duo had little prepared when starting their two-week pre-COVID recording lockdown. Jamming and songwriting sessions were preceded by, as Duterte puts it, “hot tub confessionals.” Kempner shares, “A lot of the songs were conversations we had in the hot tub. And the next day being like, ‘Oh man, I’m still thinking about that conversation. I kind of want to write about it.’” Duterte continues, “We’d just kind of run with it. We’d finish a song a day and then record them as we went. And that’s not a common thing, but it’s different for everyone.”

The album’s songs range from the intricately layered “Spin Out” to the utterly exposed “Sick of Spiraling.” Of “Spin Out,” Kempner says, “that song started out as a chord progression Melina had that was really pretty. The crazy sound that comes in is from a guitar pedal we borrowed from Buck Meek [Big Thief]. Melina wrote some lyrics and we both played drums on that one. I really loved that about that song.”

The sparer “Sick of Spiraling” details some of Kempner’s more harrowing moments touring during 2019. “I had a couple of moments on tour where I felt I was just completely floating through space and unable to sense myself or my direction,” she shares. “I have a long-term partner and we’ve been dating through a bunch of tours. It’s just kind of hard to maintain that and for me to have his back when I’m gone.”

Given the intervening COVID pandemic, both artists started tours upon wrapping Doomin’ Sun’s recording. The pandemic brought Kempner to a halt in San Francisco, leading to a “terrifying” trek back to her then home Boston. Duterte was even further afield, with Jay Som’s last shows in Japan and Indonesia. “There were a ton of lockdowns. Especially in Japan,” Duterte recalls. “The day we played Tokyo they announced a ban on all venues except for our show and a few others that night. And everyone was wearing a mask and that freaked us out.”

The pandemic also created other delays, with Doomin’ Sun’s release being pushed to late May of this year. Both artists shared that 2020 gave them much needed downtime to focus on other pursuits.

With things hopefully getting back to normal, Bachelor have announced a run of dates with Lucy Dacus; are on the bill for September’s Governor’s Ball; and are hosting an upcoming virtual telethon, Doomin’ Sun Fest, to benefit Seeding Sovereignty with nearly 50 artists scheduled to appear on June 10. At the time of our discussion, the duo had also temporarily expanded their lineup to include Oceanator’s Elise Okusami on keyboards and Zoë Brecher on drums for some promotional appearances. But after over a year from Doomin’ Sun’s recording what resonated most about Duterte and Kempner’s reunion was the same camaraderie they enjoyed back in Topanga. “It’s basically the same experience [as the recording],” Kempner concludes. “The other night we got back to where we were staying and were like, ‘Dude, we can’t be going out every night at dinner, belly laughing anymore. I’m exhausted. I feel like I did an ab workout!”

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