This installment of the musician showcase we talk to Reena Pang about her music and her new album, Cult of the Nu Girl. Reena is a singer-songwriter based in Michigan. With a background in piano and ukulele, she writes evocative lyrical tracks for her expressive voice.
Q You just put out a new album Cult of the Nu Girl, about society facing an artificially induced disaster called The Noise, can you give the readers a little insight into the story it tells and what inspired you to produce it?
A: My inspirations for Cult of the Nu Girl primarily come from my conflicting feelings about dystopia, rebellion, and hope. Cult of the Nu Girl tells the story of three women (their names are Hex, Artie, and Lena) who have banded together in the end of the world, and their different clashing perspectives. Each part of the album focuses on a different phase of the apocalypse. Each song explores a character’s ideas about love, resistance and violence.
The Noise is an apocalypse created out of necessity; it makes it easy for the powerful (corpros, the remains of government bureaucracy, etc) to leverage power. Artificial scarcity is already real in our world: I played around with the idea of scarcity in abundance, like if the radios creating static from the competing signals of multiple stations, or your phone getting nothing but scam calls every two minutes, or seeing conspiracy theories show up regularly in your trusted news network. Eventually you either fold to the whims of any authority establishing order to this chaos, or you break away from the Noise entirely, which is what those joining the Cult chose.
“Kessler Syndrome but for the internet” was the most evocative way for me to describe this in early press releases.
Q: The album tells of a rebellion against a dystopia but still contains a glimmer of hope in the end, was this written in a response to how the world is going at the moment?
A: I think so. There is so much noise in our current world already, it’s quite the disaster. And on top of that, there’s so much inequality and distrust; three years ago I was sure the world was going to break. It didn’t, and I had to reevaluate because the systems that disempower us are far more resilient than I gave them credit for. That’s why the album ends the way it does; I fear we are going to lose so much before we win.
I’m actually an optimist about all of these things. At the risk of thinking too longitudinally about this: we have the historical record to prove that even longstanding empires eventually fall apart. No matter how bad things can get, love transcends time and will exist after we are long gone. There’s a necessary paradox at play when taking time on your side: it is simultaneously true that nothing in this lifetime matters, and also that not a single moment spent loving and cherishing your friends, families, partners is wasted. That’s what the ending is supposed to mean. Fight for your folks every day, even when the odds are stacked against you.
Q: How did you get your start writing music?
A: It was being part of some fandoms that drove me to actually start working on music. I was a brony as a teenager, and remember seeing so many musicians on YouTube put out remixes and original songs for Friendship is Magic. It seemed like the coolest thing, putting a track together and sharing it with the world, so I started messing around with Garageband.
Q: Cult of the Nu Girl seems very different from albums you put out in the past like Songs for Sapphic Sweethearts, do you have any plans to bring back the ukulele?
A: Depends. If it’s creatively interesting to me, absolutely. Sapphic Sweethearts was my first pass at publishing something original to me onto the internet, and I’m still charmed by a lot of tracks on there. It’s hard for me to indulge in the twee I used to enjoy with the world the way it is, but I’ll think about it.
Q: Where would you like to see your music in five years?
A: I want it to be more fun. I think I’ve already made strides in making something fun to dance to, but I want to get even better at that. If I can turn my creative impulses into something that sparks joy in people, that would be wonderful.
Q: What other musicians do you listen to for inspiration and entertainment?
A: Against Me! And Black Dresses were very important for me understanding it being okay to let loose and break with my old writing habits. A lot of this album was informed by MCR and their album “Danger Days”, as well as Alec Lambert’s work on the video game “Heaven Will Be Mine”, which you should absolutely play if you haven’t. A full list of my inspirations and touchstones can be found at https://reena-makes-music.neocities.org/cotng-credits.
I also have to shout out my college a capella group, Maize Mirchi, for giving me friendship, a safe haven during my undergrad years, and such a wealth of information on vocal arrangement. Parts of this album were a breeze to arrange and record, and I owe it all to my time with them. Congrats on getting Best Arrangement at ICCA Finals 2023, y’all!
Q: if people want more info about you or your music where should they go?
A: You can follow me on bandcamp, reena-tm.bandcamp.com, or my facebook page reena.tm. You can also follow me on twitter @TotalDykeReena, though I post a lot of nonmusic stuff there too.
Final four questions –we ask everybody
Q: When the zombies take over the world where will you be?
A: At home with my partners, wherever they may be, or six feet underground.
Q: What is your favorite Fandom?
A: Currently I’m enjoying The Witch from Mercury shitposts. Gundam has never been better.
Q: What piece of art, be it in the form of music, a book, a film or picture, do you think people must experience before they die?
A: Fargo (1996). It’s tremendously well acted, well paced and deeply funny.
Q: Give one fact that most people would not believe about you?
A: Even though I’ve lived in Michigan for most of my life, the first countertop I ever danced on was in Austin, Texas.