Mei Semones

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about the artist

Mei Semones' sweetly evocative blend of jazz, bossa nova and math-y indie rock is not only a way for her to find solace in her favorite genres, but is an intuitive means of catharsis. "Blending everything that I like together and trying to make something new — that's what feels most natural to me," says the 23-year-old Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter and guitarist. "It's what feels most true to who I am as an artist." On her newest EP and Bayonet Records debut Kabutomushi, Mei's diverse sonic palette adds depth to her experiences of the complexities of love. Through the EP's five…

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Mei Semones' sweetly evocative blend of jazz, bossa nova and math-y indie rock is not only a way for her to find solace in her favorite genres, but is an intuitive means of catharsis. "Blending everything that I like together and trying to make something new — that's what feels most natural to me," says the 23-year-old Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter and guitarist. "It's what feels most true to who I am as an artist." On her newest EP and Bayonet Records debut Kabutomushi, Mei's diverse sonic palette adds depth to her experiences of the complexities of love. Through the EP's five songs, she chronicles infatuation, devotion, vulnerability, and saying goodbye in some of her closest relationships, complete with sweeping strings, virtuosic guitar-playing and heartfelt lyrics sung in both English and Japanese.

Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Semones began playing music at a young age, starting out on piano at age four before moving to electric guitar at age eleven. After playing jazz guitar in high school, she went on to study guitar performance with a jazz focus at Berklee College of Music. College is where she met her current bandmates, including string players Noah Leong and Claudius Agrippa, whose respective viola and violin add softness and multidimensionality to Mei's intricate guitar work. After releasing a slew of singles and an EP in 2022, coinciding with her move to New York City, Mei and her band have since gone on to collaborate with post-bossa balladeer John Roseboro and embark on their first-ever tour with the melodic rock outfit Raavi.

Though Mei's music has always been a distinct combination of her gently saccharine voice with dynamic musical arrangements, Kabutomushi shows her delving into aspects of her musicianship that she's never explored previously. Plinking guitar tones and asymmetrical time signatures exemplify her forays into angular indie rock more now than ever before, most evident on the single "Wakare No Kotoba," its wide-interval arpeggios in odd meters being some of the most technically difficult guitar work Mei has ever implemented in her songwriting. Translated to "parting words'' in English, the self-described "anti-love song" serves as a farewell to a toxic friendship, complete with orchestral swells and crashing guitars. In the same sonic vein is "Inaka" ("countryside"), which details Mei's daydreams of moving somewhere more pastoral during a period of exhaustion resulting from the hustle and bustle of newfound city life. Here she directly addresses her beloved with words of loyalty and adoration in wanting to build an idyllic life somewhere new together, while cinematic strings add romantic flares aside Mei's leading guitar. Throughout the EP, her straightforward, girlish vocal delivery calls to mind that of the late bossa nova great Astrud Gilberto, while also having drawn comparison to Japanese contemporaries Ichiko Aoba and Lamp.

All of the songs that comprise Kabutomushi are written and sung in both English and Japanese, with Mei wanting to stay connected to her first language in a creative way. The EP title translates to "rhinoceros beetle" in English, named after the horned insect that she would spot and catch in the park when visiting her grandmother in Japan growing up. The title track is a reminiscent ode to those childhood trips — a series of nostalgic vignettes that evolve into a bittersweet apology to her late grandmother. Keeping things stripped-down with the help of electronic subtleties and plucked strings, Mei's voice intertwined with her guitar come off as a poignant lullaby of treasured memories long-gone, but not forgotten. It's songs like "Kabutomushi" that encapsulate Semones' sonic trademarks: ornately catchy, genre-fusing compositions serving as the backdrop to tender lyrics touching on the universalities of human emotion.

Kabutomushi is out April 5, 2024, on Bayonet Records.

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