Over a mid-afternoon spread of pizza, coffee and beer in a South Philadelphia bar, Blød Maud’s Emily Crossen considers the future of the Pittsburgh-based band.
“I think we’ll always be able to get together and play … even if I did write new material,” says the singer/guitarist, who relocated to Philly earlier this summer. But, she adds with a laugh, “that would mean we would have to work, and work wasn’t always our strong point.”
There’s a certain credibility associated with a laissez-fair approach to rock music (as long as it’s balanced by skill), and the members of Blød Maud struck that necessary equilibrium, making music so good that it seemed at odds with their relative nonchalance. The members played shows sporadically, but if you did get a chance to see them, you were likely to be impressed enough to tell your friends. And right before Crossen left town, the band released the haunting, hook-filled four-song EP — Mädel — which was the best kind of bummer: that is, practically perfect aside from the fact that you wish it was three times longer.
Blød Maud was, from the beginning, a project of convenience. After moving to Pittsburgh from State College five years ago, Crossen was spending a lot of time writing songs on her guitar and messing around with GarageBand. Playing everything herself — “I would make drums out of notebooks or use an acoustic guitar and lower the pitch for bass” — she soon amassed recordings of more than 20 songs. After her secret Soundcloud page was discovered by a friend, Crossen was asked to fill an opening spot for a Colleen Green show. “I didn’t want to play by myself,” she says. “So I was like, ‘I gotta get some dudes.’”
Enter some friends from high school — drummer Pat Coyle, guitarist Calvin Morooney and bassist Rob Daubenspeck. (Eli Kochersperger took over for Daubenspeck after the band released its first recording in 2014.) The goal was to develop Crossen’s songs for a full band, just for that one show. But “it was really easy,” she recalls. “So we were like, ‘Let’s keep going!’”
Crossen’s songwriting has a hypnotic, melancholic quality, which the rest of the band bolsters with memorable, often unexpected instrumentation. There are moments on Mädel that strongly recall early Cat Power, but there’s little fragility in Crossen’s vocals, which are austere and direct. “Westhafen” — arguably the EP’s strongest track — includes a spoken-word interlude about an encounter with a stranger in Berlin. Spoken word is notoriously difficult to pull off, but here — framed by an impossibly catchy riff — it works, stirring emotion without demanding it.
As Crossen establishes herself in a new city, she hopes to keep making music: At the height of her productivity in Pittsburgh, she was writing as many as five songs a day. If she does start writing again, she says, she’ll happily send her songs to her bandmates, but it’s not something that can be forced. “It’s like a kid where, if you tell them to do something, they won’t do it.” With Blød Maud, she says, “It’s almost like when you go on a school field trip to learn. You end up just hanging out and having fun, because you’re on a field trip.” And really, when it comes down to it, is there any better way to be in a band?