illuminati hotties and the Art of Tenderpunk

Illuminati hotties channels the unease of one’s mid-20s into an alluring spirit where gentleness and DGAF-ness meet.

illuminati hotties

Of the potpourri of sounds studio veteran Sarah Tudzin was exposed to while working with artists from Barbara Streisand to Porches, illuminati hotties’ sole member forged something out of left field: tenderpunk.

It’s a path paved by the likes of Wes Anderson, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Sylvia Plath that Tudzin followed for her debut album, Kiss Yr Frenemies, released last May. She brings that blend of soft and outrageous, drawn from experiences floundering as a young adult, to Noise Pop at Oakland’s Starline Social Club on Wednesday, Feb. 27.

“There’s a sweeter vulnerability to it, and then there’s a tongue-in-cheek, give-no-fucks attitude,” Tudzin says of tenderpunk’s essence. “I don’t think I give no fucks, but I think that I do sort of try and approach life with a sense of humor and take things into perspective.”

The starkest example is seen on “Pressed 2 Death,” which opens with a fart noise saved from the scratch track while Tudzin was messing around. That set the tone for a captivating song that keeps listeners on their toes with a whiplash of tempo changes and high-octane guitars.

The song was “sort of a crazy exercise in how far we could push the sound,” Tudzin says. “I just sort of went as far as I possibly could with it and crammed as much stuff in there as humanly possibly without it sounding like a mess.”

Even when the tender side dominates, you get whimsical elements layered in vulnerability. “For Cheez (My Friend Not the Food)” starts softly and builds the acoustic into an epic guitar sequence before returning to the quiet pep-talk advice of “Keep in mind everything’s temporary / You’ll be fine / Hey, let’s grab a doughnut sometime.”

Tudzin wrote songs on the side while doing sound engineering in Los Angeles for musicians big and small. Like most musicians, she hopes it resonates with all ages and genders but the unease of her mid-20s in this era is hard to miss, particularly in “Paying off the Happiness.” In the upbeat track, she sings about still making rookie mistakes at 24 years of age and being in debt. (“I could probably use a fourth job / I’m stuck paying it all off.”)

Now 26, Tudzin is in a different place than she was while putting together Kiss Yr Frenemies but that doesn’t necessarily mean an end to the tenderpunk character that sets her apart. Her songwriting is shaped by new experiences, whether on tour through the Southwest with Lucy Dacus or at Noise Pop.

“Every year, we’re alive we see more of the world,” Tudzin says. “I think I can see that there’s growth.”

illuminati hotties with Club Night,Wednesday, Feb. 27, at Starline Social Club, 2236 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland $12-  $15, starlinesocialclub.com.

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