Bringin’ it Backwards: Interview with May Rio

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We had the pleasure of interviewing May Rio over Zoom video! 

NYC’s May Rio Sembera of Poppies released her debut album Easy Bammer via Dots Per Inch Music.

Produced by Tony or Tony and mastered by Sarah Register (Ariana Grande, Yaeji, The Shins), Easy Bammer is inspired in part by time spent touring with Poppies, as well as the year the world went into lockdown. On her debut solo album, May turns months of isolation into a curious & hyperreal reflection on memory of a time in New York City before stay-at-home-orders and lukewarm take-out—reflections on a time when staying at home & thinking felt like an unreasonable request of the cosmos. Easy Bammer gives its listener a chance to experience the warmth & quiet laughter of reflection; it does so in a time otherwise reserved for most as an endless cycle of waiting for new headlines.

Easy Bammer is inspired in part by May’s time touring with her band, Poppies. This time of transient couch-surfing is endemic to the DIY performer, the musician sentenced to serve as an advertisement for herself—to play the gracious guest, night after night, with free cheap beer and snacks-for-dinner-dining. This experience, described in the song “Party Jail,” is a groundhog’s day of early-20s hedonism where one must keep smiling through a hangover that inches towards delirium. But the kindness of these hosts and their patronage is not lost on May, either. 

Such a life on the basement show circuit was already a distant memory by the time work began on the recordings that became Easy Bammer. The airborne menace known as COVID-19 would not only interrupt, but come to define the making of the project. With live shows no longer an option, these songs were developed alone in ad hoc home studios instead.This process made the idea of an actual party jail more appealing than it was initially meant to be, but such a taunting positivity is always the lair of the devil in the detail. This almost-seesaw feeling of “it sounds so fun” and “I’m getting tired” makes the unique and curious oddness of Easy Bammer a testament to feeling two ways at once and being okay with it.

It is May Rio’s personality and deftness that ultimately shine and make her solo debut the unexpected journey that it is. It is intelligent like a riddle and catchy like an over-saturated cartoon. May says, “Same as a lot of people, I felt my world get a lot smaller when the pandemic hit. I’d spent hardly any time at home before, and now this cozy place of refuge—- my bedroom — had been transformed into a cozy cell. I think in the album, I’m acting out a lot that I wouldn’t be able to do in real life. I know, for instance, I probably shouldn’t (or can’t) act on this impulse, or say this to so-and-so… but I can wrap it up in these lyrics and box it in with this melody….These songs became a pillow for me to scream, or sob, into. And sometimes I’m laughing.”

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