Month: June 2024

I spent just one season in Berlin, but it may as well have been a lifetime. Anyone who’s had the strange pleasure of partying in that dark city knows its highs and lows. One moment, you’re euphoric on the dance floor, and the next, you’re wandering through some barren wasteland as the sun peaks from behind the horizon.

It makes sense then that “Madame Berlin,” the new single by California-born, Berlin-based artist Cali Rose, is served with an equal helping of mess and terror. Blanketed with brooding strings and operatic moans, the track moves like a death march through Mitte, the chic Berlin neighborhood the titular Madame Berlin is said to haunt.

With vocals by NYC icon, mood board mainstay, and ever-booked DJ, Fashion LaBeija, “Madame Berlin” is a sexy portrait of a typical but ever-iconic Berlin “spiral queen.” That story is made all the more clear in the video, which was co-created by Rose and artist K.G. Helm. A black and white, dizzying image collage of Madame Berline strutting through the gray and spectral city, both the video and the song are a slice of dark life in the city the world can’t quit.

PAPER spoke with Rose and Helm in the lead-up to the release of “Madame Berlin”’s entrancing video to discuss their collaboration, Berlin vs. NY, and working with the icon that is Fashion LaBeija.

Tell me a little bit about how you both know each other and started working together.

Cali Rose: I met K.G. Helm during the last few months of COVID, but we started working on music together last summer. First, [K.G.] made the music video for “Mall Doll,” and then we started working on music and other projects together.

K.G. Helm: Yeah, after we met I was like, “Hmm! This girl is not afraid to express herself. Let’s start making things!”

Rose: Yeah, and I got kind of bored of DJing. So I’m like, “Okay, I wanna discover my artist side and make my own tracks.”

I want to hear a little bit more about who this “Madame Berlin” is. Do you know her? Is she real?

Rose: She’s a fictional character that I created, but she’s inspired by our friend who’s a gallerist. She’s this glam, professional lady I always see out, and she’s always smiling and always has a glass of champagne in her hand. She also does coke, and she stays up for nights on end, so she always seems to be put together, but I know she’s not.

But also Madame Berlin is really about everyone in Berlin who comes here. I feel like a lot of people in Berlin come here to party and it’s not for fun. It’s more like they’re chasing the dragon. There are people who are carrying too much: all the spiral queens here in Berlin.

Helm: There’s a lot of lost souls here, like energy vampires. You spend a lot of your time protecting yourself from people who don’t know who they are. There’s a lot of party tourists, sex tourists, identity tourists.

Yeah, I’ve been hosting my Berlin friends here in NYC for the past week, and that was something we remarked upon. In New York, if you spiral and party for days, you will lose everything, but in Berlin the spiral can go on for a really long time.

Helm: Yeah, it can be rewarding for some people.

Rose: Yeah, here housin g is a little bit cheaper, so people can afford to stay up a few extra nights [laughs].

I love the sound of the track. It’s super, dark and ominous. Tell me just a little bit about the sound that was inspiring it.

Helm: We were trying to do something different for both myself and something different for Cali.

Rose: Yeah, it’s a different sound than what I usually would be playing. I love the drama of it all. It’s super eerie and intense. We added that opera and I think it’s really amazing.

What was shooting the video like?

Rose: The music video was really cool. We did a lot of it in a museum in Mitte. And then we chose this park that has these mini landmarks of Berlin in it. I love shooting with a small team, it was just [Helm], Luca Perez and I. It’s really fun to work with a few people, and not a big team. That gives me anxiety.

Helm: Our process is very informal. They’re not large productions. We kind of tried to keep it as small as possible to allow kind of whatever to happen in the moment.

Had you already connected with Fashion prior to this project?

Rose: I’ve known Fashion since 2016. I met her in San Francisco, and then we got closer when I moved to New York. She lived in Berlin for a bit too, but she was here while we were recording the vocals in the studio and she was happy to hop on.

We were talking a bit about the relationship between Berlin and New York, and the interchange happening right now. But I’d be curious to hear more from your perspectives what that relationship looks like at this moment.

Rose: In the past four years that I’ve been here, Berlin has become more like New York. Everything’s getting more expensive. And there’s the influx of New York people coming, especially during COVID. A lot of people from New York moved to Berlin. Most people that I know here are from New York.

Helm: The cost of traveling between New York and Berlin has gone down so much as well that Berlin has kind of become another playground for New Yorkers to go to.

Rose: Especially for the New York techno scene. There’s definitely a lot more to do here [in Berlin], but I really miss Basement, Bossa and Nowadays. I’m a bit over stuff here [laughs].

Do you think this New York influence in Berlin is a good thing ultimately or does it feel like an invasion?

Rose: It’s a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a good thing, because there’s a lot of people that I know here. But that’s a bad thing, because I’m no longer anonymous. And Berlin has become clouty like how New York is.

Helm: One of the good things is that New York has influenced Berlin to pull people out of these basement, dirty parties, and try to have something a bit more glamorous and chic to experience. It’s almost gone the other way around where New York is trying to emulate Berlin’s grunginess.

Rose: New York is impressed with the “crackiness” of Berlin. And I think we’re a bit over it. We want more glam here.

Helm: Yeah, we want somewhere you can wear a pair of $1,000 shoes.

Rose: You can in Berghain, but they’ll get ruined pretty quickly.

Right, you want a Madame Berlin vibe.

Rose: Yeah!

Photography: K. G. Helm

MisterWives‘ new track, “Organized Chaos,” opens with a question: “Do you think you’re the second coming of Jesus Christ?” The rest of the track acts as an answer over distorted guitars and crashing percussion.

“‘Organized Chaos’ was the reckoning of unhealthy patterns that are comfortable,” frontwoman Mandy Lee tells PAPER. “Not because it’s what’s right but because it’s so familiar. This song meets you in the middle of untangling the knowing you have to break out of a dysfunctional loop while still being stuck in it because there’s just enough order to get by. Alchemizing those feelings into a track that is punchy and fearless both sonically and lyrically gives a lot of autonomy over putting those feelings into action.”

Below, Lee tells PAPER how “Organized Chaos” came to be, what it was like to perform the track live for their VEVO video and the art of bringing repressed feelings to the surface.

Tell us about the video for “Organized Chaos.” How did it come to be?

Having the opportunity to do a live VEVO performance is something we’ve always wanted to do! This song was meant to be played live, and the incredible team at VEVO perfectly captured the live energy we want you to experience the song in.

What are you most excited to share with fans next?

The MisterWives: Just For One Night tour kicks off in October, and we are beyond excited to do what we love most with the incredible community that brings these songs to life. In the meantime, Nosebleeds: Encore has a lot of surprises coming your way — 17 to be exact — so stay tuned!

What does this project mean to you? What can we expect from this new era for MisterWives?

“Organized Chaos” is an intentional follow-up, the antidote to our record Nosebleeds, which dug deep and let repressed feelings surface. This project continues to expand that ethos of fully embracing all parts of yourself without shame or fear of being palatable. We hope that’s the takeaway for anyone who listens—the permission not to need permission!

Photography: Megan Clark, Matty Vogel

It’s impossible to be across all the new music out each Friday. Luckily, PAPER is here to help you out: each week, we round up 10 of our favorite new songs from artists — emerging and established — to soundtrack your life. From the surreal to the sublime, these songs cover every corner of the music world. The only criteria: they all have to absolutely rip.

Subscribe to our Sound Off Spotify playlist here and check out this week’s tracks, below.

Kim Gordon – “ECRP”

This loosie, taken from Kim Gordon’s sessions from her dynamite second solo album The Collective, captures that record’s manic, end-of-the-world thrill, Gordon rapping over busted electronic beats with a hardened deadpan.

Sex Week – “Cockpit”

New York band Sex Week make dreampop that, somehow, sounds scrubbed of all its distortion – that might be an oxymoron, but the blurred-out haze of “Cockpit” defies usual logic, casual and sharply yearning as it is.

Clairo – “Nomad”

The latest track from Charm, Clairo’s new album made with Leon Michels of the El Michels Affair, is gentle and reflective, its sweeping chords nodding to wisdom and regretfulness in equal measure.

SOPHIE, Kim Petras and BC Kingdom – “Reason Why”

The first single from Sophie’s posthumous self-titled album captures the late producer’s pop sensibility, her trademark bass providing the perfect backing for lithe verses from Kim Petras and BC Kingdom.

Stefflon Don and Sidhu Moose Wala – “Dilemma”

The latest single from Stefflon Don’s Island 54 finds the Birmingham-born musician linking with late Punjabi sensation Sidhu Moose Wala, their global genre mash yielding a surefire summer earworm.

Camila Cabello and Drake – “HOT UPTOWN”

Say what you will about the C,XOXO rollout — I’m sure you have — but Camila still has an ear for a hit, and “HOT UPTOWN” is as ingratiating and charismatic as they come.

Kate Bollinger – “To Your Own Devices”

Relaxed country-folk from Charlottesville singer-songwriter Kate Bollinger, who makes a crushingly small-scale song sound expansive and rich.

Bright Eyes – “Bells and Whistles”

Rollicking power-pop from Bright Eyes, revived in 2020 after nine years dormant, who zero in on a sloppy piano-bar vibe here that matches Conor Oberst’s world-weary lyrics.

Snow Wife – “Pool”

Houston musician Snow Wife channels Brooke Candy and EDM-era Britney on this horned-up new pop song.

Gia Love – “Body”

Gia Love flexes and flirts her way through this bullish, creatively produced new track.

Photography: Jason Nocito

Get in! We’re going down fucking hill. Those are the very words Mia Berrin, the lead singer and vocalist of Pom Pom Squad lays out on the Brooklyn band’s new track, “Downhill,” their first song since 2021’s Death of a Cheerleader. The track opens with sinister sonics, and lyrics that convey the fraught push and pull between of self-ambition and self-destruction. It’s a strong return from the band, rife with all the angst, wit and grit we expect.

Speaking of expectations, according to Berrin, this next era for Pom Pom Squad is “a bit darker overall.” “But it’s still playful,” she tells PAPER. “I’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting production-wise and ‘Downhill’ is an example of that for sure. When I was demoing it, I tried to let go of any preconceived notion of genre and just put together sounds that felt good. I’m trying to follow my creative intuition more. I’ve been in a phase of my life where I need to strip back and reconnect with myself — who I am at my core. Visually, I’ve been pulling from childhood influences: Alice in Wonderland, Sailor Moon, video games and, as always, film.

Below, Berrin breaks down the inspiration behind “Downhill” and tells us what’s in store for Pom Pom Squad next.

Tell us about “Downhill.” What was the song’s inspiration?

In the space between Death of a Cheerleader and this upcoming project, I was grappling with two opposite poles of my personality: my desire to hide and my desire to be seen. In my day-to-day life, I’m pretty shy and reserved, but there’s this other part of me I don’t understand that feels pulled to be on stage. Sometimes, being ambitious feels like being self-destructive, and I wanted to explore the line between the two.

Why did you choose “Downhill” to introduce your new era of music?

Initially, I wanted to go with a song that was more similar to the sound of Death of a Cheerleader, but my team really pushed me to take a bolder step by releasing “Downhill” first. Ultimately, I think it was the right decision. It’s more reflective of my current influences, and I feel like it shows my growth as a writer.

What have you been up to since Death Of A Cheerleader? What are some of the highlights and lowlights since that album?

There have been so many of both. I think the biggest lowlight is just grappling with being perceived and misunderstood. It’s so easy for someone on the internet to come across a sliver of your life and make a snap judgment about you. As a Cancer, I’m really sensitive to that… less to what people say and more to the fact that anyone would take the time to be needlessly cruel. On the other hand, I get to do what I love every day! I’m really proud of the team I’ve built around me. Shelby, Lauren, and Alex (my bandmates) and my “Downhill” collaborators, Sabrina Song (co-writer) and Cody Fitzgerald (co-writer and co-producer), have taught me so much about collaboration while also allowing me to stay true to myself and my vision.

What are you most excited to share with your fans next?

I’ve been playing the same songs on tour for three years straight, and I can’t wait to give my fans and myself something new to dig into. I’m already wondering what they’re gonna wear to the shows.

Photography: Bao Ngo, Eliza Jouin